Thursday, September 30, 2004


Right out of the gate: September 11th. It took President Bush all of twenty-three words, his opening thanks to the University of Miami, before striking that note:


And it went downhill from there.

Bush was obviously pissed off for much of it, which is very good. It took him about ten, fifteen minutes, but Kerry's jabs got him noticeably pissed. Pissed because, even if most of Kerry's charges hadn't been correct, Bush knew that he lacked the facility to turn them away, or to respond convincingly to anyone who isn't already convinced.

Kerry had to win this debate, and I think he did. Not a knockout, but a solid decision. One of the reasons I think this is that National Review is calling it a draw.

This doesn't really change much, it just puts Kerry back in play. Hopefully he can take control of the rest of the campaign like he took control tonight.

I had hoped that the second or possibly third debate could've taken place in my kitchen, after a dinner of lasagna, a green salad and garlic bread, while Kerry sipped a fine Merlot and Bush cradled an O'Doul's, but neither campaign nor the debate commission responded to any of my numerous letters, emails, flowers, or candygrams. Maybe next time.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


Bill O'Reilly is full of crap (via Wonkette)!

The folks at Comedy Central were annoyed when Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly kept referring to "The Daily Show" audience as "stoned slackers." So they did a little research. And guess whose audience is more educated?

Viewers of Jon Stewart's show are more likely to have completed four years of college than people who watch "The O'Reilly Factor," according to Nielsen Media Research.

Wait, wait,'re saying that O'Reilly simply pulls "facts" out of his ass? I need to hold to something...

In other news: fish live underwater, and the pope still wears a pointy hat.


Responding to Rob's question (in reference to this article by Christopher Hitchens)over at L,G,&M,

Really, does this guy have any defenders left (I'm thinking of you, Matt)?

My answer is that I simply can't defend Hitchens, at least not for his uncritical and unswerving support for the Bush Gang over the war in Iraq, or for his apparent embrace of neoconservatism. Hitchens has said that he will support whomever he feels is more serious about fighting the war against jihad, and seems, inexplicably, to have taken Bush at his word on this, even though the policies of the Bush Administration have proven disastrous in too many ways to count.

I do defend, however, Hitchens' analysis of the nature of the jihadist threat, and the liberal principles which undergird his belief that this threat must be opposed in the strongest way possible. But, again, I'm simply at a loss to explain why he has thrown in his lot in with some of the least liberal, least democratic people in this government, or how he has convinced himself, against almost all available evidence, that their policies are the appropriate ones.

Many on the left (people who should have known better) rejected Hitchens when he refused to be used as an instrument in the Clinton White House's smearing of Monica Lewinsky. I was rather impressed with his actions, because, you see, I always hated Sidney Blumenthal's haircut. This isn't to say that the GOP's pursuit of Clinton over that affair wasn't despicable and ridiculous, only that Clinton's attempted slandering of a twenty-two year old woman as a means of drawing attention away from his own astounding lack of self-control was also despicable. For the crime of revealing an inconvenient truth, the liberal intelligentsia cast Hitchens out, and, despite his proud self-described contrarianism, I'm sure it stung. The abrupt stoppage of dinner party invitations probably has something to do with why he has been so easily seduced by the neocon Palpatines: it's a thumb in the eye to those who rejected him and, further, like anyone, when it comes right down to it he enjoys access to power, to say nothing of access to think tank buffets and open bars. Okay, that's my two dollar long-distance psychoanalysis.

One more thing. My allusion to Anakin Skywalker is not unintentional, even though it may be somewhat unserious (and entirely geeky). I think Hitchens is easily the best polemicist working today. There is no one who comes close, either in print or in live debate, and this is a big reason why I've been so slow to recognize that he has, in fact, been turned. I just can't get over his mastery of the form. This kind of virtuoso comes along maybe once in a generation, and it breaks my heart that he now puts his virtuosity to work playing only Wagner.


It's no overstatement to say that this is the most anticipated release in the history of pop music.

Almost forty years ago, Brian Wilson began work on the follow up to the Beach Boys extraordinary Pet Sounds, to be entitled SMiLE, but events conspired to prevent it's completion, such as the interfering muckery-hackery of Beach Boy Mike Love (who personally prevented Brian from using any of the original SMiLE session source tapes for this album, and who now satisfies his artistic ambitions singing "Kokomo" at Six Flags amusement parks two hundred times a year), and Brian's massive drug use leading him slowly but determinedly into a twilight realm of his own secret thoughts.

