Saturday, September 21, 2002

THE OLD EXPLODING SCOREBOARD at the Astrodome. I had forgotten that the home run display lasted 45 seconds.
EUGENE VOLOKH has been having fun occasionally with the lame Bushisms that Slate sometimes runs, but it doesn't really change the underlying principle of how inarticulate Bush can be.
There's a lot of talk about Iraq on our TV screens, and there should be, because we're trying to figure out how best to make the world a peaceful place. There's an old saying in Tennessee -- I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says, fool me once, shame on -- shame on you. Fool me -- you can't get fooled again.
(via Zilber)
FOR LAN3, a WSJ A-hed on school restrooms. (also via Jacobs)
SOMEONE ELSE IS fed up with San Francisco. (via Jacobs)
THE AMERICAN PROSPECT suggests that no one has actually read William Langewiesche's three-part series on the clean-up of the WTC site. Which is perhaps true: I haven't seen anyone comment on his revelation deep in the third part that one of the firetrucks retrieved from the rubble was staffed by firemen who were clearly in the midst of looting jeans from a Gap store in the Center when the truck was suddenly buried by the collapse of the South Tower, with piles of pants still in the drivers' compartment, where they were retrieved, months later, still neatly folded.
THE MIRACLE OF Canadian health care.
IT WAS VERY KIND of the Washington Post to endorse a Virginia sales tax increase to pay for transportation improvements. If they made it a gas tax, I'd vote for it. When it's a sales or income tax, heck no: tax the people who use the roads the most, rather than those of us who have made the investment to live close to the city to avoid putting stress on the road system with a lengthy commute.
HARVARD PRESIDENT LAWRENCE SUMMERS'S speech on campus anti-Semitism.
"THE MINUTEMAN" SUMMARIZES blogging on the Central Park Jogger case. One thing I haven't seen anyone focus on is the execrable way in which the rape-defendants handled their trial: I have never seen anyone innocent engage in the sort of ludicrous and offensive blame-the-victim tactics that these defendants did, and that, as much as anything, keeps me skeptical of their renewed claims of innocence.

I do want to comment on this innumerate post:
As Jeralyn points out, false confessions account for 20 percent of wrongful convictions. That's an unconscionable number.
Uh, no, it's not. For example, if there were a million accurate confessions, and five wrongful convictions, and one of those five was a false confession, that would hardly be unconscionable, even though it's 20 percent of the faulty convictions. The appropriate number to consider is the ratio of accurate confessions to coerced confessions. "Twenty pecent of wrongful convictions involve coerced confessions" tells me nothing, and certainly doesn't imply a 20% error rate for confessions.

Most importantly: why is everyone assuming that the Central Park Jogger confessions are coerced? The confessions were videotaped with the parents present. Five separate times for five separate people, who corroborated each other's stories in detail, one of whom led police to the crime scene where the jogger was found. I have yet to hear what additional safeguards the police should have pursued in the Central Park wilding case that they didn't, and how those objecting to those results want to handle future confessions.

What still appalls me is that any of the wilding perpetrators are out on the street. Only by the happenstance that they didn't actually kill anybody (though they sure came close) did they get five-year sentences. So I'm disgusted when I hear people moaning that the rapists lost a few years of their life. Even if they were over-punished for the rape (and I'm far from convinced that they were), they were compensated more than enough for the lack of punishment for their felony assaults.

Friday, September 20, 2002

SPEAKING OF NEW BLOGS, Neal Pollack has been doing a hilarious Andrew Sullivan impersonation. Alas, I can't permalink his take on the Bob Greene case, but it's worth reading.
SPEAKING OF REASON, they have a quasi-blog.
NICE REASON PIECE taking down the Carl Bogus book defending plaintiffs' lawyers. Bogus has apparently written a book about the good plaintiffs' lawyers do without once mentioning the American Trial Lawyers Association.
I'M NOT A BIG Janet Reno fan, but VodkaPundit's characterization of her as a "killer of religious minorities" is appalling. There's something known as proximate cause, and if the Branch Davidians hadn't decided to immolate themselves, they'd be alive today -- as is the case with every single one of the child hostages David Koresh released before he sent his compound up in flames. I'm not going to blame Janet Reno for that.
WASHINGTON'S LEGISLATURE FAILED to amend its voyeurism laws when California learned the hard way that its laws failed to cover perverts who surreptitiously videotape up women's skirts, and was forced to reverse some convictions as a result. The talk show hosts are in an uproar, but the statute is pretty clear that a woman in a geographically public place isn't covered by the law. That four women signed on to the unanimous opinion (and that the prosecutor admitted he wasn't surprised) shows that this really isn't a controversial question.
THIS GUATEMALAN FRIED CHICKEN chain has had small successes in the United States catering directly to the Latin American immigrant market. I'd be curious what makes their chicken so different from American fast-food chicken that one woman could cover her plane fare from Guatemala to the US by taking along a couple of duffle bags of chicken and reselling it. (Indeed, they get their chicken in the U.S. from Sysco.)

