Core: noun, the most important part of a thing, the essence; from the Latin cor, meaning heart.

The View from the Core by E. L. Core
America's Small Town Webzine

 Volume 1.18 Front Page June 10, 2002 

Featured Pages & Sites Only

The View’s Featured Webpages
(links to offsite pages)

Down to Columns Classic

Columns, essays, and news articles (new at top)

Climate Changing, U.S. Says in Report (06/03/02) new
In The New York Times by Andrew C. Revkin
“In a stark shift for the Bush administration, the United States has sent a climate report to the United Nations detailing specific and far-reaching effects that it says global warming will inflict on the American environment. In the report, the administration for the first time mostly blames human actions for recent global warming. It says the main culprit is the burning of fossil fuels that send heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.”

White House defends U-turn on global warming (06/04/02) new
In The Washington Times by George Archibald
“The White House yesterday defended the about-face on global warming contained in its report to the United Nations on climate change. The report marked the first Bush administration agreement with environmental activists that recent global warming is caused by heat-trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere from human use of fossil fuels.... White House spokesman Scott McClellan yesterday defended the report, issued Friday by the Environmental Protection Agency, by pointing to its language reiterating the administration’s stance that, Mr. McClellan said, there remains ‘considerable uncertainty in current understanding of how climate varies naturally.’ The administration says such uncertainty backs its opposition to the Kyoto treaty’s goal of cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions by 7 percent from their 1990 levels between 2008 to 2012.”

Bush burned by climate report (06/08/02) new
By Henry Lamb at WorldNetDaily
“Despite a flurry of media reports to the contrary, the Bush administration’s policy on climate change has not flip-flopped. The media frenzy followed the release of a U.S. Climate Assessment Report prepared for the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.... Most of the individuals who prepared the report are holdovers from the Clinton-Gore era, who are known proponents of the global-warming theory. It is also widely known that some of Bush’s high-level appointments are also proponents of the theory, even though Bush, himself, has expressed strong reservations. Release of the report was not intended to be an announcement of a change in policy — it was simply compliance with treaty requirements.”

Don’t tell Dubya (06/09/02) new
By Robert Novak in The Chicago Sun-Times
“The Environmental Protection Agency report warning of global warming dangers was issued without President Bush’s being informed in advance, even though it seemed to contradict his long-held position. That’s why Bush dismissed what the EPA did as a ‘report put out by the bureaucracy.’ The president did not mention EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman, the former governor of New Jersey who has frequently clashed with the White House.”

C.I.A. Was Tracking Hijacker Months Earlier Than It Had Said (06/03/02) new
In The New York Times by David Johnston and Elizabeth Becker
“The officials said the C.I.A. learned in early 2001 that Khalid al-Midhar, who died in the attack on the Pentagon, was linked to a suspect in the bombing of the Navy destroyer Cole in October 2000. The agency had said previously that it did not learn of Mr. Midhar’s connections to Al Qaeda or his multiple visits to the United States until the month before the hijackings, when an increase in ‘chatter’ about terrorist threats prompted a review of the C.I.A.’s terrorism files.”

Face to Face With a Terrorist: Government Worker Recalls Mohamed Atta Seeking Funds Before Sept. 11 (06/06/02) new
By Brian Ross at ABC News
“Four of the hijackers who attacked America on Sept. 11 tried to get government loans to finance their plots, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, who sought $650,000 to modify a crop-duster, a government loan officer [Johnelle Bryant] told ABCNEWS.... Atta also expressed an interest in visiting New York, specifically the World Trade Center, and asked Bryant about security there. He inquired about other American cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago. Prompted by a souvenir she had on her desk, he also expressed interest in the Dallas Cowboys’ football stadium, mentioning that the team was ‘America’s team’ and the stadium had a ‘hole in the roof.’”

The Other Shoe: Obsessing over Sept. 11 distracts us from preventing the next attack. (06/07/02) new
By Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal
“At the same time the institutions that keep us up and humming, or at least help keep us mutually invested in and respectful of each other and our way of life, continue to wobble and groan from the weight of their misconduct. The American Catholic Church is a victim of self-inflicted wounds, its corruptions as towering as its cathedrals. Big business — Enronned. Wall Street — stock tipped, finagled and fooled by a bubble. Big accounting, by which we judge how our business investments are doing, is a joke. The FBI and the CIA are more joke fodder. Our serious journalists are focused on today’s testimony, tonight’s game and the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries. The others do shark attacks and entertainment awards. Our intellectuals are off on various toots, most of them either irrelevant — the latest edition of the New York Review of Books leads with stories on David Brock, Clarence Thomas, Sexy Puritans, Peggy Guggenheim and Noel Coward — or all too relevant and wrong.”

Wartime Distractions (06/04/02) new
By John Podhoretz in The New York Post
“The war did not end with the regime change in Afghanistan. Nor did it end with the removal of the last girder from Ground Zero. It’s still ongoing. The CIA-FBI-Congress-media frenzy is the way the Washington game was played before the war on terrorism. For a while, it seemed that game had at last been retired in the wake of Sept. 11. It should have been. But you could sense a kind of perverse relief on the part of the media and governmental Establishment that the old game could still be played.”

A Few Very Good Men: Priest Recruiter Bill Parent Is Looking for Those Who Have Seen the Light (06/09/02) new
In The Washington Post by Phil McCombs
“What’s most surprising, in talking with the seminarians and young priests and new deacons-at the reception and later by phone-is that, far from being discouraged by the scandals that have rocked the church, they seem filled with new fervor, as McCarrick indicated. These are hard-charging guys-tough, determined, full of life and good humor, a palpable sense of joy. Most come from solid Catholic homes, had careers before they went to seminary, and wanted success, cars, romance-all the stuff of modern life. But something kept nagging, and although they ran and hid and wrestled with demons and angels they knew deep down what it was.”

Celibate and Loving It: For Many Priests, True Happiness Lies in The Joining of Self and Church (06/06/02) new
In The Washington Post by a Staff Writer
“Part of the point of celibacy, for Catholics, is to confront people with something bigger than biology, society, music, dancing, writing, painting, advertising. And sex. Celibates also turn around the supposition this life is a heroic renunciation. They say celibacy is not No. It is Yes. Maybe. Anyway, it's not just a Catholic thing.”

The Body of Christ and the spring meeting of the U.S. Catholic bishops (06/09/02) new
By Francis Cardinal George, OMI, in The Catholic New World
“A crisis of authority in the Church cannot be resolved if bishops donít act like bishops. A bishop has responsibility before Christ for keeping people united to Christ. A bishop therefore sets boundaries, in the matter of sexual misconduct or any other matter; but, more fundamentally, he encourages people to live virtuously in Christ. When people are ďin ChristĒ and not full of themselves and their own lives, they are the Church. Since the bishop is the visible point of reference for union with Christ, people divorced from their bishop are not part of the apostolic Church. Hence the terrible trial for the Church when priests and people and bishops are not together in purpose and in life.”

The Bishops and the Vatican (06/10/02) new
By Avery Cardinal Dulles in The New York Times
“The bishops are understandably concerned to show that they are taking bold and decisive measures. But they should take care not to lock the church into positions that will later prove to be unwise. If they yield too much to the present atmosphere of panic, the Holy See can be relied upon to safeguard the theological and canonical tradition. The many levels of authority in the church are a precious resource.”

Tearful FBI Agent Apologizes To Sept. 11 Families and Victims (05/30/02)
At Cybercast News Service by Jeff Johnson
“In a memorandum written 91 days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, an FBI agent warned that Americans would die as a result of the bureau’s failure to adequately pursue investigations of terrorists living in the country. FBI Special Agent Robert Wright, Jr., who wrote the memo, led a four-year investigation into terrorist money laundering in the United States. Wright began crying as he concluded his remarks at a Washington press conference Thursday.”

