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Thursday, March 31, 2005

The two sides of the Holocaust

Should David Irving Be Allowed a Forum?

Controversy has erupted over C-Span’s plan to broadcast a speech by a Holocaust denier to “balance” broadcast of remarks by a Holocaust scholar.

“Balance” is a cherished concept for journalists, but sometimes it can run amok. Consider the textbook, The Reporter and the News, a 1935 volume that was then used to train American journalists. The book offers a startling example of a news story that needs to be “balanced,” that demands that “both sides in a controversial matter be given a chance to have their position stated.”

“A case in point,” the textbook solemnly declares, is “the Jewish persecution by the German Nazi Government.” It involves a struggle “between rival groups, each of which is strong in its own right, and each of which is anxious to get as much propaganda across to newspaper readers as is possible.” In other words, every claim by the “strong” German Jews had to be balanced with an equal response from the Nazi regime. [].

Lest journalists smugly assume we’ve gotten past such insidious examples of the need for “balance,” C-Span reminds us we haven’t. The cable network, which broadcasts Congress in session and other public affairs programming, planned to show a March 16 speech by Emory University Professor Deborah Lipstadt discussing her experiences as the defendant in a libel suit brought by Holocaust denier David Irving. Irving sued Lipstadt for statements she wrote about him in an earlier book. A British court dismissed Irving’s suit against Lipstadt in 2000, concluding that he deliberately misrepresented historical evidence.

Still, C-Span decided that it couldn’t show Lipstadt’s speech without balancing it with Irving’s position. As a C-Span spokeswoman told the New York Times, the network decided to tape an Irving lecture in order to cover “the plaintiff’s side of the trial.” When Lipstadt learned that C-Span planned to include Irving’s talk, she refused to allow the network to tape her speech. At first, C-Span said it would show Irving’s lecture anyway, but is now debating what to do.

The episode suggests that some journalists continue to lack both an understanding of the Holocaust and of the proper use of balance.

Read the whole thing.

Terrorists R Us

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

True religion, dark destroyed

Doesn't this sound scary? Especially if you look at the price.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Monday, March 28, 2005

Handbags do nothing for me

Handbags are cute, but I consider them furniture, not clothing. Does anyone look better with a nifty handbag? Does it complement your hairstyle? Bring out the blueness of your eyes? It's usually under the table or left on the bed in the spare bedroom. Now shoes! I definitely get shoes. And jewelry--I totally am all right with that.

Anyway, renting out handbags is a novel form of enterpreneurship. Good luck to her, them, or it.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Ashcroft is gone, but the legend lives on

Conservator comments:

THE "HYSTERICAL" LEGEND LIVES ON! Andrea Mercado of the Library Techtonics blog writes regarding the Bush administration and librarianship [emphasis mine]:

The bottom line is that I see an administration who has delivered a mixed message on librarianship, from calling librarians "hysterical" to creating funding to help the profession grow, and I would be more satisfied if their message was more consistent, and less geared towards its own political benefit.

Okay, now hold the phone! Has someone in the Bush administration called librarians "hysterical"?!

Of course, we have seen that the Bush administration has increased library funding, but calling librarians names? I have emailed Ms. Mercado to inquire about this, and will certainly post any details she is able to provide.

UPDATE: Andrea Mercado kindly sends a long, detailed explanation of her comment, explaining that she intended an "inference" by former Attorney General John Ashcroft. []

Interestingly, she refers to Ashcroft's use of the phrase "breathless reports and baseless hysteria" in his September 15, 2003 speech to the National Restaurant Association in Washington, D.C., rather than his reference to "charges of the hysterics" in a speech three days later in Memphis, Tennessee.

In fact, one searches either speech in vain for any occurance of the word "hysterical," in any context whatsoever. (We have seen one previous unsupported imputation of the word to Ashcroft himself.)

A final point is that John Ashcroft is not even a part of the (current, second) Bush administration, so that holding any comment of his—however unacceptable, however genuine—against the current administration seems most unfair.

Ashcroft is gone, and the victimized-librarian-American community misses him.

