Wednesday, August 31, 2005


Andrew Sullivan:
42 PERCENT: That's how many Americans believe that the earth and all its creatures have always been the same since they were created by God in Genesis. Fully "70 percent of white evangelical Protestants say that life has existed in its present form since the beginning of time." 63 percent of them are "very certain" that this is true. I must say that there are times when one is rendered speechless. No educated intelligent person could possibly look at the evidence of science and say such a thing. And yet we are supposed to have a reasoned debate with these people on the matter. How is that even possible?

Funny, I had a very similar reaction to Sullivan last week when he was massaging himself for having done so much to publicize Charles Murray's soon-to-be utterly discredited The Bell Curve.


This was news to me. In Israel, Jews can't be terrorists.
Families of Israeli Arabs shot dead on a bus in Galilee are not considered terrorism victims because their killer was Jewish, the defence ministry says.

Under Israeli law, only attacks by "enemies of Israel" are considered terrorism, the ministry said.

The ruling means families of the four victims will not be entitled to the lifelong monthly payments given to Israeli victims of Palestinian attacks.

To Ariel Sharon's credit, his office has demanded the law be reviewed.
The Prime Minister's Office demanded on Wednesday that Attorney General Menachem Mazuz review the issue of recognizing those injured in attacks by Jewish terrorists as terror victims.

In a similar move, MK Mohammed Barakeh (Hadash-Ta'al) submitted to the Knesset Tuesday an amendment to the law governing compensation for terror victims that would entitle Arab Israeli families hurt by Jewish terror to money from the state.

Barakeh's ammendment will recognize as victims of terror anyone hurt from "hostile activities by a terror organization," and not just those hurt by "organizations hostile to Israel."

If the law is amended, it could have very interesting implications for Arab victims of Jewish settler violence in East Jerusalem, which is a regular occurrence.


(via Metafilter) Apparently, when black folks take food from a grocery store during a flood it's called looting, but when whites do it it's called finding. Clear?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Great column by Daniel Dennett on intelligent design:
It's worth pointing out that there are plenty of substantive scientific controversies in biology that are not yet in the textbooks or the classrooms. The scientific participants in these arguments vie for acceptance among the relevant expert communities in peer-reviewed journals, and the writers and editors of textbooks grapple with judgments about which findings have risen to the level of acceptance - not yet truth - to make them worth serious consideration by undergraduates and high school students.

So get in line, intelligent designers. Get in line behind the hypothesis that life started on Mars and was blown here by a cosmic impact. Get in line behind the aquatic ape hypothesis, the gestural origin of language hypothesis and the theory that singing came before language, to mention just a few of the enticing hypotheses that are actively defended but still insufficiently supported by hard facts.

I also very much like the implications of the last sentence of his essay, which is that I.D., while deserving no place in science classes, should certainly be discussed in politics and media courses.


This could be interesting.


Nice little diversion via LGM. Go to Music Outfitters (also a good site if you're in the market for an oud, which I just happen to be), put your graduation year (1991 for me) into the search function and see the top 100 songs of that year. Then highlight the songs you still like and italicize the crap you hate. Here's the doo-doo:

1. (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, Bryan Adams DEPLORABLE CRAP!
2. I Wanna Sex You Up, Color Me Badd CRAAAAP!
3. Gonna Make You Sweat, C+C Music Factory GOOD GOD, MAN!
4. Rush Rush, Paula Abdul
5. One More Try, Timmy T
7. More Than Words, Extreme HORRID CRAP!
8. I Like The Way (The Kissing Game), Hi-Five
9. The First Time, Surface
10. Baby, Baby, Amy Grant NO!
11. Motownphilly, Boyz II Men
12. Because I Love You (The Postman Song), Stevie B
13. Someday, Mariah Carey
14. High Enough, Damn Yankees ENOUGH, ANYWAY!
15. From A Distance, Bette Midler
16. All The Man That I Need, Whitney Houston
17. Right Here, Right Now, Jesus Jones
18. I Adore Mi Amor, Color Me Badd
19. Love Will Never Do (Without You), Janet Jackson
20. Good Vibrations, Marky Mark and The Funky Bunch Featuring Loleatta Holloway YOU'RE LUCKY YOU WERE SO GOOD IN THREE KINGS, WAHLBERG!
21. Justify My Love, Madonna
22. Emotions, Mariah Carey
23. Joyride, Roxette
24. Romantic, Karyn White
25. I Don't Wanna Cry, Mariah Carey
26. Hold You Tight, Tara Kemp
27. You're In Love, Wilson Phillips
28. Every Heartbeat, Amy Grant
29. Sensitivity, Ralph Tresvant
30. Touch Me (All Night Long), Cathy Dennis
31. I've Been Thinking About You, Londonbeat
32. Do Anything, Natural Selection
33. Losing My Religion, R.E.M.
34. Coming Out Of The Dark. Gloria Estefan
35. Here We Go. C+C Music Factory
36. It Ain't Over 'Til It's Over, Lenny Kravitz
37. Where Does My Heart Beat Now, Celine Dion ZZZZZZZZZZZ...
38. Summertime, D.J. Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
39. Wind Of Change, Scorpions
40. P.A.S.S.I.O.N., Rhythm Syndicate
41. The Promise Of A New Day, Paula Abdul
42. I'm Your Baby Tonight, Whitney Houston
43. Love Of A Lifetime, Firehouse GAKKKK!
44. Fading Like A Flower (Every Time You Leave), Roxette
45. This House, Tracie Spencer
46. Hole Hearted, Extreme THE LAST GASP OF CHEEZ METAL!
47. Power Of Love-Love Power, Luther Vandross
48. Impulsive, Wilson Phillips
49. Love Is A Wonderful Thing, Michael Bolton MICHAEL BOLTON IS A NO-TALENT ASS-CLOWN!
50. Rhythm Of My Heart, Rod Stewart
51. Things That Make You Go Hmmmm..., C+C Music Factory
52. I Touch Myself, Divinyls
53. Tom's Diner, DMA
54. Iesha, Another Bad Creation
55. Something To Talk About, Bonnie Raitt
56. After The Rain, Nelson
57. Play That Funky Music, Vanilla Ice NUFF SAID!
58. Temptation, Corina
59. Can't Stop This Thing We Started, Bryan Adams
60. I Can't Wait Another Minute, Hi-Five
61. 3 A.M. Eternal, The KLF
62. Time, Love and Tenderness, Michael Bolton
63. Saideness Part I, Enigma
64. Around The Way Girl, LL Cool J
65. I'll Be There, Escape Club
66. Cream, Prince and The N.P.G.
67. Now That We Found Love, Heavy D. and The Boyz
68. Show Me The Way, Styx
69. Love Takes Time, Mariah Carey
70. Cry For Help, Rick Astley
71. The Way You Do The Things You Do, UB40
72. Here I Am (Come and Take Me), UB40
73. Signs, Tesla
74. Too Many Walls, Cathy Dennis
75. Crazy, Seal
76. I'll Give All My Love To You, Keith Sweat
77. Place In This World, Michael W. Smith CAN'T BELIEVE HE HAS A PLACE ON THIS CHART!
78. Something To Believe In, Poison
79. Wicked Game, Chris Isaak
80. Get Here, Oleta Adams
81. Round and Round, Tevin Campbell
82. Silent Lucidity, Queensryche
83. I'm Not In Love, Will To Power
84. Piece Of My Heart, Tara Kemp
85. Real Real Real, Jesus Jones
87. Just Another Dream, Cathy Dennis
88. Everybody Plays The Fool, Aaron Neville
88. Strike It Up, Black Box
89. Rico Suave, Gerardo HHHUUUURRRRRLLLLL!
90. Disappear, INXS
91. Groove Is In The Heart, Deee-Lite
92. All This Time, Sting
93. The One and Only, Chesney Hawkes
94. O.P.P., Naughty By Nature
95. Freedom 90, George Michael
96. I Saw Red, Warrent
97. Miles Away, Winger
98. Do You Want Me, Salt-N-Pepa
99. The Motown Song, Rod Stewart
100. Shiny Happy People, R.E.M.

p.s. Considering what an unimpressive year it was for pop, it's pretty amazing how much great alternative music there was. And yes, this was perhaps the last year when "alternative" actually meant something, although it's been said that it ceased to mean anything the moment REM's Green went platinum. Nirvana was about to break that fall, alt-rock would become big business, and I would soon have to contend with beefy jocks in backwards ball caps working out their daddy issues in the mosh pits.


