Thursday, March 31, 2005

House of Fools

Richard Perle's comment yesterday that he couldn't imagine anyone choosing slavery over freedom set me to thinking about Andrei Konchalovsky's stunning Russian dramaHouse of Fools. In the tradition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) and King of Hearts, it has a different mentality. For in this film, the mad are not sane and the sane are not mad. Rather, the mad are really mad. The sane are really sane. But the situation and the suffering they face when put into each other's worlds is the conflict that makes the movie. What they have in common is their humanity. Mad and sane, Russian and Chechen, they are all human.

House of Fools is set during the first Chechen War (1996), in a small mental hospital on the border of the breakaway republic. As fighting nears, the doctor and nurse abandon the patients--a cross-section of the Russian public including everyone from dissidents to poets to Armenians and Muslims--ostensibly to find a bus in order to evacuate the hospital. Left to their own devices, the patients run amok. Then, the Chechens arrive, occupying the hospital. Some Russian troops follow, return a dead soldier, and sell the Chechens ammunition in exchange for drugs. The Chechen and Russian commander discover that they had been comrades-in-arms in Afghanistan, so the Russian lets the Chechen keep the dollars he had promised him ("for your mullah"). A beautiful and sensitive mental patient falls in love with one of the Chechen fighters, and tries to marry him--betraying her personal icon, Canadian singer Bryan Adams, to whom she has erected a shrine in her hospital room. (Canadians are saints, apparently, and heaven is a song and dance party on a passing train).

In the end, fighting resumes, so the wedding is not completed.

Then a band of Russians takes over the hosptital, chasing out the Chechens. Blood and death everywhere. The gates of the hospital are open, the patients could escape--but they decide to stay, and wait for the doctor to return. He does, and the patients remain in their "House of Fools," as the Russian soldiers leave.

What is striking about this film is that the Russian mental patients find life in the hospital is preferable to life outside. That is, where Jack Nicholson chooses freedom in Milosz Forman's film, Yulia Vsotskaya chooses to stay in confinement rather than go into the raging war between Russians and Chechens. The Russian hospital is a true asylum, a shelter from the violence and fear of the outside world. And while the American hospital is run by sadistic nurse Ratched, Dom Durakov's Russian hospital is commanded by a kindly doctor, who really does have his patients at heart.

So, whether one chooses freedom or security, it seems to me, depends on what is happening outside. Compared to the Chechen insanity, the mental hospital, as crazy as it is, is better. Now, it is pretty clear that the hospital is a symbol of the old USSR, the doctor leaving the collapse of the old system, the insanity that followed the chaos of the "bandit captialist" period, and the Chechen War--the Chechen War. The cast of characters is just so Russian--poets, dancers, dissidents, whores. The old saying that Russia has two problems--Roads and Fools--this is about the fools that are Russia,and humankind.

I can't recommend "House of Fools" highly enough. It is the Clash of Civilizations on a truly human scale. It is tragic, comic, and profound in turns. And should be required viewing for all "democracy revolutionists..."

Bush's plunge in polls

... tied to domestic issues - The Washington Times: " Unfortunately for Mr. Bush, Gallup also found that only 35 percent of Americans approve of his handling of Social Security, compared with 56 percent who disapprove. While other surveys show greater approval of the president's Social Security stance, he generally polls worse on domestic issues than foreign."

Bottom Line: Bush is squandering his second honeymoon on an unpopular domestic agenda. If he can't deliver, it may even weaken his hand in foreign policy matters, because weakness is contagious. My 2 cents: Bush should pick a couple of battles he can win.

Victor Davis Hanson Talks to Saudi Arabia

VDH's Private Papers has an interesting interview by Idris A. Ahmed, editor of Al-watan, a Saudi newspaper, where Victor Hanson contemplates the state of the world without the United States (something some people in Saudia Arabia might be praying for?)...

Roger L. Simon: Oil-for-Food Cover-Up?

Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter suggests the Volcker report may be just that: "To my knowledge the committee has never gone to Nigeria, or anywhere in the developing world, to pursue its investigation. They have restricted themselves to the more comfortable venues of New York, Paris, London and Geneva. But the heart of Africa and the Middle East is where the information on Oil-for-Food can be found."

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

You Say You Want A Revolution...(II)

John Fund, in today's Wall Street Journal, calls for an uprising--against President Hillary Clinton, after she's elected in 2008...

More on Kofi Annan from Roger L. Simon

He's not happy that the media is reporting that Annan has been "exonerated:"
The NYT has a superficially stern but also superficially naive editorial on the Volcker Committee interim report this morning. They assert that the panel "largely exonerated Mr. Annan of personal corruption in the awarding of a contract to a company that employed his son." But that's not quite true. They must realize the committee found no evidence of such corruption so far. Quite a different thing. And the Times' writers (you can be sure this was a thoroughly vetted editorial) were also aware (it is briefly alluded to near the bottom of the editorial) that three years' worth of Oil-for-Food documents were shredded by Annan's deputy. You don't have to be Woodward and Bernstein to smell a rat here.

That they do not call for Kofi's resignation is also interesting. The Times itself moved quickly to change executive editors when it was found that a reporter, Jayson Blair, had fabricated stories. Yet Oil-for-Food, even at the level that it is currently understood, is far worse than a few made up tales. It concerns mass thievery, the starvation of children and the very nature of Security Council decision-making leading up to war. If this isn't a firing-offense, what is?

You Say You Want a Revolution...

Well, you know, we all want to change the world... (in the words of Lennon-McCartney).

This morning I heard Richard Perle, Michael Novak, Michael Rubin, Laurent Murawiec,and Michael Ledeen discuss the worldwide democratic revolution at the American Enterprise Institute, at a symposium called Is It a Revolution or What?. I'll give them credit for this, they seemed committed to the proposition that liberty is spreading throughout the world, thanks to the Bush doctrine. But one had to pause when Ledeen concluded the session with words from a dead Bolshevik: "It's not a revolution in one country, for those comrades who remember these things..."

You should be able to watch the whole thing by clicking the "video" link on the AEI website. Perhaps David Horowitz might be able to tell us precisely where the Bush Democratic Revolution fits into the Marxist-Leninist theoretical paradigm of "Permanent Revolution."

Unfortunately, as the grand words rolled on and on during the session, I couldn't help remembering the German Democratic Republic and the People's Democratic Republic of Kampuchea, not to mention Iran, which is officially a democracy.

At the seminar, Perle said he couldn't imagine people actually choosing slavery over freedom, but it has happened throughout history--especially when people fear for their safety and security. Unless America is very careful, there is a risk that some of today's "democrats" may develop into tomorrow's tyrants. You don't have to look far from home. For example, the United States supported Fidel Castro as a democratic reformer, against Batista, in the early days of the Cuban Revolution. And President Carter favored the overthrow of the Shah of Iran.

Remembering Harold Cruse

Today's New York Times has an obituary of the well-known author of The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual:

Harold Wright Cruse was born in Petersburg, Va., on March 8, 1916, and moved with his father, a railway porter, to New York City as a young child. After graduating from high school, he worked at several jobs but was ambitious to become a writer. He served in the Army in Europe during World War II.

After the war, he attended the City College of New York briefly but never graduated. In 1947, he joined the Communist Party and wrote drama and literary criticism for The Daily Worker, although he was never doctrinaire. In the 1950's, he wrote several plays, and in the mid-1960's he was co-founder, with LeRoi Jones (now Amiri Baraka), of the Black Arts Theater and School in Harlem.The more he learned about the arts, the more he deplored what he saw as a white appropriation of black culture, particularly as exemplified by George Gershwin's folk opera "Porgy and Bess." He called for blacks to embrace their cultural uniqueness.

His later books include "Rebellion or Revolution?", "Plural but Equal: A Critical Study of Blacks and Minorities and America's Plural Society" and "The Essential Harold Cruse: A Reader" edited by William Jelani Cobb with a foreword by Stanley Crouch.

Harold Cruse impressed me when he attended a symposium on the future of the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities we organized in 1996 at New York University. He made a passionate and personal presentation, and permitted us to publish his text in our book, The National Endowments: A Critical Symposium. In our panel discussions, Cruse was intelligent, irreverent, and afraid of nobody. His very participation--at a time when we were being shunned by the intellectual and cultural establishment who would permit no criticisms of the cultural agencies--was a very much appreciated gesture.

His book Plural But Equal was not only thought-provoking and original, it probably will be read for many years to come. Interestingly, the writer who introduced his collected writings, Stanley Crouch, was also a member of our NYU symposium.

One didn't have to agree with everything he had to say, to agree that Harold Cruse said many things worth saying. It was a privilege to have met him.

Agustin Blazquez is Angry With His Local PBS Station...

Here's why, the Cuban-American filmmaker sent us a copy of his complaint:

Ms. Sheryl Lahti, Director of Audience Services

WETA Channel 26
2775 South Quincy Street
Arlington, VA 22206
703 998-3407

Dear Ms. Lahti,

On Saturday, March 26, 2005, while watching “Viewer Favorites” on your public television station, I was shocked and offended by the singer Eric Burton - formerly of the group “The Animals” – wearing a Che Guevara shirt while performing a song on a segment of your presentation.

As a Cuban American, as a writer and a filmmaker, I am acquainted with the Che as a mass murderer who executed, without trial, many Cubans at La CabaƱa fortress in Havana as well as in the Sierra Maestra Mountains before 1959.

Below I enclose a recent open letter from the famous saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera to the famous guitarist Carlos Santana who sported a Che t-shirt while performing at the last Oscar Awards ceremony.

