Comments or suggestions: Gerard Van der Leun
Hillary Lite

The always amusing P.J. O'Rourke shines this week in a brutal takedown of Hillary Clinton's dubious book: with Hillary's History.

Reading O'Rourke is not only better than reading the book, you can comprehend Hillary's entire effort in his first paragraph:

IF YOU PLAN not to read this summer, "Living History" is just the book. Hillary Clinton's new memoir is more than 100,000 pages long. At least I think it is. There are only 562 page numbers, but you know how those Clintons lie. A mere ream of paper could not contain the padding that has gone into this tome. Hillary--with the help of at least six ghostwriters--nails the goose of a manuscript to the barn floor and force-feeds it with lint.
A more common writer would stop right there and declare his work done for the week, but O'Rourke is just warming up. Later, in a slightly longer paragraph, he sums up the Clinton years with a concision worthy of an entry into the Encyclopedia Americana;
However, it says something unflattering about our era that prominent political figures--who used to write declarations of independence, preambles to constitutions, Gettysburg addresses, and such--now use the alphabet only to make primitive artifacts, like the letter-inscribed tablet that Charlemagne is said to have put under his pillow each night, in the hope he'd wake up literate. Conservatives, including most of the Founding Fathers, have always worried that the price of a democratic system would be a mediocre nation. But George Washington and William F. Buckley Jr. put together could not have foreseen, in their gloomiest moments, the rise of Clinton-style über-mediocrity--with its soaring commonplaces, its pumped trifling, its platinum-grade triviality. The Alpha-dork husband, the super-twerp wife, and the hyper-wonk vice president--together with all their mega-weenie water carriers, such as vicious pit gerbil George Stephanopoulos and Eastern diamondback rattleworm Sidney Blumenthal--spent eight years trying to make America nothing to brag about.
Unlike "Living History" this review deserves a place on your summer reading list.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 30, 2003 4:51 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Dennis Miller on Howard Dean: He Shoots, He Scores!

Miller Emerges as New Voice for Bush Re-Election

Stumping for George Bush in Los Angeles, Dennis Miller had a few choice words for, well, every Democratic Presidential candidate. His most pointed observations, however, were reserved for Internet darling and appeasement afficianado Howard Dean.

"[Howard Dean] can roll up his sleeves all he wants at public events, but as long as we see that heart tattoo with Neville Chamberlain's name on his right forearm, he's never going anywhere."

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 30, 2003 4:22 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
"Throw your computers into the eyes of children..."

The American Zen Master
by Dick Allen
from Poetry Daily

Zen also is to be found, he tried to instruct us,
in a car dealer's showroom, and in shoelaces. . . . Also, in America,
you don't sit at the feet of the Zen Master
but you have coffee with him, preferably at Starbucks,
next to one of those outsized suburban malls where everyone looks half dressed,
half dazed and half dead. "The secret of Zen," the Master said,
may come halfway through a Yankee Candle store
when you realize you can smell nothing,
or from reading Hallmark Cards backwards,
or choosing nothing from an overstuffed refrigerator. But it isn't a secret."

                               As for our questions,
instead of smiting us around the shoulders with a bamboo cane,
he'd hand us little writing-intensive packets of Equal and Sweet 'N Low,
then lean back, smiling like a sushi plate. Sometimes, he'd babble:
"Tums, drive-up windows, ATM machines.
Checkout-line scanners, 1000 Megahertz,
the industrial landscapes so remarkable."
we'd catch him staring at the intricate face
of a digital wristwatch, or contemplating
a simple button-down shirt on a white shelf in a Wal-Mart.
All things. "Throw your computers into the eyes of children,"
he loved to tell us. "Work for the Federal administration,
if that's what you must.
Wear last year's fashions, re-endure the 8os.
Take the last train to Clarksville.
If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill her."
We'd come to Zen


Posted by Vanderleun Jun 30, 2003 6:59 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Three Deadly Elements

Is al'Qa'ida really on the run, close to being washed up, rendered powerless, and its members finding themselves confined to a small room with a Readers' Digest Condensed Koran? Opinions vary, but the Rand Organization's Bruce Hoffman is not a wild-eyed optimist. In his detailed and insightful Al Qaeda, Trends in Terrorism and Future Potentialities [NB: in PDF format], he examines what is known about the current condition of the terrorist group. For them to be rendered operationally harmless, they would first need to be stripped of three essential elements:

[W]hat was critical to the success of 9/11 were three capabilities that al Qa'ida likely still retains. First, was the ability to identify a key vulnerability or gap in the defenses of its principal enemy—America—that could be mercilessly exploited (e.g., the U.S. commercial aviation security structure). Second, was the effective use of deception on board the four hijacked aircraft where, the passengers and crew, were deliberately lulled into believing that if they behaved and cooperated as they were told—the standard operating procedure for crew and passengers on hijacked aircraft that historically had enhanced chances of survival—they would not be harmed. Third, suicide attack was employed to ensure the attack’s success. None of these essential qualities was dependent on al Qa'ida having a base of operations in Afghanistan—and thus could likely be replicated in some future plan that successfully identifies and exploits a gap in our defenses and then cleverly and adroitly assembles the operational requirements for that attack to succeed.