Bassam Tibi writes about the relationship between the two.

Thursday, August 25, 2005


Michael Crowley has an interesting essay on Rock Snobs and the implications of the digital music revolution for rock snobbery.
In some ways, then, the iPod revolution is a Rock Snob's dream. Now, nearly all rock music is easily and almost instantly attainable, either via our friends' computers or through online file-sharing networks. "Music swapping" on a mass scale allows my music collection to grow larger and faster than I'd ever imagined. And I can now summon any rare track from the online ether.

But there's a dark side to the iPod era. Snobbery subsists on exclusivity. And the ownership of a huge and eclectic music collection has become ordinary. Thanks to the iPod, and digital music generally, anyone can milk various friends, acquaintances, and the Internet to quickly build a glorious 10,000-song collection. Adding insult to injury, this process often comes directly at the Rock Snob's expense. We are suddenly plagued by musical parasites. For instance, a friend of middling taste recently leeched 700 songs from my computer. He offered his own library in return, but it wasn't much. Never mind my vague sense that he should pay me some money. In Rock Snob terms, I was a Boston Brahmin and he was a Beverly Hillbilly--one who certainly hadn't earned that highly obscure album of AC/DC songs performed as tender acoustic ballads but was sure to go bragging to all his friends about it. Even worse was the girlfriend to whom I gave an iPod. She promptly plugged it into my computer and was soon holding in her hand a duplicate version of my 5,000-song library--a library that had taken some 20 years, thousands of dollars, and about as many hours to accumulate. She'd downloaded it all within five minutes. And, a few months later, she was gone, taking my intimate musical DNA with her.

Yes, but what exactly does it mean to her? I think for a rock snob, there's having and there's knowing. My snobbery never grew so much from a collection of rare and obscure recordings (although I am pretty completist within my particular obsessions) as it did from having heard a lot of music, having made an intentional study of music, and knowing its historical significance and being able to demonstrate its relationship to other music. A rock snob is in possession of secret knowledge that transcends the rough matter of this plane. Anybody can declare their own musical preferences superior, but a rock snob can demonstrate it logically.

I wouldn't say I download a lot of music, but file sharing has been great. I might never have found Starfleet Project otherwise. That's right, that's Brian May and Eddie Van Halen.


About a big foam cowboy hat? Every time I see one I can't stop laughing.


I'm surprised that Marvin Olasky (the father of compassionate conservatism) came right out and called Roberton's fatwa a fatwa, and Olasky deserves credit for it. He unfortunately gets into the sort of religion of peace/not a religion of peace mumbo-pocus that Rob addressed here. Olasky offers questionable evidence:
With liberal reporters since 9/11 frequently equating conservative Christians with Quran-thumping Muslims, WORLD has tried to delineate the real differences (see "Osama bin Ashcroft," April 27, 2002). For example, Islam initially expanded through the slaughter of opponents, but Christianity grew through the martyrdom of believers. Muslim extremists issued fatwas against their enemies, but the apostle Paul taught Christians in Rome, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."

Islam initially expanded because the prophet Muhammad brought a vision of a just society that appealed to the poor and the powerless. In any case, even if it was late coming, Christianity certainly got with the whole slaughter-of-opponents program in a hurry, and with great enthusiasm and inventiveness.

Matt Yglesias is pretty much right on Byron York, though I really think that Robertson is more influential among conservative evangelicals, if not conservative elites, than Yglesias seems to. As York notes, The 700 Club has a larger primetime audience than either CNN or MSNBC. A lot of people get their news from The 700 Club, which means essentially that Pat Robertson is defining their reality.

It's got to be depressing for Robertson that the message which the conservative punditry seem to have rallied around most is that he is irrelevant, and thus the Right shouldn't be held responsible for what he says. Maybe Robertson can cohost a new reality show with Ward Churchill, where they both run around Washington dressed like albatrosses.

And this is absolutely right: Chavez used to be a star. Pat Robertson just made him a superstar. What I want to know is: exactly what multimillion dollar investments of Pat's is Chavez threatening?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


His pants literally on fire, Pat Robertson now claims his comments about Chavez were misinterpreted:
"I didn't say 'assassination.' I said our special forces should 'take him out.' And 'take him out' can be a number of things, including kidnapping; there are a number of ways to take out a dictator from power besides killing him. I was misinterpreted by the AP [Associated Press], but that happens all the time," Robertson said on "The 700 Club" program.

Ahh, of course. Willfully misinterpreted by the damn liberal media. It's gotten so that a clownish right wing religious demagogue can't even publicly advocate the murder of the democratically elected leader of a country with which we're not at war without those blasted coastal elites pouncing all over him. I tell you, this country is in trouble.

Pat is right about one thing, though. There are a number of ways to take out a dictator. You could take him out for ice cream. You could take him out for umbrella drinks at a tranny bar. You could take him out for karaoke and bowling. You could take him out to the ballgame. You could take him out for a haircut, shave, new shoes and a sailor suit. I have no doubt that our brave U.S. Special Forces are equipped and prepared to do any or all of these things at a moment's notice.

But no, here's lying liar Robertson on Monday:
If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war.

Hmm, I guess Pat did not say 'assassination' after all. He said 'assassinate.'

This Miami Herald editorial sounds reasonable:
The Federal Communications Commission should find this wretched episode of interest, as well. If Janet Jackson's ''wardrobe malfunction'' merits a $550,000 fine, what about an open appeal to commit murder?

Yes, what about it?


The brilliant Amos Oz:
The struggle in Gaza was not essentially a struggle between the army and the settlers, not even between hawks and doves. No. It was a struggle between Church and State (to be more accurate, between Synagogue and State). This is something many nations have experienced: what should be the position and the influence of religion and of clerics in the business of running a country? Some countries have sorted this out centuries ago. Other nations have been struggling with it endlessly. The Muslim world, with the exception of Turkey, has not even begun.

During these past days in Gaza we have been witnessing what might prove to be the first battle between Synagogue and State in Israel, the first showdown over the nature of the Jewishness of the only Jewish state. Are we first and foremost a religion, or are we first and foremost a nation?

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


I didn't want to write too much about Robertson last night, I have a policy against posting late in the evening. I've had some bad experiences.

Looking over Pat's comments again, it occurs to me that perhaps I missed the Sunday school class where they told the story of Jesus and his disciples creeping through the jungle with suppressed weapons.

23 And lo they did come upon the Roman governor's villa, and Jesus did motion to them to fan out in defense pattern delta delta, eyes and ears. 24 And Jesus and John, whom He called Beloved, did silently climb the creeping vines and with a ruthless efficiency did garrote the two guards on the balcony. 25 And therein they did find the governor, relaxing in the tub with some candles and a good magazine. 26 And Jesus did walk right up on him and put two in his dome. 27 And then the Son of Man and his Twelve Deadly Fishers of Men did melt back into the jungle like holy ghosts.

