Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Though an unrepentant Frost junkie and memorizer of many Frost poems, my expectations for this discovery are low. Frost was very publicity-aware and most concerned about the publication and the place in history of his work. If the only extant copy of this poem was scratched inside a volume at UVA, that is probably because Frost failed to destroy that one copy of a piece he never wanted to publish.
The cancellation, at the urging of security officials, triggered a furious debate over freedom of expression. Muslim groups in Germany voiced satisfaction with the decision, while leading politicians and artists called it a cowardly surrender to religious extremists...
The controversial contemporary version of Mozart's 225-year-old classic, which was to have opened for its third season at Berlin's Deutsche Opera in November, includes a scene in which King Idomeneo, the protagonist, lurches around the stage near the severed heads of Mohammed, Jesus Christ, Buddha, and Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea...
The staging, a modern modification made by stage director Hans Neuenfels, has been interpreted to mean that God is dead and that humanity no longer need rely on divine guidance. Mozart's “Idomeneo” was first presented in
But Wolfgang Thierse, deputy speaker of
The secret intelligence report leaked to the New York Times and now mainly declassified has one suggestion for improving 'what will come next':
Greater pluralism and more responsive political systems in Muslim majority nations would alleviate some of the grievances jihadists exploit. Over time, such progress, together with sustained, multifaceted programs targeting the vulnerabilities of the jihadist movement and continued pressure on al-Qa'ida, could erode support for the jihadists.
But Europeans and the American left have no stomach for a task this long, difficult, risky, and bloody. They now prefer a gradual surrender of their own rights and way of life that is accurately called appeasement. Who wanted to see a radical performance of Idomeneo, anyway?
Monday, September 25, 2006
…if Chávez wins [the Venezuelan election] on Dec. 3, he ought to devote his six-year term to solving the great recurring problem of
Globe Editorial, “Getting Past Oil’s Ideology”, April 28, 2006
Many Venezuelans are far poorer than the Americans who will benefit from the discounted [Venezuelan] oil. A case can be made that Chavez should help his own countrymen first. Americans, however, are major consumers of Venezuelan oil. It's appropriate for Chavez to offer discounts as an informal rebate to the customers who are most affected by high prices.
These two prescriptions seem contradictory and impossible to reconcile as consistent with a single set of first principles. However the September Globe editorial was printed after the recent UN tirade by Venezuelan President Chavez embarrassed congressional Democrats, while the April editorial defended a local (and Chavez-friendly) Democratic Congressman for accepting Venezuelan oil at deep discount as a favor from Chavez.
If one’s sole first principle is: “Defend the Democratic Party at all costs against all enemies; foreign, domestic, and imagined.", then these two statements are quite consistent.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Smart idea. Very smart. I hope he can stick with it.
“I don't think it's in the best interest of Hugo Chávez, because that level of rhetoric, I think, makes others uneasy,” he said
Quite possibly one of those made uneasy by this public demonstration of derangement is Chávez’s favorite congressional sponsor, toady, and bag-man, who also faces re-election in 2 months – Delahunt himself. I doubt the Globe Op Ed board, another strong Chávez supporter, will feel uneasy. They are less accountable to anyone than Delahunt.
Congressman Billy-boy can still blame Bush for his current predicament, though. The Globe story says:
Delahunt asserted that the Bush administration's foreign policy deserves some blame for fostering a climate where a world leader could offer such strident denunciations of the American president in front of the General Assembly. He said he would continue to work with the Venezuelan leader to bring discounted oil to his constituents.
Next he’ll blame Bush for having a poisonous personal relationship with Osama. It makes you proud to live in a 1-party state.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
The devil is right at home. The devil, the devil himself, is right in the house.
"And the devil came here yesterday. Yesterday the devil came here. Right here." [crosses himself] "And it smells of sulfur still today.
Yesterday, ladies and gentlemen, from this rostrum, the president of the United States, the gentleman to whom I refer as the devil, came here, talking as if he owned the world. Truly. As the owner of the world.
I think we could call a psychiatrist to analyze yesterday's statement made by the president of the United States. As the spokesman of imperialism, he came to share his nostrums, to try to preserve the current pattern of domination, exploitation and pillage of the peoples of the world.
