March 4, 2005 - February 25, 2005
Saturday, January 10, 2004
We probably shouldn't talk about them every day, but they're just so
funny. What do you suppose American professors of literature talk about
when they get together? That's right. The war in Iraq.
This past week, about 8,000 professors and graduate students
gathered here [San Diego] for the annual meeting of the Modern Language
Association. Most came for job interviews, to catch up with old friends,
and to attend some of the 763 panels of scholars. But among the panels
on topics ranging from Hawthorne to Asian cinema to "The Aesthetics of
Trash" were a surprising number of sessions dealing with the war in Iraq,
terrorism, patriotism, and American foreign policy.
Not that there was much actual debate. In more than a dozen sessions
on war-related topics, not a single speaker or audience member expressed
support for the war in Iraq or in Afghanistan. The sneering air quotes
were flying as speaker after speaker talked of "so-called terrorism," "the
so-called homeland," "the so-called election of George Bush," and so forth.
You can read the whole article here.
The only good news in the piece is a quote from a professor who acknowledged
that many of his students are libertarian conservatives. He said, "Most
of the debate at the MLA would completely alienate my students." He's still
got time to fix them though.
THE DREXELITE CONSENSUS.
Just yesterday on NPR, a "news" segment reported on the projected million
species (mostly plants) that would beome extinct over the next hundred
years because of global warming. Of course, to NPR global warming is a
fact, even if it's only a highly suspect theory to many of us lowbrow members
of the ignorati. What's kind of interesting is that Michael
Crichton (Harvard medical degree and all) turns out to be one of the
And so, in this elastic anything-goes world where science-or
non-science-is the hand maiden of questionable public policy, we arrive
at last at global warming. It is not my purpose here to rehash the details
of this most magnificent of the demons haunting the world. I would just
remind you of the now-familiar pattern by which these things are established.
Evidentiary uncertainties are glossed over in the unseemly rush for an
overarching policy, and for grants to support the policy by delivering
findings that are desired by the patron. Next, the isolation of those scientists
who won't get with the program, and the characterization of those scientists
as outsiders and "skeptics" in quotation marks-suspect individuals with
suspect motives, industry flunkies, reactionaries, or simply anti-environmental
nutcases. In short order, debate ends, even though prominent scientists
are uncomfortable about how things are being done.
When did "skeptic" become a dirty word in science? When did a skeptic
require quotation marks around it?
It's not just global warming that Crichton is taking on here. He
applies a stern lash to the whole phenomenon of consensus science and its
apocalyptic offspring, including nuclear winter and secondhand smoke.
This is one article that's worth reading and rereading from beginning to
end, but we'll share one more trenchant quote:
Consensus is invoked only in situations where the science is
not solid enough. Nobody says the consensus of scientists agrees that E=mc2.
Nobody says the consensus is that the sun is 93 million miles away. It
would never occur to anyone to speak that way.
MAWRITES ON PARADE.
Today's "mad cow" is Molly
Ivins, who tackles (surprise!) mad cow disease in addition to her usual
diatribe about George W. Bush. It turns out that the sick cow from Canada
is Bush's fault. Then she says:
Nor is mad cow disease the only consequence of heavy meat and
poultry contributions to the Republicans. (In the 2000 elections, corporate
food production combines donated $59 million in both hard and soft money,
75 percent of it to Republicans.) See the chapter "Ready to Eat?" in my
book Bushwhacked for the anatomy of a listeriosis outbreak that
killed several people.
As Lou Dubose and I conclude, if you must eat while Republicans control
both the White House and Congress, you may want to consider becoming a
We have a theory, which we're going to contribute to the media ocean
in the form of a rumor. Please repeat it often, to everyone. It must be
true because it explains so much. Molly Ivins is HOT for George W. Bush.
She can't think about him without getting all weak in the knees. She's
been trailing after him for years and can't get to first base -- not so
much as a look (you know the sort of look we mean, the kind that sees right
through the clothes to the throbbing, needful woman underneath). That's
why she's so damn mad. That's why she gave her book the curiously double-entendre'd
title Bushwacked. That's her -- crazy with scorned lust for the
Big Guy. She derides him as the shrub because what she wants most is to
climb the tree. Sound too dirty-minded for dear Molly? Well, she was once
a sewer editor. Yes, she was. You can look it up here.
Friday, January 09, 2004
Power of Principles —
With that "rinse" wouldn't he have been terrific playing against M. L'Inspecteur Clouseau in the best Pink Panther of all?
Perhaps the fear of having his gray show after a few months in a hole warmed him to the thought of cooperating with the Great Satan . . .
