Tuesday, February 28, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/28/2006

1) BATTLE OF THE BLOGGERS – In a strange coincidence, the conservative/libertarian blogosphere’s most prominent denizen has a book coming out at almost the exact same time as the most famous liberal blogger does. Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds’ “An Army of Davids” is coming out imminently as too is Markos Moultisas’ “Crashing the Gates.”

Markos, who runs the Daily Kos, reminds his readers frequently that his traffic is five times greater than the next most popular blog’s, which usually happens to be Glenn’s. So here’s something odd – on Amazon’s sales list, “An Army of Davids” ranks #256 while “Crashing the Gates” checks in at a subterranean #12,749.

So it’s fair to ask, what gives? Both bloggers have flogged their books to their audience. Their release dates are about the same. And yet even though Markos’ audience is supposedly several times the size of Reynolds’, Glenn is selling a lot more books.

Is Glenn’s audience so much more dedicated? Does Markos’ crowd lack the intellectual rigor to read anything longer than a blog post even if it’s written by their hero? Are Markos’ fans waiting to read the reviews before committing to laying out their $18?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

2) ISB UPDATE: Many of you probably recall my story about the Islamic Society of Boston’s efforts to develop a mega-mosque in Boston. Probably only a few of you remember that the Boston Redevelopment Authority, a government agency, cut a sweetheart deal with the ISB giving the Society a parcel of land valued at $400,000 for only $225,000 plus nebulous “services” such as providing a lecture series at neighboring Roxbury Community College.

Well, there’s been a development. It seems shortly before the deal transpired, the BRA appraised the land not at $400k but actually at $2 million! Even if the land were worth $400, 000, the deal would have probably run afoul of the Establishment Clause; at $2 million, it’s not even a close call.

So how should we account for the City of Boston’s largesse on this matter? So far, the BRA and the mayor’s office have been silent. But I will be on the case presently. (But will the Boston Globe? Don’t hold your breath.)

3) So what do we make of President Bush’s sinking poll approval numbers? A CBS poll has his current positive rating at a dreadful 34%. Even though the poll has all the dishonesty we’ve come to expect from a CBS News work product, there’s no doubting that Bush’s approval has been hammered.

Naturally, this has triggered widespread rejoicing in the left wing blogosphere. When you’ve never had an actual electoral triumph to celebrate, I guess you grasp at whatever straw happens to be available.

But here’s why Bush’s ratings are temporarily in the crapper: Conservatives are upset about the Port Storm. Liberals would be making a mistake if they thought these poll numbers mean Bush’s newly disapproving followers are going to volunteer for Hilary Clinton’s campaign. After the Port Storm and the accompanying demagoguery fades from view, Bush’s approvals will bounce back to their normal level of acceptable crappiness.

4) The President is on his way to India. The trip has occasioned the New York Times to trot out some 1980’s style rhetoric regarding nuclear proliferation. Lamenting that Bush seems inclined to give India a pass on nuclear non-proliferation guidelines, the Times ludicrously wails, “That's the worst possible message to send to other countries — Iran comes to mind — that America and its nuclear allies in Europe are trying to keep off the nuclear weapons bandwagon.”

Honestly, do the Times’ editors even believe this stuff? Do they really think that if we took a hard line with India, Iran would suddenly say “Feh” to acquiring nuclear weapons? Realpolitik is really not the Times’ strong suit.

5) But you know what is the Times’ strong suit? Building its own new high rise to host its operations.

In an unintentionally hilarious article from last October’s Harvard Business Review, the Times declares an expertise for construction and design with a brazen arrogance that outdoes Donald Trump. I would link to the piece, but it requires a subscription; it’s the funniest thing that I’ve read in months.

David Thurm, a Times vice-president in charge of the project, offers numerous banalities that he thinks are keen insights. For instance, “Insist on Great Design!” Thurm implores us.

And then there’s the self congratulations. Example - Thurm takes special credit for the Times’ boldness in “embracing (its architects’) proposal for stairways connecting the floors.”

Stairways connecting the floors – now that’s great design!!! Who could ever think of such an idea?

6) My favorite washed up pol makes a special return engagement today to spew still more bile. Writing in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Paul Hackett generally laments how he’s too good a man to be a politician. See, on the one hand you have the career politicians. On the other hand, you have selfless individuals like Hackett who just want to serve. And in Hackett’s mind, he was done wrong by the career politicians.

Hackett reserves some special anger for a few prominent career politicians who, according to his reckoning, shivved him between the shoulder blades. “Sherrod Brown had initially told me he would support my Senate campaign but then changed his mind. Again, a clash of cultures. That's politics. But that's not me. My word is my bond. Schumer and Reid, the guys who said my country needs me, had a change of heart. There was never any explanation given. Schumer, in particular, actively sought to undermine my insurgent campaign.”

Before Paul Hackett appeared on the scene, I couldn’t imagine a circumstance where I would be sympathetic to Chuck Schumer’s position on anything. Oh well – never say never. In the meantime, the country will just have to muddle through without Paul Hackett serving us in the Senate.

7) I think this is kind of neat. The brightest minds at MIT are going to be deconstructing IED’s to figure out how the troops in the field can render them less dangerous. What I’m less enthusiastic about is the fact that the U.S. government will be paying MIT $3 million for the service. Why can’t a university as well endowed as MIT volunteer such services as part of their patriotic duty? It’s not like MIT is scraping to pay the rent.

8) In a hilariously titled editorial called “Meathead Economics,” the Wall Street Journal describes some of the shenanigans that Rob Reiner has been up to in California. Having somehow become the de facto custodian of the tobacco taxes the Golden State rakes in, Reiner has funneled some $23 million to support ballot initiatives that he favors. The money was supposed to go to children’s health care.

Hugh Hewitt’s been all over this one, as has (sit down for this!) the L.A. Times. It’s a wonderful case study in the hyper self-righteousness that some members of the left occasionally indulge in. So convinced are they of their moral infallibility (and their causes’ moral infallibility), they hold themselves to a completely different standard than they do, say, President Bush. Their desire for all things good is unimpeachable, much like Cindy Sheehan’s moral authority. Thus their actions never have to be questioned, least of all by themselves.

9) In the great unreported story of the day, Iraq’s governmental institutions survived the threat posed by the Al Qaeda offensive of last week. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Iraqi people want to live in peace and pursue prosperity. Naturally, this development isn’t to everyone’s liking. As Jack Kelly sharply puts it, “Al Qaida is as eager to start a sectarian civil war as the New York Times is to report on it… Those danged Iraqis. They continue to disappoint by failing to be disappointing. Could it be that most of them value freedom, democracy and peace as much as white Christians do?”

10) HUH? Andrew Sullivan has been engaging in a week long slap-fight with National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru. What’s particularly endearing about Sullivan’s arguing style is not only how he insults his opponents in a crude ad hominem manner, but the way he layers his insults with ridiculous hyperbole. Here’s how Andrew concludes one of his blogging thrusts: “These people mean what they write. When challenged, they lie about it. Repeatedly. They don't want to sound like cranks. But they actually believe that, in an ideal world, masturbation would be a crime. And they get very upset when you point that out.”

Just to be clear about my own personal feelings on the matter, I think masturbation should be safe, legal and rare.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Monday, February 27, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/27/2006

1) DURANTY WATCH – The Boston Globe is in the middle of publishing a multi-part story on an Iraqi child who was accidentally wounded by American soldiers, the crippling injuries he received, and his ensuing battle for health which has been aided by Boston area doctors and philantrhopists. It’s actually a very nice human interest story, but it willfully ignores and distorts the larger story coming out of Iraq.

Twelve year old Rakan was a resident of a place called Tall ’Afar.

From the back seat, where he was crammed in with three of his sisters, his little brother, and a cousin, Rakan saw the dark figures up ahead, waving.

''Look!" Rakan shouted, pointing.

But it was too late. A patrol of US soldiers, jumpy after recent attacks, thought the worst and opened fire. Rakan says it sounded like pops. The windshield splintered, and something punched him in the stomach. In an instant (his father) Hussein and his (mother) Kamila were dead in the front seat, their blood splattering the children in the back.

The US Army acknowledged its mistake immediately. But the soldiers from the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry Division who were involved in the shooting were not allowed to dwell for long on what had happened. They had to focus on surviving a yearlong tour in Iraq. During their deployment, which ended in September, the brigade's 4,200 soldiers suffered heavy losses: 34 killed, 632 wounded.

Now, you’re forgiven if you’re not familiar with the battle of Tall ‘Afar. After all, the media haven’t given that battle or any other successful battles in Iraq any coverage, let alone a multi-part umpteen-thousand word front page treatment like the wounded Rakan is receiving.

