Thursday, September 29, 2005


Sid Blumenthal on Karen Hughes in the Middle East:
After two undersecretaries of state for public diplomacy resigned in frustration in the face of the precipitous loss of U.S. prestige around the globe, Bush found a new slot for Hughes this year. She may be the most parochial person ever to hold a senior State Department appointment, but the president has confidence she can rebrand the United States.

This week, Hughes embarked on her first trip as undersecretary. Her initial statement resembled an elementary school presentation: "You might want to know why the countries. Egypt is of course the most populous Arab country ... Saudi Arabia is our second stop. It's obviously an important place in Islam and the keeper of its two holiest sites ... Turkey is also a country that encompasses people of many different backgrounds and beliefs, yet has the -- is proud of the saying that 'all are Turks.'"

Hughes appeared to be one of the pilgrims satirized by Mark Twain in his 1869 book, "Innocents Abroad," about his trip on "The Grand Holy Land Pleasure Excursion." "None of us had ever been anywhere before; we all hailed from the interior; travel was a wild novelty to us ... We always took care to make it understood that we were Americans -- Americans!"


Update: Fred Kaplan has more.
Put the shoe on the other foot. Let's say some Muslim leader wanted to improve Americans' image of Islam. It's doubtful that he would send as his emissary a woman in a black chador who had spent no time in the United States, possessed no knowledge of our history or movies or pop music, and spoke no English beyond a heavily accented "Good morning." Yet this would be the clueless counterpart to Karen Hughes, with her lame attempts at bonding ("I'm a working mom") and her tin-eared assurances that President Bush is a man of God (you can almost hear the Muslim women thinking, "Yes, we know, that's why he's relaunched the Crusades").


Will Saletan on Intelligent Design:
So here's what ID proponents are offering to teach your kids: They won't say how ID works. They won't say how it can be tested, apart from testing Darwinism and inferring that the alternative is ID. They won't concede it has to be falsifiable. All they'll say is that Darwinism hasn't explained some things. But that's what the first half of the Dover policy says already. So there's no need for the second half—the part that mentions ID.

At the very least there should be some mention of the competing theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.


Ariel Sharon insists these aren't the droids you're looking for:
"There is no other plan besides the road map," Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said on Thursday a day after key officials declared their support for more unilateral steps.

Sharon, who addressed an economic conference in Tel Aviv, said, "This country is plagued by rumors. Yesterday such a rumor began circulating, a rumor which emanated from unfounded comments, as if Israel was examining other plans."

"Israel is not and will not examine any other plan; there is only one plan – the road map. It is the best plan for the future of Israel," Sharon emphasized.

Here we have Sharon sitting in a pile of Big Mac wrappers and declaring "I must stick to my diet!" when someone suggests a slice of pie. Despite Arik's sanctimony, the massive expansion of settlements , which was begun before the ink on the road map was even dry, puts Israel in violation of the road map's principles. This is why it's good to have stark raving eliminationist zealots as part of your government, you can always appear the more reasonable.


Via Crooked Timber, Ann Althouse offers this gleaming gem:
To be a great artist is inherently right wing. A great artist like Dylan or Picasso may have some superficial, naive, lefty things to say, but underneath, where it counts, there is a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world and focusing on that.

Althouse is engaged in a bit of "South Park Republican" analysis here, ignoring mountains of disconfirming evidence in order to lay claim to an artist she likes as "right wing." Leaving aside the specious claim that there's anything inherently right-wing about being "a strong individual, taking responsibility for his place in the world," (which is the kind of thing you'd more expect from a fifteen year old who just read Atlas Shrugged for the first time), if Althouse thinks those things accurately describe "great artists," then she needs to get herself a library card.

I'm seriously not interested in arguments over artists' political tendencies, and I think that any political significance that attaches to art does so regardless of the particular views of the artist herself. The significance of Dylan's work, indeed of Dylan, is largely unrelated to who Dylan actually is as a person. But just to play the game for a moment, I think that a good artist is skilled at making and wearing masks, at representing different characters and points of view, and at highlighting ambiguity. Dylan is certainly a good example of this. If you want to consider whether these thing are left or right wing, have at it. I suggest that it has less to do with any particular character type that with how an artist serves his work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005


Sometimes the Lord is a little slow showing up, so you have to turn to your stash of illegal narcotics:
Ashley Smith, the woman who says she persuaded suspected courthouse gunman Brian Nichols to release her by talking about her faith, discloses in a new book that she gave him methamphetamine during the hostage ordeal.

