Saturday

22

Terrence Tootoo (two two), the first Inuit professional hockey player and by all accounts a very good person, killed himself Wednesday morning, a day after police charged him with drunk driving. He was 22. He wore number 22. He shot himself with a 12-gauge shotgun, not a .22.

About Not Forgetting

An interesting piece of commentary in The Independent on the Armenian genocide, the British mandate over Palestine, and The New York Times then and now.

Hemisfears

A report released at the Johannesburg summit says that climate change will help North America by increasing our (and Russia's) food production but killing food production in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Indian subcontinent (and hurting Britain, Ireland, and Spain).

Junk science? Perhaps. Regardless, just another reason for Bush to get serious about the problem--to shut up the idiots who are no doubt beginning to weave elaborate conspiracy theories. Maybe I'm being too cynical.

Right Before, Right Again

I pray for the success of this new secularist crusade by the guy who made the Pledge of Allegiance ruling possible. Why do we have taxpayer-funded chaplains in Congress, anyway? Isn't it one step away from having a taxpayer built church, synagogue, and mosque? Yes, religion deserves a place at the table; I'm for charitable choice. But official state chaplains have more than a place at the table. They have keys to the kitchen.

Yellow Card

A friend is bothered by my criticism of Fantasy Soccer: "So are you like a total America first right winger now? You're even dissing soccer lovers now?"

It's Uneven, Like Television

But there's some very funny stuff in this Modern Humorist Fall TV Preview. I've already set the TiVo to tape "John Edward is Just Fucking with You" on SCI-FI.

Well, Fair

The indomitable Mickey Kaus and other neolibs may appreciate this reasonably balanced New York Times story on welfare caseloads declining in New York and other big cities despite the sluggish economy. Take Nina Bernstein off the story, and poof! Clinical despair and chronic distortion disappear!

Whittling Away

Daniel Gross writes a smart piece in Slate on how the overhead of being a big time, publicly listed company (and a not-so-well-managed one at that) has chipped away at Edison Schools' bottom line--putting them in fiscal trouble even though they may be educating kids better and more efficiently in the classroom.

I'm now pretty pessimistic about Edison's future. Since the company had the slimmest of margins to begin with, it has always been banking on high volume to make money. With its ongoing financial troubles, its long-anticipated Philadelphia deal already downsized, fiscal equity lawsuits bumping up funding in some cities (giving more hope to the public schools), and vouchers bound to pop up in others (moving more kids into private schools), I give them a few years. I'm already recoiling from the flood of "I told you so" coverage on how we should have known all along that dirty capitalism and pure public education wouldn't, couldn't mix.

Friday

When Bad Press Releases Happen to Good Candidates

"Our Teachers Shape Our Future Leaders," says former Dallas Mayor Ron Kirk. That's the headline. The lead? "'Our teachers shape our future leaders,' [said] U.S. Senate candidate Ron Kirk today as he visited Waco High School."

And if you were wondering who Phi Slamma Jamma alumnus Clyde Drexler supports, it's Kirk's opponent John Cornyn. The Glide even "threw his arms around" him. I never saw him treat Jerome Kersey or Kiki Vandeweghe that weghe. In fact, it's probably a flagrant foul.

The more pressing question on Planet Houston: who will kneel before Zod, and will he deliver the Phantom Zone vote?

The New Isolationists

Many of the people who called for active military intervention during the Clinton Administration, including (rightfully) trying to fix the awful tribal bloodshed in Somalia, have decided we should certainly mind our own business in Iraq, where our national security is at stake. And there are good arguments for figuring out what will follow Saddam, getting allies on board, and exhausting other options before barrelling toward Baghdad.

But this little Flash movie, which is making the email rounds, is infuriating. How many people nod their heads when they watch this shit? I hate to even link to something so immature and aggravating, but too late.

Revisions of Johannesburg

The Bush administration should have made more than a half-hearted attempt to contribute to the U.N. Summit on Sustainable Development. But now that it may be tanking, let's see who gets blamed. Is it our fault or the fault of the countries who were actively engaged? Or is it (sigh) more complicated than that?

Doesn't Add Up

If, as some suggest, soccer's such a beautiful, balletic game that can't be distilled for the simplistic American mind, which prefers high scores and statistics, how the hell can a soccer fan enjoy fantasy soccer, which distills everything into numbers?

Thursday

What's Wrong With Not Forgetting?

I like Instapundit, but today he praises Jeremy Lott for suggesting that "We shall never forget" is an un-American slogan. That might sound good, but it's wrong. Even though we have bad individual historical memories as citizens, we've got a decent collective memory (thanks to the media), and we have never forgotten Pearl Harbor, D-Day, the Holocaust, Hiroshima, Vietnam, slavery, etc. (some people have such a hard time forgetting, in fact, they are actively pressing for reparations for a practice that ended well over a century ago).

Have we always learned the right lessons? No--but we haven't forgotten, and there's nothing un-American about that. I disagree that "The American way is to stomp hell out of people who do us ill, then forget all about it within a decade or two." The fact that we don't wallow in our past is actually refreshing.

