Evil Forces in the World

Reflections on ''Evil Forces in the World,'' as well as occasional remarks concerning ''Good Forces in the World.''

Friday, October 04, 2002

LEE BOLLINGER, ALSO KNOWN AS 'THE BOLLIE',
Once again calls for affirmative action during his Columbia inaugural address: thank goodness this man isn't the president of Harvard University. What a schmuck. I mean, affirmative action: I'm agnostic, if not indifferent. I'm sympathetic to the Richard Epstein case, but it would involve a marked departure and is perhaps unwise for that reason. But why the bloody crusade? No, I will not be cowed: no, it is not the crucial civil-rights question of our time. People are dying on their goddamn feet due to starvation, and the world grows smaller. There will 25 million AIDS victims in India alone within the decade -- and you're talking about affirmative action for, let's be generous, middle-class North Americans attending, generally speaking, high-quality suburban feeder schools and independent schools. Merry Christmas. The death toll rises. Everyone's happy.

Let's be serious for a moment.

Of course, I'm being ungenerous; Bollinger did "for Columbia's greater engagement with the local community and the world." A brief aside in a statement primarily devoted to condemning those with the temerity to suggest that positive discrimination regimes are suspect for a wide variety of reasons. Well done. I'm told that Bollinger is a gifted professor, and for that he deserves praise. It's a shame that he is so closely associated with a dubious cause; the University of Michigan's affirmative action program, which Bollinger tirelessly championed for many years, is one of the most poorly designed programs among America's leading state universities. Moreover, the legal defense of the program rested on a number of shady intellectual shortcuts. This is not to say that the programs ought to be struck down as a matter of law. My inclination is to give wide berth to state universities -- though not to exempt said institutions from federal copyright laws, etc., but that's a manifest absurdity for another time.

If I understand correctly, the current issue of National Review features an article by a very sharp young man I know on "the Bollie." He is an undergraduate student at Columbia. I haven't read the article as yet, but there's no doubt in my mind that it'll be well worth the cover price. Be sure to check it out.

Yes, I do think this Bollinger is evil, much like the proliferation of unsightly open-t__d footwear. (The word t__s strikes me as obscene, at least right now.) It reminds me of an incident that occurred some years ago. A young woman wrote a column concerning a tuition increase at Harvard College: a perfectly legitimate subject for a student newspaper, I think we'll all agree. But the contents of the column, which was, in all fairness, no doubt written in great haste, shocked me: so abysmal, so small-minded as to border on the absurd. And so I wrote a letter, which I've found due to the wonders of google.com, my second or third favorite thing on the planet (in no small part due to the miraculous Google cache, which allows me to read expensive things for free):

To the editors:

The notion that Harvard's tuition increase represents an assault on the middle class, as suggested by
[Name removed by editor for purposes of confounding google-happy columnists] (Opinion, "Disappearing in the Middle," Mar. 2), doesn't hold water.

As Harvard students, extreme solipsism may lead us to believe that our fate is of crucial importance to the "middle class," broadly conceived. Simply put, it is not. Keep in mind that elite higher education affects only a miniscule number of Americans. The astronomical tuition fees of a Harvard or a Swarthmore are very different from those seen at most public colleges and universities across the country, the real seedbed of the middle class.

And does this in turn represent an injustice since elite education is the key to success? No. An Ivy League education does not give you much of an advantage a few years after graduation, unless you are working-class (not middle-class) or go into academia or high journalism, as demonstrated in a recent study conducted by Alan Krueger and Stacy Berg Dale under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Let's get over ourselves. Should we really be worried about the overwhelmingly white and Asian upper-middle-class kids (we used to call them rich) who have to pay full tuition? Even at the low end, these families aren't hurting, certainly not relative to those in dire need around the world. I'll save my tears for others.

Reihan M Salam '01

Mar. 2, 2001


And worse yet, the rest of the column, if memory serves, was a philippic against the Bush tax cut. And so the two subjects were afforded roughly the same rhetorical weight. Simply smashing. Unsurprisingly, the critique of the tax cut was of the Neanderthal school. Mind you, I'm not a reflexive tax-cutter, and I think the Bush tax cut was, for a whole host of reasons, poorly conceived. But it deserves a responsible, honest, critique; the flaming red bottom of orangutan deserves a more thoughtful critique than that offered by the column in question.

