Friday, September 19, 2003




obviously, domestic issues are those on which you're most vulnerable. don't attempt to take a crash course in economics. forget rolling back the bush tax cuts for the wealthy. forget a middle class tax cut.

go on the stump right now and tell everyone in middle america to take out a second mortgage, contact their bookies and take the buffalo "bills" and the three points against the miami "dolphins" this sunday night.

this will result in the biggest wealth transfer since the institution of the progressive income tax.

if you'd like to discuss this further i can be reached at vip sports bet in the bahamas.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003



penguin books are great. inexpensive editions of the classics available at book sellers everywhere (not at books & books on lincoln road mall of course, but everywhere else) even in airports. who else publishes a $9.95 edition of the odyssey, a $14.95 issue of the koran?

a mild discomforting note was struck though when i read penguin's bhagavad gita a few years ago. the translator was someone named juan mascaro, curious hindu name, i thought. his bio said he was born in majorca and quoted from his times of london obituary in which he was described as one who had "achieved the unique feat of translating from languages not his own (sanskrit and pali) into another language not at first his own (english)."

"unique feat." like dr. johnson's comment on the dancing three-legged dog ("it's not that it's done well but that it's done at all"), one can appreciate the feat while still wondering about the quality. then followed this from the times obit: "his aim--DECRIED BY SOME ACADEMIC CRITICS...--was to convey the essence of the original in pure poetic english." my sanskrit being weak, i would have suffered a dusty, boring, old translation that was not "decried by some academic critics" to make sure i got the full intent of the original.

then i bought a copy of marcus aurelius' meditations, translated from the ancient greek by maxwell staniforth whose c.v. reads "plans for an academic career frustrated by war in 1914...infantry officer...railwayman in argentina...leaving with the rank of assistant traffic manager...returned to england...25 years as parish priest."

in his translator's note, assistant traffic manager staniworth lays out the case for his new translation, pronouncing the first WIDELY READ english edition as, in his opinion, "utterly unreadable." another "closely accurate version" he rejects because it "hardly lends itself to being read for pleasure." he then breezily states that "there is no attempt here to reproduce the CURIOUS PROSE STYLE OF THE ORIGINAL," and advises that the best current edition of the meditations, a comprehensive scholarly work "however is meant for a different class of reader." HEY!

now i come to penguin's odyssey. reading homer to begin with requires an incomparable leap of faith because he and his works' providence are so murky. no one really knows if homer even existed but the best scholarly guess is that he probably lived in the 8th century b.c. (b.c.e. for howard dean supporters) and was blind and illiterate.

the iliad and odyssey therefore were supposedly oral poems which itself strains credulity. the intro to the odyssey says that an oral presentation of its 12,000 lines would have taken between 20-30 hours to complete. "who could possibly listen to them?" who could LISTEN to them?

the first written edition that we have, and the one that all others are based on, was compiled in the 3rd century b.c. for the great library in alexandria, by which time there were already several versions to choose from.

the translator for the original penguin edition of the odyssey was e.v. rieu, who had been editor of penguin classics from 1944-64. his credentials, according to the introductory notes, seem impeccable.

the edition I read however was translated by his son, d.c.h. rieu who, penguin thought it important to note, had "joined the west yorkshire regiment and was wounded at cheron in 1941." he had thereafter been headmaster at a grammar school in canterbury and translated the acts of the apostles for penguin. the intro then completes the one paragraph summary of d.c.h. rieu's life with this sentence: "on retirement he worked for cruse bereavement counseling and, until sacked, for the samaritans." "UNTIL SACKED?" as in fired? what else could that mean? real sensitive word, "sacked."

with thoughts of another greek myth, that of oedipus, in my mind i charily read rieu the younger's preface. as did assistant traffic manager staniworth, d.c.h. rieu tackles head-on the world's need for his translation in light of that of his illustrious father.

"what need is there now for a revision of his odyssey? it had many virtues." (oedipus, knife in hand, walked stealthily toward his father's back...)

"it had joie de vivre." (step...)

"it did not read like a translation." (by step...)

"there were no echoes of the authorized version or other archaisms." (oedipus drew nearer...)

"it has been enjoyed by millions." (and nearer...)

"but in my opinion it does have failings." (his eyes grew wide...)

"one is over-elaboration." (he raised the knife in his hand...)

"e.v.r. sometimes attempts to add poetry to homer's poetry." (the light glinting off the blade...)