All of which suggests that the current administration's obsession with making air travel safe from all possible terrorist approaches, is just that, an obsession unlikely to stop future attacks. Indeed, it would seem that all this concentration on inter-city public transport security is a waste of assets. The pure fact is that all it would take to bring New York City of a halt again, murder thousands of its citizens, and send the US economy back into a tailspin would be three dedicated members of al'Qa'ida currently living in Brooklyn, and possessed of burning down death wish and a terrible intent.

Of this more in the days to come.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 29, 2003 12:20 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Urban-American Gothic

Photograph by Van der Leun

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 29, 2003 11:44 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
On books promiscuously read

From Areopagitica by John Milton

"I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary but slinks out of the race, where that immortal garland is to be run for, not without dust and heat.

"Assuredly we bring not innocence into the world, we bring impurity much rather; that which purifies us is trial, and trial is by what is contrary. That virtue therefore which is but a youngling in the contemplation of evil, and knows not the utmost that vice promises to her followers, and rejects it, is but a blank virtue, not a pure; her whiteness is but an excremental whiteness. Which was the reason why our sage and serious poet Spenser, whom I dare be known to think a better teacher than Scotus or Aquinas, describing true temperance under the person of Guion, brings him in with his palmer through the cave of Mammon, and the bower of earthly bliss, that he might see and know, and yet abstain.

"Since therefore the knowledge and survey of vice is in this world so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of tractates and hearing all manner of reason? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read."

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 28, 2003 10:40 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Nothing is Random
"Nothing is random, nor will anything ever be, whether a long string of perfectly blue days that begin and end in golden dimness, the most seemingly chaotic political acts, the rise of a great city, the crystalline structure of a gem that has never seen the light, the distributions of fortune, what time the milkman gets up, the position of the electron, or the occurrence of one astonishingly frigid winter after another....

"And yet there is a wonderful anarchy, in that the milkman chooses when to arise, the rat picks the tunnel into which he will dive when the subway comes rushing down the track from Borough hall, and the snowflake will fall as it will...."

From Today in Literature
"Winter's Tale," by Mark Helprin, who was born on this day, 1947. A best seller when first published in 1983, the book's New York setting has won new readers since the World Trade Center disaster; from the chapter, "Nothing is Random":

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 28, 2003 8:18 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Filing Cabinet from Hell

Every office has one. Useful for hiding documents that establish your guilt. The downside is that documents that establish why you deserve a raise and promotion will be in the top drawer, back.

Photograph by Jef Poskanzer. More Poskanzer images at Fotolog, and infiitely more at Jef Poskanzer's Photography

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 27, 2003 8:55 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Layman's Rule

Monday Morning Spooks by Hugh Hewitt.

Responding to Josh Marshall's continuing attempt to prove himself today's equal of Clinton toady Joe Conason, the level-headed Hugh Hewitt comes up with what is most likely a permanent truth in today's foreign policy assesments by American citizens:

I will leave it to the foreign policy mavens like Marshall to come up with a more precise standard, but I think the layman's rule is this: If the commander in chief perceives a significant risk of severe casualties to Americans, he uses whatever force is necessary to remove that risk. The forgery of documents related to purchases of uranium from Niger, or the lack of a detailed Baghdad hotel bill from Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, in no way detracts from the correctness of the president's assessment of all the evidence of risk. The attempt to impeach the president's conclusion by impeaching parts of his data set establishes a standard under which many future September 11s could never be prevented because of the distinction between "signals and noise in intelligence collection."
Hewitt is onto something here. In today's world of infinite information sources, influential people more and more seem ready to make up their own minds about political questions that matter to them. It would seem that the more access to pundits we have, the less influence the pundits have over the populace.

This is why last week's blather from Al Gore and associates over the need for more liberal voices and radio and television programs sounds as flat and boring and irrelevant as... well, Al Gore. Americans, in larger and larger quantities, no longer seek multiple opinions from numerous sources. They seek access to facts and are perfectly able to draw their own conclusions.