FBI admits bureau missed clues of Sept. 11 attacks (05/30/02)
In The Oklahoman by Ted Bridis of Associated Press
“FBI Director Robert Mueller said Wednesday there may have been more missed clues before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He also suggested for the first time that investigators might have uncovered the plot if they had been more diligent about pursuing leads. ‘The jury is still out on all of it,’ Mueller said, during a wideranging, two-hour presentation at FBI headquarters. ‘Looking at it right now, I can’t say for sure it would not have, that there wasn’t a possibility that we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers.’”

Stop frisking crippled nuns (06/01/02)
By Mark Steyn in The Spectator
“So youíre at Newark standing in line behind a young Saudi male and an 87-year-old arthritic nun from Des Moines. Whoíll be asked to remove his or her shoes? Six out of ten times, itíll be the nun. Three out of ten times, you. One out of ten, Abdumb al-Dumber. Even if this is just for show, what itís showing is profound official faintheartedness.”

Liberal Reality Check (05/31/02)
By Nicholas D. Kristof in The New York Times
“One reason aggressive agents were restrained as they tried to go after Zacarias Moussaoui is that liberals like myself — and the news media caldron in which I toil and trouble — have regularly excoriated law enforcement authorities for taking shortcuts and engaging in racial profiling. As long as we’re pointing fingers, we should peer into the mirror. The timidity of bureau headquarters is indefensible. But it reflected not just myopic careerism but also an environment (that we who care about civil liberties helped create) in which officials were afraid of being assailed as insensitive storm troopers.”

In the mind of a would-be suicide bomber (05/30/02)
In The Jerusalem Post by David Rudge
“Underlying it all, however, were the teachings which preach the need for jihad to ‘create a just and equal, non-corrupt and non-criminal society by the spread and unification of Islam.’ .... ‘I also began to imagine the people I would be killing, whether they would be women and children, families sitting down at a cafe. I became a bit disillusioned, because I had been told to blow myself up in any event,’ she said. ‘This meant to me that what was important for them was to succeed in perpetrating an attack, whether there were casualties or not, and then they would be able to pat themselves on the back. I felt like they were playing a game with the blood of the martyrs.’”

Shin Bet, IDF nab reluctant female suicide bombers (05/30/02)
In Ha’aretz by Staff
“25-year-old Tanzim activist from Jaba in the northern West Bank was planning to carry out a suicide strike in Jerusalem. Hamamra told reporters she had decided to go ahead with the attack for ‘personal reasons’ but wouldn’t give further details.... She said after she had completed the training, she had a change of heart and decided not to go through with the plan. She said: ‘I began to think about killing people — babies, women, sick people, and to imagine my family sitting in a restaurant and someone coming in and blowing them up.’ Hamamra said she feared ‘God would not see it as a good reason for committing suicide and therefore would not accept me as a shaheed.’”

My fellow Muslims, we must fight anti-Semitism (05/26/02)
In Ha’aretz by Joseph Algazy
“Ramadan, 39, is not only an outstanding Muslim intellectual but also the grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hassan Al-Bana, who was murdered in his own country in 1949. He firmly condemns the anti-Semitic incidents that took place during the past year in France, Belgium and other European countries, such as attacks on synagogues and Jewish institutions. ‘Too few Muslims have spoken out against these anti-Semitic and Judeophobic phenomena,’ he says. In his opinion, any attempt to afford legitimization to anti-Semitism on the basis of texts taken from the Islamic tradition, and as an expression of protest against the suffering of the Palestinians, must be firmly rejected.”

The Elderly Man and the Sea? Test Sanitizes Literary Texts (05/02/02)
In The New York Times by N. R. Kleinfield
“In a feat of literary sleuth work, Ms. Heifetz, the mother of a high school senior and a weaver from Brooklyn, inspected 10 high school English exams from the past three years and discovered that the vast majority of the passages — drawn from the works of Isaac Bashevis Singer, Anton Chekhov and William Maxwell, among others — had been sanitized of virtually any reference to race, religion, ethnicity, sex, nudity, alcohol, even the mildest profanity and just about anything that might offend someone for some reason. Students had to write essays and answer questions based on these doctored versions — versions that were clearly marked as the work of the widely known authors.”

Political Diversity Lacking in Many UNC-CH Departments (May 2002)
In Carolina Journal by Jon Sanders
“A survey of faculty members in nine departments at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has found that more than four-fifths are registered Democrats. The results of the survey, conducted by the conservative student magazine Carolina Review for its March issue, called into question UNC-CH’s devotion to diversity. The results were not unique; in 1996, The Daily Tar Heel examined eight departments and found a similar disparity: 91 percent of professors who were registered with a major political party were Democrats, while 9 percent were registered Republicans.”

The unhyphenating of America: Census finds fewer citing European roots (05/31/02)
In The Boston Globe by Cindy Rodriquez and Bill Dedman
“Four centuries after the Pilgrims reached Plymouth Rock, European-Americans are cutting their ancestral roots. In the last decade, the number of Americans who said they were English, Irish, or from another European derivation dropped by at least 32 million, according to new Census 2000 data. Six million more people than 10 years ago, about 20 million, listed their ancestry as “American” or “USA.” And millions more left it blank.”

UN Misses the Forest for the Trees (05/22/02)
By Alex A. Avery of Hudson Institute
“We suggest that the United Nations work to accelerate market reforms, property rights protections, and the rule of law so that people in developing nations can increase their standards of living. Moreover, the UN should work much harder than it has in the past to increase the productivity of farmers in developing countries.... It is just too bad that Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, the World Wildlife Fund, and the other groups that are supposedly concerned about biodiversity continue to be distracted by fights over fertilizers, pesticides, and biotechnology as the forest burns around them.”

Weakland apologizes for his “sinfulness” (05/31/02)
In The Journal-Sentinel by Staff
“Former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland apologized to his parishioners tonight for the ‘scandal that has occurred because of my sinfulness,’ saying he felt ‘remorse, shame, contrition and emptiness’ over a relationship he had 20 years ago with a man and the archdiocese’s subsequent $450,000 payment to silence him. Weakland also revealed that, contrary to earlier statements, his income from honoria and writing projects over his 25 years as archbishop did not cover the amount of the settlement. ‘In my remaining years, I will continue to contribute to the archdiocese whatever I can,’ he said, ‘and, of course, the archdiocese will receive whatever effects I own on my death.’”

Text: Weakland’s apology (05/31/02)
In The Journal-Sentinel
“I come before you today to apologize and beg forgiveness. I know — and I am sure you do too — that the Church to be authentic must be a community that heals. But I also know — and you do too — that there is no healing unless it is based on truth. In my remarks I will do my best. I apologize to all the faithful of this Archdiocese which I love so much, to all its people and clergy, for the scandal that has occurred because of my sinfulness. Long ago, I placed that sinfulness in Godís loving and forgiving heart, but now and into the future I worry about those whose faith may be shaken by my acts.”

Occasionally, some links are moved from this section into the Featured Webpages Trove.

Classic articles that are, or should be, famous (new at top)

The End of History? (Summer 1989)
By Francis Fukuyama in The National Interest
“The triumph of the West, of the Western idea, is evident first of all in the total exhaustion of viable systematic alternatives to Western liberalism. In the past decade, there have been unmistakable changes in the intellectual climate of the world’s two largest communist countries, and the beginnings of significant reform movements in both. But this phenomenon extends beyond high politics and it can be seen also in the ineluctable spread of consumerist Western culture in such diverse contexts as the peasants’ markets and color television sets now omnipresent throughout China, the cooperative restaurants and clothing stores opened in the past year in Moscow, the Beethoven piped into Japanese department stores, and the rock music enjoyed alike in Prague, Rangoon, and Tehran. What we may be witnessing is not just the end of the Cold War, or the passing of a particular period of post-war history, but the end of history as such: that is, the end point of mankind’s ideological evolution and the universalization of Western liberal democracy as the final form of human government. This is not to say that there will no longer be events to fill the pages of Foreign Affairs’s yearly summaries of international relations, for the victory of liberalism has occurred primarily in the realm of ideas or consciousness and is as yet incomplete in the real or material world. But there are powerful reasons for believing that it is the ideal that will govern the material world in the long run.”

