Tuesday, May 31, 2005


W. Mark Felt, who was assistant director of the FBI at the time, has identified himself as Deep Throat. No comment yet from Felt regarding his opinion of Hal Holbrook's performance.

The most hilarious response that I've read comes from John Podhoretz, still fighting the good fight:

...don't Woodward and Bernstein have to confirm the truth of that, like, immediately? After all, they've said they wouldn't name him because it was what he wanted, and now Felt himself is saying he was the guy in the garage. Or would W&B flinch from acknowledging that they were part of a weird FBI anti-Nixon subplot? Is this why they've kept so quiet all these years?

Translation: "The real issue here is that that the pinko FBI was out to get Nixon, not that an election-tampering, investigation-obstructing conspiracy was being orchestrated out of the Oval Office. The point is not that Richard Nixon was a cheap crook who skipped town only moments ahead of impeachment, it is that the liberal establishment always hated Nixon, just like they hate all real Amurcans! Also, I freaking can't stand smarmy Woodward and Bernstein! How I hate them for having careers and reputations to speak of! Why won't anybody listen to me? I've been on Jeopardy!"

UPDATE: Oliver Willis wins the Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Award for Cutting to the Chase for divining the real importance of the Deep Throat story:

It's not his identity.
It's that Richard Nixon will still be remembered for being a lying, dirty, scumbag crook of a president.



Good article in the New Yorker on the Intelligent Design Movement, which is powered out of Seattle's Discovery Institute. A couple things to keep in mind: Regardless of how its proponents would like to treat it as such, ID is not a scientific theory, as it does not offer any testable hypothesis. It is at best a critique of the perceived shortcomings of Darwinian theory to account for what IDers refer to as "irreducible complexity." There's certainly nothing wrong with such a critique, except that A) it's bollocks, and B) its supporters have consistently been deceptive and dishonest in representing their goals, which are, as stated in the Wedge Document, an internal Discovery Institute media strategy memorandum which was anonymously posted on the web in 1999:

...nothing less than the overthrow of materialism and its cultural legacies. Bringing together leading scholars from the natural sciences and those from the humanities and social sciences, the [Discovery Institute's] Center [for the Renewal of Science and Culture] explores how new developments in biology, physics and cognitive science raise serious doubts about scientific materialism and have re-opened the case for a broadly theistic understanding of nature.

Read through the document, it's pretty interesting. As science, I'd say the strategy has failed miserably. The vast majority of the scientific community sees ID for what it is: creationism dressed up in a junk science costume. But, as stated in the Wedge Document, the main thrust of the ID movement has more to do with combatting "materialism" in the political and cultural arena, and in this ID seems, unfortunately, to be making headway.

There's a strong comparison to be made here between Intelligent Design and supply-side economics. Like ID, supply-side is notable for the almost-complete lack of support which it has garnered in academia over the years (though, to be fair, supply-siders actually do offer an actual theory, albeit one for which the conditions can always be to declared to have been "imperfect," or its application "flawed," and thus avoid facing the reality that their theory is, as economists say, really fucking stupid). As with ID, however, this is entirely beside the point. Supply-side was always first and foremost a cover for a particular cultural and political ideology, one which favors the rich at the expense of the poor, which views business and the making of money as the highest possible human endeavor, and which is inherently suspicious of any attempt to regulate enterprise. In this respect, I'd say supply-side has unfortunately been quite successful.

Similarly, ID is a way of using pseudo-science to elevate what is essentially a creationist view to coequal status with the theory of evolution, that is, with actual science, and to have it presented as such to high school students and in the media. Now, I have absolutely no problem with people arguing for their beliefs. If you would like creationism taught in science classes, then argue that. We will probably all laugh at you, but we will at least respect you a little for presenting your view honestly. I have no respect, though, for people who try to wedge their religious beliefs into science curricula through deceptive, wealthy donor-powered grand media strategies, which is exactly what the Intelligent Design movement is doing.


To Lawyers, Guns, and Money on their one-year anniversary. Still waiting for LGM Premium, guys.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Sunday, May 29, 2005


Exchange between Helen Thomas and Scott McClellan last Wednesday:

Q The other day -- in fact, this week, you said that we, the United States, is in Afghanistan and Iraq by invitation. Would you like to correct that incredible distortion of American history --

MR. McCLELLAN: No, we are -- that's where we currently --

Q -- in view of your credibility is already mired? How can you say that?

MR. McCLELLAN: Helen, I think everyone in this room knows that you're taking that comment out of context. There are two democratically-elected governments in Iraq and --

Q We're we invited into Iraq?

MR. McCLELLAN: There are two democratically-elected governments now in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments, and we are there today --

Q You mean if they had asked us out, that we would have left?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, Helen, I'm talking about today. We are there at their invitation. They are sovereign governments --

Q I'm talking about today, too.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and we are doing all we can to train and equip their security forces so that they can provide for their own security as they move forward on a free and democratic future.

Q Did we invade those countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: Go ahead, Steve.

And so the list of impossible things that a good conservative must believe before breakfast grows longer. Let's recap, shall we?
-Saddam helped plan 9/11
-Saddam and bin Laden were in league
-We found the WMDs
-U.S. torture of prisoners is the result of a few bad apples
-Afghanistan and Iraq invited us to invade them
-Afghanistan and Iraq have sovereign governments.

Saturday, May 28, 2005


Broken record Victor Hanson is at it again, decrying those horrible "elites" who live only to ride down America. Matt Welch did a good job a few weeks ago of unpacking the absurdity of a tenured professor and Hoover Institution fellow like Hanson undertaking a jihad against privileged "elites," who Hanson defines, as far as I can tell, as anyone who both disagrees with and makes more money than him.

Anyway, here's Vic:
Former cricket-star-turned-Pakistani-politician Imran Khan in some ways jumpstarted the Newsweek-induced frenzy when in a May 6 press conference he demanded an apology for the alleged slight to the Koran. "This is what the U.S. is doing," Khan boomed, "desecrating the Koran." His mischaracterization, based on a lie, was then beamed across the Middle East — and, presto, Mr. Khan got the anti-American outburst he apparently wanted.

Khan may have made his fortune and name in the British tabloids as a cricket star and international playboy of the London salons, a lifestyle that had strong affinities with the West rather than the madrassas. But now he is back in Pakistan crafting a political career and catering to the Islamists, even though religious extremism is antithetical to what allowed him to succeed and prosper abroad.

