Saturday, April 06, 2002

Excellent article here:

by Saul Singer about the Middle East. Odd, that I understand that Iraq is, in a way, the most modern country in the Arab world, the one with the best potential for emerging from Islamo-Fascism, as Sullivan calls it.

Thatcher and Koizumi

Noticed a post on Instapundit about the new leader of Japan. It's here:

I really don't know how to put a link in properly. But that will come in time. I saw this post when I was listening to Neil Young unplugged. Something about North Ontario. Don't despair, Japan. You weren't actually all that good anyway. After all, who won the Second World War, anyway? You're not helpless. Kudos to the group which did Marx and Lennon and Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand me the Pliers, whoever that was. Never thought I could forget. Drinks (3 - 4 more on the way)

Just finished a book on the Emperor Julian, who ruled for less than two years in 361-363. It's a Greek tragedy of the most predictable kind, but fascinating nonetheless. In fact, I just finished two books about Julian, one the old standard by Gore Vidal, one more historical and sobersided by Bowersock. They tell the same story.

I've always thought of Julian as like Akhenaton, the Egyptian Pharaoh who reigned about 1350 BC. He wanted to change the world, he was egoistic, introverted, infantile in many ways but far more human than any of his number. Tiberius and Ramses the Great seem like stick figures next to Julian and Akhenaton. Sure, Tiberius was torn by doubts and bitterness - human traits - if you believe Suetonius. And Ramses was egoistic in the good old monarchical way. But neither dared what Julian and Akhenaton did. Neither went hammer and tongs against the received wisdom of the era, fighting an established creed to install what they saw as truth. Gee, there might be some parallels to Objectivists fighting these days against received collectivism, of the "Left" or "Right", and the anarchism that disguises itself as Libertarianism. Can you imagine an Objectivist ruler, pulling down the liberal idols - affirmative action, Social Security, the war against tobacco, welfare, political correctness - and smashing the conservative icons - tax exemptions for religions, farm subsidies, corporate welfare, tariffs, the drug war? It is so easy to think that any such ruler would face the same end as Julian and Akhenaton. Conspiracies would kill him and inertia would reinstall the old regimes within weeks of his death.

But just maybe this time the forces of rebellion could get it right, could put together an ideology that would have a lasting effect and gain a significant victory that would ring down the ages as a clarion call to those who believe in the individual. We could at least try.

My sister, Flea, who lives in Cairo, Egypt, and is very much against the Israeli operations in Judea and Samaria, sent me an email directing me to this page: It's a PR page for the Palestinians' mental health operation in Gaza. I sent this reply:

Dear Flea,

I went to the Gaza "Health" plan website. It would be funny if it weren't so horrific that an "Authority" that sends teenagers to their deaths to blow up innocent Jewish children, like the teenage German guards at Dachau and Auschwitz, most of whom died at the hands of the Russians and Germans, should have the gall to even talk of "mental health". Of course, that's right, I forgot, Saddam will pay their families $25,000, so the families are actually selling their children's lives, with a bunch of dead Jews - hurrah! - thrown into the bargain. And the poorer, more hopeless families of course need Saddam's money more.
And it all works out pretty well. The kid's father can get a second wife, Arafat gets more martyrs to trade for Saudi money. Oh, no doubt some money goes to fund "mental health care counseling", along the lines of "you will be OK when Saddam, Khadafy, al-Assad and bin Laden march into Jerusalem behind Arafat and work their vengeance on the Jews. Until then, just put on this explosive belt, learn to walk like a Jew, pick out a target with lots of babies in it and don't bother to call me in the morning."

What a joke!!


By the way, anyone who wants to can reach me at "". Someday I'll figure out how to put a reply email box on this blog.

In other news, I hear the Cardinal of Los Angeles is being accused of sexual abuse but, hey, luckily it's OK - it involved a girl!

Thursday, April 04, 2002

FINALLY – a technological advance that meets real needs!

ANTISENSE – OK, I don’t understand it yet, but it looks important.


As I wrote in a letter to the New Republic years ago, there is a simple solution to the English language’s lack of a neuter pronoun. I have been puzzled for years by how writers have accepted the use of “his or hers” or “he or she” or, even worse “s/he” (I hate slashes). I won’t get into the irrationality of constructing sentences containing pronouns with unclear antecedents. I know it’s hard to avoid, although it can be done. Why do we need to change the historical use of “his” when the identity of an antecedent is not known?