There's clearly a pricing problem if the American stores have two-hour lines and rationing, though.

Thursday, September 19, 2002

WE HAVE ADDED A COMMENTS feature to make it easier for readers to leave feedback.
COMPARE "TUMBLING WOMAN" to Kahlo's The Suicide of Dorothy Hale.

What the "Tumbling Woman" controversy tells me is that I best not be hearing any New Yorkers giving my flyover-country peeps attitude over their Philistine reactions to Mapplethorpe et al. New Yorkers can be as reactionary as the rest of us, my favorite example of which is the 1973 Carnegie Hall riot over Steve Reich's "Four Organs."

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

LESS THAN A WEEK after Bruce Hill's "War Now" blog was unceremoniously axed for reasons unstated, Bruce's brother Murray takes up the torch with his new Silent Running blog. Meanwhile, grab what you can of the old "War Now" from Google's cache, why don't you?

Update: Murray has moved the blog to a new underscore-free address, and I have made the appropriate change to the link above.
SPEAKING OF REUTERS, have a look at an album full of entries in the Reuters-Style Caption Contest.

I had a good entry from Charles Austin too but don't have the picture that went with it. Charles, do you have another copy?
THAT ONE SENTENCE that's required to be in every Reuters dispatch about Israeli-Palestinian clashes -- you know, the one about "at least x Palestinians and (x - n) Israelis have been killed in the 20-month-old violence" -- seems to have been altered subtly but profoundly earlier this month. As of Sept. 4, the sentence still attributed the beginning of the violence to something about a breakdown in peace talks in September 2000, but by the following day Reuters was adopting the official Palestinian view of the spintifada, attributing the "uprising" to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. By this week, it seemed the new Reuters standard was to refer to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza as the sole cause of the uprising, leaving out the previous "peace talks" angle altogether.

As I said, subtle but profound. Most observers could agree that while there had always been some ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence, the second intifada really did break out after Arafat rejected the Barak proposal, a change in the political climate that led directly to Ariel Sharon's rise to the premiership. On the other hand, the new Reuters line repeats as fact the Palestinian spin that the uprising is against occupation in the West Bank and Gaza, despite the long-view outlook of those of us on the pro-Israeli side, who see the Palestinians as simply continuing the decades-long effort to push Israel into the sea.

From our point of view, in other words, the West Bank/Gaza "occupation" is simply the proximate excuse for the upswing in anti-Israeli violence, not the (ahem) root cause or true intent, but the new formulation of the Reuters sentence is a factual assertion that flatly rejects our viewpoint.

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

WHEN IN JAPAN, do not use your business card as a toothpick.
OH MAN, this ain't good.
THE BIG RALLY AT the opening of the U.S. markets happened as expected -- although things went south again as traders were distracted by more lousy economic data and earnings warnings.

Meanwhile, though reduced war fears were driving stocks up around the world, oil prices were heading down on the same news, reminding us that for people who hate oooiiiiiiiiill, linking it to war is a winning proposition no matter what:
  • If oil prices go up, you can say the war was driven by the oooiiillll industry trying to raise prices and get fat profits (which makes sense when you're a college marxist who can't distinguish between profits and revenues)
  • If oil prices go down, you can say the war was driven by the rest of the ooooiiiiiiiilll-sucking U.S. corporate interests that want "cheap oil"
  • If oil prices stay the same -- well, oil prices never stay the same, but even if they did, the oil-haters would find something else to say. Like, say, "Saddam was trying to make oil more expensive so he could get more money selling it to buy food, medicine and SpongeBob SquarePants coloring books for the 971,430,706 Iraqi kids who die every day because of sanctions that were unilaterally imposed by the U.S. for no reason other than because the U.S. hates all children and wants them all to die. But the evil U.S. waged the war to keep him from raising oil prices because that way the U.S. will achieve its goal of killing as many kids as possible."
My vague recollection is that this went in cycles during the Gulf War -- before the war, when oil prices were rising, the war was because of the money-hungry oil industry, while after the war, when prices fell again, the war was for cheap oil. Does anyone else recall it that way?
THE BALTIMORE SUN notes the English-language publication of French putz Thierry Meyssan's book and worries:
[S]ome scholars and advocates say the book's success overseas is a worrisome measure of anti-Americanism. They say theories blaming the United States for the attacks, like the competing myth that Israel was responsible, could become a canard distorting history in parts of the world for decades.
The article also notes other conspiracy nuts that are spreading lies about 9/11 and points out that there are already Arabic and Spanish translations of Meyssan's drivel, "and rights have been purchased in 16 countries, according to press reports." Makes you wonder whether eventually people will see this as yet another way that 9/11 resembles the Kennedy assassination -- particularly since some people are already working to make that come true.
NEWS THAT IRAQ is pretending it's agreeing to a return of weapons inspectors has calmed investors' jitters about imminent war, leading to big stock-market gains today in Hong Kong and Tokyo; European markets are rising and U.S. futures are pointing to a rally here as well once the market opens, signaling relief in markets around the world. But as we all know, calls for war are solely driven by greedy capitalists, right?
SPANISH CHEESE REVIEW. I like Campo de Montalban, but found the Drunken Goat cheese unexceptional. Would you believe that the attached link is perhaps the best on the Web for both cheeses? Where's when you need it? Okay, there's, which has a nice discussion of the German cheese Bruder Basil, which I broke the fast with and enjoyed. The Iberico there looks similar to Campo de Montalban, but I couldn't tell you if it's the same thing.
SPECIAL INSOMNIA POST: Odds are you weren't reading this blog back when it was any good, but a ways back, I posted about the Jollibee's invasion. Alas, this story of globalization isn't going so well, and Americans just aren't buying into the concept of a burger-and-spaghetti fast-food chain that beat McDonald's in the Phillippines. (Thanks to Captain Spaulding for e-mailing me the link.)