But then, I also missed the class where Jesus told his followers to forget everything he'd said about living a life of poverty and service and to instead buy lots of fancy clothes, create media empires, oppose birth control, predict the weather, and take over the government and create a Christian state.

All this is to say that I find character and spirit of the Christ of the Gospels to be entirely absent from the rhetoric of Pat Robertson. Leaving aside the question of whether Jesus was a pacifist, I think most people who aren't freaking batshit insane can get on board with the idea that he wouldn't have supported political assassinations. Jesus' lone act of recorded violence was clearing the money changers out of the temple, and we should consider the context and focus of that act. Jesus wanted to protest the desecration of the temple by financial predators, the pollution of religion by commerce and politics, and the corruption of temple officials who sanctioned and profited from it. Now consider Pat Robertson: which side of that equation do you think he's on? Where in that scenario do you think he fits in?

This doesn't need pointing out, but Robertson isn't just some Elmer Gantry type. He is one of the two or three most prominent Christian leaders in this country. He attends regular meetings with leading Republicans and with the president. He has himself run an almost credible campaign for President. This isn't Barbra Streisand condemning the president for withdrawing from the Kyoto accord or Alec Baldwin questioning the war in Iraq (both of which the Right Wing Machine would dine out on for weeks), this is an American religious leader with substantial political influence using his television show to advocate, in what amounts to a Christian fatwa, the murder of the democratically elected leader of a country with which we're not at war. Wingnuts are always complaining that moderate Muslims don't condemn the violent rhetoric of radical clerics loudly or publicly enough, well, now's their chance to show us how it's done.

Monday, August 22, 2005


(via MediaMatters) In order to prevent Venezuela becoming a "launching pad for communist infiltration and Muslim extremism," (twofer!) Pat Robertson has called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez.
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it. It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war. And I don't think any oil shipments will stop. But this man is a terrific danger and the United ... This is in our sphere of influence, so we can't let this happen. We have the Monroe Doctrine, we have other doctrines that we have announced. And without question, this is a dangerous enemy to our south, controlling a huge pool of oil, that could hurt us very badly. We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability. We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one, you know, strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with.

Hey, you just shot that guy! You just shot...oh, didn't see you had the Monroe Doctrine. Guess it's okay then, go on about your business. Nothing we can do. What could I do? He had the Monroe Doctrine, as well as other doctrines!


Has died. More here.

Sunday, August 21, 2005


Great show. Loud as hell. Lord, it was loud, the kind of loud that causes your cranium to vibrate at odd frequencies and makes you feel half-sleepy. I would have enjoyed a few more tunes from Bug, but they played all but two tunes from You're Living All Over Me, so I really can't complain. A great and beautiful thing to see this band reunited, these bards of the great woody expanse of western Massachusetts. There is something about a good trio that can't be beat. Murph and Lou sounded fantastic. And there was J, his long stringy hair gone gray and so even more cobweblike, whipping around in frenzied arcs as he literally dove into his guitar solos, sending great shards of shrieking, squalling guitar noise flying out into the audience like white hot smoking boomerangs of rock, pulling, groping, raking, whanging out crescendo after crescendo, launching entire squadrons of Luftwaffe out of his stacked Marshalls, ladling effect upon effect upon flanger upon phaser upon stutter tremelo, rreeeaawwwrr fflooommmm crawshshsh! hedwuygd psadfivuh qeproiy[poohbeahboeih!!!!!! I had an enormous goofy grin plastered to my face almost the entire time. I feel as though I have been dipped in magic waters.

Saturday, August 20, 2005


Shorter Bill Frist:
"I regret reversing myself in favor of stem cell research. Please forgive me, religionistas."

And for the umpteenth time, people, Intelligent Design does not qualify as a theory.


Yes, you could say I'm excited.

Friday, August 19, 2005


The footage of Jewish families in Gaza being torn from their homes by Jewish soldiers is truly heartwrenching, no doubt about that. Unfortunately, I'm aware of no similar footage of Jewish soldiers tearing Palestinian Arab families from their homes in 1948 and 1967. I can, however, pretty much guarantee that the soldiers in those instances neither knocked nor pleaded politely with the residents to leave.

A few commentators have suggested that Israel's withdrawal from Gaza will show whether the Palestinians are truly ready for self-government. Max Boot sets up a transparently false test:
For almost 40 years, the conceit has been growing around the world that Palestinian terrorism can be explained and even excused by Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This was always a dubious proposition in light of the fact that Arabs have been fighting Israel since its formation in 1948, not since its conquest of those territories in 1967. The Palestine Liberation Organization began its attacks while the West Bank was still part of Jordan and Gaza was part of Egypt.

Now the Israeli decision to remove its settlers from the Gaza Strip and a small portion of the West Bank should provide a further test of the belief that Jewish settlements are the root cause of this conflict. If this were in fact the case, you would expect that a partial pullout would lead to at least a partial melting of Arab hostility toward the Jews. Maybe this will occur; and maybe the Gaza Strip will overnight become as peaceful as Switzerland.

I know of few people who have claimed "Jewish settlements are the root cause of this conflict." They are certainly a major factor, and it is likely that the evacuation of the settlements and the military presence which was required to secure them will result in some relaxing of tensions among Palestinians, but the test that Boot is constructing is obviously designed to fail. The Palestinians of Gaza have been occupied and brutalized by the IDF for 38 years; that they will not have a Jeffersonian democracy within weeks, or that the hatred of Israel among fanatical elements will not lessen, does nothing to disprove the notion that the settlements were (and remain, in the West Bank) an impediment to peace.

And then Charles Krauthammer (in a column that would have more appropriately been titled How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Qassam):
Israel should announce that henceforth any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop. Every Palestinian rocket landing in Israel will instantly trigger sensors and preset counter-launchers. Any Palestinian terrorist firing up a rocket will know that he is triggering six: one Palestinian and five Israeli.

Israel would decide how these five would be programmed to respond. Perhaps three aimed at the launch site and vicinity and two at a list of predetermined military and strategic assets of the Palestinian militias.

That's right Chuck, all those Arabs understand is force. How's it been working for the last 40 years? Considering that one of the goals of terrorism is to incite a disproportionate response which will then rally more people to your cause, Krauthammer's Lil' Doomsday Plan would seem to be playing right into the terrorist's hands.

And then:
The Gaza withdrawal is not the beginning but the end. Apart from perhaps some evacuations of outlying settlements on the West Bank, it is the end of the concession road for Israel. And it is the beginning of the new era of self-sufficiency and separation in which Israel ensures its security not by concessions but by fortification, barrier creation, realism and patient waiting.

Waiting for the first-ever genuine Palestinian concessions. Waiting for the Palestinians to honor the promises -- to recognize Israel and renounce terrorism -- that they solemnly made at Oslo and brazenly betrayed. That's the next step. Without it, nothing happens.

The first-ever genuine Palestinian concessions. Think about that for a moment. How about giving up half of their country? How about living under military occupation for 38 years? How about having their homes bulldozed to make way for "defense perimeters" around illegal settlements, or to make way for a "separation barrier", or in retaliation for their second cousin who they hadn't seen in months blowing himself up on a bus? None of that counts for anything? Any cursory examination of either the Oslo or Wye River agreements shows that the Palestinians have conceded rather a lot in pursuit of a viable state in their own homeland. It's probably not to my credit that I'm still surprised by the amount and intensity of ahistorical bunk coming out of people like Krauthammer in regards to Israel, but I am.

p.s. Here's Arafat's letter recognizing Israel. Someone forward it to Charles.