Travels with my box cutter

I traveled all the way to Italy and back with a box cutter in my purse.
I'm not proud of it. I just forgot it was there. Easy to do. I haven't really cleaned out my purse since the Reagan administration--no, make that the Nixon administration.

I have arthritis in my hands, so I carry a box cutter to open those little cellophane packets of crackers and breadsticks they give you in restaurants. Very handy. Somehow it got through the metal detector--both ways. Must be some really crappy form of metal. If I remember rightly, the thing cost a dollar at the hardware store.

It was finally discovered at the airport in San Suis Obispo, CA. It didn't set off the metal detector there--my keys did that. I wonder what kind of metal it is. Kryptonite?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

My suggestion for a Starbucks coffee cup. By Edmund Burke

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Why Be Jewish?

Miriam Gross has this to say:

The fact that I am Jewish has always mystified me. It bears no relation to anything else in my life — not to the way I was brought up, not to religion since I am agnostic, nor to any community in which I have lived.

My parents both came from secular, middle-class, professional German (and Russian) families and although ... they didn’t convert to Christianity, they were nevertheless assimilated members of German society. Indeed they believed that assimilation was the best answer to the Jewish ‘problem’. []

Despite these views my parents both emigrated to Palestine in the 1930s (they weren’t married at the time), very soon after the Nazis started introducing anti-Jewish legislation.[]
I was sent to an English boarding school where being Jewish was neither here nor there — it was never mentioned. []

Of course I was aware of the history of anti-Semitism, of Hitler and the Holocaust, but it seemed that these terrible things, however unforgettable, were over and done with. I learnt nothing about Judaism or about Jewish traditions and culture at school, any more than I did from my parents. I never once took part in a Jewish festival nor did I ever go into a synagogue.

So it is not surprising that, for most of my life, I have had almost no sense of Jewish identity. I feel much more English than Jewish. This must be true of hundreds of Jews with similar backgrounds.
However, just as my parents were forced by the Nazis to focus on their Jewishness, so the recent resurgence of anti-Semitism in many parts of the world has made me much more conscious of being a Jew. Not that I have ever personally encountered anti-Semitism. But even in England ... there is more of it in the air; the anti-Semitism of the past, which I mistakenly thought had faded away, is coming back into the open.

So that I now sometimes find myself telling new acquaintances that I am Jewish for no other reason than to prevent the possibility of their letting drop some anti-Semitic remark. It would be less easy to do this when talking to Muslims who have been taught that Jews are devils....[]
In this new climate I feel more of a bond with other Jews than I ever have in the past — indeed it is a rather comforting fellow feeling, somewhat akin, perhaps, to belonging to a secret society. But no one would wish to acquire a sense of identity based on the negative fact of other people’s prejudices. It’s true that many Jews, perhaps most, have been shaped by traditional Jewish religion and culture, but it would be spurious for me to claim a part in experiences which I don’t share.

Coincidentally, I just returned from Purim services. Purim is a joyful holiday, when children dress up in costumes and people give little gifts of food, and also donate money to charity. It celebrates the triumph of Queen Esther and her cousin Mordechai over enemies who wanted to kill all the Jews. We used a little book full of Purim songs, pictures,and prayers. But in an afterword by Jacob Neusner, this sentence occurred:

Purim was invented to remind Jews that they always have enemies.

It is a shame that Miriam Gross knows nothing about the traditions and customs of Jews, if only to be able to reject them intelligently. There are some beautiful things in Judaism.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Sideways: the book

I haven't yet managed to see the movie, but I got the book at the library. What lame writing--scarcely a noun appears that is not shackled to an adjective, like a convict handcuffed to a policeman. An occasional verb is unaccompanied by the chaperone of an adverb, but not many. A sample:

Something caught his attention and he slowly lifted his head over the menu. ...a tall , strikingly beautiful woman with brunette
hair cascading over broad shoulders, in an eye-catching black cocktail dress...