Before the U.S. military arrived in force, Tall ‘Afar was a cesspool overrun by terrorists. Two weeks ago, the guys at Powerline published a letter from the city’s mayor that provides a more complete perspective on things:

Our city was the main base of operations for Abu Mousab Al Zarqawi. The city was completely held hostage in the hands of his henchmen. Our schools, governmental services, businesses and offices were closed. Our streets were silent, and no one dared to walk them. Our people were barricaded in their homes out of fear; death awaited them around every corner. Terrorists occupied and controlled the only hospital in the city. Their savagery reached such a level that they stuffed the corpses of children with explosives and tossed them into the streets in order to kill grieving parents attempting to retrieve the bodies of their young. This was the situation of our city until God prepared and delivered unto them the courageous soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment, who liberated this city, ridding it of Zarqawi’s followers after harsh fighting, killing many terrorists, and forcing the remaining butchers to flee the city like rats to the surrounding areas, where the bravery of other 3d ACR soldiers in Sinjar, Rabiah, Zumar and Avgani finally destroyed them.

I have met many soldiers of the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment; they are not only courageous men and women, but avenging angels sent by The God Himself to fight the evil of terrorism.
Finally, no matter how much I write or speak about this brave Regiment, I haven’t the words to describe the courage of its officers and soldiers. I pray to God to grant happiness and health to these legendary heroes and their brave families.

Rather amazingly, the Globe’s brief treatment of the battle doesn’t even mention the name Zarqawi, leaving the reader to wonder what the Army was doing there in the first place besides killing innocents and getting killed themselves.

While the story of the generous Americans who pooled their resources to help the wounded and grieving child is a nice one, the complete disregard for providing any context pertaining to how he received those injuries is shameful.

But they support the troops!

2) Without doubt, my favorite belligerent leftist columnist in America is Nick Coleman of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. I find it perversely endearing the way Coleman keeps showing up to gunfights with the guys from Powerline armed only with a knife. And an extremely dull one at that.

In his continuing Jihad against a series of pro-war commercials featuring the parents of soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice in Iraq, Coleman decided it was time to point out that “we should be able to distinguish between supporting the troops and supporting the war.”

While this might be true, one cannot plausibly support the troops while pining for their defeat and mischaracterizing the nature of their struggles. I point this out, even though it’s exceedingly obvious, because even the exceedingly obvious usually eludes Coleman’s grasp.

3) At lot of people are quite rattled at the possibility of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. Not MIT political science professor Barry Posen. Posen has a benign indifference to this possibility, confidently shrugging, “There is reason to believe that we could readily manage a nuclear Iran.” It is indeed true - one has to go to the highest reaches of academia to find such pure and undiluted stupidity.

4) Speaking of the highest reaches of academia, the good people at Yale admitted a rather odd member to their current freshman class – the former lead spokesman for the Taliban, Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi. And you just had to know when an oddity like this came to the New York Times’ attention, hilarity would ensue. The Times Magazine wrote a sprawling and fawning profile of Rahmatullah, at one point even observing, “In terms of life experience, Rahmatullah is way ahead of his classmates at Yale.”

So true. While Rahmatullah’s classmates might be sharing memories of their old school’s homecoming game at the football stadium, Rahmatullah can share much more mature memories of his old regime performing multiple beheadings at the football stadium. Regardless, the Times has a point; it’s highly unlikely that any of Rahmatullah’s fellow undergrads have played a prominent role in one of the most cruel and barbaric regimes in memory.

5) Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John Fund offers some justifiable outrage at the actions of Yale. “There are many poor, bright students--American and foreign alike--who would jump at the opportunity to attend Yale. Why should Mr. Rahmatullah go to the line ahead of all of them? That's a question Yale alumni should ask when their alma mater comes looking for contributions.

“President Bush, who already has a well-known disdain for Yale elitism from his student days there, may also have some questions. In the wake of his being blindsided by his own administration over the Dubai port deal, he should be interested in finding out exactly who at the State Department approved Mr. Rahmatullah's application for a student visa.”

6) A stunning development! James Carroll has an article in the Boston Globe where he doesn’t even mention George W. Bush, let alone blame him for all the world’s horrors. There’s still a typical Carroll whopper, though. In a desperate attempt to be fair to Islam, Carroll offers the following observation: “Obviously, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity have all had trouble keeping these principles of toleration straight, with each of the monotheisms having regularly reduced God to a tribal deity, and loyalty to God to a cause of war.”

The first person who can give me a single example from the last 2000 years of Jews using loyalty to God as a casus belli wins a free corned beef sandwich from the Palm Beach Gardens Toojay’s, recently relocated to the fashionable Downtown “Lifestyle” Mall (which includes a Whole Foods!). As always, tax, beverage and gratuity not included.

(The slur on Christians is equally appalling, but Carroll’s been attacking you guys for years. Slurring Jews represents new turf and like Hitler should have been stopped at Munich, Carroll should be stopped now.)

7) There was a study out a couple of weeks ago that found blog growth had flatlined which was widely interpreted as bad news for people who thought blogs would take over the world. The Chicago Tribune, which probably would be better off worrying about its own industry’s rather severe problems, offered a snickering editorial on the matter that was full of something we haven’t seen much of lately – dead tree triumphalism.

My reaction to this study was utter indifference. “Blog” is a term that encompasses everything from a 15 year old relaying his struggle with acne and how the Tetracycline’s been working to Markos Moulitsas’ large scale political organizing. In other words,, the term is so broad it’s utterly useless. Blogs are a form of communication. If a blog communicates worthwhile stuff, it’s potent. Jason Fry on the Wall Street Journal’s site pretty much makes the same argument, but the link requires a subscription. But you really should be subscribing to the Wall Street Journal online anyway.

8) The Boston Globe does have one excellent columnist not named Jeff Jacoby. His name is Alex Beam, and for some reason he’s been banished to the Living/Arts section for the past several years. In today’s column, Beam notices something rather disturbing about Larry Summers’ departure: The entire matter seems, if not redolent of anti-Semitism, to at least have anti-Semitism as a subtext. One of the first controversies Summers encountered was the Israeli Divestment campaign and the insistence of certain professors in characterizing Zionism as a pernicious form of racism. Summers bruised feelings while engaging those issues that never heeled. Beam’s column concludes,

(Professor Ruth Wisse says), “The question that I'm being asked is, 'Was anti-Semitism the driving engine of this coup?'"

Well, what is the answer?, I asked her more than once. ''It's the point of view of many people who watch these things closely," she replied. ''It's something the Globe should investigate."

When I wrote my first piece on Summers for the Standard, some guy wrote me a lengthy letter deploring the influence of Ashkenazik Jews like Wisse, Summers and the reclusive Alan Dershowitz at Harvard. If you’re out there, pal, write again. I’ll post the whole thing.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Sunday, February 26, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/26/2006

1) The Democrats have a new “strategic document” behind which they’re rallying. The opus describes how the U.S. should immediately leave all of Iraq’s urban areas and undergo a “massive redeployment.” While “massive redeployment” may sound like a not particularly clever euphemism for cut and run, don’t suggest that to the authors. They explicitly state that their plan does not advocate cutting and running, all evidence to the contrary.

About those authors – one of them is Lawrence Korb, who was an under-secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. I imagine that Korb’s co-authorship is supposed to signify that this paper is a serious set of policy prescriptions, and not an exercise in partisan mud-slinging.

And yet for a high-minded exercise in scholarship, the authors sure do engage in a lot of the aforementioned mud-slinging. They assert that “Americans have lost confidence in President George W. Bush’s ability to keep our country safe and are looking for an alternative,” while pointing to “the Bush administration’s multiple failures.”

I encourage you to read the whole document. There’s not a fresh idea in the entire thing, unless you consider sliming the administration to be evidence of a bold new Democratic tactic.

2) To the right, you see Time Magazine’s cover for this week’s issue. What’s particularly amazing about this cover is that it hits the streets at precisely the time a miracle happened in Iraq – the middle held. The government forces could have returned to their militias of choice and a multi-pronged civil war could have ensued. But the people in the government and the government’s employ have chosen fidelity to the concept of a united Iraq. That’s the story of the week from Iraq.

Is it just me, or does that not seem to be quite the outcome that media outlets like Time were rooting for?

