Thursday, November 28, 2002

Bubbles Can Burst?

The last strangled cries of peer-to-peer pioneer Napster was heard recently, when Roxio agreed to buy its patents and trademarks for the grand sum of $5 million. Considering that Shawn Fanning’s creation was supposed to revolutionize the music business, it’s especially disappointing - some dotcoms spent more than that on their launch parties. Of course the spawn of Napster – Grokster, KaZaA, WinMX, LimeWire and the rest – are still going strong, bringing copyrighted music and low-res pornography into the homes of millions of people around the world. Napster, you shall not be forgotten.

All Irrelevant Politics is Local

The Grateful Dead-loving residents of Eugene, Oregon have always been reliable paragons of liberalism. The presence of the University of Oregon has a lot to do with it, as has the proximity of celebrated countercultural figures such as the late Ken Kesey. Not wanting to remain silent in the face of an attack on civil liberties, the Eugene City Council has voted to officially denounce John Ashcroft’s baby, the USA PATRIOT Act. Eugene’s city fathers heard from many locals at a public forum, including Alexander Gonzales, who said, "If we grow up thinking that it's ok to profile, it's ok to subject people to searches, then what is ok?" A compelling question, certainly. Symbolic resolutions like this one have a long history, including Takoma Park, Maryland declaring itself a “nuclear-free zone,” Berkeley deciding it would become a “hate-free zone,” and the various towns in states like Vermont voting their approval of the Kyoto Protocol.


Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Double Bacon Cheeseburger, Hold the Bun

More vindication for the Atkins Diet this week. Physicians have dumped on poor Doc Atkins for years, saying that a high fat diet couldn't possibly be good for your heart. Why, everyone knows eating a lot of fat is bad for your health! Yet the good doctor seems to have proved repeatedly that the mainstream medical opinion about the effect of fat consumption of cardiovascular health is simply wrong, and always has been. Normally the debate wouldn't be so interesting, but it has developed into a battle of personalities - the condescending medical expert who thinks Atkins is some kind of diet book charlatan selling a worthless fad vs. the feisty doctor himself, always ready to debate and challenge the establishment to more research. Proving pretentious people wrong, it seems, is also good for your health.

The Third World Rejoices

The news is out on yet another curse of of abundance: asthma. The President of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology told his organization's members recently that in the cleanest nations with the best health care have the highest rates of asthma, while filthy developing nations have hardly any cases at all; "perhaps we live too cleanly," he told his immunological colleagues. Perhaps, but I'll trade more asthma for less malaria, dysentery, and intestinal parasitism any time.


Monday, November 18, 2002

Will the Real John Engler Please Stand Up?

Eminem being praised by conservatives is an amusing turn, but in this case the substance of the issue overwhelms the irony. Henry Payne writes in NRO today about how well 8 Mile portrayed the "infamous urban nightmare" of Detroit. Yes, it's a city with two large, daily newspapers. But:

"The results of [Great Society social] policies are everywhere. Detroit, Michigan's largest city with 970,000 people, has only one movie theater, the Phoenix on Eight Mile (where a man was shot in the stomach on the film's opening night). It does not contain a single large retail store. Not one. Detroiters must travel to neighboring Dearborn to find a Sears or a Marshall's. Seventy percent of children are born into single-parent households. Kids walking to school along Hamilton Avenue on the city's west side or John R Road on the east side — just to use two of numerous examples — pass rows of abandoned buildings (an estimated 10,700 dot the city), dope addicts and criminals often lurking inside. On the city's main street, Woodward Avenue, teenagers serve Popeye's and McDonald's kid's meals from behind bulletproof glass."


Friday, November 15, 2002

Got Ovaries?

Japanese-Americans and the victims of the Tuskegee Syphilis experiments have new company - thousands of sterilized Oregonians. Joining the list of groups abused by the power of the state who have now been publicly apologized to are 2,600 epileptics, unwed teen mothers and other unwanted indigents who lived in Oregon at the time they fell into state care and were subsequently deprived the powers of natural reproduction. Surprisingly, this practice of eugenics continued in the state until the year Jimmy Carter left the White House. And it didn't consist merely of relatively humane procedures like vasectomies; in the early years of the eugenics program castrations were apparently just as common. Being hailed as a milestone by (generally left-leaning) human rights activists, it should cause just as much happiness in the churches of the nation, especially those familiar with His Holiness's teaching on The Culture of Life.


Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Sharia Family Values

Amina Lawal is still alive, though the day of her execution grows ever closer. The 31-year old Nigerian mother of three is to be stoned to death as soon as the baby she illegally bore out of wedlock (the result of a rape) is weaned. The sentence comes down from the Islamic officials in her home state of Katsina. Her case is receiving renewed attention, as Nigeria is this week hosting the Miss World beauty pageant. Several contestants from around the world have declined to travel to a nation whose government punishes rape victims with a hail of sharp rocks.


Monday, November 04, 2002

Mere Anarchy is Loosed Upon the World

Just when you think that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict outdoes every other ethnic clash is pure bloodthirsty horror, someone in Northern Ireland gets crucified. True, it was only one unfortunate bloke and not a bus full of children, but the personal viciousness of it is particularly arresting. This is the sort of attack that causes apocalyptic-minded Evangelicals to revisit their favorite underlined passages of Revelation and pop that copy of Left Behind into the VCR. Remember the scene in The Devil’s Advocate when the Jeffrey Jones character gets attacked and beaten to death while jogging in Central Park? That’s what this reminded me of. If this is what passes for everyday strife, the end must be nigh.


Saturday, November 02, 2002

Fine Wine Deflates Snobbery

Europeans engaged in selling products where discernment and good taste are paramount have long had a reputation of looking down on Americans. Take wine, for example. Could most Americans imagine a French winery owner having anything but withering disdain for the American public and its tastes? Imagine my surprise, then, upon reading some of the comments made by the wine aficionados at this year’s Vinexpo, held in the U.S. this year for the first time. According to the president of Maison Louis Jadot, Americans are discerning and willing to pay more for quality, while Philip Guigal of Rhone Valley winery E. Guigal actually said “American people really understand quality” and confessed that other French producers needed to become “less arrogant.” Dare we hope that this attitude will spread to France’s politicians as well?