The odds and ends which had been completed were compiled into an album called Smiley Smile, which certainly has its moments but is by no means the sprawling, ambitious, conceptually integrated masterwork which Brian had intended.

Working from the original master tapes as a guide, Brian has recreated the music in the studio with a backing band, and SMiLE is out today. I'll try and get back with a review soon.

Now, if only Kevin Shields could finish that follow-up to Loveless...


Lawyers, Guns, and Money abounds with good links and commentary today.

- Several articles about the rise of pseudo-fascism in the U.S.

Part I: The Morphing of the Conservative Movement
Part II: The Architecure of Fascism

One of Niewert's most significant points is that American fascism, if and when it truly arrives, will look uniquely American, that is, it will not have many of the accoutrements which we associate with European fascism, each of which had a specifically German, Italian, or Spanish flavor. When American fascism comes, it will ride upon a tide of perverse, seemingly innocuous, Americana, such as corny country tunes about putting boots in people's asses, books by Connecticut-bred, chardonnay-slurping attack-blondes charging disloyalty, a veneration of firearms which borders on the fetishistic, and the attemptedwhitewashing of historical crimes, just to cite a few possible examples.

- A piece (from Daily Kos) which breaks down by state the amount of federal dollars received. Rob's commentary is excellent:

The whole notion of a "self-reliant" Red America is nonsense. Rural states receive a ton of money from urban states, and don't give much back. Republicans like to tell their constituents that the taxes they pay are going to support an African-American welfare mother with nine children in the depths of some inner city. It ain't true. Indeed, the taxes of African-American mothers are going to support white farmers in rural states. Those who cry most loudly for small government receive the greatest largesse of big government.

I would add that this largely holds true within states as well. Ellensburg and LaConner only have electricity, phone, and mail service because they are able to dip into the tax base created by cities like Seattle and Tacoma. If these small towns had to rely on their own taxes to pay for such things, they'd probably still be getting their mail via pony, and their electricity via generators powered by children pedaling stationary bicycles.

- a piece from Vanity Fair (mirrored here and here) on the base, blatant injustice of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore. Wow. The fact that anyone could still harbor doubts about whether this decision was incorrect is both a testament to the discipline and effectiveness of the right-wing media machine, and yet another nail in the coffin of the Liberal Media Myth.

Monday, September 27, 2004


This caused me to pound my head repeatedly into my desk. From Rich Lowry at NRO's The Corner:

One thing I was struck by listening to Allawi last week was how often he referred to “tribes,” the tribes of Fallujah, the tribes of Najaf, etc, etc. It made me realize how little any of us “generalists” sitting here in the US really understand of what's going on in Iraq. What do we know about how a tribal society operates? That doesn't mean things are necessarily going better than we think, or worse, or that we shouldn't comment on what we read. But we should have a little humility.

Jesus H. Christ in fucking basket of fried chicken and a side of cole slaw, people. Yes. YES. YES! Many, if not most, modern Arab societies retain elements of tribalism, and of course the time to consider what "we" may or may not know about tribal societies was before we prematurely abandoned diplomacy and invaded their country with no Arab allies, on the basis of questionable intelligence, and shocked and awed their infrastructure into the fucking ground.

Everyone should find it scary that Lowry, the editor of the most important conservative magazine in the country, finds the concept of Arab tribalism so novel.


James Lileks, commenting on this NYT Magazine article on bloggers, displays his special brand of cornpone elitism:

The Sunday Times is the weekly sermon: let us reinforce your world view, your sense of belonging to the Thinking Class, the Special Ones. Let the Red Staters spend Sunday morning in itchy church clothes at Perkins, dumping syrup all over their pancakes and yelling at little Lurleen not to pour salt down her baby brother’s jumper; you’re in your elegant spare little apartment with a cup of coffee (frothed on top; sprinkle of nutmeg) and a pastry from that wonderful place around the corner (okay, it’s an Au Bon Pain – hell, they’re all Bon Pain now) and there’s some light jazz on the radio. Morning jazz, if you had to give the genre a name. Anyway, it’s a sunny fall morning – well, noonish. Now comes the capstone moment when you lay the slab of the Times in your lap and begin the autoposy of the week. Scan the A section headlines - yes, yes, yes, appalling. Scan the metro: your eyes glaze. The arts section – later. Travel – Greece again? Good for Greece. Six pounds of classifieds: discard. No comics . . . there was always comics on Sunday back home. But that was IOWA, for heaven’s sake, what else would you expect but Blondie and Ziggy and the rest . . . ah.

