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People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Perspective And The Virtual Library

A trusted reader emailed me the other day and cautioned me - as a friend - to be careful when I cite sources from the Washington Times. After all, it is (or was) owned by the "moonies" and therefore detracts from my credibility. Well, there is a reason I rifle through both the New York Times and the Washington Times every morning. Perspective.

I made mention the other day of an editorial in the NY Times (link) in which the author feared the implications of Google's planned digitization of millions of books from the world's major libraries. He or she was scared of potential copyright infringements and (I still find this to be silly) the possibility that books might be damaged in the process of scanning. My reaction was: This is so typical of this bunch. The people who cower in their cubicles at the "old (meaning fossilized) gray lady"and write of their fears of global warming, economic inequities, making enemies of the French, evangelical Christians, homophobes, NASCAR, Republicans, SUV's, chloroflourocarbons, McDonald's happy meals, and every drug on the market today would naturally hear the thrilling news about making literature easily accessible to everyone and react with ... "aaaaaaggggghhhhhkkkk. The world is coming to an end. We're all going to DIE!"

So then I turn to Suzanne Fields, a columnist for the Washington Times. A rational, persuasive (did I mention hot?) pundit whose opinions I respect. Here is what she has to say on the subject of the virtual library this morning:

Google promises everyone on line an online Christmas present. The popular Internet search engine announces that it will make available on the Web volumes in the research libraries of Harvard, the University of Michigan, Stanford and Oxford and other sources of collected knowledge, including the New York Public Library.

The latest promise for googling is mind-boggling. The promise coincides with the digitizing of many international libraries. We'll have to update McLuhan's famous dictum that the medium is the message. The message has become the medium, making it possible to read and write vast amounts of the written word for pleasure or to conduct arcane research without leaving home or office.

We've known for a long time that the Internet could be the turning point in the democratization of learning for the millennium, commensurate with the impact the printing press made on the previous millennium, offering a range of information and creative thinking for anyone curious enough to seek it.

She offers a few caveats regarding marginal downsides to the digital revolution but is, on the whole, as thrilled as I am that civilization continues to advance at breakneck speed. And she too ponders what the future has in store.
"As the world hurtles on toward its mysterious rendezvous, the old act of slowly reading a serious book becomes an elegiac exercise ..."

Two perspectives. One fearful of the future. The other in awe of the possibilities. Both worth learning from.

Fold That U.N. Tent

Arnold Beichman asks some interesting questions. I have all the answers.

Shouldn't President Bush be asking if it isn't time to dump the United Nations and to start anew? Yes.

What kind of an organization is the United Nations whose General Assembly, with its automatic anti-Israel majority, devotes its time and finances (the United States pays almost a quarter of the U.N. budget) to badgering Israel, the only genuine democracy in the Middle East? A venal, racist, amoral organization made up of member states whose leaders are the most despicable tyrants ever to walk the earth.

What kind of organization is the U.N. Security Council in which a has-been like France is a permanent member but Germany, India and Japan are not? Does it make any sense to give French President Jacques Chirac, America-hater No. 1 and the best friend Saddam Hussein ever had, a veto over U.S. foreign policy to which fortunately we pay no attention? A fossilized intransigent bureaucracy that will never be able to modernize itself. And no. None.

And finally: Is it worth the money? No.

Get out of the United Nations now. Let this bunch relocate to Damascus, where they would be better-received. And where they can bluster to their hearts' content.

"Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known"

That quote is known as Montaigne's axiom. I pulled it from one of George Will's columns entitled "Fighting Fear." It has to do with Michael Crichton's latest best-seller, "State of Fear," a novel intended to skewer the wild-eyed, limp-wristed, reality-deficient environmentalists who reside on college campuses these days in the guise of "global warming" academic research scientists. Will touches on a point I made a few months ago.

One of the good guys in "State of Fear" cites Montaigne's axiom: "Nothing is so firmly believed as that which least is known." Which is why 30 years ago the fashionable panic was about global cooling.

The New York Times (Aug. 14, 1975) saw "many signs" that "Earth may be heading for another ice age." Science magazine (Dec. 10, 1976) warned about "extensive Northern Hemisphere glaciation." "Continued rapid cooling of the Earth" (Global Ecology, 1971) could herald "a full-blown 10,000 year ice age" (Science, March 1, 1975). The Christian Science Monitor reported (Aug. 27, 1974) that Nebraska's armadillos were retreating south from the cooling.