Earlier this evening, I had the great pleasure of speaking to one of my comrades in arms, a fellow Enemy of Evil, and we were discussing a wide variety of pressing issues. As it turns out, this particular friend (his initials, if you must know, are CLP) is an incredibly gifted fellow with a wide range talents, ranging from a truly prodigious memory to a cutting wit to a keen analytical sense. On top of all that, he cuts a dashing figure and is exceptionally charming, so I recommend that all of our female readers hound him from now until the end of time. In fact, that's probably unwise, as it would be both time consuming for the women involved -- who are already, I presume, spending an inordinate amount of time reading this web site, not to mention building a better world for the generations to come by laying miles and miles of railroad track and designing superior missiles, for which I'm very grateful -- and creepy. But yes, we were discussing, among other things, the perennial ideological questions: Where do we stand? Why? And are we comfortable with even the tentative decision? One obvious point to make is that no decisions are, strictly speaking, necessary, but this is a trivial observation: because my good friend is, at present, a law student, the decision is relevant for a variety of reasons. For his benefit, I will not refer to his leanings. Actually, that puts a spanner in the works, as it will make this narrative more or less impossible to follow or, worse yet, moot and rudderless. So I surrender.

Instead, I'll discuss the broader point -- this time through the lens of the often-frustrating Stiglitz book. I reread the Eichengreen review that appeared in Foreign Affairs over the summer, which captures my feelings on the nitty-gritty questions very well. I must say, Stiglitz is very frustrating to read as he's forced to trivialize the very serious arguments of his antagonists -- because this is a book for laypersons, that is. Moreover, he doesn't shy away from impugning the motivations of said antagonists, which is a pet peeve of mine. He does, to be sure, provide carefully worded language in the introduction that moderates the more or less polemical tone of the book. But yes, I throw in my lot with those who are concerned with crowding out -- never reflexively, but as a kind of default position.

And as for comfort. This is a tough call. I had an epiphany several weeks ago while watching the ghastly, yet difficult to resist, program called Elimidate. At one point, a young woman insulted another young woman by saying something like, "she probably couldn't afford to join a sorority." I was mortified. At least two of the four young women competing were, in all likelihood, working class, or perhaps lower middle class: I've deduced this from the fact that both worked quite a bit (one as a cocktail waitress, the other in a similar service-oriented position) while enrolled in two-year degree programs. None were rich by any stretch of the imagination. Similar remarks -- i.e., class-related jabs -- were made involving sartorial choices. This filled me with blind rage. Such behavior is incontrovertibly evil, and it ought to be stopped with the aid of such unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) as the Global Hawk, the Predator.

Back to the matter at hand: I'm not comfortable with fancy-shmancy types who put down other people, particularly other people who work hard. That's just despicable. You'd think this would make me some sort of post-Marxist socialist egalitarian (post-Marxist only because, being charitable, you assume that I'm not a blithering idiot); instead, it leads me to identify with the kind of rough-hewn North American social egalitarianism I identify with the largely mythical "Heartland." I realize that this is a bit silly and perhaps indefensible, but it appeals to me for whatever reason and I plan on sticking with it. The irony, of course, is that I have deep-seated misanthropic tendencies that have only recently manifested themselves. I'm not proud of said tendencies, but why don't you try to enjoy the company of half-wits, drunkards, hoodlums, blowhards, and other goons? I'm not about to try, not again at least.

By the way, I loved the new Pankaj Mishra collection of V.S. Naipaul's non-fiction essays (The Writer and the World). It's great, and so is Mishra (still haven't read The Romantics, which I bought over a month ago, but his journalism is top-notch). There's a review in the new New York Review of Books, but I haven't read it as yet: that comes next. Regardless, I recommend the collection -- I particularly liked the essay on life in Calcutta, as well as the piece on a constituency in Rajasthan -- very highly.

Tony Blair has become a favorite on the American Right due to his fondness for bombing the living daylights out of Iraq, and that's reason enough to like the man, to be sure. But I think there's a lot more to like about him. Yes, Tony Blair is a force of good. As a man of the (ambivalently philo-Victorian, anti-Bolshevik, Shleiferian, free-trading, nation-building) right-wing, I have obvious affinities with the man. For one thing, he invaded Sierra Leone and restored a semblance of order. Not exactly a celebrated gesture, but he did it because it was the right thing to do. And the Third Way has its appealing side; he's gone to the mat, despite ferocious opposition among some of the Labour Party's more primitive elements, for public-private partnerships and substantive competition. To be sure, I find the native hostility towards fox-hunting, grammar schools, and other vestigial remnants of both aristocracy and real excellence overblown and more than a bit scary, but overall there's more to like than to dislike. In fact, perhaps the British Third Way is what the Third Way is under a Westminster-style parliamentary government: you don't have the same formidable institutional hurdles in the way of realizing one exceptionally smart man's policy vision. Again, it's a vision that is far from flawless, but it is also praiseworthy. Well done. IDS is doing a solid job with the Conservatives, it seems, but they're still doomed, at least for now. Like everyone else, I have an awful feeling that Blair will be deposed sooner rather than later and then the balance will inevitably right itself. The Right -- on both sides of the Atlantic -- would do well to find, or to cultivate, a woman or man with Blair's intelligence and conviction, not to mention his keen political instincts.