It's underrated. I used to like it as a kid, didn't eat it for about ten years, recently started eating it again. I don't know what prompted me, just one day there wasn't much in the house for lunch, so I whipped up some egg salad on wheat toast. Mmmm, good. Little paprika, generous with the pepper, some horseradish to clear the sinuses. About to have some right now.

Here's the greatest movie ever made about egg salad.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


The Washington Post reports on a declassified memo showing (again) how State Department warnings were ignored by the Pentagon leading up to the Iraq invasion:
One month before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, three State Department bureau chiefs warned of "serious planning gaps for post-conflict public security and humanitarian assistance" in a secret memorandum prepared for a superior.

The State Department officials, who had been discussing the issues with top military officers at the Central Command, noted that the military was reluctant "to take on 'policing' roles" in Iraq after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The three officials warned that "a failure to address short-term public security and humanitarian assistance concerns could result in serious human rights abuses which would undermine an otherwise successful military campaign, and our reputation internationally."

Not a huge thunderbolt, but it does highlight one of the most outrageous aspects of the Bush gang's failure in Iraq, that the expertise of career analysts and researchers at State was dismissed because their suggestions and ideas didn't comport with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz's rosy vision of post-invasion Iraq. Disgraceful.


The 2005 World Beard and Mustache Championships.

If you look at his beard closely, you can see a chunk of braunschweiger leftover from 1988 Oktoberfest.  Posted by Picasa


Azmi Bishara on the crisis of leftism in the developing world. Interesting stuff.


Via Scott at LGM, it looks like towering genius Leonard Cohen has sued his ex-manager:
According to the suit, Lynch was Cohen's business manager for about 17 years until he fired her in October for allegedly taking money out of his personal and investment accounts. It was alleged that the amounts taken were far in excess of the 15 percent management compensation that Lynch was entitled to receive.

It is alleged that the fraud started while Cohen was taking time away from his career to focus on his spiritual life at the Mount Baldy Zen Center, east of Los Angeles. While Cohen was not recording or touring, Lynch allegedly started to pay herself a greater portion of Cohen's royalties. She also allegedly introduced Cohen to Westin, who is accused of helping Lynch to orchestrate the sale of Cohen's music publishing and artist royalties.

Lessee, embezzling retirement money from your boss while he's away on a Buddhist retreat, that's somewhere between stealing the orphans' Christmas presents and kicking an old lady down a flight of stairs on the bad karma scale.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


Via LGM, Crooked Timber's Henry Farrel has a rundown of the "Disagreement with Bush=Treason" Crowd.


Since SciFi Channel was kind enough to run all five episodes of the new season back to back last night, allowing me to get caught up, I can now say once again with confidence: Best Show On Television.

No contest, really.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Jonah Goldberg makes a decent point that "I have a right to speak!" is often used as a defense by people who can't otherwise defend their ideas, though I think this happens on the right as frequently as the left.

Jonah's argument augers right into the ground, though, when he asserts that the notion that conservatives want to limit speech is purely a figment of the paranoid Leftist imagination:
If you immediately assume that criticism from the political Right is tantamount to questioning someone's constitutional right to speak in the first place, what you are really saying (Pace Dan Savage) is that if you scratch a conservative you'll find a Storm Trooper just under the surface. We knuckle draggers may say we're just offering criticism, but what we really mean is that anyone we disagree with has no right to say so. That so many on the Left seem to believe this, says a lot about the intellectual and psychological state of Lefties while saying nothing of interest about conservatives. I don't think it's always a matter of projection — assuming your enemy sees things the same you do — but I do think this knee-jerkery illuminates in a small way the bad faith of the Left. Not only does the "I have the right to speak" tantrum dodge the merits of specific criticisms, it starts from the assumption that as a matter of first principles left-wing protest should never be questioned.

Let's just say, first, that the implication that the American Left is anywhere near as paranoid than the American Right is preposterous on its face. More sensitive, perhaps.

Second, it's an inescapable fact that, just as there are liberals and leftists who cannot or choose not to distinguish between criticism of their ideas and challenges to their rights, there are conservatives who cannot or choose not to distinguish between criticism of government policies or politicians and "hating America."

Third, does Jonah own either a TV, computer, or a radio? If he owns either a radio or computer, it would take him about twenty seconds to find some conservative charging a liberal with "hating America" simply for criticizing the government, the war, what have you. It might take him a little longer to find this on TV, at least until Sean Hannity comes on. Right-wing media goddess Ann Coulter wrote an entire damn book called Treason, which uncovered absolutely zero actual treason, though that was entirely beside the point. The point was to try and define the expression of certain political ideas, liberal ideas, as unnacceptable and out of bounds to Real Americans.

For a couple more very recent examples, here's Bill O'Reilly last Tuesday:
So I mean, I think Mrs. Sheehan bears some responsibility for this and also for the responsibility of other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq, who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous.

Speaking out against the war=Treasonous. Yeah, I know. O'Reilly didn't say Sheehan's words or actions were treasonous, he just said some people might feel they were treasonous. O'Reilly knows how to cover his ass, but I think we can safely say: Message received.

And here's Jonah's friend Rush Limbaugh last Thursday:
Wouldn't it be great if anybody who speaks out against this country, to kick them out of the country? Anybody that threatens this country, kick 'em out. We'd get rid of Michael Moore, we'd get rid of half the Democratic Party if we would just import that law. That would be fabulous. The Supreme Court ought to look into this. Absolutely brilliant idea out there.

Is this a legitimate criticism of ideas? Of course not. Limbaugh isn't even bothering with ideas, he's just flat out saying "anybody who speaks out against this country." Rewind seven years, and consider how much time Limbaugh put into criticizing the then-current administration over every damn thing. Of course, Limbaugh would claim that he wasn't criticizing this country, he was criticizing its president and his policies. But that's apparently a distinction conservatives reserve for themselves.


Apparently, Bull Moose has his own special definition of "reconciliation":
The Moose salutes the peace activists of the Israel Defense Forces.

There is much talk of peace in the world, but little action. That is why it is so significant when a state takes concrete steps to attempt to bring reconciliation. Israel is doing just that this week as her troops remove their fellow citizens from Gaza settlements.

The Gaza withdrawal, of course, has nothing whatever to do with reconciliation, rather it has to do with Sharon's (very) belated recognition that the Gaza colonization enterprise is unsustainable, for a variety of reasons, and must be abandoned in the interest of securing more desirable West Bank settlements, especially in and around East Jerusalem. One can recognize that the withdrawal is a good thing while at the same time understand that it is driven by a purely rational political calculus.

It is true that Israel is making a sacrifice, but necessity of that sacrifice is a direct consequence of Israel's concerted, 38-year attempt to expand its borders by changing the demographic character of the region, in direct contravention of international law. How much congratulation does Israel really deserve for doing what it should have done years ago, for finally uprooting settlements that have done little more than create conflict, misery, and distrust? How much congratulation does Israel really deserve while, even as the plans for the Gaza withdrawal have gone forward, settlement activity in the West Bank has increased?