And on and on like this. There's no denying that Lileks is a talented writer, but it would probably help if he thought things through a little more, maybe asked himself how, exactly, holding up the stereotypical (in his mind) urbanite for ridicule supports his presmise that urbanites hold rural types in contempt?

Honestly, the only urbanites I've ever met who hold rural America in contempt are urbanites who grew up in rural America.

Sunday, September 26, 2004


(Note: the following post has a very high geek rating. I don't geek out too often, but when I do, I go all the way.)
I rented and watched the DVD Empire Strikes Back last Tuesday, the day the trilogy was released. I love all three films, but I think Empire is easily the best of the three. Wampas, walkers, asteroid fields, the Imperial March, the Super Star Destroyer Executor, all there just like I remember it from that warm May day when one of the neighborhood moms took all of us neighborhood kids to see it at Cinema East in downtown Nyack.

I know that George Lucas has said that the Star Wars saga is essentially the story of the corruption and redemption of Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader, but the original three films (Episodes IV, V, and VI) have, for me, always turned on one character: Han Solo. While Anakin/Vader's story is grandly wrought and mythic in scope, Solo's story has always seemed to me more profound because it is smaller and more personal. He's just a working man trying, in Episode IV, to get paid, and, in Episode V, to score with Leia. It's really only in Episode VI where he has his Rick Blaine-like realization that there are larger issues at stake, and that he has to choose a side and do the right thing. Of course, unlike Rick Blaine, in Solo's case doing the right thing allows him to get the girl, so there is the possibility that he agrees to accept a commission in the Rebel Alliance as a means to sealing the deal, so to speak, with Senator Organa (D-Alderaan).

Throughout the first three films, Solo provides the entry point for audiences into the Star Wars universe, he was hiply sardonic without being anachronistic, providing the perfect "in" for jaded 70s audiences more used to gritty realism that was in filmic vogue. It's precisely the lack of that kind of character that makes Episodes I and II so weak. Okay, there's also the the fact that George Lucas is possibly the worst director of actors since Ed Wood, treating his cast not so much as cattle as like model trains to be run through intricately designed digital sets.

LUCAS: Cut, print. That's a wrap!
EWAN MCGREGOR: But George, I tripped on my robe.
LUCAS: Ahh, don't worry, in reality, Obi-Wan would have that problem all the time. Anyway, we can fix it digitally in post! Let's move on!

And the scripts...oh, the scripts. Everyone speaks in knock-off high-Arthurian profundo-speak, and because there's no Solo character to puncture the grandiosity, it very quickly begins to grate.

All that was pushed to the back of my mind as I thoroughly enjoyed watching Empire again. Yeah, Yoda is still pretty damn impressive for a muppet, but Empire is Solo's movie. Two words, people:

"I know."

Related, and because it makes me feel less geeky by comparison, here's a fellow who has charted the relative strengths of the ships of the Empire versus those of Star Trek's United Federation of Planets. Needless to say, the Empire utterly dominates. Enjoy.


Michael Kinsley on the entirely dumb question of who Osama bin Laden prefers, Bush or Kerry:

The difference between Osama bin Laden's endorsement and John McCain's (well, one of many differences) is that McCain's presumably has a positive effect and Bin Laden's has a negative one. If Bin Laden wants to help his candidate, he must hide — or even disguise — his preference. This makes any argument or evidence about that preference inherently self-defeating. If he is honorary chairman of the annual "Kabul Salutes W" dinner and gala, does that mean he supports Bush or does it mean he wants people to think he supports Bush, which really means that he doesn't support Bush?

...At least Bin Laden is probably concentrating on what really matters in this election. He is not spending a lot of time comparing ancient typewriter fonts, or reviewing the circumstances of Kerry's third Purple Heart. In that sense — and only in that sense — he may be a good influence.

Friday, September 24, 2004


I'm extremely tired of this line, a variation of which Bush seems to repeat at every opportunity

I had a decision to make - to hope for the best and to trust the word of a madman and a tyrant - or remember the lessons of Sept. 11 and defend our country. Given that choice, I will defend America every time

Wow, given that choice, I probably would have done the same thing, but of course that wasn't the choice he faced. He didn't have to trust the word of a madman, he could have trusted the word of UN inspectors, or at the very least given them more time. But, like Kevin Kline in A Fish Called Wanda, Bush can't seem to remember that pesky middle part. Oh well, down the memory hole. In the rewritten history of the Iraq war, Saddam was burying nukes in the sand up to the very end, and wouldn't you know that he buried 'em so good that we couldn't never find 'em?

