Friday, December 28, 2001

SHOUT TO MY PEEPS: If there's a way to do it "low-maintenance," I've got to figure out how to add a comments/discussion feature to this thing. Anyone in the Blogger community who's got one going -- any suggestions?

Meanwhile -- as I will remain pretty much "off the program" until the end of the holidays -- here's a few bits of old business from the Mind Over What Matters mailbag:

Regarding my internal struggle between liberal values and conservative ethics, my Interlac amigo Chris Brown remarks: I'm reminded of something that Garry Shandling once said, "I'm conservative on some issues and liberal on others. I've never burned a flag -- but I've never put one out either."

Reader Chad Orzel comments, more specifically: Don't allow disgust over the duplicity of some left-wingers to blind you to the equal duplicity of the right wing. It's not in the immediate interest of either party to actually tell you the truth, and both right and left play the same how-to-lie-with-statistics games in their rhetoric. The only thing conservatives have over liberals at present is better PR (an amusing irony, given the rampant griping over "liberal media bias")

Thursday, December 27, 2001

PULSE CHECK: Between the holidays, the Blogger hackers, and my own local DSL connection problems, I'm still a little off the routine. Bear with me ...

Friday, December 21, 2001

HERE'S WHAT REALLY HAPPENED on 9/11. It's amazing.

Reader Chad Orzel compares Mind Over What Matters favorably to Andrew Sullivan and Josh Marshall on his links page:
Jay Zilber's weblog: Political blog with a rightward tilt, though not as annoying as Sullivan's, and not as well-written as Marshall's. Also useful as a convenient index of other political blogs I look in on from time to time.

Much as I'm appreciating the compliment of being mentioned in the same breath as Sullivan and Marshall -- even if I'm "not as good" as the latter (what the hey, it's an honor just to be nominated!) -- I'm also forced to come to grips with Chad's description of me as tilting rightward.

Me? Rightward? Yipe. Whatever you do, don't tell my mom -- an unreconstructed Pete Seeger liberal from way back, who once took me on a drive-through tour of the low-rent district in Columbus, Ohio, to make sure I knew that poor black people were living in slums less than three miles from the quiet, white suburban wonderland I called home. Mom had enough of a shock when, at age 12, I announced my preference for Richard Nixon in 1968 because he seemed like a more sympathetic candidate than her guy, Eugene McCarthy. But I digress. (Hi, Mom. Jus' trying to make you proud.)

There is, of course, the temptation to make a doleful observation that "after 9/11, we're all right-wingers now," or that a right-winger is merely a left-leaning moderate who's still sweeping up accumulations of free-floating World Trade Center demolition dust from his office after three months. But I think the personal growth dynamic you're seeing here, in these pages, is that I'm being forced to reconcile a great deal of generally liberal dogma -- with which I still acknowledge some emotional sympathy -- against the grotesquely dishonest manner in which it is so often packaged and delivered.

On issues like gun control, for example -- emotionally, who can argue with the traditionally liberal view that it's Objectively Bad to allow guns to be easily procured by Bad People? But the transformational events of this year have served to lay bare how brazenly some gun control lobbyists put forth patent falsehoods in order to solicit funds -- and when you realize that their livelihood actually depends on maintaining the status quo, so that they may rail against gun ownership in perpetuity, one can't possibly take their arguments seriously. Strict gun control is a perfectly sound, commonsense idea when the only statistics you present are the numbers of tragic, accidental shootings and deranged, suicidal postal workers. But when you take the trouble to think through what gun control would really mean to this country, it's not such a pretty picture either.

This is not -- never was -- a struggle of liberal and conservative principles. Rather, it is -- always has been -- a war between intellectual honesty and those who would corrupt public policy for their own craven purposes. It is only in that context that one can begin to explain why, for example, someone like Sen. John McCain registered such a strong appeal among registered Democrats (including myself) last year: Not because McCain is a liberal (which he is not), but because one can sense in the man a virtue rare among professional politicians: He appears to be capable of intellectual honesty. One can easily imagine John McCain, in private consultation and contemplation, considering both traditionally liberal and conservative arguments and weighing them fairly against one another, before making consequential policy decisions as President.

(Whereas, who -- even among the rational wing of the conservative punditocracy, like William Kristol and Christopher Caldwell -- seriously believes that George W. Bush ever actually sweated bullets as he rationally determined that stem cell research was moral up until a certain date, and immoral thereafter?)

