- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 7, 2000

Insipid voices

"Avoiding tragedy requires a sense of it, which in turn requires a sense of history. Peace, however, leads to a preoccupation with presentness, the loss of the past and a consequent disregard of the future.
"That is because peace by nature is pleasurable, and pleasure is about momentary satisfaction. In an era of extended domestic peace, those who deliver up pleasures are the power brokers. Because pleasure is inseparable from convenience, convenience becomes the vital element in society… .
"In an era when peace is taken for granted, the electronic media increasingly adopt the aspirations of the mob. The mob, like the television camera, has no historical memory and is entirely reductive: it considers only what is within its field of vision, not the complicating facts beyond it.
"What did the American anchors at Princess Diana's funeral represent except the emotions of the mob, consolidated into a few insipid voices? Peace enlarges the scope and intensity of such phenomena, because with nothing of truly life-and-death importance at stake, the media require less accountability."
Robert D. Kaplan, from his new book, "The Coming Anarchy"

Fading cities

"In March 1999, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that Philadelphia's population had dropped by nearly 150,000 in the course of the 1990s the largest absolute decrease in any city … .
"What's happening in Philadelphia is occurring across the country in the digital-age version of creative destruction, downtowns and the most desirable sections are thriving even as many cities are, in toto, fading factors within the regions they once dominated.
"Baltimore is now the fourth-largest political jurisdiction in Maryland. San Francisco has dwindled into a suburb of Silicon Valley, with 300,000 fewer people than San Jose and less than 50 of the Bay Area's 500-largest public companies.
"Fairfax County in northern Virginia dwarfs Washington, D.C., in jobs and private-sector business and has more office space than all but four of America's cities.
"The traditional task of creating new work has shifted from the older cities first to what can be described as the midopolises and then increasingly to what might be called nerdistans, high-tech enclaves on the periphery of major metro areas."
Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel, writing on "Digital Geography" in the winter issue of American Outlook

Consent defense

"By August [1998], when it became clear that the president had had some kind of sexual contact with [White House intern Monica] Lewinsky, many feminists pointed to the apparently consensual nature of the contact to condemn the independent counsel's sustained inquiries into it… .
"Patricia Ireland issued a statement that 'consensual sex is not illegal harassment.' A month later, prominent feminists including Betty Friedan, Eleanor Smeal and the leaders of a number of women's groups joined ranks to denounce impeachment proceedings as 'sexual McCarthyism,' or an inquisition into a sexual affair that was nobody's business… .
"During the question-and-answer phase of Clinton's impeachment trial, five Democratic women senators reiterated this consent defense when they jointly asked: 'Has Ms. Lewinsky ever claimed the relationship was other than consensual?' …
"The 'just about sex' defense, sustained over 12 months, divorced the Lewinsky issue from its context in the [Paula] Jones case. It was easy for the Clinton camp to isolate the Lewinsky issue from the Jones case, because nobody gave a damn about Paula Jones. Almost seamlessly, the subject changed from lies in a sexual-harassment proceeding to lies about an affair."
Gwendolyn Mink, from her new book, "Hostile Environment: The Political Betrayal of Sexually Harassed Women"

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