And then there was Bush's speech to the UN on Tuesday. Apparently the president thought he was speaking to the Dayton Chamber of Commerce, as he gave his standard stump speech peppered with the standard applause lines, except there was no applause, only stony silence broken up occasionally by diplomats coughing ahem, bullshit! in the various languages of the world.

More and more, the peculiar postmodernism of the modern American conservative movement, (explicated very well hereby Franklin Foer) in which the very concept of disinterested expertise is viewed with deep suspicion when it's not rejected out of hand, seems to be evincing itself. Probably the most significant example of this, and there are many, is the way that the Bush gang cavalierly dismissed the advice of the government's own Middle East experts and military planners when that advice didn't comport with the administration's own views on how an invasion of Iraq might go.

James Fallows:
Here is the hardest question: How could the Administration have thought that it was safe to proceed in blithe indifference to the warnings of nearly everyone with operational experience in modern military occupations? Saying that the Administration considered this a truly urgent "war of necessity" doesn't explain the indifference. Even if it feared that Iraq might give terrorists fearsome weapons at any moment, it could still have thought more carefully about the day after the war. World War II was a war of absolute necessity, and the United States still found time for detailed occupation planning.

To hear the president speak on Iraq (to say nothing of the economy) is to understand that he has constructed a rhetorical reality for his campaign that exists entirely independantly of verifiable facts, or of anything as quaint as truth. Whether or not he believes his web of bullshit is largely irrelevant: it is the fortress within which he and his supporters operate. Postmodernism is concerned with the way that meaning is created discursively, and, without crawling too far up my own backside (which is always a danger when one plays with postmodernism), I think it's safe to say that the Bush administration has taken this tendency to wild new levels. Yes, politics has, to a great extent, always been about framing the arguments and defining the issues and one's opponents in ways which are beneficial to one's own side, but it's really hard to have a meaningful debate when one's opponent A) rejects the very premises of your criticisms, as Bush does about Iraq, and B) goes so far as to suggest that such criticism is giving aid and comfort to the country's enemies, as Bush does when he slams Kerry for suggesting that Interim Iraqi PM Allawi's comments on the situation may not be entirely candid. I mean, come on: the very day that Allawi was giving his thumbs-up "S'alright!" in the Rose Garden, Donald Rumsfeld gave a Senate briefing which undercut Allawi more than anything Kerry could have said. Don't these people have phones? Don't they talk to each other? Don't they CC each other on emails?

The good news is that Kerry is continuing to hit Bush hard on Iraq. Keep it up. Bush is known to have a hard time taking criticism, and the best thing for Kerry would be to have the president quivering mad by the time the first debate happens.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004


Yusuf Islam (nee Cat Stevens) prevented from entering the United States. I feel safer already.

UPDATE: After reading this post by Juan Cole, I feel I should clarify a bit. I agree that Yusuf Islam's support of the fatwa against Salman Rushdie was despicable, but I just don't see how U.S. security is served by prohibiting the man from entering the country.


Iran's bloggers in censorship protest

Hundreds of Iranian online journals have been protesting against media censorship by renaming their websites after pro-reformist newspapers and websites that have been banned or shut down by the authorities.
Many of the websites, known as blogs or weblogs, have also posted news items from the banned publications on their websites.

The protest was started by blogger Hossein Derakhshan, a student at Toronto university in Canada.

He told the BBC that although he felt the action was symbolic, he wanted to show Iranian authorities "that they would not be able to censor the internet in the same way as they have managed to control other media".

He said he was delighted with the response.

The hardline Iranian press has published a personal attack on him, he said, "which is proof that the authorities must be worried by the bloggers' protest".

Round 1: irresistable force.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004


Though my doctor (who also happens to be my lawyer) has strongly advised me to ignore the rantings of theocratic conservatives, this column by Dennis Prager is just so overflowing with stupidity that I simply can't resist.

To understand the worldwide ideological battle -- especially the one between America and Western Europe and within America itself -- one must understand the vast differences between leftist and rightist worldviews and between secular and religious (specifically Judeo-Christian) values.

One of the most important of these differences is their attitudes toward law. Generally speaking, the Left and the secularists venerate, if not worship, law. They put their faith in law -- both national and international. Law is the supreme good. For most on the Left, "Is it legal?" is usually the question that determines whether an action is right or wrong.