Of course, this means that what any political party needs to be able to do is to control The Factoid Factory. When you are in power, that's easier to do, and when you are out of power, it is almost impossible. Hence the growing frustration and hectoring tones found in places like Josh Marshall's Screed of the Day. The rise of the Internet has not only made it possible for Marshall to marshal his opinions, it has also made it possible for the Layman's Rules to bat last. Just hit the clicker or the back button. "They opine. You decide."

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 27, 2003 8:03 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Cuba: Pimping Children for Cash

State Department Report on "Trafficking." Scroll down.

During a long evening of poker at a friend's apartment in New York in the late 1990s, one man who attended and who had far too much bourbon regaled us with tales of his recent trip to Havana. 'You can have two sisters as your sex slaves and housekeepers for a week for the price of one night in a Holiday Inn in Boise,' he claimed. I replied that it didn't seem like the kind of vacation I'd enjoy and besides it struck me that, in a country like Cuba, you could find yourself in a jail pretty quick if the government caught you.

"The government?," he replied. "Hell, the government will pick you up and drop you off at the apartment. How do you think they get any money at all on that island? The '56 Chevy is the car of choice and the dollar is the coin of the realm."

It is encouraging that our State Department is catching on to Castro's Ministry of Pimping at last. But it is equally discouraging to note that Cuba's need for cash has driven it to the Bangkok solution of offering its children for sale to perverts with global reach.

Still, this revelation of Cuba's Child Sexploitation Policy is unlikely to stop numerous celebrated Americans from dashing off to Havana for a photo op with Fidel at every opportunity. Maybe they too agree with the new Cuban motto: "Cuba kids, si. Yankee kids, no."
The currrent US State Department evaluation of Cuba's sex trade reads:

Cuba is a country of internal trafficking for sexual exploitation and forced labor. Minors are victimized in sexual exploitation connected to the state-run tourism industry. Despite occasional measures by the Government of Cuba to crack down on prostitution, state-controlled tourism establishments and independent operators facilitate and even encourage the sexual exploitation of minors by foreign tourists. Government authorities turn a blind eye to this exploitation because such activity helps to win hard currency for state-run enterprises.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 27, 2003 6:33 AM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Target: Design in American Now

An icon for the 21st century that surpasses the Taco Bell Chihuahua would have to be this horned woofer run up for Target Stores by the Peterson Milla Hooks agency. We're not sure what he's promoting for Target, but we are sure that if he was on the shelves in time for Christmas, he'd run out of the store.

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum   |   is an exceptional online sight featuring numerous flash-enabled tours of current and past exhibitions. Now showing is "The "National Design Triennial: Inside Design Now" showcasing 80 designers and firms who are setting the pace in contemporary design.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 27, 2003 6:28 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Beer with a Bad Attitude

OpinionJournal - Taste

BIG-HEADED BREW: Maybe the folks at Stone Brewing haven't heard that the customer is always right. How else to explain the San Diego beer maker's Arrogant Bastard Ale? As the Los Angeles Times reports, the back of the label minces no words. "This is an aggressive beer," it reads. "You probably won't like it. It is quite doubtful that you have the taste or sophistication to be able to appreciate an ale of this quality and depth. We would suggest that you stick to safer and more familiar territory."

Not likely to surpass Bud in sales any time soon.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 27, 2003 6:25 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Whines of the Real Freeloaders

Chris Kathman's sharp article The peasants are acting like emperors! highlights the persistant obnoxiousness of recording industry executives as they launched their latest phase in their no-win war against file sharing.The position of these Class A Hypocrites is that getting music for nothing from friends, associates, acquaintences or people promoting their taste in music is "stealing." Perhaps it is, but since these record company bozos haven't shelled out a penny for their grossly overpriced products since the dawn of time, how would they know? Kathman, once an insider, lays out their heaping sack of dirty laundry when he writes:

For the last few years, top executives from all the major record companies have been giving interviews in which they criticize consumers for doing exactly what the execs have been doing for years - getting music for free. I was in the loop for a couple years, when I was writing about music for a free weekly, as well as a major daily newspaper, in Los Angeles, many years ago. And I can tell you none of these characters paid for anything, ever.The bookcases in their offices and their homes were (and are) filled with product that they receive for free as a matter of course. They would not dream of ever paying for recorded music, themselves, with very few exceptions. But now that the average consumer can download a ripped file from the Internet, you'd think it was the end of Western Civilization, from the way they talk.The false piousness of their pronouncements on this subject really offends me. I assure you, back in the day, if somebody at Record Company A wanted a copy of the new LP by so-and-so and the such-and-suches, they would shout at the secretary to call their good friend at Record Company B and have it messengered over, with the fee for the messenger charged to the artist signed to Company B! Maybe it took a little longer than getting an mp3 off the web now, but my point is that they did not go down to their local record store and pay list price to nobly support the artist who they claimed to be interested in.
The truth is broader than that. Freebies throughout the media are as deep as the ocean. Many people in the music, book, film, and television industries have been battening off freebies for decades.

