Friday, June 02, 2006


I've been very busy recently, so I haven't had the energy or inclination to write. But that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. Here is an abbreviated list of topics that have caught my eye.

The Department of Justice ended its inquiry into the National Security Agency’s domestic spying program essentially because the N.S.A. doesn’t want to be investigated. The N.S.A. refused to grant security clearance to D.O.J. investigators. (Washington Post, 5/11/2006) George Bush, Jr., who ordered the N.S.A. to violate federal law, could order the Agency to obey the law instead; but he has already promised not to do that. During his State of the Union Address, when he insisted domestic spying would continue, Republicans gave him a standing ovation.

The Attorney General of the United Kingdom has called for the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo. He said, “The historic tradition of the United States as a beacon of freedom, of liberty, and of justice deserves the removal of this symbol.”

Computer experts are concerned about a flaw in the security system for Diebold touch-screen voting machines that could allow hackers into the machines without leaving a trace. Avi Rubin, a computer science professor at Hopkins University, called the flaw “the most serious thing I’ve heard to date…”

And just in time for the elections!

The G.O.P agreed on a tax bill which will increase the federal deficit by another $70 billion. (Washington Post, 5/9/2006)

An Israeli art student arranged for an exhibit at Brandeis University of 17 pictures made by Palestinian children. Several pictures included depictions of The Wall. After four days, the exhibit was removed. Complaints about the exhibit included the charge that it was not “balanced” by pictures from other perspectives. One viewer reportedly wondered if the point of the exhibit was to show how Palestinian children had been politicized by their elders.

“Balance” is a very subjective determination. Imagine a show of Jewish art from German concentration camps. Would anyone object, or even notice, if it wasn’t “balanced” by positive images of German life? Suppose the Brandeis exhibit contained a picture by an Israeli child of his uncle killed by a bomb. Would that provide balance? What about a drawing of an olive grove?

The idea that Palestinian parents must have influenced the work of their children is doubtful in at least one very important respect. Palestinian children grow up next to The Wall. They draw pictures on The Wall; they kick soccer balls against The Wall. They do not need their parents to remind them of its existence.

And finally:

Left Behind: Eternal Forces is a video game scheduled for release in October. It is based on the extremely successful Left Behind series of books by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. The game is set in New York City, in the end times. Players win points by converting New Yorkers of all sorts — gays, Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. — or by killing those who resist.

The game is being promoted by evangelical Christian Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life. Warren’s book has sold over 13 million copies.


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