Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Katrina/New Orleans flood pics

WWL TV in New Orleans has a series of remarkable aerial photos.

Smiley N. Pool/DMN

(Hat tip: Cox & Forkum)

Monday, August 29, 2005

When in doubt, blame...

Gary Ruskin & Juliet Schor's cover story in The Nation is entitled "Junk Food Nation: Who's to Blame for Childhood Obesity?"

Given The Nation's politics, the answer to the article's title question has got to be Big Business, right?

Nope. Far too simplistic.

Turns out that the culprit behind childhood obesity in America is a nuanced combination of Big Business and the Bush Administration.

Should've known.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

New Yorker on Hewitt

The good news is that the current New Yorker has a profile of Hugh Hewitt entitled "Right Hook: Going after the liberal media" written by Columbia Journalism School dean Nicholas Lemann.

The bad news is that the online version of the magazine does not contain the article, so I have to buy a copy.

The good news is that now I get to peruse the cartoons.

(Hat tip: It Shines for All.)

Military recruiting and the media: D'ya ever notice?

D'ya ever notice how, when military recruiting shows a downward blip, it's all over the press? A sign of how poorly the war is going and how bad Bush's leadership is and such.

But when re-enlistment is at record levels and recruitment is exceeding goals, you don't much hear about it?

Ralph Peters has noticed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

I'm on the road again. Probably won't post again before August 22.

Go read Lileks instead. The screeds or the bleats.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Navasky on uniformity of opinion at the New York Times

In A Matter of Opinion (p. 105), Victor Navasky discusses the need to toe the party line at the New York Times:
If a writer's assumptions, as distinguished from his conclusions, varied too much from the unspoken consensus sybolized by the owner-publisher's... understanding of how the world worked (or ought to work), then his article could be headed for trouble.
Navasky is referrring to his stint at the Times several decades back; somehow I suspect that not much has changed.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

This is not the right week to publish this story.

Criticize the living. Or wait until some decent time after death. Unless your target was a monster. Peter Jennings was not. Debbie Schlussel should know better.

Has CJR Daily caught Sidney Blumenthal with a copying problem? Judge for yourself.

Curse you, Jonah.


Topliss analyzes Arno and Addams

Any book featuring Charles Addams and Peter Arno will draw my attention. These two are, for my money, the greatest cartoonists this country has ever seen.

So I was excited to see in today's New York Sun a review (entitled "Sex & the Married Cartoonist") of The Comic Worlds of Peter Arno, William Steig, Charles Addams and Saul Steinberg, a new book by Aussie professor Iain Topliss.

Alas however, I suspect I will not buy the book, largely due to the article's grumbling about the dearth of cartoons that actually appear in the book:
The sparseness of the images is particularly unfortunate, since the drawings themselves make the strongest case for what, cautious academic language aside, is really Mr. Topliss's point: how much social criticism can be channeled into comic art.

And on a related note:

Memo to New York Sun: The name of the book being reviewed does not appear anywhere in the online version of the review.

Heather Mac Donald:
Taking Osama bin Laden at his word is a good place to start in fighting terrorism.

CJR Daily takes on the non-coverage of the Air America scandal

CJR Daily's Paul McLeary, the same guy I accused of a lack of familiarity with the right wing press, is now writing about the simmering Air America scandal and its non-coverage by most major media:
What do you get when you cross a controversial liberal media outlet, the continuing fingerprints of its former director who resigned in disgrace, and hundreds of thousands of dollars apparently skimmed from a local non-profit that cares for disadvantaged youth and the elderly?

Well, one would think you would have a story with all the elements to at least make the business pages of the major dailies -- but then, one would be wrong.
Good for McLeary.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The QandO Blog has an interesting post on how the New York Times' point of view on economic data has more to do with the president's party than with the underlying numbers.

But just as interesting is the comment thread following the post in which one Tong Lu spends many posts and many paragraphs attacking the US economy and political system and extolling the virtues of (mainland) China's.

(Hat tip: Mindles.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

CJR Daily reveals ignorance of conservative press

CJR Daily bills itself as "real-time media analysis from the Columbia Journalism Review." And CJR bills itself as "America's Premier Media Monitor."

Today's real-time media analysis from America's premier media monitor carries a piece by Paul McLeary, who writes,
Speaking of the war, The Weekly Standard seems to be starting to lose faith in one of the chief architects of its course to date: Donald Rumsfeld.
Starting to lose faith? Hate to break the news, but that's not real-time analysis.

I understand that the CJR folks may not spend a lot of time reading conservative rags, but they might be interested to know that The Weekly Standard "seemed to be starting to lose faith" in Rumsfeld many a month ago.

