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World's Shortest Joke

Noam Chomsky: “Three short steps in [a] led in by three alphabetically consecutive consonants [k,l,m], occlusive, liquid, labial, respectively (that is, progressing from posterior to anterior buccal cavity), act as a ladder, rising to the highest note in the English register [u], which slides in on us over the glistening parquet of the soft sibilant [z], puckering up the mouth in gentle mockery of itself.”

Patriotism of Sept. 11

Janette Ramsey: “As I progressed into junior high and high school, I was enthralled with the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution. I was 100 percent convinced the United States of America was a fantastic place, and I was lucky enough to be an American!”

Not a very well written article at all. And she relies on “old behaviors returned” as proof that patriotism has died. No polling data is cited either. So I don't buy her thesis. Americans are just as patriotic as ever. It's just that they're less willing to show it vigourously as they were right after Sept. 11.

Our Sham Commons

"He dared expose our sham Commons" by Andrew Coyne

"At least they take some conventions seriously. Mace-grabbing they take very seriously indeed. On the other hand, that little convention about MPs being elected to Parliament to represent the people -- deliberating and voting on legislation according as either their conscience or their constituents dictate -- well, that's a nice little fiction, isn't it? Members of the Parliament of Canada, as everyone knows, have one role and one role only: to stand up and sit down when they're told."

Final Solution Phase 2

George F. Will: “"Today many people say that the Arabs and their European echoes would be mollified if Israel would change its behavior. People who say that do not understand the centrality of anti-Semitism in the current crisis. This crisis has become the second -- and final? -- phase of the struggle for a "final solution to the Jewish question." As Wisse said 11 years ago, and as cannot be said too often, anti-Semitism is not directed against the behavior of the Jews but against the existence of the Jews."”

Find Your Library

Find your library MeFi thread: “Books remain my first love -- and the library remains a way for me to test-drive new authors before shelling out $30 for a mediocre hard-cover. The stacks in my college library were also the scene of an unsolved murder -- someone jumped a female graduate student (in the 1960s, I believe), stabbed her, and left. Her body was discovered after a few days. So research always had that extra kick.”

The Search for Answers in Jenin

William Saletan: “Israel and its critics can't agree which facts to find. The mystery of the Jenin investigation—namely, why a country with nothing to hide would resist a search for truth—dissolves when you realize how much of the battle for public opinion takes place not between truth and falsehood, but between one truth and another. To control the answer, you must control the question. That's the game Israel is playing-and its opponent, the United Nations, is winning.”

What Israel Has Done

Edward W. Said: “Phrases such as 'plucking out the terrorist network,' 'destroying the terrorist infrastructure' and 'attacking terrorist nests' (note the total dehumanization involved) are repeated so often and so unthinkingly that they have given Israel the right to destroy Palestinian civil life, with a shocking degree of sheer wanton destruction, killing, humiliation and vandalism.”

In the ruins of the future

"In the ruins of the future" by Don DeLilo

That's funny. I just read the actual Harper's Magazine version, and checked to see if there was an online version. Yep. Except the Guardian graphic misleadingly labels it as fiction. Whatever. It's a good piece reflecting on the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, written about a month after the attack.

Marry young, and have it all

Zoe Heller: “If anything, modern men are overly demanding about the CVs of their potential female companions. No one seems to want an honest-to-goodness tootsie any more. Or a pretty homemaker. They're all looking for scuba enthusiasts with snazzy jobs at brokerage firms.”

Terrorism and Philosophers

Jim Holt: “Defenders of the doctrine of double effect appeal to Kant's categorical imperative: A person is always to be treated as an end, never merely as a means. And treating people as a means—to send a message, to create wider panic, to demoralize the enemy nation they are a part of—is precisely what the perpetrator of an act of terror does.”

The article cites an book review (which I haven't yet read) by Michael Ignatieff, someone I've been coming across a lot lately.

Can't Live With Them...

Nick Compton: “As far as psychologist Cary Cooper is concerned, the new single man is less likely to be a loafing, shag-happy commitment phobe than a knackered workaholic, running scared of a newly empowered female population, painfully aware of the modern women's willingness to swiftly disengage from any relationship not providing the kind of sex, money and emotional intimacy they deserve.”

Ethics and the New War

"Ethics and the New War" by Michael Ignatieff

Dr. Ignatieff talks about four asymmtries when looking at terrorism and the war on it. To those, I would add a fifth: the assymetrical psycological response to terrorism. One of the political goals of terrorism is to discredit political moderatism in the target country. Israel may be cited as an example of this. The political moderates are fearful of speaking up because they might be considered traitors to Israel. Israel is also an example of a security state, with checkpoints and roadblocks dotting the country, making things onerous for not only peaceful Palestinians to work, but also for peaceful Israeli citizens to live without a soldier on every corner.

The danger for the United States was (and still is) reacting too strongly to the terrorist attacks on September 11. Or, in other words, letting the terrorists win.

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