Yet this same demagogue earlier urged Hindu extremists to remain calm during a recent cricket match between India and Pakistan. After all, religious extremism is valuable to beat up the West and the United States — but not to the point that such fervor might endanger playing a Western sport amid frenzied Hindus. Left unsaid is that there is no place for an Imran Khan in the world of the Taliban, where soccer stadiums were used to lynch moderate Muslims, not enrich pampered athletes.

Also left unsaid is the fact that Khan wasn't beating up "the West" in any sense, he was quite understandably expressing outrage at reports of U.S. interrogators desecrating the Koran. One doesn't really have to be a religious extremist to be offended by this. I'm not a religious extremist, I'm not even particularly religious aside from my acknowledgement of Paul as the Greatest Beatle, and I'm offended by it.

Khan may or may not have been acting opportunistically, but there doesn't seem to be anything particularly demagogic in his remarks. His comments at the press conference fit neatly into his longstanding critique of the U.S.'s war on terror, and of the Musharraf government as a tool of the United States. Even if Hanson's charges of demagoguery were accurate, and Khan were using the Koran-flushing story purely for political gain, Hanson's canned indignation is still ridiculous given that our own George W. Bush is certainly not above using events to score points with a religious extremist constituency. Indeed, Bush has, at every possible opportunity, used 9/11 and the war on terror to increase his own political power, to the constant applause of people like Hanson.

(I would also be remiss not to point out the further symmetry here in Khan's being a wealthy party boy who found religion, cleaned up, and went into politics. This breaks down, though, when you consider that Khan actually earned his own money.)

Hendrik Hertzberg is rather more lucid on the significance of Imran Khan:

Khan is an Islamic populist, not exactly a rarity in that part of the world, but with a difference. Several differences, in fact. He is, first of all, a wealthy sports celebrity—a global cricket star for two decades—and a national hero not only for that but also because he built his country’s first cancer hospital. He is a graduate of Oxford, and so thoroughly Westernized that his private life is fodder for the tabloids. After he laid down his cricket bat, he became increasingly devout, and in 1996 he founded his own political party. He is its only member of parliament, but his voice is listened to in Pakistan and beyond. Initially a supporter of General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President, he now attacks him as an "American puppet." Khan says he wants Pakistanis to be America’s "friends, but not lackeys." He has no sympathy with terrorism or dictatorship. He has even suggested that only democratically elected governments should be allowed to vote at the United Nations. In other words, he is pretty nearly the beau ideal of the sort of Muslim leader we want, and need, on "our" side.

What conservatives like Hanson seem unable or unwilling to grasp is that Islam is and will continue to be a major part of Middle Eastern and Asian politics, and thus they can't see actual democratic change when it's staring them in the face. The riots, and injuries and deaths which resulted, are lamentable, of course, and it is the hope and goal of democratic development in the region to see the sort of passion which powered those riots cooled and channelled into the political process through liberal democratic institutions. This is precisely the process in which Khan is engaged, and American conservatives have nothing but venom for him.

I'm not particularly a fan of populism myself, either in Pakistan or in the U.S., but I at least have the sense to recognize that the existence of political debate and dissent in an Islamic country like Pakistan is a positive thing. But no, as far as Hanson is concerned, any leader who dares challenge the policies of Bush, whatever that leader's democratic credentials, must be immediately labeled an "elite" or "demagogue," or both, and placed on the Enemies List, thus corroborating Khan's charge that the U.S. doesn't want democrats, it wants lackeys.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Now here's something we can all get good and outraged about: Time Magazine's 100 Best Movies. I'm glad, if a little surprised to see Miller's Crossing there, that's my favorite Coen Brothers film but I think Barton Fink would seem a better choice for this project.

Then there's the one Woody Allen movie they chose: Purple Rose of Cairo. I like that movie, it's a good little movie, but it's second tier Woody. Though I personally rank Manhattan and Crimes and Misdemeanors as my favorites, including Annie Hall on this list really should have been a no-brainer.

Err, Kubrick's Barry Lyndon over Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or The Shining? Okay.

Obviously, in a list like this some things are gonna get cut, but I feel these omissions are glaring: Seven Samurai; Gone With the Wind; The Graduate; Rififi; Blazing Saddles; Fletch. Okay, just kidding on that last one. But not really.


Via Metafilter, the Worst Superhero Costumes Ever.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005


I'm trying to divine Niall Ferguson's overall message here, the only one that I'm able to draw is that we are seriously up shit creek in Iraq. It's testament to his skills as an apologist that he can relay this point while still executing perfect backflips and shaking his pom-poms for imperialism.

Ferguson begins by suggesting that we shouldn't be so durn pessimistic about U.S. success against the Iraqi insurgency (somebody call Christopher Hitchens, Niall used the "I" word!), and should buck up and consider past colonial victories over insurgencies. As exhibit A, he offers that of the British in Iraq in 1920. Then, quite ably negating that point, he lays out three advantages that the British enjoyed in 1920 that the U.S. does not in 2005: much greater troop strength in relation to the population, a complete disregard for any rules regarding the mass killing of non-combatants, and no forced timetable for withdrawal.

I have to say that I'm a little disturbed, if not very surprised, by Ferguson's putting the 1920 Iraq insurgency in the Good! column. I suppose the British crackdown could be considered a victory in that it ended the insurgency, but, as Ferguson admits, that victory was largely due to the massive aerial bombardment of civilians, "breaking their spirits" as a good colonialist would say. Then as now, the "liberation" of Iraq necessarily required the deaths of many thousands of Iraqis, and one would be a fool to suppose that lingering resentment from the British colonial period, the brutality of which still exists in living memory, doesn't play a major part in the recruitment efforts of the insurgents. Considering this, how much of a victory was 1920 for the British? In any case, it's clearly not a good model for the U.S. to follow.

Then I found this a bit disturbing:

Indeed, if there is asymmetry it lies in the advantages enjoyed by the insurgents. The cost of training and equipping an American soldier is high; by contrast, life is tragically cheap among the young men of Baghdad and Falluja. Even if the insurgents lose 10 men for every 1 they kill, they are still winning, not least because the American side takes its losses so much harder.

What do you suppose Ferguson means by this? That American soldiers grieve more at the loss of their comrades? That American families suffer more than Iraqi ones at the deaths of their children? Amazing how the same cliches always eventually show up in the exhortations of colonial apologists: They're not like us. They don't feel pain like we do. The question is: Does Ferguson actually wear a pith helmet while at the keyboard?