MAWRITES ON PARADE.
Most of the time they come right at you, fists clenched and jaws locked
in rage. But they're at their most dangerous when they remember to use
feminine wiles as they slink toward assassination. Don't believe it? Then
your lesson for today is Peggy Noonan, who has finally noticed Howard Dean
and decided to do something about him. She says she really really wanted
to like him. Sure she did. But he disappointed her:
He is not a happy warrior but an angry one. In the past I have
thought of him as an angry little teapot, but that is perhaps too merry
an image. His eyes are cold marbles, in repose his face falls into lines
of mere calculation, and he holds himself with a kind of no-neck pugnacity
that is fine in a wrestling coach or a tax lawyer but not in a president.
It's not a good idea to disappoint Peggy Noonan. Read the rest of it and
see what happens to angry little teapots who step on the wrong toes. The
closes in, as if for a polite waltz, and when she turns away her erstwhile
partner flops to the floor like a gigolo skewered by a hatpin.
By comparison, long-time champion Mawrite Maureen Dowd seems woozy after
her extended hiatus from verbal assault and battery. She plots her usual
straight-line attack on George
W. Bush, then suddenly veers away, as if confused and prematurely winded,
into thickets of Lesbianism.
Showtime has a vampy new program about lesbians in L.A. called
"The L Word." That landed Jennifer Beals and its other sexy female stars
seminude on the cover of this week's New York magazine, with the headline
"Not Your Mother's Lesbians." (I didn't know my mother had lesbians.)
Time to get back in shape, Maureen. The cause needs you (whatever the hell
SWARTHMORON OF THE
WEEK, PART II. Okay. Obviously there's something about the Hitler
analogy they just can't let go of over at MoveOn.org. First, the facts.
Then, an explanation
that would help them if they wanted to understand themselves a little better.
But they don't. That's why they're Swarthmorons.
IS THERE AN ANNENBURGHER
IN THE HOUSE? You betcha. Have they got you scared, or at least nervous,
about Mad Cow
Disease? Well, they're only doing their job. The bad news for them
is, this dog (er, cow) won't hunt:
USDA veterinarian Dr. Kenneth Petersen says: “The recalled
meat represents essentially zero risk to consumers.”
Remember, though, Dr. Petersen is only a vet. Who is he to say? (Jeffersonians,
Ch. 7, v. 9-19.)
Thursday, January 08, 2004
REMEMBER THE LUSITANIA?
Anyone who knows anything about the punks
of South Street won't be surprised that we begin with a reminder of World
War I. Here's an excerpt from Fred
in the Weekly Standard:
For decades after World War I, French and British generals
agreed on one thing: The Americans fought poorly and played little role.
That notion is now all but dead. John Keegan in "The First World War" (1998)
said the American entry provided "the sudden accretion of a disequilibrating
reinforcement"--in other words, the straw that broke the back of Germany.
John Mosier went further in "The Myth of the Great War" (2001). "America's
role in the war was absolutely decisive," he wrote. "The string of German
battlefield successes stopped abruptly on the entry into the line of the
newly formed American divisions, the course of the war changed drastically,
and . . . the General Staff of the German army recommended that Germany
seek terms." Winston Groom states flatly in "A Storm in Flanders" that
"America turned the tide in favor of the Allies at the last minute."
Read the whole column. Fred introduces a squad of new WWI books,
and he's our first Punk of the Week for remembering that even the distant
past contributes to the present.
REVENGE OF THE HILLITES.
Speaking of the present, we're as interested in the idea of "South
Park Republicans" as anyone. We wonder if the paleo-cons and the neocons
and the religious-cons know anything about the strange bedfellows who come
Park. Here's a glimpse.
(It's okay to laugh; it's also okay to torture yourself with questions
about why you're laughing and whether you should be. That's called thinking.)
MAWRITES ON PARADE.
God love'em, they're a worldwide phenomenon now, SO irate, SO contemptuous
of their foes, SO implacably certain, SO funny. We'll try to keep
you attuned to their most hilarious columns on the hard right and the hard
left. Here's today's.
THE ED IN THE MACHINE.
It's nice to see continuing high honors for the TV
journalist who best represents the standards set by the original Ed.
Some of the other
awards seem well earned too (keep scrolling down the page).
Suddenly it seems everyone is upset about Howard Dean. We can't think why.
Personally, we like him.
THE SWARTHMORON OF
THE WEEK. It's a cinch in this all-important first week of the election
year. By acclamation, the prestigious SOW award goes to moveon.org.
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