Friday, August 13, 2004
Tonight on Extension 720, Milt examines the history of political campaigns and their use of the media with J. Fred MacDonald, an expert on old time radio and television. More information on this and other programs is available at our monthly program guide. You can listen to the show from 9 to 11 p.m. central time here.
WITH THE MEHDI ARMY IN NAJAF. The leading Singapore TV station apparently has a reporter inside the mosque--and he (not likely, she) has today filed this "color piece" from alongside the the Sadr militiamen and the marchers from Kufa who have come to support them. Activist politics among the Iraqi Shia do, indeed, seem to be on the expressive side.
AND WHAT MAKES NAJAF A HOLY CITY? The Boston Globe provides a brief and--as far as we can tell--accurate account of the schism that sundered Islam, killed the son-in-law of Muhammed and his son and built a great mosque ("the most sacred place of Shia Islam') over their tomb.
THUS WAS IT EVER---TS THE "WAR PARTY" THAT MAKES "PEACE." Olmert is Sharon's man and they are both trying to tame the hawks in their hawkish party and give some real pay-off to the fragile Palestinian authority. As the New York Times does not do in this profile, the whole process could be compared to Begin's initiative with Saddat or Nixon's with Mao.
AL QAEDA AND ITS SPONSOR STATES. Still to be unravelled is the full history of the rise of Al Qaeda. This article from the Weekly Standard makes a serious contribution in that direction.
A CASE STUDY OF ONE AL-QAEDIST. This interesting profile of Abu Hissa al-Hindi appeared in today's New York Times. The Muslim name reflects that he was once a Hindu...and the scant details of his career raise (more than answer) the question of why so many South Asian immigrants to Britain are drawn toward fundamentalist anti-western militancy.
REAL CLEAR POLITICS CALLS IT FOR BUSH (MAYBE AND DEPENDING). John McIntyre and Tom Bevan run a great political intelligence operation and they are both welcome and rather frequent guests on our radio program. Today, John begs to differ with most of the other poll-readers and explains why in this fine piece of political-analytical discourse.
ABOUT THE GOOGLE IPO: LET THIS CUP PASS ME BY...might well be the wisest response from unprotected and less-than-naive investors. At least that's what we draw from this punchy reportage and commentary by C/NET's financial specialist.
WHERE DID ALL THE HEBREWS GO? Last year the Nova TV program did a series on the "lost tribes of Israel." As pop-history and archeology go it was responsible and fascinating stuff. As is this wonderful web-site that accompamied the TV series. Wander the links for painless exposure to fragments of the lost history of the people who became the Jews.
THE ANATOMY OF INTELLECTUAL IMPOSTURE. Alan Sokal showed up the post-mod confabulists with his famous Social Text hoax and then went on to write a great book about professorial fakery in our time. Richard Dawkins classic review of that book was published in Nature and should be read as an antidote before opening anything by Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, Lacan or the average American humanities assistant professor seeking tenure through "publication."
AN APPRECIATION OF NAIPAUL. He is, we confess, one of our particular enthusiasms and this brief encomium by Robert McCrum in the U.K. Observer seems precisely perceptive in catching the nature of his excellence.
SO FAIR AND FOUL A REVIEW WE HAVE NOT SEEN...Macbeth might have said. And as he "murdered sleep" so does Adam Begley of the New York Observer seem to be caught in an ambivalent act of literary homicide against the Man in the White Flannel Suit. However you estimate Tom Wolfe, this hatchet job on him is, shall we say, vigorously done.
A CHARMING PRESENCE PASSES. We had the pleasure of chatting with Julia Child many times, both on air and off. This obituary posted by AP today reflects some, but not by any means all, of the pleasure one took in her company. Then there was the time we took her to a private dining club in Chicago and she ordered the braised leg of goat...!
THE GREAT CLARINET QUINTET OF BRAHMS. Composed late in his career, this masterwork is often called "elegaic." It surely reflects a contemplative if not mournful mood. It is movingly performed here by the ensemble of the Boston Chamber Music Society.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
IT WAS A DAMN CLOSE-RUN THING...said Wellington of the Battle of Waterloo. The Battle of Najaf, if it occurs at all, could be another instance of the same sort according to the U.K. Economist. But it is the intricate politics of divided Iraq rather than the disposition of military force that may tip the balance.
AND THE IRAQI LEADERSHIP SPLITS OVER NAJAF! This story that came through late last night from the Financial Times highlights both the inner division and the effective disruption that Al-Sadr has achieved with his occupation of the "Holy City." Meanwhile Iran is menacingly heard from as it propels itself into the act!
IS THIS A SELF-DEFEATING PROPHECY? We are always interested in the revelations that come from Bill Gertz of the Washington Times who has often been a guest on our program. But, assuming the assassination plan he reports in this article was serious (rather than a disinformation operation) doesn't its revelation squelch the threat? Or, would that goad Al-Qaida to follow through against the diminished odds?
THE SHIITE SCHISM...did not begin with the assasination last year of Ayatollah al-Hakim, but that event marked the emergence of the youngest al-Sadr who now holds Najaf and threatens the present regime. This backgrounder from the Council on Foreign Relations fills in some of the crucial issues still to be resolved between the al-Sadr and al-Sistani factions.