Below D’Rivera’s letter I am enclosing one of my published articles, this one about Che.

It is shocking that your educational public television station is not aware of Che’s criminal record and let pass such an insensitive and offensive display of disrespect to Che’s victims and the Cuban American community in the U.S. If Mr. Burton had worn a Hitler shirt, he wouldn’t have been presented – rightfully so - in order not to offend the Jewish victims and Holocaust survivors.

I think your public television station should apologize.

Agustin Blazquez
Writer & filmmaker
Silver Spring, MD

cc. Michael Pack and John Prizer of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Paquito D’Rivera and various publications

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

When is a TV Ad not a TV Ad? When it's on PBS...

I had to laugh, once again, at The New York Times (login required) today, reading Nat Ives' article about PBS's non-commercial commercials, and coming across this:

The 15-second commercial for Chipotle, a Mexican restaurant chain owned by McDonald's, will accompany 'How to Cook Everything: Bittman Takes On America's Chefs,' on some 150 public television stations across the country. The program features Mark Bittman, a cookbook author who writes a column for the Dining section of The New York Times, which is a sponsor of the program.

In the story, the Times repeats PBS's claims that their ads are not ads. How come?
The Chipotle spots had to toe some very fine lines. For example, the guidelines allow people in the spots to consume a product as long as they do not appear to enjoy it overtly. So the producer instructed the actors in its pledge drive spoof not to look too thrilled.

Maybe the New York Times is becoming a humor magazine...

Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo's Case is an Exception

Andrew McCarthy says that the facts are unusual: "It is not for nothing that we say bad cases make bad law. We have no reason to believe Terri's situation is more a paradigm than an aberration. For most husbands in Michael Schiavo's shoes -- anxious to get on with new lives and aware that a stricken wife's family was willing and able to take on the burdens of care -- we can reasonably hope that ending the wife's life would not become an obsession. Most men or women in Michael's circumstances would step aside. Many, if they'd entangled themselves in new relationships, would avail themselves of the ready legal framework for ending the marriage. Most spouses would not suddenly remember, seven years after the fact, that their partners had evinced a carefully considered wish to die rather than be sustained if they were ever to become incapacitated."

Is Kofi Annan A Crook?

That's the main question underlying Roger L. Simon's story on the UN's Oil-for-Food Investigation. Paul Volcker's report is scheduled for release tomorrow. Simon claims it shows that Annan may have been closer to his son's scandalous business activities than previously revealed.

The Future Belongs to Blogs

Says Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter:
Let This Prediction Be True!

Buried several paragraphs down in an interesting World Peace Herald analysis of blog influence on the 2004 election is the following prediction by Scott Anthony:
...20 years from now, there will be an entirely new industry based on blogs. Just a few years ago, he noted, when eBay was launched, it was selling novelty items, such as Pez candy dispensers. Today, it is a major retail force that even sells automobiles.

Who's Scott Anthony, you ask? (I did.) He is the co-author of 'Seeing What's Next' (Harvard Business School Press, 2005), and a partner in Innosight LLC in Watertown, Mass. Let's hope he does - see what's next, I mean."

Bruce Thornton on "Dhimmitude"

From VDH's Private Papers
a review of Bat Ye'or's book on Islamism's triumph in Europe and aspirations in America : "As Ye'or documents, the key to Islamist terrorism is Israel, but not in the way most people think. For the jihadist mentality, Israel must be destroyed, if not by bombs and tanks, then by piece-meal concessions and sheer demography. It make take fifty years, it may take a hundred, but like the medieval Crusader kingdoms, this manifestation of the dynamic power of Western cultural ideals cannot be allowed to survive as a constant reminder of Islamic civilization's failure. Israel's war is our war, and until we forcefully assert that linkage in our public pronouncements and more important in our actions, everything else we do just buys some time, in which the forces of appeasement and the murderous energy of the jihadists will do their work."

James Q. Wilson: Living Wills Don't Help

From OpinionJournal : "But scholars have shown that we have greatly exaggerated the benefits of living wills. Studies by University of Michigan professor Carl Schneider and others have shown that living wills rarely make any difference. People with them are likely to get exactly the same treatment as people without them, possibly because doctors and family members ignore the wills. And ignoring them is often the right thing to do, because it is virtually impossible to write a living will that anticipates and makes decisions about all of the many, complicated, and hard to foresee illnesses you may face.

For example, suppose you say that you want the plug pulled if you have advanced Alzheimer's disease. But then it turns out that when you are in this hopeless condition your son or daughter is about to graduate from college. You want to see that event. Or suppose that you anticipate being in Terri Schiavo's condition at a time when all doctors agree that you have no chance of recovering your personhood and so you order the doctors to remove the feeding tubes. But several years later when you enter into a persistent vegetative state, some doctors have come to believe on the basis of new evidence that there is a chance you may recover at least some functions. If you knew that you might well have changed your mind, but after entering into a PVS you can make no decisions. It is not clear we would be doing you a favor by starving you to death. On the contrary, we might well be doing what you might regard as murder.

There is a document that is probably better than a living will, and that is a durable power of attorney that authorizes a person that you know and trust to make end-of-life decisions for you."

Egypt Will Test Bush's Democracy Policy

Kirk Sowell wonders if Egypt will mean triumph or tears for President George W. Bush (tip via Publius Pundit):

I say that Egypt, not Iraq, may be the democracy movement's toughest test because of the difference between the two countries. Iraq's most prominent religious figure, the Ayatollah Ali Sistani, has long been a genuine democracy advocate. So it is not so surprising that the United Iraqi Alliance, which ran with his endorsement, would show its democratic bone fides after winning an election, as they have now. But in Egypt the [Muslim] Brotherhood is by far the most powerful Islamist movement, and the most powerful and well-organized opposition group in the country. While the Brotherhood has renounced violence as a means of taking power in Egypt, they consistently push for Egypt to abrogate its peace treaty with Israel and go to war, and is brimming with enthusiasm for jihadism in the Al-Qaeda mode.

Of course, it is not certain that the Brotherhood would win. Mubarak might win a free election, and there is also a non-Islamist opposition movement whose most prominent leader, Ayman Nour, was recently released from prison. The belief that the Brotherhood can win is based largely on their repeated success in winning professional and student association elections (lawyers, teachers, etc.). But perhaps their organizational advantage would be less key in a national election. I will simply note that if there is a free election and the Muslim Brotherhood does win, the world could face its first democratically-elected terroristic government - since 1933.

Manzarali on Mark McGwire's Steroid Troubles

From This 'n' That: "Come on, Mr. McGwire. It's an easy question. If steroid use in major league baseball has already been determined to be illegal, why would it not be cheating? In other words, Mr. McGwire, it wasn't cheating in your heart and mind. But it's not too late. You still have time to become a true hero. And you don't have to be juiced to succeed. All you need is a clear conscience."

Sunday, March 27, 2005

This Book Looks Interesting

The Myth of Islamic Tolerance...

Happy Easter

Here's a page of Easter links atEaster on the Net...

Not "Mission Accomplished" in Kyrgyzstan

Scraps of Moscow reminds us that it is too early to tell what will happen in the aftermath of the Kyrgyz revolution. Commenting on Daan van der Schreick's analysis in The Moscow Times, which argues that in the aftermath of the current revolt, Kyrgyzstan's 1990s-era experiment democracy may be viewed by leaders or neighboring countries as a cause of instability rather than an example to follow:
Probably this has idea has been mentioned elsewhere, but this is the first place I've seen it articulated in print. This sort of deflates the triumphalism I've seen on several US right-wing blogs, people crowing about the triumph of democracy. Sorry, guys, what happened in Bishkek is not really related to the 'liberation' of Iraq or to any US actions - in fact, I've seen reports that the US played on both sides of this game.

Well, I think it's pretty clear that the US supported the protesters, based on Ambassador Young's statements, as well as the way events played out. You could more reasonably conclude that Russia seems to have played both sides. But Lyndon's conclusion is worth thinking about:

As several more thoughtful bloggers have noted, the proof of the new government will be in the pudding - will we see democratic elections in the near future as promised, or will the opposition-turned-rulers get busy feeding themselves at the corruption trough, a rich tradition in the former Soviet space?

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Easter Tourists Return to Jerusalem

From the San Jose Mercury News:
For people whose livelihood have depended upon the flow of tourists to Jerusalem's holy sites, the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, indeed has been a path of sorrows. Millennium celebrations at the start of 2000 helped bring more than 2.5 million visitors to Israel, perhaps half of them Christian pilgrims. After fighting broke out between Israel and the Palestinians in September of that year, that number plummeted, eventually falling nearly two-thirds.

The Israeli Tourism Ministry said visitors had increased about one-third over levels at this time last year, although numbers still lagged pre-intifada levels. The falloff in fighting over the past two months, though, reassured many people who had put off earlier travel. In Jerusalem, different faiths jostle up against one another every day, and [Good] Friday was no exception.

Washington Celebrates Walt Whitman

Today's Washington Post has an interesting guide to Walt Whitman's 10 years in Washington, DC, suitable for a walking tour. The article, detailing where he lived and worked from 1863-1873--military hospital, Department of the Interior, Attorney-General's office, and so forth-- begins with this verse from Leaves of Grass:

But each man and each woman of you I lead upon a knoll,

My left hand hooks you round the waist,

My right hand points to landscapes of continents, and a plain public road.