Those that doubt this and are in New York City are invited to take a visit to the Strand Bookstore and note how many "review copies" grace the shelves in the basement. From the publisher to the "reviewer" to the Strand -- sometimes within 24 hours and always with a little cash in hand to the 'reviewer."

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 26, 2003 2:25 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Another Reason to Never Fly Anywhere Ever Again

"It does basically make you look fat and naked, but you see all this stuff." - Susan Hallowell (above), Director of TSA's Security Laboratory.

More than just a pat-down, the new airport body scan goes the final step in making flying one of the most dubious experiences of our age. In New airport scans could expose travelers we learn that we will soon be expected to expose ourselves to strangers if we wish to enjoy all the pleasures of air travel.

Susan Hallowell (above) took one for the Transportion Security team as she allowed herself to be scanned and the image to be published world wide.

"She stepped into a metal booth that bounced X-rays off her skin to produce a black-and-white image that revealed enough to produce a world-class blush.

"Her dark skirt and blazer disappeared on the monitor, where she showed up naked -- except for the gun and bomb she had hid under her outfit."

Ah, yes, those guns and bombs we all strap on when heading out to the airport.

Susan allowed that it also made her look "fat and naked, but you see all this stuff." Looking fat and naked is going to be a big hit with Americans, you can be sure.

I don't know about you, but looking at Susan, I also note she looks bald, with some sort of strange blemish on her shoulder and a body that won't be winning any Miss Teenage America pagents soon.

Of course, we won't be doing any real, sensible profiling anytime soon. No. We will all be expected to just have our bodies revealed to all. And recorded too. There's no way this gizmo is going to be put into airports without a recording device attached.

My only prayer is that, if this final insult is installed it will, by itself, put an end to American Airlines, United Airlines, Southwest Airlines, and all other airlines operating in the United States when everyone in the country decides to just stay out of the naked skies.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 26, 2003 10:11 AM | Comments (10)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Reports of Our Demise Premature

"Now is the end. Perish the world." - Beyond the Fringe

We tend to sleep through announcements of the end of the world. Our default state is: "Wake us when it's over." As a result we completely missed out on the Niburu flap until it was put to bed by David Morrison at Nasa:

For months, weird stories have circulated on the Internet predicting the close passage by Earth this month of a Planet X sometimes called "Niburu", or in some versions a giant comet. I have even seen it linked to both Kuiper Belt Objects (KBOs) and Near Earth Asteroids (NEAs), although why either of these is relevant is not clear to me. This news note is for those who may have heard such rumors and wondered if there was any reality to them. The simple answer is that these are lies. There is no such object.
All we can say is "Whew! That was a close one." Still, we'll keep coming back because, as the comedy routine above tells us, "We're sure to get a winner one of these days." The only problem is that it won't be from outer space. It will be homemade.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 26, 2003 9:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Bottled Water a Mixed Blessing


"Promise, big promise, is the soul of advertising," said a sage long ago in America. American advertising has been following that dictum without letup ever since.

The current craze for bottled water is an excellent case in point. According to an article in this month's Scientific American there is little in bottled water to justify the price and a lot in a lot of waters that puts them just this side of outright buncombe.

"Bottled Twaddle" by Michael Shermer raises a lot of points that tend to prove that "bottled water is tapped out." Americans shell out above $7 billion a year for the clear fluid and pay, according to Shermer, "120 to 7,500 times as much per gallon for bottled water as for tap. Bottled prices range from 75 cents to $6 a gallon, versus tap prices that vary from about 80 cents to $6.40 per 1,000 gallons."

For what? For something that is, often, nothing more than bottled tap water in a plastic container. This from a four year study of the Natural Resources Defense Counsel that examined 1,000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water, finding that "an estimated 25 percent or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle--sometimes further treated, sometimes not."

But is all bottled water of dubious benefit? Well, not all. There is one water that can, it claims, literally SAVE YOUR SOUL!

