IDEALISTS STRIKE BACK

A last attempt by the moralists, universalists and idealists to demonstrate the weakness of Kaplanx92s argument. Check out the last post in this monthx92s Book Club.

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BOOBS FOR BOOMERS

Chris Caldwell canx92t take his eyes off the new Sports Illustrated.

EMAILS OF THE DAY: One reader gets fed up with the Afghan government:

Am I the only one who’s getting a little sick of these ungrateful assholes “We want you to leave NOW. But first, settle this conflict between these two ‘warlords’.” “Don’t try to tell US whether we can grow opium, but you need to give us billions of dollars of aid to ‘rebuild’ an infrastructure that never existed.” “Just because we actually live in this country doesn’t mean that we’re responsible for the actions of our government. America is responsible because they didn’t stick around long enough after we repelled the Soviets. With American arms. But we don’t want you interfering in our affairs.” Maybe someone should point out to them that their government attacked us, and it was only our charitable natures that made us distinguish between the Taliban and the “innocent citizens of Afghanistan”. How many other military campaigns have been prosecuted in such a way. These people seem to think they’re doing us some sort of stinking favor. I think it would be a good idea for Sec. Powell to advise their president otherwise, and to let him know that we’ll leave when we’re damned good and ready.

And then therex92s this brief take:

Didn’t you know that 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot?

Keep x91em coming.

(GAY) MEN’S FITNESS:Compared to Men’s Fitness, Details is Penthouse. Here’s a magazine devoted to endless pictures of the male physique and dedicated to men who work out obsessively. But as with many other all-male institutions with more than their fair share of gays (the boy scouts, the priesthood, the military, etc.), there seems to be a need to over-emphasize heterosexuality in response. A reader notes the introductory paragraphs to the first four articles in the current (March) issue. “A Stronger Neck in 10 Minutes” says it’s likely that the reader’s neck muscles get worked “only when the Heidi Klum look-alike saunters by at the gym.” “Recharge Yourself,” about the benefits of spa time, begins with the author stating “…I can watch the brunette sink slowly into the hot water, her face crinkling with pleasure as the water slips over the tops of her breasts.” “Five Fast Stress Busters” opens with “It would be nice if you could spend all afternoon in the park … contemplating the deeper meanings of the Victoria’s Secret catalog.” The writer of “Aqua Fat Loss” describes his workout boredom by saying “Like a husband who knows the contours of his wife’s body all too well, I had practically memorized every crack in my local sidewalks.” Doesn’t this strike you as a little much? Isn’t there a way in which you can write for gay and straight male readers without this overly-defensive, macho-hetero swaggering? Or are the editors perfectly aware that a large plurality of their readers are gay and are terrified that their straight readers will panic at the thought?

WHATx92S UP

The Democrats start attacking the war on terror; Judge x91outsx92 Cheneyx92s task-force; New York Times, Colin Powell praise Arafat, back Saudi plan on Middle East; Opus Dei founder to be named a saint.

BLAIR BACKS BUSH: It may splinter his own party but Tony Blair seems full-square behind the Bush administrationx92s concern about Iraq, Iran, North Korea and any other state attempting to acquire or disseminate weapons of mass destruction. “I certainly agree with [president Bush] very strongly that weapons of mass destruction represent a real threat to world stability,x94 Blair told the Australian Broadcasting Company. “Those who are engaged in spreading weapons of mass destruction are engaged in an evil trade and it is important that we make sure that we take action in respect of it. I think that George Bush has shown tremendous leadership since 11 September. He has acted always in a very measured way, in a calm way, but he is right to raise these issues and certainly he has our support in doing so.” Grim news for the appeaseniks x96 and the Tories. Good news for everyone else x96 especially Iraqis. Iranians, and North Koreans.

WAITING FOR JESSE:Guess who still hasnx92t sent in his 2000 tax return?

ISLAM MEANS PEACE: First Pakistani Sunnis shoot Shi-ites at a mosque. Now, Indian Muslims massacre Hindus. At some point, we have to infer that this religion has degenerated in parts into a murderous cult. Can you imagine the headlines if Christian fundamentalists did similar things?