Laws are the Left's vehicles to earthly salvation. Virtually all human problems have a legal solution. Some men harass women? Pass laws banning virtually every flirtatious action a man might engage in vis a vis a woman. Flood legislatures with laws preventing the creation of a "hostile work environment." Whereas the religious world has always worked to teach men how to act toward women, the secular world, lacking these religious values, passes laws to control men.

Yeah, I spit coffee all over my monitor after reading that, too. The idea that women are better off in religious, rather than a secular, societies is, of course, skull-clutchingly dumb. For the vast majority of history the "religious world" has taught men to treat women essentially as property (I think it's also worth noting that, as recently as the 19th century, women in Islamic societies had more rights than those in Judeo-Christian societies). I'm more interested, though, in Prager's assertion that "the worldwide ideological battle [is] between secular and religious values." I generally agree with this, though I'd frame it as a conflict between absolutism and constitutionalism. And I think it's clear that Prager's on the wrong side.


I hope Kerry's speech yesterday on the Iraq war and the broader war against jihad indicates that, at long last, he's realized that this campaign will be won or lost on national security. Health care is important, yes, as are fiscal sanity, jobs, and environmental protection, but it's screamingly obvious that national security is not only the most salient issue with voters right now, it's an issue on which President Cakewalk is vulnerable.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004


Matt Yglesias brings a little perspective to the developing CBS memo scandal

Readers may recall that a while back the Bush administration found itself in possession of some documents (apparently procured via a possibly rogue official in Italian Military Intelligence) purporting to show that Iraq was buying uranium in Niger and that Iraq, Iran, and a host of other countries were collaborating to launch terrorist attacks on the United States. The CIA regarded these as obvious forgeries, but they were in line with the ideological preconceptions of various civilians in the Defense Department and the vice president's office and so information based on these forgeries found its way into Bush's 2003 State of the Union address. After this came to light, cooler heads at the NSC and the CIA began to prevail and admitted that mistakes were made (though not before an earlier attempt to stand by the authenticity of the forgeries led someone in the administration to burn a covert CIA WMD specialist). The result, rightly, was some bad press for the Bush administration.

The White House, then, learned the lesson not that they should start vetting speeches more carefully or fire some of the folks responsible, but rather that they should never admit to having ever done anything wrong lest it bring them bad press. Since then, they've been "digging in," arguing -- spuriously -- that the claim wasn't based on the forgeries after all, but rather on intelligence obtained from foreign governments. Those foreign sources, however, turn out to have also been based on the same forged documents. It's certainly not a more defensible pattern of behavior, and the stakes were much higher.

Jonah Goldberg responds

...Yglesias is making what some call a category error. The President of the United States isn't a newsman -- let alone the iconic personification of the establishment media righteousness. If Yglesias thinks Presidents should be judged by such standards, than I assume he thinks Bill Clinton should have been an intern at Weekly World News.

Friends, this is the ne plus ultra of political water-carrying (with a little dig at Clinton thrown in for good measure. Obsess much, Jonah?). Goldberg is so far in the bag for Bush that he is actually suggesting that the President of the United States should be held to a lower standard of evidence for information which is used to convince Americans to send their sons and daughters to war than should a newsman for information which damages the reputation of a politician. Amazing.


Khalil Shikaki, of the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, on renewed demands for Palestinian reform.

Organized calls for reform in the Palestinian political system date back to 1997, when a PLC committee issued an exceedingly critical report on corruption and mismanagement among Arafat's closest PA associates. The current intifada, triggered in September 2000, in part by young reformers, unleashed sociopolitical changes that led the young guard, and their supporters in the refugee camps and poor urban areas, to become weary of corruption and paralysis of the PA and its lack of popular legitimacy.

A large section of the middle class also came to share these frustrations. The largest campaign for reform, spurred by the dismal performance of PA institutions during the Israeli reoccupation of West Bank cities in March-April 2002, forced Arafat to agree, albeit reluctantly, to some changes. Soon after the incursion, he signed the Basic Law (which the PLC had passed in 1997), approved the unification of national finances under an account controlled by a new finance minister, and set a date for national elections.

The Bush administration's June 2002 announcement of its policy of Palestinian regime change and the Israeli siege against Arafat a few months later tarnished the reform agenda by associating it with Israeli and American demands. The external political and military pressure emboldened Arafat and his allies and dampened calls for reform, since no patriotic young guard reformer wanted to be linked to Bush and Sharon. (emphasis mine)

That last bit is key. The attempts by the U.S. and Israel to isolate Arafat have been disastrous on every count. They have weakened moderates, increased Arafat's popularity (which had been seriously flagging), and greatly emboldened Islamist groups such as Hamas and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.