Now, how I could rationalize voting for Sen. Hillary Clinton -- which I did -- is a whole 'nother story which I'll save for another day. Anyway, thanks, Chad -- not just for the kind words, but for clueing me in to Arts and Letters Daily, which will get a permanent sidebar link on the next revision-go-round.

SIGN OF THE END TIME: RuPaul has a Blog! Here's a scrumptuous sample:

up until fifteen years ago, the word “diva” really meant something special. that was before vh1, star jones and every pier queen on the hudson river, used the word to describe just about anyone with a weave and some attitude. the same is true for the word “grand”. there’s the “grand cherokee” by jeep, and the “grand ballroom” at the hilton, and of course “grandma’s” fried chicken franchise in georgia. all, of which, are not very “grand” if you ask me. but when used to describe that big slit in the middle of arizona, the word “grand” is an understatement. a more suitable description would be “ that mind warping, acid trippy, breathtaking, tear inducing, freaky-deaky, surrealicious, grand canyon”. actually, those words don’t even do it justice. i was not prepared for what i saw on tuesday. i had tears in my eyes, because i couldn’t believe how beautiful it was . the fact that there were four inches of snow on the ground, only added to this benchmark in my experience on this planet. i was BLOWN A-WAY ! what’s even more amazing is that i wasn’t jacked on coffee or virginia slims lights or any other stimuli ( ok, maybe i did have a snickers bar). unlike my past, i was totally present for the journey and for that reason, and that reason alone, i’m happy it took me so many years to get there. but just like the true addict that i am, i can’t wait to go back and do it again!!!

Ru even has a link to Blair ... but not that Blair ... this Blair!

LIKE, WOW! Good ol' reliable Drudge -- always on the lookout for bizarre deaths in the news -- called attention to this tragically ironic story yesterday:

A car driven by 21-year-old Dwight Samples of Dona Vista, Florida, collided with another vehicle while he was drag racing at speeds in excess of 100 mph. By coincidence, the driver of the car he rear-ended was his mother, Diane Samples, 45, who had been driving around a friend to look at Christmas lights. Young Samples' head went through the windshield, but somehow he managed to avoid ridding the gene pool of his noxious presence, and he is listed in stable condition. Mom and her passenger were pronounced dead at the scene.

Lt. Chuck Williams, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol, remarked: "It's bizarre. His mom was doing an act of kindness taking this lady around to see Christmas lights. You think the probabilities for a phenomenon like this are, wow."

I mention this story only because the probabilities for a phenomenon like this are like, actually, far from astronomical. Certainly, the odds were no greater that high school senior Laura Welch would run a stop sign in 1963, striking another car and killing the driver -- 17-year old Michael Douglas -- a classmate and reportedly her boyfriend at the time.

(Miss Laura Welch, of course, grew up to be Mrs. George W. Bush. Like, wow!)

HAMAS has announced a suspension of its suicide attacks inside Israel and mortar bomb attacks against Israeli targets. The unrepentant terrorist organization, which would not refer to the State of Israel by name, issued a statement which read, in part, “We declare the suspension of martyrdom attacks inside the occupied land of 1948 and a suspension of mortar fire until further notice.”

Does this make them the good guys now?

Wednesday, December 19, 2001

STAR WARS Chapter II: Damian Penny wrote back to say, "...I still would not write off a [Missile Defense] plan being feasible. Arthur C. Clarke once said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that if a scientist says something is possible, he's probably right; if a scientist says something is IMpossible, he's probably wrong."

The problem with using Arthur C. Clarke as a reference is that, in his twilight years, Clarke has come to embrace some rather crackpot notions. Clarke is a devotee of cold fusion and other "free energy" schemes which have been pretty thoroughly de-bunked at this point ... and more recently, he put forth the notion that the pictures taken by the orbiting Mars Global Surveyor reveal fields of vegetation and trees, even though the imaging resolution is vastly insufficient to provide such detail. It'd be cool if that turned out to be true -- but he's just seeing what he wants to see. Or saying what the interviewer wanted to hear.

That said, the 70mm re-release print of 2001: A Space Odyssey which has been slowly making its way across the country has finally showed up in New York, and I managed to catch a screening. Hey ... I finally "get" the ending...!