"some of e.v.r.'s modernisms seem out of place." (and swiftly brought it down...)

"in two respects e.v.r. misrepresents the greeks." (and PLUNGED the knife into the back of his unsuspecting father...)

"when we [he and a consultant] set out we gave ourselves the task of retaining the joie de vivre of e.v.r.'s version but being more accurate and faithful to homer." (who gasped once and then crumpled to the floor, DEAD.)

for the record, penguin's koran was translated by a man named n.c. dawood whose credentials appear beyond challenge and whose translation was not "decried by some academic critics." the quotes about jews being evil and animals--i have no reason to doubt them.

-benjamin harris

for an update on this subject see David Remnick's "The Translation Wars" in the November 7, 2005 issue of The New Yorker-bh (2-19-06)

Saturday, September 13, 2003

no oceans of white hands in the photograph on the front page of the times today.

i see more black hands and brown hands, there's an asian hand in the lower right, than white hands. oh, and those hands are saluting.

no, even without the guy in the center of the picture you'd know right away this isn't a howard dean rally.

"if you were to pick a presidential candidate on the basis of social
standing--and really, darling, who doesn't--you'd have to pick howard
brush dean III over george walker bush."

the quote is from david brooks' op ed piece in the same issue of the paper.

bush and the republicans are economic elitists, always have been. bush was born a cultural elitist but grew up and made his mark, such as it was, in texas and so acquired a bit of a texas accent and a few other common folk characteristics. unfortunately, the democrats are about to nominate a man who is even more cultural elitist than bush and whose neo-smoot-hawley economics will hurt the middle class even more than bush's tax cuts for the rich.

this is not to say that dean is sui generis. the democrats have their aristocrats, fdr, jfk, jay rockefeller. but dean's elitism is the democrats problem today. it's a noxious, and obnoxious, combination of middle class contempt cloaked in a faux liberalism.

part of the cause of that elitism is symbolized in today's front page photograph. the brown and black and yellow, those with blue collars and red necks, did not, could not and did not attempt to, escape service during vietnam. they went and they fought and died.

howard brush dean III, george walker bush, bill clinton, and j. danforth quayle on the other hand did not serve. they were "bright," or socially and politically connected and so loopholes were fashioned for them or they fashioned them themselves.

dean was particularly creative, he must really have "done well" on his sat's. he somehow got himself declared 4-f but then fought through his disability and, according to brooks, "spent his time skiing in aspen." it's that kind of creativity, of thinking outside the box, that we need in a leader today.

brooks says bush and dean are the products of a culture that believed in the aristocratic notion of greatness achieved through "virility, courage, self-discipline and toughness." quite. one can see h.b.d.III's courage in tackling his first black run, perhaps during tet?, his toughness and self-discipline in overcoming physical adversity. we await accounts of the virility he displayed apres ski.

this is the difference between their generation and their fathers. george herbert walker bush was a bona fide war hero as was jfk. they each could have avoided the war if they had wished, bush's dad was a connecticut senator, jfk's of course was ambassador to the court of st. james. but they didn't. they served.

bush, quayle, clinton and dean ran. but crimminy, at least the other three did SOMETHING: national guard, oxford, SOMETHING. dean became a ski-bum and so has become the hero of all ski bums and "aging flower children and the tongue-studded next generation," whose idea of service is a maid and whose idea of real america is 92% white vermont.

-benjamin harris

Friday, September 12, 2003

richard clarke, former bush II nsc advisor said on mcneil/lehrer tonight that we are running on a treadmill in the war on terror because "while we have the support of the governments of saudi arabia and pakistan and egypt, we do not have the hearts and minds of the people in saudi arabia and pakistan and egypt."

here's how far out of the mainstream i am. here's how wrong clarke is. i'm in complete agreement with his statement. HE says therefore we should be winning those hearts and minds with "diplomacy," he actually said that, and something else like it, you know, pick one "international cooperation," "u.n. aid," "leave no child behind," "seed and weed," "it takes a village," whatever.

