Saturday, March 05, 2005

Here's a good cartoon on...

...Well, It's illegal to tell you. Just clik.
Click here:

Slavery doesn't exist in Niger... slaves don't need to be freed:
The government of Niger has cancelled at the last minute a special ceremony during which at least 7,000 slaves were to be granted their freedom.

A spokesman for the government's human rights commission, which had helped to organise the event, said this was because slavery did not exist.

It is not clear why the government, which was also a co-sponsor of the ceremony, changed its position.

At least 43,000 people across Niger are thought to be in slavery.

Acting under pressure, Niger's parliament banned the keeping or trading in slaves in May 2003.
I blame Dubya. For the slavery, not the cancellation. Well, that too. Or maybe John Ashcroft. Somehow this has to be our fault, even tho slavery is described as "traditional" in Niger. Ah, yeah, that's the ticket: Slavery is a traditional family Niger. Somebody tell John Dean so he can make it an issue against Condi Rice when she runs for president.

Click here: BBC NEWS Africa Niger cancels 'free-slave' event

Thanks to PowerLine via InstaPundit.

So much for Eloise

And Skipperdee. What will poor Skipperdee do?
The Plaza Hotel, where the fictional character Eloise romped through the corridors inside and the fiction writer F. Scott Fitzgerald romped in the fountain outside, (made) official the timetable for the hotel's closing. No one will romp at the Plaza after April 30.

The real estate company that owns the Plaza says it will become...condominiums and stores with a far smaller hotel on the 58th Street side.
I have fond memories of the Plaza. So it goes.

Click here: The New York Times > New York Region > The Plaza Says It'll Be History After April 30

Spanish scandal?: Gaudi Chapel "desecrated"

Among other things:
They describe the cleaning of the building as “brutal” and say that it was carried out with abrasive materials abandoned years ago by the conservation industry. They also say that a staircase which provided access to the roof has been removed and they say that the restorers have placed a large stone plinth commemorating their restoration inside the chapel.
I have no idea who is right.

Click here: The Art Newspaper -- News

Friday, March 04, 2005

Pancho Barnes: The Fastest Woman on Earth

Get yer mind out of the gutter. Her pilot's license was signed by Orville Wright. one time she did run the Happy Bottom Riding Club.


For a good pic, here #2: Click here: Old Hollywood Glamour

Life of

“All right, all right. But apart from liberating 50 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan, undermining dictatorships throughout the Arab world, spreading freedom and self-determination in the broader Middle East and moving the Palestinians and the Israelis towards a real chance of ending their centuries-long war, what have the Americans ever done for us?”
Dunno, but the London Times has Gerard Baker's column.

Click here: Times Online - Comment

Thursday, March 03, 2005

More on the FEC and political blogging

Senators McCain and Feingold are not out friends. They have stomped political speech into the ground with federal felony legislation and now they are pouring on the salt.Click here: Michelle Malkin: THE FEC VS. BLOGS

The Democracy Project has more Click here: Democracy Project: Democracy Project

Here is an interview with Bradley Smith, one of the six Federal Election Commissioners. He has some pretty strong opinions about what campaign "reform" is about to do to America: Click here: The coming crackdown on blogging Newsmakers CNET

Laws so sensitive that we aren't allowed to know what they are.

We'll tell you when you are breaking it. Basically it is the requirement for an internal passport- that is, gov't issued ID required to board a plane.
When Gilmore asked to see the rules explaining why his photo ID is necessary for airline security, his request was denied. The regulation under which the Transportation Safety Administration, an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, instructs the airlines to collect such identification is classified as "Sensitive Security Information."

...When John Gilmore demanded proof that the airport ID rule met Constitutional muster, the government at first declined to acknowledge it even existed.

Ann Davis, a spokeswoman for TSA, tacitly acknowledged the strange rabbit hole into which Gilmore has fallen. The Department of Justice, in its first response to Gilmore's suit two years ago, declined to acknowledge whether such an instruction existed. Later, it admitted its existence. Then the government asked a judge to hold a hearing in secret and preclude Gilmore's lawyers from seeing the regulation they sought to challenge, the contents of which seem to be pretty widely known.
There is a fair bit of blahblahblah in the middle, but a worthwhile issue to think about.