WHO IS BILL JONES? Bill Jones is running for Governor of California. In his own words:

"When recession and crime hit the 1990s, I took tough action to turn California around. As Assembly Republican Leader, I negotiated the budget that was vital in pulling California out of the recession, eliminating a $14 billion deficit. I authored the “3 Strikes” bill that cut crime in California by twice the national average. As Secretary of State, I protected term limits, reformed the election system to save millions of taxpayer dollars and put people in jail for voter fraud. I'm a third generation Californian, husband, father, rancher and farmer."

Bill Jones has also spammed my mailbox -- and sent me the same unsolicited attachment with an .HTM extension -- four times this week.

Bad form, Bill ... really, really bad. Hasn't your campaign staff told you that only pornographers, mischievous virus authors, Ponzi schemers and unrepentant terrorists send unsolicited messages to to blind e-mail lists?

Bill Jones says he wants to hear from you! For some reason, he doesn't want to give out his own e-mail address -- his Reply-To address is spoofed as "" -- but you can go to his website feedback page and tell him how you feel about this kind of fundraising tactic.

Banner: Join the Bill Jones for Governor Team

(And I live in New York City! At least spend the extra fifty bucks for a State-specific mailing list, Bill. Sheesh.)

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: As Charles Darwin pointed out, "Vox populi, vox dei" is a highly unreliable principle. It assumes that there will never be three jackasses in the same place.

Tuesday, December 18, 2001

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Jonah Goldberg, self-appointed Libertarianism expert, offers up this golden tidbit:

Virginia Postrel suspects that my "anti-libertarian outbursts" stem from a desire to get her and other libertarians to link to my site. Well, we can put aside the suggestion that it's a web-traffic bonanza to get linked on something called "Libertarian Samizdata" (I actually lose traffic when I indulge my anti-libertarian bent).

Ahhh -- now I see how what I've been doing wrong in conducting the great "Getting Mentioned" campaign ... I should have been writing about Jonah Goldberg's obssession with pigeonholing people into categories and labels, and goad him into calling me thin-skinned and link-hungry!

But seriously -- why is Goldberg uncomfortable about letting his words stand (or fall) on their own merits? If he's as sure of his position as his attitude suggests, why does he feel compelled to question his critics' motives -- or worse, invent motives on their behalf -- instead of simply debating their ideas?

Whenever a columnist is tempted to write a follow-up piece to "clarify" a previous column and "correct" his critics' misunderstandings, he ought to first consider that his position might be a little shakier than he'd like to admit. Goldberg would do well to engage in a week of quiet introspection before he answers his critics again.

(Then again, I guess we can't all be as sure, sincere and free of hidden agendas as Jonah Goldberg, eh?)


(requires QuickTime -- but worth it!)

Monday, December 17, 2001

IF THEY SHOULD BAR WARS... The battle over Missile Defense rages over at Transterrestrial Musings ... but the pro-shield crowd seems utterly uninterested in addressing the obvious logical failing of any system we could possibly erect:

Whether we're proposing to hit a bullet with a bullet, or repel incoming missiles with a magical force-shield, it would make not a whit of difference to a truly determined terrorist or rogue nation. When future Osamas and Saddams are convinced that we can transmute their incoming missiles into daisies with 100% accuracy, isn't it patently obvious that they would instead seek to deliver warheads by some other means? They could render our $150 billion investment useless with a fleet of barges and Cessnas!

You don't have to be a chess grandmaster to play out this game one move ahead.

IWWECONCIWABLE ... DIFFEWENCES? Oh, Dwew, say it ain't twue!!!

BUSH TO NEW YORK: DROP DEAD! And the funny thing is, Bush probably could have carried New York and Jersey in 2004 -- and all he had to do was deliver the $20 billion in rebuilding aid he had pledged only three months ago. But now he's giving us that old song and dance ...."Sorry Joe, I ain't got the dough."

I dunno, pal ... maybe that'll play in the red states, but the blues are going to remember that you didn't use your limitless political capital to honor your own word.

Friday, December 14, 2001


"An ounce of clear thinking is worth a pound of research into the mysteries of the obvious."

-- Thomas Szasz, M.D.

Damian Penny is agnostic about Missile Defense. Says Damian:
After 9/11, one has to question whether the cost is worth it, considering the methods that were used to bring about the most devastating terrorist attack ever committed on US soil. On the other hand, I have no doubt the US could make the plan work if it put enough effort into it (in 1960, many said it was scientifically impossible to put a man on the moon). And anything that has so many radical left-wingers so upset must have some merit.