Monday, September 16, 2002

THE FALLIBILITY OF MEMORY: 76% of New Yorkers say that they remember seeing on September 11 footage of both planes hitting the World Trade Center, even though there was no footage of the attack on the North Tower broadcast until the next day.
WHILE I WAS pulling one of my patented all-nighters, followed by my Atonement fast, Bob Greene got railroaded out of the Tribune for sleeping with a teenage woman (above the age of consent) who he had profiled, and the blogosphere is already commenting. I tend to agree with John Scalzi's position: Greene was a dreary columnist, and this is a dumb reason to get rid of him.

I wouldn't quite say that this is no breach of journalistic ethics, as Eugene Volokh does, though; if Greene had an explicit quid pro quo with the subject (no one appears to be accusing him of this), that would be bad. At worst, we see Greene writing about someone to impress them into his bed and, hypothetically, the Tribune could be aggrieved that they're being used as a journalist's seduction tool. (UPDATE: apparently so:)
The Tribune's code of ethics forbids staff members to "write about, photograph, edit or make news judgments about any individual related by blood or marriage or others with whom they have a close personal or financial relationship."
It's surprising to see it rise to this level, though: I've seen many journalists pull strings for friends and slant their coverage accordingly. (I love Cathy Seipp to pieces, but it's clear that her choice of storylines is influenced by her not-always-disclosed social circles.) I find it hard to believe that there isn't a single Tribune or LA Times columnist who isn't editing their first-person column in a way to make their personal lives easier--I forget the name of the LA Times political columnist who wrote a page 3 paean to his deceased father-in-law. Is the difference because Greene didn't explicitly disclose "I'm hoping to nail the protagonist of this particular piece"? I think the real problem is the self-importance of the journalistic profession thinking that it's important that they be perceived above the fray, when in reality they're so often not. The Tribune has to make a sacrifice of Greene on the altar of the imaginary standard of journalistic objectivity, as if to say, see? we journalists are held to a higher standard than we hold the president.
WARBLOGGERS LOVE GOING ON about the U.S. military clopping around on horseback in beards and Afghan tribal getups, but it looks like the brass have put the kibosh on this too-clever activity:
But last weekend, the story goes here, Pentagon brass were shocked by news photos of scruffy looking Special Operations Forces swinging into action to help abort the assassination attempt here against President Hamid Karzai in which his companion, Gul Agha Shirzai, governor of Kandahar Province, was wounded.

"On Monday," said a Special Operations Forces officer, leaning against the mud wall of a local bazaar, "we got the word: some general in Washington ordered no more beards."

Asking that his name not be used, the freshly shaved officer continued, "The guys are really burning on this" and nodded to his squad, men who all looked as if they had just emerged from a sheep-shearing shed.
Well, there goes one American military idea that the bloggers will no longer be able to brag about.

(I somehow missed this story last week and not until this morning did I even get around to checking Andrea See's blog, where she linked to the International Herald Tribune reprinting of the story.)
JUST HOW MUCH mockery will it take before the president's handlers back off from this apparent policy of sticking Bush in front of backdrops with the theme of his current speech printed over and over? Admittedly, I'm guessing that the administration isn't going to be affected much by anything Perkins does. Unless it's tasty, tasty pancakes. Mmmm, pancakes.

Sunday, September 15, 2002

NEW DATA SUGGEST that the Vinland map, purporting to show Norse exploration of North America, was forged by a Jesuit priest as a political protest against the Nazis.
ANOTHER STUNNING ACCOUNT of the Rwandan genocides in today's New York Times. Revelations include the use of HIV-infected men as an army of rapists.

Did you know that Abraham Lincoln was the first leader to implement laws condemning the widespread practice of rape by conquering armies? I didn't. Here is the text of the 1863 Lieber code, which was apparently revolutionary in its day. Francis Lieber's other claim to fame, other than being a Southerner opposed to secession, is that, using a Benjamin Franklin treatise, he opened the first swimming school in the United States.

That's a hell of a resume, so it's humbling to realize that he's essentially forgotten 125 years after his death.
LONGTIME VIDEO-GAME FANS will probably want to check out this Quake 3 mod based on the ancient Atari 2600 Adventure game.