For example, let's examine a few pieces from last year in The Weekly Standard and its counterpart, The Daily Standard:
  • Fred Barnes wrote in the May 17, 2004 issue, in a piece entitled, "Precarious Rumsfeld: Bush expresses confidence in him--for now":
    For now, the cries for Rumsfeld's head are coming from Democrats and the media.
    Note the ominous use of for now--twice.

  • Then, in a Nov. 18, 2004, Daily Standard piece on the second-term cabinet, Tom Donnelly wrote,
    The dog that hasn't barked in this transition... is the ousting of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Given that the Pentagon's management of the Iraq war was President Bush's greatest campaign liability, there's at least a paradox in Rumsfeld's retention.

    ... In sum, although Rumsfeld has been part of the problem....
  • In the December 15, 2004, Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes wrote,
    In national security, the indispensable person is not Secretary of State Colin Powell or Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld...
  • William Kristol was far more blunt in the same issue:
    But surely Don Rumsfeld is not the defense secretary Bush should want to have for the remainder of his second term.

    ... These soldiers deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have.
  • Tom Donnelly wrote in a December 16, 2004 piece in the Daily Standard entitled "Rumsfeld's War":
    Even longtime supporters and transformation advocates have begun to recognize that Rumsfeld is now a large part of the problem.
Surely not a major transgression on CJR Daily's part, but one that reveals a lack of familiarity with conservative opinion magazines.

Famed wacko Abe Hirschfeld died Tuesday.

Do not confuse him with Al Hirschfeld, the brilliant caricaturist who hid NINAs in his drawings, who died in 2003 at age 99.


Some excerpts from a rather harsh analysis of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) from "ibd" (presumably Investor's Business Daily):
  • "...doesn't have our best interests at heart."
  • "terror-linked"
  • "CAIR should know better than anyone who does fit the terrorist profile. Three of its own officials were recently convicted of terror-related crimes. One even worked for [national director Ibrahim] Hooper. He's now in prison for conspiring to kill Americans."
  • "A lawsuit... charges that the group, which evolved from a known Hamas front, is 'a key player in international terrorism.' "
  • "CAIR may talk a good patriotic and moderate game. But it has a secret agenda to Islamize America."
(Hat tip.)

Where's Betsy?

It's unlike Betsy Newmark to go several days without a post on her blog. I wonder what's going on.

I'd be more concerned, except that her husband and daughter have not mentioned anything untoward.

Update: She's back. She's been on the road in un-wired accommodations: "I had to go cold turkey on the internet and live as our ancestors lived in the olden days."

Chrenkoff has good news and bad

Arthur Chrenkoff has just printed "Good news from Afghanistan, part 15. " For some time, Chrenkoff's series of good news posts on Afghanistan and Iraq have been the best way to counter the flow of bad news coming via the MSM.

Unfortunately, though, Chrenkoff will soon give up his blog. More details here.

Monday, August 08, 2005

David Beckham is Jewish?!?

Is this right?
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham and her husband David have celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary by getting matching Hebrew tattoos.

The golden couple honoured David's family's Jewish beliefs, by getting the phrase "I am my beloved, my beloved is mine" from the Hebrew bible's Song of Songs inked on their skin, reports British newspaper The Sun.

Update: And now Batman and Spidey?

"...And the Iraqis are doing far better than anyone really had the right to hope."

Reuel Marc Gerecht writes today in Opinion Journal,
... All of Washington wants the Iraqis to be more expeditious than our own Founding Fathers, who took years of trial and error to hammer out the mother of all modern constitutions.

Yet the Iraqis are where we want them to be: divided on critical matters of politics and faith, but still determined to resolve their differences through a binding written compromise. Their discussions are hot and sometimes intractable because all the parties know these debates matter. Federalism and the political role of Islam--perhaps the two most troublesome subjects--are critical issues throughout the Middle East. No one in Washington should want these debates toned down or curtailed.

Many in America may not like the outcome--liberals are already overwhelmingly defining Iraqi democracy's success by whether women's social rights are protected and advanced--but the deliberations foretell what is likely to happen elsewhere in the region as it democratizes. Contrary to so much commentary in the U.S., it is the compromises--the liberal "imperfections"--in Iraq's experiment that may have the most positive repercussions in the Middle East.

...We should not want to curtail or stage-manage these great debates. Only by having them will the Iraqis muster the support to pass a constitution by the required referendum.... The intersection of God, man, and the common weal are not easy things to figure out, and the Iraqis are doing far better than anyone really had the right to hope.
(Hat tip.)

