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Columns by Fred Reed

This Ain't Fifth-Century Athens
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Fred Reed 2004-06-23 16:00
Autumn looms and presidential elections will soon roll around, like droppings pushed by dung beetles. We will be exhorted to vote. Better advice would be not to vote. The proper response toward what we occasionally imagine to be democracy, methinks, is to retain one's self-respect by not participating in it. Voting in particular is an embarrassment, being a public display of weak character and...
It"s Not a Job, It"s an Adventure
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Fred Reed 2004-05-03 16:00
Regarding the torture of Iraqi men by the American military as chronicled by the world's press: Janis Karpinski, reportedly a general in the American military, presided over the prison where it happened, and therefore over the torture. To her I want to say: I'm proud of you, Janis. As one who served in the armed forces, as one whose father was in the Pacific in World War II, and spent the rest of...
The Coming Storm
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Fred Reed 2004-04-29 16:00
The Bell Curve, an excellent book more maligned than read, pointed out a trend seldom noticed. The authors called it 'cognitive stratification,' not a phrase Byron would have chosen but serviceable enough. It means the concentration of the intelligent. In 1850 people of high intelligence were dispersed through the population. If the child of a cowboy had an IQ of 160, he would probably remain in...
Democracy Explodes Over Iraq
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Fred Reed 2004-04-10 16:00
Help me puzzle out Iraq. I'm just a country boy, and don't understand Advanced Thought, or high strategy, or anything else. I admit it. Tell me about Iraq'quick, 'cause it seems to be blowing itself all to flinders, and it's hard to study something the which there ain't no more. Now, as I understand it from the White House itself, it's all because of three diehard Saddamites, two terrorists, and...
Driving Down Unknown Roads
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Fred Reed 2004-04-01 16:00
In the United States women are, I think for the first time in history, gaining real power. Often nations have had queens, heiresses, and female aristocrats. These do not amount to much. Today women occupy positions of genuine authority in fields that matter, as for example publishing, journalism, and academia. They control education through high school. Politicians scramble for their votes. They...
Nowhere to Hide
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Fred Reed 2004-03-24 17:00
How much do we really want people to obey laws? The question hasn't mattered greatly in the past since there was often no way to enforce laws beyond a certain point. You could enforce speeding laws in front of a school with nearly perfect effectiveness, and you could occasionally catch people speeding on rural roads. Yet compliance was largely discretionary. The lack of inescapable surveillance...
A New American Century
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Fred Reed 2004-03-09 17:00
It is possible to become so inured to being told what to do, and how to do it, and who to do it with'to become so accustomed to being told what we can say, what we may publicly believe, what we must seem to think, how we must manage our affairs'that we cease to notice just how regimented we are. We are there. We now accept that very nearly everything whatsoever is the proper domain of government...
Faking It
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Fred Reed 2004-01-19 17:00
While the United States is freer and more democratic than many countries, it is not, I think, either as free or as democratic as we are expected to believe, and becomes rapidly less so. Indeed we seem to be specialists in maintaining the appearance without having the substance. Regarding the techniques of which, a few thoughts: (1) Free speech does not exist in America. We all know what we can't...
Crime South of the Rio Bravo
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Fred Reed 2003-12-08 17:00
I am sad to report that Mexico is the most criminal of countries. Let me illustrate.
Fooling Around in Laos
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Fred Reed 2003-10-26 17:00
Vientiane, Laos' The Mekong flows brown and ugly past the beer stalls and restaurants across the street from the Lane Xian hotel, a slightly decomposing pile but comfortable enough. The country is green, perhaps not hopelessly backward but nearly so, and rattles with motor scooters. The people are small and brown. When female, they are often quite pretty. Westerners are not uncommon: A pretty...
Johnny Can't Add
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Fred Reed 2003-07-27 16:00
Maybe we need to wake up. The other day I went to the Web site of Bell Labs, one of the country's premier research outfits. I clicked at random on a research project, Programmable Networks for Tomorrow. The scientists working on the project were Gisli Hjalmstysson, Nikos Anerousis, Pawan Goyal, K. K. Ramakrishnan, Jennifer Rexford, Kobus Van der Merwe, and Sneha Kumar Kasera.
Marriage, Horror and Susan Reimer (Take Horror. It's A Better Bet.)
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Fred Reed 2003-07-20 16:00
Were I to offer thoughts on marriage to young American men today, in these the declining years of a once-great civilization, my advice would be as follows: Don't do it. Or, if you do, do it in another country. In America marriage is a grievous error. And why so? Because of The Chip. The Attitude. The bandsaw whine of anger, anger, anger that makes American women an international horror. It's...