A little more:

Their tiny tasting room was a ramshackleroadside barn, broken at both ends by enormous sliding doors....It was a refreshing change from the sterility of most tasting rooms, and an unpreprossessing rebuke to the tawdry excesses of Fess Parker's vulgar estate

And yet again:
"The sun poured bright parallelograms of mote-swirling light through the venetian blinds of my rundown, rent-controlled house in Santa Monica..."

The net effect is that of a wagon clumping along on four square wheels. I suspect that they turned the movie script into a book, which never works for me. The dialogue is okay, but you just know it needs actors to flesh it out.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the pretentious wine talk.

Back to the library. Thank God I didn't shell out for this!

Robert Frost on the Fragility of Early Spring

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her first leaf's a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf,
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

In honor of our--delayed!--Spring and Poetry Month, which I thought was March...but their website says it's April.

All the better--we have more than another month to leaf through our poetry books and revisit poets, great and minor, who we enjoy.

Hatemonger's Quarterly plans big bash, calls for suggestions

The crack young staff seems to lack imagination when it comes to party-planning:

There’s just one hitch. The Official Events Planning Team of “The Hatemonger’s Quarterly”—God bless it—isn’t exactly chock-a-block with precocious talent. In fact, its “Fog a Mirror” entrance exam hasn’t ensured that the team is made up of the best and brightest.

We mean, it’s not as bad as the CIA, but it certainly has its share of dim bulbs.

May we suggest a costume party? Everyone could come as somebody hatefulor just terminally annoying--Moqtada al-Sadr, Walter cronkite, etc. The list is endless.

Mick Jagger could come as himself. And bring the family, Mick.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Jeff Weiss may have been inspired by tribal leader

The Radio Equalizer suspects that the Nazi sympathizing teenager who went on a killing spree may have been inspired by a tribal leader:

A firestorm erupted across Canada in December 2002 when Dr. David Ahenakew told a reporter from the Saskatoon Star Phoenix in Saskatchewan that Hitler "fried six million Jews" to keep them from taking over Europe. “

That’'s why he fried six million of those guys, you know. Jews would have owned the goddamned world. And look what they'’re doing. They'’re killing people in Arab countries,"” Ahenakew was quoted as saying.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Worst jobs--the historical approach

I have to admit they're worse than some of the jobs I've had.

Old headache for libraries; new headache for train stations

An old library problem resurfaces in train station.

airforce wife asks: Has the American Library Association Gone crazy?

The short answer: Yes.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Computers don't help kids learn

Computers are not an aid to children learning in school, but an impediment, according to a Royal Economic Society study, reported in the Telegraph, London;

The less pupils use computers at school and at home, the better they do in international tests of literacy and maths, the largest study of its kind says today.

... the study, published by the Royal Economic Society, said: "Despite numerous claims by politicians and software vendors to the contrary, the evidence so far suggests that computer use in schools does not seem to contribute substantially to students' learning of basic skills such as maths or reading."

Indeed, the more pupils used computers, the worse they performed, said Thomas Fuchs and Ludger Wossmann of Munich University.

Their report also noted that being able to use a computer at work .. had no greater impact on employability or wage levels than being able to use a telephone or a pencil.

The researchers analysed the achievements and home backgrounds of 100,000 15-year-olds in 31 countries taking part in the Pisa (Programme for International Student Assessment) study in 2000 for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

Pisa, to the British and many other governments' satisfaction, claimed that the more pupils used computers the better they did. It even suggested those with more than one computer at home were a year ahead of those who had none.

The study found this conclusion "highly misleading" because computer availability at home is linked to other family-background characteristics, in the same way computer availability at school is strongly linked to availability of other resources.

Once those influences were eliminated, the relationship between use of computers and performance in maths and literacy tests was reduced to zero, showing how "careless interpretations can lead to patently false conclusions"....

The more access pupils had to computers at home, the lower they scored in tests, partly because they diverted attention from homework....

Pupils tended to do worse in schools generously equipped with computers, apparently because computerised instruction replaced more effective forms of teaching.