-- Walt Whitman, untitled version of 'Song of Myself' in 'Leaves of Grass,' 1855

The boarding houses he slept in have been torn down, but the government office buildings remain. There is a move to rename the street in front of the National Portrait Gallery after Whitman...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Bad Democracies, Good Dictatorships

Curzon considers the paradoxes of democratization in the light of the Kyrgyz crisis:

Clarrifying policy between good, established democracies and bad, corrupt dictatorships is easy. Regime change in France would be silly; regime change in Turkmenistan would be most welcome. But what we increasingly see is a messy choice between good and bad democracies. In an age where democracy is fetishized by politicians and NGOs alike and where the EU, the US, and the UN require third world countries to hold elections before the recieve aid, the emerging challenge for policymakers is to recognize when democracies are dysfunctional and when dictatorships are enlightened.

Robert Conquest on Democracy

From The National Interest (via TheRussianDilettante):
Another aspect of premature 'democracy' is the adulation of what used to be and might still be called 'the city mob' (noted by Aristotle as ochlocracy). In France, of course, in the 1790s, a spate of ideologues turned to the Paris mob, in riot after riot, until the 18th Brumaire, Napoleon's coup of 1799. The ploy was that, as A. E. Housman put it, a capital city with far fewer inhabitants could decide the fate of the country's millions.

That democracy is not the only, or inevitable, criterion of social progress is obvious. If free elections give power to a repression of consensuality, they are worse than useless. We will presumably not forget that Hitler came to power in 1933 by election, with mass and militant support. The communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 was effected by constitutional intrigues backed by 'mass demonstrations.' We need hardly mention the 'peoples' democracies' and the 90 percent votes they always received.

As to later elections, a few years ago there was a fairly authentic one in Algeria. If its results had been honored, it would have replaced the established military rulers with an Islamist political order. This was something like the choice facing Pakistan in 2002. At any rate, it is not a matter on which the simple concepts of democracy and free elections provide us with clear criteria.

Herb Meyer Was Right

According to thisYahoo! News Report: Kyrgyzstan President Resigns.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Putin to Visit Israel

According to the BBC, Vladimir Putin will make his first visit to Israel at the end of April, a sign of improving relations between Moscow and Tel Aviv. (Though I doubt he'll pay a call on fugitive Yukos executives living there--unless he pardons Khodorkovsky, first).

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

How Do You Build Democracy?

Daniel Pipes worries President Bush may have the wrong theory of democracy-building:

The theory implied here is that running for office – with its emphasis on such mundane matters as fixing potholes and providing good schools – will temper Hezbollah and Hamas.

Count me skeptical.

The historical record does not support such optimism. When politically adept totalitarians win power democratically, they do fix potholes and improve schools – but only as a means to transform their countries in accordance with their utopian visions. This generalization applies most clearly to the historical cases (Adolf Hitler in Germany after 1933, Salvador Allende in Chile after 1970) but it also appears valid for the current ones (Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh since 2001, Recep Tayyip Erdog˘an in Turkey since 2002).

The Latest on the Crisis in Kyrgyzstan

Can be found on Nathan Hamm's Central Asian website:

Tony Blair's Revenge...

DG Mark Thompson will sack over 5,000 people at the BBC, says The Guardian:
More than one in five BBC staff now face losing their jobs as further details of director general Mark Thompson's radical revamp emerged yesterday, including the loss of 1,500 jobs in programme-making divisions such as news and sport.

Initial estimates of up to 5,000 job cuts are being hastily revised upwards by broadcasting unions, which are threatening strike action if compulsory redundancies are enforced.

Including jobs that will be lost as a result of redundancies, the outsourcing of some roles and the sell-off of commercial divisions such as BBC Broadcast and BBC Resources, up to 6,000 jobs are now expected to go in the biggest ever cull of staff at the corporation.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Why Dictatorships Fall

The riots in Kyrgyzstan led us to this article. Former CIA operative Herbert Meyer explains why dictatorships fall, in this interesting article I found at Publius Pundit. It is based on his work with Bill Casey in fighting the USSR in the Reagan administration. About current events, he is sanguine. He says Kyrgyzstan will go the way of the USSR because the generals won't shoot their own children. I don't know, there is a lot of regionalism in Kyrgyzstan, and although not a perfect democrat, Akayev really wasn't a dictator. Plus the question of Islamic extremism is a factor that needs to be considered, since instability can open the path to a fundamentalist takeover--viz., the Shah of Iran.

In addition, I saw Akayev on Russian television for the Moscow State University Anniversary celebrations (he's an alumnus of MGU), so I think the Russians might have something to say about what happens next. They didn't do anything in the Ukraine, but that isn't a guarantee they will do nothing now. Do they have the troops? Well, there are 25,000 Russian soldiers in Tajikistan.

It is always hard to make predictions, as Sam Goldwyn might have said, especially about the future...

Jeff Jacoby on Why America Ought Not Torture Terrorists

From The Boston Globe:
THE CONVENTION Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which the United States ratified in 1994, prohibits the torture of any person for any reason by any government at any time. It states explicitly that torture is never justified -- ''no exceptional circumstances whatsoever . . . may be invoked as a justification for torture.' Unlike the Geneva Convention, which protects legitimate prisoners of war, the Convention Against Torture applies to everyone -- even terrorists and enemy combatants. And it cannot be evaded by ''outsourcing' a prisoner to a country where he is apt to be tortured during interrogation.

In short, the international ban on torture -- a ban incorporated into US law -- is absolute. And before Sept. 11, 2001, few Americans would have argued that it should be anything else.

Catherine Johnson on Terry Schiavo

From Roger L. Simon: Mystery Novelist and Screenwriter: "Terri Schiavo's parents have hope that their daughter's functioning can be improved or perhaps one day cured with treatment, therapy, and emerging knowledge. They may be right, they may be wrong. Or they may be ahead of their time, because one day brain damage will be repairable. That's my bet. In the meantime they choose to love and care for their daughter.

"Her legal husband chooses to starve her to death.

"If he starved his dog, he'd be arrested."

Buckley on George Kennan

William F. Buckley reminds us that not everyone admired George F. Kennan, who died last week at the age of 101. Here's his waspish farewell from National Review Online.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

RAND Reports LAX Lines Terrorist Targets

I stood in one of these incredibly long lines at LAX (and finally understood why everyone I met in LA hates Bush). A RAND corporation study and a GAO report confirms what I thought while standing on the side of the road for half an hour, inhaling fumes (luckily it was sunny, a beautiful day in Southern California)--Long lines of people waiting to get to their flights can attract terrorists.

Here's the Los Angeles Times story. Money quote: "Long lines at airports are 'the single greatest vulnerability that we have in the domestic U.S. at the moment,' said aviation consultant Billie Vincent, a former Federal Aviation Administration security chief. The General Accounting Office released a report this week that said heightened screening procedures and truck-sized explosives-detection machines in airport lobbies — added after 9/11 — had created crowds that put passengers at risk. 'In the '70s, gangs in Europe entered airports and machine-gunned and killed people,' said Stephen Van Beek, policy director for Airports Council International-North America. 'Terrorists know if they did that today, it would be highly publicized.'"

BTW, A number of people missed flights due to the long lines and security hassles, so had to try to fly standby, and then one didn't even get on my flight, which was full, so he had to wait for the next one. Not too good for business or the LA tourist industry, I thought. And I wondered, after the humiliation of taking off my shoes, and my jacket, and taking my laptop out, and so forth: Whatever happened to constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure, don't they apply to air travellers?

David D'Arcy's Last Moments at NPR

From an account by Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times:
A short time later, Rehm again called D'Arcy — this time with a lawyer listening in — and read him a termination notice, which said in part: "In reporting on this subject basic editorial standards of journalism were overlooked such as presenting the facts in a fair and balanced way. In addition the museum was not given an opportunity to respond to the harsh criticism raised in the piece."

D'Arcy's editor at "All Things Considered," Tom Cole, was suspended without pay for one day. Rehm, D'Arcy said, told him that "Cole agreed with all the criticisms and had showed the appropriate remorse."

Wolfowitz on the 60th Anniversary of Victory in WWII

Found something on the web from the US relating to the 60th Anniversary of Victory in WWIIand it is by Paul Wolfowitz!
Elie Wiesel teaches us that we must speak about unspeakable deeds, so that they will be neither forgotten nor repeated. Most of all, he offers personal witness to all humanity that in the face of the most horrific oppression, there is always hope that the goodness of the human spirit will prevail.

That is the larger meaning of why we gather here today. We’re here to reflect on the magnitude of the occasion, how totalitarian evil claimed millions of precious lives. But just as important, the member nations attending today are affirming their rejection of such evil and making a statement of hope for a more civilized future, a hope that “never again” will the world look the other way in the face of such evil.

For if there is one thing the world has learned, it is that peaceful nations cannot close their eyes or sit idly by in the face of genocide. It took a war, the most terrible war in history, to end the horrors that we remember today. It was a war that Winston Churchill called “The Unnecessary War” because he believed that a firm and concerted policy by the peaceful nations of the world could have stopped Hitler early on. But it was a war that became necessary to save the world from what he correctly called “the abyss of a new dark age, made more sinister … by the lights of a perverted science.”

This truth we also know: that war, even a just and noble war, is horrible for everyone it touches. War is not something Americans seek, nor something we will ever grow to like. Throughout our history, we have waged it reluctantly, but we have pursued it as a duty when it was necessary.

America may need more of this sort of remembrance, along with restoration of the WWII alliance, to win the global war on terror.

Will Russia Tilt Towards Israel?