3) Speaking of media outlets, the New York Times is always good for a laugh when it engages the subject of its own purported Olympian detachment as a guardian of truth. Times ombudsman (or “omboooodsman” as Bill O’Reilly pronounces it) Byron Calame today pens a column today on the Times’ policies regarding what kind of freebies its staffers can accept. It’s a boring topic and what’s more, Calame offers a boring treatment of it. If I gave a “don’t read the whole thing” award, Calame would be able to put today’s prize on his mantel.

But within the article, there’s this laugh-out-loud sentence: “Let's start with a quick review of what The Times says about ‘protecting the paper's neutrality’ in its Handbook of Values and Practices for the newsroom.”

Why can’t the Times once and for all give up the neutrality ghost? Is there anyone out there who considers the Times neutral? Besides, neutrality is not the common state of things for people who follow the news closely as Times reporters presumably do. So unless the Times plans on hiring a stable of super-human yet bloodless reporters, neutrality will remain beyond the Grey Lady’s reach.

4) The “read the whole thing” prize, on the other hand, goes to Mark Steyn who brings his best stuff in this morning’s Chicago Sun Times. Steyn is once again looking at the problem Europe has with the rapidly encroaching threat of Jihadism:

What, in the end, are all these supposedly unconnected matters from Danish cartoons to the murder of a Dutch filmmaker to gender-segregated swimming sessions in French municipal pools about? Answer: sovereignty. Islam claims universal jurisdiction and always has. The only difference is that they're now acting upon it. The signature act of the new age was the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran: Even hostile states generally respect the convention that diplomatic missions are the sovereign territory of their respective countries. Tehran then advanced to claiming jurisdiction over the citizens of sovereign states and killing them -- as it did to Salman Rushdie's translators and publishers. Now in the cartoon jihad and other episodes, the restraints of Islamic law are being extended piecemeal to the advanced world, by intimidation and violence but also by the usual cooing promotion of a spurious multicultural "respect" by Bill Clinton, the United Church of Canada, European foreign ministers, etc.

The I'd-like-to-teach-the-world-to-sing-in-perfect-harmonee crowd have always spoken favorably of one-worldism. From the op-ed pages of Jutland newspapers to les banlieues of Paris, the Pan-Islamists are getting on with it.

One additional point I’d like to add: When speaking of Jihadists, it’s fashionable to say that “they hate us for what we are, not what we do.” I would modify this just a bit. In actuality, they hate us for what we’re not – devout Muslims. Until we rectify that situation, there will be no gaining the good graces of the Jihadists. And that’s just the way it is.

5) Today we actually have a runner-up for the “read the whole thing” prize. Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson has an insightful but counter-intuitive piece that suggests that the biggest clashes we’re seeing aren’t between civilizations but rather intramural scuffles within individual civilizations. There’s something to this – the Sunnis and Shiites have over a millennium of bad blood still coursing through their systems. Whether a dose of Khomenism has permanently overwhelmed the formerly more peaceful Shiites remains to be seen, but the actions of Siistani in Iraq certainly provide hope on that front. I’m not sure I agree with Ferguson here, but he’s written one of the most thought provoking op-ed pieces of the year.

And he gets special bonus points for being a Harvard professor and not even mentioning the Larry Summers kerfuffle.

6) Speaking of Larry, Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe has a typically insightful take of the situation. A brief excerpt, about which I can offer some additional insight: “On the day Summers resigned, one of his most virulent opponents -- anthropology professor J. Lorand Matory -- told an interviewer that among the things that made the university president so unbearable was his ‘telling us we should be more patriotic.’”

When I interviewed Professor Matory last year, that was definitely one of the things that stuck in his craw. Matory feels he should go where his scholarship takes him. If this policy causes him to reach conclusions that don’t reflect well on the United States, so be it. Let’s be fair - this is not a completely unsympathetic position.

In the Standard piece I wrote on Summers last year, I wrote of Dwight Eisenhower’s unhappy tenure as president of Columbia. Ike wanted his professors to be great Americans. His professors weren’t hostile to the notion so much as they were passionately indifferent to it.

Ike’s view didn’t prevail then, and it’s not prevalent now. But it would be the smart university that would look into adopting patriotism as a core tenet, and teaching as another one. And if the faculty’s scholarship suffered, I bet the undergrads and their parents who are often footing the bill wouldn’t particularly mind.

7) Meanwhile, the Globe’s mother ship, the Times, tries to shoe-horn the Summers experience into a business school type “case study” in its Week in Review section. Frankly, I can’t imagine a more fatuous exercise. It’s reminiscent of the time the Globe had an op-ed piece by one of the authors of the seminal negotiating tract “Getting to Yes” titled “Getting the Taliban to Yes.” That piece appeared a few days after 9/11 if my memory is correct. Business school professors should stick to coining bromides like “think outside the box.” They’re actually quite good at that. But beyond that…

8) Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit himself, had an extremely insightful op-ed piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about how blogs can serve as an early warning system for companies or governments who are interested in monitoring oncoming crises. For instance, Eason Jordan-gate and the Port Storm were big topics of discussion on the blogs before America’s foremost dailies took notice of them.

I should point out that I’m really not one of these people who runs around touting the blogosphere’s potency on a routine basis, and Glenn’s article has a refreshing lack of blogospheric triumphalism. Glenn’s not saying blogs can “make” a controversy (although sometimes they undoubtedly can), but they will reliably pick up on a scandal while it’s simmering as opposed to boiling. Savvy pols will take note.

9) My main man Jonathan Last has an outstanding op-ed piece about our immigration problem in today’s Inky. Like most things Jonathan writes, it’s the product of some serious research; he works harder than the typical columnist and the work shows in the end result’s quality. He also concludes with this amusing and relatively upbeat coda:

Demographers note what are called channels of migrations, meaning that particular groups of people tend to migrate to particular destinations for an array of logistical, cultural and social reasons. America gets Hispanics. Europe gets Arab and African Muslims. According to Robert Leiken, the director of the Immigration and National Security Program at the Nixon Center, Muslims comprise "the bulk of immigrants in countries such as Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Spain." The numbers are comparable across the rest of Western Europe, too.

And unlike America's Hispanic immigrants, many Muslim immigrants in Europe have conflicted feelings about the underpinnings of Western liberalism (Editor’s note – giggle). In France, there are car burnings and clashes about laïcité; in Holland, Islamist immigrants have been making death threats against politicians and public figures; in Denmark, Muslims are unhappy with the idea of a free press; in Sweden, where T-shirts proclaiming "2030 - then we take over" have become popular with Muslim youths, authorities are struggling to deal with the rise of honor killings.

In America, we have fights over bilingual education.

Yes, we have an immigration problem; but, as these things go, we've got it easy.

If Jonathan weren’t disqualified from getting the “read the whole thing” prize by virtue of our friendship (I try to be neutral, just like the Times), he would have given Steyn a serious run for his money.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Saturday, February 25, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/25/2006

My internet service was finally restored this afternoon. We had a few more bumps before the rebirth ultimately occurred, and it’s definitely a story I’ll be sharing in due time. Anyway, with my precious internet access finally restored, I was able to gorge myself on a cornucopia of World Wide Web delights. So, without further adieu, let’s get into it.

1) What are we going to do with Peggy Noonan? When she’s got her mojo working, she’s one of the country’s most creative and insightful prose stylists. But when she struggles, it’s ugly.

Her Thursday column was definitely an occasion when she didn’t bring her A-game. Peggy took on the putatively fat target of airport security. She muses, “Does anyone really believe that has gotten much better since 19 terrorists hijacked four planes five years ago?”

As one who flies pretty frequently, I’ll answer that question with a full-throated “Yes.” If anyone thinks five “Middle Eastern looking” males could board an airplane effectively armed today, they haven’t done a lot of traveling lately. What’s more, rushing the cockpit would be a helluva lot more difficult now than it was on 9/10/2001. The likelihood or even possibility of apprehension means a carbon copy of the 9/11 attacks is highly unlikely. Add to the equation a more vigilant set of passengers, and you’ve got a night and day difference from five years ago.

So what on earth is Peggy talking about? Who peed in her Cheerios the morning she wrote this tripe?

Fear not – the question is not rhetorical. It was TSA who bothered her. See if you can catch the off-putting churlishness and ugly hyperbole in the following passage:

I returned the next morning to the West Palm Beach airport for the flight home. Here, at 9:30 a.m., it was worse. Again roughly a thousand people, again all of them being yelled at by airport and TSA personnel. Get your computers out. Shoes off. Jackets off. Miss, Miss, I told you, line four. No, line four. So much yelling and tension, and all the travelers in slump-shouldered resignation and fear. The fingers of the man in front of me were fluttered with anxiety as he grabbed at his back pocket for his wallet so the woman who checks ID would not snap at him or make him miss his flight.