Quite the opposite of reconciliation, as Uri Avnery notes, the Gaza withdrawal has been planned and is being carried out in a unilateral way specifically to remove the Palestinians as a negotiating party. (The negative effects of this upon Mahmoud Abbas's legitimacy as a leader, indeed upon Palestinian regard of democratic processes in general, should be obvious. Why should they bother with democracy if Sharon treats their elected leaders as irrelevant?) The Gaza withdrawal is part of a deal that Sharon is trying to negotiate with the U.S. In exchange for pulling out of Gaza, he intends for the U.S. to support Israel's claims on settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. He may even get it, but the idea that maintaining the Palestinian people in a series of Bantustans will ever lead to true security for Israel is a fantasy.

There's no question that the Palestinian refugees have been extremely poorly served by their Arab brethren, but this of course neither lessens nor justifies Israel's treatment of the Palestinians. Judging Israel according to a special regional sliding scale ("Her neighbors are so much worse!") is a technique that is unique to Israel's extreme partisans, one from which no other democracy in the world seems to benefit.

That said, I think Israel does deserve recognition as a democracy, if an illiberal one, in a region where democracy is notably lacking. But the settlement problem is one that Israel has made for itself, indeed is still making for itself, so I hardly think "courageous" is the right term for, at long last, taking a step in the right direction.

Monday, August 15, 2005


John Hinderaker criticizes the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Peace Not Walls resolution which condemns Israel's separation barrier. Hinderaker's piece is typical wingnuttery in that it entirely avoids the issue of Israel's almost four decades-long occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the illegal settlement enterprise which that occupation facilitates, and instead makes the issue the ELCA's lack of mention of Palestinian terror, which Hinderaker insists reveals the Lutheran Church's anti-Israel bias. Boring and by the numbers, really.

But this last sentence caught my attention:
The fact that the leadership of mainline Protestant churches is dominated by liberals who substitute their own political biases for Christian doctrine and principles is an important factor limiting the growth of those denominations in comparison to the newer, evangelical churches whose leadership is not dominated by political liberalism.

Hoo boy. Leaving aside the fact that Hinderaker does not come within a mile of demonstrating that the liberals who supposedly dominate mainline Protestant churches "substitute their own political biases for Christian doctrine," even granting this, Hinderaker's got to be smoking some extremely high grade reefer to imagine that conservative religioners don't do this, and do it more blatantly and to a much greater degree than liberals.

More significantly, Hinderaker is clearly suggesting that the growth and success of newer, more conservative evangelical congregations can be attributed to their more faithful adherence to Christian doctrine. This is stone nonsense. Having attended more than a few of these churches (don't ask) and read quite a bit of the literature they produce, I can report that their "doctrine" boils down to two basic elements: 1) God loves you and wants you to be happy (and sometimes rich), and 2) Vote Republican. There is really no doctrine to speak of, no tough theological questions grappled with, nothing that might cause the congregants to feel stupid. And this is all on purpose, as the practices of these churches have, to a very great extent, been developed according to, and their growth attributable to their adherence to, principles of marketing.

If anything, the success of these new evangelical churches is proof against their theological and spiritual rigor. Jesus himself warned his followers to expect persecution, to expect their friends and families to turn away from them, to expect the great masses to reject the spiritual revolution which Jesus was trying to bring about. He did not warn his followers to expect a big sing-along with a barbecue afterward. Nor, by the way, did he ever command his followers to take control of the machinery of government and rule in his name. Jesus's way was one of Poverty, Humility, and Service. Anyone who thinks he can reconcile the way of Jesus with a life of wealth, nationalism, and tax-cuts is quite simply full of shit. Or, to be more doctrinaire (isn't that what Hinderaker wants?), anti-Christ in its original meaning of "false Christ."


I have a savant-like talent, I guess one would call it a talent, maybe a tendency, for remembering obscure actors and then bothering my friends with lists of other movies they've been in. Like we could be settling down to watch such and such and I'll see a name in the credits and I'll go, "Oh wow, Jimmy Lee Goldstein! He played the lion-keeper's assistant in Kickboxing Catholic Girls from Outer Space, Part II!" or "Sujata Prawrvadhi! She played the flight attendant who spills the coffee in Gemütlichkeit at 30,000 Feet!"

To which the response is usually some variant of that's nice, shut up, or too bad you can't make any money with that.

Anyway, sitting here this morning sipping my precious, precious coffee and reading da news, I come across a review of a new jukebox musical based upon the later work of John Lennon. Apparently, the musical is crap. Didn't see that coming. Lennon's late career is definitely spotty, though it contains some genuine masterpieces, but let's just say this fad of shoehorning rock and pop repertoires into Broadway sing-alongs appeals to a...certain sensibility. And it's not a rock n' roll one. I imagine John sitting in his little breakfast nook up in rock n' roll heaven, drinking his tea, flipping through the paper, reading this review, and throwing up a little, in his mouth. Or maybe he's delighted about the attention. Probably both at once. He was a complicated man.

What caught my eye, however, was the name of the director of the show, Don Scardino, who I of course remember as the city-slicker hero of the 1976 horror classic Squirm, in which a small southern town is infested by a plague of flesh-eating mutant earthworms, as if you couldn't immediately figure that out from the title.

This film occupies a special place in Duss family history. When we were kids, my brother Brian and I watched it on Channel 11 some Saturday afternoon when we probably should have been outside playing, and were good and grossed out by it. But here was my master-stroke: from that time on, whenever we'd be sitting at the dinner table and my notoriously picky-eater brother would be faced with some new culinary concoction of our mom's that he wasn't quite sure about, I would mutter "Squirm," which would immediately conjure up for him images of undulating mounds of slimy, ravenous earthworms devouring screaming yokels, and would, without fail, kill his appetite. Dead. He'd get mad and complain that he didn't want to eat, and my parents would make him finish what was on his plate, and he would whine in protest and I would turn and smile evily into the camera. It was the perfect crime. It got so that I wouldn't even need to say the word, I could just look at him across the dinner table and nod, and he'd know exactly what I meant, and would get grossed out again just the same. It's good to be the older brother.

So, ladies and gentlemen, Don Scardino: from battling mutant earthworms to directing a schmaltzy Broadway adaptation of John Lennon's not-greatest work.

Your morning weirdness.

Sunday, August 14, 2005


Excellent essay by Israeli activist Uri Avnery of Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) on the settlements, the Gaza pullout and Sharon's brand of Zionism.
For 37 years, the Israeli army has been the Settlers Defense Army. It has planned, openly and in secret, the placement of the settlements, including the "illegal" settlement outposts all over the West Bank. It has devoted most of its forces and resources to their defense. That has reached grotesque dimensions: for example, the Netzarim settlement, in the middle of the Gaza Strip, was defended by three whole battalions. Seventeen male and female soldiers lost their lives in the defense of Netzarim, about which Ariel Sharon said some years ago: "Netzarim's fate is the same as Tel-Aviv's!" The story about the settlers' children going to music classes escorted by armored troop carriers has become a part of Israeli folklore.


Sharon's is a classic Zionist ideology, consistent and pragmatic: to enlarge the borders of the Jewish State as much as possible, in a continuing process, without including in it a non-Jewish population. To settle everywhere possible, using every possible trick. To do much and talk little about it. To make declarations about the desire for peace, but not to make a peace that would hinder expansion and settlement.


That is...Sharon's outlook. He wants to expand Israel's borders as much as possible, and minimize the number of Arabs within them. Therefore it makes sense to him to give up the tiny Gaza strip with the million and half Palestinians living there, and also the centers of Palestinian population in the West Bank. He wants to annex the settlement blocs and the sparsely populated areas, where new settlement blocs can be set up. He is content to leave to future generations the problem of the Palestinian enclaves.

Read the whole thing.