An Explosion of Green (Apr. 1995)
By Bill McKibben in The Atlantic
“In the early nineteenth century the cleric Timothy Dwight reported that the 240-mile journey from Boston to New York City passed through no more than twenty miles of forest. Surveying the changes wrought by farmers and loggers in New Hampshire, he wrote, ‘The forests are not only cut down, but there appears little reason to hope that they will ever grow again.’ Less than two centuries later, despite great increases in the state’s population, 90 percent of New Hampshire is covered by forest. Vermont was 35 percent woods in 1850 and is 80 percent today, and even Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island have seen woodlands rebound to the point where they cover nearly three fifths of southern New England. This process, which began as farmers abandoned the cold and rocky pastures of the East for the fertile fields of the Midwest, has not yet run its course.... This unintentional and mostly unnoticed renewal of the rural and mountainous East — not the spotted owl, not the salvation of Alaska’s pristine ranges — represents the great environmental story of the United States, and in some ways of the whole world. Here, where ‘suburb’ and ‘megalopolis’ were added to the world’s vocabulary, an explosion of green is under way, one that could offer hope to much of the rest of the planet.”

The Doomslayer (Feb. 1997)
By Ed Regis in Wired
“The world is getting progressively poorer, and it’s all because of population, or more precisely, overpopulation. There’s a finite store of resources on our pale blue dot, spaceship Earth, our small and fragile tiny planet, and we’re fast approaching its ultimate carrying capacity. The limits to growth are finally upon us, and we’re living on borrowed time. The laws of population growth are inexorable. Unless we act decisively, the final result is written in stone: mass poverty, famine, starvation, and death. Time is short, and we have to act now. That’s the standard and canonical litany.... There’s just one problem with The Litany, just one slight little wee imperfection: every item in that dim and dreary recitation, each and every last claim, is false.... Thus saith The Doomslayer, one Julian L. Simon, a neither shy nor retiring nor particularly mild-mannered professor of business administration at a middling eastern-seaboard state university. Simon paints a somewhat different picture of the human condition circa 1997. ‘Our species is better off in just about every measurable material way,’ he says. ‘Just about every important long-run measure of human material welfare shows improvement over the decades and centuries, in the United States and the rest of the world. Raw materials — all of them — have become less scarce rather than more. The air in the US and in other rich countries is irrefutably safer to breathe. Water cleanliness has improved. The environment is increasingly healthy, with every prospect that this trend will continue.’”

A brilliant parody:

Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity (Spring/Summer 1996)
By Alan Sokal in Social Text
“There are many natural scientists, and especially physicists, who continue to reject the notion that the disciplines concerned with social and cultural criticism can have anything to contribute, except perhaps peripherally, to their research. Still less are they receptive to the idea that the very foundations of their worldview must be revised or rebuilt in the light of such criticism. Rather, they cling to the dogma imposed by the long post-Enlightenment hegemony over the Western intellectual outlook, which can be summarized briefly as follows: that there exists an external world, whose properties are independent of any individual human being and indeed of humanity as a whole; that these properties are encoded in ‘eternal’ physical laws; and that human beings can obtain reliable, albeit imperfect and tentative, knowledge of these laws by hewing to the ‘objective’ procedures and epistemological strictures prescribed by the (so-called) scientific method.”

... and, in explanation, ...

A Physicist Experiments with Cultural Studies (May/June 1996)
By Alan Sokal in Lingua Franca
“For some years I’ve been troubled by an apparent decline in the standards of rigor in certain precincts of the academic humanities. But I’m a mere physicist: If I find myself unable to make heads or tails of jouissance and differance, perhaps that just reflects my own inadequacy. So, to test the prevailing intellectual standards, I decided to try a modest (though admittedly uncontrolled) experiment: Would a leading North American journal of cultural studies — whose editorial collective includes such luminaries as Fredric Jameson and Andrew Ross — publish an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions? The answer, unfortunately, is yes.... What’s going on here? Could the editors really not have realized that my article was written as a parody?”

Networks Need a Reality Check: A firsthand account of liberal bias at CBS News. (02/13/1996)
By Bernard Goldbert in The Wall Street Journal
“There are lots of reasons fewer people are watching network news, and one of them, I’m more convinced than ever, is that our viewers simply don’t trust us. And for good reason. The old argument that the networks and other ‘media elites’ have a liberal bias is so blatantly true that it’s hardly worth discussing anymore. No, we don’t sit around in dark corners and plan strategies on how we’re going to slant the news. We don’t have to. It comes naturally to most reporters.”

There is No Time, There Will Be Time (11/18/1998)
By Peggy Noonan in Forbes ASAP
“When you consider who is gifted and crazed with rage... when you think of the terrorist places and the terrorist countries... who do they hate most? The Great Satan, the United States. What is its most important place? Some would say Washington. I would say the great city of the United States is the great city of the world, the dense 10-mile-long island called Manhattan, where the economic and media power of the nation resides, the city that is the psychological center of our modernity, our hedonism, our creativity, our hard-shouldered hipness, our unthinking arrogance.”

Up to Columns Classic
Featured Pages & Sites Only
Featured Pages & Sites Only

The View’s Featured Websites, Series, and Multi-Part Articles
(links to other sites)

Down to Sources Reference Collections Columnists Weblogs Series

Mostly sources of news and opinion (alphabetical)

Arts & Letters Daily
Articles of Note — New Books — Essays and Opinion

Business Daily Review
Features and Analysis — Opinions and Reviews — Strategy and Tactics

Catholic Dossier
Issues in the Round

Catholic News Service
U.S. Catholic Conference

Catholic Telecommunications
Bringing people together

Catholic World Report
“CWR is an international news magazine published by Ignatius Press.”

City Journal
The Manhattan Institute

Cybercast News Service

Tech News. Filtered Daily.

First Things
The Journal of Religion and Public Life

Foundation for Individual Rights in Education
“FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation devoted to free speech, individual liberty, religious freedom, the rights of conscience, legal equality, due process, and academic freedom on our nation’s campuses.”

FrontPage Magazine
David Horowitz

The Hoover Digest: Research and Opinion on Public Policy
Hoover Institution on War, Revolution, and Peace

Jim Romenesko’s MediaNews

All the junk that’s fit to debunk

Lucianne’s News Forum
Latest Articles

America’s News Page

Notable Quotables Archive @ Media Research Center
“A bi-weekly compilation of the latest outrageous,
sometimes humorous, quotes in the liberal media.”

RealClear Politics
political commentary for the political junkie

Reason Online
Free Minds and Free Markets

The World’s Leading Provider of Financial Information and News

SciTech Daily Review
Features and Background — Books and Media — Analysis and Opinion

Statistical Assessment Service (STATS)
“A non-partisan, non-profit research organization... devoted to the accurate use of scientific and social research in public policy debate.”

Tech Central Station
Where Free Markets Meet Technology

United Press International
From the News Wire

Opinion Journal
Wall Street Journal editorial page

The Wilson Quarterly
Surveying the world of ideas for the intellectually curious reader

A Free Press for a Free People

ZENIT News Agency
The World Seen from Rome

Reference, etc.

American Heritage Dictionary @
Fourth Edition

Columbia Encyclopedia @
Sixth Edition

The U.S. Constitution Online
Including Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, and other fundamental documents of US history and law

Founder’s Library
Historical American documents

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature @
Eighteen volumes, originally published 1907-1921

Catholic Encyclopedia
“Actual work on the Encyclopedia was begun in January, 1905. It was completed in April, 1914.”

IntraText Digital Library
The missing link between text and hypertext

The 1911 Edition Encyclopedia Britannica
“This 1911 edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica is filled with historical information that is still relevant today. It fills 29 volumes and contains over 44 million words. The articles are written by more than 1500 authors within their various fields of expertise.”

The Internet Archive
Building an “Internet Library”

Collections, etc.

Special Wayback Collections at The Internet Archive:

The September 11 Web Archive
“This collection of archived documents was commissioned by the Library of Congress to preserve digital materials covering the events of September 11, 2001.”