Smith did not share that detail with authorities at the time. But investigators said she came clean about the drugs when they interviewed her months later. They said they have no plans to charge her with drug possession.

In her book, "Unlikely Angel," released Tuesday, Smith says Nichols had her bound on her bed with masking tape and an extension cord. She says he asked for marijuana, but she did not have any, and she dug into her illegal stash of crystal meth instead.

Not that the facts of the story will have much effect on those who've turned Ashley Smith into an evangelical folk hero. Like the apocryphal tale of Cassie Bernall, it's already in the cultural bloodstream, and will persist, quite immune to anything as quaint as verifiable truth.


DeLay indicted.
A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that could force him to step down as House majority leader.

DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.

GOP congressional officials said the plan was for DeLay to temporarily relinquish his leadership post and Speaker Dennis Hastert will recommend that Rep. David Dreier of California step into those duties.

And our word for the day is schadenfreude.

Monday, September 26, 2005


Via Rob.

The title of my 23rd post was Is There a Third Choice? The fifth sentence was
I'll choose C: Sail the Caribbean while having my intestines chewed out by badgers.

And I stand by that.
1. Go into your archive.
2. Find your 23rd post (or closest to).
3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to).
4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

Must infect Stacius.


From the wilderness. Played some cards, won some money, met a new friend, Mezcal, which Frito brought back from Mexico. Had great success with some ribs marinated in soy sauce, crushed chopped garlic, a little black pepper, and a generous amount of dark brown sugar. Waded across a stream after stranding myself on a rock island. Weekend enjoyed.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


To the 3rd annual Gentlemen's Wilderness Bible Study and Poker Retreat. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


Via Professor Tim, a story that's so much like my dreams it's scary:
An enormous pink bunny has been erected on an Italian mountainside where it will stay for the next 20 years.

The 200-foot-long toy rabbit lies on the side of the 5,000 foot high Colletto Fava mountain in northern Italy's Piedmont region.

Viennese art group Gelatin designed the giant soft toy and say it was "knitted by dozens of grannies out of pink wool".

Group member Wolfgang Gantner said: "It's supposed to make you feel small, like Gulliver. You walk around it and you can't help but smile."

And Gelatin members say the bunny is not just for walking around - they are expecting hikers to climb its 20 foot sides and relax on its belly.

The giant rabbit is expected to remain on the mountain side until 2025.

As much as I wholeheartedly support the erection of giant pink bunnies wherever, whenever, I must admit to being troubled by this giant pink bunny's inappropriately seductive pose. We must protect the children.

Also, does the U.S. have any giant pink bunnies? We can't allow a giant pink bunny gap.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005


Now here's an interesting use of crime-fighting resources:
Early last month, the bureau's Washington Field Office began recruiting for a new anti-obscenity squad. Attached to the job posting was a July 29 Electronic Communication from FBI headquarters to all 56 field offices, describing the initiative as "one of the top priorities" of Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and, by extension, of "the Director." That would be FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III.

Mischievous commentary began propagating around the water coolers at 601 Fourth St. NW and its satellites, where the FBI's second-largest field office concentrates on national security, high-technology crimes and public corruption.

The new squad will divert eight agents, a supervisor and assorted support staff to gather evidence against "manufacturers and purveyors" of pornography -- not the kind exploiting children, but the kind that depicts, and is marketed to, consenting adults.

"I guess this means we've won the war on terror," said one exasperated FBI agent, speaking on the condition of anonymity because poking fun at headquarters is not regarded as career-enhancing. "We must not need any more resources for espionage."

Among friends and trusted colleagues, an experienced national security analyst said, "it's a running joke for us."

Pornography, the fourth horseman of the Republican apocalypse, along with evolution, gay marriage, and weed.


This adult bookstore-owning heavy metal guitarist proves just how diverse and "with it" the conservative movement is!
“You know, I’m all for screwing or whatever, but I like that Bush has always been with Laura and is kind of boring. Clinton was a party animal who worked in as many ladies as he could, and look what that got us: A nuclear North Korea, Saddam spitting in our faces and Osama bin Laden having plenty of time to do whatever he wanted. Thanks, anyway. I’ll take boring any day.”

Uh...never mind.


I finally got around to watching this movie the other night. As I watched, I thought it vaguely reminded me of a book by Douglas Adams which I'd once read. Lance Mannion does good work pointing out some of the major problems of the film, notably the transformation of Arthur Dent into your standard movie romantic hero schlub. Bleh. I strongly concur that Alan Rickman was great as Marvin ("I've been talking to the main computer...It hates me.") and that Zooey Deschanel should be allowed to sing in every movie she's in.