This seems to prove that throwing money at schools, the favored nostrum of the left, does not work. It has never worked, and never will.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The rights and wrongs of execution

Eugene Volokh approves the Iranian way of execution:

I particularly like the involvement of the victims' relatives in the killing of the monster; I think that if he'd killed one of my relatives, I would have wanted to play a role in killing him. Also, though for many instances I would prefer less painful forms of execution, I am especially pleased that the killing — and, yes, I am happy to call it a killing, a perfectly proper term for a perfectly proper act — was a slow throttling, and was preceded by a flogging. The one thing that troubles me (besides the fact that the murderer could only be killed once) is that the accomplice was sentenced to only 15 years in prison, but perhaps there's a good explanation.

I am being perfectly serious, by the way. I like civilization, but some forms of savagery deserve to be met not just with cold, bloodless justice but with the deliberate infliction of pain, with cruel vengeance rather than with supposed humaneness or squeamishness. I think it slights the burning injustice of the murders, and the pain of the families, to react in any other way.

And, yes, I know this aligns me in this instance with the Iranian government — but even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and in this instance the Iranians are quite correct.

UPDATE: I should mention that such a punishment would probably violate the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause. I'm not an expert on the history of the clause, but my point is that the punishment is proper because it's cruel (i.e., because it involves the deliberate infliction of pain as part of the punishment), so it may well be unconstitutional. I would therefore endorse amending the Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause to expressly exclude punishment for some sorts of mass murders.

In any event, there's nothing unconstitutional about letting victims' relatives participate in the execution; it's only the use of cruel means that would require an amendment.

I know exactly how he feels. He's angry. So am I.
BUT: It is wrong to encourage people to enjoy cruelty. The Puritans banned bear-bating not for the sake of the bears but for the sake of the bear-baters. Cruelty degraded them. The enjoyment of torture is bad for a society. Another example: the behavior of guards in Nazi concentration camps. These guys might have been ordinary husbands, fathers, and churchgoers in other circumstances.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What happened to the cedars of Lebanon?

I always wondered if these ancient cedars were still there. Most were cut down:

As remote as they are, the cedars are not untouched by history. The grove we see today descends from an immense primeval forest of cedars and other trees such as cypress, pine and oak that once covered most of Mount Lebanon including part of its east facing slopes.
The Cedar is an historical entity mentioned often in the Bible and other ancient texts and it played an important part in the culture, trade and religious observances of the ancient Middle East. Serious exploitation of these forests began in the third millennium B.C., coastal towns such as Byblos.
Over the centuries, Assyrians, Babylonians and Persians made expedition to Mount Lebanon for timber or extracted tributes of wood from the coastal cities of Canaan-Phoenicia. The Phoenicians themselves made use of the cedar, especially for their merchant fleets. Solomon requested large supplies of cedar wood, along with architects and builders from King Hiram of Tyre to build his temple. Nebuchadnezzar boasted on a cuneiform, inscription: "I brought for building, mighty cedars, which I cut down with my pure hands on Mount Lebanon". Prized for its fragrance and durability, the length of the great logs made cedar wood especially desirable. Cedar was important for shipbuilding and
was used for the roofs of the temples, to construct tombs and other major buildings.
The Egyptians used cedar resin for mummification, and pitch was extracted from these trees for waterproofing and caulking.
In the second century A.D., the Roman Emperor Hadrian attempted to protect the forest with boundary markers, most carved into living rock, others in the form of separate engraved stones. Today over 200 such markers have been recorded, allowing scholars to make an approximate reconstruction of the ancient forest boundaries. Two of these markers, carved in abbreviated Latin, can be seen at the American University of Beirut Museum. In the centuries after Hadrian, Lebanon's trees were used extensively as fuel, especially for lime burning kilns. In the Middle Ages mountain villagers cleared forests for farmland, using the wood for fuel and construction. The Ottomans in the 19th century destroyed much of the forest cover and during World War II British troops used the wood to build railroad between Tripoli and Haifa.

Sic transit gloria mundi.