Personally, I can't get terribly worked up over the mere act of withdrawing from the ABM Treaty -- about which one can make fair arguments that it was outdated and irrelevant in a dozen different ways. But the Bushies' stated reason for withdrawing -- so that we may test and build a Missile Defense system -- constitutes an abrogation of clear thinking and common sense, and throws back into question whether Bush is really as thoughtful and introspective (i.e., smart) as Ari Fleischer keeps trying to convince us.

I don't even have to read their latest online pronouncements to know that Michael Moore and Ted Rall are in lockstep on the issue -- but neither do I accept your generalization that it is the "radical left-wingers" per se who are the main detractors of Missile Defense. Even so, look at who is in favor of Missile Defense: Incumbent politicians first and foremost; defense contractors, second; then, right-wing media pundits whose carefully-honed public personas are pure showbiz; and finally, ordinary folks who look to incumbent politicians and right-wing media pundits for easy, single-stroke, feel-good solutions to difficult multi-tiered problems.

On the other hand, who comes out against Missile Defense? Not just radical lefties who object to defense spending as a central tenet of their principled beliefs; more significantly, its detractors also include the very programmers, scientists and engineers who would be called upon to build the damn thing! Anyone who has had to really, seriously think about how the system would be implemented must come to the conclusion that it is a wasteful, pointless exercise in futility at best, and a dangerously destabilizing influence at worst.

Your comparison to the daunting technological challenge of the moon landing is too simplistic. Flat-Earthers and the Amish community aside -- surely just about every credentialed member of the scientific community circa 1960 believed a moon landing was realistic and possible. If there was any serious resistance, it was to JFK's ambitious timetable. The proper comparison here would be the Manhattan Project -- but here, again, controlled nuclear fission was theorized and hotly debated as early as 1933. It wasn't just wild speculation of a handful of mad scientists; rather, as Young Doctor Frankenstein said: "IT .. COULD ... WORK!!!"

Whereas, the whole concept of Missile Defense fundamentally fails the "It Could Work!" test on so many levels and meta-levels that it's nigh impossible to defend it intellectually. Robert Wright has written passionately, for Slate, on this topic several times, here, here and here -- but here's his main argument, in a nutshell: Were we actually to spend $150 billion on a "Star Wars" shield that was, by some miracle, 100% reliable, it would simply guarantee that a determined terrorist or rogue nation would deliver their warhead, undetected and undeterred, on a barge from the East River.

Which means one of two things: Either (1) Bush is as smart as Ari Fleischer says he is -- in which case Bush cannot himself seriously believe that Missile Defense will ever serve to protect us from nuclear or biochemical attack -- in which case, he also knows damn well that it's just corporate welfare for the defense industry, and he's lying to the entire world when he says otherwise. Or, (2) Bush genuinely believes that Missile Defense could work if we just throw enough money at it -- in which case, he's actually every bit as shallow and intellectually devoid as the majority of voters in the last election believed he was. I don't know which is worse.

Either way, I simply don't see how anyone can hold it up to the light and still seriously defend Missile Defense from any perspective -- except to the extent that it would make a few people feel more secure in the belief that it might work.

UPDATE: QuasiPundit votes nay on Missile Defense, for this reason: [A]n anti-missile defense isn't a shield, it's a sieve... All it takes to defeat an anti-missile defense system is enough missile that the odds end up in your favor. The danger is that a false sense of security may result in a loss of emphasis on non-proliferation ..."

MY CHECKERED PAST: Google up a search for Zilber and you'll find -- this.

I barely even remember conducting this interview -- or the circumstances under which I got this plum assignment -- but yes, that was me putting the dull-as-dishwater questions to these Titans of Industry in 1981, twenty years ago this month. Thankfully, Len Wein and Marv Wolfman were, then as always, chatty and interesting enough to carry their end of the conversation.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

MY FIRST GROUPIE! Over at Samizdata, Natalija Radic asks: "Over on the wonderful blog Mind over what Matters, there is a picture of Jay Zilber in bed. It is soooooo cute! But what I want to know is who is that funny looking guy that he is lying on?"

To which I can only reply: Never mind him. Click on the picture and I'll meoooooww for you!!!!

ADVANTAGE: ME! Instapundit boldly predicts that the Israel-Arafat-Hamas endgame will be a stage-managed Jordanian re-annexing of the West Bank and Gaza ... which is essentially what Mind Over What Matters also boldly predicted here, one full week earlier!