I find it incredible that Sharon could have imagined any other result.


Rob Farley eviscerates the case for missile defense.


That Wonkette, she funny.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004


Via Juan Cole, an open letter to Madonna from Angela Godfrey-Goldstein of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, questioning Madonna's upcoming visits to holy sites in occupied Palestine, specifically Rachel's Tomb.

On behalf of Israeli Jews, and Palestinian or Israeli Christians and Muslims seriously opposed to your highly controversial visit, we ask you, with compassion, to reconsider the consequences of coming to Israel/Palestine in this context.

This visit takes you to the heart of Occupied Territory in Bethlehem: a closed-off prison, a ghetto, whose civilians now have no work, no freedom, no life. They've finished their savings, live now on food handouts from foreign donor agencies. They've had their land taken, they have no justice through the courts, this entire city of ordinary folk trying to live a decent life, is imprisoned, while Israel calls the shots.

Three million Palestinians are under full closure for the entire month of Jewish High Holidays. All to ensure further settlement development. At all times, they can't get out. They'll even have to pray at Rachel's Tomb checkpoint, instead of their own Jerusalem holy site, Al Aqsa Mosque, at Ramadan next month, like last year.

In the last four years, we've killed five times more of their children, three times more of their civilians, than the Palestinians have killed Israeli kids or civilians. We've taken their homes, land and villages, dignity, work. Bethlehem is a ghetto, with no work, and look – you a tourist – are you going to the Christian sites in the centre of Bethlehem?

Please read the whole thing.

On a personal note, I met and travelled with Ms. Godfrey-Goldstein during my visit to Israel and Palestine in June of 2003 (Here's a picture). She is extremely knowledgeable and persuasive on issues relating to Israel's criminal treatment of the Palestinians, and speaks from a place of deep sadness at the way that Judaism has been perverted to justify brutality and oppression, and the concomitant dehumanization of young men and women in the Israeli military who must carry out that brutality.

I hope the Material Girl takes her words to heart.

REBELS SEE PUTIN'S $10 million...

...raise him $10 million more.


Who the hell needs a damn assault rifle? Good question.

  • Very poor hunters
  • Very drunk hunters
  • Hunters with bad eyesight
  • Poor, drunk hunters with bad eyesight
  • Guys who've seen Red Dawn one too many times (which would be twice)
  • Criminals
  • Terrorists

Sunday, September 12, 2004


Pat Buchanan's at it again. In his new book Where the Right Went Wrong: How Neoconservatives Subverted the Reagan Revolution and Hijacked the Bush Presidency, he describes Richard Perle's account of Perle's first encounter with George W. Bush:

Perle's depiction of his delight at first meeting the future president reads like Fagin relating his initial encounter with the young Oliver Twist.

I think Timothy Noah is right, that this comparison is blatantly and shockingly anti-Semitic. Buchanan has defended the passage as merely a "literary allusion." Um, sure, Pat, an allusion to...literature's most infamous corrupting, manipulative Jew.

The gist of Pat's argument, if you haven't guessed, is that neoconservatives are too close to Israel, and have seized control of Bush's foreign policy to enact programs which would benefit the Jewish State. As I've written before, I reject imputations of dual loyalties, but I admit being uncomfortable with the close ties that many neoconservatives have with the hardline Israeli Likud, both because Likud's policies have been entirely disastrous both for Israel's security and Palestinian human rights (to say nothing of the regional reputation of Israel's sugar daddy, the United States), and because I have never seen a reasonable explanation of why or how the U.S.'s enormous support for Israel since 1967 has been either a strategic or a moral good for the U.S. This is an issue that is too little discussed, and it's not helped by Buchanan dragging his baggage into it.

Related, here's Naomi Klein with an interesting piece on what she calls The Likudization of the World, the disaster that could occur if the world adapts Likud's approach to defining and fighting terrorism:

There has indeed been a dramatic and dangerous rise in religious fundamentalism in the Muslim world. The problem is that under the Likud Doctrine, there is no space to ask why this is happening. We are not allowed to point out that fundamentalism breeds in failed states, where warfare has systematically targeted civilian infrastructure, allowing the mosques start taking responsibility for everything from education to garbage collection. It has happened in Gaza, in Grozny, in Sadr City. Mr. Sharon says terrorism is an epidemic that “has no borders, no fences” but this is not the case. Everywhere in the world, terrorism thrives within the illegitimate borders of occupation and dictatorship; it festers behind “security walls” put up by imperial powers; it crosses those borders and climbs over those fences to explode inside the countries responsible for, or complicit in, occupation and domination.