An Englishman gives up eating

Simon Heffer is getting old:

As I reach my mid-forties I fear the time to give up eating is near, and I start to formulate a plan to retire from it in the not-too-distant future. I suspect it is only because my childhood was not blighted by twizzlers and nuggets that I have lasted this long. My retirement will be from recreational eating, and instead I shall stick to the necessary intake that makes for boring repasts but long life. This will also benefit those who dine with me, as none of them will die from passive eating. This may be a Sinatra-style retirement, with a long farewell tour and the odd comeback. However, it cannot happen until I have achieved my aim of eating in three three-star Michelin restaurants on the same day. My friend and fellow Spectator contributor Leo McKinstry has agreed to help me in this arduous project, which has the working title of ‘Two Fat Bastards’. Sadly, there are only three such eateries in England, and none of them does breakfast. So before we go to Bray for lunch and Gordon Ramsay for dinner, where do we get the bacon and eggs? Who serves the best breakfast in England?

I don't think he'll starve to death just yet.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

New Jersey official disgraces herself

La Shawn Barber tells the sad tale.

Inside a Jet Engine


Louise Brooks--Glamour to Spare

What a beauty!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

God wants to get to know you better

A clever quiz.

Suicide Bomber Family Not Proud of Him

The family of Raed Banna denies their jubilation.

Apparently their son was a lover of the USA, something like Mohammed Atta:

Mr. Banna, the owner of a cement distribution company in Jordan, described his son as a great fan of the United States who fell in love with the country during an 18-month stay in Southern California, from 2000 to 2002. Mr. Banna showed a visitor a stack of photos taken in the United States, one of them showing his son straddling a Harley-Davidson, another showing him smiling in front of the World Trade Center before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

I think we just have to keep these people out of the US, particularly California. There must be something in the water that makes them crazy.

Courtesy of tinkerty tonk.

Monday, March 14, 2005

MSM is not biased

This article claims that there are more conservative bloggers than liberal ones.
That's because conservatives are better educated. They can count to eleven without taking their shoes off.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Celebration for an illustrious son

Al-Banna family in al-Salt received greetings for son Raed's martyrdom in an Iraqi resistance operation

Al-Banna family in al-Salt organized a martyr's wedding yesterday for their son Raed Mansur al-Banna who blew himself up in an explosive-laden car that he was driving in Baghdad in al-Hilla on March 1.

The father of the martyr proudly received the well-wishers in the tribe's reception hall in central Jada in the center of the city of Salt. The story of Raed is similar to that of many youth from the city that left for Jihad across the globe. Raed's appointment with martyrdom came on March 1, when he blew himself up inside an explosive-laden car that he was driving in al-Hilla in Baghdad that resulted in the killing of over 133 people, the majority of whom we
re Americans.

In our faith, we prefer our sons to become doctors. Via Natasha Hynes.

Tim Blair fisks Maureen Dowd

It's an unfair contest, really. Criticizing Dowd is like shooting fish in a barrel.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The last word on Hunter S. Thompson

Nothing more to be said.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Feeding the deserving rich

I went to the doctor for a checkup and inadvertently found out that the drug companies cater lucullan feasts for the physicians and staff.
Later, by coincidence, I had dinner with a doctor who brought a beautiful salad from work--she, too, apparently is enjoying a free lunch.

The irony of drug compamies feeding doctors, who can well afford to buy their own food, and then claiming that they spend most of their money on research somehow galls me. I'm fairly conservative, but I would respect Big Pharma more if they would give some of that food to soup kitchens.

To those who have many, more is given, and as for him who has nothing, what little he has is taken away.