BOOK CLUB:One last question for Bob Kaplan x96 about Vietnam. Later today, your final emails.

THE SHAMELESS VON HOFFMAN: Youx92d think that Nicholas von Hoffman, whose prediction of disaster in Afghanistan was so wrong he made it even after Kabul had fallen, might be feeling a little sheepish these days. If journalists were in any way accountable for their idiotic pronouncements, he would have taken a yearx92s leave of absence after apologizing. But no. Hex92s at it again. This time, hex92s urging the European Union to become a new super-power to restrain the idiotic United States. His comment on the conduct of the current war tells you all you need to know:

Bill Clinton and the Marines were bad enough, lurching here and there across the planet in Mr. Clintonx92s aimless armed escapades. He pales, however, in comparison to George W. Bush, who has taken on the role of a latter-day Peter the Hermit, calling for crusades against the “axis of evil.” The top elected official of the worldx92s only superpower is besotted with the idea that he can say and do anything without fear of any consequences, because nowhere in the world is there a set of teeth which can come back to bite him. Youx92d think that the catastrophe of Sept. 11 would have taught him better.

Youx92d think that the catastrophe of September 11 would have taught Nick von Hoffman something as well. But some people never learn.

LONE BLOGGER SKEWERS THE GUARDIAN: If you want a good example of why blogging can leave professional journalism in the dust, check out this inspired little screed. It dissects the Guardianx92s recent foray into Alabama (to report on all those moronic Yanks). Itx92s brought to you by James Lileks and it will make your day.

STAGGERINGLY HOMOGENEOUS UTAH: A reader writes:

It’s a pity that Utah (with it’s 85.3% non-Hispanic white population) isn’t as diverse as socialist Vermont (96.2%) or liberal Maine (96.5%) or Byrd’s West Virginia (94.6%) or Dashchle’s South Dakota (88.0%) or liberal Wisconsin (87.3%) or Wellstone’s Minnesota (88.2%). Oops, how can those caring diverse states be less diverse than repressive Utah? Well, maybe someday it can be as diverse as progressive Oregon (83.5%). But of course, those conservative Mormons will never be as diverse as Kennedy’s Massachusetts (81.9%) or Rhode Island (81.9%). That 3.4% difference is just too vast. Worse, Gore’s Tennessee (79.2%) and hip Washington (78.9%) are beyond reach with their overwhelming 6.1% and 6.4% leads. How do the people in Utah live in such a terrible close-minded world? By the way, the US average is 69.1% (numbers come from Census 2000).

Take that, Mr. Janofsky!

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND BLOGS: If, like me, youx92ve come to be skeptical of almost every statistic you read in the papers, donx92t give up on stats altogether. (My boyfriend, whox92s a stats professor, has exerted enormous pressure to make me write that sentence. But I believe it anyway.) Herex92s a great antidote: itx92s called STATS, and itx92s a handy web-resource that examines and debunks phony stats, surveys and reports on a regular basis. You might also want to check out Joel Bestx92s recent book, x93Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists,x94 and most things written by Michael Fumento.

AND NOW, A SCIENCE BLOG: Since Ix92m on a blog-roll here, I thought Ix92d mention two more. One is about science, pharmaceuticals, bio-tech and related issues. Itx92s by a working medicinal chemist who knows his stuff and can help you understand various public policy issues related to science. The post that impressed me was his assessment of recent HIV news. But he also has a smart new post on Imclone, about which he recently and obviously made a bad stock call. But guess what? He fesses up in a matter of hours and explains why he still thinks hex92s right. Another diverting blog on a theme dear to my heart is one called relapsedcatholic.com. Great links on contemporary religious issues.

NOW THAT HEx92S GOON: Spike Milligan subsided yesterday into the grave. He was a comic genius; a profoundly moral man, whose unpopular stances (against abortion, for animal rights) were quirkily sincere. As the Guardian notes today,

Probably his most famous – or notorious remark – was in 1994 when, at the age of 76, he was receiving a Lifetime Achievement Comedy Award. A letter praising him from the Prince of Wales, an enormous fan, was read out – and in front of a stuffed-shirt audience and millions of TV viewers, Milligan declared: “Little groveling bastard …”

Ballsy, no? My own favorite bit of comedy from him was the
line he would always utter when some piece of slapstick sent him crashing to the floor: x93Thank heaven the ground broke my fall.x94 I know, I know. But it always made me laugh.

