TCS Daily


Car Poole, The Times Is A-Changin', Good MEMRI, and D-E-S-T-I-N-Y

By James K. Glassman - November 2, 2001 12:00 AM

FALLS VILLAGE, Conn. Nov. 2 - I am not, thank goodness, a commuter, but yesterday I drove up here from Washington, taking a well-worn commuter route, Interstate 270 through DC's northwestern suburbs. There were three of us in the car, so we took the HOV lane, and what a revelation! The two lanes to our right, full of single-passenger cars, were jammed to a standstill, but we zipped along at 75 miles an hour, unobstructed.

On the one hand, it was a pleasure; on the other, it was a waste. Why did the feds and the state of Maryland build a three-lane road if only two (or maybe two and a quarter) lanes were being used? Yes, high-occupancy rules are supposed to encourage people to carpool, but they don't want to carpool. After a tough day at the office, many drivers simply want to be alone. What's wrong with that?

If road space needs to be rationed, then the obvious answer is to use pricing to ration it. An invention of Bob Poole, founder of the Reason Foundation (where I am on the board) and a longtime friend, provides the key. HOV lanes can accommodate both drivers who carpool and drivers who don't but who are willing to pay for the privilege of getting home faster. Such a system is working on a few highways in California, and it should be extended nationwide. How much to charge? The rate should be low enough to allow the HOV - or HOT (for toll) - lane to attract much more traffic than it does now but not so much that it won't move faster than the other two lanes.

MSFT Gets Back to Business

A year or so ago, I heard an unconfirmed story that Alan Greenspan, the Fed chairman, was telling associates that the Clinton Justice Department's decision to break up Microsoft threatened to "put the closed parentheses" on the greatest period of economic growth in American history. I think it did.

But look at it another way. The parentheses of a dismal period were opened with the breakup attempt, and those parentheses closed today with the agreement between the feds and the company to settle (the attorneys general, including the sorry Richard Blumenthal here in my own state, will almost certainly go along). This is not to say that the economy is bubbling. Today's news is that 415,000 jobs were lost last month, and terror remains a threat. But the foundation has now been laid for a recovery, and, in part because of the settlement, the stock market was up again - the Dow rising 60 points. It is real-world innovation that produces the productivity gains that boost an economy. Now, Microsoft - which led the high-tech revolution in the first place - can at last get back to business.

The Times Is A-Changin'

Suddenly, the New York Times op-ed page - once a swamp of self-indulgence and pettiness, dominated by the natterings of Maureen Dowd, who used to know better, and Frank Rich, once a great drama critic - has come alive. Tom Friedman has been brilliant, blasting away at the cant that's coming from all quarters. Today, for example, he suggests that, when the president is asked about civilian casualties, he should answer: "Yes, for the 30th straight day Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer, has cloaked himself in a human blanket of Afghan civilians." He says that U.S. officials should always refer to Saddam Hussein as "the man who has killed more Muslims in the 20th century than any other human being." Also on the page today: a plea by novelist Salman Rushdie for Islam to restore "religion to the sphere of the personal."

Good MEMRI

The Middle East Media Research Institute does something so simple and obvious that big-time U.S. journalists wouldn't think of doing it: MEMRI, as it is called, translates (and to some extent analyzes) the media of the Middle East. The stuff it sends to subscribers - and you can e-mail MEMRI yourself to get on the list (memri@memri.org) -- can be frightening.

Today, we learn that the website of Egypt's Al-Azhar University continues to post anti-American statements by the university's clerics and professors. The site quotes a reporter who has interviewed Sheikh Ali Abu Al-Hassan, head of Al-Azhar's Religious Ruling Committee, as calling the U.S. activity in Afghanistan "a case of a hostile state fighting us." The only answer is resistance: "Islam urges us to set out on a Jihad for the sake of Allah until we accomplish one of two good things: martyrdom or victory."

In an article, a university lecturer named Abd Al-Azim Al-Mut'ani writes, "The most recent example of the so-called terrorism are the recent attacks against America. Whatever the interpretations may be, no one disagrees that America is the one who killed and was killed. It is America that killed itself with its distorted policy.... What America is doing now is world terror against the weak."

Says another cleric, Dr. Yahyah Isma'il, a spokesman at the university: "This war is a war against Muslims and Islam. Everyone must offer help to the mujahideen brothers in Afghanistan." Says yet another: "What America and the West have done is an international crime."

It is depressing and disgusting to read this kind of drivel, but it is necessary to understand the power of Islamic radicals over young minds. Still, we shouldn't assume that all Muslims, or even most Muslims, support these theocratic fanatics. Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, says that Muslims want freedom as much as everyone else does and it is a form of bigotry to assume that they don't. What the U.S. should do is back rank-and-file Muslims in trying to throw off their oppressors - both political and religious. A victory in the streets of Iran would be at least as valuable right now as one in Kabul.

You Need 'NY' to Spell D-E-S-T-I-N-Y

Finally, baseball: I haven't commented on President Bush's courage in walking out to the mound, all alone, in the center of 50,000 fans in Yankee Stadium, to throw out the first ball in the first New York World Series home game. It was a strike. The Yankees won, then won again with a ninth-inning comeback and a homer in the 10th; and then did the same once more last night (we listened all the way through Pennsylvania, New York and Connecticut, then watched the final single to right field on TV). A Yankee victory in this year of horror has been preordained. Nothing can stop it now.
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