Tuesday, July 30, 2002

AND IN OTHER NEWS ... in one, final burst of hubris ...
CLEVELAND (AP) - Preparing to sentence former Rep. James A. Traficant Jr., a federal judge today rejected his argument that he should not be sanctioned because he has already been punished by expulsion from the House. ... Traficant had planned to argue that a prison sentence would represent double jeopardy or being punished twice for the same crime.
By that logic, David Berkowitz has been wrongly imprisoned for years -- having already been sufficiently punished by not being allowed to keep his job as a postal worker.

Bulletin from AOL's headline news:
Explosion in Jerusalem Kills One
JERUSALEM (AP) - A suicide bomber set off explosives today at the entrance of a central Jerusalem food stand popular with police, killing himself and injuring four Israelis, police said...

UPDATE #1: 20 minutes later, someone apparently decided a rewrite was called for. The same AOL news item now softens the story, avoiding altogether the use of the word kill or any variant thereof:

Suicide Bombing in Central Jerusalem
JERUSALEM (AP) - A Palestinian suicide bomber blew himself up today at a central Jerusalem fast-food stand popular with police, wounding four Israelis, police said...

UPDATE #2: Interestingly, Slate's "Today's Papers" takes it one step further:
... a suicide bomber blew himself up yesterday in Jerusalem, slightly injuring five people, and killing nobody.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

ANSWERING MY CRITICS: Regarding Art Garfunkel's reading list, Mom writes:

why should I find this interesting info? loveyomomma

Sheesh. Does every post have to be a rhetorical masterpiece in order to prove that I'm living up to my potential?

SITE IMPROVEMENTS: Need to quote some pithy remark that I made about six or eight weeks ago, but it's too much trouble to go hunting through the archives manually, one week at a time?

Lookee over at the top of the right column: Mind Over What Matters has got a search engine now!

Also, please note that we're using a new mailbox strictly for blog-related e-mail. If you want to lambaste me privately for something I've written here -- rather than use the public YACCS comments system -- the new preferred address is --

mind - at - zilberhere.com

The old address will still work, but your communique will be less likely to slip through the cracks if you use the new address.

(Insert the "@" sign in proper context, of course. You all understand why I'm not spelling it out precisely on this page -- right?)

Monday, July 22, 2002

Keep tabs on his 2002 reading list here!

Friday, July 19, 2002

DOW 3600? My earlier prediction is beginning to look eerily prescient, if not quaintly optimistic.

This time, shares of Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) tumbled and dragged the rest of the market kicking and screeaming with it, after federal regulators began probing allegations of fraudulent record-keeping at a plant that makes one of the healthcare giant's best-selling medicines.

Of course, Johnson & Johnson is its own worst enemy when it tries to bury the bad news in the fine print:

Well, slap me silly and call me Martha! After years of moral equivocation, Amnesty International has finally condemned Palestinian terrorism -- and in no uncertain terms. Israel Insider reports:
For the first time, Amnesty International has released a comprehensive review of Palestinian attacks against Israeli citizens and determined them to be "crimes against humanity under international law." The organization, which has frequently accused the Israeli army of human-rights abuses against Palestinians fighting "occupation," rejected all Palestinian excuses for these attacks against Israelis, including those targeting settlers, and said that these attacks "may also constitute war crimes."
[Amnesty] refuted claims by militant organizations like Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that "under all international declarations and laws, Palestinians are entitled to defend and liberate their land by all means and to redeem their integrity." Amnesty explained that targeting civilians for whatever purpose is "contrary to fundamental principles of humanity which should apply in all circumstances at all times."

So maybe Amnesty International finally grew a conscience. Or maybe -- to take the cynical view -- they're just trying to bolster their battered credibility and protect their donation stream. Either way, it's a welcome and important gesture.

Now, if only NPR would get around to covering Amnesty's remarkable about-face, maybe this meme will finally gain some traction among the "root cause" wingnuts -- those who still cling to romantic notions that the humiliation of waiting at checkpoints trumps the inconvenience of extracting metal shards from a three-year-old's liver and intestines.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

WTC Plans: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
Joseph Dolman of New York Newsday laments:
So where's the catalyst that will give shape to a vibrant new downtown? Where's the spark that will create a community of apartments, offices, tourist amenities and top-of-the-line cultural and educational institutions? Where's the glimmer of genius that can stitch together a serendipitous neighborhood of 20-something software jockeys and 50-something Wall Street thunderbolt tossers who can live happily forever after side by side?

It won't be found on yesterday's menu of plans. Those blueprints look like a rush job, drawn up in part to help out a governor - George Pataki - who's running hard for re-election and worried that people might think he's not moving fast enough. It appears the governor's folks in the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. and the Port Authority have just reshuffled the World Trade Center's components and dealt them again. That was a losing formula for lower Manhattan when it first materialized in the 1960s - and it's an infinitely worse scenario now.