This was East Germany in 1960. It was the dictatorship of the clerks, and the clerks were not in a good mood.

After a half hour in line I get to the first security point.

"Linfah," says the young woman who checked my ID.

"I'm sorry?"

"Linfah." She points quickly and takes the next person's ID.

"I'm so sorry, I don't understand."

Now she points impatiently. How stupid could I be?

Line Five. Oh. OK.

East Germany in 1960 – right. That’s exactly what it’s like. Repression and the state elimination of religion. All in an airport security line, no less!

Just for the record, I fly in and out of West Palm Beach all the time. I’ve never seen the TSA personnel there be anything other than professional and courteous. They are hard-working people diligently performing an unpleasant but important job

Eloquence used to be Peggy Noonan’s trademark. She’s at risk of trading eloquence as her signature for something far less attractive and endearing.

2) At the precise opposite end of the spectrum, we have the Wall Street Journal’s Dan Henninger, who I remind you just about every week is America’s best columnist, non-Krauthammer division. In Friday’s column, Henninger developed a metaphor for the Democratic Party that’s so spot on it deserves to be repeated so often we all become sick of it. “What we have here is the dawn of the new Yosemite Sam school of national politics.” Henninger observes. “Put any news event in front of our politicians now--Hurricane Katrina, Terri Schiavo, Dick Cheney's quail or this week the ports--and like Bugs Bunny's hair-triggered nemesis they'll start spraying the landscape with wild remarks and opinions decoupled from what is knowable about these events.”

3) Speaking of the Port Storm, I’m finding it difficult to render an informed opinion since knowing all the pertinent facts is impossible. I think the following is worth note, however: Evan Kohlman was on “Scarborough Country” Thursday night saying there was nothing wrong with the deal. You may not know Kohlman’s name but you probably know his face. He’s a protégé of Steve Emerson and a fixture on the news shows as a terror expert. There probably aren’t 10 people in the world who take Islamic terrorism as seriously as Kohlman does or who are as well informed on the subject.

Whether the Ports thing is a good idea or not, one thing we have to be clear on is distinguishing Jihadists from normal ordinary Muslims. There are a lot of Jihadists, enough so that in the age of asymmetrical warfare they’re an intolerable menace that has to be dealt with fiercely and remorselessly. But the vast majority of Muslims don’t want to dedicate their lives to destroying the Western world.

Knowing the difference between the two groups is no small thing.

4) In preparing my Standard piece on the end of Larry Summers’ reign at Harvard, I interviewed two professors, J. Lorand Matory and Ruth Wisse. Matory has been probably Summers’ most dedicated foe, Wisse his most ardent defender. For what it’s worth, Matory could not have been more gracious in his hour of victory, welcoming Summers back to the Harvard faculty and expressing enthusiasm for them becoming colleagues. While I don’t agree with Matory’s position on this matter (actually I’m reasonably sure we don’t agree on much of anything), I’ve developed a definite fondness for him during multiple interviews.

While I like Matory, I love Ruth Wisse. She had a write-up on Summers in the Wall Street Journal which had a similar theme to my story – that the entire imbroglio and especially its endgame reflected a widening divide between Harvard’s students (who were chanting “five more years” in Harvard Yard to protest Summers’ impending departure) and Harvard’s faculty. The students’ share the every day concerns about the world that normal people do; their professors are rapidly becoming an increasingly irrelevant collection of leftist fossils.

5) Dawn Eden wrote a great review of Annabelle Gurwitch’s book “Fired” for the Wall Street Journal. The book takes a look at numerous individuals who got fired and how they dealt with it. But it’s no unhinged and disingenuous Barbara Ehrenreich-type rant. It aims to be both funny and inspiring, and according to Eden’s review, it nails it. An excerpt from the review:

The more authentic stories in "Fired!" convey a similar sense of foreboding and murky trouble. Brian Unger's dismissal from hosting TV's "Extra!" sounds like a death from a thousand cutting memos. "No more sweaters, if he wants to keep his job" was an early one. Then came complaints about his makeup, prompting a distressing slow-motion makeover. "My look began wasting away," Mr. Unger remembers, "devouring itself like a planeload of soccer players stranded in the Andes. Word came down again. This time--my hair." Finally there is one last thing to change--"my immediate presence." He was canned just before Christmas.

6) Every now and then I link to Bill Simmons, the artist formerly known as the Boston Sports Guy. I feel an odd sort of pride in having been a Simmons fan when he was laboring in relative anonymity for an outfit called Digital City Boston back in the late ‘90’s. I thought then that he was the best sports-writer in the country and it was amazing to me that he was scuffling while America’s best sports sections employed any number of marginally talented hacks who had lost their fastballs decades earlier. I still think Simmons is the country’s best sportswriter. This piece, which recounts a fictitious gathering of the NBA’s worst general managers exchanging their trade secrets for running a franchise into the ground, is Simmons at his best. Which means if you like sports, you don’t want to miss it.

7) Victor Davis Hanson went to Iraq and not surprisingly came back with a number of keen insights:

“Most would agree that the Americans now know exactly what they are doing. They have a brilliant and savvy ambassador and a top diplomatic team. Their bases are expertly run and secured, where food, accommodations, and troop morale are excellent. Insufficient body armor and unarmored humvees are yesterday’s hysteria. Our generals — Casey, Chiarelli, Dempsey — are astute and understand the fine line between using too much force and not employing enough, and that the war cannot be won by force alone. American colonels are the best this county has produced, and they are proving it in Iraq under the most trying of conditions. Iraqi soldiers are treated with respect and given as much autonomy as their training allows.”

This VDH piece wins one of my increasingly rare (and therefore increasingly precious) “read the whole thing” prizes. It provides a crucial snapshot of where Iraq stands at this moment.

8) Former Massachusetts congressman Peter Blute has opted not to challenge Ted Kennedy for his Senate seat this coming November. That means Kennedy will probably run un-opposed, which one can only look at as a sad commentary on my home state’s self-parodying politics. For the rest of the nation, Kennedy is a punch line. In Boston, he’s a civic treasure.

9) Back to the Port Storm for a second: Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch is against the administration’s idea to turn the ports’ business operations over to the UAE. No big surprise, there. But Spencer is vague on where exactly the danger lies. I think the following sentence is illustrative: “Turning over any ports to Dubai Ports World is ill-advised: the potential for jihadist infiltration is just too great.”

Point well taken, but “infiltration” of what, exactly? As we learn more about the nuts and bolts of this deal, it seems a lot less horrifying than originally was the case. Nonetheless, the burden of proof should be on the administration here. Why the administration couldn’t foresee the public’s (and politicians’) reaction to this arrangement is beyond my reckoning.

10) Lastly, the Wall Street Journal has a remarkable recounting of the incredible success Jimmy Carter has enjoyed as an author. Sure, he was a failure as a president and remains a horror show as an ex-president, but the guy has made a mint selling dreadfully written books full of hackneyed “insights.”

The article focuses on Carter’s shrewdness in crafting his own cottage-industry as a writer. I especially love the detail that at book signings he signs his name “J Carter” rather than with his full name so he can sign more books and make more money. Isn’t it delicious that as an author he shows the same arrogance towards his fans as he did as a politician to his supporters?

Mr. Carter autographs as many as 800 books an hour. He'll occasionally sign his full name when asked, but tries to "conceal that from the next guy in line" to avoid similar requests. He speaks to everybody who comes through, making contact with his friendly blue eyes. "I tell the little girls they're pretty and ask the little boys how old they are," he says.

800 an hour? That’s leave less than five seconds per abbreviated signature! Where does he find the energy? And where does he find the time to tell the legions of little girls who no doubt come out to worship him how pretty they are?

But here’s the best part from my perspective: If a schmuck like Jimmy Carter could figure out the publishing industry, I’ve gotta like my chances at doing the same. Hell, if Carter could make millions in this game, then the sky is truly the limit.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Friday, February 24, 2006


WHY WAS THERE NO Spanning the Web yesterday? Blame Adelphia. Why won’t there be a Spanning the Web today? Blame Adelphia.

Adelphia Cable is my high speed internet provider. It’s really been a crappy week for the two of us. They’re actually spoiling the good name that cable companies have worked so hard to earn.

The problems began this past Sunday night. My internet service began going in and out. I would lose my connection every five minutes and then it would take ten minutes or so to go back on. It would return for five minutes, then go back out for ten. Rinse, lather and repeat.