As to the question of withdrawal, Ferguson recognizes that we are already locked into something of a timetable: the 2008 U.S. presidential election. It's obvious that, regardless of whether a plan for phased withdrawal arises from a shift in policy from this administration or from a newly elected American administration, the insurgents will claim victory when such a plan is announced. It seems to me that such a claim would be more believable if it came in the wake of a Democratic presidential victory won as a result of declining fortunes in Iraq, whether or not it happened to be true. It comes down to whether announcing a plan for withdrawal will on balance do more to stabilize Iraq by giving more juice to the new Iraqi government than it will to destabilize Iraq by giving the insurgency a propaganda victory. At this point I think the latter is true, but not by much.

I think it was a big mistake not to announce a plan for withdrawal during the brief moment of elation after the reasonably successful Iraqi elections, when the U.S. could've credibly claimed that things were reasonably on track. I don't know if we'll see another window of opportunity like that in the near future. Given the colonial legacy in Iraq, though, a plan for withdrawal would be a sign that the U.S. is serious about Iraqi sovereignty and democracy, and in the long run would be a lot more effective than the crackdown which Ferguson seems to be suggesting.


Saw Episode III the other night, so now I strap on my geek hat to expound on a few of its finer and lesser points. Actually it's more of a helmet than a hat, made of a mixing bowl, some old egg cartons, bailing wire, model paint, and sparklers. And, if we're being completely honest, it's been quite securely fastened to my head since the first Episode III trailer came out.

First, the bad. Leaving aside all the usual complaints about script and performances which have been extensively catalogued by others and which are as true for this film as the others, I think the failure of the prequels to capture the essence of the original trilogy comes down to this: No Han Solo. I don't just mean literally, though certainly the films lack for an actor able to deliver the leaden dialogue with just the right amount of bemused, grandiosity-puncturing playfullness that Harrison Ford was, but I mean there is no Han Solo-type figure on hand to humanize or contemporize the story. Han was a working man, a smuggler, a pan-galactic truck driver. In the midst of a massive galactic civil war, Han's got two things on his mind: In Ep IV, getting paid. In EP V, bedding Leia. We can all relate. There's no device like that in the prequels.

Along with this or any really humanizing character in the films, Lucas also seems to have jettisoned the "used future" aspect that I think went so far in selling the original films' stories. Almost everything in the prequels is shiny and new, every surface recently buffed, every starship just driven off the lot, every item of clothing freshly pressed. I know that Lucas wanted in the prequels to evoke the glory of the Republic at its apex, but really it just makes things seem fake. When you first see the inside of the Millenium Falcon in Ep IV, dingy and worn, you buy it immediately. You can almost smell the engine grease and beer. You know that there are probably corn chips and loose change in the cockpit seat cushions, and tattered issues of Playwookiee on the floor of the head. Every starship interior in the prequels looks like a great looking movie set.

Now, the good. First and most importantly: Lightsabers. They kick ass. The lightsaber combat in this film is by far the best in any of the films. The pace and intensity of the fighting seems to ramp up over the course of the film, and by the time we get to Anakin and Obi Wan's duel they're going at each other with such a frenzy that it gets a bit hard to follow, though it was for me the most emotionally resonant scene of the prequels.

I know that Lucas has said that the saga is about the fall and redemption of Anakin Skywalker, but I've always been interested in Obi Wan's story. In a way, the saga has very much to do with his own failure and redemption as well as that of Vader. Had Obi Wan been a better mentor, Anakin may have had the strength to resist Palpatine. As penance, Obi Wan gets to spend the remainder of his life living in a freaking hovel in the desert, doing lightsaber tai-chi, scaring Tusken Raiders for fun, and reading all seven volumes of the notoriously dry How to Become a Jedi Ghost, while waiting and watching over Luke from afar.

What I enjoyed about Anakin and Obi Wan's duel, though, is that I got the sense that Obi Wan, over their many years and adventures together, had always wondered to himself: could I take him? Answer: Yes. This adds some more depth to Vader's reaction in Ep IV when he senses his old master's presence on the Death Star. His defeat on Mustafar has rankled for twenty years, and he's super-pumped for a rematch.

And then guess what happens? Kenobi takes a dive. Shit.

I should say that, upon leaving the theater, I was disappointed, but as I've thought about the film I've appreciated it more and I'm looking forward to seeing it again. I had the opposite reaction to the other two prequels.

So, did Lucas abuse me once again? Well, yeah, as I knew he would. There really wasn't much he could do to redeem the stunning badness of Episodes I and II, but this film is a lot better than those. I'm still packing my bags and leaving, though. I'm sorry George. It could've been so beautiful, but now I'm gone. You don't own me. I don't need your...what? A TV series? Okay, but only if you promise to change.

Monday, May 23, 2005


Very interesting Haaretz article in which Ehud Barak speaks very frankly about Israel's colonization project in the occupied territories, Ariel Sharon's central role in it, and possible consequences of Israel finally doing the right thing:

"I think [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon deserves credit for the decision he made to act contrary to what he did his whole life. After all, the disengagement plan is actually Sharon's admission of his life's error. It is better to advance in the right direction than to sit on our bottoms and do nothing. But it has to be said honestly that the right-wingers are speaking the truth. Some of the forecasts of [Likud MK] Uzi Landau have come true. The Palestinians will interpret the act of disengagement as a victory. They will say that Sharon capitulated.

"After all, just three years ago he said that [the Gaza Strip settlements] Netzarim and Kfar Darom are like [Kibbutz] Negba and Tel Aviv. And what happened since then? Terrorism. Therefore, they will say, we have to go on using terrorism. We have to perpetrate terrorism in the West Bank and from the West Bank. The violence has to be renewed at a higher level. Because in the end, despite all his pronouncements, Sharon understands only the language of force. Sharon surrendered to terrorism."


"Take the original sin of the settlements. Have you ever asked yourself where they came from? At Camp David, [prime minister Menachem] Begin not only returned all of Sinai. He also recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people. The whole world understands that the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people include the right to self-determination. The right to self-determination means a state. Along came Begin and tried to undo the result of a document he himself had signed. That is why he sent [interior minister Yosef] Burg to mire the autonomy talks and sent Sharon to build `many Elon Morehs' [meaning many settlements].

"Sharon's plan was to scatter so many settlements at so many places in Judea and Samaria that a Palestinian state would never be able to be established. But the plan was an act of folly. Far from strengthening the large settlement blocs, which are truly essential, Sharon's isolated settlements weakened them. Those isolated settlements are a classic case of biting off more than one can chew. It's as I told you: There is no strategy. There is no true reading of the map. The tactics are amazing but they lead to a dead end."