US Election 2000
“This collection was commissioned by the Library of Congress to archive digital materials covering the Election of 2000. It contains 800 gigabytes of data gathered from 8/1/2000 to 1/21/2001.”

Web Pioneers: The Early Years
“A special Wayback collection of websites that began the Internet revolution.”

A chronicle of high-level USA government actions in September 2001, at two websites:

Ten Days in September (WP)
“This series is based on interviews with President Bush, Vice President Cheney and many other key officials inside the administration and out. The interviews were supplemented by notes of National Security Council meetings made available to The Washington Post, along with notes taken by several participants.”

Response to Terror (Austin American Stateman)
“This is an eight-part series by The Washington Post describing the response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks at the highest levels of government.”

News coverage of September 11 and the aftermath:

Fighting Terrorism: America Retaliates (BG)
“Archive stories from the Boston Globe: Tuesday Sept. 11 – Sunday Sept. 16”

Attack on America (Guardian Unlimited)
Special Report with continuing coverage

Miscellaneous Collections:

Catholic Poets @ ELCore.Net
Joyce Kilmer, Alice Meynell, Joseph Mary Plunkett

Verse @
Public-domain Anthologies and Individual Volumes

HTI American Verse Project
“The American Verse Project is a collaborative project between the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative (HTI) and the University of Michigan Press. The project is assembling an electronic archive of volumes of American poetry prior to 1920.”

Newman Reader
Life and Works of Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman

What We Think of America (Granta)
“In this issue twenty-four writers drawn from many countries describe the part America has played in their lives — for better or worse — and deliver their estimate of the good and the bad it has done as the world’s supreme political, military, economic and cultural power.”

Hot Issues: Persecution (Christianity Today)
Reports of contemporary persecution of Christians world-wide

Gay Activism in Schools (Teachers in Focus)
“A single-themed issue on homosexual activism in the schools”

Skepticism Toward The Skeptical Environmentalist (Scientific American)
The Great Debate between Lomborg and Anti-Lomborgs

Document Archive in English (ZENIT)
The World Seen from Rome

Archives: Fallout of September 11 (ZENIT)
The World Seen from Rome

STATS Spotlight (Statistical Assessment Service)
“Here are pieces of more extensive unpublished STATS research.”

Legacy of Shame (New Times LA)
News and opinion about Roger Cardinal Mahony

A Trust Betrayed:
Sexual Abuse by Teachers (Education Week)

“This three-part series on child sex abuse by school employees is the result of a six-month project by Education Week involving scores of interviews with state and local education and law-enforcement officials, other experts, teachers, principals, parents, and victims, as well as an extensive review of court documents, journal articles, and public-policy records.”

Catholic Church Abuse Scandal (Yahoo! News)
U.S. Full Coverage

The Crusades (Catholic Dossier)
“It is difficult for one who lives in an increasingly secularized society not to be influenced by its prejudices. One of the great misunderstandings in the West, even among Catholics, has to do with the Crusades. This issue of Catholic Dossier provides fundamental and irrefutable historical information about what actually happened and why.”

Pope Pius XII (Catholic Dossier)
“The accomplishments of the Vatican diplomatic corps in the various countries occupied by the Germans, over which the sinister Eichmann preyed, had received the plaudits of all free men, not least those in the new country of Israel. There groves were planted in honor of the Pope and of many of his nuncios, not least Cardinal Roncalli who, as nuncio in Istanbul, had been the good right arm of Pius in rescuing Jews. Pius XII escaped martyrdom during his lifetime, but he has been subjected to the martyrdom of vilification, defamation and incredible falsification after his death.”

The New Rise of Islam (Catholic World Report)
“Late in the 20th century, the renewed vigor of Islam has become one of the most important developments on the world scene. By dint of their energetic proselytism, their migration to new lands, and their high birth rate, Muslims are rapidly gaining attention and influence in many countries where their faith has heretofore been virtually unknown. CWR aims to make readers better acquainted with Islam, with a primer on the religious principles, and public practices of that faith.”

Christianity and Islam, Terrorism and War (Catholic World Report)
“Why have thousands of Muslims joined in anti-American protests in Pakistan, Kenya, and Indonesia since the start of the US air strikes on terrorist bases in Afghanistan? These demonstrators are not all supporters of al-Qaeda, thirsting for American blood; they are not Arabs, caught up in the political turmoil of the Middle East. They are united only by the Muslim faith. Is it Islam, then, that prods them toward violence?”

The Cross and the Crescent (Catholic World Report)
“To a remarkable degree, America has united behind President Bush in the war on terrorism. For the first time since World War II there is an overwhelming consensus that we are fighting a necessary battle, for a just cause. That national unity is a clear sign of strength, and a clear warning to our enemies. Nevertheless, beneath the surface of that consensus the careful observer can still detect signs of the fault lines within American society. We are united against terrorists, but divided among ourselves.”

Other columnists (alphabetical)

Diane Alden

Ann Coulter
Town Hall

Bill Dunn
Faith and Funnies

Victor Davis Hanson
National Review Online

Charles Krauthammer
Washington Post

Michael Kelly
Washington Post

Jonah Goldberg
National Review Online

Jonah Goldberg
Town Hall

Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice

John Mallon

Steve Milloy
Fox News

Peggy Noonan
Opinion Journal

Fred Reed
Commentary with Moxie

Mark Steyn
National Post

Deb Weiss
A View from Here

George F. Will
Washington Post

Weblogs (alphabetical)

The Blog from the Core
E. L. Core
Needless Commentary From Small-Town America

Ad Orientem
Mark C. N. Sullivan

Michael Dubruiel
(husband of blogger Amy Welborn)
International politics, economics, and foreign policy

Exposing Left-Wing Lunacy

Catholic and Enjoying It!
Mark Shea
“So That No Thought of Mine, No Matter How Stupid, Should Ever Go Unpublished Again!”
Compiled by Ted Olsen and others

The Conservative Underground
Oubai Shabandar, Shanna Bowman, Dan Moody, Tim Richards
Culture Progress Justice

The Corner
National Review Online
(The Blog Mother Ship, according to Kevin James)

cut on the bias
Susanna Cornett
“keeping an eye on the spins and weirdness of media, crime and everyday life”
“Conservatism reborn in twisted sisterhood”

Fool’s Folly
Emily Stimpson
Proverbs 12:23

The Goliard Blog
Kevin James
Your Destination for Deep Thoughts and Alleged Insights

Holy Weblog!
M. J. Garcia
A faithful look at the Net.

In Between Naps
Amy Welborn
(wife of blogger Michael Dubruiel)

Juan Gato’s Bucket o’ Rants
Bunch of crap from a moron.

Jumping to Conclusions
David Nieporent
“Thoughts, comments, musings on life, politics, current events and the media.”

Louder Fenn’s Whirligig
Perpetual ephemera

Mallon’s Media Watch
John Mallon
“MMW is a Catholic blog site featuring news analysis, response to and commentary on misinformed media reports on the Catholic Church.”

Media Minded
(An anonymous copy editor looks at the media, especially newspapers.)

Minute Particulars
Mark DB

Nota Bene
Sean Gallagher
Humble (oh really...?) opinions on matters of faith

Fr. Nectarios Trevino
A weblog of American Orthodoxy.

“The political rantings of Josh Chafetz, a graduate student in political theory at Oxford, Dan Urman, a graduate student in international relations at Oxford, and Anand Giridharadas, a junior at the University of Michigan spending the year at Oxford.”

Relapsed Catholic
Kathy Shaidle
Where the religious rubber meets the pop culture road...

Rhetorica: Commentary and Analysis
Andrew R. Cline, Ph.D.
Politics, Journalism, Rhetoric, Persuasion, Propaganda, and Spin

Sand in the Gears
Anthony Woodlief
Clogging up juggernauts since 1967.
Scott’s little outpost of sanity on the web.

Chris Burgwald
“A blog among friends devoted to the usually serious but occasionally frivolous search for truth in things theological, philosophical, political, historical, etc. etc.”