I called Adelphia requesting help. They set up an appointment for Tuesday. The two day delay was understandable, what with Monday being a holiday and all. What was less understandable was the fact that they gave me what they refer to as an “all day appointment.”

An “all day appointment” is an Adelphia euphemism for, “We’ll show up any time we want between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. If you want your service restored, you better be there when we arrive.” I said I really liked this concept of an “all day appointment” and I was going to apply it to my own dealings. I would henceforth inform my doctor that when I needed an appointment, I would show up anytime during the day I wanted and he would have to see me immediately upon my arrival. I would also inform my auto mechanic and dentist of this new policy. My sarcasm was lost on the indifferent service rep handling my call, who repeatedly chirped in a mantra-like fashion, “Thank you for choosing Adelphia.”

The cable guy came on Tuesday at about 2:00 p.m. He was a pleasant enough young man who eagerly quaffed down the Whole Foods orange juice I generously offered him. Nothing but the best for my cable techs!

The tech soon “fixed” the problem. By “fixed,” I mean that the modem worked for about twenty minutes after he left and then began functioning more poorly than before. Now instead of having five minutes on and ten minutes off, I was having two minutes on and twenty minutes off.

I called Adelphia Tuesday afternoon to pleasantly register my disappointment. They told me the soonest they could get another tech out there would be Thursday. I was given another all day appointment. At this point, I was beginning to get angry.

Thursday’s tech was the opposite of Tuesday’s. While Tuesday’s rep had been affable and easy-going, Thursday’s was oddly belligerent. He told me that someone would have to move the 31” TV so he could get at the cable outlet. I asked him if that meant he wanted me to do it. He said, “yes,” so I did. But I did ask what they would do if the home-owner were an 80 year old woman. He said then he wouldn’t fix the problem.

He, too, pronounced the problem “fixed.” I’ll say this for him – at least his “fix” was a more definitive resolution than the last one. About five minutes after he left, the internet service went out; it hasn’t gone back on for a single second since.

I called Adelphia. You’ll never guess what they did – they offered me another “all-day appointment” for today. This was too much. I suggested that there had to be a way they could do better. They said they couldn’t. I asked if the President of Adelphia made parole and needed his home internet service fixed, would he really be subject to three all-day appointments in one week? The customer service rep implausibly insisted that he would.

I insisted on speaking with a supervisor. I got one on the phone and immediately got results. He offered to narrow down the visit window to between 1:00 p.m and 5:00 p.m. But wait – there’s more. He also offered me a $10 credit on my next cable bill. Ka-ching!!! I told him that this was more of an insult than anything else. $10 for being house-bound for three days hardly seemed like a fair trade.

I asked if there was any way they could move me to the top of the queue for tomorrow (which is now today). He said that was up to the local office. I inquired who the local office answered to. He said he couldn’t divulge that. I then asked if I was correct that everyone at Adelphia was accountable to the home office in Buffalo where he was a vaunted supervisor. He said yes.

I suggested he order them to see me first since I was a justifiably annoyed customer who had received very poor service. He said that he would request such a thing but he couldn’t guarantee they would comply. He couldn’t explain to me how a local office could ignore a directive from the home office whenever the urge struck. I told him that I could only conclude that my local Adelphia office is a rogue operation that plays by its own rules. He responded, “Huh?”

Around 12:30 today, I got a call from the supervising tech for the rogue local office. He told me that they had scheduled me to be visited today by one of their “subcontractors.” He had little confidence that the “subcontractor” could revise the problem. He suggested that I defer my visit to tomorrow morning when he’ll have his best guy visit me between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Oddly, because the bar had been set so low, this was by far the most satisfying conversation I had with Adelphia this week.

SO INTERNET ACCESS has been a scarce commodity this week. Sorry, but not for me is hanging around at Starbuck’s or Panera for five hours preparing Spanning the Web. And I can’t tie up my phone line being on the internet all day. Again, sorry.

But Spanning the Web will return with a vengeance this weekend. We’ll have a post both on Saturday and Sunday.

In other words, I actually do see the light at the end of the hellish tunnel that Adelphia and I have ridden through. This time I think the problem will be rectified.

And even if it isn’t, I’m still $10 richer thanks to Adelphia’s overwhelming dedication to customer satisfaction!

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/22/2006

1) PORT STORM, PART I: The Wall Street Journal insightfully explains the other side of the story, painstakingly walking us through the difference between being in charge of commercial operations and security. The editorial is definitely worth a read, and is hard to refute. That being said, it’s still not easy to be sanguine about the United Arab Emirates being knee deep in vital U.S. ports. We have to be clear about something here – the UAE doesn’t have free companies like we have in America. All of their major “corporations” are to some degree or another proxies for the government. Getting the UAE’s government more involved in our vital affairs seems like a step in the wrong direction.

2) PORT STORM, PART II: You know who’s really steamed about this whole thing? CAIR. Of course. James Zogby, the head of CAIR, offered some typically overwrought commentary on the matter, once again decrying how Arab Americans are so victimized by bigotry:

"I find some of the rhetoric being used against this deal shameful and irresponsible. There is bigotry coming out here," said James Zogby, president of the Arab American Institute.He said politicians were exploiting fears left over from Sept. 11 to gain advantage in a congressional election year."Bush is vulnerable so the Democrats jump on it. The Republicans feel vulnerable so they jump on it. The slogan is, if it's Arab, it's bad. Hammer away," Zogby said.

This move is a bad one for Zogby and CAIR. Getting an unreliable Arab government more involved in our ports is so obviously a bad idea (or at the very least not a good idea), all aspects of the political spectrum agree on it. Zogby gets a lot of mileage out of milking the grievance card because there are so many Americans willing to believe the worst where the countrymen’s attitudes towards minorities are concerned. This time, the people who normally would incline to sympathize with CAIR are squarely in the opposite corner.

3) PORT STORM, PART III: Don’t believe me that the people who ordinarily align themselves with CAIR are against them this time? Then check out the Daily Kos. Markos himself pens an entry suggesting something sinister is afoot. “So who exactly approved this deal? It wasn't the people McClellan claimed it was. And why is Bush so hell-bent on seeing it happen, to the point of threatening his first-ever veto?” I for one am shocked by Markos’ insensitivity towards the United Arab Emirates. How could he be so cruel?

4) PORT STORM, PART IV, OR MCCAIN SUCK UP WATCH: There is one person who seems to think the deal with the UAE is just ducky. In his continuing effort to cozy up to the administration and its admirers, John McCain offers a ringing endorsement of the Bush team and the respect it has won. “The President’s leadership has earned our trust in the war on terror,” the former Abu Ghraib hysteric suggests, “and surely his administration deserves the presumption that they would not sell our security short. Dubai has cooperated with us in the war and deserves to be treated respectfully. By all means, let’s do due diligence, get briefings, seek answers to all relevant questions and assurances that defense officials and the intelligence community were involved in the examination and approval of this transaction. In other words, let’s make a judgment when we possess all the pertinent facts. Until then, all we can offer is heat and little light to the discussion.”

Whether these comments will get him expelled from the Graham/Hagel/McCain caucus remains to be seen.

5) Larry Summers submitted his resignation yesterday. I have a piece up on the Standard running down the chronology of the events and what I consider to be the most under-reported part of the story. Summers wanted the professors to focus on teaching. Lord knows students at Harvard (and the parents who send them there) want to be taught. But Harvard’s faculty must necessarily be composed of the best and the brightest in their fields. If that wasn’t the faculty’s composition, then it wouldn’t be Harvard.

Such people often aren’t into teaching. I remember one professor telling me that he considered the students to be a necessary evil; you really couldn’t have a university without them but you had to spend some time with them, time that could be more enjoyably spent on “scholarship.” Summers wanted his glittering faculty to teach and to interact with the undergrads. A lot of professors were hostile to such a notion.

Of course Larry could have pursued his agenda in a more delicate and politic way. But it is nevertheless a very sad day that his agenda is doubtlessly in its death throes.

6) The normally reclusive Alan Dershowitz also offers his thoughts on the Summers’ resignation. The Dersh points out that the “coup d’etat” was engineered merely by a plurality of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Harvard University is a sprawling entity, and the FAS is merely a prominent part of the sprawl. Dersh suggests that Summers enjoyed widespread support. While that may very well be true, where were these numerous supporters when Summers needed them so badly the past 12 months?

As the old saying goes, first they came for the university presidents with questionable social skills…

7) PORT STORM, EPILOGUE: Of course all concerned parties are keeping their heads and weighing in on the debate in a measured, reasoned fashion. The Mayor of Baltimore, for one, seems to be choosing his word carefully so as not to promote any hysteria. “We want to turn over the Port of Baltimore, the home of the Star Spangled Banner, to the United Arab Emirates?” asks Mayor Martin O’Malley. “Not so long as I'm mayor and not so long as I have breath in my body,” the mayor responds to his own question.