Thursday, October 03, 2002

Do you love LEGO? And do you love The Godfather?

All will be explained. Evil has a name. Or rather a web site.

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

WHAT'S ALL THE RAGE ON CAMPUS
Nudity.

That's right. Nudity, or at least semi-nudity. And how do I know this? After all, I've been out of college for well over a year. Well, I spend a good deal of time in Morningside Heights, in large part because several of my closest friends, including Cary McClelland and Richard Jean So, both of whom are Enemies of Evil, are currently enrolled in graduate degree programs.

(A short while ago, I met a friend of mine who was literally shocked by the fact that I'm not in graduate school at present. He was not, however, shocked by the fact that I was wearing a diaper and firing a powerful laser ray at the loins of an angry, powerful bear. This is a source of some consternation. Here's hoping that I eventually get some sort of degree, if only so that I can one day have my wedding to myself announced in the New York Times. Incidentally, everyone is always kvetching and moaning over how awfully hoity-toity the New York Times wedding announcements remain; some, including that Slate character, have called for the abolition of the page. If you ask me, it isn't "hoity-toity" enough. For example, even Bengalis are allowed on the page, which ought to shock and dismay all right-thinking citizens. In fact, there's nothing wrong with that. As an American of Bengali descent, I am quite comfortable -- and indeed pleased -- by our newfound social acceptance, but I fear that in a matter of years this will mean that BPT, i.e., Bengali People's Time, will supplant JPT, i.e., Japanese People's Time, as the pace of choice in our increasingly fast-paced, high-tech economy. The fact of the matter is that in today's cutthroat marketplace, we haven't the time for listening to raindrops fall on corrugated tin roofs, which is my one concession to ethnicity -- or rather one of several concessions, including an unabashed love for chicken korma, native dress, and moving my head horizontally in such a way as to suggest that my neck isn't playing much of a role, a sure-fire way to either terrify or antagonize both friends and enemies while paying homage to the glories of classical Indian dance, AKA bharatnatyam, I think. But yeah, aside from that, ethnicity is for the birds. So yes. I've seen several people with not so shmancy degrees on that page. So why the hell did you shell out all of that dough for a degree? The skill set? Give me a goddamn break. What skills? Learning how to schmooze your way through section? Most of these Ivy League cats are chimp-like in their inability to crack open a lousy book, and to eat healthy foods like bananas and berries. What's even more terrifying is that, generally speaking, they're ahead of the game. Good grief: what on earth are they teaching at, say, Williams? Amherst? I shudder at the thought.

All hope lies with the proles. You heard it here first. Of course, I hate the term "proles." But I think you know what I mean.)

Where was I? Right: nudity. So yes, all of the young women are wearing very little in the way of clothing these days. Is it due to a desire to titillate, to arouse the passions of slovenly undergraduate men? I don't think that's exactly right. A part of it, perhaps. I think it's mainly because the kids just don't wear clothes anymore. They don't know how. Clothes? You mean, I can cover my gams? Above thirty-five degrees? Surely that's madness! But yes, it can be done. And, in my humble estimation, ought to be done. Similarly, young men ought to cover up their lousy nipples. Who wants to see these unsightly, ghastly things? Not me, nor anyone else with a sense of common decency. Which is to say six or seven other people, most of whom are doddering old ladies.

A Greco-American -- not unlike a Greco-Roman, but with more in the way of saturated fats -- pointed this out to me. His name is Telis, and not Telos. It's a good thing. That would be way too deep.

What's evil?

Nude nipples.

Thank you.
I still haven't finished Martha Craven Nussbaum's Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach, which I'm revisiting, but I'll let you know when I do. If I don't, send me an e-mail message. Nussbaum's middle name is pretty damn "boss."

I've recently learned that "Craven" is not, in fact, Professor Nussbaum's middle name. In fact, it is her maiden name. As it turns out, she adopted "Nussbaum" after marrying Alan Nussbaum. And as with Erica Jong -- who is not, upon close inspection, Chinese, or even slightly Chinese -- she chose to stick with the name after the end of said marriage. Professor Nussbaum is also a convert to Judaism -- yet another legacy of the star-crossed marriage. Coincidentally, yesterday's hard-hitting episode of JAG, a delightful right-wing romp, featured a Jewish convert. To tell you the truth, I find the notion of converting to Judaism a bit odd, but I gather I'm not alone. By add, I certainly don't mean "worthy of condemnation" or, for that matter, "praiseworthy"; more precisely, it does not seem in keeping with traditional understandings of Judaism, or rather my traditional understanding of traditional understandings about Judaism.