And don't forget--people are already forgetting September 11, already lulling themselves into complacency. Not forgetting is strategic. If we fail to not forget now, we'll someday be forced to not forget a day that's even worse.

Wednesday

Bar None

This is a partisan report put out by a left wing think tank that I'm sure is omitting some important contextual data, but no matter how you couch it, it's depressing that the number of black men in jail or prison has grown fivefold in the past 20 years, to the point that more black men are now behind bars than are enrolled in colleges or universities. This is not a "total corrections population" figure that includes parole and probation, like the Bureau of Justice Statistics released on Monday. It's strictly who's in lockup.

Is this the apocalypse for black America? No. When you look at teen pregnancy rates, income levels, welfare trends, etc., the good news still far outweighs the bad. And as The New York Times points out in the article, "Some criminal justice experts said it was misleading to compare the two categories because the number in jail and prison includes all adult black men 17 years or older, while the number in institutions of higher learning is confined to a narrower student-age population in their late teens and early twenties." Fair enough. And knowing the equivalent figures for other races would be helpful; in fact, it's irresponsible for the reporter not to include them.

Still, the totality of the evidence here is sad, especially the reported fact that "the number of black men in jail or prison grew three times as fast from 1980 to 2000 as the rise in the number of black men in colleges and universities." And the numbers doubly trouble me when I think of how Sharptonaderites will abuse them to suggest that we live in an endemically racist nation.

Sharpening the Sporks

Here goes the press basically salivating at the possibility Republicans will lose big in the midterms. First sentence: "President Bush's vigorous campaigning to elect Republicans in November could make the elections a referendum on his presidency." It's a weird piece to come at the end of the summer, especially since the general consensus right now, which could easily change (with the help of a few more articles like this, among other things), is that it's going to be a tight in both houses--something that would seem to be neither pro- or anti- Bush, unless you stretch to find a hidden message. Whether this is media bias or just a desperate yearning for drama is hard to say. Probably the latter. But still, silly lede. The midterm election could be a referendum on his presidency. Um, okay. Tomorrow's update: it could not be one.

It's Pronounced "Seen"

For the record, Sean Hannity is not the second coming of Rush Limbaugh. I'm no fan of either one, but everybody knows Limbaugh is brilliant and brazen in his demagoguery. Hannity rarely makes a good argument or reams a foe as, say, O'Reilly or Matthews can. He's little more than Jim Bohannon to Limbaugh's Larry King.

This doesn't mean Hannity can't get into politics if he decides to, as some are now suggesting. In fact, he's better suited for public office than somebody smarter and bolder like Limbaugh--nicer and far better looking, especially when next to Colmes. Plus he's got a big following. And there are no Republican stars currently in New York politics besides Giuliani. So Hannity will get bigger. But as his book rises on the bestseller list and he starts to ascend to a place in the Fox News holy trinity alongside Hume and O'Reilly, I hope he's kept in context.

Log Cabins

Write your own joke about this, but it seems smart. And it's a better idea than this.

Seebee Ahren

Okay, though I've been told by informed people to be annoyed by the personal publishing revolution, I've gone and gotten a blog. And it's astoundingly easy so far. So on to a question I had today regarding Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (he calls himself the President of the Republic of Iraq (he's also Prime Minister (and Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council (and possibly Iraqi Commissioner of Baseball (they don't have many work stoppages))))): of course we should shudder at the thought that he might soon get nuclear weapons, but what about chemical and biological and radiological?

Not all CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear) are equal--and, in fact, some must be relatively minor, as weapons of war go. CBRN has become the more descriptive replacement for WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction), but the two terms really aren't interchangeable. As bad as a mass attack of smallpox or botulin toxin could be, there are many CBRN that aren't WMD--including the first iteration of anthrax through the mail, which was no more harmful in the end than the unabomber's spree (not to belittle either, just to put them in perspective). And there are some WMD that aren't CBRN. Shouldn’t we have gotten concerned, or weren't we concerned, just when Hussein had access to REALLY BIG BOMBS, say, that could kill en masse--major explosive devices that didn't happen to be weaponized with chemical or biological crap attached to them? It seems to me that, as harrowing as the image may be (and it's actually growing a bit tired, or I'm getting desensitized to it) of Saddam using chemical weapons on his own people, it would have been just as bad if had bombed a half dozen Kurdish towns to smithereens the old-fashioned way. Which, for all I know, he did. So why do we focus on the chemical?

I guess the two qualities CBRN share that make them a family of weapons are their relative novelty and their insidiousness. C, B and R are harder to spot than nuclear and conventional weapons--and all four types are, in theory, transportable in a way that conventional weapons are not. They can sometimes be unfastened from militaries and the regimes that control them, and can therefore become tools of terrorism. And of course they cause panic in the populace and often have some lingering health effects. But the implication that they're always scarier than all other kinds of weapons is wrong--and something that somebody ought to make clear.

Not every post, by the way, will contain this many parentheticals as this one (unless they're called for).