- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Losing their heads

“In the week since Zinedine Zidane headbutted Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final, l’affaire Zidane appears to have taken over the world (especially the media world). It was certainly a jaw-dropping moment. But still, it was only a flare-up in a football match. … Nobody was killed, as Boris Becker once reminded the hysterical press corps after losing a Wimbledon final. In normal times the storm should have [subsided] soon enough, or at least retreated to the sports section of the media.

“But these are not ‘normal’ times for news. If anything the story and the heated debates about what Zidane did and why have grown in intensity since the actual event, to the point where his Wednesday press conference was reported as if it were a presidential statement on the declaration of war or peace. Indeed, it has completely overshadowed the actual French President’s traditional Bastille Day address on Friday.

“Zidane’s butt might have been a moment of madness. But l’affaire Zidane, the storm of shrill reactions and counterreactions to it, seems to have turned into an endless outpouring of crazed emotions.”

— Mick Hume, writing on “The strange case of l’affaire Zidane,” Friday in Spiked at www.spiked-online.com

Individual action

“During [World War II], the stewards of America’s war effort turned to the Cowles Commission, an economics brain-trust, to help them ration America’s resources. ‘We imagined that we held the well-being of the economy right in the palms of our hands,’ one of the Cowles economists told a journalist, David Warsh. …

“Such ambitions now seem quaint. In countries not cursed by socialism or war, the market is left to decide what to produce and in what proportions. But the state remains responsible for keeping the overall macroeconomy ticking over. Policymakers are largely indifferent to what is in demand, so long as the tank of demand remains full. …

“Everything that happens at the level of the economy as a whole is simply the sum of the actions of individual households or firms.”

— From “Big questions and big numbers,” in the July 13 issue of the Economist

Axis of ego

“Kim Jong-il can’t catch a break. On July 4, after the nylon-clad, Hennessy-quaffing North Korean leader sent a barrage of ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, he finally had the world’s attention. A week later, Beirut was burning, and his banner headlines vanished. …

“Much unlike his brothers in evil axis-hood, Kim has trouble holding Washington’s attention. Not that he hasn’t tried. Everything a Saddam-led Iraq could do, it seems, North Korea can do better: human rights abuses, threats on U.S. allies, [weapons of mass destruction], missile sales.

“The country reportedly has eight bombs’ worth of plutonium backed by a standing army of 1 million. But after the July 4 spectacle, the commentariat dismissed [North Korea] as a state in the midst of a temper tantrum. The administration appeared even less impressed. ‘A missile that fails after 40 seconds is not a threat to the territory of the United States,’ White House National Security Adviser Stephen J. Hadley said. …

“The lack of bluster is almost certainly frustrating to Kim, whose dominant narrative involves massive exaggerations of North Korea’s relative importance.”

— Kerry Howley, writing on “The Axis of Evil’s Flat Tire,” Monday in Reason Online at www.reason.com

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