If anyone expressed such sentiments in the U.S. press, they'd be roundly attacked as anti-Israel, and probably as an anti-Semite. Confoundingly, the Israeli press consistently features more balanced and honest coverage of the conflict than we ever get here in the States.


Rev. Jerry Falwell:

In a recent Wall Street Journal article titled, "Why I'm Rooting Against the Religious Right," [Christopher] Hitchens defines the conservative Christian faction as a "creeping and creepy movement" that is "trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent."

That is certainly a simplistic – and wildly exaggerated – way to define the efforts of religious conservatives who want to preserve their rapidly disappearing rights in this great land.(italics added)

Strangely, Falwell does not enumerate any of these rapidly disappearing rights.

Friday, May 20, 2005


Christopher Hitchens insists that the term "insurgent" is inappropriate to describe those committing violence in Iraq:

I don't think the New York Times ever referred to those who devastated its hometown's downtown as "insurgents." But it does employ this title every day for the gang headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. With pedantic exactitude, and unless anyone should miss the point, this man has named his organization "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" and sought (and apparently received) Osama Bin Laden's permission for the franchise.Did al-Qaida show "interest in winning hearts and minds … in building international legitimacy … in articulating a governing program or even a unified ideology," or any of the other things plaintively mentioned as lacking by Mr. Bennet?


In my ears, "insurgent" is a bit like "rebel" or even "revolutionary." There's nothing axiomatically pejorative about it, and some passages of history have made it a term of honor. At a minimum, though, it must mean "rising up." These fascists and hirelings are not rising up, they are stamping back down. It's time for respectable outlets to drop the word, to call things by their right names (Baathist or Bin Ladenist or jihadist would all do in this case), and to stop inventing mysteries where none exist.

I say rising up, you say stamping down, let's call the whole thing off. Honestly, I'm not particularly concerned with what term is used, but we can leave that aside for the moment because I think Hitchens makes an error at least as flagrant as the one he's charging when he attempts to group all of those committing violence in Iraq under the heading "jihadist."

It's certainly true that the al Zarqawi faction is operating under the golden arches of an al Qaeda franchise, but there are sectarian (Shia vs. Sunni), ethnic (Arab vs. Kurd), and historical (experience under Western imperialism, specifically the British mandate era) dimensions to the conflict which are egregiously glossed over in Hitchens' "jihadi terrorist vs. brave Iraqi people and U.S. liberators" plot line. This isn't meant to suggest that al Zarqawi's bin Ladenism is justifiable, but it is increasingly clear that there are those involved in the violence who have little sympathy for either al Zarqawi or the Ba'athist fascists, and who have been drawn into the fighting, under whomever's banner, largely in response to what has become a quite brutal U.S. occupation.

Getting back to the word "insurgent," according to a classified U.S. report which was "accidentally" posted on the internet by the Italian government in the wake of the Calipari shooting, between November 2004 and March 2005 there were, on average, over 400 attacks a month on U.S. forces. Understand, that's not including attacks on Iraqi security forces or Iraqi civilians, just attacks on U.S. forces. Regardless of whether this anti-American force is entirely or even nearly unified, it is very clear at this point that it is broadly based and capable. It seems to me that getting indignant and arguing over whether it should be termed an insurgency according to criteria set by Great Insurgencies We Have Known is a rather pointless exercise.


Following up on this post from several days ago on Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris's inflammatory speech on Palestinian Authority television, the PA has moved to ban anti-Jewish sermons from PA television.

Information Minister Nabil Shaath pledged to end the broadcast of sermons that incite hatred of other faiths.

An Israeli spokesman said the broadcast breached a Palestinian commitment to incitement against Jews.

The ban is the strongest action the Palestinian Authority has taken against incitement since November last year, when Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas asked the state broadcasting corporation to "ensure that programmes do not include material that might be interpreted as incitement".

Interesting stat at the bottom:

The state broadcaster is only watched by an estimated one percent of Palestinians, who prefer Arab satellite channels.


I went to hear Rashid Khalidi speak at UW last night, he gave an excellent if brief overview of the Western imperial legacy in Iraq, and discussed the ways that the U.S. occupation is playing out against that legacy in the perceptions of the Iraqi people.

Here's a profile of Khalidi from last year. I very strongly recommend his book Resurrecting Empire, from which his lecture was drawn. His book Palestinian Identity is also one of the definitive works on that subject.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Here's the website of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen who was detained without charge by the United States government and rendered to Syria where he was imprisoned for a year, and alleges he was tortured by Syrian interrogators.

Arar's full account of his experience is here.

Welcome to Bush's America.


I'm not one for making long-distance psychological diagnoses of people I disagree with (I leave that to Charles Krauthammer), but Stanley Kurtz really seems to have gone 'round the bend:

Big media’s melting down. Movies are in a slump. Why? The media’s losing money because contemporary secular liberalism is really a kind of religion. Liberals don’t want to make money. They’re out to win souls. Oh sure, within the acceptable parameters of their secular religion, liberals are pleased to make a profit. No doubt Hollywood and MSM do plenty of market research and such. But it’s obvious that the media would rather “make a difference” (i.e. gain converts to secular liberalism) than make money. It wouldn’t be hard for the big newspapers and magazines to attract reporters and writers from all sides of the political-cultural spectrum. In fact, a news magazine that truly covered stories from both the left and the right would excite interest, buzz, loyalty–and make money. Readers would also be more disposed to forgive mistakes. But big media doesn’t do this because, for secular journalists, making the culture more liberal is the mission that gives meaning to life.

Can't you just imagine the media executive sitting in his plush office, third lunchtime martini in one hand, secretary's bum in the other, struggling with the question which has dogged corporate media types since the dawn of industry: "More profits...or more souls for liberal secularism?"

Then, decision made, he gulps down his martini, dismisses his secretary, stares up at the portrait of George Jacob Holyoake (the same one that hangs in every media exec's office), and announces "There is really only one choice. I must serve my liberal secularist masters. Profits be damned!"

They must be stopped!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


Now that Andrew Sullivan has taken to regularly confronting the wingnuts with the profoundly anti-American and illiberal implications of their defenses of torture, the fag-hatred which resides at the knarled little Grinchy heart of American conservatism is beginning to manifest itself even among so-called "level-headed" conservatives. Roy Edroso notes Instaclown's thinly veiled gay baiting.