This would be the strong, pure and thrice blessed fluid that flows from the source at Holy Spring Water. Yes, according to the web site, (and why wouldn't you believe it if you are already buying tap water at $6 a gallon?) this water is, "100% Natural bottled water that has been blessed to remove your venial sins while quenching your thirst. Tastes Great!!!"

Sounds reasonable to us. Click away, order a case, and when it comes be sure to save us a sip. For free.


Posted by Vanderleun Jun 26, 2003 9:35 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Bridge

Photograph by Van der Leun

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 25, 2003 10:27 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Cynicism vs. Skepticism in the Media

Hillsdale College

Brit Hume, who should know, has some insightful things to say about the mindset of media professionals in the United States today. His speech, "The American Media in Wartime," confirms what many already have observed, but coming from an insider it is all the more relevant.

Ted Koppel, one of the finest journalists of our generation, said something the other day that quite astonished me. Ted was an embedded reporter in Iraq, and after he came home he had this fascinating conversation – at Harvard, I believe – with Marvin Kalb. He spoke with real generosity about the American officers and enlisted men that he dealt with, and how able they were and how good they were and how effective they were. But he went out of his way to make a point of distinguishing between them and the policy makers in Washington. About the latter he said, “I’m very cynical, and I remain very cynical, about the reasons for getting into this war.”

Cynical? We journalists pride ourselves, and properly so, on being skeptical. That’s our job. But I have always thought a cynic is a bad thing to be. A cynic, as I understand the term, means someone who interprets others’ actions as coming from the worst motives. It’s a knee-jerk way of thinking. A cynic, it is said, understands the price of everything and the value of nothing. So I don’t understand why Ted Koppel would say with such pride and ferocity – he said it more than once – that he is a cynic. But I think he speaks for many in the media, and I think it’s a very deep problem."

Link thanks to Donald Sensing

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 25, 2003 7:52 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Of course it's about the oil, but not in the way you think

In the current Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Pollock has an number of insightful things to say about the American role in the middle east. His essay, Securing the Gulf, is most interesting when he talks about the realpolitik implications of "THE OIL." Whether or not the recent war was 'about the oil' was a toxic mushroom in the endless debate for or against American intervention and regime change in Iraq. It still is. And, according to Pollack, with good reason:

America's primary interest in the Persian Gulf lies in ensuring the free and stable flow of oil from the region to the world at large. This fact has nothing to do with the conspiracy theories leveled against the Bush administration during the run-up to the recent war. U.S. interests do not center on whether gas is $2 or $3 at the pump, or whether Exxon gets contracts instead of Lukoil or Total. Nor do they depend on the amount of oil that the United


Posted by Vanderleun Jun 24, 2003 12:20 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Scarface and Friends on Camera

Al Capone's mug shot, one of several, from an excellent online gallery, at Gang Rule. Mugs, portraits, and assorted photographs from the decades when gang and mafia rule in New York was unquestioned.

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 24, 2003 9:20 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Wild Honey and Gold

Wild Honey and Gold

Today's Quotation from Today in Literature's Email Newsletter

Wild honey smells of freedom
The dust-of sunlight
The mouth of a young girl, like a violet
But gold-smells of nothing....

- - Anna Akhmatova ("Wild Honey Smells of Freedom"), born this June 23,1889

Posted by Vanderleun Jun 24, 2003 9:10 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Breslin Threatens to Make World Safe from Purple Prose


In an unusually intense blast of carping, even for him, Jimmy Breslin threatened a couple of days ago to "leave" the news business.

Well not exactly. More accurately, Breslin said that because of The Terror that the current Fascist US government is inspiring from sea to shining sea, he was "thinking that it could be time for me to begin thinking about leaving this news business. It is not mine anymore."

Thinking about thinking that it could be... Sigh. No joy here soon. No possibility of a large, restful white space standing in for Breslin's sentimental screeds in my local paper. Well, I guess everyday can't be sunshine.

Still, it is nice to know that Breslin is 'thinking about beginning thinking.' Such is the first step to wisdom.

The cause of Breslin's maudlin despair is that 1) The government is bad because


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 24, 2003 12:04 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Ebay:Enron for 2004?

Whitman: How Much Would You Bid?
CBS News | eBay's Bid For Success | June 12, 2003 15:53:46

eBay. Yes, good, old eBay. Your own personal eBay.  You've found and snagged those Trolls you had as a kid. You've gotten rid of all that junk you've been moving from house to house for a decade at a premium. You've nailed that stuffed Jackalope for only $468. Great. Now kick the habit and get clean before your are really addicted.