The answer brings up all sorts of reflections about the wimping out of American and Western society, especially the idiotic perception that women were oppressed by men – as though women were ever weak and men ever THAT strong! Why, it’s an insult to every woman before 1970, like, for instance, Joan of Arc, Catherine the Great, Queen Elizabeth I, Victoria, Boadicea, Eleanor of Aquitaine, Nell Gwynne and on and on. To believe that the use of language was a factor in helping men oppress women, you have to see women as having been weak and helpless and dumb in the old days. Then, around 1970 or so they became much stronger and smarter because authors started using “she or he” where “he” was perfectly comprehensible. Only with that simple-minded belief would you think it necessary to butcher the language the way almost every book published these days does in order to avoid slipping back into the Middle Ages.

For it was always the economic, religious and philosophical environment that dictated what women and men did. Capitalism and its attendant technological advances made it possible for women to do things they had never done before. The use of language reflected this change. The way the change has been made so far, however, has made writing clumsy, interrupted by constant changes of referent.

Some authors have even adopted a bizarre policy of switching between “she” and “he” in successive situations, to “level the playing field”. It reminds me of the rule in college basketball that, when a “jump ball” situation comes up, the ball goes to teams in turn. I prefer the good old jump ball. A basketball game is, after all, an athletic contest, not an exercise in sharing. This switching always catches me by surprise. “Where,” I think, “did that female come from?”

The easy solution? Men use “he”, women use “she”. Think about it.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

Paper or Plastic

Is it me or is it obvious that plastic grocery bags are superior to paper? Even in the neo-Puritan "green" weenies' calculations, they have to come out on top. How many resources does it take to produce a paper bag? To transport it? How well does it serve its intended purpose? How much room does it take in dumps - if you think that's important? On every calculus, plastic comes first. Of course, I like plastic because it's better for me. I can carry ten pounds of groceries with one finger. Try that with paper, especially in the rain! Why, the savings in broken pickle jars alone must make up for the only reason I can see even a "greenie" complaining about plastic. They're not as "biodegradable" as paper. But wait a minute, do you really want things breaking down in your landfill, releasing possibly toxic inks and plastic solvents, not to mention habanero salsa residue? I don't think so.

Of course, the weenies hate plastic with an irrational burning hatred because it's plastic, it's not produced by killing something, just by refining petroleum. It's not "renewable". The inconsistencies and baseless fears behind such emotion don't bear going into. And as for the wackos who bring their own cloth bags to the store and throw them at the bagboy, have they ever considered the resources needed to produce, transport and, of course, WASH those things? Plastic still wins.
Following is a letter I sent to a columnist complaining about SUV's at an auto show. I've got to figure out how to put links in!

Dear Mr. Kuntzman,

I've got great news for you. The sky is not falling. You can relax and stop worrying that the ozone "layer" is breaking down, that the earth is warming, that the rivers are getting polluted, that the trees and animals are dying off. In a hundred years our descendants will still be here, living better than we do today. They will be smarter, probably stronger and happier than we are. They will live in a more beautiful, more productive and safer world than we can even envision, thanks to individual ambition, advanced technology and educated appreciation of the pleasures of life, from cigars to wine to fast cars and, yes, mountain climbing.

In your article about SUV's you mention the "environment" about every other word. You must be terribly concerned. Relax.

Robert Speirs
Tallahassee, Florida

Monday, April 01, 2002


OK, I'm surry. I didn't get it. When is a "flower" not a flower? Sometimes one feels really stupid, but I suppose stupider if one never saw it. Mr. Maltby, you have my cringing, abject beg-pardons. That's all I'll say. One wouldn't want to give away the plot. By the way, my internet connection was down this weekend, so I couldn't comment on any new puzzling. I haven't got very far in "Loops". I still have the impression, though, that Cox and Rathvon's clues are quite well done. It's confusing not to have a ghost of a clue how to fit the words into a diagram. That will change, though, in the usual rhythm of the puzzle solver. Does solving a puzzle recapitulate one's entire educational process, ontogenitically vs. phylogenetically? Or have I been doing too many puzzles?