THEY STILL DONx92T GET IT

x94This isn’t a failing of the church; it’s an attack upon its very integrity-by its own clergy.x94 My initial take on the growing Catholic pedophile scandal x96 posted opposite.

WHATx92S UP

The war expands to the republic of Georgia; Skilling says hex92s innocent; foot-and-mouth disease breaks out again in Britain; home sales soar despite recession; inventor of voice-mail leaves final message.

LIES, DAMNED LIES AND BOOZE: Here’s why I almost donx92t bother reading stories any more that announce “startling” new statistics about some social “problem” or other. The story blared all over the papers recently was that teen drinking makes up about a quarter of all alcohol consumption. As the New York Times points out today, thatx92s baloney. The number is probably around 11 percent x96 with the 25 percent coming from a loaded sample, skewed to teens. The quote from a spokesperson for the do-gooder group, the Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, tells you the thinking behind the exaggeration: “It’s very unfortunate. We didn’t reweight the data. But we think the 11.4 percent number is way too low, since there’s so much underreporting.” Unfortunate? Itx92s a LIE x96 designed to advance an agenda. But the lie is defended because the x93causex94 is just, and, in any case, the busy-bodies believe therex92s underreporting. Oh, that’s all right then. This is the same mentality that gives us a surging epidemic of x93hate-crimesx94 where none exists; and itx92s the same mindset that goes out to prove resurgent HIV infection, even when therex92s scant evidence to support it. My advice is to ignore most such studies. The occasional report thatx92s honest is vastly outweighed by the self-serving, puritanical propaganda that these groups exist to spew out. Now, Ix92m gonna pour myself a drink. Or five.

BOOK CLUB:As we reach the end of our first book, you pose four questions to the author Bob Kaplan, about democracy, patriotism, the meaning of evil, and the necessity to back authoritarianism at times. Bob answers.

GREAT INSULTS: Who says theyx92re dead? Herex92s the irreplaceable Lucianne Goldberg going off on David x93Therex92s a Gray Poodle Near My Nipplex94 Brock:

Why two of the media’s more prominent scribes, Frank Rich in the NY Times and here, Howie Kurtz in the Washington Post, have decided that serial liar David Brock is worth their attention is best left to assorted shrinks. Brock’s new book will come and go and he will be left with “career issues.” This confused, sick puppy may want to check on the cut off age for the Chippendale’s Japanese touring company. That’s about all there will be left to him to pay the rent.

Thanks to Mickey Kaus for noticing this first.

MEDIA CONDESCENSION WATCH: x93During seven years of planning, state and local leaders looked longingly into their Olympic future, half promising, half hoping that Salt Lake’s 17 days with destiny would change forever the profile of a city known best as the Mormon capital of the world and of a state known widely for its staggering conservatism and homogeneity, owing to the influence of the church. Yet it remains far from clear to what degree, if any, those enduring aspirations might be achieved.x94 x96 Michael Janofsky, New York Times. Look, I donx92t want to live in Utah x96 but why is it self-evident that x93staggering conservatism and homogeneityx94 are qualities to be abhorred and recovered from? And what is this unsubstantiated prejudice doing in a news story?

THE POINT OF A VACCINE: From everything Ix92ve read, Ix92d say the chances of a viable vaccine for HIV are still remote. But something like a vaccine could indeed be useful to reduce disease progression in the already infected, as this article suggests. Above all, science is beginning to destroy the dichotomy of HIV prevention and HIV treatment. Increasingly, HIV treatment works as HIV prevention. How? Because effective treatment can bring viral levels down to levels that make infection of others that much harder. Itx92s win-win. Better to drop the tired old debate about whether we need to put more resources into prevention rather than into a cure by understanding that the two are intricately connected.