As more and more people are finding out, the web auction monolith built on "trust" currently only trusts the sellers to keep kicking coins into its bloated coffers. Buyers are left to the not so tender mercies of one of the largest and most rapidly growing centers of online fraud in the Infosphere.

Could eBay clean it up? Yup. Will they? Only if their stock price starts to auger into the ground.

EBay began to drift down in overall dependability about the time it hired the


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 23, 2003 11:18 PM | QuickLink: Permalink

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 23, 2003 10:14 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
MovableType Slips, Stumbles, and Pratfalls

"Why must there always be fightn' and killin'? Why can't there be peace in the blogsphere?"

In a move all too typical of "organisations in transistion," Six Apart, creators of the excellent blog publishing system Movable Type, has taken its first tumble on the long slope towards being a successful company.

Flush with cash and with what looks to be the killer app of blogware MovableType, Six Apart last week sought to enforce the clumsy terms of its license agreement against one Kathy Kinsley. Bad idea. Very bad idea.

As Stephen Den Beste at USS Clueless puts it:


Posted by Vanderleun Jun 23, 2003 2:40 PM | Comments (22)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Supremes Reaffirm Default State of Democracy: Everybody's In. Nobody's Out.

CNN reports: Narrow Use of Affirmative Action Preserved: Law school policy upheld; undergrad program overturned

A close decision, but nobody really expected anything else from the branch of government whose motto might as well be: You Complain, We Decide.

In upholding the broader principle but setting guidelines for undergraduate admissions, it seems to me that the court is keeping with, rather than setting the pace of, the improving state of racial equality in the United States.

Tsunami of Pundit Blather and Spew Warning Issued by National Institute for Mental Health


Posted by Vanderleun Jun 23, 2003 1:25 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Cowgirl and the Four Pound Steak

Cowgirl Ready for Red Meat Olympics

We've stopped at the Big Texan Steak House in Amarillo. We have eaten their steaks and tipped their waitresses. We have seen the shrine at the front in which, daily, a new example of "The Monster" 72-Ounce steak reigns on a bed of ice. it is a stunning thing to behold and an even more awe inspiring to imagine eating one. It simply doesn't look possible to fit the steak on the ice into your body. We don't care what size body you come with. Big men have tried and failed. Hungry men have tried and failed -- but they were not hungry for days after.

No, it is no small thing to attempt to eat four pounds of beef in an hour. That's why we were stopped cold by the item in Saturday's Washington Post that chronicled a woman's quest to conquer the Big Beef. Described in excruciating


Posted by jackreno Jun 22, 2003 10:44 PM | Comments (1)  | QuickLink: Permalink
Let's All Just Give Up and Fly Naked

Airport Security Remains Porous-Screeners Depart, Officials Alarmed

Dulles International Airport already was losing passenger screeners at a rate of at least one a day, Scott McHugh, the airport's federal security director, wrote in an e-mail to colleagues at other East Coast airports. He said that with fewer workers, the airport was able to screen only 57 percent of checked luggage for explosives.

"Up to now we have been able to hide this fact from the public (and any terrorist surveillance teams)," McHugh wrote in a June 6 e-mail obtained by The Washington Post.

Solution:If we could all be convinced to just travel buck naked and allow our bodies to be slapped on the belt and run through the scanners, all this would clear up pronto.

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 22, 2003 6:11 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
"On the Side of Life"


"On the Side of Life"

Today in Literature reminds us that today marks the day in 1964 when "the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a lower court ruling that found Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer to be obscene. This was three years after the book's first publication in America, thirty years since its publication in Europe, and a hundred years since Comstock began to patrol the mails for such "vampire literature." Though but one judgment in a series of significant decisions—most importantly, those concerning Ulysses, Lady Chatterley's Lover and Fanny Hill — the Miller ruling is considered landmark for having led the way to the establishment of a new, more liberal standard in censorship."

Reading a book by Henry Miller, from the Tropic books through the Nexus, Sexus, Plexus trilogy has always struck us as the same sort of an experience you get from sitting up all night drinking coffee with a wordly and fascinating friend. As Today in Literature notes, Miller once wrote of one of his books, "If it was not good, it was true; if it was not artistic, it was sincere; if it was in bad taste, it was on the side of life." The same could be said of Henry Miller as well.


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 22, 2003 3:45 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
DRIVE-BY: Wrapping Up the News of the Day

Midday Scan / Sunday, June 22, 2003

Yes, it's the same old song, but it seems so different since Yasser's been gone. Doesn't it?