Incidentally, I've started Joseph Stiglitz's Globalization and Its Discontents, which I was sure I wouldn't touch with a barge-pole. It isn't awful by any stretch and, to be sure, makes a number of excellent points, but he calls Andrei Shleifer -- a hero of mine and, if I understand correctly, a mentor to one of my best friends -- a Bolshevik, or rather a man with a Bolshevik approach to transitional economies. This is nothing less than despicable. In an earlier post, now lost deep within the bowels of "the innanet," I described in vivid detail the Ilya Somin case for crushing Bolshevism in its crib. Churchill said yes; various goons, wimps, pansies, and Bolshevik sympathizers said no. Of course, the case is moot as several decades have passed since the harrowing days of the Russian Civil War. The war for hearts and minds, however, goes on.

In fact, Bolshevism is all the rage on campus. No, that's not true. Would you like to know what is all the rage on campus? I'll tell you.
LET'S STAMP OUT TEEN SEX
Last night, I was watching one of my favorite television programs, Smallville. Much to my chagrin, the episode featured a scantily-clad woman with the power to manipulate man with her super-charged "pheromones": Oh for heaven's sake. This is just evil. Smallville is a family program. It's seen by thousands and thousands of youngsters, including impressionable teens and middle schoolers. Do we really need this kind of smut? It's a scandal, and I for one stand firm against it. And yet am I willing to give up on one of my favorite programs? No, not quite.

But I am concerned. The kids are engaging in all kinds of scandalous sex play these days, and they're doing so earlier than ever before; or rather earlier than in recent memory. In fact, I'm not sure if even that is true; I do know that cavemen and cavewomen were presumably keeling over by age twenty-five, and so were probably getting it on as cherubic youths, which is a disturbing thought. And yet we are no longer living in bloody caves, so there's no excuse. We have running water and everything. At least here in North America. Perhaps the Afghans could use some more skin. I'll leave that aside. There's such a thing as a reasonable balance, and I'm not about to argue that said reasonable balance was achieved during the oppressive depths of the Victorian era, when a whole host of sexual minorities were marginalized and oppressed. That's just wrong. We can, however, separate the systematic oppression of sexual minorities from a general celebration of sexual licentiousness, and we ought to do so.

Look, thirteen-year-old kids are simply not ready for smooching, let alone, er, you know. What do they call it ... "getting busy"? Yes. The kids ought to be "getting busy" with schoolwork and team sports. That's right. Or reading books. In all honesty, I feel the same way about the vast majority of nineteen-year-olds, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Does anyone remember the deeply weird Dave Sim, creator of Cerebus? A short while ago, he wrote a deeply weird rant concerning the threat posed by feminism: the rant, called "Tangents," can be found here. What a strange, strange man. The Comics Journal had this to say:

In the essay that followed the discussion of West, Sim proceeded to attack what he proclaims as feminism's intellectual bankruptcy, and its pervasive and insidious influence on the whole of society. "Tangents" is divided into five sections that run 20 pages in total. The topics discussed include: what he sees as the contradictory logic of alimony and affirmative action; the emotion-based nature of women; the unfairness and irresponsibility of "Government-Funded Daycare;" the universal undesirability of being a woman; why women need a good spanking, "given that reason cannnot prevail in any argument with emotion;" the "feminist" opinion that children should be treated as adults; and the inability of women to distinguish themselves from animals. Sim also complained that women are only able to communicate ideas by telling allegorical stories, often involving animals -- apparently unalarmed that he has made a living doing exactly that for the last 30 years. The last section describes how Martin Luther King Jr.'s hold on the civil rights movement was overtaken by a secular-humanist-feminist ethic that transformed the noble aims of the civil rights movement into a contradictory morass of a coalition that views blacks, women, "homosexualists," babies and animals as interchangeable.

This leaves me bereft.

But it seems that Diana Schutz, Sim's longtime proofreader, is a force of good:

In discussing the recent events with the Journal, Schutz stated that she was most chagrined about the "Dear Jeff Smith" editorial [Reihan's note: Sim challenged Smith to a fistfight, which is, as they say south of the Border, "loco"] and by the misperception by some people that she had quit over the "Tangents" essay. "Dave should have the right to express an argument for his position, no matter how faulty that argument may be... I probably would have had less of a problem with the "Tangents" essay [than with "Dear Jeff Smith"]. Maybe that's just an example of my fuzzy, emotion-based logic." She added that Sim's positions are "so ludicrous that it's difficult to take seriously. Whereas a personal attack on a friend, I do take seriously."