Sorry for the sermonette.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Heather McDonald vs. Susan Estrich

Heather McDonald wipes the floor with Susan Estrich: Political pundit Susan Estrich has launched a venomous campaign ... against the Los Angeles Times’s op-ed editor, Michael Kinsley, for alleged discrimination against female writers.[]

Estrich’s insane ravings against the Times cap a month that left one wondering whether the entry of women into the intellectual and political arena has been an unqualified boon. In January, nearly the entire female professoriate at Harvard (and many of their feminized male colleagues) rose up in outrage at the mere suggestion of an open discussion about a scientific hypothesis. That hypothesis, of course, concerned the possibly unequal distribution of cognitive skills across the male and female populations. Harvard President Larry Summers had had the temerity to suggest that the continuing preponderance of men in scientific fields, despite decades of vigorous gender equity initiatives in schools and universities, may reflect something other than sexism. It might reflect the fact, Summers hypothesized, that the male population has a higher percentage of mathematical geniuses (and mathematical dolts) than the female population, in which mathematical reasoning skills may be more evenly distributed.

A feminist gadfly in the audience, MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, infamously reported that she avoided fainting or vomiting at Summers’s remarks only by running from the room. And with that remarkable expression of science-phobia, a great feminist vendetta was launched. It has reduced Summers to a toadying appeaser who has promised to atone for his sins with ever more unforgiving diversity initiatives (read: gender quotas) in the sciences.[]

The Harvard rationality rout was a mere warm-up, however, to the spectacle unfolding in Los Angeles, brought to light by the upstart newspaper, the D.C. Examiner. USC law professor, Fox News commentator, and former Dukakis presidential campaign chairman Susan Estrich has come out as a snarling bitch in response to L.A. Times’s editor Michael Kinsley’s unwillingness to be blackmailed.

Read the whole thing.

Sinister organization encourages obesity

If you can't trust the Girl Scouts, who can you trust?

The IRA must go

The sooner the better.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Little girls want to be thinner

By Sarah Womack, Social Affairs Correspondent
(Filed: 08/03/2005) from the Telegraph, London

Girls as young as five are unhappy with their bodies and want to be thinner, according to a study which blames peer pressure in a child's early years at school.

Most girls thought that being slim would make them more popular, claimed the research in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology. They would also have no hesitation in dieting if they gained weight. The study was conducted among five- to eight-year-olds in South Australia, but experts said last night that British children felt "paranoid" about their weight - partly because of the Government's anti-obesity message.

Dr Andrew Hill, of Leeds University Medical School, said research among more than 200 eight-year-olds showed a high awareness of the campaign against obesity. "Children have absorbed anti-fat messages loud and clear", he said. "To get people to listen about a condition, you talk it up, and we have got obesity on the health agenda....

"We want people who are overweight to do something about it. We don't want to terrorise youngsters."

The UK Eating Disorders Association said it was known that children as young as eight had been diagnosed with eating disorders and there may have been instances in younger children....

The latest research was conducted by academics at Flinders University among 81 girls. They were asked what they thought about their peers' level of unhappiness with their bodies and if they discussed body shape.

Almost half (46.9 per cent) wanted to be thinner, and 45.7 per cent said they would go on a diet if they gained weight. Among five-year-olds, 28.6 per cent wished they were thinner. After being shown pictures of a girl before and after putting on weight, 35 per cent of the girls thought her eating habits were to blame, and 28.6 per cent said she should go on a diet. Around 71 per cent of girls aged seven said they wanted to be thinner.

The report's authors said: "Body dissatisfaction and dieting awareness develop over the first two years of schooling."

Most of the girls believed that being thin would make them more likeable.

Assad's disastrous career choice

Bashar Assad is actually a trained eye doctor:

Bashar Assad
The evil moron who's running Syria.
By Chris Suellentrop
Posted Wednesday, April 16, 2003, at 4:22 PM PT

Movies and comic books condition Americans to think in terms of the "evil genius," a dangerously insane but diabolically brilliant adversary who carefully and calculatingly plots to destroy the world. Think Lex Luthor attempting to obliterate the California coast, or the Joker scheming to poison Gotham, or the countless forgettable villains who have conspired to change the orbit of the moon in an effort to unleash destructive tidal waves that will destroy the Earth's major cities.