Solicitations We Didn't Have To Finish Reading:

From: "Michael Douglas, for MoveOn PAC" abc@xyz.org
To: "Jay L. Zilber" abc@xyz.com
Subject: Help Lynn Rivers clean up our country

You may have seen me play a character who claims "Greed is good." Of course, it's not. ...

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Get ready to upgrade your Microsoft Flight Simulator: Here are the LMDC (Lower Manhattan Development Corp.) preliminary plans for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site. (Links go to animation; Media Player or QuickTime required)

Memorial Plaza

Memorial Square

Memorial Triangle

Memorial Garden

Memorial Park

Memorial Promenade

Unfortunately, it appears that Derek Turner's proposal is out of the running. I suppose everyone knew it was going nowhere, because -- ultimately -- it would have been unrentable. But it was the only proposal being floated out there which represented a serious attempt to heal the skyline. None of the LMDC's concepts are nearly so spectacular as this:

UPDATE: Incredibly, reaction to the six proposals are ... mixed.

I DO BELIEVE IN SPOOKS! Why is the stock market tanking? Joe Conason has the answer. Writing in his new Salon-based blog, Conason distills it down to this key sentence:
Bush's inability to focus and provide real assurance about the direction of the economy and the integrity of financial markets is spooking investors.
I like Joe Conason. As kneejerk lefty pundits go, he's a good read: articulate; intellectually honest, and impeccably researched. But like most people who come to the table with a pre-ordained conclusion in search of supporting facts, at some point he must resort to "proof by assertion." His entire agenda would collapse without some key argument being valid, and if there is nothing out there to support its validity, he simply claims it as a given, and moves on.

Now, I'm no economist -- but neither is Conason, and it's perfectly obvious that he's more interested in tarring Bush than getting to the bottom of this market dynamic. To lay the blame on anything Bush said (or failed to say) assumes causality rather than mere correlation -- the lamest argument in the book, and the quickest to be abandoned as a matter of convenience. What's Conason going to say when the market eventually rebounds? For sure, he won't be crediting Bush's newly-honed ability to focus and provide real assurance about the direction of the economy.

Look -- it's all perfectly simple. The markets are tanking because Corporate America has been put on notice that it can no longer make its quarterly earnings targets by cooking the books. A certain amount of fantasy wealth now has to be wrung out of the system. If that means the Dow, accurately valued, belongs in the neighborhood of 7500 or thereabouts, then that's where we're headed. When investors are convinced that the numbers are a fairly close reflection of the truth -- when, for the first time in many years, they can make sound decisions based on reality -- then, and only then, the markets will stabilize and grow again.

To the extent that it was Bush who put Corporate America on notice, perhaps Conason can fairly lay some of the "blame" at Bush's feet. But you can blame Bush for giving an ill-conceived speech that had the undesirable effect of "talking down the economy" -- or you can praise Bush for risking his political capital and accepting a certain amount of economic pain as the necessary price for imposing disciplined accounting principles. In the end, how you characterize Bush's speech has very little to do with the timing and substance of his remarks, and everything to do with whether you simply want to diminish a president whom you still believe was not legitimately elected.

(Besides -- if Conason were a truly savvy investor himself, he'd recognize the tremendous buying opportunity that is at hand, and start larding up his IRA with a few good index funds.)

Monday, July 15, 2002

CASTING ASPERSIONS: Suppose you'd cast Rod Steiger in your next film, and you just found out that his services would no longer be available. Instinctively, who would be your first choice to replace him?

Brando? The obvious candidate -- if only he'd stop being such a big crabby crybaby long enough to take your phone call. Or maybe Peter Boyle, who received excellent notices for his role in Monster's Ball. Failing that, there's always old reliable Charles Durning, or the avuncular, always-available Brian Dennehy.

No, no, no and no. Would you believe ... this guy?

The whole story is here. (Via Zentertainment)

Friday, July 12, 2002

DEATH OF A THOUSAND CUTS: According to Israel National News, "The government of Holland has banned kosher slaughter, becoming the sixth European country to do so."

The local Agriculture Ministry informed Jewish community leaders there that they would no longer be permitted to slaughter cows in a kosher manner [shechitah] because of its "cruelty" to the animals.

Deputy Foreign Minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, the former Chief Rabbi of Norway, says he is not convinced that concern for the animals is the real motivation behind the new regulation:

"They simply don't want foreigners and they don't want Jews. I won't say that this is the only motivation, but it's certainly no coincidence that one of the first things Nazi Germany forbade was kosher slaughter.

"I also know that during the original debate on this issue in Norway, where shechitah has been banned since 1930, one of the parliamentarians said straight out, 'if they don't like it, let them go live somewhere else.'"