I consider this a really fascinating human drama. Take this next wrinkle:

Schutz, who has known Sim for several years and described herself as having been "in love with him for a year and a half," would seem to be in a good position to judge whether Sim's essay is sincere or an elaborate hoax. "This is not a prank," she told the Journal without hesitation. "Dave absolutely believes every word that he wrote." Asked if Sim's beliefs about women hadn't made it difficult for her to maintain a relationship with him, she said, "As a proofreader, I didn't really have much contact with him. I haven't had much contact with him for a few years. Dave's attitudes on gender were most provocative when we were dating. But that was eight years ago and his attitudes were not really so narrow then as they've become over time. Is he a difficult personality? I don't know. He's a creative personality, and I deal with them every day."
FOR ONE THING, YOU'RE MISSING A BLOODY KIDNEY
Consider this, from the VOA web site:

Study: Poor Indian Donors Don't Benefit From Selling Their Kidneys

In the developing world, victims of poverty have willingly sold their kidneys for cash in hopes of bettering their financial standing. But, a new study appearing this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, shows organ donors in southern India are worse off in the long run.

In a country where one person out of three lives in poverty, a huge organ transplant industry has grown giving people a financial incentive to donate one of their two kidneys. Madhav Goyal of the Geisinger Health System in State College, Pennsylvania, said supporters of this idea see no downside.

"They've felt basically that this would be a win-win situation for everyone," he explained. "That is, the person selling the kidney would get money. And the person receiving the kidney would benefit by receiving the kidney. Critics of this, however, have felt that, that this would just exploit the poor."

Dr. Goyal wanted to see if donors benefited from selling their organs, particularly in developing countries.

Dr. Goyal and his colleagues interviewed more than 300 kidney donors in the slums of Chennai, formerly known as Madras, in southern India. For their kidneys, the donors received what seemed like a large sum - a little over $1,000 dollars.

But six years later, Dr. Goyal said investigators found the kidney donors were not better off either financially or medically.

"A majority that sold were heavily in debt and had to pay off those debts," he said. "Despite having sold their kidney, they remained in debt. Their total income actually declined. Their health conditions worsened. And they would not recommend that another person sell their kidney under the same circumstances that they sold them."


But is kidney-selling the problem -- or is it that the kidney-sellers are being chiseled due to asymmetrical information? While I'm agnostic on the question of kidney-selling -- it does make me cringe slightly, but the same can be said of so-called "hipsters" and, as yet, I haven't advocated banning said individuals from living or breathing -- this strikes me as inconclusive at best. Evil? You decide.

Tuesday, October 01, 2002

A confession:

Very recently, I saw a gubernatorial debate. I will not disclose the state. Suffice it to say, it wasn't my home state, nor was it the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (though Romney did a splendid job, according to an exceptionally reliable source). It was, to say the very least, deeply discouraging. It is during the course of the debate that I had visions of myself running for public office. Alas, I am shorter than the US average, and thus unlikely to go very far in public life. Regardless, I'd very much like to do so. Public service appeals to me for a variety of reasons, foremost among them being my borderline-fanatical love of the United States, which -- aside from Midtown Manhattan in the dead of summer, and a few other hot, humid, fetid urban spaces -- is sweet-smelling on top of being pretty to look at and cool. I'm reminded of a scene from Kevin Costner's The Postman, which I consider broadly representative of my own life and, in particular, my feelings about the United States, a force of good if there ever was such a thing:

After enduring a tiresome tirade from a chaps-clad Will Patton (playing a diabolical post-apocalyptic prairie fascist) during the course of a ferocious battle to the death, Kevin Costner -- but wait. So Patton's character says something like, "You don't care about anything ... you don't believe in anything." All the while, Costner's Postman is gasping for air and struggling to survive. After Patton, spittle flying from his mouth, shuts his goddamn pie-hole, Costner's character says the most stirring words in cinema history:

"I believe ... in the United States," at which point he delivers a fierce head-butt.

Damn straight.
TORRICELLI: EVIL-CELLI
That's all I have to say on this matter.
MINDLESSNESS ON THE MARCH
O'Brien, a Democrat, defended her change of position on abortion. As a state legislator over a decade ago, she opposed abortion except in limited cases; today, she supports broader abortion rights.

Fair enough. We're all entitled to change our considered opinions on questions, including foundational questions. A change that comes suddenly is suspect, to be sure, but not necessarily worthy of condemnation. The staggering number of politicians who've flip-flopped on this question -- a list that includes such luminaries as George Elmer Pataki, who is, distressingly enough,
about to be endorsed by the bloody teachers' unions, and Dick Gephardt -- is enough to suggest that it is, from the narrow perspective of hard-nosed electoral calculus, a shrewd move.

She said as a legislator she opposed abortion except in cases of a rape, incest or a threat to the mother's health because she represented a conservative Catholic district near her hometown of Easthampton.

This reminds me of Politicians Don't Pander, a rather dry book by a pair of Stanley Greenberg-style "populists" in which they argue that there's been a marked loss of "democratic responsiveness" in recent years due to the ever-increasing use, and sophistication, of manipulative tactics on the part of the leading political players. ut I suppose Ms O'Brien does pander. Mind you, this comports well with the classical democratic faith, i.e., the idea that our legislator-representatives are obligated to translate the (inchoate, ill-defined) public policy preferences of the mass public into law. I've always been skeptical of this view, but it isn't mindless. But what of integrity? Clearly this isn't the virtue that's manifest in this particular approach -- the virtue is, if I understand correctly, fidelity to the wishes of the relevant voting public.