Likudism is characterized by the total belief that "we" are objectively, perhaps even transcendently, good and "they" are objectively bad, by the rejection of any examination of root causes, and by the complete refusal to even entertain the idea that one's own policies may have in fact created, and still may be creating, the conditions for terrorism or to consider any solution other than military violence, more checkpoints, and thicker walls. Sound a lot like the GOP's plan for fighting terrorism to you? Unfortunately, you're right.

Friday, September 10, 2004

CURRENTLY the stereo: John Zorn's Electric Masada. I've been waiting anxiously for an Electric Masada recording since seeing the group play at Seattle's On The Boards a couple of years ago, one of the most amazing performances I have ever seen. Imagine Miles Davis' Bitches Brew band charging its way through a set of klezmer tunes and you've pretty much got it. I think the stage was literally smoking.

For those unfamiliar with Zorn, here's a short profile.

...on the nightstand: Resurrecting Empire by Rashid Khalidi. A concise, well written overview of Western colonial history in the Middle East, its consequences for the present day, and ideas for how to deal with the Islamist threat. the DVD player: Chris Rock Never Scared. Almost ten years after Bring the Pain and Rock is still the best comic working.


Is Andrew Sullivan losing his?

...the Chechnya situation strikes me as one in which the necessary distinction between terrorists' methods and the injustices that sometimes fuel them is not as iron-clad as, say, in our war against al Qaeda or against Saddam. The truth is: Putin has treated Chechnya barbarically, and his brutal suppression of legitimate demands for autonomy is partially responsible for the chaos in that region and the violence across Russia. We should therefore not give in to the easy notion that Putin and we are on the same side in this war. Putin is trying to destroy self-government in Chechnya in favor of Russian imperialism.

Wow, actual nuance from a conservative. Obviously I agree with him on this, but I wonder if he feels that this distinction also applies to Israel's thirty-seven year occupation and colonization of Palestine and the terrorism which has resulted?

The basic conservative script holds that there are two, and only two, teams: US(The United States and whichever countries are part of our Coalition of the Moment-good!) and THEM(everyone else-bad!). This lazy and simple-minded moral calculus is exemplified perfectly by Victor Davis Hanson, pet historian of the Moral Clarity Brigade:

Ask yourself: What do a Russian ten-year-old, a poor black farmer in Darfur, an elderly pensioner in Israel, a stockbroker in New York, and a U.N. aid worker in Afghanistan have in common? In the last three years, they have all died in similar ways: Unarmed and civilian, they were murdered by a common cowardly method fueled by a fascist ideology.

Hanson is correct that the thread of radical Islamism does, to some extent, run through each of these examples, but that's also about all they have in common. While there is no excuse for the murder of civilians, it's simply ignorant not to recognize that the events Hanson mentions arise from very different circumstances and contexts, and thus will require different strategies to prevent them occuring in the future.

Listen: opposing Putin's vicious methods against the Chechens does not equal supporting aspiring Chechen Muslim theocrats; Recognizing that Israel's brutal treatment of Palestinians is a constant incitement to terrorism does not equal excusing Hamas' suicide bombings; Recognizing that there are longstanding ethnic and cultural factors contributing to the conflict in Darfur does not equal excusing the Janjaweed genocide.

President Bush has claimed repeatedly that we are "not in a war with Islam," but if he follows the advice of people like Hanson and approaches every situation in which radical Islam is a factor as yet another front in the War on Terror, we soon will be.


Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan was recently denied a U.S. visa, and has thus been unable to take up his teaching position at Notre Dame University. Ramadan was named one of the top 100 intellectual innovators of the new century by TIME magazine for his work regarding reconciliation between Western and Islamic ways of thinking. In other words, he's precisely the kind of person the U.S. should embrace if we genuinely want to engage the Islamic world in a dialogue about democracy.

Noted stark-raving conservative idealogue Daniel Pipes thinks it's a good thing that Ramadan has been denied entry into the U.S., as Ramadan has apparently said unkind things about Israel in the past. Despite his neatly-trimmed beard, though, I find Pipes' work less than impressive. This is a man, after all, who has referred to Jewish settlements on Palestinian land as "trivialities," which is about as clear an indication that he simply doesn't get it, aside from actually tattooing the words "I Simply Don't Get It" on his forehead, as one could expect. Nevertheless, just as it's advisable to read the National Review to familiarize one's self with the kooky ideas that the right is currently trying to foist upon America, reading Pipes' work helps one stay current with the chauvinistic Islamophobic academic set, currently hard at work developing a rationale for why America should do whatever it wants, whenever it wants, and why everyone else should just shut the fuck up about it.