The whole point of kosher slaughter, of course, is that the animal is sacrificed in the most humane way possible, and does not suffer unnecessarily. Before the rest of the EU follows suit, perhaps they'd do well to check out how it's usually done, in the absence of rabbinical supervision. (WARNING! Not for the squeamish.)

UPDATE: DailyPundit and his readers comment here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

A PILOT'S TALE: Little Green Footballs brings to my attention this story from Newsmax, by Christopher Ruddy, which reads in part:

In April I received an e-mail from a pilot for one of the top three airlines. It confirmed my worries.

The pilot wrote: "I am a pilot for [name not revealed] Airlines. And I have information about a flight that took place on Friday, March 29. This flight probably had terrorists on board who were testing our defenses against them and were riding around the system checking out other airlines' responses to their presence." ...

Look: The source is problematic at best. Newsmax is hardly the epitome of honest journalism or fair debate. They have a undisguised right-wing agenda -- and if it takes an anonymous, wholly unverifiable anecdote to advance their agenda, so be it.

This anecdote has all the earmarks of a fiction. A "pilot" narrator is automatically elevated to the status of a trustworthy authority figure -- yet, oddly, he recounts far too many second-hand details about what supposedly took place, many of which would not even be available to a pilot who had actually been on the March 29th flight. Where is the corroborating testimony of the passengers, who could verify the details of his story, and add to them?

What possible reason would there be for the "pilot" to be unwilling to go on the record with his own name, and the name of his employer? For fear of being fired? The public would never stand for it! Surely he must realize that as long as he hides behind a cloak of anonymity, he might as well not even bother to come forward at all, for all the good it will do.

For that matter, if his accounting of events were true, why bring it to a right-wing mouthpiece like Newsmax, whose standards for fact-checking are questionable at best? Why not take it to Fox News, which at least has a veneer of legitimacy -- or the Washington Post, where it might be given more serious attention?

Sorry. This is an Urban Myth, constructed to support Chris Ruddy's agenda.

But that said, I urge you to read the original Newsmax piece anyway. Ignore the "creative writing" portion of the essay. All of the arguments Ruddy makes -- for racial profiling and arming pilots -- are right on target, deeply disturbing, and cannot be dismissed as mere fear-mongering.

Here we are, closing in on the first anniversary of the attack, and airline security is even more of a joke than ever. "Hijacking a plane, again," says Ruddy, "and crashing it into a building, again, would be just the type of audacious goal al-Qaeda would love to accomplish." Ruddy might have added that the threat is all the more serious because the 9/11 mission was a partial failure! Flight 93 did not successfully take out the White House, as al-Qaeda had intended. And as we know all too well (from the failed 1993 attack on the World Trade Center), this enemy is very, very patient. They'll finish the job the moment we let our guard down, when conditions are in their favor.

I believe that the Bush administration has made a quiet policy decision; They've decided to "bet the farm" that they may safely skate by on cosmetic changes to the organization chart -- that any future attacks will not come in the form of hijacked airliners, so it would be a colossal waste of resource to concentrate on a threat that no longer exists.

What unmitigated arrogance! -- to imagine that they can second-guess the enemy's next move, using the exact same people, resources and intel which so utterly failed their predecessors.

Sadly, I fear that we will have to suffer at least one more Islamakazi attack -- successful or thwarted -- on American soil, and one more election, before the public gets mad enough to throw out the policy-makers who failed to secure the airlines in response to 9/11.

UPDATE: Andrew Olmstead and his readers comment here.

OOPS! Not sure if it's a "Powered by Blogger" problem or a "Zilberhere.com" problem, but right now the direct archive links are not working properly. We apologize for the inconvenience. The persons responsible will be sacked tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, if you want to link, use the new primary URL for now:

(Of course, the "www" is optional. Dress formal or casual.)

UPDATE #1: Problem fixed. The persons responsible have been rehired with a raise and stock options.

UPDATE #2: I dunno. They're still not quite right. The persons responsible are on probation while we reevaluate the situation.

UPDATE #3: It's a Blogger problem. Sorry.

WITH FRIENDS LIKE THESE: I don't know which is worse -- that a Saudi Ambassador simply said what was on his toxic little mind -- or that Britain did not immediately act to expel him and recall their own Ambassador in protest.

"Israel's actions in the occupied territories are worse than those committed by the Nazis," Ghazi al-Gosalbi, Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Britain, was quoted by Israel Radio quoted as saying Wednesday morning.

In a public speech, al-Gosalbi condoned the actions of suicide terrorists, the radio reported.

He said Israel's actions, in occupying the West bank and Gaza, were worse than the actions of the Germans during World War II, and that the use of violence against Palestinian civilians leaves them with no alternative but to carry out suicide bombings.