Click here: Grounded: Millionaire John Gilmore stays close to home while making a point about privacy

If you are interested in the 1st Amendment... better write your Senator and Congressman about this. Talk about myriad regulations. King George wasn't better than these control freaks.

Click here: The coming crackdown on blogging Newsmakers CNET

UPDATE: Letter to Senator Russ Feingold:

Dear Senator Feingold,

I am writing you to oppose any regulation of the Internet in the interest of campaign finance reform.

I understand that there is a movement to regulate some blogging as contributions to political campaigns. I am opposed to such regulation.

I have recently started my own blog, and I appreciate just what a monstrous damper any regulation would put on my own writing: Suddenly I would have to concern myself with the complexities of federal regulation of political speech. No longer could I assume I have a right to say what I want, where I want, or to include a link to any site which I want.

Senator, do you have any idea what an attack on free speech that would be? I understand that you and others may be concerned about campaign expenditures. I, however, am concerned about violating your federal laws. Am I to shut up rather than run the risk of running afoul of federal speech regulations? Am I to spend time and effort finding out just what I am allowed to say?

I am a single person, trying to be informed about political issues, and writing my comments on the Internet for those who might be interested. Telling me and those like me, whose resources are trivial, that we must spend our time seeking out and understanding federal law before we can speak on political issues absolutely appalls me.

I urge you to attack any movements to further restrict Americans' right to free speech.

Thankyou very much.

I love it when the gloves come off

Heather MacDonald takes on Susan Estrich over Estrich's attacks on LA Times op-ed page editor Michael Kinsley and his alleged sexism. MacDonald is no Larry Summers: She goes straight for the nose, and draws some blood.

Click here: Feminists Get Hysterical by Heather Mac Donald

Thanks: Click here: Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Trench art "Tree of Life" at the British Museum

Phoebe Greenwood reports on "Tree of Life," a piece of contemporary trench art from Mozambique which is now on view at the British Museum.
“We used thousands of guns (from Mozambique's civil war) to make the sculpture...Sometimes it’s overwhelming to think about how many lives that represents. Where I come from, we believe in spirits of the dead, and if I look at the sculpture I can see lost children’s souls, I can see their mothers crying for them.”

...In 1997 Sengulane challenged the country’s oldest arts collective, Nucleo del Arte, to use the dismantled guns to “make something to inspire peace”....

“You should look at The Tree and see in it an appeal for a culture of peace around the world,” explains Sengulane, a cross welded from pistol parts hanging from his neck. “We’re making art speak a universal message, one of peace, using instruments of war.”
Trench art, which flourished during the First World War and again during World War II, is a now rather obscure form of folk art from around the world. Generally made from the detritus of war by soldiers and civilians alike, it encompasses an enormous range of objects, both practical and purely decorative. One theme which runs thru the genre is that of turning weapons into peaceful objects: today we see pieces made even during the Great War which literally recite the Bibical passage: "You shall beat your swords into plowshares, and your spears into pruning hooks." Click here:,,1-47-1504992,00.html

For more on trench art in general, see my friend Jane Kimball's site: Click here: Trench Art: An Illustrated History, by Jane Kimball

A loss for the good guys.

Eugene Volokh reports on the Australian Racial and Religious Tolerance Act.Click here: The Volokh Conspiracy -

Apparently the Australian court held recently that one cannot use freedom of speech "as a cover to offend, insult, humiliate..."

Thank you to the Founders who provided us with a 1st Amendment. It ought to appall ppl to realize that it is illegal in many formerly decent places to offend, insult, or humiliate. Saddam loved such laws. Kim Jong Il loves them. There are many dictatorships which make it illegal to offend, insult, or humiliate the Dictator and his government. The scary part is that such laws are no longer confined to the dictators. One of the British tabloids got in trouble- to the tune of 30,000 Euros or so, if I recall correctly- for putting a cartoon of Jacques Chirac's head attached to a worm body on the cover.

Imagine such a law here and what it would do to critics of Dubya. Granted, the Australian law penalizes speech based on ppl's religion, but I do seem to recall some criticism of Dubya and cohort based on their religious beliefs.

Toe or Tow?

OK, feedback is requested. (That's what the little "Comment" doohickey below is for, not the envelope icon. Be brave. Go public.)