The Ole Perfesser calls Andrew Sullivan an "excitable" "emoter-in-chief" who should write "a bit less about gay marriage." To his credit, the Perfesser did not just up and call him a faggot, but when you have such command of schoolyard code, you don't have to get crude.

Then we have this charming bit of mookery from John "the Melissa Rivers of Punditry" Podhoretz:

Jonah, since you haven't yet seen the Star Wars execresence yet, you may not know that, in what may be the worst writing moment of his career, Andrew Sullivan has actually decided to echo the worst screenplay ever written by the worst screenplay writer. When Andy wrote, in that nauseatingly self-gratulatory passage you quote, "This is how liberty dies - with scattered, knee-jerk applause," he was speaking in the voice of Natalie Portman, who, in Star Wars ROTS, says, "This is how liberty dies -- to thunderous applause." If he's going to go all camp on us, couldn't the Sullied One have quoted Mae West or Joan Crawford or Bette Davis or something?

Good one, John! I get it! Sullivan's a fag, and fags like Mae West and Joan Crawford and Bette Davis! HARRR! Hoo boy, I'm exhausted. Oh well, here's John Podhoretz writing about movie musicals.

On a slightly more neighborly note, let us all congratulate John on his new perch at NRO's The Corner. He now has an entirely new forum in which to get everything entirely wrong.


In a post commenting on the issue of press self-censorship then-and-now, Jonah Goldberg gives us this mendacious whopper:

Post-9/11 David Westin, the president of ABC News, openly pondered -- at a journalism school! -- whether butchering passengers with box-cutters on civilian aircraft in order to attack the Pentagon was legitimate. "As a journalist," he righteously intoned, "I feel strongly that's something that I should not be taking a position on."

The question that Westin was responding to had specifically to do with whether or not the Pentagon is a legitimate military target. The question had nothing whatever to do with the legitimacy of "butchering passengers with box-cutters on civilian aircraft," and Jonah's conflation of the two is a transparently sloppy attempt to demonstrate the supposed cravenness of news media.

Usually I would attribute such carelessness on Jonah's part to laziness, but in this case we know that he is in fact being intentionally dishonest. How do we know? Because he wrote a column a year ago on the same subject and using the same quote, but without the inflammatory added line about "butchering passengers with box-cutters on civilian aircraft":

More recently, after the 9/11 attacks, David Westin, the president of ABC News, got into a lot of hot water with the public — though not much with fellow journalists — for refusing to express an opinion on whether the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon was legitimate: "As a journalist I feel strongly that's something that I should not be taking a position on."

I'm quite sure Jonah is aware of the correct content and context of both the question and Westin's response. But why concern oneself with accuracy when there are liberals to slander and disastrously counterproductive policies to defend?


Andrew Sullivan quotes Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, Gaza's chief cleric.

"The day will come when everything will be relieved of the Jews - even the stones and trees which were harmed by them. Listen to the Prophet Muhammad, who tells you about the evil end that awaits Jews. The stones and trees will want the Muslims to finish off every Jew." - Sheik Ibrahim Mudeiris, in a sermon, aired by Palestinian television on May 13, 2005. The Nazis live again.

There's no question that Sheik Ibrahim's words are reprehensible and inflammatory, and it's troubling that such nonsense is still broadcast on Palestinian Authority television. I think Sullivan's equation of militant Islamists to the Nazis, however, is ridiculous. The machinery of the Palestinian Authority, such as it is, far from mobilizing to kill the Jews, is in fact struggling against more radical Palestinian elements which advocate all out war with Israel. It's also important to note that the PA's ability to conduct this struggle has been seriously hampered by Israeli Defense Force activities over the last four years, which specifically targeted PA infrastructure.

If Sullivan insists on labeling such racist supremacism "Nazi," maybe we should take a look at the comments of Shmuel Sackett, a right-wing Jewish Israeli writing in the Israeli Insider:

We all know that "Palestinians" don't exist. There are no such people, they have no history, culture or even language of their own. They are Arabs and it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to call them that and reveal their lie.


There are no "Palestinians" ... just Arabs and there are no "Israelis" ... just holy, special and exalted Jews. As soon as you recognize this, things will clear up right away.

As stated previously, these Jews have a mission and this mission applies to every Jew in the world. Don't fool yourself by thinking that "Israelis" will deal with it. It won't happen --because "Israelis" don't exist.

It's you and you are a Jew! The land is yours. The sanctity is yours and the mission is yours. G-d has assigned you a job -- now go do it!

I guess we should give Sheik Ibrahim some credit: at least he recognizes that Jews exist. Sackett's vicious and racist assertion that there is no such thing as a Palestinian, while obviously false, is an oft-repeated bit of revisionist propaganda. Far from marginal in Israel, Sackett's views are are common among elements the Israeli right, including among members of the Israeli government, some of whom regularly and openly advocate the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from the occupied territories.

In the U.S., we are constantly bombarded with information about Islamic extremism, anti-Israel Palestinian extremism in particular. Very rarely do we hear about the equally extreme eliminationist rhetoric on the Israeli right, but it is most certainly there and it is no less deserving of condemnation.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005


Dan Rather got the very award that Bill O'Reilly lied about getting. Good times, good times.


Excellent couple of posts by Rob Farley at LGM regarding Stanley Kurtz's Huntington-humping.

The money:
So, instead of inter-civilizational conflict, we see intra-civilizational conflict, which, I will note, has been evident in the Western world for the last, oh, 2600 years. Instead of the Islamic and Confucian worlds lining up together against the West, we see what can only be described as the collusion of the major Confucian powers with the premier power of the West, against, oddly enough, the rest of the West. Call me a skeptic, but I'm not sure Huntington deserves any credit here.

Intra-civilizational conflict is the more accurate way to describe what is going on within the Islamic world right now, as well. Obviously, at this point the United States is deeply involved in that conflict, but it's important to understand that the U.S. first became a target for Islamist rage not "because of who we are," as George W. Bush claimed, but because we were seen as having propped up unjust, un-Islamic governments.