Mark Katz thinks so, writing in Middle East Quarterly, and says Chechen terrorists are one reason for Putin's move:
But what has motivated Putin to make this choice? Putin's history indicates a deep, emotional commitment to defeating the Chechen rebellion. He denies that the Chechen rebels have any legitimate basis for complaint against Moscow and refuses to negotiate with them. Putin does not appear to doubt the rightness of his hard-line policy toward Chechnya, even in the face of international outrage. Sunni Islamists see Russia as being as much of an enemy as the United States and Israel. European leaders criticize Russian human rights abuses in Chechnya. Even at the height of Russian collaboration with "Old Europe" to block United Nations approval for the U.S-led intervention in Iraq, French president Jacques Chirac raised the issue of Russian human rights violations in Chechnya while hosting Putin at a Paris banquet. After the September 2004 Beslan tragedy, the Russian foreign ministry "reacted with outrage" at the implied criticism of Moscow's policy in an EU statement asking "the Russian authorities how this tragedy could have happened." Very few have given the unequivocal support for Putin's Chechnya policy that Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon has.

Sharon, who is fluent in Russian, has established a genuine bond with Putin. Both share a similar mindset about their Muslim opponents: they are terrorists with whom there can be no negotiation. Both Putin and Sharon use force against opponents they believe undeserving of sympathy, and both share a bond formed by their resulting vilification in the West.

While Sharon is not the first or only Israeli official to express sympathy for Russia's Chechnya policy, Sharon's key role in the improvement of bilateral relations is suggested by the improvement under his watch. Prior to Sharon's accession, Putin was content to leave the Israeli-Palestinian issue in the hands of the strongly pro-Palestinian Russian foreign ministry. Only after his first meeting with Sharon in September 2001 did Putin's pro-Israel tilt emerge.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Wyman Institute's Letter to C-Span

Here's the letter from Rafael Medoff to C-Span, about the Deborah Lipstadt-David Irving case:
Connie Doebele, Executive Producer, Book TV, C-SPAN 2 or

Dear Ms. Doebele:

On behalf of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, I am writing to express our opposition to your reported decision to broadcast a lecture by Holocaust-denier David Irving, to "balance" your intended broadcast of a lecture by Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt.

We support Prof. Lipstadt's refusal to participate in this project. Falsifiers of history cannot "balance" historians. Falsehoods cannot "balance" the truth. Justice Charles Gray of the British Royal High Court of Justice, in his verdict on April 11, 2000 dismissing Irving's libel suit against Prof. Lipstadt, concluded that Irving "is antisemitic and racist" and ruled: "Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence."

Just a few weeks ago, we concluded Black History Month. Presumably C-SPAN did not consider broadcasting a program about Black history that would be "balanced" by a program featuring someone denying that African-Americans were enslaved. C-SPAN should not broadcast statements that it knows to be false, nor provide a platform for falsifiers of history, whether about the Holocaust, African-American history, or any other subject.

The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies recently issued its second annual report on Holocaust-denial around the world. It found that Holocaust-denial is a real and growing problem, and continues to be actively promoted in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere, and in some cases enjoys government sponsorship. If C-SPAN broadcasts a lecture by David Irving, it will provide publicity and legitimacy to Holocaust-denial, which is nothing more than a mask for anti-Jewish bigotry.

We strongly urge you to cancel your planned broadcast of the Irving lecture, and to proceed with your original plan to broadcast Prof. Lipstadt's forthcoming lecture at Harvard University.


Rafael Medoff, Ph.D.

Director, The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies

I noticed a number of anti-semitic callers on C-Span the last time I tuned in, and wondered it were just chance, or a problem with C-Span's staff--either insensitivity or something worse.

Now, I think it may be something worse. Which is a shame, because C-Span had been the best channel on TV for many years. I don't know if Brian Lamb was not paying attention, or if this reflects the unfortunate effect of the literary world's trendy anti-semitism.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Where's the Outrage?

In his Boston Globe column, Jeff Jacoby asks for a better response to torture allegations.

Another Reason to Like Victor Davis Hanson

This article on insane Bush-hatred:
So what gives with this crazy popular analogy — one that on a typical Internet Google search of “Bush” + “Hitler” yields about 1,350,000 matches?

One explanation is simply the ignorance of the icons of our popular culture. A Linda Ronstadt, Garrison Keillor, or Harold Pinter knows nothing much of the encompassing evil of Hitler’s regime, its execution of the mentally ill and disabled, the systematic cleansing of the non-Aryans from Europe, or mass executions and starvation of Soviet prisoners. Like Prince Harry parading around in his ridiculous Nazi costume, quarter-educated celebrities who have some talent for song or verse know only that name-dropping “Hitler” or his associates gets them some shock value that their pedestrian rants otherwise would not warrant.

Ignorance and arrogance are a lethal combination. Nowhere do we see that more clearly among writers and performers who pontificate as historians when they know nothing about history.

Another Reason To Like Wolfowitz

The controversial Jewish neo-conservative is reportedly romantically involved with an Arab intellectual. He apparently puts his money where his mouth is, when it comes to inter-ethnic relations. If true, Maazel Tov! Such a romance would be in keeping with Voltaire's idea of tolerance and reason. It would demonstrate the real possibility of Arab-Jewish understanding--and more--once religious extremism is rejected by all sides. That any critics would try to use it against him, shows a lack of thoughtfulness...

Here's the money quote from a link on Roger L. Simon's blog:
Adding fuel to the controversy is concern within the bank staff over Wolfowitz's reported romantic relationship with Shaha Riza, an Arab feminist who works as a communications adviser in the bank's Middle East and North Africa department.

Both divorced, Wolfowitz and Riza have steadfastly declined to talk publicly about their relationship, but they have been regularly spotted at private functions and one source said the two have been dating for about two years. Riza, an Oxford-educated British citizen who was born in Tunisia and grew up in Saudi Arabia, shares Wolfowitz's passion for democratizing the Middle East, according to people who know her.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Putin Lobbys for 2012 Moscow Olympics

This from The Moscow Times:
President Vladimir Putin threw his weight behind Moscow's underdog bid for the 2012 Olympics on Wednesday, saying Russia is a global sports power that deserves to host the games.

"I'm sure you will agree with me that our country is one of the greatest athletic powers in the world," Putin told the IOC evaluation panel in the ornate Catherine Hall at the Kremlin. "A constellation of athletic talent lives in Moscow."

Putin said Russia remembers the political and international situation in 1980, when Moscow hosted Summer Games boycotted by the United States after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.

"Thank God that time has passed," Putin said. "The world has changed. Russia itself has changed, but one thing has not changed, and that is the interest of the Russian people and their love of sports."

Personally, I think the Olympics would be good for Moscow and encourage further moderation by the government. The Russians would also improve Moscow, with a "river of sport," water taxis, new hotels, and so forth. The plans bandied about while we were living in Russia look good, and let's face it, Paris has plenty of tourist traps already, while Moscow needs some help to get up to world standards. The Olympics would make a nice present to the Russians--if Putin releases Khodorkovsky, for example.

The Russian government cares about its international image, and having thousands of foreign visitors will no doubt encourage Putin to be on his best behavior. Also, it would be a good way to ease Putin out of power into another high profile job--he might be able to become head of Russia's Olympics Committee (he's a judo champion, don't forget), travelling the world to improve Russia's image in preparation for 2012, instead of "president for life"...

More on David D'arcy v NPR and MoMA (...and Hitler, indirectly)

From Roger L Simon's link to Mickey Kaus and Kaus's link to attorney Randol Schoenberg's letter in support of D'Arcy's position.

BTW, I still hope D'Arcy sues, I'd like to cover the trial and learn just how NPR makes its "journalistic" decisions.

Liberal Idealist to Head World Bank

More good news from the Bush administration. Sending Paul Wolfowitz to the World Bank puts the liberal idealist -- yes, he really is a liberal, according to sources who know him personally -- in a place where he can spend some serious money to support democracy.

The task is daunting, the World Bank is full of problems, the staff there is unsympathetic, and Wolfowitz is a good choice to send a signal that Bush won't be intimidated by anti-globalist, anti-American, anti-semitic ravings about "neo-cons."

Wet and Cold Southern California

For those who thought Los Angeles is hot and sunny, think again. There have been record rains, and it is cold out here. Landing at LAX, I looked out the airplane window to see water in the Los Angeles River, ponds everywhere, drainage canals that looked like mountain streams, and green hills. Unusual. And apparently there has been a drought in Seattle, which used to be wet.

Pandemic Spreads in Canada

Visiting my folks in California, just saw a paperback copy of my cousin Daniel Kalla's thriller--Pandemic, about biological terrorism. Looks good. Some 200,000 copies are in print, and the book is number 2 on Canadian best-seller lists, between Dan Brown and John Grisham novels. It's gotten good reviews in the Canadian press, here's one from Mclean's, and my cousin got a glowing profile in the Toronto Globe and Mail (unfortunately in the paid archive only). My mother is very proud.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Other Side of MGM v. Grokster

Fred von Lohmann of the Electronic Frontier Foundation was in the audience at the Heritage Foundation. I found a number of items by him, making the case for Grokster against MGM at EFF: MGM v. Grokster. Interesting to read both sides and ask, is compromise possible in this case?

And here's the acutal Grokster site, so you can see what the fuss is about...