Women who flirt do worse at work

According to a USA Today report on a new Tulane study, women who answer yes to any of the following questions garner fewer promotions and a lower salary than their more straitlaced counterparts:
  • I wear a skirt or something more revealing than usual around clients or supervisors to get attention.
  • I flirt with people at work.
  • I draw attention to my legs by crossing them provocatively when in meetings or sitting with a group of men at work.
  • I hint or imply that I am attracted to a man (men) at work even if I am not.
  • I purposely let men sneak a look down my shirt when I lean over a table.
  • I massage a man's shoulders or back while at work.
  • I sent flirty or risqué e-mails to male co-workers.
  • I tell male co-workers or clients they look sexy or "hot."
  • I allow men to linger at certain places of my body while hugging them.
  • I emphasize my sexuality while at work by the way I dress, speak, and act.
About half of the women polled answered yes to at least one of the questions.

(Hat tip.)

And then Saddam invaded Kuwait

Fifteen years ago I was working at the European headquarters of a big multinational company. I was part of a small team trying to market a new technology throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It was the summer of 1990, and for months I had been working on a promising lead, our first in the Middle East. The potential end client was the Saudi government, and if the deal came to fruition it would be the largest contract to date worldwide for the new technology.

We had a local partner lined up, a Saudi system integration company. The man who ran it was related to the royal family and was confident he could make the deal happen. He'd traveled to see me in Europe, and we were all looking forward to big things.

But then, two things torpedoed the deal:
  1. Logistical problems arose when I tried to schedule a trip to Saudi Arabia. Something about the wrong religion on my visa application. (Fortunately, this problem was surmountable--I handed the deal off to a colleague.)

  2. And then, Saddam invaded Kuwait. This time the problem was not surmountable.

(Hat tip.)

Create your own Bush conspiracy theory


Hat tip.

Hillary and the '08 election

Victor Davis Hanson writes of Hillary Clinton's preparation for the 2008 election:
What a strange metamorphosis -- a candidate still in the veiled chrysalis stage, whose supporters fear the eventual new creature may emerge a centrist butterfly while detractors are even more convinced she will turn out to be a liberal moth.
As of May 24, 2005, on betting site Clinton had a 43.7% chance of winning the 2008 Democratic nomination. (Technically, a contract which pays $100 if Clinton wins the nomination traded at $43.70 on that date.)

As of the most recent trade today, Clinton's chances to garner the nomination have risen slightly to 44.8% (that is, $44.80). (The order of the frontrunners has not changed: Clinton, Mark Warner, Evan Bayh, John Edwards.)

Also as of the latest trade today, the Democratic nominee has a 50.8% ($50.80) chance to win the general election. The Republican nominee stands at 48.4% ($48.40) and "any other candidate" stands at 1.2% ($1.20).

(In May 2004 I predicted Clinton would win the presidency in 2008. I stand by the prediction. May events please prove me wrong.)

  • Memeorandum notes an LA Times headline today:
    Clinton Is Cultivating an Image as a Centrist: The partisan label she acquired as first lady is being remade in New York and the Senate.
  • Patterico thinks the LA Times is a bit too eager in helping Clinton along with her metamorphosis: L.A. Times Determined to Beat Into Its Readers’ Heads the Idea that Hillary Is a Centrist

  • Kathryn Jean Lopez replies to a former Clinton hater who has "come to respect her" because she is "a lot more moderate now":
    Why? Her record does not suggest a mod, peeps.
  • The Anchoress takes note of the LA Times headline:
    "Cultivating an image..."

    Well, that’s honest enough. But if one is being oneself, one needn’t cultivate an image.

    If one is not being oneself, I suppose, then that’s a different story.

Glass houses: CJR and Fox News

Columbia Journalism Review wrote (a few years ago) of Fox News:
The questions persist: Can a news network with executives and on-screen talent so conspicuously and so heavily right of center fulfill a promise of delivering "fair and balanced" news, information, and opinion?...

But the issue persists: Can a news network dominated by conservative hosts be genuinely "fair and balanced"? Would "fairness and balance" require hiring identifiable left-of-center figures as hosts to assure ideological equipoise?
In response, Tim Schmoyer asked of CJR,
Can a media-crit magazine dominated by liberals be genuinely non-partisan and fair, particularly toward those on the right? In light of Victor Navasky's recently disclosed role, doesn't that question take on even more substance?
By the way, the CJR article concludes that Fox News is
inevitably, the product of its creators, interlocutors, and guests. That makes it unmistakably a bully pulpit for conservative sentiment in America.
What then does that make CJR?

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Conservatives Podhoretz and Ponnuru debate stem cell research

Over at The Corner, John Podhoretz and Ramesh Ponnuru, both thoughtful conservatives, are having a real-time, no-holds-barred debate on stem cell research. The debate is wide-ranging and incorporates the Talmud and the nature of democracy. At times it even borders on the ad hominimem. (But then they retreat to setting up play dates for their infants.)