Indeed, when Healey takes her shots, what's Patrick's response going to be -- "Together we can," the inspirational but vague theme of his primary campaign? Voters are going to want specifics, as in together we can do exactly what?
A good question, Joan, but it comes a bit late for the Democrats, who have now made their bed on the left and must rest on it.
Elsewhere in today’s Globe Alex Beam laments that NPR has not improved much despite receiving nearly a $¼ BILLION endowment from the widow of McDonalds founder Ray Kroc:
…public radio was the usual exasperating mix of gold and dross. Androgynous-sounding anchorpeople merchandised inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom with a center-left tilt.
It’s harder to find the center in NPR’s center-left tilt than it is to find the pork in pork and beans.
The once-incisive Daniel Schorr , now 90, triggers a Pavlovian station-changing reflex.
Alex, it’s better to learn this late in life than not at all.
Here is the problem. What was once an insurgent radio movement now sounds like Chet Huntley reading the evening news. Call it NPR Classic. But NPR management won't put the old warhorses like Cokie and Linda out to pasture for fear of alienating the loyal listeners who answer the bell during pledge drives.
They’re just trying to keep the sponsors happy (while insisting that they don’t have any), and they are happy except for many involuntary sponsors who support NPR through their taxes.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
To the Editors of the Boston Globe:
The Bishop of Rome has stirred global controversy through a brief lecture he gave at the German university where he was a teacher almost 50 years ago. The controversy over the Pope’s remarks has been widely reported and is the subject of numerous news reports and editorials in the Globe and in other newspapers. To date the Globe has printed 7 stories on this topic.
Why doesn’t the Globe take a positive though radical step by also printing the entire text of the Pope’s remarks rather than just brief quotes followed by commentary? The Pope’s lecture is only about 3800 words long, about twice as long as a normal piece in the Globe Ideas section, but far shorter than the 6000 word article the Globe Magazine printed last Sunday on the story of a local woman who had embezzled from her employer’s family.
If a local embezzler’s story is worth 6000 words in the Sunday Globe, then why can’t you find the space to print a 3800 word document that has caused so much news and controversy during the past week, and which you decided was worthy of a lead editorial in your own paper?
Friday, September 15, 2006
At the time  of that effort, the war was still a bitter memory, and the veterans who fought in
MacQuarrie doesn’t elaborate on why
It’s not like somebody went on national TV and testified that these men had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the country side of South Vietnam. Or said that in these veterans our country had created a monster in the form of millions of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who were given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.
If something like that had happened, I might understand MacQuarrie’s remark. But certainly nothing like that happened because we all supported the troops, right?
Thursday, September 14, 2006
First Harvey Mansfield, (who is one of the few benefits to humanity stemming from the existence of tenure at Harvard) writes in an Op Ed column:
Sept. 11 was a stunning blow to multiculturalism. The attacks showed that we have enemies who hate us because they hate both our principles and our practices. They despise the way we live not because we do not live up to our principles of freedom, democracy, and toleration, but because we do. They do not think we are multicultural; they believe we have one culture, and they mean to do away with it.
The feminists at Harvard seek to remove every vestige of patriarchy in
Second, a loyal Democrat letter writer who is tired of voting for losing gubernatorial candidates is peeved with Deval Patrick’s skin (with the thinness of it, not the color). Patrick, if not actually playing the famous ‘race card’ is at least making noises as if he holds the card in his hand. This is too much for the letter writer, who is irritated by Dems playing the race card (against each other):
Patrick's story is compelling, and he has every reason to be proud as a person, black or white, for what he has accomplished. But he does himself a disservice by questioning the motives of other Democrats who for once in their lives want to vote for a winner.
For the record, I believe the Democrat who offers the best shot at winning the general election is Tom Reilly, but I did not want to violate the Globe's apparent policy of not saying anything positive about Reilly.
Yes, that seems to be the policy, along with not saying anything negative about Khatami.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
In response to another question, Khatami also justified his country’s use of capital punishment for acts of homosexuality, but said that the conditions for execution are so strict that they are “virtually impossible to meet.”The Boston Globe responded with silence as well.
“Homosexuality is a crime in Islam and crimes are punishable,” Khatami said. “And the fact that a crime could be punished by execution is debatable.”
The audience responded with silence to his remark.
Dear Harvard Crimson Editors,Bravo.
