"That's the good news," said Sarah Chasis of the Natural Resources Defense Council, finding a silver lining in her organization's grim report on increased beach pollution. "The bad news is … we have more closings and advisories, indicating we have serious coastal water problems." So what is the good news?
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Wednesday's Question (No. 461)—"Expert Tease":
"The real critical thing is that someone has got to go in there and get the rebels out," said Ralph Hazleton, a Canadian expert, testifying at a United Nations hearing. What is his area of expertise?
"Sunken Confederate submarines."—Evan Cornog
"Invasive surgery."—Francis Heaney
"Margaret Atwood's whereabouts."—David Finkle
"Frankly, unless he's a break dancer for the GOP, I'm just not interested."—Greg Diamond
"Sinus infection and earwax buildup? Sorry, those were the doctors who treated Ford and sent him home the night before his small stroke."—Barbara Lippert (Adam Bonin had a similar answer.)
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The rebel has long been an admired figure in American popular culture, except when his politics conflicts with that of the current administration; then he's called the terrorist and doesn't get his own TV show. Paradoxically, the rebel was particularly visible during the '50s, that turbulent decade … no, wait, sorry … that conformist decade. In 1955, it was Rebel Without a Cause, featuring that particularly rebellious line of dialogue: "Do you have any idea why you killed those puppies, Plato?" (Sal Mineo was Plato.) In 1959, ABC began televising The Rebel starring Nick Adams (incidentally, also in Rebel Without a Cause) as Johnny Yuma, an ex-Confederate soldier who wandered around the West having adventures and getting caught up in other people's lives (what today we would call "meddling," but they couldn't very well call the show The Meddler). Johnny Cash sang the theme song and would later identify himself as one of country music's "outlaws," which is sort of like a rebel, but the money is better; ideology is replaced with infidelity, whiskey, and pills; and the grooming regimen is less demanding. Fortunately for my pet theory about pseudo-images of rebellion occurring in conservative eras, the '50s didn't officially end until late 1963 with the arrival of the Beatles, so my trend-spotting (Look, mom, I'm Time magazine!) can include the Crystals' 1962 hit, "He's a Rebel" (written by that saucy gadfly, Gene Pitney). The rebellion of the song's eponymous hero had consists not in his challenging the dominant economic or political order but rather in this: "He's a rebel 'cause he never, ever does what he should." I had a dog like that once. He ate some Legos and died.
Ralph Hazelton is an expert on diamonds.
The United Nations has imposed an embargo on diamonds from Sierra Leone, because the money from their sale is often used to buy arms for rebels whose tactics include hacking off the limbs of children. Mr. Hazelton believes that more direct measures will be required to stop this activity.
The United States and Britain are leading the push to control the diamond trade, an effort many believe is doomed to failure. Diamonds are small, easily smuggled, and worth a great deal of money, and it is often impossible to prove their country of origin. "The rebels will always find ways to sell their diamonds," Hazelton says. "There are a lot of not-so-honest people around."
Adam Bonin's Partying With Alan Keyes Extra
I crashed Alan Keyes' birthday party. OK, "crashed" isn't the optimal word, as anyone who wanted to go was allowed in. Anyone. It was just two blocks away from my office in distance, but a world away in spirit. My God, I haven't been in a room so free of irony and sarcasm since the time I accidentally stumbled into the Disney Store at the mall. These were the diehards. The true believers. The wing nuts not part of Dubya's sunny Republicanism.
I ran into Orrin Hatch on the way in, but he was headed elsewhere. Oh, for shame—wanted to thank him for his gift of music to the world. There was a table full of buttons for the taking. "I'm One of a Million! 1.1 million Americans voted for principle with Alan Keyes." And videotapes of Ambassador Keyes speaking, for free. Nice swag, but not nearly enough. I needed more.
Into the room. Cake, ice cream, and a cash bar were available. And lots of white people. Lots of them. I felt, finally, like I was at an actual Republican event. Then the camera lights brightened, and Keyes came in, shaking my hand among others along the way. He spoke for about 10 minutes, thanking his staff and congratulating them all for keeping the ticket "nominally pro-life," stating that sometimes it's better to measure success by evils thwarted rather than victories won. Energetic as always and looking forward to staying quiet for a few months, he said. There was a guy with a big, official-looking "Keyes 2004" sign. We can only hope.
After the blowing out of candles came schmoozing and pictures. I shook his hand, got my picture taken, and told him I admired his spirit. Or something like that. What was I supposed to say: "You're entertaining and all, but you know you're a joke, right?" or "How can you justify traveling the country on quadrennial futile quests, ranting about family values, while admitting how little time you actually get to spend with your family?"
As I was leaving, I noticed that the balloons on the tables were secured by tote bags with objects in them. I untied a balloon and took one. There it was. A cream-colored tote bag with a picture of the Declaration of Independence, emblazoned with Keyes' face in the middle. The slogan: "Self-Evidently Presidential." Indeed.
It's going on the wall.
Canada—duh! Star Wars—dull!