In any case, it makes for good reading. But it is hard to follow amidst the other discussions at The Corner. So I've taken the liberty of reprinting it here (with the permission of Ponnuru), in chronological order:

  • Ponnuru: Conscientious objection for taxpayers

    Charles Krauthammer writes today: "It simply will not do for opponents of this expanded [embryonic stem-cell] research to say that the federal government should not force those Americans who find this research abhorrent to support it with their taxes. By that logic we should never go to war, or impose the death penalty, except by unanimous consent of the entire population. We make many life-or-death decisions as a society as a whole, without being held hostage to the sensibilities of a minority, however substantial and sincere."

    Krauthammer is right that the mere fact that people find a policy immoral is not a clinching argument against that policy. But the argument gets stronger when either of the following two circumstances apply: 1) It is not necessary for the government to adopt that policy, and 2) the objectors' moral judgment of the situation is sound. Both apply here. On point 1, note that Krauthammer, like Frist, fails to identify any good that federal funding, on top of existing private-sector and state funding, is necessary to achieve.

  • Podhoretz: Ramesh on taxpayer objections
    Politically, it is important for politicians to understand that moral objections are to be taken extremely seriously. But Ramesh, you seem to be arguing that moral objections are to be trump cards, preventing government action, if a) the policy to which the objection is made is not "necessary" and b) if the moral objection is sound. I can't believe you actually believe this to be the case, because it makes no logical sense. Those who argue for embryonic stem-cell research believe it is necessary. They may be wrong, but they believe it. Therefore, there's a moral stand-off here, in which case your argument a) is cancelled out. And as for the moral objection being sound, honestly, are you saying that Krauthammer's argument in favor of some embryonic stem-cell research is immoral, or that it doesn't pass muster because it can't convince those who believe it is immoral, or what? Pacifists have to stomach immoral policy every day. That's what happens in democracies. You can't always get what you want, even if what you believe what you want will be the salvation of the souls of millions.
  • Ponnuru: Response to Podhoretz
    First, on necessity: The point isn't that proponents of the research think that it's necessary. It's that the *federal subsidies* aren't necessary. Neither Frist nor Krauthammer bothers even trying to make the case that they are, and it's hard to make that case given the existing private-sector and state government funding that goes to the research. Second, on morality: I'm not arguing that Krauthammer's "argument" is "immoral," whatever that would mean. I'm arguing that the research is immoral. Obviously he disagrees. My point is that the force of the objection that people have to funding things they consider immoral depends in important part on whether they are correct to so consider it. I can't believe that you could really disagree with that point. The closing statements you make are just a restatement of the original Krauthammer position to which I was lodging objections.
  • Podhoretz: Reply to Ramesh
    Wait a minute. You write: "The force of the objection that people have to funding things they consider immoral depends in important part on whether they are correct to so consider it. I can't believe that you could really disagree with that point." Of course I disagree with that point, because it's not even a point, Ramesh. There is no absolute arbitrator of whether the "people" you mention are "correct" or not in their moral objection (except for God, but His ways are mysterious, if you haven't heard). Look, it is true that stem-cell funding isn't "necessary," but then, neither is cancer-research funding "necessary."

    The problem, as I see it, is that you and others have a serious, profound, respectable and highly moral objection to stem-cell research, whether federally funded or not. In fact, the moral argument against embryonic stem-cell research has nothing to do with the funding source. If such research is by definition immoral, it's immoral no matter whose dime is spent doing it.

    But here we are, living in a democratic society in which other people have other opinions on this matter. The Krauthammer opinion is that frozen embryos that are destined for destruction in any case are the only acceptable embryos from which to derive stem cells for research. The most comprehensive anti-stem-cell opinion argues that the true crime comes from the use of in-vitro fertilization, which creates these excess embryos. The most liberal argument leads us all the way to reproductive cloning.

    This argument has now become part of the political debate. That is as it should be, or so I was taught in the wake of Roe v. Wade -- that we were never able to come to a true national consensus position on abortion because the fight was superseded by the Supreme Court. We shall see what happens. But to argue that the anti-stem-cell argument is demonstrably correct because passionate people hold it and their passion is undergirded by the rightness of their argument is the textbook definition of a tautology.