Left unsaid is that the UAE will have to pry the port of Baltimore from the mayor’s cold dead hands.

8) The Powerline guys call our attention to one Barbara Slavin, the senior diplomatic correspondent for USA Today. Slavin seems to be the living embodiment of the stereotypical America-hating/Bush despising reporter. Reporting on Slavin’s appearance on C-Span this morning, Paul Mirenghoff recounts how Slavin posited that Iran only wanted nuclear weapons because such a thing befitted a great and ancient civilization. In other words, according to Slavin’s logic Iran wants nukes for the same reason your status conscious neighbor drives one of those crappy, cheap little Mercedes that is half the car of the typical Buick.

But Slavin was just getting warmed up. Mirenghoff reports, “When a caller reminded Slavin of the hostage-taking in 1979, Slavin responded that this event had little to do with the U.S. and much to do with an internal power struggle within the Iranian revolutionary movement. Finally, and disgracefully, Slavin argued that although the hostage-taking was bad, at least the hostages came home in one piece, unlike many of our soldiers in Iraq.”

9) Austin Bay has a must read piece on one of the declassified Al Qaeda documents. Much of the article concerns Al Qaeda’s reaction to our ignominious retreat from Somalia. Al Qaeda’s thinkers concluded that the U.S. was a “paper tiger” and had yet to recover from its Vietnam syndrome. One can only wonder how Al Qaeda views our media’s frequent (and erroneous) comparisons between the war in Iraq and Vietnam. The Jihadists may or may not know the comparisons are wrong (I would wager they don’t), but if they’re looking for a reason to believe that America can’t shake the Vietnam syndrome, there are numerous actors on the American stage who would give sanction to such a conclusion.

10) This is without doubt the bottom story of the day. A guy in Florida killed his roommate because the house’s supply of toilet paper had been depleted. If a crime like this was in fact destined to be committed, I would have bet my last dollar that the victim would have been a slothful husband and the perpetrator his justifiably enraged wife.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/21/2006

1) This morning, for no apparent reason, I did a Google search for my favorite high school teacher, the man who I give the dubious distinction of teaching me how to write. Running the search led me to a website called ratemyteachers.com. This site allows parents to rate the pedagogues who are guiding their precious darlings into adulthood.

In order to make the ratings, the site asks three questions of the parents:

1) Did both you and your child know what was expected in this class?

2) Was the classroom work the right difficulty for your childhood?

3) Did the teacher treat your child with respect, care and knowledge of your child’s needs?

While the last question is undeniably the most howl-inducing of the three, all of the questions reek of the self-esteem movement that has so crippled modern education. All of them want to know how the class made the fragile tyke feel; notably, none of them bother to inquire whether or not the student actually learned anything.

Dwight Mackerron, the teacher who prompted me to do this Google search, sadly had the habit of often making me feel like crap. The reason for that is he had the audacity to keep giving me C+’s even though I was working really hard to do better. He was completely unsympathetic to my “need” to go to Harvard.

But I actually learned from Mr. Mackerron. Eventually I dragged those C+’s up to B-‘s and even the occasional B. I developed such a respect for Mr. Mackerron that when I became a teacher, I modeled my efforts after his. And when I write, I still see his menacing red pen hovering over my keyboard, knowing full well that if I break one of the rules he taught me, I better have a damn good reason for doing so.

I also found out in my Google search that Mr. Mackerron is about to retire. He’s still a pretty young guy – not yet 60 if my memory is correct. I haven’t spoken to him in twenty years, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he’s chosen to get out while the getting’s good.

2) Yesterday we spoke about the opposition research that the ever classy Paul Hackett released (oops, I mean renegade Hackett staffers released) on his former opponent Sherrod Brown. In that regard, one of my readers emailed me this old story about a Sherrod Brown speech that was plagiarized. Perhaps most embarrassingly, the story wasn’t plagiarized from someone worth plagiarizing like Noel Kinnock who Slow Joe Biden plagiarized in 1988. Brown (oops, I mean renegade Brown staffers) actually stooped to plagiarizing a blogger, someone called Nathan Newman of the eponymous NathanNewman.org. Newman is perhaps the only winner of this sorry tale; the Cleveland Plain Dealer called his writing “crisp.”

3) There’s this kooky story out there about the federal government turning over operations of a Baltimore port to a company based in the United Arab Emirates. On its face, it is impossible to understand this move. While one could perhaps argue that DHS would still be responsible for security, this seems like at best a tin-eared policy, more likely a reckless one. The Bush administration sometimes has a bad habit of trying to will itself into believing what it wants to believe – that the Saudis are our friends, that Brownie does a heckuva job, that Harriet Miers is Justice Holmes in heels. There are prominent elements in the UAE who decidedly wish the United States harm. Letting them near our ports is nothing short of inexplicable.

4) It also opens up one of those opportunities for the left to try to get to the Republicans’ right on a security issue. This is a continuing meme – Democrats try to insist that they take a backseat to no one in their reverence for our armed forces and their zeal to protect our nation. Part of this plan in action is a new movement by several heretofore dovish Democrats to boost military pay. Among the supporters of the bill is that long–time champion of the troops (or at least those who didn’t cut off ears and behave in a manner of Genghis Kahn), a guy named John Kerry.

While this is a neat little strategy for the Democrats, it’s a hopeless one. The Scoop Jackson Democrats are virtually extinct. The one who remains, Joe Lieberman, is endangered. Practically every prominent Democrat has spent a career being dovish on defense issues. The thought that a couple of acts of symbolism can render their entire careers null and void is ludicrous.

Even very public displays of administration stupidity like the Port Storm can’t rehabilitate the Democrats.

5) If you think the schools are messed up, you should check out the colleges. The New York Times today runs an article citing a new difficulty faced by college professors. Because of email, any one of their students can virtually pester them at any time. One UC Davis professor reports receiving the following email: “Should I buy a binder or a subject notebook? Since I'm a freshman, I'm not sure how to shop for school supplies. Would you let me know your recommendations? Thank you!” Aaah, the self esteem movement reaches its logical conclusion.

But lest we feel too badly for the beleaguered professoriate, some of them have declared ground rules for their email exchanges. Meg Worley, an associate Professor of English at Pomona College, offers her students the following guideline: “One of the rules that I teach my students is, the less powerful person always has to write back.” Is it just me, or does that seem like a rather haughty guideline for an assistant English professor to be crowing about in the New York Times?

6) Speaking of the professoriate, the PhD’s in Harvard Yard have apparently finally gotten their man. News reports suggest that Harvard’s president, Lawrence H. Summers, is about to tender his resignation. About a year ago, I wrote a story for the Standard on Larry and his rebellious faculty titled, “Harvard: The End of the Beginning.” The title referred to the fact that it had become an open fact that a huge chunk of Harvard’s loathed Summers. What happened from there was anyone’s guess.

Summers “fought back” by launching an aggressive appeasement campaign. And yet his foes were not appeased. Today brings us the end of the end, and offers a sobering lesson about the difficulties anyone who tries to reform our sclerotic universities will face.

7) ABC News offers an interesting look at John McCain’s campaign to suck up to conservatives like me after five years of serial betrayals. Here’s the deal with McCain – he’s hawkish. That’s important. If a dove wins the presidency in 2008, it could well be ruinous for the country. McCain also looks like he would be very strong in a general election. In other words, he’d be our safest bet to keep Hilary Clinton or John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich out of the Oval Office. But McCain’s done a lot of damage to his relationship with Republicans the past five years, and elephants are known for their long memories.

As for me, I’m trying to get in the habit of loving McCain, just in case it becomes necessary to do so. Lord knows adopting such a pose won’t be easy, and it will require a lot of practice.

8) The ABC story also provides us with today’s “coffee spit” winner. Some guy named Eugene Jarecki is the director of “Why We Fight,” a Sundance darling that was stridently against the Iraq war. Even worse, Jarecki’s opus apparently stole its name from Frank Capra’s patriotic WWII work that came from a time when Hollywood didn’t loath the country that plied it with riches.

Jarecki says in the ABC story, “I get asked all the time if I think McCain is the next Dwight Eisenhower.” So true – McCain and Ike, a matched set. D-Day and the dodging the Keating scandal – similar accomplishments. This is part of the left’s problem – it is for the most part so ignorant on military matters, one of its members can actually make a comparison of this sort with a straight face.