Of course, we could both yet end up looking like idiots -- but the way events are playing out so far, I think it's far more likely that we'll both seem eerily prescient compared to the professional punditocracy, which seems to have been caught napping on this one. Here's what I said, again -- and it's worth repeating, because the new alignments (if they do come about) are going to take a lot of getting used to:
...the latest trial balloon floating around is that West Bank security should become Jordan's problem. If true, one could reasonably postulate that Israel is edging toward the idea of cutting the Palestinians out of the deal altogether, eventually allowing Jordan to re-annex significant parts of the West Bank. This notion -- that Jordan is and always should have been recognized as the historical and logical Palestinian homeland -- may well be a non-starter, and it may never be taken seriously. But if Israel is seen to be edging in that direction with America's blessing, and non-Arab world opinion is agnostic on the question, history could be about to take a sharp turn into uncharted territory.

(In hindsight, I'm beginning to wish I'd named this blog Eerily Prescient ... but if any of my readers are thinking of jumping into the fray with a blog of their own, the first taker is welcome to it.)

APROPOS OF PFAFF: Matt Welch thinks the punditocracy is oblivious to the sea-change taking place right under their noses:

It’s not just a question of underappreciated genius anymore. Something has been going on these past three months (not to mention the five years before that), yet 95% of large media companies – especially monopolist newspapers – seem utterly ignorant of it, or at best powerless to react to it.

What do warbloggers have in common, that most pundits do not? I’d say a yen for critical thinking, a sense of humor that actually translates into people laughing out loud, a willingness to engage (and encourage) readers, a hostility to the Culture War and other artifacts of the professionalized left-right split of the 1990s, unchecked joy at discovering clever people, a readiness to admit error, tendency to write with passion and emotion, a radar attuned to personal responsibility, a sense of collegial yet brutal peer review … I think the list is long, and most of the qualities stand apart from what you expect on the local op-ed page, or on the cable teevee show.

The unanswered question: Is the newspaper-reading, cable-watching, radio-listening public actually starting to savor all of these terrific weapons-grade warblogs in significant numbers? Or are they still feeding, indiscriminately and in the same numbers as always, at the Dowd/O'Reilly/Limbaugh trough?

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Streisand is no psychic, but she long sensed a coming catastrophe, and that apprehension may have cultivated the album's spiritual tone and quest for harmony ... ''I can't explain it, but I had a feeling something was coming,'' Streisand, 59, says by phone from her home in Malibu, Calif. "And then, oh, my God, it's here, this nightmare, this horror. I was overwhelmed..."

Yes, Barbra. What do you expect? You're 59! You sense death approaching! Just like everyone else. Get over yourself.

PFAFF ALERT! Slate's Jacob Weisberg -- and a few weeks earlier, William Saletan -- both picked up on the same phenonemon that so irritated me over this past weekend (see two items down): How certain members of the pundit class employ shrewd, weasely language to express a defeatist viewpoint while simultaneously attributing it only to unspecified third parties or some vague sense of conventional wisdom.

Weisberg conveniently coins a term for this intellectually dishonest practice: Pfaff! (Say it! Use it! Wear it out!) Weisberg particularly notes foreign policy writer William Pfaff's article "Afghanistan: The Moving Target" in the November 29 New York Review of Books, summarizing it thusly:

The war in Afghanistan was going badly, Pfaff wrote, because you can't win a war with airpower … against an enemy that digs in, as in Vietnam … in a country without high-value targets. In the author's view, the Pentagon was doing everything wrong, causing massive civilian casualties and a humanitarian catastrophe because of its unwillingness to put American ground forces at risk. President Bush was unwilling to admit his mistakes. The Northern Alliance wouldn't move against the Taliban; there was no Pashtun opposition in the south; Ramadan was coming; Osama Bin Laden would never be found; and it wouldn't matter if he were found, because terrorism is a hydra-headed monster. Pfaff missed only a few doomy chestnuts: the "Arab Street" rising against us; the anti-terrorism coalition splintering; Afghanistan as the graveyard of great powers.

Likewise, R.W. Apple's front-page news analysis in the New York Times of Oct. 31 was another "sorry analysis" of the war, in which signs of progress were "sparse" and the war was going "less smoothly than many had hoped." [emphasis mine.] Two weeks later, when the signs of progress were plentiful and the war was going more smoothly than many had predicted, Apple wrote another analysis deriding ... "the pessimistic prophets" who once thought the war was going badly. (The headline might as well have been "R.W. Apple: The Moving Target.")