    Maybe you haven't talked to a lot of pro-stem-cell research people. I have. Believe me, they're passionate. They start to cry when they talk about a family member with Parkinson's. That doesn't make their argument correct, but maybe according to you it would.
  • Ponnuru: I'm sure John
    has raised many valid points against somebody--but I'm not sure who; certainly not me. I never "argue[d] that the anti-stem-cell argument is demonstrably correct because passionate people hold it and their passion is undergirded by the rightness of their argument." John returns to this point in his conclusion; I have no idea what I wrote that could possibly make him think I hold that strange view. His insinuation that I haven't spoken to people who support stem-cell research is, I would like to think, beneath him.

    To recap: I agreed with Krauthammer and John that the mere fact that some people oppose a particular government policy cannot be a decisive objection to that policy. To take the example that Krauthammer brought up, I quoted, and John then reiterated: the mere fact that many pacifists object to a war, and to their money's being spent on a war, is not a decisive reason not to go to war. So far, we agree.

    But if the opponents of the policy are right that embryonic stem-cell research is an evil, then having the state encourage and subsidize it is an additional evil. (Obviously I did not suggest that to make that observation was to make an argument that they are correct; I merely stated my view that sound reasoning does, in fact, yield that conclusion.) To make people complicit in something they mistakenly think is an evil is not as bad as to make them complicit in something that is actually an evil. So a full evaluation of the rightness or wrongness of subsidizing embryonic stem-cell research cannot prescind from the question of whether that research is morally licit.

    But--and here is where the question of necessity comes in--it is possible to be agnostic on the question of whether the research is morally licit while thinking that we should avoid making people pay for something they think is immoral if we don't have to. If, say, 40 percent of the public is opposed to a war, that is a reason not to engage in the war if the war is not a necessary one. It may not be the top consideration--one can make the argument that if a war isn't necessary, we shouldn't wage it regardless of the composition of public opinion--but it's not an obviously irrelevant consideration either.

    If John wants to continue this discussion, I hope that this time he can describe my views in a way that at least rises to the level of caricature.
  • Podhoretz: Caricature? Moi?
    Ramesh, I quoted your own line in your own text stating that moral certainty of a person making an argument exists in relation to the validity of the argument. I hardly see how quoting you is an act of caricature.

    And I don't quite know what you mean when you say that say that public opinion running, say, 40 percent against a thing should be taken into account when a policy is bruited about. Such a fact goes without saying, because our system is a representative one.

    The way we make such decisions, in a representative republic-democracy, is through the votes of our elected officials. And they naturally take the views and feelings of their constituents into account. In that sense, of course public support is part and parcel of any serious legislative or executive decision-making.

    But as you yourself say, a polling/PR approach really has no bearing on the intrinsic morality of the policy. And the deepest problem here is that this is a very hard case -- and hard cases, as we know, make bad law. The stem-cell debate is a rare circumstance in which people can have genuine moral differences about how best to pursue the furtherance of and respect for life. (This is as opposed to abortion, where the moral argument against abortion is really only challenged by an instrumentalist-pragmatist-convenience argument.)

    You take offense at the idea that I "insinuated" you haven't talked to people who are for stem-cell research. I meant no offense, honestly. When I have spoken in favor of President Bush's August 2001 compromise, I have nearly been assaulted on almost every occasion by someone who is sure a family member might have been saved or will be saved by the research that is not being done -- and it seems to be that the argument you made, which suggested rightness has some relation to passionate feeling, could be made just as easily about such people.

    Since you abjure that argument now, I won't hold you to it. But better go back and read what you wrote, because I didn't misquote you.

    Of course it is the case, as you say, that "if the opponents of the policy are right that embryonic stem-cell research is an evil, then having the state encourage and subsidize it is an additional evil." But then you go on to add that "to make people complicit in something they mistakenly think is an evil is not as bad as to make them complicit in something that is actually an evil." And again, I can only ask you: Who is to make such a determination?

    And I'm sorry, but you're far too highbrow for me, Ramesh, when you write that "a full evaluation of the rightness or wrongness of subsidizing embryonic stem-cell research cannot prescind from the question of whether that research is morally licit." I'm afraid I can't argue with you about this because you lost me somewhere there in the five-dollar-word section.
  • Ponnuru: John
    Just for starters: The problem isn't what you quoted, but your misunderstanding of it. When I said "the force of the objection," I wasn't referring to the passion with which someone makes that objection; I was referring to the consideration that their objection deserves on the merits. As should have been obvious from context. I don't have time to deal with your other misunderstandings at the moment, but I'll get to them later.
  • Podhoretz: This is interesting
    So I didn't misread you, Ramesh -- you mis-wrote? Or is it that you're sayingI'm too thick to get all your nuances? How Straussian of you!
  • Podhoretz: I think I get it now
    Ramesh, perhaps I took your initial comments about Krauthammer's stem-cell column too straightforwardly, as though it were part of a strategic argument about how to deal with the research as a matter of policy.