Very moving essay by Ashley Ryan Gaddis in memory of her brother, Sean, a Rainier mountain ranger who died ten years ago, along with fellow ranger Philip Otis, while attempting to rescue a stranded climber.

I grew up with Sean Ryan in Nyack, New York. He was a year ahead of me in school. We weren't close friends, but we had close friends in common, and our paths often crossed because we were both musicians. I will always remember Sean as an extremely gifted bass player.

My thoughts are with his family.

Life is precious.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Good article on ID by Chris Mooney in the American Prospect.
The most eloquent documentation of ID’s religious inspiration comes in the form of a Discovery Institute strategic memo that made its way onto the Web in 1999: the “Wedge Document.” A broad attack on “scientific materialism,” the paper asserts that modern science has had “devastating” cultural consequences, such as the denial of objective moral standards and the undermining of religious belief. In contrast, the document states that ID “promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.” In order to achieve this objective, the ID movement will “function as a ‘wedge’” that will “split the trunk [of scientific materialism] … at its weakest points.”

The Wedge Document puts ID proponents in an uncomfortable position. Discovery Institute representatives balk at being judged on religious grounds and accuse those who probe their motivations of engaging in ad hominem attacks. Yet given the express language of the Wedge Document, it’s hard to see why we shouldn’t take them at their own word. Discovery’s ultimate agenda -- the Wedge -- clearly has far more to do with the renewal of religiously based culture by the overthrow of key tenets of modern science than with the disinterested pursuit of knowledge.

But have you heard the competing theory of Flying Spaghetti Monsterism?


David Brooks chimes in today with, wouldn't you know it, a column full of folksy wisdomy culturey trendy stuff. It's about globalization or segmentization or some damn thing that popped into his head over Wheaties, go read it if you want, but this jumped out at me:
Meanwhile, if you look around the world you see how often events are driven by groups that reject the globalized culture. Islamic extremists reject the modern cultures of Europe, and have created a hyperaggressive fantasy version of traditional Islamic purity. In a much different and less violent way, some American Jews have moved to Hebron and become hyper-Zionists.

Actually, the hyperaggressive fantasy version of traditional purity that militant Islamists have created is very much like that of religious Jewish settlers, in that both of them are fundamentalist, exclusivist, supremacist reactions to what they perceive as a corrupting modernity. Many of the condemnations levelled by orthodox Jews against their more modern co-religionists sound exactly like those of Islamists against liberal Muslims.

As for the "less violent" part, I suppose hyper-Zionist settlers are less violent in that they don't focus their violence on The West, and are instead content to focus their violence on their Palestinian neighbors. It's almost humorous that poor Brooksie chose Hebron, of all places, for his example. Hebron is where some 400 Jewish settlers live amidst 30,000 Palestinians, requiring a constant Israeli army presence (approximately 2000 IDF troops, or about 4 soldiers for every 1 settler). Hebron settlers are known to be the most militant, violent, and openly racist of any of the Jewish settler groups, regularly invading and vandalizing the homes and crops of Palestinians, usually under the averted gaze of those Israeli troops who are there ostensibly to "protect" Palestinians.

Hebron is where, in 1994, Baruch Goldstein (an American Jew who moved to Hebron and became a hyper-Zionist) walked into a mosque and gunned down 29 Muslims at prayer. He is celebrated by religious settlers as a martyr-hero, and his grave is an orthodox shrine, maintained and visited regularly by many other American-born hyper-Zionists who hold celebrations there.

I bring this up because Brooks' comment is indicative of the deep American ignorance of the realities and effects of the Israeli occupation and the ongoing settlement activity which it facilitates. Settler violence against Palestinians is a regular occurrence, though American media for some reason don't deem this as newsworthy as they do suicide bombings. Perhaps that's understandable, perhaps not, but the actions and ideology of the Hebron settlers are by no means unique, only the most openly eliminationist. Most other religious settlers are more willing to allow the IDF to commit violence against Palestinians on their behalf.

There is also the fact that, aside from the specific and frequent acts of violence committed by settlers, the occupation itself represents a very tangible form of daily violence against Palestinians, who are denied freedom of movement to and from their farmland, places of work, or to visit family by a network of military checkpoints, and are regularly physically and verbally harassed by the Israeli troops manning those checkpoints. The damaging effect of this upon the spirit of a people over the course of almost four decades is hard to quantify, but make no mistake: it is a form of warfare, one that Israel is and has been waging upon the Palestinians. It's certainly not my intention to defend or justify violence against civilians, by any side, only to argue that Palestinian violence must be understood in this context.


There are many reasons to criticize the transportation bill that President Bush signed yesterday, such as Bush's decision to sign it represents a blatant flip-flop, or that it's Exhibit Z that Bush has no interest in making government smaller, only in making sure that those in his tax bracket don't have to pay for it, or that it's loaded with more pork than Jonah Goldberg's third and fourth plates at the Old Country Buffet. What bothers me most, however, is that regardless of such massive infusions of government money into the economy of which this bill is only the latest example, the Supply Side Zombies will continue to insist that any economic growth is attributable cuts.


Flying Spaghetti Monsterism posits a credible challenge to Intelligent Design.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005


Okay, it's pointless list time. TV themes are a minor obsession of mine, I think it's a great form because of its economy. You've got 60 seconds to encapsulate what the show's about, something that hits hard but won't grow stale week after week, and then get out. So...

1. Sanford and Son, Quincy Jones. I'm sorry, but for me there's just no question about it. This is the greatest TV theme ever. It's a proven fact that listening to this tune before playing basketball will increase your shooting percentage by a good 25%.
2. Mission Impossible, Lalo Schifrin. This is spy music. Yes, it's ubiquitous. It's also some of the freshest, most furious 62 seconds ever put to wax. It all comes down to those bongos.
3. Streets of San Francisco, Pat Williams. Big, gorgeous, 70s jazz-funk extravaganza. If I were a TV detective, and on some days I am, it would be hard to choose between this one and...
4. Magnum PI, Mike Post and Pete Carpenter. This theme captures its lead character's idiom better than any other. Evokes diving choppers, peeling Ferraris, and a big, booshy mustache. I should mention that Post and Carpenter were the McCartney and Lennon of 80s TV theme music.
5. Barney Miller, Jack Elliott. From that lone, slinky bass line to full grooving Headhunters' style funk in 47 seconds. I'm tempted to suggest that no white man deserves a theme this funky. Except maybe when you pair him with Abe Vigoda.
6. Six Feet Under, Thomas Newman. I'm not a fan of the show, but this theme is a stunningly brilliant piece of work. Maybe it's the oboe. Maybe it's the ukelele. No, it's the whole.
7. The Twilight Zone, Marius Constant. Gotta mention this one, since these four guitar notes notes have become shorthand for "Wow, that was weird." The theme also has an interesting origin:
In 1960, CBS Music Director Lud Gluskin was asked to find a new Main Title/End Credits THEME for the second season of the series, to replace the original THEME written by veteran radio/TV/film composer Bernard Herrmann.

Finally in desperation, Lud Gluskin tried splicing together two short cues written by a French Avant-Garde classical composer Marius Constant -- who had composed them for CBS to use as backgrounds for episodes of "The Twilight Zone", and then recycled in the network cue library. CBS had a policy in those days to have music composed and recorded overseas to skirt US Musician Union re-use fees which were 100% of the original session fee for any subsequent re-use. This policy was intended to keep producers from using recordings over and over, but it had the opposite effect -- inspiring producers and networks to find alternatives and music packagers who recorded outside the U.S. so they could use "track" (re-cycle) cues...