KRAUTHAMMER GAVE THE ANSWER TWO YEARS AGO...to Churchill's famous question: What sort of people do they think we are? The reference this time around was to Liberals and Conservatives and their perceptions of each other. We are indebted for this one to the always informative Steve Antler, aka Econopundit.
THE MATHEMATICS OF DIVERSITY...requires, at least, some simple attention to proportions but, says Jeff Jacoby today's Boston Globe, that seems to be beyond the range of scan of the "Unity Journalists" recently addressed by both presidential candidates.
AS CHINA "LIBERALIZES" WHAT TO DO ABOUT PORN? The question obviously concerns government types who, as evidenced in this story from the official news agency, believe that they have proof of a correlation between porn and sex crimes. But what to do, without further alienating the young bloods?
THE SUCCESSFUL SINGULARITY OF SINGAPORE...is now in the hands of the son of its own Solon, Lee Kuan Yew. This informative update and historical overview comes from The Economist which asks whether a "meddlesome" quasi-democracy can last.
ALLES ERZEHLEN WIE ES EIGENTLICH GEWESEN WAR. "Tell everything the way it really happened," said Leopold von Ranke, the founder of modern historiography. Probably an impossible task but, argued Forrest McDonald, you begin by putting all ideology aside. His new book, Recovering the Past, is appreciatively reviewed here in today's Wall Street Journal.
BRITAIN'S LEADING INTELLECTUAL TURNS OUT TO BE...the envelope please...RICHARD DAWKINS!! This snappy profile of the world's leading advocate/enthusiast for modern Darwinism is from the U.K. Guardian.
THE ENGINEERING OF CONSENT IN CANADA. That's how the founders of the P.R. industry used to describe what they do. A new book, attacking the industry, has its exemplars in Canada all shook up, according to this breezy but informative article from Walrus, the "New Yorker of the North."
A GOTTI FOR OUR TIME. We missed the premiere of this new "reality TV" series but Lo How The Mightily Evil Have Fallen! The wiseguy knows that Mafia history repeats itself as low brow farce.
WHEN ROCK WAS STILL YOUNG...some distinctive artists made great music. In this generous collection the "don't miss" list would have to include: the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and the Byrds.
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
A recorded edition of Extension 720 will air after the 7:05 Cubs game. You can listen to the show at around 10 p.m. central time here.
MUQTADA AL-SADR AND THE SADRIST MOVEMENT...pose the main obstacle to pacifying Iraq. This valuable backgrounder on the man and the movement was published a few months ago by the Council on Foreign Relations.
ARAB ACQUIESCENCE TO THE DARFUR GENOCIDE...is condemned (and explained!) here in a noteworthy editorial by the executive editor of The Daily Star, an outstanding journalistic resource in the Mid-Eastern world.
THE SEARCH FOR THE HISTORICAL ABD AL-WAHHAB...seems to be as difficult as Schweitzer's "Besuch der Historischen Jesu." In one recent book the father of Wahhabism turns out to be rather a benign fellow after all; but many scholars are outraged at the very idea and the "scholarly debate" is turning quite nasty as the Boston Globe reports.
SO, WHAT'S THE REASONABLE RESPONSE TO THE CHARGES AGAINST KERRY? Not too many commentators have attempted to weigh it all in the balance. But here's one who has: John O'Sullivan writing in the Chicago Sun-Times finds some merit to the charges but manages a plausible reconstruction which takes the candidate off the sharpest edge of the hook.
CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER. The case of Lieutenant Kerry does seem rather imprecisely told--but by whom? Mark Steyn weighs in in this startling piece from yesterday's edition of the U.K. Telegraph.
THE CAMPAIGN TO SQUELCH THE SWIFT BOAT COMMANDERS...is being heavily pushed with threats of "libel" levelled by DNC lawyers. Do they have a leg (or perhaps a toe) to stand on? Not according to these two federally-qualified lawyers writing in yesterday's edition of Front Page.
WHAT IS THE STEM CELL CONTROVERSY REALLY ABOUT? The wrath of Ron Reagan Jr. to the contrary not withstanding, is the present policy actually so injurious to the medical common weal? As usual, things are a good deal more complex (if not more complicated) than they seem. This op-ed in today's New York Post seems to us to be both informative and calming.
WHAT PRICE PHI BETA KAPPA? "All our students are above average" is a boast that could be sounded by most colleges and universities these days. But if the average grade is A or A minus how do you tell the sheep from the goats--and how do you motivate the goats to try to become sheep? The questions are, in fact, of serious concern to academics as witness this important essay from the History News Network.
IS ATHEISM IN DECLINE? You wouldn't think so if you attended Sunday mass at Notre Dame in Paris together with the 300 other tourists. But that's France. Over here things are different and, says Alistair McGrath, for good and compelling reasons. Here's a rather friendly review, from the Christian Science Monitor, of his possibly ill-argued but challenging book announcing the decline of atheism.
