The Spine

Hill Corruption
October 18, 2006

Maybe there's no purpose in calling attention to an editorial in the New York Times. Either you get the hard copy of the paper every day ... or you can't get an editorial on the day it's printed, since it gets caught behind the maddening (but quite understandable) Times Select fence for 24 hours. On the other hand, sometimes when there's a link from one web site to another, you can jump the fence. I don't really know what'll happen here. But "The Odor From Capitol Hill" is what the Times lede is called, and you can almost smell the reek simply by reading.

The 'lancet' Distortion
October 18, 2006

You doubtless have read about the study in the October Lancet about the Iraq war's death statistics. Maybe you've even cited these numbers gravely at dinner as evidence of President Bush's callousness. I doubt that many of you have read the original paper. I know I hadn't until this research document suddenly appeared on my computer. OK, I've now read them both. And you can, too. Here is the initial publication in Lancet. And here is a calm and modest critique of the Lancet report--no, it is actually fastidious.

Comfort Level
October 18, 2006

When Jack Straw, the former foreign minister of Great Britain and now the leader of the Labour Party in the House of Commons, started the ruckus about Muslim women and the niqab, the full-faced veil with tight openings at the eyes, I thought it would soon pass. Now, there's nothing much in America so visually strange to cause such a fuss. Hassidic dress, though a bit strange, doesn't hide the face at all. Neither does Amish garb, nor the variations on Amish. (What's truly uncomfortable is Shaker furniture, but that's another matter entirely. Buying expensive Shaker is your choice.

The Artist's Muse
October 18, 2006

Here is how Jack Cowart, the executive director of the Lichtenstein Foundation, characterizes the work of his dead client, the Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein: "Roy's work was a wonderment of the graphic formulae and the codification of sentiment that had been worked out by others. ... The [cartoon strip] panels were changed in scale, color, treatment, and in their implications.

Divine Right
October 18, 2006

Once again from the ever-reliable and ever-revelatory MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute. This time, Wednesday night, MEMRI brings us Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's confession of his direct relationship with God ... and what that means for the rest of us. Believe me, it's not good news.

Bitter Rivals
October 17, 2006

In Stamford, Connecticut yesterday, Joe Lieberman, Ned Lamont, and what's-his-name debated in what The New York Times characterized as "a stilted and at times awkward exchange punctuated by sarcastic swipes from the candidates." The dispatch did not quote very much that I thought notably sarcastic.

History Lesson
October 17, 2006

Well, if you like potted history, you can have it fresh on a regular basis in The Boston Globe from Jim Carroll. Yesterday, he wrote his column about how it came to be that North Korea had a nuclear weapon. He didn't tell his readers that the present communist tyrant Kim Jong Il is the son of the last communist tyrant Kim Il Jong, who ran the tyranny in 1948.

Power Broker
October 17, 2006

Revive the peace process. Revive the peace process. Well, there can be no peace in the Middle East, said Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos (according to yesterday's Haaretz), without Syria. "There will be no final peace in the Middle East if there is no solution of the Syrian-Israeli relationship. If we need a comprehensive peace, all actors have to be involved in a peaceful agenda," Moratinos asserted. Moratinos said that he had won a pledge from Bashir Assad to work for peace in the region. "That's what I got from President Assad and (foreign minister) Moallem ...

Iraq's Paradise Lost
October 17, 2006

Michael Luo reports in this morning's New York Times that as many as 100,000 Christians have abandoned their homes in Iraq during the last three years. And, that the exodus has accelerated since the speech in Germany by Pope Benedict XVI. The troubles may have calmed down elsewhere, Luo reports. But they have intensified in Iraq. Churches have been bombed and believers have been murdered. Apparently, it was better for Christians under Saddam Hussein. Maybe he was too busy killing Shia and Kurds. Still, the lot of Christians in modern Iraq has not been at all happy.

Edward Said's Legacy
October 16, 2006

Edward Said died three years ago, and some people are in mourning still. But his star in the academy is dimming, although there is still a 15-year backlog of underemployed graduate students who were trained in his flashy glaze. How far can one really go with endless versions of "Imperialism and Demasculinization in the Sahara"? There is something quite desperate in the effort to perpetuate this gloss, as when you try to revive scarred pine floors with polyurethane. In Wednesday's Times there was a review by Jeannette Catsoulis of two documentaries about Said.