I say we should have used atomic weapons on afghanistan, thereby ensuring that we would not be playing the day's version of "where's waldo," "where's osama."

we should have in our minds the scope of this war. it is with islam. it is with the hearts and minds--and bodies--of the burghers of riyadh and islamabad and cairo. eventually all of islam will have to be defeated militarily by judaism/christianity. that will come at fearful expenditure of life and lucre. there is no other way.


uttered a bitter, gutteral "baahhh" tonight at the news that, at our behest, the u.n. was now going to lift sanctions against libya because it had admitted to bombing pan am 103 and was making recompense to the families.

baahh. the truth of that has been known for so long. it should have been the prelude, at any time in the last 15 years, including now, to make war on libya. instead we let that coward, that murderer, our enemy, in power, in charge of a government that we still say is a state sponsor of terrorism.


baahh. and bommbbb. that is what i have been preaching for two years now. i may be preaching it 20 years from now. if so, it will not be without genetic precedent. my dad never got over the great depression. every time the stock market broke through another ceiling dad's prediction was the same, "going to be a depression." "keep that money in the bank, or in t-bills, not in the stock market." dad predicted five of the succeeding zero depressions.

i am his son, like him, often wrong always certain.

-benjamin harris

Thursday, September 11, 2003

the cover of this week's NEW YORKER, the sept. 11 anniversary issue, is a skyline of the city with each of its buildings twinned. inside is a feature article on the war against religious understanding and the jews in particular. the article recounts the threat and quotes such as abraham foxman of the anti-defamation league and various scholars and theologians in the ecumenical movement.

the story is on an--unreleased yet--movie by the actor mel gibson on christ's passion. on the anniversary of the attacks by followers of the religion of islam on the united states and the murder of 2,800 innocents in new york city the magazine that bears that city's name does a feature on a b-movie actor's movie.

i see a political cartoon here. two bookish sorts with "new yorker editor" on their shirts, one reading "mel gibson's screenplay," his/her mouth distorted with indignity saying "OUTRAGEOUS RELIGIOUS BIGOTRY!", the other wearing one of those koo-koo clock beanies on his head with the plastic propeller that spins in the wind, reading THE KORAN upside down and saying, "HMM, VERY INTERESTING BUT WE MUST NOT RUSH TO JUDGMENT. WE MUST TRY TO UNDERSTAND THEIR PERSPECTIVE."

-benjamin harris



on the back of a car, two bumper-stickers,an american flag logo with MAKE LOVE NOT WAR on the left side and HOWARD DEAN, FOR AMERICA on the right.

Wednesday, September 10, 2003


"it's not our place to take sides," said the democratic nominee for president, one-term, former vermont governor, dr. howard dean on the israeli-islam issue.

liberman called him on it in the debate last night as he did on dean's neo-protectionist economic policies last week saying, "the bush recession will be followed by the dean depression."

liberman is wisely taking a confrontational tone with dean and appealing to the democrats moderate/conservative center. the primary season will turn into a two man, dean-liberman contest for the ideological heart of the party.

-benjamin harris

nebraska (-10) will cover this saturday against penn state.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

occasionally, the electricity in my apartment building goes out for short periods of time. when it does, my smoke detector makes an intermittent beeping sound as it would if its battery were low. it happened again at 3 am last night and woke me up. i tried to disconnect it but gave up after five minutes or so and shortly after that the electricity came back on.

this morning, i was reading and smoking my pipe and took a break. i decided to again try to disconnect the smoke detector so i stood on a chair and started twisting and pulling on it. i got it off its wall bracket but there were these red and blue wires coming out of the wall that were attached with a plastic buckle to wires coming out of the unit. i briefly tried to unhook the buckle but then thought i might have live electrical wires hanging loose, i didn't know what all, and so abandoned the idea.

at that point the alarm went off for real right in my face, that loud continuous, panicked, wail. it so startled me i almost fell off the chair. i started pushing the reset button and gave another tug on the plastic buckle but just gave up.

when you don't know what you're doing, you don't know what the outer limits are when things go awry and so in an instant, in the way the brain works in these situations, i thought of all sorts of apocalyptic outcomes. is this setting off alarms in all the apartments in the building? will the fire department automatically be called? will the building have to be evacuated? will a petition be circulated to force me to move?

i stepped off the chair and an instant later it stopped and i realized that i had been trying to disconnect a smoke detector while smoking a pipe.

-benjamin harris


dean will choose gen. wesley clark as his running mate.
real opening for the democrats on the cost of reconstructing iraq. heard on npr just now that the administration has submitted a budget calling for $60-$70 billion.

they are turning the iraq issue from one of foreign policy, their strength, to one of the economy, their weakness.

-benjamin harris.