Quartet resolute on Mideast peace
Israelis kill top Hamas member in West Bank

AMMAN, Jordan (CNN) -- Representatives of the so-called Mideast quartet presented a united front Sunday in support of the road map for peace in the Middle East, despite an increase in violence in the region.

"We have to keep moving forward," U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told reporters after meeting with leaders from the United Nations, the European Union and Russia as a World Economic Forum was getting under way on the shores of the Dead Sea.

A roadmap that leads straight to the shores of the Dead Sea? Haven't we been through this movie before?

Time to ramp up opium and marijuana production yet again in Afghanistan and Mexico.

US to Drop Limits on Drug Imports by Poor Countries

VOA News

22 Jun 2003, 15:01 UTC
The United States has agreed to ease restrictions that limit the ability of poorer nations to import patented drugs used to treat life-threatening diseases.

Such as boredom, ennui, and a crawling need for a shot of dope.

D-oh News of the Day, Week, Month, Year... wild about Harry Potter
Web bookseller gets 1.3 million advance orders
Puh-lease! Wake us when it is all over. In fact, 1.3 million orders seems a bit light


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 22, 2003 11:58 AM | QuickLink: Permalink


Ellen Petro smoking pipe
by Frank Michael Hohenberger

"Hohenberger was born in Ohio in 1876 and orphaned at five years of age. He spent his boyhood as a printing apprentice and later worked several years on newspapers in Dayton, Ohio, Louisville, Kentucky, and finally for the Indianapolis Star.

"Composing rooms and newspapers could not hold his attention. In 1917 he left Indianapolis to start a small photography business in Nashville, Indiana, concentrating on the subject matter of Brown County. The next forty-seven years were spent recording the life, customs, and scenes of the hills of Brown County, of other areas of Indiana, of Kentucky, of South Carolina, and of Mexico."

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 20, 2003 8:02 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Gifts of a Grateful Nation

A bit more than a year ago the esteemed Philadelphia Museum of Art tuned 125 years old. In honor of that milestone, collectors and patrons gave a wide range of new art to the museum. Monet, Steigletz, Joseph Stella and dozens of other artists were represented. The web staff of the museum used this opportunity, and these works, to create a flash gallery that is exceptional for its range and its elegant presentation.

The Joseph Stella gouache above is one of the many blooms in this online bouquet.

Experience all of it HERE.

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 20, 2003 7:46 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
The Continuing Crisis: IX


This week's aptly named Number Two on the Los Angeles Time's Children's Bestsellers List:

2. The Day My Butt Went Psycho by Andy Griffiths (Scholastic, $4.99 paper) A 12-year-old boy's bottom escapes and plots a rebellion, complete with the help of the B-team. Ages 9-12

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 20, 2003 6:09 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Hanson on The Score in the War So Far

Victor Davis Hanson on War on National Review Online

The brilliant Hanson continues his prescient observations on the course of the war on terror:

If on the evening of September 11th, an outside observer had predicted that the following would transpire in two years, he would have been considered unhinged: Saddam Hussein gone with the wind; democratic birth pangs in Iraq; the Taliban finished and Mr. Karzai attempting to create constitutional government; Yasser Arafat ostracized by the American government and lord of a dilapidated compound; bin Laden either dead or leading a troglodyte existence; all troops slated to leave Saudi Arabia � and by our own volition, not


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 20, 2003 8:53 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
DRIVE-BY: Wrapping Up the News of the Day


Wildfire Burns 200 to 250 Homes in Southern Arizona Mountain Hamlet

TUCSON, Ariz. June 19 —
A wildfire driven by winds up to 60 mph roared through a southern Arizona mountain community Thursday, burning 200 to 250 homes, a fire official said.

It took less than an hour for the fire to tear through an area of Summerhaven with about 500 homes, burning some and sparing others, said Larry Humphrey, commander of the team directing the fight against the fire.


Michigan Gov. Granholm Urges Healing After Surveying Riot-Torn City of Benton Harbor

BENTON HARBOR, Mich. June 19 —
Gov. Jennifer Granholm urged healing and reconciliation Thursday after surveying the damage from two nights of rioting and meeting with leaders in this city plagued by poverty and racial tensions.

"The state must wrap its arms around this community," Granholm said.


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 19, 2003 8:31 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Brain Jazz in Brooklyn

"Yes, you can play.
ANY NUMBER can play a number,
and that number is always an unknown number.
But if you can play unknown numbers
you can sit in on the session."

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 19, 2003 4:18 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
It's the Lileks' Shillelagh for O'Reilly

A good maxim to live by, among many others, is "Never buy what you sell." Advice lost for years to Bill O'Reilly as ten minutes viewing him will tell you.