Series and multi-part articles of news or opinion (new at top)

Joe Klein is writing a multi-part report from Europe for The Guardian:

new France? It’s like 1970s America (05/28/02)
“Over the next six weeks, Joe Klein, America’s leading political commentator, will be travelling through Europe for the Guardian. Today, 36 years after he first arrived there in search of “dark-eyed lovelies with difficult personalities”, he reports from France”

new The Prince (06/06/02)
“Is Silvio Berlusconi a medieval thowback to a time when rich men could buy power? Or the shape of things to come? And is he dangerous — or just a colourful rogue? In the second of his weekly dispatches from Europe, Joe Klein meets the billionaire prime minister who just wants to be loved”

The Problem of Sexual Molestation by Roman Catholic Clergy: Meeting the Problem in a Comprehensive and Responsible Manner (the 1985 report to American Bishops):

First Part
Executive Summary, Table of Contents, Forward, Introduction, Descriptions of Possible Case Scenarios, Summary of Considerations

Second Part
Summary of Considerations (cont.), Project Proposal, Scope of Services, Strategy, Conclusion

Related articles in The New York Times on the last messages to come out of the World Trade Center after the first plane struck:

History Recorded From the Messages of Victims (05/26/02)
“The primary sources for today’s article are interviews with more than 140 people who communicated with individuals on the upper floors of the twin towers, and conversations with 17 others who were at or above the impact zone in the south tower but escaped. Additionally, eight people described conditions just below the impact zone in the north tower.”

102 Minutes: Fighting to Live as the Towers Died (05/26/02)
“They began as calls for help, information, guidance. They quickly turned into soundings of desperation, and anger, and love. Now they are the remembered voices of the men and women who were trapped on the high floors of the twin towers. From their last words, a haunting chronicle of the final 102 minutes at the World Trade Center has emerged, built on scores of phone conversations and e-mail and voice messages. These accounts, along with the testimony of the handful of people who escaped, provide the first sweeping views from the floors directly hit by the airplanes and above. Collected by reporters for The New York Times, these last words give human form to an all but invisible strand of this stark, public catastrophe: the advancing destruction across the top 19 floors of the north tower and the top 33 of the south, where loss of life was most severe on Sept. 11. Of the 2,823 believed dead in the attack on New York, at least 1,946, or 69 percent, were killed on those upper floors, an analysis by The Times has found.”

Accounts From the North Tower (05/26/02)
“Following are accounts from survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center’s North Tower and the friends and relatives of the victims.”

Accounts From the South Tower (05/26/02)
“Following are accounts from survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center’s South Tower and the friends and relatives of the victims.”

A three-part UPI series by Martin Sieff on how some mainstream media were bamboozled about a massacre that had never happened:

Part One: Documenting the Myth (05/20/02)
“After the Israeli Army attacked the West Bank Palestinian city of Jenin on April 2, the Western European media fell for the ‘Massacre Myth’ in Jenin in a big way. Even though the final Palestinian Authority figure acknowledged only 56 dead in Jenin, media coverage in major Western European nations gave credence to early claims by the PA’s top officials that as many as 3,000 civilians had been killed in the fighting there. Israel’s own actions led credence to the myth. The Israeli army barred the international media from Jenin as its forces drove into the city. The only sources that the media then had for what was going on there were from the Palestinians themselves. And in the inevitable confusion of battle, what the great 19th century military theoretician Carl von Clausewitz called ‘the fog of war’ applied. At the time, both the Israeli and Palestinian authorities appeared unclear what was actually happening on the ground. However, even allowing for these factors, the Western media coverage of Jenin, espically in the Western European press and broadcast media, largely proved to be factually wildly inaccurate in the light of what later emerged. And there was also a hysterical tone to many of them. What made these unreliable and misleading reports all the more remarkable was that many of the worst of them emerged in the most respected and influential organizations in the British media. The British Broadcasting Corporation and three of the four so-called ‘quality’ daily newspapers — The Times, The Independent and The Guardian — fell for the ‘Massacre Myth’ hook, line and sinker. Even the more cautious and — as it proved — reliable ‘Daily Telegraph’ was not entirely immune either.”

Analysis: Why Europeans bought Jenin myth (05/21/02)
“Why were reporters and news editors of so many of the biggest and most prestigious Western European newspapers and broadcasting networks ready to believe that the Israeli Army had committed a massacre in the Palestinian West Bank city of Jenin when no massacre had in fact occurred? The reasons were many. First, everyone was prepared to believe the worst, because the worst had already happened. It was all too credible to believe that hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians had been massacred in Jenin because they had been massacred before. The 20-year-old shadow of Sabra and Shatila lay across the international media’s initial perceptions of Jenin.... Second, the Israelis haplessly and inadvertently dug a public relations trap for themselves and then promptly fell into it. They prevented the international media from covering what was certainly extremely fierce fighting in the refugee camp and streets of Jenin.... Third, even when the worst fighting was over and the Israelis finally allowed reporters into Jenin, a ‘rat pack’ psychology, even hysteria, appears to have taken hold. People saw what they wanted to see and they mutually reinforced each other in their perceptions.... Fourth, almost none of those present had covered serious urban conflicts in Lebanon and Northern Ireland during their worst phases in the 1970s and early 1980s. Almost none of them were old enough to have experienced full-scale battle reporting first-hand in Vietnam. This led them to vastly exaggerate the scale of destruction and death they were seeing.”

How Europe’s media lost out (05/22/02)
“The credibility of state-run or supported national broadcasting organizations took a huge hit. The principle of having a free market in broadcasting as well as print media outlets in order to ensure more fair and balanced overall coverage got a big boost. This was humiliating to the Europeans, who have long sneered in their dominant broadcast media culture at what they regard as the crass commercialism and vulgar pursuit of profits of competing U.S. broadcasting networks. It was also a blow to those who would like to expand National Public Radio’s small-scale radio news operation in the United States into a radio-TV news empire on the lines of the BBC or other European outlets. The reporters and editors of NPR appeared far more prone to swallow the wild allegations about Jenin than most of their U.S. media colleagues did. The controversy also underlined the value of having widely read and circulated columnists who can act in the media like the Senate does in Congress or other ‘upper’ houses of parliament do in Western Europe and Japan. Such columnists at their best can act like deliberative parliamentary chambers not subject to the pressures of repeated re-election campaigns. They can take a longer term view of things. They can act as cautious, more thoughtful voices expressing caution or doubt about emotional hysteria sweeping the news pages. William F. Buckley’s May 4 editorial ‘Did the Israelis Do It?’ serves as a model for this kind of writing.”

A three-part essay “How Contemporary American Poets are Denaturing the Poem” by Joan Houlihan @ Web Del Sol:

On the Prosing of Poetry
“Before writing was invented, poetry was used to mark special occasions and strong emotions and to burn the necessary stories — the myths and truths of a culture — into the memories of the people. Mnemonic devices such as sound, rhythm, and heightened, pictorial language, economy of expression (‘epigrammatic’ speech that encodes many meanings in as few words as possible) and assonance, consonance, alliteration, parallelism, were the branding irons used for the task. As well, these devices were incantatory, stirring primal responses to their sound and rhythm, and creating an atmosphere for the sacred and magical. Although spoken, poetry was not common; it was instead, a singular kind of speech, reserved for relaying important or sacred events, ensuring that such events would be remembered almost in a physical way, in the body’s deep response to sound, rhythm and imagery. Speaking poetically served a purpose. Speaking prosaically also served a purpose — to negotiate everyday reality, to speak of those things which were common to all and not worthy of long remembrance — to speak of the world in transit. Our ability to write did not erase the distinction. It took contemporary American poets, writing in deliberately flat prose about insignificant personal events and feelings; and editors, publishers and critics dubbing such anecdotes and everyday journal entries ‘poems,’ to erase the distinction. We have reached the point we are being asked to believe that a text block, chopped randomly into flat, declarative lines, is a poem. We are told to kneel and stare at this specimen of dead lines laid out in its little coffin on the page, and declare it alive. What do we say?”

I=N=C=O=H= E=R=E=N=T
“The need for coherence appears to be basic, perhaps even neurological. Science has proved the human brain strives to find a pattern, an order, a meaning in chaos. What isn’t coherent, we strive to make so. It satisfies us. Thus, before settling for separate, unconnected pieces, beautiful as they may be, we will look hard for connections. While shapes and colors can become untethered from their representation, or meaning, a poem can only become fully untethered from meaning if it is without words. This is because the smallest irreducible piece — the word — retains meaning, in and out of context. A totally meaningless poem would logically consist of a blank page. In spite of this difficulty, some poets do manage to make extremely close approaches to the state of meaninglessness while still using words.... In order to save us from the Western capitalist construction called a poem, the Language Poets had to destroy it. But two other possible reasons for writing Language Poetry come to mind: [1] The poet cannot succesfully create a coherent poem and so makes a virtue of his failure. [2] The poet cannot successfully create a coherent poem and so uses poem-as-pretext for expounding critical theories — something he or she can do, and that, happy coincidence, ensures an academic career.”

The Argument for Silence: Defining the Poet Peter Principle
“The tension between ‘career’ and ‘vocation’ in poetry is nowhere more obvious than in academia where poets take a sabbatical in order to write poetry, but never take a sabbatical from writing poetry. I believe that a certain variety of established poet, perhaps those with a substantial number of books, would benefit greatly from a poetry sabbatical. There is evidence of a need for poetic silence all around us. We see it every time we read a denatured poem by a renowned poet, usually in a renowned publication; evidence that the enabling editors of such publications have failed in their duty to enforce last call. For example, poets James Tate, Philip Levine and Mary Oliver have each produced more than 16 books of poetry. Whatever has driven this production, it is clear from the trajectory of all three poets that something must stop it. In all three cases, a windiness, a wordiness, a kind of poetic logorrhea can be found in their latest work in contrast to the fire and compression in their early work. Flatlined, barely pulsing, their latest work is being kept alive by extraordinary means: the artificial resuscitation of continuous publication.”

A two-part article on Economists & Ecologists by Arnold Kling @ Tech Central Station:

Common Sense and Sensibility (03/28/02)
“Economists are not well thought of these days by environmentalists. Or so it seems from accounts such as a recent Scientific American excerpt of Edward O. Wilson’s book, The Future of Life. He characterizes economists as narrow, myopic environmental ignoramuses.... It’s true that economists have trouble with the views of many environmentalists. But this just reflects our frustration with the ecologists’ use of the most naive and inappropriate economic models and assumptions in their forecasts and policy prescriptions. That’s why Bjorn Lomborg’s new book The Skeptical Environmentalist is such a distinctive, rare, and important work. In addition to sharing the ecologist’s concerns about aquifers, sustainability, and global warming, Lomborg accepts the economist’s paradigm. By combining economics with ecology, he comes up with a rational, balanced analysis. Unfortunately, environmentalists’ denial of the validity of economic analysis runs through much of their criticism of Lomborg’s work.... Environmentalists tend to assume a constant relationship between inputs and outputs. If you are going to produce X tons of grain, then the acreage of land required will be X/y, where y is the average yield of an acre of land. Economists call this the ‘fixed-coefficients’ model, because the relationship between acreage and grain is governed by the coefficient y. Simply put, this is not a realistic model. In practice there are always a variety of production techniques that use different combinations of inputs to produce the same output. The fixed-coefficients model applies, if at all, only in the very short run. In the long run, there is substitution and technical change. Substitution means that producers will vary the inputs used in production, depending on changes in the cost of various inputs. For example, if land becomes more expensive, producers will substitute capital, labor, fertilizer, or other resources in order to utilize the most efficient combination. The other long-run factor is technical change. As we accumulate knowledge, we come up with ways to produce more output with fewer resources.”

Lomborg’s Lessons (04/02/02)
“Economists use interest rates to discount future benefits and costs. Because of discounting, environmental costs that are out in the future are given less weight than today’s economic goods, including today’s environment. Ecologists suspect that economists are being short-sighted, when in fact we are being rational. The interest rate represents the price at which the economy can trade off future output for present output. What discounting says is that tomorrow’s output is ‘cheap’ in today’s terms. Undertaking a large expense today to avoid the same expense tomorrow is inefficient. Ecologists worry that we are consuming too much now, while depriving future generations of resources and leaving them with large unpaid environmental bills. Economists, on the other hand, argue that by investing in science and research we are providing a legacy of wealth to future generations. The assets that they inherit in the form of capital and know-how will be much greater than any environmental liabilities. In The Skeptical Environmentalist, Bjorn Lomborg makes a strong case against the Kyoto Protocol, which attempts to restrict carbon dioxide emissions in order to forestall global warming. Even as one who accepts the thesis of global warming, Lomborg suggests that the Kyoto Protocol is a bad idea. Lomborg estimates a finite (albeit large) cost to global warming. Also, because this cost will be borne in the future, he applies a discount rate. If the present value of the cost of global warming is finite, then it becomes possible to estimate the benefits of policies to forestall global warming. Next, it follows that we can compare benefits to costs. It is on the basis of these cost-benefit comparisons that Lomborg is able to show that the Kyoto Protocol approach is unwise.”

A two-part article @ Salon, by Andrew O’Hehir, on J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings:

The book of the century (06/04/02)
“It’s unwise to read The Lord of the Rings as allegory in any strict sense, but this commonplace personal odyssey, one shared by millions in the modern age, is strikingly echoed in its plot. Frodo, the child-size hero, must leave his beloved Shire and travel into Sauron’s domain of Mordor, with its slag heaps, its permanent pall of smoke, its slave-driven industries. When he returns after much danger and difficulty, he discovers that the malicious wizard Saruman — as Shippey points out, a techno-Utopian who began with good intentions — has industrialized the Shire itself, cutting down its trees, replacing its hobbit-holes with brick slums and factories and poisoning its rivers. In this regard, then, The Lord of the Rings belongs to the literature of the Industrial Revolution, a lament for the destruction of England’s ‘green and pleasant land’ that belongs somewhere on the same shelf with Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence and William Blake. But Tolkien saw something wilder and stranger in the Sarehole of his childhood, and in himself: a fading but still tangible connection to the distant, mythic past. If his Shire hobbits are the West Midlands rural bourgeoisie of 1895 or so, they have been catapulted backward into a world where they themselves are the anachronisms, a realm of elves, dwarves (Tolkien insisted on this nonstandard but ancient plural, although he would have preferred ‘dwarrows’), wizards, dragons, goblins and black sorcerers.”

A curiously very great book (06/05/02)
“It is not merely the scale of mythic invention or the grand storytelling that distinguishes it but also its tragic vision, the profound melancholy mentioned by Lewis. Few if any heroic quests have ever had such a sense of human frailty and weakness; although Frodo brings the Ring all the way to the Cracks of Doom where Sauron forged it, in the end he is overcome by temptation and claims it for his own. He is redeemed only by chance, or by divine grace, which in Tolkien’s world comes to the same thing. He has shown mercy to the treacherous and miserable Gollum, who becomes the accidental agent of Frodo’s and the world’s salvation. But Frodo, the book’s ostensible hero, fails in his quest and is left, like the knight who guards the Holy Grail, with a grievous wound that can never heal (an Arthurian parallel Shippey has not noticed). Even the victory wrought by the Ring’s destruction is a sad affair, in many respects closer to defeat. Much of the magic and mystery drains out of Middle-earth after Sauron’s fall, leaving behind an ordinary, only slightly prehistoric realm dominated by human beings. Tolkien’s most beloved characters — Gandalf, the High-Elves Elrond and Galadriel and the hobbits Bilbo and Frodo, both of them indelibly marked by the Ring — depart over the western seas to a paradisiacal nowhere that none of us on this shore will ever see. Tolkien liked to present himself to friends and readers as a contented fireside hobbit, fond of tobacco, simple food and late mornings in bed, and there can be no doubt, reading his letters, that he was immensely gratified by the outpouring of love and enthusiasm his work engendered. (And immensely irritated by some of it; when a woman wanted to name her Siamese cats after his characters, he replied that they were “the fauna of Mordor.”) But in reality he was a strange and complicated man who wrote a strange and sad book, whose complex of meanings we will likely never determine.”

A three-part article on some current thinking on the Koran in The Atlantic:

What is the Koran? Part 1 (Jan. 1999)
“Some of the parchment pages in the Yemeni hoard seemed to date back to the seventh and eighth centuries A.D., or Islam’s first two centuries — they were fragments, in other words, of perhaps the oldest Korans in existence. What’s more, some of these fragments revealed small but intriguing aberrations from the standard Koranic text. Such aberrations, though not surprising to textual historians, are troublingly at odds with the orthodox Muslim belief that the Koran as it has reached us today is quite simply the perfect, timeless, and unchanging Word of God.”

What is the Koran? Part 2 (Jan. 1999)
“Deviating from the orthodox interpretation of the Koran, says the Algerian Mohammed Arkoun, a professor emeritus of Islamic thought at the University of Paris, is ‘a very sensitive business’ with major implications. ‘Millions and millions of people refer to the Koran daily to explain their actions and to justify their aspirations,’ Arkoun says. ‘This scale of reference is much larger than it has ever been before.’”

What is the Koran? Part 3 (Jan. 1999)
“Gerd-R. Puin speaks with disdain about the traditional willingness, on the part of Muslim and Western scholars, to accept the conventional understanding of the Koran. ‘The Koran claims for itself that it is “mubeen,” or “clear,” he says. ‘But if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims — and Orientalists — will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Koranic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Koran is not comprehensible — if it can’t even be understood in Arabic — then it’s not translatable. People fear that. And since the Koran claims repeatedly to be clear but obviously is not — as even speakers of Arabic will tell you — there is a contradiction. Something else must be going on.’”

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This View’s Column

Seeing is Believing

And It Always Will Be

Video technology has been advancing at a dizzying pace. Computer-generated (CG) imagery enhances many movies in ways we (some of us, anyway) have come to expect. It also enhances live television broadcasts, including news and sports, in ways to which we have become accustomed — assuming we are aware of them. The technologies will continue to advance and will converge, some day, with momentous consequences.

Computer-Generated Imagery in the Movies

You could swear the Tyrannosaurus rex in Jurassic Park is real. Even close up. When it looks for the children in the car, during the rainstorm, its eyes seem to be the real searching eyes of a real gigantic dinosaur. It snorts, and the people and things in the shot respond as if a real animal has really snorted. It roars, and the actors cover their ears; it chases, and they flee. Or get gobbled up.

But, of course, that T. rex is not even there. Well, it wasn’t there when the scene was originally filmed. The actors and things in the shot are reacting to simulations, by other persons or things, of what a real dinosaur would have done — and of what a special-effects dinosaur will do in the scene as it eventually plays in the finished movie.

Industrial Light & Magic

Many months, if not years, of work go into making a movie with a lot of complicated CG effects. An interesting and informative article at the HowStuffWorks website lists the different kinds of specialists that are employed at one of the more famous and successful CG special-effects companies, George Lucas’ Industrial Light & Magic (ILM):

  • Visual effects supervisors
  • Technical directors
  • Software developers
  • Scientists
  • Art directors
  • Producers
  • Modelmakers
  • Animators
  • Editors
  • Camera operators
  • Stage technicians

Centropolis FX

Another interesting article at the same website, on another CG special-effects company called Centropolis FX, describes some of the high-tech hardware required by the company, and explains why it is all so necessary:

  • The scanned film and the different layers that the team creates require gigantic amounts of disk space. A single frame of a film, once scanned and stored on a disk, consumes on the order of 10 megabytes of disk space. All of the shots of The Patriot together consume 1.6 terabytes (trillions of bytes) of disk space.
  • Individual artists need high-end desktop machines to work on and render their individual models and layers.
  • Rendering requires massive CPU resources. To render any animated 3-D figure or any effect like water or smoke, the CPU must generate millions of polygons, lines, points, etc and then light them correctly. And it must do this over and over again for each frame of the shot! For example, in The Patriot certain scenes incorporate hundreds of soldiers as well as things like boats, tents, flags, and so on. Each one moves independently, according to mathematical models expressed in the form of thousands or millions of pixels that are each calculated specifically.
  • Compositing - Compositing combines dozens of layers into a single shot. Because of the resolution involved — millions of pixels and tens of millions of bytes per frame — and the layering, both the CPU workload and the storage requirements are immense.

Ever Improving Results

The results of the special-effects wizardry get better and better — that is, more and more realisitc — as time goes by. For instance, some of the scenes in the original Jurassic Park don’t strike me as being quite so realistic as similar scenes in the sequels: I am thinking of the scenes with animals running in herds, or even of any scene with a very large number of animals, running or not. In such scenes in the original movie, some of the animals have some faint, almost indescribable quality of looking as if they are not really there — of appearing to be the fakes they really are.

I hardly notice this at all in the sequels. The technology improves, and the professionals gain in skill with experience, giving us better, more realistic, results.

Computer-Generated Imagery on Television

For reasons similar to those already discussed, you could swear the English-speaking Stenonychosaurus librarian in ABC’s Dinotopia is real, though not all the characters are quite so realistic.

But some television broadcasts also present an entirely different mode of CG effect: making the viewer see something in a live broadcast that is not really there. This kind of special effect falls largely, so far, into two categories: (1) advertising and “branding”, and (2) visual enhancement of sporting events.

Advertising and “Branding”

Over the past few years, insertion of digital advertising images into live broadcasts of sporting events has become more and more common. Called virtual ads, they are seen only by the TV viewing audience.

Their use is not confined to sports, according to a New York Times article, January 12, 2000:

CBS News is using the technology as part of a broad agreement the network signed last year with a technology company, Princeton Video Image, to provide branding services for a variety of CBS programs. The technology has been used regularly on The Early Show and the news magazine 48 Hours and was used on the Evening News on Dec. 30 and 31, according to CBS news executives. The Early Show has been using it almost every day since the show’s debut on Nov. 1.

News show logos that appear real are being inserted on the sides of structures, like the General Motors building, on the back of a horse-drawn carriage in Central Park, in the fountain outside the Plaza Hotel and, yesterday, in the center of Wollman Rink. In some instances, the logo clearly resembles a large billboard advertising CBS News.

The First-Down Line

Nor is their use in sports confined to advertising. During some professional hockey games in the 1996-1997 time frame, a digitally-enhanced image of the puck was broadcast. Used by Fox TV, it was officially called FoxTrax — but was also dubbed The Blue Blob, which gives us some idea of what it must have looked like, at least to its critics. As far as I can tell (not being at all a hockey fan), the practice was controversial among the viewing audience, so it was soon discontinued.

Another digital enhancement of the playing field has been much more successful: the first-down line in broadcasts of football games.

The first-down yard line can be especially difficult to spot by TV viewers. Enter SporTVision, which has been providing a special-effects service to Fox Sports and ESPN since 1998 that “draws” a yellow or orange line across the field to mark the first-down line for the TV audience.

Think of it as a giant virtual highlighter. HowStuffWorks provides some idea of just how complicated an affair it is to draw with this virtual highlighter:

  • The system has to know the orientation of the field with respect to the camera so that it can paint the first-down line with the correct perspective from that camera's point of view.
  • The system has to know, in that same perspective framework, exactly where every yard line is.
  • Given that the cameraperson can move the camera, the system has to be able to sense the camera’s movement (tilt, pan, zoom, focus) and understand the perspective change that results from the movement.
  • Given that the camera can pan while viewing the field, the system has to be able to recalculate the perspective at a rate of 30 frames per second as the camera moves.
  • A football field is not flat — it crests very gently in the middle to help rainwater run off. So the line calculated by the system has to appropriately follow the curve of the field.
  • A football game is filmed by multiple cameras at different places in the stadium, so the system has to do all of this work for several cameras.
  • The system has to be able to sense when players, referees or the ball cross over the first-down line so it does not paint the line right on top of them.
  • The system has to also be aware of superimposed graphics that the network might overlay on the scene.

Eight computers are required to do all that, and four people to run the system:

  • A spotter and an operator work together to manually input the correct yard line into the system. The spotter is in the press box and the operator is in the production truck physically keying in the correct number.
  • Two other SporTVision operators are on hand to make any adjustments or corrections necessary during the course of the game. These adjustments might include adding colors to the color palettes due to changing field conditions, such as snow or mud.

Ever Improving Results?

I cannot say that live-broadcast CG special effects have been improved dramatically over the years, as have the effects in movies. (I cannot say, because I do not know.) Apparently, the first version of FoxTrax was very much in need of improving; as reported in an article at Canadian Online Explore (CANOE), January 15, 1997:

“I think that the biggest criticism, from our perspective as we look back at last season, was the stability of the system, that regardless of color or size it would be jumpy to the point of distraction,” Goren said Wednesday. [Ed Goren was executive producer for Fox network sports.] Goren said engineers have redesigned the system, and tests have shown a much more stable, smaller dot around the puck. “I think that is a major, major improvement,” Goren said. “You won’t see that dot jumping around the way you did last year — unless the puck jumps.”

I am sure, though, that a great deal of research, and trial and error, and continuing improvement has gone into in-house test, and beta, and original production versions of live-broadcast effects: how else does anything really get accomplished? Perhaps there have not been any dramatic improvements because the effects themselves have been inherently simpler and more subtle than those desired in movies.

Computer-Generated Imagery in the Future

The implications of these technological trends have been floating around my mind for quite some time now. A column by Fred Reed, “Surveillance in Digital Times” was a catalyst:

A few days ago, on the web site of The Register, a British site that covers developments in computers, I discovered the following story, also in many US papers:

“Super Bowl 2001 fans were secretly treated to a mass biometric scan in which video cameras tied to a temporary law-enforcement command center digitized their faces and compared them against photographic lists of known malefactors.”

Bingo. Not good, not good at all.

But Fred, you you might say, what a convenient way to catch bad guys. It sure is. Hidden cameras could be put in all manner of public places. If a wanted criminal, or missing child, or suspected terrorist walked past, an alarm would go off, and the gendarmes would appear. Note the words, “fans were secretly treated” in the Register’s story. The public needn’t — apparently didn’t in Tampa — know it was being watched. After a while, we would get used to it.

I have learned since that this technology is employed widely in casinos, to watch for known cheats. And the New York Times reported, May 25, that a trial run of such technology was being undertaken at one point of entry (of the two) to Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty is:

In response to a warning of a potential terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty, the National Park Service activated a face recognition surveillance system yesterday that takes pictures of visitors and compares them with a database of terror suspects.

Just in time for the crush of visitors on the [Memorial Day] holiday weekend, federal parks officials installed two cameras, mounted on tripods, at the ferry dock in Battery Park, where visitors leave Manhattan for Liberty Island. The cameras are focused on the line of tourists waiting to board the ferry, immediately before they pass through a bank of metal detectors.

After the pictures are taken, the images are checked against a photographic database of terror suspects compiled by the federal government. If the system finds a match, a United States Park Police officer will be notified and the visitor will be detained. The officer will then decide if the visitor’s face matches the database image, and if the officer decides it does, the visitor will be questioned further.

Naturally, this has civil libertarians up in arms, so to speak, for reasons I will not get into here. (If you really want some thought-provoking reading on this, have a look at Fred Reed’s article “Just Because They Aren’t Out To Get You” in conjunction with the one quoted above.)

This is what really caught my attention about the high-tech photography used at the Super Bowl in 2001: they can program computers, and machines controlled by computers, to photograph faces, then scan a database looking for matches — and they can accomplish this search-and-find almost instantaneously.

Wow. Do you see the implications?

Consider (1) the lightning speed at which this digital process (scan and search) happens and (2) the digital special-effects capabilities in movies and TV. These technologies will only improve. But they will not only improve: they will converge.

The day will come, I thought, when somebody will be able to take real, live imagery (such as a politician giving a speech) and substitute phony, digital imagery so quickly and seamlessly that nobody seeing the broadcast will be able to tell.

I suppose that may seem to be a pretty big leap. I never thought it was. But if it was a big leap, a very large step has already been taken towards getting us to where somebody can make it. So reports The Boston Globe, May 15:

Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have created the first realistic videos of people saying things they never said — a scientific leap that raises unsettling questions about falsifying the moving image. In one demonstration, the researchers taped a woman speaking into a camera, and then reprocessed the footage into a new video that showed her speaking entirely new sentences, and even mouthing words to a song in Japanese, a language she does not speak. The results were enough to fool viewers consistently, the researchers report....

“This is really groundbreaking work,” said Demetri Terzopoulos, a leading specialist in facial animation who is a professor of computer science and mathematics at New York University. But “we are on a collision course with ethics. If you can make people say things they didn’t say, then potentially all hell breaks loose.” ....

Currently, the MIT method is limited: It works only on video of a person facing a camera and not moving much, like a newscaster. The technique only generates new video, not new audio. But it should not be difficult to extend the discovery to work on a moving head at any angle, according to Tomaso Poggio, a neuroscientist at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, who is on the MIT team and runs the lab where the work is being done. And while state-of-the-art audio simulations are not as convincing as the MIT software, that barrier is likely to fall soon, researchers say.

What Are the Implications?

I might as well tell you outright: I do not know what the implications are. Who could? But I have some observations that might help us to have some idea how to think about these issues.

Computing capabilities — memory, storage, speed — have advanced with astonishing rapidity over the past 15 years. I remember (I think) my first PC: it was an 8 MHz 80286 with 2 megabytes of RAM and a 40 Mbyte hard drive. And Windows 2.0. I remember when I got its replacement: a 66 MHz 80486 with 16 Mbytes of RAM and a 512 Mbyte hard drive. And Windows 3.1. Honestly, it was so much faster than my first machine, it would perform the same operations so much more quickly, I sometimes thought something was wrong: I couldn’t see it performing the operations on the monitor, or hear the activity of the disk drive, so I worried that it hadn’t done them at all! And that machine would be considered a slow-as-molasses-in-January old dog compared to the 400-MHz machine I’m using now. (And I have files on this machine that would not fit on that 512-Mbyte disk!) And this 3-year-old machine is a slow old dog compared to the machines being sold today. And computing capabilities — memory, storage, speed — will continue to advance with astonishing rapidity.

Computers can learn from people. Not as people learn from people — student from teacher, child from parent, young from old, anybody from books. No. But programmers can “teach” computers how to do what what only people could have done before. You want some cash? Forty years ago, you went to the bank and got some from the teller. Today, you can go to a machine and get some from the withdrawal slot: people taught machines how to do what only people had done before. (Of course, computers aren’t the only machines involved here. But they are all, ultimately, computer controlled.) Computers will, eventually, learn from people to do what people have done in running computer-generated special-effects imagery. And they will do it much, much faster than people have been doing it.

Human beings will continue to be... human. We will continue to engage in politics of all kinds: strictly political, religious, racial, ethnic, cultural, etc. And some of us will not scruple for a moment to resort to ruthless strategies and deceptive tactics to advance our goals. When — I do say when, not if — when the technology exists to make (for instance) Hillary Rodham Clinton look to all the world in a live broadcast as if she is praising Karl Marx and Josef Stalin to the highest heavens, or to make (for another instance) Cubans turn to one another and say “Gee, it’s amazing that Castro is still going so strong for a man of 97 years of age” — well, somebody, somewhere will be happy to do their best to make it so. Do you doubt that? Unscrupulous persons, no matter their political or other persuasions, will be able to convince thousands, if not millions, if not hundreds of millions of people, simultaneously, that they have seen with their own eyes what in reality never happened at all.

And seeing is believing. And it always will be.

© ELC 2002

Column Only

 Volume 1.18 Front Page June 10, 2002 

The View from the Core, and all original material, © E. L. Core 2002. All rights reserved.

Cor ad cor loquitur J. H. Newman — “Heart speaks to heart”