She said she is now fully committed to abortion rights -- a stance underlined by her endorsements by women's abortion rights groups -- and she said Romney, a Republican whom she labeled "multiple choice" on abortion, couldn't be trusted on the issue.

"People know they can trust me with this issue," O'Brien said.


But wait -- perhaps I'm confused?

And yes, I am dripping with contempt. This is pure evil. In fact, it's worth than evil: it's bloody stupid. Ms O'Brien ought to be embarrassed.

Of late, I'm feeling very ambivalent. And as for the Thompson article Mr Dueholm cites below, I recommend that he check in with Mr Jesse Shapiro -- he's contact information is on the masthead. As luck would have it, he's spending a semester at the U of C. I don't think the WSJ argument is absurd -- nor do I think the argument for rationing-cum-stifled-innovation is absurd (Robert Wright made the case quite effectively, I think). But yes, there's a lot of life left in the WSJ argument -- largely because, in a quite crucial sense, it's true. If you want to focus innovation, use two stones to kill two birds, to use Jagdish Bhagwati's phrase, i.e., use subsidies and guaranteed markets to target the ailments that are neglected by the "Big Pharma."
The Wall Street Journal Editorial Page Ate My Brain

For some time now, when the topic of prescription drugs, or health care generally, comes up, I have used an argument that I remember first seeing on the WSJ editorial page. It went something like this: There is an argument to be made, if anyone were willing to make it, that we have enough knowledge and enough treatments for major ailments. We can forego future advances for a more just distribution of our current resources. But we can't have both.

Well, maybe not. But it turns out, according to Nicholas Thompson, that we can have neither. Pharmaceutical companies aren't coming up with valuable new drugs, but drugs are still ridiculously expensive. Why?

A better explanation for the pharmaceutical slump [than saying that companies have picked the "low-hanging fruit"] is a shift in priorities toward marketing, particularly since the FDA first allowed companies to directly target consumers five years ago. According to data collected by Alan Sager, a professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, the number of research and development at companies making patented drugs declined slightly between 1995 and 2000, while the number of people working in marketing shot up 59 percent....

Moreover, drug companies have learned that when they can't create a new drug to treat an existing illness, they can create a new illness to treat with existing drugs. GlaxoSmithKline's multimillion-dollar promotion of anxiety disorder as a pernicious national problem enabled the company to make millions more selling Paxil--a drug most experts believe is needed by only a small fraction of the people who take it.


So I hereby apologize to everyone I've browbeaten with this argument, including (at last count), my parents, former teachers, at least one girlfriend, and riders of the #28 Stony Island bus. I was wrong. Moreover, I was an idiot to recite an argument from the WSJ op-ed page, which I have known since I was a mere babe to be a bastion of willed ignorance and instrumental deceit bordering on sheer evil. I hereby withdraw this argument from my increasingly pro-market discourse and recant whatever qualified praise I have uttered for the Journal's op-eds while inebriated, drugged, or in the employ of a foreign government.

I LOVE TONY BLAIR

From his speech to the Labor Party conference:

There is nothing wrong with our old principles, but if our old ways worked, they would have worked by now.

Were I British I would probably think differently, but reading Blair's speeches makes me all the more bitter about our politically cowardly and endlessly sanctimonious administration. Bush would (or could) no more say this--apropos of any one of a number of failed Republican ideas--in front of his party faithful than he would (or could) recite Chaucerian priest jokes in front of JP II.

Like a lot of people, I spent most of the Clinton years hoping that the man's will would catch up with his immense ability. The problem with Bush is that such a hope is manifestly unnecessary.

So thank sweet Jesus for Tony Blair. If it weren't for him and Peter Beinart, I would find myself even more cynical about the Iraq drumbeat, and then I'd have to call up several leftists of my personal acquaintance and abjectly apologize for demeaning their intelligence, morality, and culinary sensibility.
I'm not proud of this, but evil must be battled.

And what is evil? Evil is everything that isn't supermodel Josie Maran. For example, lilacs and buttercups: not Josie Maran and thus inescapably, indubitably, irremediably evil.

Oh, I know what you're thinking: "That's ill. I mean, it's simply because she's highly sexy. You're one sad, sad dude."

While this may well be true, my declaration of Josie Maran as the living embodiment of non-evil, or rather nega-evil -- not unlike anti-matter -- is based on her recent appearance on the Craig Kilborn program. Being mentally deranged from the wizzout to the flizzout, I fell asleep at around 7:30 PM while reading a back issue of Harper's from the early 1980s in one hand and a 1996 polemic by Joshua Muravchik in the other. I was also listening to Death Cab (thanks to Richard Jean So What) and trying to eat some Chips Ahoy!