Harvard Faculty Condemns Summers

Reading the story in the The Harvard Crimson Online, I was struck by Summer's shock at the vote against him:
Debate on the vote of lack of confidence--and a short-lived motion to table Matory's motion altogether--consumed the first hour of the meeting before Matory's motion was put to vote shortly after 5 p.m.
Summers was stoic while the FAS docket committee announced that the lack of confidence motion had passed the Faculty, but once the announcement was finished, he covered his mouth with his hand, and his expression soon changed to one of surprise and deep disappointment.
This meeting, the third devoted exclusively to the Summers crisis, drew a packed crowd to the Loeb auditorium, where some professors sat in aisles or stood against the wall once all 556 seats were taken.
The entrance line spilled out onto Brattle Street, mixing with the press and curious onlookers forced to stay outside the much-anticipated meeting.
The Loeb was chosen for its size--the venues of the two previous meetings, the Faculty Room and Lowell Lecture Hall were too small to accommodate the large number of faculty in attendance--but the auditorium lent the meeting a theatrical air.

Clearly, Summers still had no idea how profound the rule of unreason is in American universities today. As a liberal democrat, from the Clinton administration, he probably was not aware that would not protect him. Probably other factors are at work as well as political correctness, including anti-Semitism, and objections to non-Marxist economics. But the deed is done. Summers was censured for expression of opinion, something that is supposed to be a bedrock of academic freedom.

Although I'm sure he will look for a Clintonian "third way," any objective analysis of his situation would tell Summers that he has only two plausible alternatives: resign, or fight. To fight would mean to purge the Harvard faculty of those who do not uphold Harvard's own commitment to "Veritas." It would be ugly and difficult, but if Summers succeeded, it would be a very good thing for the world of ideas. It is better that such a purge come from within Harvard, than from the outside--for example, by Congress reprogramming federal research dollars now going to Harvard to other universities, or the Bush administration cancelling federal contracts with Harvard, and so forth.

Could Summers successfully transform Harvard? It would be hard, but I think so. As an economist, he knows the power of the law of supply and demand. There is an ample supply of underemployed academics of very high quality, opposed to political correctness, who would be happy to teach at Harvard (including a few bloggers)...

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Our Victory Day by Day

Countdown to V-E Day with Our Victory Day by Day, an RIA Novosti project that retells the dramatic conclusion to World War II, in a runup to Victory Day celebrations in Moscow...

QUESTION: Why isn't something like this going on in the USA?

MGM v. Grokster Comes to Washington

Politics makes strange bedfellows, as today's Heritage Foundation panel on MGM v. Grokster again illustrated.

Collected in one room were conservative heavyweights like columnist Jim Pinkerton, former Solicitor General Ted Olson and former Attorney General Ed Meese, alongside Hollywood representatives David Green of the Motion Picture Association of America, Paul Skrabut of ASCAP, Rick Carnes of the Songwriters Guild, and Jim Ramo of MovieLink (a licensed alternative to Grokster), brought together in a coalition to defend intellectual property rights as well as real property rights. They even had RNC chief Ken Mehlman at the lunch, presenting an award to Congressman Lamar Smith. So Hollywood and the Right appear to be on the same side for a change.

On the other side, actually sitting in the audience, were representatives of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, some big high-tech players, and their lawyers. Apparently there is big money from telephone companies, cable companies, and ISPs who don't want to be held liable for illegal uses of their services.

And in the middle? Well, a very intelligent-sounding lobbyist from Microsoft sat a couple of seats from me in the audience, he was noncommittal when I asked him what side the giant was taking...

In any case, it looks like March 29th will be a big day at the Supreme Court--peer-to-peer downloading of music and movies is going on trial (the Napster case ended before it reached the Supreme Court). Question at issue: Will the US government ban a technology that is used to commit theft of intellectual property, or not?

As a blogger and non-participant in this case, a believer in copyright as well as fair use, my guess is the answer lies somewhere between the positions of the two parties . Surely, there must be a way to make peer-to-peer distribution pay in such a way that royalties can be collected for the creators, while permitting new technologies to be developed and used. Will the Supreme Court come up with such a solution?

The best presentation was by songwriter Rick Carnes, (I asked him for a copy to post on this blog). He pointed out that the notion of "intellectual property" is unpopular in law schools these days, Duke just got a $2 million dollar grant to fight against it, and some 400 Yale students rallied in opposition. They see it as a plot by big corporations... Carnes suggested that one problem might be that the word "intellectual" is off-putting.

My suggestion, how about calling it "Creative Property?"

And for all those "Creative Commons" people out there: other than pasture for sheep and some vegetable gardens, which great inventions or works of art, exactly, came out of the commons, prior to their enclosure?

Think carefully...

Monday, March 14, 2005

Karen Hughes' New Job

The appointment of Karen Hughes to head the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs sends an important signal: President Bush cares about what the State Department is doing. Secretary of State Rice made all the right noises about the importance of public diplomacy. But will she follow up the words with action?

Obviously, Hughes, a former TV reporter and PR advisor to the President, is a top-drawer choice. But her high profile cuts both ways. Two previous appointees have failed in the job: ad agency executive Charlotte Beers and Jim Baker favorite Margaret Tutweiler. Hughes is taking along Dina Habib Powell, who worked in the White House Personnel office, staffing the Bush administration. She's an Egyptian-American from Texas who worked at one time for Dick Armey, so another highly-connected appointment. The clan system seems to be working full-speed, with personal, political and regional loyalties covered (Hughes is basically from Texas, although she lived in Panama, Canada and France).

While Hughes was certainly effective in the White House, and got George W. Bush re-elected (with a little help from hapless John F. Kerry and Bob Shrum) there is still an open question as to whether she will be able to function as effectively at Foggy Bottom, famous as a "fudge factory".

I'll feel a little better if Hughes finds The Diplomad and puts his blog back online asap -- officially, at

Is Bush Losing the Global War on Terror?

That's the question at the center of Dale C. Eikmeier's article in Middle East Quarterly :

If the U.S. government is to develop successful counterinsurgency strategies, its policymakers and military strategists must understand the Islamist insurgency's mixture of subversion, propaganda, and military pressure. U.S. counterinsurgency strategy should be comprehensive. Any effort that lacks an ideological component will fall short. Militant Islam is competing for the minds of the Muslim masses; Washington must, too. While Western media focuses upon the latest acts of Islamist terror or questions over the human costs of military actions, Islamists recognize that the side that best promotes its ideas will be the victor. The ideological component in the strategy to defeat will be key to Western democracies' success.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government continues to fumble its public diplomacy. When State Department and Central Intelligence Agency policies fail to match and even contradict White House rhetoric, the effectiveness of U.S. efforts in the Middle East suffers. The U.S. government is also hampered in its battle to win the ideological struggle when it is unable to make its voice heard. In Iraq, the U.S. government simply ceded the airwaves to its opponents. Before the first bombs fell on Baghdad, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite channel was set to operate throughout Iraq, with correspondents and equipment spread throughout the country. Al-Manar, the satellite channel of Lebanese Hezbollah, also operated freely throughout Iraq. The Iranian government inaugurated Al-'Alam, an Arabic language television station for Iraq, months before coalition forces launched their own television station.[8] As a result, both Sunni Islamists and Iranian proxies had a virtual free hand to shape the news for the Iraqi audience.

Saudi officials, the primary financial backers of militant Islam, have long understood the need to fight and win the battle for ideas. They sponsor the World Assembly of Muslim Youth and the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) not only in Iraq and the Middle East, but also in Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia.[9] In the mountains of northern Iraq, IIRO mosques have sprouted up in small towns and villages where not a single dollar of American aid money had been spent more than a year after the fall of Baghdad. Given the organization, dedication, energy, and financial strength of opponents to the community of secular, liberal, and democratic states, U.S. strategy will fail if it focuses only upon capturing and killing insurgents but ignores the battle of ideas.

Victor Davis Hanson on American Audacity

From VDH's Private Papers:

A Look Back
Turning point since September 11
by Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online
I know that things are going pretty well in America's efforts in the Middle East when Fareed Zakaria, who was a sharp critic over the last two years, now assures us that events are working out in Iraq � just about, he tells us, like he saw all along. Joseph Nye intones that at last Bush came around to his very own idea of 'soft power,' while Jackson Diehl gushes that Bush was sort of right all along � to nods of approval even from Daniel Schorr.
Even former Clinton National Security Council member Nancy Soderberg recently lamented to Jon Stewart, 'It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.' And then she added, 'Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's still hope for the rest of us....There's always hope that this might not work.'
This newfound turnabout follows the successful election and its aftershocks in the region. Before then, it had become a sort of D.C.-insider parlor game to look back at the conflict in the aftermath of September 11 and catalogue our mistakes.
Without much appreciation that error is the stuff of war, that by any historical benchmark the removal of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein was nothing short of miraculous, that our ongoing assessments of success and failure changed hourly within the fluid 24-hour newscycle, or that acrimonious hindsight was often used to save face about earlier wrongheaded pronouncements, we continued to tally up the 'I told you so's.'

Jamey Turner Plays the Glass Harp

Last Friday, we attended an unusual concert at Washington, DC's Arts Club: Jamey Turner on the Glass Harp.

Turner is a somewhat eccentric Montanan, who grew up in a musical family, trained as a clairinetist, and took up the glass harp as a result of a youthful vision. He's been on the Tonight show as well as played with symphony orchestras. His concert reminded me of variety acts on the Ed Sullivan show, the type of innocent musical entertainment we don't see much of anymore. His concert was more of a lecture demonstration--it might have been even better if it had been a pure recital. (Turner is so enthusiastic about his instrument, he spent half the performance explaining how it worked and answering questions.)

The glass harp, made up of water-filled crystal goblets, was a favorite of the 18th-Century. It is an amazing instrument to see and hear, sort of magical, and yet scientific at the same time. Amazing that the music comes from drinking glasses. Benjamin Franklin invented a mechanical version, and Thomas Jefferson enjoyed its sound. Mozart composed numbers especially for the Theramin-like sound. A bit gimmicky, a bit of a novelty act--yet one that is hundreds of years old, and part of classical music history.