(To be fair to Jarecki, he makes the comparison because both McCain and Ike are/were wary of the military industrial complex. But honestly, making such a comparison for that reason is like comparing a modern day politician to George Washington because the modern day pol once cut down a cherry tree.)

9) My favorite Jew baiter, Pat Buchanan, actually has a funny and insightful column on the Real Clear Politics Site. Writing about the White House Press Corps’ antics last week, Buchanan says, “The White House press corps took on the aspect of that Muslim mob outside the Danish consulate in Beirut. Press secretary Scott McClellan, mild-mannered presenter of the daily press line, got the full Abu Ghraib treatment.” Buchanan concludes his article by suggesting that the press corps will soon turn its energy on driving the administration to impeachment. This is no joke. The notion of impeachment has been bubbling up through the netroots for the past year, or more precisely since November 2004. If the Democrats retake the House in ’06, we’re in for a wild ride indeed.

10) The Standard’s site runs an important article chronicling the co-mingling of Sunni Al Qaeda members with the Shiite Khomenists running Iran. The reason this story is important is because America’s academic community takes it as an article of faith that the Sunnis and the Shiites are sort of a turbaned version of the Hatfields and the McCoys who would never unite on anything, even something as important as crippling the Great Satan. This is a demonstrably false notion. While the two factions may argue over who gets to be the Caliph after the Caliphate is established, they have little problem uniting in the shared goal of establishing the Caliphate.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Monday, February 20, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/20/2006

1) WHEN GOOD INTELLECTUALS GO BAD: Francis Fukayama had a lengthy piece in the New York Times Magazine yesterday in which he jumped ship from the SS Neocon.

Fukayama is best known for proclaiming the “end of history” when the Cold War concluded. As he points out in his Times piece, this is perhaps one of the most misunderstood pieces of intellectual dogma of the past 50 years. The “end of history” didn’t mean neat and dramatic things were going to stop happening; rather in Fukayama’s own words, the “end of history” refers to the “fact” that the universal “desire to live in a modern — that is, technologically advanced and prosperous — society” is best achieved by liberal democracies.

What the “End of History” missed 14 years ago when it was written and what eluded Fukayama again yesterday is that the desire to live in modern prosperity is not universal. The increasingly prominent Jihadists couldn’t give a fig about such things; they’re happy kicking stones in Waziristan as long as they can lead what they consider to be a pious life. What’s more, they want, nay insist, that everyone else be like them. The fact that after all these years Fukayama is still claiming that prosperity and modernity are universal desires is stunningly obtuse.

But where Fukayama really jumped the tracks yesterday was when he declared that the Iraq war had created more Jihadism. Jihadism is not a reaction to the west or the United States; it’s been around for 13 centuries and counting. It has only entered our collective consciousness since 9/11, but it is not a new phenomenon and the dream of global conquest didn’t begin with bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Were it not for the wonders of asymmetrical warfare, we could still safely be ignorant of Jihadism for it would pose little danger to us.

Fukayama is supposedly one of the world’s deepest thinkers. It is surprising and disappointing that he has apparently done nothing to acquaint himself with the history of Jihadism and its long standing goal of global conquest.

2) Yippee! James Carroll has another piece in the Boston Globe today! As is so often the case, Carroll is feeling blue. Today he’s bummed out regarding the betrayal of our feathered friends who seem intent on wiping us out with their Avian Flu. Carroll weeps, “If birds are not a friend to the human species, where in all of nature is friendship to be found?” However, it does seem like part of him is rooting for the Bird Flu: “If the worst case unfolds, and the dreaded transmission mutations occur, avian flu might be taken as nature's revenge for the human despoiling of the planet.”

3) The Globe also provides us with today’s “coffee spit” moment of the day. In relaying the details of the Democratic Party’s plans to declare defeat in Iraq, the Globe characterizes Senator Diane Feinstein as “influential and moderate.” What, pray tell, has DiFi done to deserve either the “influential” or “moderate” tag? Whom does she influence? Are other Democratic Senators pacing the Russell Building just waiting for a sign from DiFi for what to do? Frankly, I doubt she has enough influence to get her barista at Starbucks to give her an extra shot in her latté without a charge.

But even more ludicrous is the notion that she’s moderate. Again, compared to whom? If the Democrats and their house organs like the Globe truly fancy Feinstein a moderate, they truly have a long way back to finding the middle where American elections are won and lost.

4) Mickey Kaus now has company. For months now, the Mickster has been fighting a lonely twilight battle to convince America that “Brokeback Mountain” isn’t “all that,” as a gay cowboy might put it. Today John Leo writing on the Real Clear Politics site joins Mickey in ridiculing the notion that “Brokeback” has broken through in the red states, and thus signifies a seminal cultural moment.

“Brokeback” is, in my opinion, a very fine movie. But it is, in the end, just a movie. If you were inclined to view homosexuality as an unforgivable abomination, “Brokeback” won’t change your mind. Leo’s point, which amplifies the point Mickey made in several dozen posts (at least), is that just because the left wishes something doesn’t make it so, even if it gets its wishes written up as fact by Frank Rich. “Brokeback” was popular (it did almost 20% of the box office of Narnia!), but like most works of art it will not change the world.

5) The New York Times has a piece today describing Israel’s plans to cut Hamas off at the financial knees. Why this surprises anyone is beyond me. Israel has a hostile neighbor who repeatedly vows its destruction. How could anyone be so obtuse to think Israel has an obligation to financially nurture that state until it’s in a position to do some real damage? And how could anyone think Israel would be dumb enough to do so?

6) Actually, there is one person dumb enough to think that Israel should (and America should) aid the hostile Hamas-led government. Who is this foolish man? None other than our 39th president, Jimmy Carter. Writing an op-ed piece for the Washington Post that is hopelessly irresolute even by his lofty standards, Carter urges America and Israel to not “punish the Palestinian people.” Carter of course doesn’t specify what the Israelis might be “punishing” the Palestinians for. Perhaps he’s referring to the urge Israel might have to “punish” the Pals for electing a regime that vows to work non-stop for elimination of the hated Zionist entity.

And then there’s this gem: “The spokesman for Hamas claimed, ‘We want a peaceful unity government.’ If this is a truthful statement, it needs to be given a chance.” Carter doesn’t specify how we should go about determining whether the statement is true. Obviously the investigation won’t include looking at any Hamas policy statements, either past or present, because Hamas’ official statements make it quite clear that the spokesman is in error and Hamas has little desire for peace. Perhaps to see if the statement is true, Carter would have Israel provide Hamas with a nuclear weapon and see if Hamas uses it.

This man ran our country for four years. The mind reels.

7) This Wall Street Journal piece ran on Saturday but I just noticed it this morning (Subscription required, I think). It describes how Donald Rumsfeld is trying to reshape the US Armed Forces to be more reliant on small and lethal Special Forces units that will be especially adept at hunting down and liquidating small actors like Jihadis. We are very fortunate at this point in time to have a Secretary of War who actually “gets it.” A “play it by the book” type would be readying the military for an Armageddon type conflict with China that will never come. Rumsfeld is actually preparing the military to do the job that is imminently in need of doing.

8) The MVP (most valuable Power-liner), Scott Johnson, calls our attention to an amazing story coming out of his native Minnesota. As I mentioned a couple of days ago, some parents of slain Iraqi veterans have run ads supporting the war in Iraq and the Republicans who also support it. The Minnesota Democratic party has slandered those participating in the ads and, get this, urged a pressure campaign to stop media outlets from running them. Perhaps most shocking of all, the Democrats have attacked the veterans who are supporting the war as un-American, thereby tacitly questioning their patriotism!

While these tactics are loathsome and despicable, the veterans and Gold Star families who participated in the ads can take a measure of joy in the obvious fact that they’ve struck a nerve. Democrats have, through the duration of the Iraq struggle, considered the troops a political football. They shed crocodile tears over every setback, all the while barely containing their glee over the damage each setback might do to the Bush administration. They claim to want to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice, but everyone sees through their poorly veiled game and knows that what they really want to do is score political points.

The Minnesota ad campaign brought these matters into stark relief. Thus, it is little wonder that the Democrats have reacted as they have.

9) Ever the class-act, Paul Hackett, already having dropped out of the Ohio Democratic Senate primary against Representative Sherrod Brown, has dumped his opposition research regarding Brown onto the Toledo Blade. Thanks to Hackett’s crack crew of mud-slingers, we learn that Brown voted to cut intelligence funding more than a dozen times before 9/11. I’ve often said in private that Hackett was the most overtly mean-spirited politician I’ve ever seen. This contrasts with guys like John Edwards who radiate warmth and sunshine when the cameras on but are ruthless jerks in private. Hackett was a petty swine pretty much 24/7.