UPDATE: Of course, I should have known that Little Green Footballs would already have the "scoop." I hadn't been posting all that much about the Middle East conflict lately, not for lack of visceral opinions, but because Charles Johnson serves as a perfectly good nexus for that corner of the Blogosphere -- and frankly, I'd rather just read LGF daily than routinely echo its sentiments here.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

IN FLUX: We're still "Powered by Blogger" here, but Mind Over What Matters is finally off the Blogspot server. Hopefully, that means we won't be subject to those infamous Blogger outages from now on.

I'm still playing around with the design and layout, so don't be taken aback as the appearance of this page continues to change radically from one day to the next.

Note that the blogroll column has been substantially expanded. I still need to devise a more meaningful way to organize and break down all those links, but at least they exist now. If you've asked me for a reciprocal link sometime in the past three or four months, your patience has finally been rewarded. (Unless you've recently joined the ranks of blogger retirees and refugees, and it's too dadblasted late to matter anymore.)

Also, the Archives should be working properly again. [Nope! Keep trying. -Ed.]

Next up -- a new, more lighthearted masthead illustration.

By the way: Up until now, I've been too humble to press the matter of donations, but -- y'know -- it actually costs me real money to keep this thing going, now that I have to maintain a commercial web-hosting account for a non-Blogger URL.

Look at it this way: What a complete waste of money it would be to renew your Salon Premium subscription this year. You'd be throwing your hard-earned cash down a multi-million-dollar sinkhole -- and you know in your heart of hearts that they'll be out of business by October. Whereas, the same $30 would defray my entire operating costs for a couple of months -- and as far as I know, I'm not going anywhere.

I'm just saying, is all.

READING DUBYA'S MIND: Just as only Nixon could go to China, I suppose that only Dubya could demand corporate accounting reforms and make it stick. Not that I find much to fault in his Tuesday speech, but the chutzpah is mind-boggling.

Does anyone else see the pattern here? Let's borrow a trick from William Safire and read Dubya's mind:

Corporate fraud and accounting shenanigans are dirty rotten tricks on the investing public -- and by golly, we should really beef up the laws that regulate corporate accountability. But since I've personally benefitted from insider trading and surrounded myself with advisors who might be redefined as white-collar criminals under the new rules, we can't be too harsh on past offenses. Let's just say that the cut-off point is right now. Past offenses will be forgiven or treated leniently. But anyone who cheats from now on will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the legislation behind which I've decided to throw my political capital today.

Stem cell research is immoral because undifferentianted cell clusters have the potential for human life. But certain party loyalists and supporters are telling me about potential benefits of this research -- and actually, when you think it through, the arguments for awarding constitutional rights to stems cells are tenuous at best. So here's the way out: Let's agree that all past stem cell harvesting will be forgiven. Beyond this date, anyone who creates new stem cell cultures will be listed with our Axis of Evil, and prosecuted as the evildoers they surely are.

Alcohol? Recreational drugs? Oh, they're very, very bad. And if I used to drink to excess, or if I was an unreptentant cokehead up until a certain unspecified date -- well, first of all, I don't admit to any such thing! But suppose I used to get a little wasted in my youth, I'm surely entitled to a free pass, because those lapses in judgment would have occurred when I wasn't quite so mature as I am now. Never mind that, as Governor of Texas, I was responsible for jailing people for using the same recreational drugs that I might have hypothetically used myself. The important thing is, as soon as I realized that I needed to be able to sustain my political viability, I gave up my vices -- and since I'm definitely not using recreational drugs now, all hypothetical past sins are forgiven. Just don't do it again, Dub!

Of course. It all fits the very model of Dubya's deeply-felt Christianity. Cease to have impure thoughts after you receive forgiveness, and you're rewarded with an E-Ticket to all the rides in Heaven. Backslide, and a can of Satanic whup-ass awaits. It's all very logical. I just wish it were a tad less ironic.

UPDATE: According to The New Republic, the only "benign" explanations for the Harken scandal are that President Bush is lazy, stupid, or both.

FISK AROUND THE WORLD: Tal G performs a suitable Fisking upon Helena Cobban, who lobbies for the protection of Palestinian interests in the Christian Science Monitor.

You'd think they'd have learned by now that they can't get away with making up facts anymore.

(The Blogosphere: 500,000 strong, fact-checking your ass,
24 hours a day, in 24 time zones. Bwha-hah-hah-haaaaa!)

Monday, July 08, 2002

Testing -- one, two!
How do -- you do!
Testing -- one, two!
It's one
                    be here!
Testing -- one, two!

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

The new URL for Mind Over What Matters is:


For the next few days, the new page will duplicate the current Blogspot content. I'll start posting new content on Monday, July 8th. At that time, only the new location will contain new content.

My thanks to everyone who kept checking this page during the past couple of weeks. The long drought is nearly over. Meanwhile, here's a picture of a rat sleeping on its own head: