Glenn Reynolds has recently been talking about how the worst aspect of blogging is having to keep up with the news, and referencing studies which show that news junkies are less happy and more stressed than normal folk. James Lileks has intimated that he may take April as a month off from obsessive news consumption. And, most troublingly, the incredibly diligent Michele Catalano has (wisely I think, for her mental health) decided to give up hardcore political blogging entirely. The headache and nausea inducing news mainlining needed to "blog" (as the kids say) can be overwhelming. If these most awesomely prolific of bloggers are feeling the pressure, it's obviously much worse for a lazy slob like me. So that's why the blog is on semi-hiatus, or maybe it was on hiatus and now it's coming off, or maybe this is just the normal sporadic schedule of posting? I don't know. It's hard to tell.
Anyway, here are some important links. Commentary magazine has just published Claudia Rosset's enormous cover story outlining the UN "Oil For Food Scandal" in great detail on-line. The name for the scandal we seem to have settled on is "UNSCAM", which is good, but I still prefer "UNron". I like the idea of rightfully placing an institution revered by liberals on the same level of depravity as their ultimate bete-noire. Actually, this is a far bigger deal than Enron. Much more money seems to have been involved. And, while Enron was about stealing middle Class americans' pension money, which is bad enough, this is ultimately about stealing money intended, literally, for starving third-world kids. In a final twist of perversity, there is a possibility that some of the money ended up funding terrorists, possibly Al Qaeda. The first Claudis Rosset piece linked above is probably a good, I believe the term real journalists use is, "backgrounder" on the scandal. Another good resource for following this story in the coming months will be this blog, "Friends of Saddam", to be devoted exclusively to this topic. For obvious reasons too depressing and boring for me to rehash here, the UNron story has been ignored by most big media thus far. Up to this point it's been almost entirely a partisan affair, driven by the usual suspects: The Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, William Safire, and some portions of the blogosphere, though there has been some mainstream coverage, and, most bizarrely, an article in the very-super-ultra-far-left zmag about the scandal. Ultimately, I still get the sinking feeling that Lileks is right when he says:
I’m waiting for the oil-for-food / oil-for-palaces / oil-for-TotalFinaElf /oil-for-terror story to go mainstream. And I don’t think it will. The big papers may do a round-up; the smaller papers may use a few grafs in their international coverage; USA Today might do something, but in the end it’ll be chalked up to bureaucratic fumbling and inefficiency. If context is required, the reporter will bring up Tyco and Enron: a lesson about Bigness and Accountability, etc.
Let’s say Saddam’s bribes ended up in a bank in the Caymans, and Dick Cheney had been on that bank’s board in 1999. Would the allegation of such a transfer be a story? Damn straight. As it should be. So if Claudia’s story doesn’t hit your hometown paper this week, you might ask why. And I can answer the question.
If it’s not on the AP or NYT wire, it didn’t happen.
Are we clear? Good.
In other news, Slate published a fascinating piece about the Columbine killers on the recent anniversary of that particular mass murder. I'm one of the few people I know who felt like this, but Columbine hit me on a visceral level almost approaching the way September 11th made me feel. In fact, I kept on having thoughts about that earlier loss of innocence as I was running out of lower Manhattan that September morning. One of the things that annoyed me immediately about the media coverage of Coumbine, was how every talking head immediately seized upon the facile notion that the atrocity was somehow an understandable reaction to teasing or high school cliquishness. I heard so many people, some of them in my personal acquaintance, and some of them members of the commentariat, say that they could sympathize with the boys because of the rough treatment and social ostracization they received as "goths" or whatever they imagined themselves as. Puzzlingly, these people were not always the same moronic sorts who would say that they could sympathize with Mohammed Atta. You know, American bases on Islamic Holy Land, negative images of Arabs and Muslims on American TV, our decadent pop culture offending his sensibilities and threatening to stamp out his culture. Time to go and lead a massacre! Yet, I consider the two arguments to be analogous and to be equally weak.
What's great about this piece by Dave Cullen is that it explodes this morally weak conventional wisdom about the Columbine killers. It details how intensive study has shown that the massacre had virtually nothing to do with teasing, cliques, or the "Trench Coat Mafia" versus "The Jocks". It had everything to do with the fact that Eric Harris, who has now emerged as the mastermind of the attack, was, in literal, clinical terms, a psychopath. Though Cullen paints a somewhat more sympathetic picture of Klebold, he makes it clear that Harris, who meticulously planned the attack for a year, was not reacting to teasing or internal angst, but was methodically trying to figure out a way to kill as many people as possible simply for the sake of doing it.
And, this is where I think that connections and comparisons between September 11th and 4/20/98 are not without relevance. Though Atta and his band of 19 upper middle class men (the Arabic equivalent of Harris and Klebold, in class and background) may have cloaked their lust for killing in political/religious grievances, that's all undermined by their cavorting at strip clubs and drinking alcohol the night before. The most important quality needed to commit random mass murder above all else is pure, unadulterated psychopathy and sociopathy. Homegrown psychopath John Lee Malvo, though he had no operational ties to Al Qaeda, was inspired by their example to wage Jihad on his own, an angle on the story which has been scrupulously avoided by the mainstream press. Al Qaeda and its affiliated bands of murderous gangsters already attract the psychopaths of the entire Muslim world, what about when they start using our homegrown psychopaths against us? Being born or growing up a Muslim, or even converting while a young man, are not prerequisites to becoming an Islamo-fascist terrorist. All that's required is a desire to kill people. Carlos the Jackal, the old European lefty terrorist, has recently expressed his solidarity with the Islamofascist cause.
Cullen's article ends with the chilling pronouncement that it may actually be a good thing that Eric Harris, chose to do the Columbine massacre, and thereby consciously chose to die at a young age. If he had lived longer, who knows what he might have done? I, personally, think he would, and others like him will, become American agents of Al Qaeda, either or by formally carrying out operations for them, or by simply being inspired to new heights of murderousness by them. I wonder what "the Insta-wife", a forensic psychologist with a lot of expertise in this areas thinks of this idea.