Last night I watched Iran's 'moderate' mullah and godfather of Hezbollah, Sheik Khatami, speak to the Tolerant and the Enlightened at Harvard.
At the end of the speech during the Q & A session, a young man asked Iraq's Holy Man about the Islamic Law that calls for the death penalty for homosexuals. The young questioner wanted to know if Khatami approved of this particular Islamic Law. The 'moderate' Holy Man from Teheran artfully dodged, pivoted and twirled around the issue, but in the final analysis said that every country has its laws and...well...in some cases putting the homosexual to death may indeed be called for. In some cultures, he said, the death sentence for gays may be appropriate.
There were no boos. There were no catcalls. There were no protests, angry slurs, no rotten tomatoes, no obscene placards, no cursing, no contorted red faces or shaking fists held high. There was only polite and tolerant silence from the entranced crowd seated in the presence of Allah's calm, serene spokesperson from Persia.
At the end of the evening as Khatami left the stage, there was grateful and appreciative applause...even some standing ovations. Teheran's Holy Man who just moments before had in effect condoned capital punishment for the homosexual was given a big symbolic hug from the tolerant, adoring and scholarly crowd from Harvard.***
Now, just for fun, let's pretend that ...say...the Rev. Jerry Falwell had been invited to the Harvard campus to address The Tolerant and The Enlightened at Cambridge.
(I know, I know...that would never happen, but...hey!...let's pretend!)
Let's pretend that while speaking at Harvard, Rev. Falwell claimed that the homosexual act is a sin in the eyes of God. Let us also pretend that Rev. Falwell explained to his audience that through faith, repentance and God's Mercy and Grace the homosexual could receive God's forgiveness, spiritual and emotional healing and rich blessings in Christ...Eternal life in Glory from the God of Love.
Can you picture the reaction?
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
...In many Islamic countries homosexual relationships as well as non-consensual heterosexual relationships have been punishable...There are also others, there are others in the world that have similar views namely important sects of Christianity...So yes you are correct homosexual activity is a crime in Islam...And crimes are punishable...The fact that could crimes be punished by execution is debatable.
Now imagine further that this ‘cleric’ is not merely a religious figure, but is the former head of government of a theocratic regime (surprise! It’s not
That’s exactly what happened this week in
Could any Christian clergyman make a high-profile visit to Boston and argue in favor of criminal punishment of gays without these remarks being reported in the Boston Globe? Yet when a Muslim theocrat (who led a regime that has a record not only of persecuting gays but also of hanging them) advocates criminal punishment of gay behavior, these remarks are not reported. Why?
But it's hard to see terrorism as anything other than a tactic, serving many different ideologies and agendas.
Actually, Peter, it's not difficult to see this as other than a tactic. A helpful hint: remove your head from wherever you have buried it, and open your eyes.
Friday, September 08, 2006
What is truly surprising news in the Globe is that for the second time in a row James Carroll has written a superb column. This one appeared last Monday on Labor Day and is a fine meditation on the mystery of work entitled ‘The joy of working’. It is well worth reading. Having spent his life as a seminarian, a Catholic priest, and a novelist, James Carroll is not a person one would expect to be familiar with the world of work (I jest). He writes:
The readiness with which Americans embrace September each year, and return to the job each morning, suggests that work freely chosen, and freely accomplished, is essential to the good life. The real meaning of the weekend, it turns out, is in how it changes the experience of the weekday. Can it be that liberated work is better than play? Is this what we mean by happiness? The poet Donald Hall locates that sensation in “absorbedness”, the being taken up in -- or taken over by -- the task at hand, whether a writer's task or a bank teller's. Hall associates the experience with looking up from one's work and finding that the hours have flown by. Why is there joy in that?
The poet Robert Frost answers this question profoundly at the end of his own short rhapsody on work, ‘Two Tramps In Mud Time’:
But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
This is a Dreyfus affair played out in an international theatre in which the country’s success or failure has global implications.Richard is a most enjoyable fellow in person, though not unfamiliar with hyperbole. But in this case (excuse the pun) he may well be correct that it will become something very big. The trials involve blogging (a topic of media fixation) and Pallywood, Richard's own term. Falsified and staged media photography received far more exposure than ever during this summer's war in Lebanon. 'Pallywood' has arrived as a word.