For better or worse, this archetype has spilled out of the realm of fantasy and into the real world, coloring how Americans view nonfiction villains as well as fictional ones. As David Plotz pointed out more than a year ago in Slate, "We always put a face to our misery. And every so often, we anoint some foreign malcontent as the arch-fiend responsible for all our global difficulties." Before Saddam, Osama. Before Osama, Saddam. And so on. But there's one problem with this worldview: In the real world, most evil men aren't geniuses. Instead, the real danger, more often than not, comes from evil morons.

Take Bashar Assad. Has there been a more disastrous geopolitical move in recent years than the 38-year-old Syrian president's decision to cast his lot with Saddam just prior to Iraq's stunning military defeat? Before the war, Syria had actually done quite a bit to improve its standing in the eyes of the United States.

Now it appears that Assad may have gambled all of that away. By foolishly providing moral and material support to Iraq during the war—and, the administration says, now by harboring high-ranking Iraqi officials—he's created an environment that makes it possible for a Democratic presidential candidate (Florida Sen. Bob Graham) to openly support war with Syria. Already some hawks are pointing to the tantalizing parallels between Saddam's Iraq and Assad's Syria. Weapons of mass destruction? Check. Support for terrorism? Check. Repressive domestic intelligence services? Check. The comparisons go further: Both countries were ruled by tyrannical men who are not members of the ethnic majority. (Saddam was a Sunni who ruled over a largely Shiite country, and Assad is an Alawite who rules over a Sunni majority.) To top things off, Syria even has a Baath Party and a Republican Guard. No one expects war anytime soon, but Assad's stupidity has put the subject on the table.

When Assad came to power in June 2000, one week after the death of his father, Hafez Assad, many hoped that his ties to the West—the two years in London he spent training to become an ophthalmologist, his facility with English, his British-born Syrian wife—would make him a different kind of dictator. (Quote from Slate.)

Why didn't Assad choose a career as a lasik surgeon? He's be making $75,000 a day without all this tsuris.

Monday, March 07, 2005

What about the rubber suit?

Edouard Stern
(Filed: 05/03/2005)

Edouard Stern, who was shot dead on Tuesday aged 50 while wearing a rubber suit in his Geneva apartment, was a financier with a reputation as an abrasive and uncompromising deal-maker.

For some years Stern was heir-apparent to his father-in-law, Michel David-Weill, chairman and controlling shareholder of the investment bank Lazard Freres. A great-grandson of one of the firm's founders, David-Weill had run the tripartite group - which has operations in Paris, London and New York - since 1977; and in 1992 he brought in Stern to be a senior partner in Paris and New York.

Stern also became a significant shareholder in Lazard's holding companies, and a power struggle swiftly ensued between the two men. It was reported that Stern's aggressive manner led to his being ejected from two of the bank's senior committees. He departed angrily in 1997 to run his own investment fund, leaving a vacuum that was filled by the arrival of the Wall Street veteran Bruce Wasserstein as David-Weill's eventual successor.
The French press labelled Stern le gendre incontrĂ´lable (the uncontrollable son-in-law).

The circumstances of his death remain unexplained: Stern led a private and somewhat mysterious life in Geneva, and was said to have told friends recently that he felt threatened. Theories in financial circles include the possible involvement of the Russian mafia.

Edouard Stern ... joined his family's private investment house, Banque Stern, in 1977.

Two years later, he ousted his own father from control of the business, which he sold to a Swiss bank in the late 1980s, though he remained chairman until 1998. After his departure from Lazard, Stern deployed his Geneva-based €600 million investment fund, Investment Real Returns, to become one of the most controversial players in the European corporate scene.

Typical of his style as an active shareholder was his intervention at Rhodia, the troubled French chemicals company, where he was co-opted as a director and promptly called for the group to be broken up to maximise shareholder value. Rhodia's annual general meeting in 2003 rejected his proposal to oust the chairman, and instead ejected Stern himself from the board.

He was also involved in recent ructions with Suez, the industrial conglomerate, and the Vivendi media group. In Britain, his name was connected in 1999 with an attempt to gain control of the troubled textile group Coats Viyella, in combination with Lord Rothschild and the company's former chairman Sir David (now Lord) Alliance. ...