The Surveillance State
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Fred Reed 2003-07-13 16:00
A looming question: Is today's a'bornin' surveillance state in America an aberration? Or is it the unavoidable future of mankind? A spasm, like Prohibition, the Sixties, McCarthyism? Or an inevitable consequence of technological advance-something that must follow the spread of computers and networking as remorselessly as suburbs and shopping malls followed the automobile? Do we have a choice?
Lie Back and Enjoy It
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Fred Reed 2003-07-06 16:00
I-Already-Feel-Safer Department: In the Washington Times I discover that some ditzbunny in the legislature of Annapolis, Maryland, wants to outlaw plastic guns. Yes. She's going to get rid of them rascals. It's because it will end crime.
Ethnic Purgation, Academic Disaster
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Fred Reed 2003-06-22 16:00
Oh good. In the Washington Post [1], the trade journal of the coming vacuum, I discover a story on "Whiteness Studies." These, at what used to be the University of Massachusetts, are yet more un-courses that grow like mold on the wreckage of American education. They endeavor to make white students ashamed of being white. How useful.
Dwarf Abuse
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Fred Reed 2003-06-15 16:00
I'm going to fill a dark awful basement with radioactive cockroaches. Yep. Big nasty ones like skateboards on legs, that go click-click-click when they walk. And maybe poisonous. I'm going to starve them for a week. Then I'm going to catch all the coercive priss-spigots in the world, the ones that want to ban second-hand smoke and dwarf-tossing and beer. I'll smear the rascals with bacon fat, so...
Adolph, Heinz and Poland
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Fred Reed 2003-06-08 16:00
In my daily snowstorm of email I find furious appeals to patriotism, usually addressed to large lists of recipients. The writers invoke The Founding Fathers, urge fealty, and counsel solidarity with all the whoop and holler of a camp meeting. I'm puzzled. Why is patriotism thought to be a virtue? It seems to me a scourge.
Other and Different Worlds
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Fred Reed 2003-06-01 16:00
Expatriates. You see them in back-street bars of Bangkok, Manila, Guadalajara, along third-world waterfronts, in up-country Thailand, anywhere living is cheap and rules scarce.
Achieving Bovocracy
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Fred Reed 2003-05-18 16:00
The Supreme Court, our unelected and irrefutable legislature of nine, now ponders, or pretends to ponder, the legitimacy of racial discrimination in collegiate admissions. Oh good. One assumes of course that, with unrebuttable presumptuousness, they will merely dress their prejudices in constitutional-sounding awkward English. Still: What is one to make of racial preferences? First, some de-...
Columnist at Work
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Fred Reed 2003-05-11 16:00
Nine-thirty a.m., hunched over the computer in a friend's bachelor pit in Washington. Surrounded by dirty clothes like nesting material for a Norwegian rat. Cup of coffee you could degrease an engine block with. Stack of grocery-store tabloids: The National Enquirer, The Star, The World Weekly News. I'm preparing to mine the nether regions of the American zeitgeist as soon as I have a pulse.
Confessional
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Fred Reed 2003-04-27 16:00
Sometimes a writer craves to bare his soul and lighten his burden of hidden sin--yes, to admit that he hasn't always lived as a Christian, that he has played cards in low dives, and done shameful things with floozies in foreign ports. He wants to make a clean breast of it before the world, to say, "There. You see me in all my sordid sorrow and moral wretchedness. Forgive me if you can." Well, I'm...
The Problem of Copyright
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Fred Reed 2003-04-06 16:00
"Copyright piracy," meaning the digital copying of music and movies and, sooner or later, books, is a legal problem that hasn't gone away. The implications are huge. The music industry loses large amounts of money on music shared across the internet. It consequently pushes the adoption of totalitarian controls, which are the only kind that could work. In fact companies that lose money on...
Doing What We Can't Help Doing
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Fred Reed 2003-03-24 17:00
Wars, like the political eruptions of teenagers, groan under the weight of moral justification: We are fighting to protect ourselves, protect democracy, establish democracy, end atrocities, avenge former mistreatment, dissuade dictators. We have to save something from something or for something. If we don't fight, this boogie or that boogie will take over the world.
Worlds and Worlds
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Fred Reed 2003-03-09 17:00
Last year I dove for a week on a live-aboard dive boat, the Caribbean Explorer. She's big and sleek, out of St. Maarten in the Netherlands Antilles, set up for luxurious diving with compressors, diving stations and a superb crew. She runs at night from dive site to dive site while the divers sleep. You eat, dive, off-gas on the sundeck, and dive again. Capitol Divers, my raffish semi-cowboy dive...