Such commissioned cues were available to be shared by any CBS series which needed them. The internal title for this cue library was the "CBS Foreign Library".

The cues which Gluskin spliced together were originally named "Etrange 3 (Strange No. 3)" and "Milieu 2 (Middle No. 2)". They were so fragmentary and unusual that they had not been used much. These were two of the six short dramatic cues Constant wrote and recorded with a small ensemble featuring a two guitars, percussion including bongo drums, a saxophone and French horns.

They had never been designed to be a Main Title or End Credits THEME. Spliced together by Gluskin, their unique qualities appealed to Serling, who was looking for something different. So TV history was changed when they became the new "Twilight Zone" THEME from the 2nd season on...and now the most recognized by the atonal guitar motif which opens "Etrange 3."

In 1982 correspondence with composer Constant, he explained that in 1959 he composed six cues at the request of Lud Gluskin "for a few hundred dollars"; He knew they were intended for their first use on a new show described by CBS as "strange, incredible, bizarre, fantastic"; Composer Constant went on to say it wasn't until much later that he learned that two of his cues had been spliced together to become its Main Title and End Credits THEME for this U.S. Television series.

Honorable mentions: The Prisoner, The X-Files, The Munsters, Simon and Simon, Star Trek. I'm sure I'm forgetting some.


Via the Free Arab Forum, an article on the prospects for reform in Syria.


Should this be considered for a Darwin Award?
A South Korean man has died after reportedly playing an online computer game for 50 hours with few breaks.

The 28-year-old man collapsed after playing the game Starcraft at an internet cafe in the city of Taegu, according to South Korean authorities.

The man had not slept properly, and had eaten very little during his marathon session, said police.


Interesting review of Condoleezza Rice's tenure as Sec of State thus far.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Benjamin Netanyahu has resigned as Israeli finance minister, in protest over the Gaza pullout. It's well known that Bibi is interested in Sharon's job, so it's interesting how he timed this: late enough in the timeline so as to have little actual effect upon the pullout which he is supposedly protesting, but near enough to Israeli election season so that his brave act of conscience will still be in Israeli voters' minds when they go to the polls.


Good column by Salman Rushdie, a man whose life was disrupted by Islamic fundamentalism before most of us paid any attention to it.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


I came across this great collection of record album cover art. There are a lot of excellent ones, but this is probably my favorite:

It also happens to be a fantastic record. Those of you unfamiliar with the brilliant Juan Garcia Esquivel should seriously consider checking him out.  Posted by Picasa

Friday, August 05, 2005


Jonah Goldberg outdoes himself today:
It turns out that the famously "homegrown" terrorists of the London bombings were much more like John Walker Lindh or even the Patty Hearst types of the 1960s and '70s. Radical chic may be as a big a part of the story as radical Islam.

We've always understood this was the case to a certain extent. Osama bin Laden's prattling about the Crusades, for instance, merely shows how poisoned Islamism is by Western Marxism and anti-imperialism. Muslims used to brag about winning the Crusades. It was only after the West started exporting victimology that Islamic and Arab intellectuals started to whine about how poorly they'd been treated.

I really don't know from where Jonah drew this analysis. It takes a very, very, very special kind of dumb to look at the phenomenon of radical Islamism and see...Marxism. There may be some element of radical chic in young Western Muslims turning militant, but I've seen no evidence for this among militants from the Muslim world, and of course, true to form, Jonah doesn't present any. His claim that Islamism is "infected by Marxism" only makes sense when you understand that he is very angry about not having been around to peddle his unique brand of smug during the Cold War, and thus must continue to discover Marxism's pernicious effects everywhere.

Regarding anti-imperialism, maybe it's me, but I think you're entitled to be anti-imperialist when you've been colonized, as much of the Arab world was at the time that modern radical Islam was born. There was really no need to import victimhood into the Arab world, because Arabs were actual victims of imperialism.

As I've written before, radical political Islam grew up and should be understood primarily as a response to imported Western secular ideologies such as fascism and socialism. It's true that some Islamists have incorporated a quasi-Marxian critique into their ideology, but to locate the source of the problem with Marx, or with "whining intellectuals" or with whatever other conservative bogeyman Goldberg comes up with, and ignore the factors which made such ideas attractive, specifically Western support for authoritarian regimes in exchange for access to oil, is just bafflingly ignorant.

One more comment about "victimhood." It's funny how Goldberg condemns this mentality in America's enemies, but absolutely revels in it and helps to cultivate it among conservatives in regards to American media's purported hostility to right-wing ideas. To the extent that a sense of victimhood must be fostered in order to consider one's self a "radical" fighting against "the system," American conservatives do this about as well as anyone.


Via Majikthise, Charlie Murphy ("What did the five fingers say to the face?")says that Chappelle's Show is over.

Very sad if true. Goodbye to the funniest show on television. I think I laughed harder at Black Bush than almost anything else I've ever watched on the tube.

The partially completed third season will, I suppose, occupy a place in TV lore similar to My Bloody Valentine's never completed follow-up to Loveless.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


Israel has announced plans to build more houses in the Beitar Ilit settlement, south of Jerusalem, near the Palestinian town of Bethlehem.
Beitar Ilit is already home to more than 20,000 settlers. The extension of the settlement would make it part of the Gush Etzion settlement bloc.

US President George Bush has warned Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon against further settlement expansion in the West Bank.

The expansion also contravenes commitments made by Israel under the US-backed roadmap peace plan.

Here's an article from yesterday's Daily Star by Yossi Alpher, a senior adviser to former Israeli PM Ehud Barak, who argues that Israel's settlement policy has proven largely counterproductive to Israel's genuine security. Alpher does pose an intriguing question, though:
Did the spread of settlements, particularly in the West Bank, constitute a factor in the PLO's decision in 1988 to negotiate a two-state solution - in the sense that, if Palestinians had waited much longer there would have been little left to negotiate? This is an intriguing theory that could, in a sense, justify the construction of settlements retrospectively at the strategic level.

But by the same token, the more the settlements continue to spread today in the West Bank, the more the moderate Palestinians are beginning to argue that they will soon preclude any possibility of separating the two peoples into two separate states. The day that viewpoint again becomes official PLO policy, the settlements will indeed cease to be a main focus of violence because, thanks to them, the green line will no longer function as a border and Palestinian violence will be directed indiscriminately at all Israelis.

In this context, some opponents of disengagement argue that the West Bank mountain heartland settlements, as an expression of the right of the Jewish people to live in the cradle of biblical Hebrew civilization, are worth any security price. However, from a national Jewish standpoint, this can only be termed a suicidal approach.

Also related, an article from the San Francisco Chronicle regarding Israeli efforts to prevent Jewish immigration into Germany:
The Israeli government, concerned about the declining number of Russian Jews emigrating to Israel, has persuaded Germany to institute unprecedented measures restricting the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union, according to several Israeli officials.

Prompted by an intense behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign waged by Israel, new immigration rules would grant residence only to Jews from the former Soviet Union who are under 45, fluent in German and financially stable. The rules, announced late last month, do not include Jews from other non- Soviet countries or any other ethnic or religious group. They are expected to take effect at the beginning of next year.

Israel has long been concerned about diaspora Jews emigrating to anywhere but Israel.

Is this is ironic, or just tragic? Israel pressures Germany to prohibit the immigration of Jews to Germany in the hopes that those Jews will then decide to immigrate to Israel and strengthen Jewish numbers vis a vis non-Jewish residents of Israel-Palestine, helping to counter the demographic threat posed by a growing Arab population and maintain Israel's integrity as Jewish state. Get your head around that.