    Now I think, having looked through your postings and trying to find the consistency between them, I think your argument simply operates from the basis that embryonic stem-cell research is obviously, unquestionably, inarguably, axiomatically immoral -- and that you either can't quite believe I might think differently or that you've decided my argument is morally relativistic.

    But as I've been trying to argue, the morality here isn't as clear-cut as you would like it to be. Perhaps it is for a practicing Catholic, for example, because the doctrine of the church is that all embryo creation outside the womb is a sinful act to begin with. But for a practicing Jew like me, for instance, the moral framework has a different baseline.

    The Talmud says any embryo-fetus under the age of 40 days is to be deemed "like water." That sounds harsh, though I believe its initial intention was to limit the emotional involvement of parents in the very early stages of pregnancy, when something like 25 percent of all fetuses naturally abort.

    In any case, the code of ethics outlined in the Old Testament and the Talmud is based in the admonition in Leviticus to "choose life." In the case of embryonic stem-cell research, an argument can be made that such reseach does just that.

    Now here's the thing. I am not even ARGUING in favor of embryonic stem-cell research. I find myself in some sympathy with the argument that any such research represents a journey down a potentially treacherous and immoral road. But I have to tell you, if brilliant polemicists like you can't make better arguments than the ones you've been making, you're helping to lead me toward that slippery slope....And here endeth my disquisitions on this subject. (For now.)
Stay tuned.

Andy McCarthy ("The Ramesh-JPod debate") and Kathryn Jean Lopez ("What Andy said") have related thoughts on the role of Government.


  • Podhoretz: On this we can all agree
    Government does far too much, and should not involve itself in more matters than it has to. Alas for Andy's point, one of the very few areas in which government does and should involve itself is public health. The promulgation of rules involving the management of disease -- so that plagues do not break out routinely -- and the proper disposition of diseased bodies and deceased corpses remain one of the linchpin purposes for which humans gather together in a society. You can certainly argue that the promotion of novel new ways to enhance public health like the use of stem cells is not the government's business. But I fear very, very few people would agree with this notion these days, except for philosophical libertarians. We would be better off if more did, I guess, but that ship of limited governance has long since sailed.

  • Ponnuru: Stem cell hell

    Andrew is right to suggest that I am not enjoying this debate. I do not believe that it actually qualifies as a debate. John Podhoretz, as he accurately noted earlier, has not taken a position on the morality of embryonic stem-cell research or the wisdom of having the federal government finance it. Contrary to his third-to-last post, I have not, in this thread, advanced any argument against embryonic stem-cell research or the federal financing of it, nor have I claimed to be advancing any such argument. I simply commented on one passage of a Charles Krauthammer column that I thought required qualification. Podhoretz misunderstood my point and was off to the races. And he continues to attribute to me views that I do not hold. (I'm amazed that he has the gall to suggest that it's difficult to find the consistency in my posts. I've lost count of his inconsistencies.)

    I've debated embryonic stem-cell research and cloning with many people over the last few years, but I see no reason to do so with someone who seems oddly, and uncharacteristically, unable to engage in a responsive conversation. Perhaps the problem is, as he suggests, that I am an incompetent writer. Whether that is the case or he is an incompetent reader, it seems pointless to continue this non-debate.

  • Podhoretz: Ramesh!
    What an extraordinary post! Do you really want to argue that you aren't arguing anything when you attempt to point out someone else's inconsistencies -- in this case, Charles Krauthammer's? And do you think you can prevail in a "debate" you say isn't a debate by asserting that I've been inconsistent without the slightest argument in favor of that assertion? To use a formulation you seem fond of, I've lost count of the number of times you have now said you haven't said what you said in the first place, and then in the second place!

    And do you really want to accuse me of "gall" because I have the temerity to find some fault with your reasoning on a matter that might end up being the most important issue we deal with in our lifetimes? I congratulate you on having your position completely hard and fast and in place. Some of us aren't there yet, and it doesn't make us bad people, or poor reasoners.

    But really, guy! Get a hold of yourself! I don't get why you're so upset, honestly!
  • Ponnuru: John!
    I'm not upset, but I do have better things to do. The reason I keep noting the fact that I have not made various points is that you keep erroneously attributing these points to me. Knock it off.

    As for your question: "Do you really want to argue that you aren't arguing anything when you attempt to point out someone else's inconsistencies -- in this case, Charles Krauthammer's?" Well, no, I don't want to argue that I'm not arguing anything--I want to argue that I am arguing only the limited point I am arguing, and not anything broader. I have occasionally criticized arguments against same-sex marriage. Very few people have taken those criticisms to be anything more than they were intended to be--to be, for example, arguments for same-sex marriage.