Weisberg thinks that the professional punditocracy's embrace of pfaffery is due to "... a built-in media bias toward pessimism ... Cassandra has always gotten better ratings than Pollyanna," while Saletan rattles off a litany of journalists' morale-undermining professional biases that skew their coverage against their own political biases.

But how does the professional punditocracy continually make such a mess of things, while the amateur blogocracy manages to remain virtually pfaff-free? Certainly, none of us bloggers -- well it's a certainty in my case, although there may be a couple of rare exceptions -- are doing this for the generous salaries and perks! It costs me nothing -- in earnings, assignments, reputation or marketability -- to be both highly opinionated and occasionally so wrong that I have to shamefully admit it. The whole point of this exercise is not self-aggrandizement or self-enrichment, but rather, personal growth and wisdom.

(None of which is to say that success would spoil Mind Over What Matters. If anyone cared to show their appreciation and make a tiny donation to the tip jar, I'll still take the trouble to return my Diet Doctor Pepper bottles for the nickel deposit, regardless.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2001

THE SELF-RIGHTING PRINCIPLE: John Milton's contribution to free speech theory -- more than 300 years ago -- was that information and ideas need to be freely exchanged in order for man to gain knowledge and understanding and to discover truth. For Milton, the liberty of conscience was the fundamental freedom, necessary for all other freedoms to exist. Through the free exchange of ideas, he believed wise men would discover truth.

Wrote Milton: "Truth is strong next to the Almighty." ... "Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field, we do injuriously, by licensing and prohibiting, to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple, whoever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter?"

This became known as the "self-righting principle" -- the notion that, in the end, truth will win out.

Remember that as you read Andrew Hofer's More Than Zero, which reports today that National Public Radio's Geoff Nunberg considers Blogs to be "bumbling, self-important and dutiful." (Did I really once send money to that organization? Yipe!)

UPDATE: Since when did "dutiful" become a term of derision? [Since Nunberg lumped it in together with "bumbling" and "self-important," that's when.]

Sorry for the absence of new content in the last few days. My DSL connection was down, and I was too despondent to fall back on dial-up. We're back now. Bear with me while I find a new topic upon which to unleash my acerbic wit...

Saturday, December 08, 2001

ANTHONY LEWIS IS A BIG FAT IDIOT: To be perfectly candid, I know nothing about Anthony Lewis's weight or height. To me, he's just a byline on a New York Times column. But now that I've said he's big and fat, anyone else can say, with perfect accuracy, that "It has been said that Anthony Lewis is a big fat idiot," and no one could argue the point.

Today, Anthony Lewis says in his New York Times column:

...On Nov. 23, Mr. Sharon sent Israeli aircraft to kill Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, a senior leader of Hamas. He was a principal planner of terrorist attacks, it was said, and removing him would safeguard Israel. To the contrary, as every knowledgeable person understood, Hamas retaliation was certain. It came last weekend.

I'm sure someone, somewhere -- either without regard to the complex reality of the situation, or in a sarcastic voice that doesn't come across in print journalism -- must surely have muttered aloud that the Israeli action of November 23 would safeguard Israel. Possibly, they added "And monkeys might fly out of my butt." Anthony Lewis doesn't say.

But in his latest paen to terrorist appeasement, Lewis attributes this statement to ... nobody. All that matters is that It Was Said, and Lewis can say it was said. End of argument. Lewis 1, Nobody 0. Anthony Lewis must be right, and Sharon must be a big, fat idiot.

Likewise, it has been said that we should seek to understand Osama bin Laden's grievances -- perhaps, we should even negotiate with him -- and that merely wiping him off the face of the planet will not prevent future binLadenites from carrying out more terror attacks in the future. I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions about which side Anthony Lewis would apparently take on that argument. Certainly, there's no point in actually inviting him to explain the complexity of the situation -- or even to research his past writings, to see if he's taken a position at all. It's enough that it has been said that he's a terrorist appeaser.

Good enough for the New York Times, anyway. Or so it has been said.