You can listen to Jamey Turner's concerts at the Kennedy Center on this website.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Is 60 Minutes Doing Something Right?

Roger L. Simon thinks so. He's plugging a segment hosted by Morley Safer tonight, about murdered Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh:

Hollywood remains shamefully silent or ignorant or both (I'm betting on both!) on the death of fellow filmmaker Theo Van Gogh, who directed the short film 'Submission' and had his throat cut for his work by an Islamist psychokiller in Amsterdam. No mention of this event at the Academy Awards.

But now, according to a press release, at least '60 Minutes' is going to report on the case this Sunday and show part of the film, which harshly criticizes some Islamic attitudes towards women.

Funny how Safer is looking better and better . . .

A Kasparov v. Putin Match

Now this is interesting news from Russia, from a headline in the Telegraph: Kasparov quits chess to challenge Putin. And here's the lead: "Garry Kasparov, the world's leading chess player, is to give up competitive chess and devote his time to Russian politics in an attempt to bring down the increasingly despotic regime of President Vladimir Putin."

Remember this: chess is the national game of the former Soviet Union (the current world champion is a native of Uzbekistan). When I taught in Moscow and Tashkent, I learned that Russians treat chess the way Americans view poker. (One might see the end of the Soviet Union as checkmate by the USA). There is a wonderful silent Soviet film, by Vsevolod Pudovkin, called Chess Fever, that gives a sense of the grip of this game on the Russian public--then and now (chess matches are still televised as sport).

How a Kasparov-Putin match will play out, we can't predict, but it is indeed interesting news, and a fair match (Putin is no dummy).

More on MoMA's Nazi Loot

Just got this email from Alice Marquis, commenting on the David D'Arcy controversy:
I went to that site & found that the issue in question was about a work by Egon Schiele. This is not what I referred to in my book (Alfred H. Barr, Jr: Missionary for the modern). I dealt with paintings stolen from museums by the Nazis and auctioned in Switzerland in, I think, 1940. American art dealers were boycotting the auction, but Alfred Barr [in the only underhanded act I ever found] got a NY dealer to go there and got Abbie Rockefeller to give him money to buy four paintings. Which he did, and the museum still owns them. Barr later was quite open about his regrets for having done that.... I also had a letter published by the NY Times about those stolen paintings. I also tried to follow up with the European museums from which the Nazis had stolen those paintings. Art News was interested in an article about it. However, a Berlin Museum which had lost one or two paintings was no longer in existence. I then saw the curator of the Essen Folkwang Museum and asked him about those pictures. And he said: "Well, we have a nice relationship with the MoMA and I'd hate to spoil it with a complaint about stolen pictures." So that was that.
I'd certainly be interested in contacting D'Arcy. As for Morley Safer, he once called me to get a detail on something to do with art, I forget what, and I helped him out. But when I sent him a copy of "The Art Biz," nothing happened, not even a Thank You. The arrogance of old men!

Friday, March 11, 2005

More on NPR Terminating David D'Arcy

From Jan Herman's blog on ArtsJournal:
Tyler Green mentioned it this morning in a brief post in his ArtsJournal blog, which is how I learned of the news. Coincidentally, I've just received a message (pointing out the story) from a very unhappy West Coast radio producer who is outraged by NPR's action and is seeking support for D'Arcy: "Jan, This is an awful story about one cultural institution exerting its prestigious might and another, a respected journalistic entity, rolling over and playing dead. It's been roiling for about a month but efforts to resolve the case have not moved NPR to listen to reason."

Another interesting angle is that when I met D'Arcy over 20 years ago, he was freelancing for NPR. I was under the impression that if he did a good job, they would hire him in a permanent position. Yet over two decades later, I read he was "terminated" from a freelance position. So where's the career path for art critics at NPR? And they call it cultural and educational broadcasting?

NPR Terminates Critical Art Critic... reports: "In a letter to the NPR board, Morley Safer suggests that the broadcaster 'has caved in to intimidation by a large, wealthy and powerful cultural institution.'" New York's MoMA reportedly was unhappy with a story David D'Arcy did about Nazi loot displayed in the museum, and let NPR know about it (D'arcy's charge is nothing new, in her biography of the museum's founder, Alice Goldfarb Marquis documents Alfred Barr's purchases of stolen Jewish works at Swiss auctions).

NPR, where D'Arcy has been a freelance contributor for 20 years, gave D'Arcy a two-paragraph "termination" memo accusing him of overlooking "basic standards of journalism" in the report. D'Arcy says adamantly that "MoMA was not able to find any inaccuracies in the report, and the correction aired and posted by NPR does not address any inaccuracies.

I met D'Arcy many years ago in New York. And Morley Safer gave me an interview for my PBS book. So it will be interesting to see how this story plays out. I'd love to cover the trial, if D'Arcy sues NPR...

Virginia, not Vienna, Doctors Cured Yuschenko

That's one revelation from this fascinating story about Yuschenko's medical treatment in today's Washington Post. Poison experts from the University of Virginia diagnosed and treated Dioxin poisoning in the Ukrainian leader. The story reads like something out of a James Bond movie. It was interesting to learn of the role in the drama played by the American Ambassador to the Ukraine, John Herbst, who had been in Uzbekistan when we lived there. Maybe this will become a movie-of-the-week?

Samuelson on Social Security Reform

This oped in today's Washington Post, by Robert Samuelson, does a good job of explaining why some people are worried that President Bush's Social Security proposals might have adverse unintended consequences. Samuelson's article has a good title Welfare vs. Wall Street The bottom line:
What looms is a massive expansion of government power over Wall Street. To be sure, it would occur gradually, over decades, and its outlines are murky. The irony is that it comes from "conservatives."

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

More on Giuliana Sgrena

This interesting tidbit by Dutch reporter Harald Doornbos comes via Little Green Footballs:
'You don't understand the situation. We are anti-imperialists, anti-capitalists, communists,' they said. The Iraqis only kidnap American sympathizers, the enemies of the Americans have nothing to fear.'

(Doornbos tells them they're out of their mind.)

But they knew better. When we arrived at Baghdad Airport, I was waiting for a jeep from the American army to come pick me up. I saw one of the Italian women walking around crying. An Iraqi had stolen her computer and television equipment. They were standing outside shivering, waiting for a cab to take them to Baghdad.

With her bias Sgrena did not only jeopardize herself, but due to her behavior a security officer is now dead, and the Italian government (prime minister Berlusconi included) has had to spend millions of euros to save her life. It is to be hoped that Sgrena will decide to have a career change. Propagandist or MP perhaps. But she should give up journalism immediately.

RGGU Russo-American Center

Here's the website for the place I taught American Culture in Moscow, theRussian State Humanitarian University Russo-American Center for Academic American Studies.

This Time, The New York Times Gets It Right...

I had to chuckle at this letter to the editor in today's New York Times, Commercial-Free PBS:
To the Editor:
A Feb. 21 editorial about PBS and its stations said 'the need for money to pay for expensive shows' has driven PBS 'to sell commercial time.' In fact, PBS and its stations are prohibited from selling commercial time by the terms of their broadcast licenses.
Many public television programs are supported by corporate underwriting. But all underwriting credits must be in keeping with the noncommercial nature of public television, which means that our credits must be free of such promotional conventions as calls to action, superlative description or qualitative claims, price information and endorsements, among others.
We are proud to note that our programs remain uninterrupted and are surrounded by a minimum of clutter. In one hour, PBS viewers see an average of 5 1/2 minutes of underwriting and program promotion messages. That stands in contrast to other broadcasters and cable networks, which are averaging nearly 20 minutes of nonprogramming time per hour.
Earlier this month, a national Roper survey showed that the American public trusts PBS more than any other national institution and believes that our programming is the most important on television. We are grateful for the country's belief in us and in our public service mission.
Lea Sloan
Vice President, Media Relations
Public Broadcasting Service
Alexandria, Va., Feb. 25, 2005

Maybe PBS could use this letter in their commercials. The new corporate slogan might go something like this:

"PBS: If the New York Times won't believe us, who will?"

Anne Applebaum on John Bolton

From today's Washington Post:
The trouble with many U.N. defenders is that they refuse to see this fundamental problem, and demand a constantly expanding role for the United Nations without explaining how its lack of democratic accountability is to be addressed. The trouble with many U.N. detractors, in Congress and elsewhere, is that they see the corruption and nothing else. But there is a role for U.N. institutions -- in Afghanistan, or in international health -- as long as that role is limited in time and cost. And there is a desperate need for U.N. reform. In defense of John Bolton: He may, if he can get confirmed, be one of the few U.N. ambassadors who has thought a good deal about how to set such limits and make such reforms. And if he isn't invited to a few cocktail parties along the way, at least he won't mind.

A Glimpse of a Glittering Inheritance

By Charlie Clark

Twenty-three years after my father died, his old tuxedo still hung in the storage room of my mother’s Northwest Washington apartment building. While preparing for her move recently, I decided on whim to take the perennially fashionable garment to be resuscitated at the dry cleaners.

It came out spiffy as new, well-textured and manly with its shiny black piping and wainscoted white shirt. It was, however, clearly too small for my expanded adult body. So I determined that with great fanfare at the next family gathering, I would present it to my older, and skinnier, brother.

We both would be aware of the penguin suit’s symbolism. He and my father were for many years estranged—removed from each other’s company (though not the other’s influence) by a complex stew of the political and the personal. One of the many concrete results was that my brother went through adulthood lacking the slightest desire to dress like a bourgeois man about town.