The FoxNews 800-pound -canary, O'Reilly, has taken on many an opponent in his nightly mudpit. And, surprise, he always emerges triumphant. His pit, his rules, his mike control. Little wonder. But has he at last gone a rant too far in taking on the Blogsphere in general and drawing the attention of James Lileks in particular?

We don't know if Mr. O'Reilly actually reads the Blogsphere, or if he just gets printouts handed to him by one or the other fawning associate producers, but either way, Lileks calls him on his game...

LILEKS: "And you, Mr. Man of the People, Mr. People of the Man, Mr. Street, Mr. Champion of the Little Guy, Mr. Giving-It-Straight, want the Internet to be patrolled? Note: on most unpatrolled polluted waterway, everything does not go. In such a place things are dumped over the side, and after a moment bobbing unnoticed on the surface, they sink to the bottom."

O'Reilly: "For example, the guy who raped and murdered a 10-year old in Massachusetts says he got the idea from the NAMBLA Web site that he accessed from the Boston public library."

Lileks: "Ergo, we should shut down Massachusetts. Or Boston. Or the library. No? Just the internet? Probably so. I live in fear of the day I visit a website that gives me the idea to abuse and kill a child; I’d be powerless to resist such a command, because I saw it ON THE INTERNET.

"And hey, don’t forget that Factor website."

Ouch. That's gotta sting.

And given the speed of the Internet, it will get around and get some of Bill's semi-fans second thoughts about his nightly tirades.

Second thoughts = Channel surfing = Lower ratings.

Mother of Mercy, can this be the end of Bill O'Reilly?

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 19, 2003 10:48 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Small Satori: Zen Moments for Democrats

Over on Roger Simon's comment boards the thoughtful and articulate Michael Totten is working his way through the current flavor of Democratic Party Angst:

Do I want a Democrat to win the next election? In the abstract, yes, but in the real world, it depends. I've never voted for a Republican president in my life, and it would be physically difficult for me to do it. But I can't vote for a peacenik. If the Democrats pick a peacenik in the primary who wishes Saddam Hussein were still in power, I will have no choice but to vote for Bush. I'm not going to get on the wrong side of this issue. I would rather break party ranks.

I would choose Joe Lieberman or Dick Gephardt over Bush. I would probably pick John Edwards over Bush, too. I will not vote for Howard Dean or John Kerry, and especially not for Al Sharpton.

It's good to hear someone like Totten looking about for a viable Democrat to vote for. I'll be looking too since I too don't know if I want to break a life long voting record of never voting Republican.

Check that. I just lied. I looked into my heart and realized that right now, today, I desperately want to vote for Bush. And I suspect that there are other deep and secret longings among lifelong Democrats like myself. And I suspect that no matter who the Democrats run there will be a goodly number of people who talk the Demo talk but won't walk the Demo walk when the curtains close behind them on election day.

I looked at Totten's list of likely candidates (two) and realized that old and deep truth of electoral politics: "You gotta beat somebody with somebody."

To my mind the Democrats have got Nobody... and they KNOW IT.

Hence, since they still have to beat somebody with somebody, they are trying to beat Bush with Bush.

And that is very, very Zen.

I suspect that a lot of us are going to be having these small satori's from now on.

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 13, 2003 1:37 AM | QuickLink: Permalink
Street Scenes

On 14th Street

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 11, 2003 2:19 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Street Scenes

On 14th Street.

Posted by Van der Leun Jun 11, 2003 2:04 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
Do You Want Fries with That?

This week's special at The Sizzler is an extra helping of attention from your waitperson for the evening:

CORONA, Calif. - A family who angered a waiter at a Norco Sizzler restaurant later was served a few dishes they didn't order: a gallon of maple syrup, raw eggs, and rolls of toilet paper across their lawn and shrubs.

Wayne Keller, 37, wife Darlene, 40, and their two children, had their home and mailbox saturated Saturday with smashed eggs and maple syrup. Their yard was decorated with toilet paper, duct tape and plastic wrap.

Police arrested several people in an SUV parked nearby, and grabbed someone darting out of the bushes.

Officers presented the alleged culprits to the Kellers.

"I can't explain how I felt," said Darlene Keller. "I just said, 'Oh, my God. It's the waiter from the restaurant.'"

Corona police arrested the waiter, his girlfriend and his two younger brothers. Police withheld their names.


Posted by Van der Leun Jun 9, 2003 1:54 PM | QuickLink: Permalink
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