That said, taken as a movie unrelated to any book, it's still a mess. I'd see another movie featuring Sam Rockwell's character, though.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Via Eric Alterman (who also offers a good, concise review of last Wednesday's Galloway-Hitchens 2005 Sodden Windbag Invitational Debate, of which I could only watch about ten minutes before passing out under the weight of the participants' magisterial self-regard), Tim Collins, a British former Colonel who gave a famously stirring speech to his troops on the eve of war, writes in the Guardian:
When I led my men of the 1st Battalion the Royal Irish Regiment across the border into Iraq we believed we were going to do some good. Goodwill and optimism abounded; it was to be a liberation, I had told my men, not a conquest.

What I had not realised was that there was no real plan at the higher levels to replace anything, indeed a simplistic and unimaginative overreliance in some senior quarters on the power of destruction and crude military might. We were to beat the Iraqis. That simple. Everything would come together after that.

The Iraqi army was defeated - it walked away from most fights - but was then dismissed without pay to join the ranks of the looters smashing the little infrastructure left, and to rail against their treatment. The Baath party was left undisturbed. The careful records it kept were destroyed with precision munitions by the coalition; the evidence erased, they were left with a free rein to agitate and organise the insurrection. A vacuum was created in which the coalition floundered, the Iraqis suffered and terrorists thrived.

It is time for our leaders to explain what is going on. It was as a battalion commander trying to explain to his men why they would embark on a war that I came to public notice. The irony is that I made certain assumptions that my goodwill and altruistic motivations went to the top. Clearly I was naive. This time it is the role of the leaders of nations to explain where we are going and why. I, for one, demand to know.

Me too.


Cathy Young on the unfortunate attempt by British Muslims to downgrade "Holocaust Memorial Day" into "Genocide Memorial Day," and to include the Palestinians as victims of genocide.

Come on. There is no doubt that a grave crime was committed against the Palestinians in 1948, one for which the state of Israel has never properly been held to account. It is, however, plain stupidity to think that there's some measure of justice to be gained for the Palestinians by de-emphasizing the singular crime of the Holocaust. Neither is it any good to equate the experiences of the Palestinians in al Nakhba to European Jews in the Shoah, as it hardly needs to be pointed out that, as tragic as was the former, the latter was, by any possible measure, larger and more sinister in scope.

This isn't to say that there aren't disturbing parallels between the two events, there are, or that there hasn't been an ongoing effort by Israel to violate Palestinian rights, there has (through a process which Israeli scholar Baruch Kimmerling has termed politicide), but any argument which starts off by casting the Israelis in the role of Nazis seems to me to be a loser. Yes, the irony is hard to resist. Please try.


Noam Scheiber: There's cronyism, and then there's cronyism.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Is nigh.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


Always one to look on the bright side, he is after all one of the Bush administrations head water carriers, Victor Davis Hanson offers this praise for Bush's anti-terrorism efforts:
Hundreds of terrorists and their sympathizers, from Lodi and Portland to New Jersey and Florida, have been arrested or deported for either planning attacks or seeking to spread their venom.

Wow, that paragraph is impressive in its imprecision. Hundreds of terrorists and their sympathizers, does that mean hundreds of terrorists plus some sympathizers, hundreds of terrorists and sympathizers, or a few genuine terrorists plus a bunch of people who overstayed their visas? Were they planning attacks, or just bad-mouthing the U.S.? Is "spreading venom" covered under the Patriot Act? Given that Hanson is a guy who accuses those who point out Bush's manifest incompetence of weakening our resolve and helping the enemy, it's really not clear at all.

Friday, September 16, 2005


This film, about Hitler's last days as the Russians closed in around Berlin, painted as subtle and merciless a picture of hell as I've ever seen in the movies. I found the portrayal of the relationship between Hitler and Albert Speer particularly interesting.

As good as Bruno Ganz is as the Fuhrer, and he's astoundingly good, Ulrich Matthes' Goebbels steals most of his scenes with barely any lines, just a chilling glower.


B.B. King.


Waleed Ziad in today's Times:
The story of Sayyid Qutb, the father of neo-fundamentalism, exemplifies what happened next. Qutb was an Egyptian teacher trained in the Western system. Contrary to the conventional wisdom, it was not his trip to America in 1948 that radicalized him. While he was shocked by some aspects of American culture, like women dancing in public, he returned to write about the importance of emulating the educational, economic and scientific achievements of the West.