    If this rhetorical question of yours had the force--i.e., strength, validity, logical persuasiveness--that you seem to think it does, it could just as easily be turned around on you: Do you really think that you're not arguing for embryonic stem-cell research when you criticize its opponents, albeit in a scattershot way? But that would be unfair. I have never attributed to you the view that embryonic stem-cell research should proceed or be federally funded, because you haven't said that. I certainly haven't speculated about your religious views (as in your "salvation of the souls of millions" line, among several others--I'm not the one who's been mentioning God every other post). It would be nice if you would extend the same courtesy.

    You are, however, correct to say that I have merely asserted that you have been inconsistent. So let me give you an example.

    At 5:29 pm yesterday, you wrote, apropos of I have no idea what: "But here we are, living in a democratic society in which other people have other opinions on this matter. . . . This argument has now become part of the political debate. That is as it should be. . ." At 10:42 pm yesterday, you wrote: "I don't quite know what you mean when you say that say that public opinion running, say, 40 percent against a thing should be taken into account when a policy is bruited about. Such a fact goes without saying, because our system is a representative one. The way we make such decisions, in a representative republic-democracy, is through the votes of our elected officials."

    Doesn't it "go without saying" that we "are living in a democratic society in which other people have opinions"? Has anyone denied this point? Has anyone suggested that a dictatorship ought to be established to impose a particular stem-cell policy? Have I? If it "goes without saying" when I say it, why is it a profound point when you do?

    Or how about this one? The 5:29 Podhoretz: "If such research is by definition immoral, it's immoral no matter whose dime is spent doing it." In context, this has to be taken to mean that nobody who objects to the legality of the research has any additional reason to object to being forced to subsidize it. It's no worse. Then there's the 10:42 Podhoretz: "Of course it is the case, as you say, that 'if the opponents of the policy are right that embryonic stem-cell research is an evil, then having the state encourage and subsidize it is an additional evil.'" So "of course" the 5:29 Podhoretz was wrong. It goes without saying!

    Look, I've already spent too much time trying to untangle your comments. Enough already.

  • Podhoretz: I'm flattered... be the subject of such close reading, but in this case, my friend, youreally don't understand a word of what I said. In some cases I was summarizing your argument. In some I was discussing my own. In some I was stating truisms, as in saying that if research is evil it's even more evil if the government is involved in it. But I am not convinced, as you are, that the research is evil. Just because I state the position, I am not advocating it. I am merely trying to establish the context of the discussion.

    But enough. I don't get why disputation has put you in such a foul temper. We can agree to disagree, but since I either don't understand what you're saying or you don't understand what I'm saying, then maybe we should agree to agree.

    How's the baby? Mine's adorable.
  • Ponnuru: Excellent
    Just the outcome I've been seeking. The baby is spectacularly lovely (as, based on the pictures I've seen, is yours) and, today, on her first flights, well-behaved. Perhaps a play date is in the future? Conservative children can have play dates, right? (I think she's conservative. She smiled at a picture of Ronald Reagan in her mother's office.)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Terrorism must be unambiguously condemned by all. But it's not.

A New York Sun editorial today highlights the difference between the Israeli and Palestinian leaders in their reactions to horrific murders committed by "their" sides. First, in reaction to the recent murder of Arab civilians by an Israeli soldier (which I mentioned yesterday), Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
immediately denounced the killings as "a reprehensible act by a bloodthirsty Jewish terrorist." The leader of the settlers' council, Bentsi Lieberman, said, "Murder is murder is murder, and there can be no other response but to denounce it completely and express revulsion."

Contrast these absolute condemnations to a recent response of the Palestinian Arab leader, Mahmoud Abbas, to terrorism against Jews. Last month, after two grandparents were shot dead by Palestinian Arab gunmen, Mr. Abbas said, "The Palestinian Authority will make every effort to stop these useless operations." Not because murder is murder and murdering is wrong, but because they are "useless." Because Israel doesn't buckle to terrorism and a different tactic is needed.
Kudos to Abbas for the rhetorical equivalent of baby steps towards ending terror. But he's got a ways to go.


On a related note, a missing comma in the same Sun editorial could lead to an unfortunate misinterpretation.

Here is how the piece starts:
The murder of four Israeli Arabs yesterday by an Israeli in an army uniform and a yarmulke deserves to be condemned in the most unequivocal manner. And it was by the leader of the Jewish state.
The murder was by Ariel Sharon? No, but it's not clear from the wording. A comma after was in the second sentence would have helped clarify the matter:
The murder of four Israeli Arabs yesterday by an Israeli in an army uniform and a yarmulke deserves to be condemned in the most unequivocal manner. And it was, by the leader of the Jewish state.
Perhaps someone will correct the online version.