Thursday, December 06, 2001


So if you were on an airplane, and an angel got sucked into one of the turbines and caused a crash, would you automatically get into Heaven?
-- Andy Ihnatko

It was shut down a couple of years ago, by mutual agreement between cartoonist Bil Keane and parodist Greg Galcik. But in its day (1995-1999), the most gut-wrenchingly side-splittingly funny, tears-in-your-eyes -- "Stop! You're killing me! No, wait! Just one more!" -- thing on the whole friggin' Internet was The Dysfunctional Family Circus, an interactive feature in which readers were invited to submit their own captions for actual published Family Circus cartoons. Galcik would select fifty-or-so of the best entries for online publication, which typically ran the gamut between perversely surreal and just plain sick. "Bob's Comics Review" explained the phenomenon in 1996:

There's a perverse compliment to Keane in the very success of the DFC. It just invites retitling, and I don't think the Dysfunctional treatment would work anywhere as well for other lame comics. A Dysfunctional Marmaduke would still be about a big annoying dog; a Dysfunctional Beetle Bailey could hardly transcend the fantasy army and the soul-destroying stereotypes of the real thing; a Dysfunctional Cathy could only be three or four variations on "Cathy's a loser." But Keane's situations are simple, yet varied enough that DFCers can comment on almost anything. FC and DFC together achieve a cosmic balance: the Family Circus is a neverland of unrealized and unrealizable family values; the DFC, by exaggeration, shows us how life really is, more effectively than even the deliberately ugly style of underground cartoonists can do.

I was delighted to discover that the complete Dysfunctional Family Circus has been archived here. Use the VCR-like buttons to scroll through all 500 pages, or use this alternate text-based index. (And somewhere, amidst the thousands of captions, see if you can spot three by my alter ego, Oplyd Oleo.)

Ah, I remember my first baby chick. The blood tastes like hot nails, and they squeak a bit, but you get used to it.
-- phil

A SPLENDID DICKENSIAN NAME: Mark Shuttleworth, 27, is set to become the second "space tourist" to fly to the station, arriving in a Russian Soyuz rocket next April.

Okay, then -- don't give me a hard time when the hero of my spec screenplay is named Joe Everyman.

THE THIRD OPTION: Some astute Blogger recently observed --

-- and, by the way, maybe I've come to the party a little late myself, but it seems like there's been an incredible upsurge in really great, independent online writing since 9/11, and I'm afraid it's more than I can do to absorb and remember every credit when it comes time to link to it --

--Anyway, where was I? --

Some astute Blogger or online columnist recently observed -- and I'll just paraphrase as best I can, with a little of my own spin -- that Israel has two options, both lousy: They can either (1) become a garrison state, expel every legal and illegal resident Palestinian alike (thereby undercutting their own economy by eliminating cheap underclass labor), put up barbed-wire fences around the entire perimeter, and dig in for the long haul -- or they can go for broke and (2) reoccupy the West Bank and install its own governing body over a resentful population devoted to the rearing of generation after generation of nihilistic 17-year-olds, whose greatest ambition is to become human shrapnel delivery systems.

But then there's the Third Option -- the least worst case: Fomenting civil war. And at at this writing, it seems as though the Third Option is beginning to play out. This week's all-stick/no-carrot ultimatum amounts to a direct appeal to rational moderates among the Palestinian people themselves -- that it is up to them to replace the irrelevant Arafat with courageous new leadership genuinely interested reaching a long-term accommodation with Israel -- or else, look forward to the implementation of Options One or Two in very short order.

This morning, BBC News reports that the Palestinian Authority / Hamas alliance is on the brink of collapse under this pressure. "We are all angry at the corrupt Palestinian leadership," one Hamas supporter said, and accused the Palestinian police of trying to provoke a "civil war." From Israel's perspective, better news there could not be.

Further, the latest trial balloon floating around is that West Bank security should become Jordan's problem. If true, one could reasonably postulate that Israel is edging toward the idea of cutting the Palestinians out of the deal altogether, eventually allowing Jordan to re-annex significant parts of the West Bank. This notion -- that Jordan is and always should have been recognized as the historical and logical Palestinian homeland -- may well be a non-starter, and it may never be taken seriously. But if Israel is seen to be edging in that direction with America's blessing, and non-Arab world opinion is agnostic on the question, history could be about to take a sharp turn into uncharted territory.

The question is, how much longer can Arafat cling to power and stand in the way of history? Mind Over What Matters will go out on a limb and predict that his remaining term in office can be measured in hours. (Fortunately, the penalty for being wrong is to shrug and say, "So I was wrong. So?")

UPDATE: 24 hours later, Palestinian civil war is breaking out, almost as if on cue.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

TYPE DIFFERENT: Okay, Andrew Sullivan -- have it your way. Windows sucks and Mac rules! So why are all your quotation marks, apostrophes and em-dashes displaying as Vietnamese characters today? [Update: Problem fixed, nine hours later. Welcome to the world of Mac ASCII, Andrew!]