10) Markos Moulitsas assures us that the Hackett information dump came from renegade staffers and that Hackett himself had nothing to do it. Markos proffers no evidence to support this assertion.

Actually, Hackett and guys like him will be Markos’ political legacy. Some time in the future, Markos will write or say something so outrageous that politicians will have to distance themselves from him and his days as a player will end. But he’ll still have left his mark.

Markos has made it cool to be mean. Where politicians once tried to maintain a public façade of kindness and optimism, Markos and his not-so-merry band have insisted on unrestrained bile. They’ve brought politicians like Hackett into the mainstream. And while Hackett has mercifully cleared the floor, his style will be with us for some time to come.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com

Sunday, February 19, 2006

SPANNING THE WEB - 2/19/2006

1) ACTON UPDATE: There’s no subtle way to put this – the people who run the Daily Illini have flipped out. Clearly unnerved by being in the national spotlight, the Illini’s board has begun sweating before the klieg lights like a latter day Richard Nixon minus the 5 o’clock shadow.

To bring everyone up to speed, Acton Gorton was the courageous editor-in-chief of the Daily Illini who ran the infamous Danish doodles that had sparked the global cartoon intifidah. Responding to his publishing the cartoons, other members of the Illini’s editorial board wrote a barely-literate critique of Gorton that concluded by declaring their fierce fidelity to freedom of the press but only up to the point where others’ sensibilities might be offended.

A few days later, the for-profit board that publishes the Illini suspended Gorton for two weeks and promised an impartial two week investigation into his actions, after which he would be fired. Acton was told that his true hanging offense was recklessly endangering the lives of the Illini’s staff.

Not satisfied with punishing Acton merely with a Stalinist show trial and termination, Illini publisher Mary Cory wrote a letter slandering Gorton, stating, “His focus ... is for the media attention he is receiving personally for his courageous move ... to run the cartoons in his paper, not for the need to publish an excellent newspaper worthy of its reputation.”

As the first national media person to interview Gorton, I can personally testify to the ludicrous nature of these comments. Acton was surprised to hear from the Weekly Standard and very surprised that the story was about to receive national attention.

Indeed, if the Illini had allowed things to end with the cartoons’ publication and a favorable few paragraphs regarding Acton within a lengthy Weekly Standard story, the matter never would have become a big story. I know for a fact that it became a big story (Acton has subsequently appeared on Fox News with John Gibson and the Hugh Hewitt Show) because of the Illini’s outrageous actions.

But wait – there’s more! In an effort to gratuitously antagonize a fresh new segment of the populace, the Illini has implemented a new policy prohibiting its staff from writing blogs. A few days ago I suggested the Illini’s mindset was redolent of Stalinism. Chalk one up for Soxblog! But let’s at least hand it to the Illini’s publisher, Mary Cory. It takes a perverse kind of courage to be so wantonly obtuse and cowardly in public.

Meanwhile, Gorton now has counsel and will be hitting back. This story is just beginning.

2) Dana Milbank of the Washington Post appeared on the Keith Olberman show last week wearing hunting apparel as sort of a performance-art commentary on Dick Cheney’s hunting accident. Several of Olberman’s dozens of viewers were scandalized. Doesn’t Milbank know he’s supposed to be objective? On the other hand, I find it refreshing when any media-type ditches the Kabuki-ritual of feigning Olympian detachment, even if its done in a cloddish clownish manner. The Post’s ombudsman, however, is not amused with Milbank giving away trade secrets.

(A parenthetical note on the Olberman Show. I know, statistically speaking, it’s highly unlikely that any of you have seen it. Here’s how it works: It’s called “Countdown” and it theoretically counts down the five biggest stories of the day. But the biggest story of the day that starts the show is number 5, the silly human interest story number 1. This makes no sense. It should be called “Countup,” but that’s not a word. Perhaps this logical flaw accounts for why no one watches the show. Either that or a host thoroughly suffused with smug arrogance isn’t a ratings winner.)

3) On the Opinion Journal site, historian Robert Dallek lists the top five presidential biographies. Dallek’s list irritates me. He assiduously avoids any of the noteworthy “popular” histories of the past 20 years. The only book of recent vintage that made Dallek’s cut was Professor Donald’s magnificent 1995 biography of Lincoln. History doesn’t have to be dull. Indeed, making it dull is a feat in itself. Dallek’s entire column reeks of condescension. For instance, he says, “It may surprise many Americans to learn that Jefferson remains a controversial figure--both as a man and as a political leader.” I would posit that the “Jefferson controversy” would surprise few Americans who are bothering to read a Robert Dallek column in the Wall Street Journal.

4) Michael Ledeen has a fantastic column on the situation on Iran and hails the development that America is finally dipping its colossal toe into the situation. The problem is the crisis grows graver by the hour. Ledeen reports, “The Iranians believe they see many positive developments, above all, the declaration that ‘it has been promised that by 8 April, we will be in a position to show the entire world that 'we are members of the club.’ This presumably refers to nuclear weapons.” Brother Ledeen concludes each one of these columns by imploring the Bush administration, “Faster, please.” Amen.

5) In an interesting piece of news, the Iraqi government wants to join NATO. This brings us one step closer to total victory in Iraq. We’ll know we’ve truly won when Iraq unapologetically screws us as Germany and France have for the past few years.

6) Nancy Pelosi penned another diary for the Daily Kos. The Kossacks yawned. Actually, the friendlier Kossacks yawned. The more spirited Kossacks are beginning to realize that they’re being played for gullible dupes by self-interested politicians who suck up to them and then do things like renew the hated Patriot Act without prostrating themselves on the Capitol or even consulting Cindy Sheehan. Wrote one angry leftist, “You're fighting? Is that what you call it, Representative Pelosi? Fighting? Funny, for the most part over the past 5 years, you Congressional Democrats have basically drawn a dotted line across your own throats with a tag that read, ‘Republicans - cut here.’ I think it is galling for you to speak of your efforts as ‘fighting.’ While I do appreciate your perspective from on top, I cannot thank you for your rather weak approach to this fight… IF THE LOSS OF ONE'S POLITICAL CAREER IS NOT WORTH GIVING FOR THE SAKE OF OUR COUNTRY, THEN WE ARE WELL AND TRULY SCREWED. For if our Democratic Congressmen and Senators will not make such a sacrifice for the rest of us, then we have chosen the wrong people all along.”

7) The Boston Globe runs an amazing op-ed piece today under the heading, “Is America Ready for a Mormon President.”

Author John Bunzel, a past president of San Jose University, spends much of the column showing what an awful religion Mormonism is. “As taught by Mormon prophets from Brigham Young's day to the late 1970s,” Bunzel writes, “blacks have been regarded as 'not equal with other races,’ an inequality (to quote Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie) that is 'the Lord's doing based on his eternal laws of justice.’ Mormon theologians have justified this racial bias by asserting that the black race is descended from Cain, who was cursed and marked (supposedly with a black skin) and whose descendants continued to bear the mark and the curse. In 1978, the ban against African-Americans in the Mormon priesthood was dropped, along with long-standing church doctrines that were used to bolster claims of black inferiority. However, critics of the church maintain that although the ban has been removed, the doctrine has not changed.” Oddly, Bunzel decides not to name any of these “critics.”

Ironically, Bunzel then concludes that Mitt Romney can’t win the Republican nomination because Republicans, evangelicals in particular, are too bigoted to vote for a Mormon. Perhaps not surprisingly, Bunzel offers no empirical evidence to support this wild-eyed claim. I guess one can admire Bunzel’s chutzpah, if not his loathsome rhetoric.

(I remember a time not-too-long ago when the Globe editorial page declared that it deplored the Mormon baiting that has accompanied Romney’s political career. I guess they were against it before they were for it.)

8) At least there’s one person on the Globe editorial page who dependably makes sense. Jeff Jacoby has an insightful piece on the mainstream media’s failure to publish the Danish doodles. Jacoby may well be the first person to identify his bosses’ cowardice: “The refusal of the US media to show the images at the heart of one of the most urgent stories of the day is not about restraint and good taste. It's about fear. Editors and publishers are afraid the thugs will target them as they targeted Danny Pearl and Theo van Gogh; afraid the mob will firebomb their newsrooms as it has firebombed Danish embassies.”

Don’t underestimate the courage it took to make these observations from within the belly of the beast.

Responses? Thoughts? Please email them to me at soxblog@aol.com