LE STYLE, C'EST L'HOMME. But, according to Strunk and White, it shouldn't be. But then, again, many writers about writing (from Gorgias to Walt Whitman) have insisted that good writing is always personally expressive. The lasting conflict between the standards of elegance and lucidity is reviewed here by Ben Yagoda writing with elegant lucidity for the Chronicle of Higher Education.
AND IF YOU DON'T HAVE ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT...try this catastrophe scenario on for size! Something will soon drop off Los Canarios and the consequence will be a "meta-tsunami!!" So says the director of the Benfield Grieg Hazard Research Center at University College, London. Yuchhhhh...
WELL, IT'S NOT OUR STYLE BUT...we couldn't resist the satirical creation (the Brits would call it a "send-up") released today by the National Lampoon. Here, in all its risible excess, is their version of the new site for MoveOnPlease.org.
BARBARA ALLEN AND LORD RANDALL. These two tragic lovers (but not of each other) are central in the English and Appalachian folk music traditions. Many performances of these ballads are available here. Our favorites: Dolly Parton's version of Barbara Allen and Josh White's Randall.
Monday, August 09, 2004
Tonight on Extension 720, Milt talks with Abe Peck of Medill School of Journalism and Jim Warren of the Chicago Tribune about the best and worst magazines. More information on this and other programs is available at our monthly program guide. You can listen to the show from 9 to 11 p.m. central time here.
THE BUSY WEEK IN COUNTER-TERRORISM...is well summarized here (as they usually do with such stories) by the Christian Science Monitor. However, the haunting fear persists: might all--or most--of this be disinformational decoy operations?
WHAT TO DO ABOUT IRAQ? The question might well be moved toward a truly useful answer by reconsidering the history of modern South Korea. A deft pointing of the potential parallels is to be found in this essay from the current issue of the Wilson Quarterly.
WHEN A COSMETOLOOGIST TRIES TO BRING PEACE TO THE MIDDLE EAST. The strange tale of the Ronald Lauder mision to Hafaz al Assad of Syria--with Netanyahu, Barak and Clinton looking on--is told here by Dan Pipes reviewing the new book by Dennis Ross. The meaning of it all? Assad then--like all empowered Arab leaders now--was afraid to make peace because of his domestic enemies.
ALAN KEYES DESCENDS UPON ILLINOIS. However you feel about his late entrance into the Senatorial race, he has started with a grandiloquent bang. Nor will it decline into a whimper. Here is an account of Keyes' first day as an candidate in our state together with a correctly-informed review of the sequential events that brought him here.
OF THE MANY REACTIONS TO THE SWIFT BOAT COMMANDERS AD...this one by the constantly responsive and always strongly stated Mark Steyn seems to us worthy of some special attention. Has anyone found an equally lucid counter-reaction in print?
WHEN HISTORIANS ARGUE OVER FOOTNOTES...the issue may be much more than merely academic. Thus, in Australia, the major controversy behind the footnotes is a squabble over whether the Brits and the settlers did (or did not) engage in quasi-genocide against the aboriginals. This fascinating account of the controversy now raging in Australia is, in fact, from The Australian newspaper.
THE NEW MAN AT THE TIMES BOOK REVIEW...is Sam Tanenhaus who did a fine biography of Whittaker Chambers some years ago. He is interviewed here by Media Bistro about his plans for the section. There is no mention of the strong new graphics but he has already given the section a new look which, one hopes, augurs a reinvigoration of the content. How about fewer reviews of "sensitive adolescent survives loss and enters the world deepened and strengthened" novels?
SYCOPHANCY, FAVORITISM AND INSIDER-TRADING IN THE POETRY WORLD. Why not a little corruption there as just about everywhere else? But despair is not yet the required attitude. According to Stephen Burt, writing for the Boston Globe, the folks at Foetry magazine are the new guardians dedicated to the purification of versification.
HOW BLAISE PASCAL HELPS MAKE SENSE OUT OF DR.ATKINS. Diet fads you shall always have with you--but to understand what this one is really about consider closely this compelling analysis (and, in honor of Pascal, its startling appercus) about what lo-carbing is really about. Shapin, historian of science at Harvard, writes in the London Review of Books.
HOW DID AMERICANS GET SO FAT? There are, say the authors of this provocative essay in The Public Interest, hidden causes. How about: Women who work full time don't cook and thus their children and husbands go to McDonalds more often and ergo^%##*&!!
COMING AT THE OLYMPICS COLD...might leave you wondering why these sweating athletes bother with the competition at all. The question we are reminded here, in an excellent essay/review from The Globe And Mail, was first raised by the "barbarian prince" Anacharsis speaking through the second century author, Lucian. But, there are, in fact, some good reasons even though modern Athens is now an armed camp.
HOW GRAND IS GRAND RAPIDS NOW? Rather considerably says the author of this article in American Heritage. And she makes a good case. Meet you under the Calder!
PROKOFIEV'S OVERTURE ON HEBREW THEMES...is heard here in a fine chamber version performed at the Lugano Festival three weeks ago. Also on tap: a two-piano version of his Classical Symphony as performed by Martha Argerich and Yefin Bronfman!