THE GREAT "GETTING MENTIONED" CAMPAIGN CONTINUES! Another tip o' the Mind Over What Matters cap to both InstaPundit and Samizdata for the prominent mentions this evening. (Sheesh, Glenn -- I'm writing my heart out here! What more does it take to qualify for a permanent sidebar link?)

TOUGH CHOICE? I'll make it easy for you. Aaron Sorkin without crack is like a day without sunshine -- and besides, The West Wing is, and ever shall be, so September 10th.

Instead, make a date with The Tick, which has a special airing tonight (Wednesday) at 9:30. (Another episode airs Thursday at 8:30)

What does TV Guide say? The bond between Arthur and the Tick is tested in a hilarious take on the perils of a superhero partnership. During a rooftop pursuit, the chums meet fellow crimefighters Fiery Blaze (Ron Perlman) and his sidekick Friendly Fire (Patrick Breen). “Your banter is immaculate,” marvels the Tick, who'd like to emulate their “well-oiled machine.” But Arthur is taken aback by Blaze's condescending manner toward Friendly, who introduces Arthur to a support group for disgruntled sidekicks.

What is TV Guide not telling us?
Tonight we get the series’ reimagining of Robert Smigel’s Ambiguously Gay Duo. This is the gayest, most homosexual episode of “The Tick” one could ever hope for. Friendly Fire’s costume could give Burt Ward the willies.

More info from those lovable scamps at Aint It Cool...

BOBBY, WE HARDLY KNEW YE: The reclusive American chess grandmaster Bobby Fischer has broken years of silence to support the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In an interview on the evening of September 11 with Radio Bombo -- an obscure radio station in the Philippines -- Mr. Fischer said:

"This is all wonderful news... I applaud the act. The US and Israel have been slaughtering the Palestinians for years. Now it is coming back at the US. ... I was happy and could not believe what was happening... This just shows, what goes around comes around, even to the US ... It is time to finish off the US once and for all."

What more is there to say? (How about: Hey, Bobby -- why don't you hop a plane to New York and tell Katie Couric and the rest of America what you really think!)

Fischer was obviously a nut-job from the get-go -- but the problem is, there are too many others out there like him to just shrug and and write them all off as brilliant nut-jobs. The kind of mind that can simultaneous play out chess games nine moves ahead and blame the international Jewish conspiracy for the world's ills is exactly the same kind of mind that could engineer a terrorist attack of unprecedented scope and complexity -- and gladly do so, given sufficient manpower and finanical support.

(Hey, Drudge -- you sleeping on the job tonight? I picked up this story from -- of all sources -- Art Bell!)

Tuesday, December 04, 2001

TOM TOMORROW MINUS THE PENGUIN? Ken Layne provides more evidence that Ted Rall is coasting something fierce. (Lucky for Rall that he has an editor, or else Ken might be picking apart Rall's spelling errors as further evidence of his cynical anti-Americanism, too.)

Monday, December 03, 2001

TIPPING POINT: Incredibly, Palestinian spokesmen and apologists are still taking to the airwaves -- as usual, NPR's foremost among them -- in a last, desperate attempt to dictate to Israel what it "must accept" and "must do" to end the threat of terrorism.

Did none of them bother to read the morning papers yet? Has it not yet become apparent that the combination of this past weekend's triple-suicide bombing and America's success in routing the Taliban has brought us beyond a new "tipping point," when world leaders are no longer willing to condemn Israel for exercising the right of self defense?

Did it not dawn on the Palestinian Authority that when even Colin Powell is no longer calling for restraint, they no longer have a friend in the world that matters?

By week's end, I wouldn't be surprised to see Arafat put into "protective custody." Betcha, too, that when they confiscate his Palm Pilot to look up the home addresses for Hamas' rank-and-file, they find out he used the word "password" as his password.

UPDATE: SmarterTimes nails the less-smart New York Times for its "glaringly error-ridden" obituary of Mohammed Kamel, Egypt's former Foreign Minister who resigned in 1978 "in protest against the Camp David peace accords with Israel, predicting accurately that they would isolate Egypt in the Arab world without resolving the Palestinian question." But the Times never notes that the severance was temporary, and that virtually all Arab nations have now resumed diplomatic relations with Egypt, making Mr. Kamel's prediction look far less eerily prescient.