Dispatches > The Buzz

QuickTakes

Issue: "Schundler's bliss," July 7, 2001

ARMEY OF ONE: House Majority Leader Dick Armey sent a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft asking if the controversial FBI snooping system nicknamed Carnivore is unconstitutional. The system is supposed to work like a telephone wiretap except it taps an Internet connection. Critics complain it is easily abused and can be used to track people who aren't criminal suspects. Reuters reported Rep. Armey might try to have Congress simply shut down the system, originally called the less inflammatory and more bureaucratic DCS-1000 when Janet Reno was Attorney General. Rep. Armey asked Mr. Ashcroft whether the system violates the "minimum expectation" that federal agents won't tap citizens' electronic communications unless they have a warrant. "I believe the FBI is making a good-faith effort to fight crime in the most efficient way possible," the majority leader conceded. "But I also believe the Founders quite clearly decided to sacrifice that kind of efficiency for the sake of protecting citizens from the danger of an overly intrusive government." PSEUDO-SCIENCE BEAT: Why do journalists botch science stories? The Orlando Sentinel's Charley Reese pondered the question, considering reports that the National Academy of Sciences allegedly unanimously endorsed the theory of global warming. Then one of the authors, MIT meteorologist Richard S. Lindzen, wrote a Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined "The Press Got It Wrong. Our Report Doesn't Support the Kyoto Treaty." While agreeing that much of the problem is bias, Mr. Reese points out that maybes and uncertainties aren't popular in the newsroom. Not to mention that plenty of special-interest groups aren't above abusing science to fit their ideologies. "Journalists, being simplistic by nature and trained to seek melodrama, almost always [mess up] science stories," he said. "They simply hate to add all the qualifiers, conditions, and uncertainties because it detracts from the drama." Mr. Reese also questions why NAS scientists should be considered arbiters of objective truth, as if their saying so would be proof that the earth is getting warmer: "It's funny that many professed atheists scoff at accepting the authority of the Bible ... yet fall on their knees in superstitious awe of some secular authority," he remarks. SEARCHING FOR SOULMATES: We now live in the "age of soulmates," says columnist Maggie Gallagher. People who have grown up with divorce everywhere have been left with a deep aching for love but don't understand traditional marriage. She cites a National Marriage Project survey saying 94 percent of singles in their 20s want to marry a soulmate (that special person with almost mystical qualities of compatibility). "Eighty-eight percent say there are too many divorces" but "almost two-thirds endorse cohabitation before marriage as a way to avoid divorce." And 43 percent won't get married without living together first. "Soulmate marriage, preceded by a sensible period of cohabitation, is their solution to the anxiety of love in the Age of Divorce," Ms. Gallagher says. "If that fails, there's always single motherhood, for those girls aching for a love that lasts." She argues that the solution is for people to reign in their behavior so another generation isn't raised with such confusion. BARBRA'S STERN LECTURE: Barbra Streisand has a plan to save California. "The Call to Conserve" is linked from her home page, near the ads for Lincoln cards and the singer's name brand "Commemorative Champagne." Within is her plea to save energy with standard issue tips from the über-diva: Turn off lights, run your dishwasher only full-loaded, don't waste air conditioning, and the like. "Conservation will help diminish the chances that protective environmental laws will be cut, more power plants will be built, and nuclear energy policies will be reintroduced," she says. Such pontificating brought sarcasm from National Post columnist Mark Steyn up in Canada. Mr. Steyn says "the entire statement reads like a note to the scullery maid that Barbra's press agent accidentally released to the media."

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