Edouard Stern's only known hobby was a passion for game shooting and collecting guns.

I still want to know about the rubber suit.

The obit is from the ">Telegraph, London. They give you a good sendoff.

Friday, March 04, 2005

How to get through the next four years

In passing, I read the headline of a New York magazine issue. As a librarian, I am ashamed to admit that I cannot find the exact reference--too long ago. But the headline was, "How to get through the next four years." I would guess this refers to the Bush victory and the ensuing trampling on our civil liberties.

My suggestion for getting through the next four years is to read this book.

Journey into the Whirlwind (Helen and Kurt Wolff Books)
by Eugenia Ginzburg "The year 1937 began, to all intents and purposes, at the end of 1934-to be exact, on the first of December..." (more)

woes of a small town library director

As one who dabbles in everything but specializes in nothing, this job suited me. Of course, there were times when I found myself fishing potato chip bags from the commode, but they were few.

The patrons were awfully grateful if you did the least little thing for them, like find a book on the shelf. I also couldn't walk down Main Street (yes, there was a Main Street)without seeing and saying hello to several people. When I left there, I left behind a lot of friends.

We had our share of nutcases, too. A man we called the Admiral, whose car was full of papers, used to come in and compalin to everyone who would listen about his doctors, his ungrateful family, etc. He claimed his family only wanted to see him because of his money. I sympathesized with them. I didn't want to see him either.

Then there was the patron who would corner you and explain that the US had never dropped a bomb on Hiroshima. He also had some theories about how babies were born which I will not detail here. The first time you talked to him he sounded plausible, until he wandered off to Hiroshima, babies, etc. You did not talk to him a second time.
He used to buy all our used books. All of them. He needed them for his project, which was either to prove the existence of God or vice a versa, I forget which. What good "Your Future as a Dental Technician" would do for this project was never explained.

When I said all, I meant all.He stored them in a warehouse in Secaucus, New Jersey. We had nightmares that he would die and leave them to us.

Then there was Mr and Mrs Grumpus. They never cared for the material on offer. Once Mr G told me, "You don't have the right books." I asked him what books he would like, and he replied, "I don't know, but these are not them."

Still, it was great fun. I had a great staff and a good board. The only thing lacking was enough to live on.

But that is a story for another day.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Terrorists are not having a good day.

Terrorists have their troubles, too,a> sarcaastic.

Sweden has troubles

Sweden is having problems with being open-minded, tolerant, and liberal:

Too bad!

Via Rant Wraith.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

outworn words and phrases

I've got a little list of words and phrases that should be retired.

Political: Nazi, fascist, religious right, liberal (as an epithet), moral values, disenfranchise; and any mention whatever of Hitler in any way shape or form;

Slang of yesteryear: WHATEVER!!! Awful word, means nothing, belongs in the junkheap with 23 skidoo and rouged knees;

psychobabble: visioning; outside the box--hearing this one makes me want to crawl into the box and scream quietly; synergy; paradigm, especially new paradigm--if there are any old ones I've never heard of them, or any middle-aged ones either.

Friends, if you're out there, help me out here. Send me your own faves.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My mother the lawyer

I recently got a postcard reminding me that the anniversary of my mother's death is coming up. She's been gone more than 25 years now and I still miss her. She drove me crazy often while alive but her death left a hole that can't be filled. Still, we go on. I'm not saying I'm unhappy or anything; I just miss her.

Goldie Kanter Mayer was a combination of Yiddishe mama and firecracker lawyer. Sometimes she got the roles confused. She would mother her clients and fight for them. In return, they would mow her lawn or paint her house. They were hardbitten people, not a millionaire among them. Black people, and recent migrants (white)from West Virginia. They worshipped her, and she did not let them down. She loved, really loved, the law and being an attorney. She practiced law for at least forty years. She knew all the judges, court personnel and cops.

At her funeral, my uncle said, "They should have had Goldie's funeral at the first Baptist Church if they really wanted a big turnout."

She was honest and fearless. Any moral strengths I have can be attributed directly to her example.