Hanson on Hiroshima

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson's take on the a-bomb:
Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.
(Via Betsy's Page.)

Best political cartoonists around

If you haven't read Cox & Forkum's cartoons in a while, go now. Keep scrolling down.

Green tea and cancer

Craig Newmark has been reading the non-medical press coverage of medical issues:
Green tea doesn't decrease cancer risk. Oh wait, maybe it does.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

CJR welcomes Navasky "to its masthead" (not to CJR)

Blogger Matt Duffy reports that Columbia Journalism Review has published, at the bottom of the letters page of the print edition, an announcement of Victor Navasky's new title:

From the editors

CJR is delighted to welcome Victor Navasky, who heads the magazine program at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, to its masthead as Chairman. We believe he will help us sustain the kind of vital and financially sound journalism review that a new era demands. Dean Nicholas Lemann's note on the appointment can be found at

Duffy notes the cleverness of the wording. CJR is welcoming Navasky to the masthead, not to the publication, presumably since Navasky has already been with CJR for months. (As I've written, the precise number of months is not known, though one commentator believes, based on a note from Dean Nicholas Lemann, that Navasky has been secretly running for more than a year.)

For the uninitiated, here is the background:

CJR is a non-partisan media watchdog. For months, left wing intellectual ideologue Victor Navasky has been de facto in charge of CJR, although he was not so credited in the masthead until his role was exposed by this blog on May 31. In reaction to the exposure, the next day CJR told Editor & Publisher that Navasky would appear on the masthead as chairman.

On June 9, CJR posted online a not entirely satisfactory explanation (from Dean Nicholas Lemann of Columbia's journalism school) of Navasky's role at the publication. Lemann's note could be interpreted to mean that Navasky had been running CJR behind the scenes for as long as 21 months; other statements from CJR imply that the time is considerably shorter.

Eventually CJR did add Navasky to the print masthead as chairman. (The publication apparently delayed putting him on the online masthead, though he does appear there now.) Despite his role at the top of the organization, Navasky appears at the bottom of both the online and hard copy mastheads.

This is horrible:
A 19-year-old Israeli soldier opened fire inside a bus Thursday, killing four Israeli Arabs

The Bomb

As regular readers of this blog know, I'm generally hawkish. And I've never seen combat, except as portrayed by Oliver Stone or Steven Spielberg. That said, when I toured the city of Hiroshima, it made me wonder if two bombs, both on cities, were needed.

So it was probably good for me to read Paul Fussell's "Thank God For Atom The Bomb" (first published as "Hiroshima: A Soldier's View" in the August 1981 New Republic).

I was directed to the essay (via Instapundit) by Clive Davis, who describes the piece as Fussell's
angry but measured response to those of his fellow-intellectuals who condemned the use of the Bomb without the knowledge of what it meant to be in combat.
By way of background, Davis is an Englishman who claims as his intellectual heroes Norman Podhoretz, Shelby Steele, C.S. Lewis, Richard Pipes and George Orwell.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

New Ira Stoll blog

I can't wait: Ira Stoll's got a new blog.

Stoll's, a one-man effort to provided daily critiques of The New York Times was one of the original and best media criticism blogs.

Eventually and unfortunately, Stoll could not continue to maintain the site when he started to focus on getting The New York Sun up and running. I'm delighted with the Sun, but, like many others, I've missed Stoll's blogging.

The exciting news is that Stoll has apparently started blogging again, at a site called It Shines For All. While the site is apparently associated with the Sun, I cannot find a link from the Sun's main site to the blog.

Stoll's blogroll includes eight "big" blogs and four "smaller" blogs. I'm humbled that David M is included.

One fewer hero

Thurman Munson died on this date in 1979, still in the prime of his career.

Munson was the epitome of the tough-guy catcher. Could always hit in the clutch. Down by one, late innings, man on base, there's nobody you'd rather have at bat. Would never rub the spot where a ball hit him, just wouldn't do it. I think it was Sparky Lyle who once wrote that Munson wasn't moody: moody people were sometimes nice and sometimes not; Munson was always mean. But that didn't matter to this adoring fan. Rookie of the Year, MVP, three Gold Glove awards, two world championships, three league championships, first Yankee captain since Gehrig. But none of that, either, mattered to this adoring fan. All I knew is that you always wanted Munson on your side.

Then one day my 13-year-old self was sitting along the first base line at The Stadium watching my heroes play. Munson hit a routine ground ball, and he loafed to first at half speed. The fans booed. Munson gave us the finger.

I had one fewer hero.