But in the 1950's, he was jailed and tortured for speaking out against Gamal Abdel Nasser's autocracy, while scores of dissidents were executed. Only then did he decide that violence could be used against an unjust government. He spoke as a Muslim, but his rhetoric was grounded in Western-nationalist and leftist revolutionary principles. His call had great resonance, and thus was neo-fundamentalism born.

As persecution continued across the Arab world, the neo-fundamentalist rhetoric became more Manichean and xenophobic. With mainstream opponents silenced, ultraradicals became the loudest voices of dissent. In Egypt, for example, those who emerged from prison in the 1970's formed militant organizations, including Al Jihad, led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, who is now chief lieutenant for Osama bin Laden. These men were not thinkers or theologians; rather, many were disillusioned Westernized professionals, former leftists and nationalists.

This new wave of fundamentalism, unlike all the others before it in the Islamic tradition, is inherently anti-intellectual and reactive; it is more reminiscent of the anarchical movements of 19th-century Russia. This "Islamism" is nihilistic, expressing a lack of faith in all political systems, in history, and in all past social developments. The jihadists justify their actions by claiming that they are returning to "pure" Islamic sources to establish a "government of God." Of course, the paradox here is that the Koran does not lay down a mode of governance. What perhaps we in the United States do not understand is that in rejecting the status quo, these groups demonize not just the West, but mainstream Islamic culture and philosophy as well; they pose perhaps the greatest existential threat to 1,400 years of Islamic tradition.

Far from signifying a "clash of civilizations," the neo-fundamentalist ideology involves the appropriation of elements of Western political thought by radical Islamism.


In an otherwise very good article, I think Spencer Ackerman misrepresents George Soros a bit here:
What accounts for Soros' emerging gliberalism? The central preoccupation of American foreign policy—which, disastrously, is not al-Qaedaism. "The invasion of Iraq has spawned more insurgents and suicide bombers than there were before," Soros noted, making an indisputable point. Then he went further: "Most people have come to realize that the invasion of Iraq was a blunder, but they still accept the war on terror as the obvious response to 9/11." In other words, for Soros—as for many others in attendance—the disastrous and counterproductive Iraq War is the direct consequence of answering al-Qaeda's call to arms.

Now, you might notice that this contention is the exact opposite of the vastly more compelling argument that invading Iraq was a strategically disastrous misapplication of anti-al-Qaedism, that it was a distraction from the real and manifested enemy—a case made by the former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke, expert al-Qaeda journalists like Peter Bergen and Jim Fallows, and, at least by the October presidential debates, John Kerry. Instead, Soros and Bush apparently agree that a straight line connects Ground Zero to Baghdad, which makes both of them idiots.

Err, Soros' argument is not that a "straight line connects Ground Zero to Baghdad," it's that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were inappropriate and counterproductive responses, both wrong in their own way. I don't agree with him, but that's what he meant. Maybe Ackerman was just dazzled by the prospect of twinning.


A couple views on what I think was a significant speech by Ariel Sharon.

While it's excellent that Sharon has recognized, at long last, the right of Palestinians to their own state, the settlements continue to expand, and the encirclement of Jerusalem continues, whittling away at what will eventually be an archipelago of economically unviable Palestinian cantons. Which makes the-even-more-hardcore Netanyahu's complaints about "withdrawals and concessions" all the more ridiculous.


Gazans swim in their very own sea...
Ahmed Akil put a cautious bare toe into the water, then waded in up to his blue jean covered knees. Then, laughing, he flung himself fully clothed into the surf.

The 14-year-old from the Khan Yunis refugee camp, less than two miles from the coast, had never before seen the sparkling stretch of Mediterranean beach that fronted the Jewish settlement block of Gush Katif. On Monday, he and thousands of Palestinians — robed women, ragged children, even weapons-toting militants — flocked to what for decades had been a forbidden shore

And listen to hip hop.
The official Palestinian rally for Gaza's "liberation" from Israel was winding down Wednesday afternoon when a throbbing bass groove shook the ground in the former Jewish settlement of Neve Dekalim.

On stage, three fresh-faced men - hair gelled, clad in sports jerseys and baggy pants - swaggered and bobbed their heads, telling all the shabab (young men) to wave their hands in the air. The crowd swayed to the booming beat and the group PR (Palestinian Rappers) recited a song called "Al-Hurriya" (freedom), until a few angry Islamists in the back fired their Kalashnikovs in the air.

A man screamed a Hamas-inspired chant about resistance and the crowd roared back "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great). People lunged toward the stage and the sedate rally turned into bedlam.

When PR say they're coming at you from the toughest neighborhood in the world, it's not a boast.