Of course Dreyfus was convicted by French courts. Twice. Will today's bloggers do any better? For all our sakes, let us hope so.
So indeed they have, sometimes over-zealously. As the story points out, a CBS promo magazine photo shaved a few pounds off the new anchor before publishing her photo in their puff piece.
Par for the course at CBS. Be suspicious of anonymous faxes from Kinko's, Katie.
Monday, September 04, 2006
Correction: In my previous column, I wrote that defense CEOs have been paid nearly $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It was $1 billion.
OK, so Derrick admits to being off by a factor of 1000. What is that among fellow travelers? Well, consider that none of the following statements is any more erroneous than Derrick’s mistake:
- A Big Mac burger costs $3500
- The latest homicide victim in
was shot 2000 times Boston
- A gallon of unleaded gasoline costs $2850
- An average
home costs $300 million Massachusetts
- The average annual household income in
is $75 million per year Massachusetts
- The Boston Globe prints 350 million copies of the paper each day, almost 5000 per second.
- Bill Gates has an net worth $50 million
So that’s how big an error it is to confuse 1 billion with 1 trillion, or 1 billion with 1 million.
But let’s just take a closer look at this particular error. First go to the Globe archive with Derrick’s original column. Here the mistake has been corrected but without any note that the error existed when the column was published. The Boston Globe has air-brushed this error from the column. Other newspapers that also ran the column, like the Salt Lake City Tribune, still have Derrick’s big boo-boo on their website. To find out how the mistake happened, look at the source document. It’s here and the paragraph Derrick used as his source reads (see page 1):
Since 9/11, the 34 defense CEOs in our sample have pocketed a combined total of $984 million, enough to cover the entire wage bill for more than a million Iraqis for a year.
When writing his column, our buddy Derrick was rounding up from the source’s number of $984 million when he wrote:
There is no evidence of a contractor having a soul in the 13th annual Executive Excess CEO survey by the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, and the Boston-based United for a Fair Economy. The report found that 34 defense CEOs have been paid nearly $1 trillion since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
So in Derrick’s figuring the source’s figure of $984 million became “almost $1 trillion” when it is actually almost $1 billion. To pay only 34 people this much money in 5 years, the average annual compensation of the 34 executives would have to be $5.9 billion, an amount far higher than the lootings of even the highest-paid CEO of any firm on earth. Yet this 'fact' (which given a moment of calculation and any familiarity with executive conpensation levels is obviously mistaken) sailed right through the Globe's editing process.
This way this error was created also suggests that the mistake was not just a typographical error but rather a result of the complete numerical illiteracy of the author – an illiteracy apparently shared by his editors.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The party occupying the White House almost always loses seats in midterms. One theory political scientists give to explain this tendency is called “surge and decline.” It notes that most presidents have coattails when they are elected, carrying the party’s candidates into Congress. But in other years those legislators have to run without the presidential surge, and many lose.
But the extent of a party’s losses can vary. A different theory of voting behavior, which considers midterm elections to be a referendum on the president, helps explain why. Evidence suggests that when voters support the president — especially his handling of the economy — his party loses fewer seats than when they’re unhappy. Some scholars have also noted that midterm turnout is highest among people who want to punish the president, which helps to account for his party’s ill fortunes.
Of course, not all midterms are created equal. Some occur in the aftermath of scandal. The 1974 elections, held just months after Richard Nixon resigned over Watergate, were a windfall for the Democrats, who gained 48 House and 4 Senate seats.
Other times, the economy influences the outcome. Recessions exacerbated Republican losses in both 1958 and 1982.
This is the drift of Professor Greenberg’s non-thesis. Drivers of mid-term elections are the ‘surge and decline’ phenomenon, or voter unhappiness, or the economy, or war, or scandal, or something else, or none of these.
This is too bad, because while making such a muddled and hedged analysis, Greenberg completely misses the most important trend in House elections. In the spirit of Edward Tufte, why don’t we just take the radical step of simply looking at the actual data. As Tufte explains, a solid presentation of relevant data speaks volumes and adds clarity to any analysis. In his book 'Visual Explanations', Tufte disscects the bureaucratic failures leading to the disasterous 1986 launch of the space shuttle Challenger and writes:
'When assessing evidence, it is helpful to see a full data matrix, all observations for all variables, those private numbers from which the public displays are constructed. No telling what will turn up.'