Even more troubling is the fact that many of new immigrants to Israel will be provided incentives to move into West Bank settlements. Contrary to what some believe, the majority of settlers are not religious fanatics, but economically disadvantaged Israelis, many of them recent immigrants, who are induced to move to settlements through massive government subsidies.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Christopher Hitchens is now writing in NRO's the Corner.


New regular feature, friends. I won't attempt reviews, I'll just throw 'em out. First entry is Rev, by Ultra Vivid Scene, from 1992. I've spun this disc probably as many times as any in my collection.


President Bush is preparing to take the longest presidential vacation on record.
The president departed Tuesday for his longest stretch yet away from the White House, arriving at his Crawford ranch in the evening for a stretch of clearing brush, visiting with family and friends, and tending to some outside-the-Beltway politics. By historical standards, it is the longest presidential retreat in at least 36 years.

The August getaway is Bush's 49th trip to his cherished ranch since taking office and the 319th day that Bush has spent, entirely or partially, in Crawford -- nearly 20 percent of his presidency to date, according to Mark Knoller, a CBS Radio reporter known for keeping better records of the president's travel than the White House itself. Weekends and holidays at Camp David or at his parents' compound in Kennebunkport, Maine, bump up the proportion of Bush's time away from Washington even further.

On the one hand, as an aspiring Man of Leisure myself, I can't get too worked up over long vacations, though rather than spend five weeks at a fake ranch, fishing in a fake lake, staring at somebody else's cows, and avoiding horses because I'm a fake cowboy, I'd be more inclined toward a cabin on Orcas Island, drinking tea and shooting croquet with friends, strumming my guitar and letting out the occasional contented sigh.

On the other hand, it seems in extremely bad taste to flake off for a five-week vacation while a substantial part of the labor force has to cobble together several minimum-wage jobs to stay above water, not to mention the young men and women who continue to be picked off in Iraq and Afghanistan because of a post-war for which he didn't adequately plan. I'm not saying that all the problems of the world need to be solved before the president takes a break, just that he could, perhaps, occasionally give some small sign that he's aware and appreciates that people are in difficult circumstances. But, then again, who the heck knows what Bush thinks about the state of things. This is, after all, a man who apparently believes that Rafael Palmeiro was using steroids without knowing it, sooo...yeah.


I wonder if this was a treat for John Gibson:
An Air France passenger jetliner carrying 309 people skidded off a runway in Toronto and burst into flames yesterday afternoon while landing in a dangerous thunderstorm —yet no one died in the crash.

I can hear the Gibson quote right now, delivered through his little bunny teeth: "Maybe they should spend a little more time paying attention to the runway and a little less time hating America. What do you think, folks?"

Back in the sane world, I'm very glad that no one was seriously injured, though I am of course curious if, when they all thought they were going to die, anybody had time to tear their clothes off and get making with the love. These are the hard-hitting questions this blog is not afraid to ask.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


President Bush thinks Intelligent Design should be taught in schools alongside evolution.
During a round-table interview with reporters from five Texas newspapers, Bush declined to go into detail on his personal views of the origin of life. But he said students should learn about both theories, Knight Ridder Newspapers reported.

"I think that part of education is to expose people to different schools of thought," Bush said. "You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes."

The theory of intelligent design says life on earth is too complex to have developed through evolution, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.

It should be noted that the ID movement has scored a considerable success in that ID is regularly referred to as a "theory," which in fact it is not, as it offers no testable hypothesis.

More on Intelligent Design here.

Monday, August 01, 2005


In his need to continually beat his chest about something or other, Victor Hanson commits some seriously bad history:
Quite simply, Islam is not in need of a reformation, but of a civil war in the Middle East, since the jihadists cannot be reasoned with, only defeated. Only with their humiliation, will come a climate of tolerance and reform, when berated and beaten-down moderates can come out of the shadows.

Yes, let us openly wish for civil war. That way, we can declare Iraq to be a success. As for Hanson's "humiliate 'em" strategy, a sense of humiliation at the hands of an invasive West is widely acknowledged to be one of the roots of Islamic fundamentalist rage. Hanson's solution is to crank that humiliation up a few notches. Israel has been using this strategy against Hamas and other Palestinian Islamist groups since the first intifada in 1987, shall we consider how well it's served them? I'm not suggesting, as Hanson and his sort would probably insist I am, that militant fundamentalists just need a hug, but there is a difference between discrediting an ideology, which should be our project, and humiliating its adherents, which would likely produce more of the same.
The challenge for the Middle East is analogous to our own prior war with Hitler who sought to redefine Western culture along some racial notion of a pure Volk long ago unspoiled by Romanizing civilization. Proving the West was not about race or some notion of an ubermenschen ruling class did not require an “internal dialogue,” much less another religious reformation, but the complete annihilation of Nazism.

Can we go a day without somebody making this lazy, patently ridiculous analogy? We didn't go to war with Germany to disprove Nazi ideology, we went to war to defeat Nazi armies, which were, like, running all over the place with the tanks and the planes and the motorcycles with the sidecars and the Achtung! Al Qaeda fields no similar army, and represents an entirely dissimilar threat. They're waging a global insurgency and propaganda war, one they win simply by not losing. The global war on terror, err, the global struggle against violent extremism is a battle of ideas to a much greater extent than was the war against Hitler, and the prosecution of the one should and will be substantially different from the other. With the Bush administration trotting out a bevy of new slogans and essentially adopting John Kerry's strategy for combating violent extremism, Hanson would seem one of the few people who doesn't get this by now.
Contrary to popular opinion, there has not been a single standard doctrine of hatred in the Middle East. Radical Islam is just the most recent brand of many successive pathologies, not necessarily any more embraced by a billion people than Hitler’s Nazism was characteristic of the entire West.

In the 1940s the raging -ism in the Middle East was anti-Semitic secular fascism, copycatting Hitler and Mussolini — who seemed by 1942 ascendant and victorious.

Between the 1950s and 1970s Soviet-style atheistic Baathism and tribal Pan-Arabism were deemed the waves of the future and unstoppable.

By the 1980s Islamism was the new antidote for the old bacillus of failure and inadequacy.

Each time an -ism was defeated, it was only to be followed by another — as it always is in the absence of free markets and constitutional government.

Oy. Far from being an inheritor of Arab socialism and authoritarianism, as Hanson bafflingly claims, modern Islamic fundamentalism, which can be traced to Hassan al Banna's founding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1928, in fact began as a reaction to, and has continued to function as a mode of resistance to, those imported secular ideologies. It's certainly not difficult to understand the initial appeal of al Banna's philosophy. For much of the Arab world, the experience of modernization has been of Western governments empowering small, unaccountable groups in their domination of crudely drawn Arab states in exchange for oil and other strategic concessions from the ruling clique. The Arab experience of secularism has been one in which the ulama was either co-opted or simply swept out of its traditional role as adjudicator, leaving no similar institution in its place to act as a check upon rulers who were then free to plunder and abuse as they would. And plunder and abuse they did.

So there's blame to go around for the bad ideas at work in the Middle East. Understanding the causes and dimensions of Islamic fundamentalism should obviously be part of any project aimed at reducing terrorism and increasing democracy in the region, but Hanson frankly doesn't seem interested in anything like this. His plan, which can be described as "give them a good, sound whupping and that'll learn 'em," is thuggish and unserious. It's true that there is a tiny number of extremists intent on causing great harm. Even if we could snap our fingers and make every one of these fanatics disappear in a puff of smoke, that would not end their war, as it would do nothing to diminish the appeal of their ideas.