Did everyone hear President Bush refer to New Orleans as "the Crescent City" last night? Didn't he get the memo from Wingnut Goofball HQ that all references to crescents, French baked goods, the letter C, and cookies with a single bite out of them are right out? Or was the reference some kind of coded message to his Islamist masters?

Thursday, September 15, 2005


(Via Andrew Sullivan) In what I'm sure will prove to be an extremely ill advised move, Garrison Keillor is suing this blogger over a parody t-shirt. Really. Question: Does Keillor have the same lawyer as Bill O'Reilly? I predict sales of the Prairie Ho Companion shirt will skyrocket.

I've got nothing against Garrison Keillor, though I've never understood why my Seattle public radio station chooses to devote some twenty broadcast hours every weekend to his maddeningly unfunny show. In the spirit of self-promotion, however, I would like to offer my own parody in the hope that Keillor will sue me and make me a star. So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen...I present the Prairie Hom Companion.

It's a beautiful day here in Lake Wobegron, and the white people are whiter than ever, in fact there's little Billy Johanssen, who was just voted "whitest little boy in town" by the judges at the county fair after he turned whole milk into skim just by sticking his finger in it. Hey Billy, how ya doing?

Hi there, I--Oh my gaagggh!!!




Come and get me, Keillor!


Did Orrin Hatch just say "woman lawyer?"


Timothy Garton Ash offers six different views on the West's relationship with Islam.

I'd probably go with 6, with a dollop of 4 and 5. I'm not someone who locates blame for all of the ills of the developing world in the legacy of colonialism, but it's impossible to deny that the Western nations encouraged and manipulated Arab rivalries in order to maintain control in the region, first for access to trade routes and later for oil. Moves toward genuine self-rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were frustrated by the colonial powers, even as they claimed to be bringing democracy to the countries they occupied.

At root, however, even though it's become something of a cliche (as happens with things that are true), I think the main conflict we're witnessing is within Islam. Bin Laden and the al Qaedists have targeted the Western powers (the far enemy) because they rightly perceive us as supporting what they view as illegitimate, apostate regimes (the near enemy) in the Islamic world. In the view of the al Qaedists, all the problems of the Muslim world can be traced back to the umma having fallen away from true Islam, and only when the sharia is observed and enforced throughout Muslim lands will Islam experience a new golden age. This sort of view, of a "previous golden age" to which we can and must return, is common to all brands of fundamentalism, but it has particular resonance to Muslims, particularly Arab Muslims, because, unlike Jews or Christians, they can refer to a time, an actual golden age, when their prophet and his successors ruled over the most advanced civilization on earth, one in which Islamic law was the law.

Taking this into account, the main question for us in the West should be: How can we best support and encourage democracy and human rights in the region while at the same time letting Muslims develop political institutions appropriate to them? And how will we respond if we really, really don't like what they come up with?


The Good Right Reverend Stacius Myron Lester on his philosophy of arachnid deterrence:
I don't recall ever being bitten by a spider...until I moved in with Frito a great while later. I mind finding a bump on my inner arm, just a bit above my elbow. It didn't hurt but it itched a bit...way milder than a mosquito bite. I looked closer...there were two holes there.


Another time I found a spider bite on my ear.

And then I got bit on my face.


I changed my policy on the bastards sometime after that. Do unto others, I say -- and I got done unto first. I still don't smash them, but they get sent down the toilet!

We had a shit-ton of the little (heh) buggers around the house this spring and summer. You had to be careful when going out the back door because there would be a huge web with some big bastard sitting innit like (s)he owned the joint.

The last time that happened, I got out my empty pellet gun and pumped it up 6-7 times, pointed it at the wide-o, and fired. The spider flew across the yard, landing I know not where. But it didn't come back! So, I'd found my new favorite method of getting rid of them.

I haven't been bitten this year...go figure.

Like the good reverend, I find myself at once attracted and repelled by spiders. They're pretty cool, the way they spin webs and hang out there, waiting for dinner to be delivered. But the way they kind of creep along, especially the big ones, as if to say "Yes, you can run, oh yes! you can run (in fact, why don't you run?), but I'm just going to go at my own pace and sooner or later I will find you, and our eyes will meet just before I sink my enormous fangs into your soft, milky flesh..." Well, I'm just not down with that.

As for my own policy on spiders, I have a size test for pre-emptive action. Spiders up to the size of a quarter are ignored. Bigger spiders are strongly encouraged to emigrate outdoors, sometimes being detained briefly in a wine glass and then deported. Spiders nearing the size of my closed fist are introduced to my tennis racket as I scream "Where are the others?! WHERE ARE THE OTHERS???!!!"