With help from Wikipedia and only about 15 minutes of work, I have taken Tufte's advice and plotted some actual data. Let’s have a look and see what turns up.
Here is a time-series plot of all Congressional elections from 1942-2004 with the Y-axis plotting the net change in seats between the 2 political parties. Just looking at the chart tells you right away that something significant has happened during the last 20 years or so. Recent elections have resulted in far smaller changes in party alignment. Clearly this is the most significant trend in the data and one that merits serious research and commentary. One could enrich this elementary chart by also graphing the re-election rate of incumbents or other variables. Clearly ALL recent Congressional elections (not just mid-term elections) resulted in less change in party position than was the norm before 1986. Mid-term has nothing to do with this trend. The 1994 election is a notable outlier. Ironically, Professor Greenberg’s data-poor analysis does not even mention the 1994 election.
You can also tell by a quick inspection of the chart that only 1 out of the last 10 elections changed the party makeup of the House as much as will be required in 2006 to tip the House back to the Democrats (a change of 15 seats).
One lowly blogger could develop this time-series chart in a few minutes. What did the Professor and the New York Times provide as a graphical supplement for with their article? They provided this poor graphic, which Professor Tufte would accurately call ‘chart-junk’. I’m sure the Times and Professor Greenberg spent far more time making this pathetic chart than the 15 minutes I spent creating the time-series trend. Which chart informs more? Clearly the time-series does.
Saturday, September 02, 2006
Today the Boston Globe is confronted with such a story. The sad facts are that an unknown young woman became pregnant and 30-some weeks later delivered the product of her womb and abandoned it in a high school bathroom. At some point unknown the offspring died and was later discovered by a school custodian who has been traumatized by the event (and is not likely the only one such).
These facts force reporter Matt Viser to write this awkward passage reporting yesterday’s burial:
The white, shoe-box-sized coffin was carefully laid yesterday on the edge of St. Patrick's Cemetery, a small teddy bear, a cross, and a pink blanket placed on top. The flowers next to the coffin were addressed to Frances Hope, a fetus whose parents are unknown…. Nobody has come forward to claim the remains. Police are searching for whoever delivered the fetus, which was not full-term.
Our culture uses the term ‘premature baby’ for those that are born living but not full term. The Globe can apparently avoid using the term because it is unreported (though not unknowable) whether that which was buried was alive at the time of its birth and how far from normal term the birth was. Later the reporter slips up:
Social service agencies typically give the last name “Hope” in cases when the identity of an unborn baby is unknown.
Matt uses the b-word instead of the f-word. But how is this relevant? This event was certainly the result of a birth. Matt reported above that ‘police are searching for whoever delivered the fetus’. The process of delivery from the womb is referred to in the English language as ‘birth’. Who considers the remains ‘unborn’?
The root cause of this Orwellean language is a need to dehumanize. This ought to give pause to those claiming to be humanists, secular or otherwise. As William Saletan writes, it’s is time to ‘face the fetus’.
This is what happens when you deny reality. You have trouble making sense. You use words like "injury" and "death," forgetting that you've refused to acknowledge the existence of anything capable of being injured or dying.
Friday, September 01, 2006
But defined-contribution plans force employees with no financial experience to make critical long-term decisions that may be beyond their skills. At a time when families are forced to stretch paychecks to pay for skyrocketing housing, healthcare, and college costs, defined-contribution plans demand a monthly contribution that some families can't afford.
If these decisions are ‘beyond their skills’ workers are free to find help of their own choosing. Of course TeRAYsuh would prefer that such important decisions be taken out of the hands of individuals and given instead to large companies as dictated by government. What would Thomas Jefferson do? What would the one who wrote 'life liberty and the pursuit of happiness' say about the sentiment expressed above?
Mrs. Heinz Kerry may have a lingering distrust of leaving major decisions in the hands of empowered individuals, due an unhappy experience with such a process in November 2004. Does Teresa also believe it ‘may be beyond our skills’ to elect our own leaders? Finally, do Globe readers really need to read two Op Ed lectures in a single year from this lady about securing our own retirement? Teresa and her spouse both secured their retirement in exactly the same way; they each married a billionaire. Why won’t they give the rest of us a break, then, and actually retire?