(This is, I'm sorry to say, eerily reminiscent of the masturbation passage in Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind; elsewhere, Bloom writes, "Rock music has one appeal, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire not love, but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored. It acknowledges the first emanations of children's emerging sensuality and addresses them seriously, eliciting them and legitimizing them,..." I'm wracked by guilt. Rock music is evil? Dan Savage surely believes otherwise; Skipping Towards Gomorrah is coming soon.)

So anyway, I fell asleep and managed to crawl out of bed at around 1 AM, at which point I turned out the Kilborn program only to see the exceptionally pretty Josie Maran praising chimpanzees -- yes, chimpanzees -- to the skies. It was surreal, and impressive to boot. She is obviously a very intelligent young woman, and I wish her the best of luck. Her love of chimpanzees was sincere and deeply affecting. I must say, as much as I like monkeys and other non-human primates in the abstract, I am plagued by nightmares of said creatures tossing their fetid, stinking wastes in roughly my direction: Evil.

My head is about to come loose and roll down my shoulders, only to fall into an enormous pachinko-style machine: ding-pong-ding-ping-poong-shbang.
Bob Dole is a great American statesman, and I salute him:

Mr. Dole, who is 79, sounds chastened, to a point. "I have to be very careful I don't say something wrong and get her in trouble," he tells his listeners. "I'm sort of a free spirit."

It is that free spirit who is on display here at the courthouse.

"You know, I live right next door to where Monica Lewinsky used to live," he tells the crowd. "When I was out there campaigning in '96, I didn't know my next-door neighbor was —— " Here he pauses slightly, inviting his listeners to imagine what that neighbor was up to, then finishes the sentence: "Monica Lewinsky! Right next door! We were a wall apart! I tried to call her several times — the line was always busy. Anyway, we now own Monica's place. We have tours on Sundays. That's called the Small World Department."

A man calls out that he has seen Mr. Dole in Viagra commercials. "I made a few commercials," Mr. Dole acknowledges. "I didn't bring any samples." The crowd roars.

Again he pauses for effect before adding, "It's hard to carry a Pepsi around in your pocket." (Yes, that is another product he has pitched.)

Monday, September 30, 2002

I'm glad that Reihan decided to drop the bomb on us after a far too long blogging hiatus:
but, nontheless, the image of the French with "guns blazing" inevitably prompts the joke about World War II and German tanks. The exact hook and punchline eludes me though, unfortunately. Incidentally, I was saddened to realize that the dishevedly handsome Gyllenhaals, appealing star of Donnie Darko, is nothing more than a male 'playa' and not the charming, odd lad of DD, the sort of fellow from high school who played Advanced D&D and always had the Church's "Under the Milky Way" playing somewhere in the background, following him from parking lot to parking lot. Evil? No, just sad.

In related news:
finally heard the new Eminem single for 8 Mile while driving yesterday, and proceeded to have the speakers in my dad's SUV blown out from behind, thereby crashing into a fixed telephone poll at 74 miles per hour (fortunately not killing any bystanders however). Actually, I guess I made up the last part. The part about not killing any innocent bystanders! Bloah!

In unrelated news:
new Idlewild album is indeed the bomb. But I don't want to waste valuable e-ink on this somewhat frivolous topic. I wanted instead to digress a bit on the new Real World Las Vegas. The women are hot, the guys are athletic and strong. In the show's wake, new alpha males and females will be added to the US population. Do I feel threatened by this? Yes. But only because my ruination is being previewed and predicted on a weekly television show that prefaces my favorite thing on TV: music videos. Evil? Yes. And sad.
"IT'S BEEN A LONG TIME. REIHAN, THE MICROPHONE SOLO-IST"
No, in fact, the original lyric is "Rakim, the microphone solo-ist." Does this mean that I dare suggest that my paltry skills rival those of Rakim, the goateed Godzilla MC?

Yes.

Solid
Gold, I've got mold, too bold to hold
I scold you, scald you
Like boiling water
You damn squatter
Ink blotter, terroristic plotter
Head nodder


In fact, not a single one of you deserved this unfortunate display of illness, the "illness" in this instance understood not as "dopeness" but rather as "illness," as in, "pardon me, I have a persistent case of dengue fever, thus accounting for my extremely high fever, hives, visions, and paralyzing diarrhea, and so I'd be tremendously pleased if, in your infinite kindness and generosity, you decided to obliterate my benighted body with your powerful ray; failing that, a well-aimed pistol-launched exploding ingot will do nicely. Oh the pain. It's almost as bad as watching devilishly handsome Jimmy Fallon self-destruct during the 2002 VMAs, which I only watched for roughly two minutes -- precisely the two minutes during which Fallon accused Fat Joe, formerly Slim Joe, of devouring both Olsen twins. Suffice it so say, Fat Joe wasn't amused. As it turns out, neither was I."