I just read an opinion column in NRO which included this: "If Larry Summers is ousted for failing to tightly tow the liberal line...."

Larry Summers aside, I have always thought the expression is "toe the line" as in line up straight along the line in the dirt, i.e. follow orders with good discipline. In this context, "tightly" makes sense: get yer toes right up tight against the line.

"Towing the line" also makes sense, it just isn't the spelling/meaning I've always assumed. Towing tightly is still ok, as it would suggest pulling rather strongly.

So, are both ok? Only one? If so, which? My lexicological universe is teetering.

UPDATE: Well, at least I'm not alone. Howard Kurtz: "Ari, and now Scott, toe the company line."
Click here: Media Notes Extra

Museum Architecture

Steven Litt in ArtNewsOnline covers the changing attitudes among those responsible for new museum buildings: he says expensive flash is largely out of favor. Money, or relative lack of it, is pretty clearly a driving force. The Milwaukee Art Museum and its addition by Santiago Calatrava is held up as an example.
Despite the trend toward conservative Modernism in museum design, there are powerful exceptions. David Gordon, director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, unabashedly champions Milwaukee’s decision to build the expansion designed by Calatrava, with winglike, mechanized sunscreens that open and close. He says the museum has raised $19 million to pay off its $25 million debt, and he believes it will gather the rest. A native of Great Britain, Gordon says he has adopted an American, can-do attitude. “In the States you do something ambitious, you go out on a limb, you find a way to raise money, and you ride on,” he says.

Mitchell Kahan, director of the Akron Art Museum, is confident he’ll raise the additional $10 million he needs to complete the museum’s $38 million expansion, which will be the first in the United States designed by the chic Viennese architecture firm Coop Himmelb(l)au... “If cultural institutions do not embrace innovation in architecture, no one will,” says Kahan. “It is truly our responsibility to push the envelope, because the commercial sector will not.” Kahan also believes art museums need to stretch financially to make significant architectural statements. “At Milwaukee the focus is on the cost overrun,” he says. “That’s a choice they made, and I admire it. A few years of tightening the belt is nothing compared with having something that serves the community for the next century. I don’t know why people are so critical.”
The easy response, of course, is that the costs are beggaring some institutions, but Kahan has a good point. It will come down to what compromises the individual institutions are willing to make, and if, once made, they can pull it off. The Milwaukee Art Museum addition had a significant positive impact on Milwaukee's self-image, and apparently on its image elsewhere. That's no small thing.

Museums like Milwaukee's do now need to concentrate on paying off their debts, significantly increasing their endowments, hiring more curators, and improving the quality of their display collections. Doing that is going to boil down to more money, and lots of it. Getting that money and spending it wisely may well require an evaluation of their goals: what is important to be doing really well a decade or two out, what they should be doing, tho perhaps not so well, and what they shouldn't be attempting at all.

Equally important is acting on the implications those decisions have for collections: some should likely be disposed of entirely and the resources concentrated on those which further the goals, whatever those may be. That is a very tough decision to act on, but those museums which aren't committed to excellence really don't deserve support from those ppl who are.

Click here: Full Editorial from Current Issue

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Alabama: Not for lovers.

Or at least not for lovers who use sex toys.
Alabama argued its sex-toy ban " ... and related orgasm stimulating paraphernalia is rationally related to a legitimate legislative interest in discouraging prurient interests in autonomous sex." And that "it is enough for a legislature to reasonably believe that commerce in the pursuit of orgasms by artificial means for their own sake is detrimental to the health and morality of the State."
What rocks have these judges been living under if they think that ppl who use sex toys do so alone?

Interestingly enuf, cops and judges are exempted from the law. I hate to think what jailers need dildos for.

Still, I guess it does beat a busted broomstick.

Click here: Toying with your freedom -

Thanks for the tip: Click here:

Christopher Hitchens... a long time Leftie who has famously broken with the Left over the War on Islamism. In his Slate column on the decline of the term "Arab street" he makes some other points as well.
The London-based newspaper Al Quds al-Arabi, which has for some time been a surrogate voice for "insurgent" talk in the Arab diaspora, polled its readers after the Iraqi elections and had the grace to print the result. About 90 percent had been favorably impressed by the sight of Iraqi and Kurdish voters waiting their turn to have a say in their own future....