THE BUSH REVOLUTION: Herex92s a cogent, smart and prescient piece of analysis from Stratfor on how the current administration is transforming Americax92s role in the world x96 largely for the better.

DEVIL IN DETAILS: My eye caught the recent cover of Details for some unaccountable reason today. It has one Josh Hartnett in full, dark-eyed splendor posing on it. Ix92ve no doubt this ostensibly straight guyx92s magazine picked up some female and gay male readers this month. But the headline shows the inevitable confusion of a mag trying to get gay readers while pretending to be strictly hetero. It reads: x93Josh Hartnett Dated Gisele and You Didnx92t.x94 Now ask yourself: why would a straight guy want to read about a pretty boy who is more successful at bedding beautiful babes than he is? Why, further, would he be interested in looking at semi-pornographic pictures of another man x96 the like of which are liberally plastered inside? Perhaps itx92s playing to straight-guy insecurity. (That would also account for the cover line: x93Your Unit and You: How You Measure Up to the Other Guy.x94) But perhaps itx92s more indication of how menx92s magazines, after a brief dalliance with honestly including gay male readers, now feel quite happy to exploit gay menx92s dollars while insulting their intelligence and writing excruciating, bizarre prose for their straight readers. At least I didnx92t buy the thing. But I enjoyed the pictures.

NOW WITH PAYPAL!

Many of you have bugged me for a long time to add PayPal to our list of ways you can contribute to the site. Well, your wish is our command x85 eventually. If you want to help keep this site going, visit the Tipping Point today and use PayPal if thatx92s your preferred option. Last year, these contributions were the only reason we stayed afloat. And theyx92re still vital for an enterprise with no direct advertising. Be a part of blogging revolution – for as little as a few bucks.

LEWIS ON OLD ENRONIANS

Wouldnx92t it be great if Michael Lewis had an op-ed column in the New York Times rather than Paul Krugman? Wex92d even get to laugh twice a week or so. Still, Michael has a newish column at Bloomberg.com, and the latest is the usual corker. (Full disclosure: Michael is a good friend and probably my favorite contemporary journalist). Herex92s a snippet:

[E]verything we know so far about Enron suggests that many, many employees were, at the very least, willing accomplices to the schemes dreamed up by their bosses. And now they want their money back! They are like accessories to a failed bank heist who demand restitution because the police confiscated their share of the take.

You can enjoy the rest here.

DEAR MUM AND DAD: Londonx92s Daily Express just published the first letters sent by prisoners from Camp X-Ray. Theyx92re from British al Qaeda members and, whatever else they show, they seem to me to indicate perfectly decent treatment. The Express is not online but herex92s the relevant excerpt:

Iqbal’s letter is badly-spelled – with capital and lower-case letters scattered at random.
He begins: “Just a few lines to say that I’m well and doing fine. I’m now in
Cuba and it very hot.”
“How is everyone at home. Is Mum and Dad okay?
“Tell them not to worry. I’m fine. Tell my friends AJ and Haddam that I’m alright.
“I’ve got a Koran and prayer from the Red Cross.
“I’m getting three meals a day and have to shit in a bucket in my cell.
“Tell Mum and Dad I love them and to make Dua – pray – for me and to forgive me for my mistakes.”
The former factory worker then asks about Nasreen – the bride whom he
travelled to Pakistan to wed in an arranged marriage last October.
Both Iqbal and former student Rasul, 24, demand to know how their football teams – Manchester United and Liverpool respectively – are doing.
The letters also reveal that prisoners at the camp are able to talk to each
other. Iqbal writes: “Shafiq and Ruhal are fine tell their family, but I do not know what happened to Munir.”
Munir Ali, 21, is the younger brother of Syeda Khatun, 33, the second woman Bangladeshi councillor in Britain.
Rasul’s letters is less positive.
He writes: “It’s very hot here and I can’t take the heat. The food they give us is terrible.
”I have lost three stone in weight since I left home.”
But Rasul jokes in one letter: “I bet Asif’s Dad is still waiting in Pakistan for the wedding.”

ILLEGAL DEPORTATIONS?: If anything in this story from the Times of London is true, itx92s deeply disturbing.