Monday, May 16, 2005

Monday Notes

I'm back from a quick vacation over the weekend, visiting my sister and her husband in Massachusetts. While I was there, I read most of The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwell, which was on their coffee table. He has an interesting thesis, explaining sudden societal changes in terms of epidemics. I need to get my own copy so I can finish reading it!

I took them out to dinner Friday night at Blue Ginger in Wellesley, which is owned by Chef Ming Tsai. While pricey, with entrees at $21-35, it was worth every penny! The food was delicately flavored and presented beautifully by the attentive staff. If you're in the area, I recommend it for an exceptional treat. They take reservations, but also set aside tables for walk-ins.

Last Tuesday, Robert Plant's [warning: that site is a bandwidth beast!] new album "Mighty Rearranger" came out in the US. I had put it on my "must-buy" list when I first heard the single "Shine It All Around" a couple of months ago, so I hied myself to Best Buy on Wednesday and bought the last copy in the rack. I've been listening to it—some would say OD'ing—ever since, especially on the drive to and from MA. One thing I haven't seen any mention of is his use of Christian imagery in several songs. Of course, I might be reading too much into lyrics like this from "Shine It All Around":
This is the heart of the man
This is the heart of the matter [man?]
Break a little bread now, spread it all around
Perhaps it just goes to an old-fashioned liberal British education where students read the classics? At any rate, I get a charge every time I hear the song. The rest of the album is musically diverse and I discover something new in every listening, whether it's harmony, lyrics, or rhythms. A reasonably friendly fan site is at Robert Plant Homepage.

Over at the NRO Corner, a couple of items caught my attention:
  • IRANIAN REVELATIONS [Michael Ledeen] posts a remarkable email that purports to translate parts of a letter to "Rafsanjani ... written by a Karaj based cleric. He says in the letter that he is ill and near death, so presumably that is what has given him the extra ordinary courage needed to write this letter." Ledeen comments, "I think it is enormously important, because it shows the depth of the hatred of the regime from a leading Shi'ite mullah, in a degree of detail I think most of us would find amazing. And it also provides very useful information about the official presidential candidate, Rafsanjani, who is often described as a "moderate.""
  • THEOCRATS AND ALL THAT [Andrew Stuttaford] highlights an article by Mark Lilla in the NYT, as well as a book review in the Financial Times, that is "a nice little example of the way in which liberalism has swapped reason for dreams, fantasy and paranoia."
OpinionJournal, meanwhile, posted a prescient WSJ editorial "Liberal Fundamentalism: Who are the intolerant extremists?" that was originally published on Sept. 13, 1984. It opens,

We have been following the extensive theological commentary in the press on the subject of politics and religion in the current presidential campaign. It might not otherwise have occurred to us that so many editorialists and columnists harbored so many deep, pent-up opinions on religious worship, voluntary school prayer or Christian fundamentalism.

What we have been looking for but have so far missed in this great awakening of religious writing is a short sermon on the subject of liberal fundamentalism. And so in the spirit of Samuel Johnson, who once wrote homilies for his church pastor so as not to fall asleep during Sunday services, we would like to offer a few thoughts on what has been far and away the most messianic religion in America the past two decades--liberal politics.

Plus ça change, plus ça même.

John Hinderocker (of Powerline) has a column up at The Weekly Standard that looks into the oddities of the UN's proposed $1.2 Billion renovation project. The verdict?

It appears there are serious questions about the U.N.'s renovation project. Depending on which assumptions one accepts about cost and square footage, anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion in expense is unaccounted for. Given the U.N.'s history, is there any reason to doubt that the costs projected by that organization include substantial sums representing, as Trump put it, incompetence or fraud? Given what we know about the oil-for-food program, is there any reason to trust the U.N.'s business or accounting practices?

American taxpayers have a legitimate interest in knowing the answers to these questions. The renovation is to be financed by a low-interest, 30-year, $1.2 billion loan from the U.S. government. (Kofi Annan's original request for an interest-free loan was turned down.) And, of course, the loan will then be repaid largely by American taxpayers, who foot a little over 20 percent of the U.N.'s bills.

A few congressmen and senators have finally begun to ask whether the U.N. building project is a boondoggle. It's about time.

Also check out the Powerline post: "Anything goes if you're planning to attack believing Christians." They summarize a Robert Novak piece, noting that "NARAL Pro-Choice America hired two operatives to obtain and probe the financial disclosure records of 30 appellate court judges considered potential nominees for the Supreme Court," a move that Novak terms "a fishing expedition to find irregularities in potential selections for the Supreme Court." Not a promising development, to say the least.