(P)ropagandists...have lately been flourishing the term "Islamophobia." This word, or slogan, has been gaining ground among soft defenders of Islamism in Europe. It is used to put a stop to discussion about the political aims of Islamists in non-Islamic societies, and it has most recently generated great nervousness in Britain—sufficient nervousness to decide the Blair government to introduce legislation to make criticism of Islam into a prohibited hate crime.

Here again, the most persuasive evidence is the evidence that looks us in the face. In Iraq, Muslim militants place bombs in the mosques of those Muslims they regard as heretics. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, too, the Salafi and Wahhabi extremists commit murder against Muslims they deem unclean or unorthodox. And in the West, there are non-Muslims who excuse such atrocities as "resistance." These are often the same as those who hailed what they thought of as the "street." I don't think they should be indicted for hate crimes, but they should be made to understand that what they say is hateful and criminal, as well as sectarian. The battle for clarity of language is a part of this larger contest, and it is time for the opponents of terror and bigotry to become very much less apologetic and defensive on this score.
The term "Islamophobe" may be taking on the same usefulness which "Racist!" has long enjoyed as a debate stopper. It relieves the user of having to address the recipient's points.

Just so, I think the term War on Terror is a misnomer. We are in a war against people, not a technique. The people we fight are Islamic fascists, those who work to impose by force their version of Islam upon all the rest of the world, including all of the many Muslims who do not share the Islamists' beliefs. They are the ones who call for the extermination of all who are not Muslims of the correct sort, and the current war to bring some reasonable democratic government to secular Iraq is aimed ultimately at the despotic governments, secular and Islamist, which provoke and promote the fascists.

Click here: The Arab Street - A vanquished cliché. By Christopher Hitchens

Thanks to James Taranto: Click here: OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today

Monday, February 28, 2005

Here there be dragons

The Dutch Problem

Some Dutch are coming to think they have a major problem on their hands. The problem isn't Muslims, for some of the most prominent critics are Muslim. The problem is unassimilated Islamists who are taking advantage of Dutch tolerance and welfare payments and who appear to be increasingly violent. How far should tolerance go?
(Holland) can still seem a parody of itself — a magistrate ruled recently that an armed robber was entitled to a tax rebate on the cost of his gun as a tool of his trade..."We have been tolerant to the nontolerant, and we got intolerance back," Wilders says.
This is far too long to quote more from- 6 pages in the London Times- but well worth reading by anyone interested in seeing what is going on in Europe. One conclusion: "The Dutch may be drawing the wrong conclusions, but they are surely right to be asking the questions."

Time waster

Best not go here at work.

Click here: Pong movie

Thanks to JMS via RGS.

An overlooked Democratic Party faction?

John Webster, professor of animal husbandry at Bristol University:
“Cows look calm, but really they are gay nymphomaniacs,” he said....

Donald Broom, professor of animal welfare at Cambridge University, who is presenting other research at the conference, will describe how cows can also become excited by solving intellectual challenges.
Driving through Wisconsin will never be quite the same.

The London Times has the whole story. Best to read it yerself: Click here: Times Online - Sunday Times,,2087-1502933,00.html

Thanks for the tip: Click here: Arts & Letters Daily - ideas, criticism, debate

Confused tripe

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor from 1993-1997, starts out well enuf:
To claim that people shouldn't have access to Wal-Mart or to cut-rate airfares or services from India or to Internet shopping, because these somehow reduce their quality of life, is paternalistic tripe. No one is a better judge of what people want than they themselves.
Then Reich engages in his own tripe, which may be blamed but not excused on space constraints. It is his job to make his point persuasive.
The only way for the workers or citizens in us to trump the consumers in us is through laws and regulations that make our purchases a social choice as well as a personal one. A requirement that companies with more than 50 employees offer their workers affordable health insurance, for example, might increase slightly the price of their goods and services. My inner consumer won't like that very much, but the worker in me thinks it a fair price to pay.
So why did Mr. Reich not just go to the American store selling over-priced merchandise in the first place? He feels guilty that he didn't, and needs to expiate his guilt by using the government to force him- and his fellow Americans- to Buy American. Essentially a "Stop me before I shop again" at the point of the regulators' guns.