Monday, May 16, 2005


Andrew Sullivan has the best response that I've read to the chorus of conservative flatulence which has greeted the Newsweek correction:

THE HYSTERIA MOUNTS: We have yet to see what's at the root, if anything, of the Newsweek story. But I think it's telling that some bloggers have devoted much, much more energy to covering the Newsweek error than they ever have to covering any sliver of the widespread evidence of detainee abuse that made the Newsweek piece credible in the first place. A simple question: after U.S. interrogators have tortured over two dozen detainees to death, after they have wrapped one in an Israeli flag, after they have smeared naked detainees with fake menstrual blood, after they have told one detainee to "Fuck Allah," after they have ordered detainees to pray to Allah in order to kick them from behind in the head, is it completely beyond credibility that they would also have desecrated the Koran? Yes, Newsweek bears complete responsibility for any errors it has made; and, depending on what we now find, should not be let off the hook. But the outrage from the White House is beyond belief. It seems to me particularly worrying if this incident further intimidates the press from seeking the truth about what the government is doing in the war on terror. It is not being "basically, on the side of the enemy," as Glenn Reynolds calls it, to resist the notion of government-sanctioned torture and to report on it. It is patriotism and serving the cause that this war is about: religious pluralism and tolerance. The media's Abu Ghraib?? When Mike Isikoff is found guilty of committing murder, give me a call. Austin Bay still insists that Abu Ghraib did not constitute "deadly torture." The corpses found there (photographed by grinning U.S. soldiers) would probably disagree. (Will Bay correct?) Three factors interacted here: media error/bias, Islamist paranoia, and a past and possibly current policy of religiously-intolerant torture. No one comes out looking good. But it seems to me unquestionable that the documented abuse of religion in interrogation practices is by far the biggest scandal. Too bad the blogosphere is too media-obsessed and self-congratulatory to notice.

Exactly right. The Right-wing blogosphere, for the most part, has at every step apologized for and defended the Bush Administration's excesses in the war on terrorism, including the use of torture. They yawned (when they weren't snickering) at the Abu Ghraib revelations, and have generally shown themselves to be a bunch of uncritical, priapic, flag-humping toadies. Their outrage over the maybe innaccurate Newsweek story is as predictable as it is canned.

Then there's this from Spanky McClellan:

"The report has had serious consequences," he said, according to Reuters. "People have lost their lives. The image of the United States abroad has been damaged."

Lessee, if we change "the report" to "President Bush's foreign policy"...hmm.

One senses that the Bushies are relieved to be able to semi-plausibly blame someone else for America's poor image abroad. That is understandable, though it doesn't make their E-Z-Bake indignation any easier to take. Of course, two-point-five seconds later, when reality sets back in, one realizes that Bush blaming the media is like the captain of the Titanic blaming the ship's surly bartender.

Finally, consider this: if Newsweek were run like the Bush Administration, Michael Isikoff and John Barry would be due to receive Medals of Freedom.

Thursday, May 12, 2005


Go here to see Dennis Prager draw a line from college kids yelling about anal sex to the Nazis in only two steps.

(WARNING: Do not follow the link if you are allergic to abject stupidity.)


Just when I honestly thought that nothing coming out of the Michael Jackson trial could possibly faze me any more...friends, I give you house-cleaning chimpanzees.

Michael Jackson used his pet chimpanzees to clean Neverland ranch, his trial heard yesterday.

The creatures would help the star by dusting, cleaning windows and brushing the toilets, the jury heard.

In a clip of outtakes from Martin Bashir's ITV1 documentary Living With Michael Jackson, the singer described how he got his animals to help with household chores.

Discouraged to discover that enslaving Oompa Loompas is no longer considered politically correct, Michael settled for the next best thing. Rumor has it he also set his chimps at a bunch of typewriters and had them write his last few albums.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005


The new Spoon record is out. After a couple listens, I really like it. It rocks. I'll try to get back with more comments after I feel I've more fully digested it, but I'll just say that Spoon are one of the very few acts whose new material I actively anticipate (Bjork, The Flaming Lips, and Amon Tobin are the only others which come to mind), so check their stuff out.


The BBC reports that Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz has publicly confirmed that the Gaza withdrawal is being done to strengthen Israel's presence in the West Bank.

Mr Mofaz said the pullout would allow Israel to keep hold of its large West Bank settlements - which are viewed as illegal under international law - extending its future borders deep into Palestinian territory.

"In fact, the settlers of [the West Bank] and Gaza will be able to say in years to come that they helped establish the eastern frontiers of the state of Israel," he told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot.

Thanks to Mofaz for confirming what was quite obvious to almost everyone from the moment Sharon first announced the plan.

Here we are presented once again with the stark absurdity of the Israeli position: a high Israeli government official publicly declares Israel's intention not only of holding on to Palestinian land which it currently illegally occupies, but of continuing to take even more Palestinian land. At the same time, the Israeli prime minister insists that the Palestinian Authority is not doing enough to curb terrorism, terrorism which is itself largely a response to four decades of Israeli military occupation and expropriation of Palestinian land and resources by Jewish settlers.

No one should make any mistake: the continued expansion of settlements, and destruction of Palestinian homes and farmland which that entails, are acts of war. It is flatly preposterous for Israel to demand that the Palestinian Authority reign in violent elements while at the same time continuing, indeed while ramping up, the very policies which incite that violence.


Anne Applebaum deals somewhat more responsibly with Bush's recent comments about Yalta.

Both left and right should also consider contexts more carefully. Certainly the president's speech last weekend did not sound personal, as if he were apologizing to feel good about himself. It did not mention Roosevelt by name or wallow in Cold War rhetoric. On the contrary, Bush went on afterward to talk about the democratic values that had replaced Yalta, and to draw contemporary lessons. The tone was right -- and it contrasted sharply with the behavior of Russian president Vladimir Putin, as perhaps it was intended to...

No American or Russian leader should appear unpatriotic when abroad, but at the right time, in the right place, it is useful for statesmen to tell the truth, even if just to acknowledge that some stretches of our history were more ambiguous, and some of our victories more bittersweet, than they once seemed.

Okay, the tone may have been right. The interpretation of history, however, was extremely questionable. Certainly, equating Yalta with Munich and the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact is preposterous. Even knowing what we do now, the evidence still strongly supports the conclusion that Roosevelt chose the best of some very unattractive options. In any case, such discussions of history deserve better than Bush and conservatives seem willing or able to give.

Thanks also to Applebaum for reminding us of the stench of Republican sanctimony which filled the land in response to Clinton's apology for slavery, an historical wrong about which there is no debate. One can only imagine the chorus of conservative flatulence that similarly would greet any Democrat going abroad and condemning Ronald Reagan's moral cowardice in the face of apartheid.