Warming. Cooling. What's the difference?. The actual cause of the earth's demise is less important than the fact that we are all soon to DIE! How? We don't know, but we are all going to DIE! A most horrible death! How do we know? Well, look at the evidence:
Last week The Washington Post reported that global warming has caused a decline in Alaska's porcupine caribou herd and has lured the golden orange prothonotary warbler back from southern wintering grounds to Richmond, Va., a day earlier for nearly two decades. Or since global cooling stopped. Maybe.
You really want to laugh at these clowns, if it weren't for the fact that these nuts want to completely alter our way of life and impoverish the entire planet because ... well, they're not sure. But they've developed a pretty effective shtick.
Gregg Easterbrook, an acerbic student of eco-pessimism, offers a "Law of Doomsaying": Predict catastrophe no later than 10 years hence but no sooner than five years away - soon enough to terrify, but far enough off that people will forget if you are wrong.

Stay tuned for more histrionics from the environmental crowd. They're bringing in some serious cash these days and are doing a commendable job of scaring the beejeebers out of gullible types - like those who write for the Washington Post. In the meantime, fear for the little golden orange prothonotary warblers. They summer in Richmond.

Say What?

Now here's a line you're not going to read in one of America's leading newspapers very often:

December 23, 2004 -- Yasser Arafat was a secret investor in the city's hottest upscale bowling alley, according to a bombshell new report.


"Hottest -- upscale -- bowling alley." Hmm. Is that in the same category with "most beautiful -- accentuating -- coldsore?"

What A Lucky Guy I Am

I received this email from "an auditor of a reputable bank in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province in the Republic of South Africa." How he chose me - out of four billion people on the planet - to make a fortunate off the misery of others, I just have no idea.

Hello, I am Mr. Smith Bowani, an auditor of a reputable bank in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province in the Republic of South Africa. I have an urgent and very confidential business proposition for you.

We had a foreign client named Mr. Wooin Shim, who deposited a huge sum of money (18.6 Million United States Dollars), with our bank. Eventually, this client died in a plane crash and since his death we have not had anybody come up for the claims as the next of kin.

You may want to take a look at other passengers, who were on the same plane; here is a site for your perusal. [I removed the site for your protection. JF].

A situation I have monitored closely with my position in the bank. Now having monitored this deposit and managed it over the years before his death, and hence nobody has showed up as the next of kin for the past years. I now solicit for your assistance to present you as the next of kin as every other arrangement/ processes will be monitored by me and my partners involved. However I got your contact from a trade consultant here in South Africa, though I did not disclose the purpose of my seeking for a foreign business partner to him. Although we will still have to sign some agreement before the final transfer of the fund into any of your designated bank account.

I have involved a very senior official in the operational department, and we have agreed that after the transfer of the money into your account, you shall be entitled to 30% of the total sum, my colleagues and I will have 65% while 5% will be used to reimburse any expenses incurred. All necessary precautions have been taken to ensure a risk free situation on the side of both parties. Please note that this deal can only take place on the following conditions;

1. Absolute confidentiality and sincerity will be required and guaranteed, considering our positions in the bank.

2. Assurance that our own share will be released to us in good faith when this money finally gets into your account.Please treat with utmost confidentiality.

Contact me as quickly as possible through my e-mail. Expecting your urgent response,

Best Regards,

MR. SMITH BOWANI

Odd thing is, I don't think I know any trade consultants in South Africa who might have given Mr. Bowani my name. I do like that part about sincerity being guaranteed. And the confidentiality aspect of this is a bit amusing. It could easily read, "This offer has been confidentially sent to you and 500,000 other email users each day. By summer, we will have contacted every human being on earth. Please keep it confidential."

Oh, the uncertainty. Should I respond? Should I walk away from the opportunity to make millions? Let's see. I can contact my new friend, Mr. Bowani, or I can delete him. I know. I'll see if he will send me cash instead.

Just kidding. Mr. Bowani is in that recycle bin in the cyberworld already. Sell it to someone else, scumbag.