But in that puzzlingly indirect way so favored by fate, my brother, as he entered his 50s, decided to take up the hobby of swing dancing. Suddenly, a crisp black tux seemed just the thing.

So it was on a Sunday afternoon in the living room of my Arlington home, with various relatives looking on, I unveiled the freshened garment. My brother repaired to try it on. When he reappeared, he was glowing with the rest of us as he marched and modeled the perfect fit. A minute later, he had folded the tux back on its hanger and hung it lovingly in the backseat of his car.

An hour later, a caravan of us had parked our cars downtown in Adams Morgan, warmed by a feeling of family solidarity, to attend an aunt’s art gallery opening.

Emerging two hours later, we walked back down Columbia Road to find my brother’s car with its side window shattered. The tuxedo was gone, along with an expensive leather coat, some shoes, and a cell phone.

In this city so conversant with murders and assaults, I couldn’t react as if this were the crime of the century. I remembered that over the years I’ve personally been fortunate to have suffered very few crime victim experiences. When we were newlyweds, my wife once had her purse lifted out of our foyer—presumably by somebody who knocked on the door while we were out of earshot—and it was later found, sans cash, in a U.S. mailbox. More recently, the car my daughter drives had its taillights smashed and its tires sliced while parked overnight in our driveway, the result of some high school drama we never quite got to the bottom of.

Yet what our family on that recent Sunday did have in common with victims of more serious crimes is that we had to swallow the bitter potion of adjusting to the unpleasantness. We went through the same stages of denial, anger, resignation and acceptance caused by every random dose of unfairness or unforeseen detour that inflicts that lingering feeling of having been violated.

After a fruitless search through Adams Morgan back-ally dumpsters, my brother bucked himself up to file a claim with his insurance company.

The rest of us were left with no choice but to savor that earlier spectacle of my brother welcoming into his life a very special inheritance from our father. That brief, shining moment, still counts.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Be Careful What You Wish For...

You may get it, says Daniel Pipes.

In the Middle East, Pipes warns, a rush to "democracy," in societies unprepared for it through education and experience, may result in Islamic extremists seizing power as they did in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979.

Something to think about...

No Deals for Maskhadov...

SiberianLight: Chechen leader Maskhadov dead: "Chechen leader Maskhadov dead
News is just breaking that Chechen rebel President Asland Maskhadov is dead. Colonel Ilya Shabalkin told the press that he was killed as a result of an operation by Russian special forces. Thanks to Pete Leonard for the heads-up. "

John Bolton for UN Ambassador

I don't ordinarily endorse Presidential appointments, but the news that John Bolton has been tapped for UN Ambassador is wonderful.

While we were living in Tashkent, during the early days of the Iraq war, we watched Bolton field some really insulting and stupid questions on BBC World Service Television (it may have been on Tim Sebastian's "Hard Talk," not sure, but Bolton's interviewer certainly was a bully and a dope). Bolton did a great job, answering each attack, rationally, calmly and firmly. His tormentor didn't score a single point. So I think Bolton could hold his own in the UN.

Those worried about Bolton's chances for confirmation should note that Bolton has already been confirmed a number of times for government jobs. To get through the Senate before, and not now, would be very rare. So I think his chances are better than predicted.

Also, Bolton was my editor at Common Sense, a now-defunct Repubican "journal of ideas." Bolton was a good editor, and his managing editor, Claudia Weill, was terrific. At the time some people told me: "One day he'll be Secretary of State." Well, I don't know of a UN Ambassador who has become Secretary of State, but if one could, it might be Bolton. The whole thing was shut down as collateral damage from some typically stupid Republican fund-raising scandal involving Haley Barbour. Which is a shame, because now there is no Republican journal of ideas, and Republicans don't seem too interested in ideas. After that, Bolton went on to become vice-president at AEI (full disclosure, I asked him for a job, had an interview -- and nothing happened).

Here's a quote from Bolton's official State Department biography: "He graduated with a B.A., summa cum laude, from Yale University and received his J.D. from Yale Law School. "

Of course Bolton's qualified--and that he's an outspoken UN critic means more than he's the right man for the job, it means watching Bolton at work on TV might be fun...

Happy International Women's Day

My students in Tashkent were surprised to hear that America didn't celebrate International Women's day on March 8th, a holiday established by Vladimir Lenin.

To celebrate, you might find Raymond Lloyd's websiteShequality | Political Parity among Women and Men worth a look. It's 25 years old this year. Among Lloyd's postings are:

*2500 major anniversaries of the democracies to 2016
*1000 anniversaries of women's empowerment to 2010
*5500 centenaries of distinguished women of history to 2055
*2500 birthdays of distinguished living women from 130 countries
*1300 current heads of state and other women leaders in 220 countries
*600 past heads of state and other women leaders
*5000 able women proposed as heads of international bodies
*500 flowers and wines named after distinguished women 
*500 coins and banknotes portraying women, and
*1400 press questions on democracy and women's advancement


Monday, March 07, 2005

Camille Paglia's new book.

Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems

This book looks interesting
Break, Blow, Burn: Camille Paglia Reads Forty-three of the World's Best Poems.

My Russian students were disappointed that Americans didn't seem to read more poetry. I told them we used to, in the past, and we read Emily Dickinson and Edgar Allen Poe in class.

Perhaps Paglia can help rescue American poetry...

The Strange Case of Giuliana Sgrena

Not surprisingly, Michelelle Malkin isn't too sympathetic to Communist reporter Giuliana Sgrena.

But the friendly fire tragedy presents a real problem for the US. First, because millions around the world will believe Sgrena's conspiracy theory. Second, because what looks like a military cover-up--to shield incompetence--plays into the hands of the terrorists. The defense department should come clean--fast--and make all the facts public as soon as possible. Italians still remember a similar incident, when US pilots killed innocent people on ski lifts at an Italian resort while they were "hot-dogging." That scandal dragged on for a while, damaging US-Italian relations.

And that US intelligence couldn't guarantee safe passage for Italian allies reveals America as weak and out of touch, unaware of what is going on in Iraq. Even the most charitable interpretation of what happened to Sgrena--Situation Normal, All Fouled Up--is a net minus for the US.

Until order is restored in Iraq, such tragedies are bound to recur.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A.?

This is the question the The New York Times's Elizabeth Van Ness asks in today's paper.

Not surprisingly, the New York Times gets it wrong.

Just compare average salaries of Cinema Studies graduates to MBAs from the same school.

The correct answer is: "No."

Could Bush Trade Maskhadov for Khodorkovsky?

This interview with Aslan Maskhadov from Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty is evidence that the Americans know the whereabouts of the fugitive Chechen warlord wanted by Russia as a terrorist mastermind.

Forget the chilling implication that RFE/RL may be openly acting as a p.r. bureau for a terrorist leader. A thought occurs: Could this be a message to Putin, that the US could deliver Maskhadov for the "meeting" in exchange for the release of Khodorkovsky?

After all, if Putin can keep the Yukos billionaire in jail indefinitely, it is unlikely that Maskhadov could walk away from a half-hour of face-time with Putin.

Such a deal would be good for business with Russia, might help to end the messy Chechen crisis, and send a clear signal to terrorists that the US will no longer support Islamic extremism, even in the former Soviet Union.

More on Moscow's Radio Kultura

Found this November 2004 story on Internews about my favorite Moscow channel Radio Kultura:
Are you a person who reads the arts sections of newspapers and magazines, wants to know where to go and what music to listen to, and isn't a loser? If so, then you fit the profile of Radio Kultura's ideal listener, according to the editor of the station, which launched in Moscow last Monday.

The 24-hour station is an offshoot of the state-owned Kultura television channel, a commercial-free haven for old, classic films and intellectual discussions about literature and music, where even the weather forecast rolls across a backdrop of famous paintings. Employing some of the same presenters, the radio version concentrates on talk shows and drama, and is the only station to give significant airtime to classical music on the FM band.

The station aims for a 5 percent share of Moscow's FM listeners, said editor Anatoly Golubovsky in an interview at his office on Pyatnitskaya Ulitsa last Tuesday. And he has high expectations of those who tune in. 'If you're talking about ideal listeners, we think these must be people who are active consumers of culture ... people who don't need a radio station to tell them to go to theaters, cinemas, museums, galleries.

Their website is at

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Case For Putin (cont'd.)

Writing in Foreign Affairs, Nikolas K. Gvosdev argues that Putin knows what he is doing:

Putin and his advisers do not intend to recreate the old Soviet enterprises, top-heavy with management and burdened by inefficient central planning. Instead, they seem to want profitable companies that can generate a revenue stream for their shareholders-including the Russian state. What is emerging is state-directed capitalism, in which private owners play a role and have the opportunity to bank profits.

We are seeing in today's Russia the consolidation of a system of managed pluralism-in which the Kremlin sets the overall agenda, but with some room for political and economic competition and choice. Whether this is a disappointing direction depends on with whom you speak. Most Russians support Putin's vision of 'orderly' state-directed reform, looking to the center to reel in the power of the oligarchs and local bosses.

There is indeed a pronounced authoritarian streak in today's Russia. But there are also optimistic signs-the seeds of a middle class beginning to take root, the steady rise in the number of home-grown charities and other civil-society organizations-that point to a more democratic Russia emerging in the future.

Gvosdev points to the influence of a Russian academic, Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the State Mining Institute in St. Petersburg, who has a theory of national control of natural resources which he says explains Putin's actions in the energy sector. Litvinenko is an advisor to Putin from his St. Petersburg days.

Persuasive, but still, I'd feel better if Putin let Khodorkovsky go.