Evil.

And so I've arrived to focus our efforts once again on evil. For example, slavish ancestor worship is evil, as Richard Epstein devastatingly demonstrates in this brief, tightly-reasoned essay.

How can you not love this cat? I can't say I agree with Epstein on everything, but I won't lie to you: he's had an impact on yours truly, and he's about as evil as pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving -- which is to say not at all.

Some have asked: "Reihan, what accounts for your overlong absence, almost as overlong as your overstuffed entries concerning, for example, various obscure Hollywood chickies?" My response: "How dare you call Carly Pope, goddess, Canadian, and friend of animals and the weak and underprivileged, a 'chickie'? I have half a mind to sear your eyelids with a hot, half-made Chick-fil-a chickwich-style sandwich, which I wouldn't do because I am a man of peace: if you don't believe me, check the last name. I don't make this up. And in case you haven't figured it out, 'Salam' means peace, just as 'Reihan' means jobs. Also, 'Reihan Salam' means 'the realness,' which just about sums it up. Peace. That is, 'Salam.' We out. Word."

But what. So the New York Times Magazine article about the extremely cute Afghan kid who's going back to school: wow, how awesome is that. This is a good force: school. Particularly in war-torn, devastated nations -- like the South Bronx. No, that's wrong, but it gets right down to it: our social problems pale in comparison to those which define day-to-day existence for the vast majority in the tropics, the subtropics, and everywhere else. Damn. I really hope that kid becomes tremendously smart and successful.

Another good force: the French. That's right. With guns blazing, they rescued some American runts from a God-awful Ivoirian hell-hole, and I for one appreciate the gesture. That said, I do wish someone was willing to use armed force to make said Ivoirian hellhole less of a hell-hole, but this is perhaps asking for too much.

But yes, this is a hit-and-run operation. I have to get going. I have to spend the next several hours fending off sleep, as I told some friends mere moments ago, in order to wrap up a project. That's right. ("Why so secretive?" "Why am I secreting what?")

Distractions, in life as in all other things:

Saw Shanghai Ghetto. Was the only person in the audience under sixty years of age; also, was the only suspiciously hooded brown man, which made me feel a bit out of place. And why was I suspiciously hooded? It was cold, for heaven's sake, and I often rock the hooded sweatshirt, particularly at the movies. Also saw Moonlight Mile, featuring one of the ubiquitous Gyllenhaals : I've discussed the Gyllenhaals at length earlier on. You're right, we don't have an elaborate, high-tech, ape-powered search engine, and I apologize for this. ("What does Reihan make of coconut brassieres?" You'll have to ask me directly.) It was so good I very nearly had to scream the following: "wooooooooooo." I didn't, thus sparing me some embarrassment. And Ellen Pompeo: holy moly, she had a really pretty scar. Plus she was extremely, extremely good. I feel like a jerk. But man, she was so good. Their love affair was so good. Oy.

Incidentally, a dear friend of mine -- and fellow TASP alumnus -- recently told me that he experienced hardcore harrassment while spending a summer in Paris. On a not trivial number of occasions, no less (ten times over a bit less than two months, if I recall correctly). The incidents in question included physical attacks. The harrassment was inspired by racial animus. This sickens me. This is, to be sure, anecdotal, but I've heard much the same from others: deep, deep racism is pervasive in Paris, the cosmopolitan heart of western Europe. And these apes never cease to lecture North Americans -- United Statesians, that is (or Usonians, or USonians) -- on our many sins. Bravo.

Have you seen Barcelona? So good, it's evil.

And so it'll be another several hours before I return to write something sound, comprehensive, and reasonable. You see, I'm a victim of the love bug, which is an automobile produced by Volkswagen that has repeatedly run over my heart, crushing and smooshing and smashing it into a paste. Right. Plus I have to attend to my "project," which does not, in fact, involve putting a spell on some small New England liberal arts college or large, prestigious, independent New England research university, home to a wide array of piano-playing tough guys and top-ten graduate programs.

So you want to know what I love so much that it gives me a toothache? The goddamn United States. Oh, it's big. It's really damn big. Plus, we're armed to the teeth: bristling, bristling with guns. "Who let the guns out?" So sing the Baha Men in their forthcoming single, "Who let the guns out?" We've let the guns out. And they're coming for you, Saddam. Eat it. Butter it like toast.

Feel the burn.

Oh, that sounds needlessly bloodthirsty. My apologies. Yes, international community, let's be friends and all that. Friends with my massive cannon.

No, wait a second. That's all wrong. And as it turns out, I don't own a pistol, let alone a cannon, massive or otherwise.