Richard Brookhiser, in a column which would be more accurately titled Stupid Like a Fox!, argues that the clever Bush, in a very clever move, is cleverly applying just the right amount of clever cleverness to his relationship with Putin. Right. Lost amid the fog of all this bad history and partisan smoke is the image of Bush standing shoulder to shoulder (and hand in hand) with dictators like Putin and Saudi Prince Abdullah. If, as conservatives suggest, it was wrong for Roosevelt not to have confronted Stalin at Yalta at a time when Stalin's massive army was entrenched throughout Eastern Europe, then surely it's wrong for Bush not to confront the authoritarian Butcher of Chechnya and the monarchic Islamist enabler at a time when the U.S. occupies a position of clear military superiority over both? What's that you say? There are other considerations? Interesting.

Oh look, Jonah Goldberg expanded yesterday's inept Corner post into today's inept column. Goldberg's snide (good lord, does that guy have any other setting?) commentary reveals that he's not really interested in honestly debating history as much as trying to refight the Cold War in his back yard with a bucket o' soldiers. And it's more bizarre than humorous to see the comment about liberals "bang[ing] their spoons on their highchairs about any attempt to tarnish FDR's godhood" coming from the noted Ronald Reagan-cultist Goldberg, who collapses into a fetal ball of quivering rage at any suggestion that the Gipper did not single-handedly smite the Soviet Union dead with a mighty stroke of his enormous golden schlong. Yes, quite bizarre.

All this talk of Yalta has revived my own interest in my long-dormant masterwork, a musical entitled, yes, YALTA! I haven't worked on it in a while, I got stuck trying to figure out where to go after "The Dance of the FDRs," but now I think I'll pull it out of the drawer and take another shot at it. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005


Jonah Goldberg just can't stay out of trouble.

Doesn't the argument that the Red Army was already occupying Eastern Europe and therefore America had no choice but to recognize, codify and celebrate that fact run at least a little counter to the rage against the Israeli "occupation"? If it's so obvious that having troops in a place confers title to that place, why should anyone think Israel should return to pre-1967 borders?

I don't like -- or agree with -- the comparison of Israel to the Soviets, but the principle still holds.

No one in the West that I'm aware of ever argued that Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe should be "celebrated." We know that Goldberg has real problems with precision in language, but really, "celebrated"?

Regarding Soviet control of Eastern Europe, America did have a choice in the matter. Put simply, those choices were A) to demand that Stalin retreat back to 1941 Soviet borders, abandon any hope of Soviet aid in the continuing fight against the Japanese, and prepare to fight an ensconced, battle-hardened, and very large and pissed off Red Army; or B) to acquiesce to Soviet control of Eastern Europe, with the slim hope that this could be changed in the future. As it was, Roosevelt chose the less bad of two very bad options. I remember when conservatives used to understand this concept.

Now, for Goldberg's "defense of Soviet occupation vs. Israeli occupation" equation to work, he would first have to find someone, anyone, who argued in favor of the Soviet occupation, that is, actually defended it and not merely accepted it as the least bad option, and against the Israeli occupation. I am not aware of any such person, or any such argument. On the other hand, you don't have to look very far (a couple Corner posts up, in fact) to find someone who condemns the Soviet occupation and defends the Israeli occupation.

Quite unlike the U.S.'s acceptance of the Soviet occupation of Eastern Europe, which grew from inescapable military realities, U.S. acquiescence to Israel's occupation and continuing expropriation of Palestinian land is purely political. There is no moral or strategic justification for U.S. policy aside from domestic political considerations. Attempting to equate this with the hard choices made by Roosevelt at Yalta is just daft.

But let's look deeper into Goldberg's comparison, which I think is actually quite revealing in ways other than he intends. In the Soviet occupation of the Baltic states (as in the earlier Russian Imperial system), ethnic citizens of the occupying power were encouraged to emigrate and settle in the occupied territory, the better to consolidate control and frustrate the independance of the territory. In the Soviet era, this was referred to as "russification." In Israel, it's referred to as "settlement." It's also worth noting that Nazi Germany had a similar plan in the works, called Generalplan Ost, wherein ethnic Germans would be sent to settle areas of Eastern Europe and the indigenous Slavic populations expelled. Again, you won't find many defenders of the Soviet or Nazi plan, but you'll find quite a few defenders of the Israeli occupation right there in National Review and throughout U.S. media. Am I equating Israel with Nazi Germany and the USSR? Of course not, though this is what Likudniks would probably insist. The Soviets and the Nazis were tyrannies that wrought destruction and murder on a scale that is almost unimaginable. However imperfect, Israel is one of only a handful of democracies in the Middle East, though the ongoing terror and brutality of Israel's occupation of the Palestinians is certainly no small thing. I am simply pointing out that the goals and justifications of occupation in these cases are largely the same.

A quick comment on Goldberg's inclusion of quotes around the word "occupation," which I guess are meant to imply skepticism. News flash: even Ariel Sharon, the political father of the illegal settlement movemement, has belatedly recognized that Israel's presence in the West Bank and Gaza is in fact an occupation.

Finally, regarding the canard that Roosevelt "sold out" Eastern Europe at Yalta, both Jacob Heilbrunn and Rob Farley do good work putting it to bed. But never fear, it's bound to pop up now and again in National Review, where right-wing myths go to live forever.

Friday, May 06, 2005


From Foreign Policy, an interesting interview with Wadah Khanfar, managing director of al Jazeera. One thing that is increasingly clear from this and other things I've read on and about al Jazeera is that the Bush gang has completely misperceived al Jazeera as an entity, and thus squandered any possibility of exploiting an extremely valuable and innovative communications resource. This is yet another bad consequence of this administration's tendency to view critics as enemies, and of its unwillingness to cooperate with anything it can't stage-manage.

This also jumped out at me:

FP: How can the United States improve its image among Al Jazeera viewers?

WK: Through introducing proper policies.

FP: Can you give an example?

WK: Once the people in the street feel that American policies in the region are fair, the image of America will change. Most Arabs look up to America as a source of education and inspiration. They would like to send their children there. They listen to American videos and movies. But when it comes to American foreign policy, that is another matter.

I've heard very similar sentiments expressed by Arab journalists, intellectuals, politicians, and, during my two short trips to the Middle East, a cab driver, a street merchant, and a couple of young guys I drank with at a party. They generally understand and admire America as an ideal, they think we've made something good here, they want the freedoms we have. But they deeply distrust the motives and policies of the American government. This is something that won't be fixed with propaganda.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


Jonah Goldberg responds to my defense of Andrew Sullivan:

I think I should clarify something myself, particularly in response to the pissy post Andrew links to refute me (interesting where Andrew finds allies these days). When I wrote,

"Christian fundamentalism gave birth to the Protestant reformation, individual liberty, the American nation, the modern American university, and the like. This is not a minor distinction either."