What V-E Day Means to the Russians

From a letter to the editor at SiberianLight:
"People like McDuff misunderstand the nature of WWII as perceived by most Russians, and by doing so and indulging in diatribes in defense of various small nations that were not exactly anti-Nazi during the war, he is playing right into the hands of Russian imperialists. (Note that I am an anti-imperial nationalist as it were.) The war of German Aggression was a war of survival for Russia (and Belarus, and large parts of Ukraine). We paid a huge price in blood (partly, but not entirely because of Stalin's and his generals' massive errors) but we survived as a people and, moreover, destroyed the enemy. May 9 is the day of remembrance of this epic struggle, and of commemoration of the fallen. The memory of the war is one of the very few bonds that still hold together what remains of the nation. Seen in this light, McDuff's enclosing 'celebrations' in quotation marks is so offensive to the common Russian that it automatically disqualifies the author from any meaningful discussion of WWII. It may be 'celebrations' for the Latvian and the Finn but it's Celebrations for the Russian." (Posted by Alexei, March 5, 2008)

To the extent America understands this sentiment, a strong Russian-American relationship can be rebuilt, which IMHO is needed to balance a resurgent and not always pro-American Europe...
NOTE: I see that Alexei runs The Russian Dilettante blog.

The American Society of Newspaper Censors?

Colbert I. King's column in today's Washington Post about a dispute between Post writer Marc Fisher and the American Society of Newspaper Editors, titled An Affront to the First Amendment, is well worth reading.

If anything illustrates a moral failure with major media in America today, it is a letter from ASNE lawyer Kevin Goldberg, attacking Fisher for commenting on a court battle between the Baltimore Sun and Maryland Governor Robert Erhlich:
Goldberg wrote last Saturday that Fisher had "done a disservice to his reporting brethren" by "publicly" stating his views. Acknowledging Fisher's right to state his beliefs, Goldberg declared, incredibly, that "the responsibility that accompanies that right mitigates against stating them in this situation." This from the American Society of Newspaper Editors. Now who's trying to stifle the free flow of information to the public?

That a professional organization of newspaper editors would be calling for censorship in order to further their own cause fits a pattern that can be seen in the Dan Rather case, Eason Jordan's comments, and so forth. This is troubling for the United States at a time when freedom and democracy are embattled around the world.

As Instapundit might say, the ASNE letter is evidence that they "are on the other side."

Friday, March 04, 2005

Power Line on Dan Rather's Letterman appearance

Putin mentioned the Dan Rather scandal at his summit with President Bush. And when I was in Moscow at a Moscow State University conference on American Studies, they were talking about Dan Rather in the same way--a victim of the White House. Turned out the sources for Russian analysts were the outlets like the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Columbia Journalism Review, and so on. One might write a dissertation on the national security fallout of the Dan Rather story, and how the Thornburgh report is making things worse. The logic goes like this: If there were no political agenda and no fraud at CBS, why did Rather have to resign? White House pressure!

I know when I was teaching in Moscow, my students believed that the American president controlled network news...(Americans know that he doesn't).

So it is nice to see that PowerLine is still on the Rather casewith this account of his appearence on David Letterman's show. "My translation of Rather's take on the report is: "People have got to know whether or not their [anchor] is a crook. Well, I'm not a crook."

The Return of Kremlinology

According to this article in London's Financial Times, Kremlinology is all the rage again, as outsiders struggle to figure out who's really in charge in Moscow:
In the days of the Soviet Union, Kremlinologists assessed who was going up and down within the country's political elite by scrutinising the order in which members of the Communist party politburo climbed on to Lenin's mausoleum to watch parades on Red Square. Today there is no Soviet Union and no parading, but Kremlinology is back. Political analysts these days, however, are more likely to pore over the increasingly Soviet-style television news to see who is hovering at President Vladimir Putin's shoulder during nightly footage of his meetings with ministers.

The FT names a handful of insiders, but who knows if they are the real insiders or a Potemkin inner-circle, designed to throw Kremlin-watchers off-track?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Scraps of Moscow

Thanks to Lyndon Allin's link to my blog, I found his interesting website about Russia today Scraps of Moscow. It has good photos as well as text.

Hooray for George F. Will!

He's back in the saddle again, with a good essay about why the federal government should stop paying for PBS, titled Cut Buster Loose:

Money quote:"Public television is akin to the body politic's appendix: It is vestigial, purposeless and occasionally troublesome. Of the two arguments for it, one is impervious to refutation and the other refutes itself. "

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The Case for Putin

Here's an interesting pro-Putin article The west gets Putin wrong that is worth thinking about. Mary Dejevsky makes some good points, namely that Putin is weaker than he looks, and far from being a dictator, is casting about trying to stay in power by playing factions off against each other. Still, the argument that things could be worse, and that there is no constituency for more reforms--while true--doesn't justify the kind of self-defeating overkill that Putin has engaged in with the Yukos affair, for example.

Who would want to go into business in Russia, if the government can just decide one day to put you out of business, on a whim? Especially since Yukos was by all accounts the best-run company in Russia. That is the chilling effect to outside investors that Putin needs to resolve as quickly as possible, by letting Khodorkovsky go. Until he does, Russia's international image will continue to suffer.

One thought would be for Putin to release Khodorkovsky before V-E Day celebrations, as a gift to Bush for attending.

Uzbekistan: A modernizing society

When it rains, it pours. Orbis has just published my scholarly article, "Uzbekistan: A modernizing society". Here's the money quote:
Underestimating Uzbekistan's legacy of modernist secularism, Americans often stereotype the nation as one of the poor and backward '-stans.' Many Central Asia analysts accept at face value nationalist, pan-Turkic, or Islamist versions of the region's past, dismissing as inauthentic anything that is modern, Western, or familiar. Focusing on the exotic or (in the case of the Fergana Valley) dangerous, they foster misperceptions about the character of Uzbekistan that result in flawed policies.
Click on to read the whole thing.

Tashkent - New York: America - Uzbekistan

Time Out Tashkent has published my article about the Uzbek capital: "Tashkent-New York: America-Uzbekistan." Here's the money quote:
Anyone who has lived in New York City should be able to adapt to life in Uzbekistan's capital, especially West Siders (East Siders tend to have high-paying jobs). New Yorkers live in blocks of flats, take the subway and buses, and eat from street vendors, so do residents of Tashkent. New Yorkers feel they are more sophisticated than anyone else in the country, so do Tashkent's inhabitants. New York is the center of intellectual life for the USA, Tashkent plays the same role in Uzbekistan. New York has Lincoln Center, Tashkent the Navoi Opera House; New York has the Astoria Film Studios, Tashkent, UzbekFilm; New York has its Broadway, Tashkent has its own Broadway. To better understand Uzbekistan, just think about its similarities to America.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Alice Goldfarb Marquis on "Old Europe"

We heard from Alice, last seen in Moscow, in regard to the depressinq quality of Vienna:
Yes, all of Central Europe is depressing most of the time. Hence Kafka. Hence Gustav Mahler. Hence Karl Krauss, publisher of a journal describing the end of the world. Hence Freud, who saw humans trapped inside the warring id & ego. And I could go on, perhaps showing that Hitler himself was depressed. And no wonder.

Ann Coulter Defends Bloggers

In her latest column, Ann Coulter defends bloggers against the media attacks on James Guckert, who apparently made big news when he received a White House press pass while I was out of town in Moscow. (When do I get a pass?)
In response to the public disgrace and ruin of New York Times editor Howell Raines, CBS anchor Dan Rather and CNN news director Eason Jordan, liberals are directing their fury at the blogs. Once derided as people sitting around their living rooms in pajamas, now obscure writers for unknown Web sites are coming under more intensive background checks than CIA agents.

To continue today's shameless name-dropping festival, I knew Ann Coulter, too, a few years ago. She was one of the nicest people in Washington, she even tried to get me hired when she a commentator on MSNBC. She sent her parents to see me talk at the Women's National Republican Club in New York City. They were nice, too. So, I really don't understand why some people hate her so much. In addition to being beautiful, she's intelligent, thin, rich, a best-selling author--and extremely tall...Could it be that someone's jealous?

Some Email from Paris, about Khodorkovsky

Marie-Noelle Pane just sent us an email about Mikhail Khodorkovsky, after seeing an item in this blog. She asked for a link to her organization. So here it is:

Pane heads a group working for Khodorkovsy's relase, and sounds sincere when she says they don't get any money from him (though I wouldn't blame them if they did). Here's how she describes her Paris-based organization:
In a few words (excuse me, my English is very bad) - we are just a group of citizens, we found one another on several discussion forums on the web, and then we decided to get together and meet in "real" life to try to do something. At least to express our protest.
No one pay for our operations. From the beginning, we absolutely rejected the idea of any financial help. We want to show that people can do something by themselves. And it would be no moral help for Khodorkovsky if people were defending him... on his own money ;-). So - no, thanks. As we are all not very well-off, our operations are not expensive - web site cost about 20$/year, I pay for him myself, there are telephone fees, paper, ink...that kind of things. Everyone gives what he can gives. We all are volonterees, working according to the "samizdat" principle. We try to do original things to drive the attention of media, and sometimes collaborate with Human Right Defence Organisations. We also collaborate with Khodorkovsky's press center, in that way that they (sometimes) publish account of our actions, and sometimes give us posters of Khodorkovsky. And that's all.
If you are interested and you are in Moscow, you can assist to our demonstrations in front of the Meschanskyj Court (about once a week). You can also have a look of what's happening inside the Court, it is... how to say... interesting. :-(

You can read our position :