Scott Martens at A Fistful of Euros is on the scene with an evisceration of Pipes' attacks on Ramadan, and of Pipes' nonsensical, though unfortunately politically influential, ideas in general.

P.S. The ironic thing is that, by denying Ramadan a visa and declaring him persona non grata in the U.S., the U.S. has likely greatly increased Ramadan's credibility in the Muslim world.


The continuing furor over Vietnam has made a couple things strikingly obvious. The first is that there is no level to which the GOP will not sink in order to score political points. No matter how dirty Democrats get, they'll find that Karl Rove has already been there, signed the guestbook, bought a t-shirt, and moved down a rung. The second is that we Americans will not achieve any sort of consensus on Vietnam, what it meant and what it means, until it no longer exists in living memory, that is until all of those whose lives were directly affected by it are dead.

The most popular GOP excuse for the scurrilous Swift Boater attacks on John Kerry is that Kerry essentially brought it on himself by making his Vietnam service a centerpiece of his campaign. This is like saying it's okay to falsely accuse George W. Bush of committing date rape in college because he has bragged about going to Yale.

I don't have an opinion on the controversial CBS memos regarding Bush's National Guard service, but to me the issue of whether he properly met his requirements is secondary. The issue is this: George W. Bush and his father both supported the Vietnam War, yet neither had any qualms about using family connections to help W. avoid combat. W. has, in the past, claimed that he received "no special treatment" on getting into the Texas Air National Guard, which at this point we can safely say is a flat-out lie.

It's a tribute to the GOP spin machine that voters seem tired of the issue to the point that they're willing to say "Okay, okay, they both served, let's move on, fer chrissake!" No, there's no equivalence here. I'd be very happy to move on to more relevant issues, but just for the record: Bush supported the war, and did everything he could to avoid serving in it. Kerry had his doubts about the war, but volunteered to serve in Vietnam anyway.


Animated Electoral College Map, showing how the race has changed since May. (via Andrew Sullivan)

Saturday, September 04, 2004


From the BBC:

Rock band Queen, fronted by gay icon Freddie Mercury, has become the first rock act to receive an official seal of approval in Iran.
Western music is strictly censored in the Islamic republic, where homosexuality is considered a crime.

But an album of Queen's greatest hits was released in Iran on Monday.

Mercury, who died in 1991, was proud of his Iranian ancestry, and illegal bootleg albums and singles made Queen one of the most popular bands in Iran.

This is all kinds of strange. There's probably not a single band more closely identified with gay liberation than Queen, yet Freddie Mercury's Persian heritage provides an in to a society ruled by hardline conservative clerics. It also probably doesn't hurt that Queen. Fucking. Rocks.

Globalization at its finest, people. Keep ripping those bootlegs.

Thursday, September 02, 2004


That seems to be the general response to Senator Zell Miller's speech last night. Democrats: "Wow, that guy is out his damn mind." Republicans: "Wow, I'm sure glad a Republican didn't deliver that speech."

I caught only a bit of the speech live. The transcript doesn't really do it justice, but if you try reading it in the voice of Strother Martin in Cool Hand Luke you'll pretty much have it.

I do think that thanks are in order for Senator Miller, for both gathering that many right-wing shibboleths ("Kerry would let Paris decide when America needs defending," "he deny protective armor for our troops in harm's way")together in one place, the better for us to examine and dismiss them, and for emblemizing very well, his Democratic Party membership notwithstanding, the state of modern American conservatism: no positive ideas, only militarism, paranoid accusations of disloyalty, and the constant stoking of fear.

Daily Howler's got the goods.

Wednesday, September 01, 2004


Somehow I missed this on the NewsHour, but apparently President Bush has realized that you can't really win a war on a tactic.

We actually misnamed the war on terror. It ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world.

And, you know, that's what they do. They use terror, and they use it effectively.

Wow, that's almost nuanced, though it is extremely at odds with Bush's post-9/11 claims that the terrorists loved terror and disorder for its own sake. That he now recognizes that they do have something of a political goal represents, I guess, progress. It only took him three years to catch up with the rest of the class.