I should have been more precise. I was in my own mind referring to the sorts of things Andrew calls Christian fundamentalism -- i.e. conservatism of faith, politics of faith, using faith to reach policy conclusions etc. I was not trying to discuss the historical concept in and of itself. I do understand that what we call Christian fundamentalism has gone through some changes over the years. Though there is no denying that a politics of faith was behind, for example, the founding of most of our leading universities and liberal arts colleges. And if this Duss guy is a stickler for precision when it comes to use of the term, I assume he'll be taking a hatchet to Sullivan's prose any day now. I'd respond more in depth, but Cosmo awaits the park.

Yes, as it happens I am a stickler for precision. I don't think, however, that my taking issue with Goldberg's claims about the supposed historical benefits of "Christian fundamentalism" was being a stickler as much as it was just pointing out stone nonsense. Less to do with precision, more with Goldberg simply not knowing what he's talking about. It's true that some of the Founding Fathers were men of Christian faith (though some of the most prominent of them openly rejected orthodox Christian doctrine), but this does not mean that the United States of America was founded as a "Christian" nation in any sense, let alone a "fundamentalist" Christian nation as Goldberg suggested. The ancient Egyptians were people of faith, but that doesn't mean the Amish built the pyramids. These are not minor distinctions.

As for my "taking a hatchet to Sullivan's prose," I've been very critical of Sullivan in this blog quite a few times in the past, but I think his writing on the ongoing takeover of the GOP by a Christian fundamentalist faction has been right on target, and he's sadly one of the few conservatives who seems willing to recognize and grapple with this. The fact is that, contra Goldberg, Sullivan has consistently been very careful and precise in marking the difference between Christian fundamentalism and Christianity in general. Indeed, as a man of Christian faith himself, it stands to reason that Sullivan would do so.

The distinction which Sullivan has repeatedly made between politics of faith and politics of doubt, a distinction which Goldberg and others continue to elide, is the difference between government through revelation and government through reason. The Santorum-Dobson faction which is increasingly in control of the Republican Party has not been shy about declaring their belief in government through revelation. They believe that their God's truth as revealed in their Bible is sufficient for creating legislation; they believe that the government can and should show preference not only to Christianity, but to their particular and very tendentious interpretation of Christianity.

As I've written before, I'm not someone who argues for religion being prohibited from the public square, and I believe that religious faith plays an important part in American political life. Religious faith, of various traditions, is a source of comfort and guidance for a a majority of Americans, and I respect that. It's perfectly appropriate for me or Rick Santorum or James Dobson or Andrew Sullivan to let our faith inform our political views, indeed it would be silly to think it wouldn't, but when it comes time to translate those views into legislation, those views need to be defended with reason. This is where I see the politics of faith and the politics of doubt parting ways. Santorum, Dobson, and their ilk really see no need to defend their beliefs according to reason, for them revelation is enough. There is no debate to be had, only prayers to be said, God's guidance to be sought, and laws to be written accordingly and rammed through. A politics of doubt recognizes that various interpretations of religion and morality may have equal validity.

Thankfully, the American founders gave us a system designed to interrogate that validity, as well as to frustrate the efforts of extremist religious factions to legislate their particular faith. The extremists recognize this, which is why they have mounted an attack on the branch of that system, the judicial, which they rightly view as the most significant impediment to their agenda. I'm reasonably confident, though, that our system will withstand their shenanigans.

I'd respond more in depth, but I have to take my fish for a haircut.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005


We can add "fundamentalism" to the list of things about which Jonah Goldberg clearly knows very little, yet still ventures to write about. Responding to Andrew Sullivan's statement that "hatred of open and proud homosexuals is intrinsic to Islamist fundamentalism, as it is to Christian fundamentalism. The struggle against both is the same one - at home and abroad," Goldberg writes:

I'm sorry. But:

1. Even if hatred of homosexuality were intrinsic to Islamist and Christian fundamentalism, the fight against Islamic fundamentalism isn't about homosexuality. It's just not and no matter how much you care about the issue, it won't ever be.

2. Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism aren't the same thing. They can both be "bad" but that doesn't mean they are the same. Depending on what you mean by Christian fundamentalism, I don't think it's bad. I certainly don't think it's bad if you go by Andrew's expansive use of the phrase. But even if I did, I would recognize some important differences between the two. Like: Christian fundmentalists have not constructed a grand theological construct to justify mass murder in the modern era. No followers of Jerry Falwell are suicide bombers. This is not a minor distinction. Christian fundamentalism gave birth to the Protestant reformation, individual liberty, the American nation, the modern American university, and the like. (bolding added) This is not a minor distinction either.

Christian fundamentalism grew out of the British and American evangelical revivals of the late 1800s, and the term itself didn't come into wide usage until about 1920. I suppose that one could assert (without bothering to demonstrate, as Jonah so often does not) that Protestant reformers were "fundamentalist" in their interpretation of scripture, I would strongly disagree, but in any case this would be applying a distinctly modern concept, as religious fundamentalism has always been a reaction to modernization, to events which predate it by almost four centuries.

The idea that you can square the political philosophy of the American founders, who, after all, gave us a constitution with no mention of the divine other than the words "Year of Our Lord" in the dateline, a constitution which specifically stipulates that government should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion", with Christian fundamentalism, which is defined by an insistence on scriptural inerrancy (the belief that every word means exactly what it says in English, translated from the Latin, translated from the Greek, translated from the Aramaic and Hebrew...), or that the former could have conceivably arisen from the latter, is flatly ridiculous. Indeed, Christian fundamentalism is in many ways a revolt against the secularist principles enshrined in the U.S. constitution.

This is what Christian and Islamic fundamentalism have most in common: an open hostility to pluralism, to the idea that government should operate as if the ways and beliefs of others were as legitimate as their own. In this sense, Sullivan is right that hatred of homosexuality is intrinsic to Christian and Islamic fundamentalism. The struggle against Islamic fundamentalism may not be "about" homosexuality, just as the struggle against Christian fundamentalism is not "about" abortion. These just happen to be two issues upon which democratic pluralists and religious fundamentalists can not and very likely will not agree, and where the war between the partisans of government by consent and the partisans of government by divine diktat will continue to be fought.

Regarding Jonah's point that "no followers of Jerry Falwell are suicide bombers," I agree that this is an important distinction. For now, Christian fundamentalists still seem committed to using the legal system to force their very particular views of religion and morality on the rest of us. For now.