Wednesday, September 14, 2005


Be sure to check out Anthony Shadid at the TPM Cafe Bookclub this week, talking about his new book, Night Draws Near. It's next on my list after I finish Amos Oz's In the Land of Israel.


"Oh geez, back to court again to answer some dumb questions about some political activists I had killed."
Chile's Supreme Court has ruled former military ruler Augusto Pinochet can face charges related to the killing of 119 dissidents.

Gen Pinochet is accused of direct involvement in the death of at least 15 activists in a 1975 secret police operation known as Operation Colombo.

It is the third human rights case in which the Supreme Court has lifted the former military ruler's immunity.

But in the previous two cases, a court ruled he was too ill to stand trial.

Upon hearing the decision, the former dictator pretended to be alseep.

I seriously doubt the old murderer will ever see the inside of a prison cell, the families and friends of his victims will just have to be satisfied with keeping him inconvenienced for the rest of his life.

Of course, Pinochet's big mistake was taking off those sunglasses. No one can get you when you're wearing sunglasses.

 Posted by Picasa


Apropos of the controversy over the design of the Flight 93 memorial, here's some background on the crescent's significance in Islam:
The city of Byzantium (later known as Constantinople and Istanbul) adopted the crescent moon symbol. According to some reports, they chose it in honor of the goddess Diana. Others indicate that it dates back to a battle in which the Romans defeated the Goths on the first day of a lunar month. In any event, the crescent moon was featured on the city's flag even before the birth of Christ.

It wasn't until the Ottoman Empire that the crescent moon and star became affiliated with the Muslim world. When the Turks conquered Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1453, they adopted the city's existing flag and symbol. Legend holds that the founder of the Ottoman Empire, Osman, had a dream in which the crescent moon stretched from one end of the earth to the other. Taking this as a good omen, he chose to keep the crescent and make it the symbol of his dynasty.


Based on this history, many Muslims reject using the crescent moon as a symbol of Islam. The faith of Islam has historically had no symbol, and many refuse to accept what is essentially an ancient pagan icon. It is certainly not in uniform use among Muslims.

Something tells me that, even if they were made aware of the tangential relationship between the crescent symbol and Islam, Michelle Malkin and the rest of the wingnut choir could quickly dig up some righteous hatred of the people of ancient Byzantium.

There was much controversy over Maya Lin's design for the Vietnam Memorial, and for many of the same reasons has people are barking over the Flight 93 design: it was defeatist, it was depressing, it didn't feature a huge, gold 50-headed eagle with 40-foot wings, breathing fire and devouring its enemies and farting cruise missiles, clutching the entrails of Communism in one claw and laying down a covering fire with an M-60 (that actually sparked and smoked!) in the other. Today Lin's design is generally recognized as an appropriate, powerful, and effective remembrance of that war and those Americans it killed. A major difference, as was noted in regards to the Manhattan 9/11 memorial, is that we were almost a decade out of that war when the Vietnam Wall was built, and now we're proposing to commemorate events while still midst of the conflict that those events opened.

As for Michelle Malkin:
This is no way to fight a war. Or to remember those who have died fighting it.

A proper war memorial stirs to anger and action.

I think she's confused. She doesn't want a memorial, she wants a Nuremburg rally.*

*Just to let you know, Junkyard Blog Godwinned first.


Greg Palast in anticipation of today's Hitchens-Galloway debate:
But it is not good enough for the Left to oppose Mr. Bush's re-colonization of Iraq. We needed to have actively supported Iraqis fighting to remove their Mesopotamian Stalin. And now, we'd better come up with something a little less nutty than a recent suggestion by one otherwise thoughtful writer that we, "unconditionally support the insurgency" of berserker killers and fundamentalist madmen. If that's the Left's program for Iraq, count me out.

We can't define ourselves as the "anti-Bush," blindly supporting those he opposes, and thereby letting the nitwit Napoleon in the White House pick our enemies for us. Nor can our revulsion for Bush's horrors throw us into the arms of swamp-things like George Galloway.