One problem with this column is that he makes not the slightest attempt to tell us how his regulations would encourage Americans to buy American. He offers only nostrums which would make American goods and services even less competitive by driving up government-imposed costs. How does that help?

Reich knows perfectly well that driving up American costs will not help if Americans are allowed to shop overseas: the only way he could make this work is by imposing the same costs on overseas companies: that is, making American laws apply to those in India, Taiwan, Malaysia, and everywhere else. He knows that, but he doesn't make that obvious point.

Reich may have sophisticated arguments, but he makes none here, and that failure makes his column in fact tripe. Shame on the former Secretary of Labor.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Is the CIA too kindly to terrorists?

Pretty interesting debate. Apparently the restrictions ended up provoking the "extraordinary rendition" program.
The Bush memo... gives the CIA broad powers to use lethal force against suspected al-Qaida terrorists, superseding a series of such documents signed by President Clinton that had provided much more limited authorities for individual operations.

The Clinton-era documents generally took weeks, even months, to prepare, in part because they were scrutinized with enormous care by administration lawyers, according to officials familiar with the process...

"It got so ridiculous," he told UPI. "When we were training for an operation to capture bin Laden, the lawyers made us build an ergonomic chair in which he would be comfortable. ... At one point we took three rolls of tape to the lawyers (at the National Security Council) -- duct tape ... masking tape and white adhesive tape -- so they could decide which we could use to put over his mouth that would be least uncomfortable."

He angrily contrasted the lawyers' attitude to the risks they were prepared to order CIA operatives to undertake.

"They were more than willing to send my officers out into the Western part of the United States to practice landing a C-130 without lights at night and risk their lives doing that," he said, "but they were worried about this damn Saudi's beard being irritated by tape."
Thanks to VolokhConspiracy:

Space yachts and Russian Submarines

Robin McKie and Nick Paton Walsh report from Moscow:
A spacecraft that flies on sunbeams is about to begin its travels across the solar system. A group of American and Russian scientists are preparing to launch a probe with giant, wafer-thin plastic sails that can catch sunlight just as a yacht's sails fill with wind.

Cosmos-1 has been designed to tack across space without using rockets and could form the forerunner of a network of solar observatories that would hover over the sun to provide early warnings of disruptive magnetic storms, or deliver instruments to remote space stations and planetary exploration teams.

The probe, to be launched from a Russian nuclear missile submarine, is made up of a fan of eight 15-metre sails, each thinner than a dustbin bag but stiffened and coated with mirror material.
Sailing thru space has been in the sci-fi books forever, but maybe it is finally going to happen.

It's in the Observer: Click here: The Observer International Space yacht rides to stars on rays of sunlight

Larry Summers has some supporters

Must be troglodytes. An AP story in the NYTimes:
Harvard University president Lawrence Summers has suffered acrimonious condemnation, and may have jeopardized his job, for suggesting that the underrepresentation of women in engineering and some scientific fields may be due in part to inherent differences in the intellectual abilities of the sexes. But Summers could be right....

``Among people who do the research, it's not so controversial. There are lots and lots of studies that show that mens' and womens' brains are different,'' says Richard J. Haier, a professor of psychology in the pediatrics department of the University of California Los Angeles medical school....

``I think it's an outrage that certain questions -- that real, important questions -- can't be raised in an academic atmosphere, that research that's well-known can't be presented without some sort of hysterical response,'' says Linda S. Gottfredson, a psychologist at the University of Delaware.
As they say, read the whole thing: Click here: The New York Times > AP > Science > Summers' Remarks Supported by Some Experts

And then there is James Atlas' NYTimes Week in Review column:
It's not that Mr. Summers thinks of himself as a conservative. He was Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, and before that, chief economist of the World Bank.

What's made Mr. Summers so controversial, said Nicholas Lemann, a Harvard graduate and now the dean of Columbia University's journalism school, is that he's conservative "not in his politics, but in the context of the university." "Just about everything he's done that's gotten attention is about a tug to the center," Mr. Lemann said....

By being naturally and deliberately provocative, he has challenged campus liberals, which is not what campus liberals are accustomed to. Click here: The New York Times > Week in Review > The Battle Behind the Battle at Harvard
Virginia Postrel also has some comments in the Business section of the NYT: Click here: The New York Times > Business > Economic Scene: Some Economists Say the President of Harvard Talks Just Like Them