Don't get me wrong. Unlike Hitchens, I cannot support the Prevaricator-in-Chief, the President who ordered Cindy Sheehan's son, Casey, to march to his death in Najaf. But I'll be damned if I'll cheer some rich white Brit-hole who brings joy to Casey's killers.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


Moorishgirl has a good review of Alaa al Aswany's The Yacoubian Building, which I just finished. I enjoyed it very much, though I agree with the reviewer that some of the narrator's generalizations about women and homosexuals made it difficult to stay in the flow. I couldn't help wondering whether the omniscicent voice was meant to represent the prejudices of modern Egyptian society or of the author himself, and though I suppose it isn't altogether necessary to know this, it was jarring. That said, it's an interesting story with wonderfully descriptive passages on day-to-day life in Cairo and on the political realities of modern Egypt.

As Moorishgirl notes, a film of the novel is currently being made. This is significant for a number of reasons. The book deals with the issue of homosexuality with an explicitness not seen before in Egyptian cinema, and yet was cleared by censors. The story also has several powerful scenes of official hypocrisy and corruption. It's obviously a positive step toward dealing with hypocrisy and corruption to allow the making of books and movies that say the government is corrupt and hypocritical, so it will be interesting to see how these things are played in the finished film.


Al Jazeera on the hunger strike at Gitmo, based on a report from the Center for Constitutional Rights.


A short play.
Son, it's your birthday tomorrow.

Yes, I know, father.

What would you like? Ask me anything.



Monday, September 12, 2005


Cliff May in the Corner:
It’s not getting much media attention but Palestinians have moved into former Israeli settlements in Gaza where they are setting fires and using sledge hammers to smash synagogues, and putting up the flag of the Militant Islamist terrorist group, Hamas.

That link is to a NY Times story carried by the International Herald Tribune. Obviously the liberal media are determined to bury this story.

Yes, I find the actions of these vandals regrettable. But after 38 years of military occupation, living in squalor in the world's largest refugee camp, and seeing up close the luxury that their oppressors enjoyed, and knowing that their oppression was required to maintain that luxury, let's not pretend we don't understand where this sort of rage comes from.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


Paul Campos has a good and disturbing profile of FEMA director Michael Brown, a man who, very much like the president who appointed him, has shown an uncanny knack for falling up (via Andrew Sullivan).
When Brown left the IAHA (International Arabian Horse Association) four years ago, he was, among other things, a failed former lawyer--a man with a 20-year-old degree from a semi-accredited law school who hadn't attempted to practice law in a serious way in nearly 15 years and who had just been forced out of his job in the wake of charges of impropriety. At this point in his life, returning to his long-abandoned legal career would have been very difficult in the competitive Colorado legal market. Yet, within months of leaving the IAHA, he was handed one of the top legal positions in the entire federal government: general counsel for a major federal agency. A year later, he was made its number-two official, and, a year after that, Bush appointed him director of fema.

It's bad enough when attorneys are named to government jobs for which their careers, no matter how distinguished, don't qualify them. But Brown wasn't a distinguished lawyer: He was hardly a lawyer at all. When he left the IAHA, he was a 47-year-old with a very thin resumé and no job. Yet he was also what's known in the Mafia as a "connected guy." That such a person could end up in one of the federal government's most important positions tells you all you need to know about how the Bush administration works--or, rather, doesn't.

Darn right. The danger here with singling Brown out so vociferously is that Bush may be able to sacrifice him to silence critics, without people ever realizing how common this sort of cronyism is.

Brown should still go, of course.


An Israeli cabinet minister says the government should take advantage of the withdrawal of settlers from Gaza by expanding settlements in the West Bank.

Education Minister Limor Livnat said the pullout was a heavy price to pay, and Israel should now reap a dividend.

This sort of thing was entirely predictable, but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous or reprehensible. Having withdrawn from Palestinian territory that Israel had occupied and illegally colonized, Minister Livnat now suggests that Israel should reward itself by expanding settlements on other Palestinian territory that Israel has occupied and illegally colonized.

In other news, a Palestinian teenager has been shot by Israeli troops for trespassing in the abandoned Gaza settlement of Gush Katif. Abandoned as in there are no settlers there, only troops hanging around guarding empty buildings.


I would be heinously derelict in my duty as a blogger if I did not pass this along (via LGM, via Mike at Fish for Breakfast).

Wednesday, September 07, 2005


This is strange:
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, a former chief rabbi and the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas movement, said on Wednesday that Hurricane Katrina was God's punishment for U.S. President George W. Bush's support for Israel's Gaza pullout.

"It was God's retribution. God does not shortchange anyone," Yosef said during his weekly sermon on Tuesday. His comments were broadcast on Channel 10 TV on Wednesday.

Huh? God destroyed New Orleans to punish George W. Bush? Isn't that a little like slapping your barber because your bartender made you the wrong drink? And if God were going to punish Bush, somehow I doubt his support for the Gaza withdrawal would be at or near the top of the list of offenses.

Also, this nutjob has already declared, like, a week ago, that the hurricane was God's retribution against New Orleans for being too gay-friendly. Sorry Rabbi, according to the rules of religious demagoguery the hurricane has already been called for the gays, so no fair calling it for Gaza.

Yes, I only joke to remain sane.


The Daily Star has a roundup of some of the commentary from the Arab world on the Katrina disaster.


As expected in the wake of Egypt's presidential election commission's refusal to abide by a court's ruling in favor of election monitoring, there are reports of widespread irregularities.

Some would argue that, in places like Egypt where politics itself has essentially been banned (and thus radicalized), even going through the motions of an election is a good thing, a step in the right direction, what have you. I tend to think that it does more to increase cynicism about the political process and about democracy as an appropriate remedy. Unfortunately, even though Mubarak will undoubtedly win, I think we can chalk this election up for the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Via Kevin Drum, Laura Rosen posts this comment from a Dutch viewer regarding one of Bush's disaster area photo ops:
There was a striking dicrepancy between the CNN International report on the Bush visit to the New Orleans disaster zone, yesterday, and reports of the same event by German TV.

ZDF News reported that the president's visit was a completely staged event. Their crew witnessed how the open air food distribution point Bush visited in front of the cameras was torn down immediately after the president and the herd of 'news people' had left and that others which were allegedly being set up were abandoned at the same time.

The people in the area were once again left to fend for themselves, said ZDF.

Once again I turn to Lily Tomlin, who must have been anticipating the Bush administration when she said "No matter how cynical you get, you can never keep up."

At this point I really, really have to wonder: Is anyone home? Is Bush a genuine sociopath? I mean, taking from the poor and giving to the rich, that's evil, good old-fashioned Republican evil, and I can get my head around that. But setting up a food distribution center for the purpose of a photo-op, and then tearing it down while surrounded by hundreds of famished, traumatized refugees? That, my friends, is cartoon evil.


In troubling times I always find comfort in Wilde's meditation on the nature of suffering.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


Via Andrew Sullivan, Christian activist Michael Marcavage claims that Hurricane Katrina was an act of God in judgement for New Orleans' decadent ways.
"Although the loss of lives is deeply saddening, this act of God destroyed a wicked city," stated Repent America director Michael Marcavage. "From 'Girls Gone Wild' to 'Southern Decadence,' New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin. From the devastation may a city full of righteousness emerge," he continued.


"We must help and pray for those ravaged by this disaster, but let us not forget that the citizens of New Orleans tolerated and welcomed the wickedness in their city for so long," Marcavage said. "May this act of God cause us all to think about what we tolerate in our city limits, and bring us trembling before the throne of Almighty God," Marcavage concluded.

New Orleans, a city of righteousness? Friends, this kind of talk is simply un-American.

Here's a little background on Marcavage, who in 2001 was apparently forced to undergo a psychiatric evaluation by Temple University authorities (a federal court later found that Temple had acted appropriately.)

Now, this whole idea of committing wild-eyed Christians to mental wards strikes me as more than vaguely Soviet, and I'm against it. I'm quite conservative in such matters, and thus in cases involving hateful Christianist bigots like Marcavage who turn Christ's message of love and tolerance on its head I prefer the ancient Roman method, involving a colosseum and some ravenous exotic animals. But that's me. I'm a traditionalist.


From Asharq Alawsat:
An interview with Sheik Omar Bakri Muhammad, a radical cleric who was recently barred from Britain.

Essay by Mshari Al-Zaydi on persistent myths in Palestine and Israel.


Very good article by Thomas Barnett (author of The Pentagon's New Map) about Donald Rumsfeld and the defense transformation he has overseen.
Rumsfeld has become one of the most loathed and revered men in the world. The man is too impatient, too damned arrogant, too beyond politics, and just too stubborn for his own good. He is the famously combative, two-time SecDef (both youngest and oldest ever) who chews up and spits out experienced reporters in what are easily the most skillfully performed press conferences since John Kennedy walked the earth. He has brilliantly executed a couple of wars, and badly botched a peace. Let us stipulate all these truths just to move the conversation along.

But something else has been going on in this office, and it's nothing short of the most profound transformation of the U. S. military since World War II-a historic process that will, paradoxically, yield a force Americans haven't seen since our frontier days. The United States had one Defense Department on January 20, 2001, and it will have a very different one by January 20, 2009. Donald H. Rumsfeld, thirteenth and twenty-first secretary of defense, is the reason why.

Read da whole thing.