Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Looks like The Man has a problem with certain denizens of the night exercising their political rights.
Self-described vampire and Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Jonathan "The Impaler" Sharkey has been arrested on Indiana charges of stalking and escape.

Sharkey is wanted in Indianapolis on the charges on which bond has been set at $100,000, the Princeton (Minn.) Union-Eagle reported.

Princeton police said their search discovered the May 2005 warrants that led to Sharkey's arrest Monday.

Sharkey, 41, a native of Elizabethtown, N.J., has lived in Princeton since October.

Sharkey gained the limelight earlier this month with his Friday the 13th announcement of his candidacy for Minnesota governor under the Vampires, Witches and Pagans Party banner.

Among his proposals was one that would use impalement to execute murderers, rapists and terrorists.

Friends, we all know that "stalking" and "escape" (usually with "biting" and "suck" in between) are central to a vampire's identity. This sort of blatant prejudice against nosferatu belongs back in the Old Country.

I expect Raoul Vega will have something to say about this.

Monday, January 30, 2006


Via Andrew Sullivan, Fred Barnes on the Diane Rehm show:
DR: What about the president's own service in the military?

FB: Well, he didn't shirk. He joined the national guard. At one time, it's reported--I don't know whether--I have not myself personally confirmed this--that he volunteered for Vietnam and was turned down. He volunteered--

DR: Turned down?

FB: He was a flier. Well, he wasn't in a unit that would get him over there or something. It's been, it's been widely reported--

DR: Fred, where'd that come from? I've never heard that before.

FB: Oh sure. What? That he'd--

DR: That he volunteered to go to Vietnam.

FB: He volunteered for Vietnam duty and didn't get there. I don't think I'm making this up.

DR: Can you cite me some evidence on that?

FB: I thought it was quite widely known.

DR: Never heard that one before.

FB: Really? Well, I've heard it many, many times.

Of course, every time it was from Karl Rove...

Sunday, January 29, 2006


Haven't these people suffered enough?
Canadian pop star Bryan Adams is performing in Pakistan's port city of Karachi to raise money for survivors of last October's earthquake.

It is the first concert by a Western pop star in the country since the 11 September terror attacks in the US.

Saturday, January 28, 2006


I just had to post this, sent to me by El Stu: Frank Zappa sitting in with Pink Floyd on an extended version of Interstellar Overdrive. Enjoy. I certainly did.


Most of what I've read and those I've spoken to strongly confirms that the Palestinian vote was first and foremost a rejection of the corruption and incompetence of Fatah. Money has poured in from various sources; millions of dollars have disappeared into the pockets of various bureaucrats and party good old boys. Jobs, international aid and scolarships have been doled out by Fatah members to their own families and friends. Conservative estimates put unemployment at around 40%. So they threw the bums out.

The big questions are whether Hamas will prove competent at governing, and, more significantly, whether the realities of governing will cool Hamas out. As to the first, I think probably. Hamas has proven well-organized and capable of picking up much of the social services-slack left by Fatah, so I'd be surprised if their move into governance wasn't more or less smooth. As to the second, I really don't know. We don't have to look very far in the region to see examples of terrorists who were rehabilitated as politicians, and I think Hamas is probably a more ideologically diverse organization than is recognized, but the fact remains that their charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and this is a major problem, not least in that it provides Israeli hardliners the perfect excuse to continue to refuse talks as they consolidate the large settlement blocs in the West Bank. There's no downplaying this element of Hamas's program. History has clearly shown that eliminationist rhetoric must be taken seriously.

Many have argued that a good way to deal with Islamist parties is to allow them into the democratic process, that the practice of conventional politicking will moderate them, or at least produce moderate factions within them. Palestine will be a test of this idea, though once again we can't ignore that it's taking place within the context of a military occupation. It's my strong feeling that true peace and security will never be achieved while the Israeli occupation persists, and that the constant delay of final status negotiations on borders, refugees and Jerusalem, has only benefited hardliners on both sides.

Despite the protestations from the usual suspects, I don't think the vote for Hamas represents a vote for war. All reliable poll information that I know of shows that a majority of Palestinians still believe in a two-state solution, they just don't believe anymore that Fatah is capable of delivering it. They watched throughout the 90s, saw the handshakes on the White House lawn, saw partial sovereignty granted, saw Arafat's celebratory return to Gaza, even as they saw the settlements grow, the checkpoints proliferate, and the occupation intensify. Here in the U.S. Israel's apologists can pretend the occupation doesn’t exist, but for Palestinians this is not an option. To live under occupation is to live in a kind of purgatory; its various inhumanities attend their daily lives in countless ways. Frankly, I think it's a miracle that the Palestinians should have any faith whatsoever in democracy at this point, but they do. It's clear, though, that one element of the Hamas victory is that they are seen as being willing to fight back against Israel in a war that is being waged against the Palestinians every day. A final question is whether they'll be willing or able to transform this credibility into tangible steps toward ending the occupation, achieving Palestinian sovereignty, and creating a stable state without revanchist ambitions.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


As an X-Men fan and collector from waaaaay back, I'd just like to say that Kelsey Grammar as Dr. Hank McCoy is an inspired bit of casting.

And I'm just all giddy about Colossus being in the movie for more than ten seconds this time.

And yes, I stopped collecting comics the same summer I kissed a girl for the first time, but I reject the idea that the two had anything to do with each other.


This is classic.

Q Mr. President...the FISA law was implemented in 1978 in part because of revelations that the National Security Agency was spying domestically. What is wrong with that law if you feel you have to circumvent it and, as you just admitted, expand presidential power?

THE PRESIDENT: May I -- if I might, you said that I have to circumvent it. There -- wait a minute. That's a -- there's something -- it's like saying, you know, you're breaking the law. I'm not. See, that's what you've got to understand. I am upholding my duty, and at the same time, doing so under the law and with the Constitution behind me. That's just very important for you to understand.

Secondly, the FISA law was written in 1978. We're having this discussion in 2006. It's a different world. And FISA is still an important tool. It's an important tool. And we still use that tool. But also -- and we -- look -- I said, look, is it possible to conduct this program under the old law? And people said, it doesn't work in order to be able to do the job we expect us to do.

And so that's why I made the decision I made. And you know, "circumventing" is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it, because I believe what I'm doing is legally right.

And now, a short play.

A cherry tree lies on the stage next to a stump. A small boy stands nearby with a hatchet.

George! What happened to the cherry tree?

I cannot tell a lie.

Why did you chop down the cherry tree, George?

May I--if I might, you said that I chopped the tree down. There-- wait a minute. It's like saying, you know, that I did something wrong. What I did was take this hatchet, and repeatedly strike the sharp edge of it against the tree trunk. And then the top part of the tree eventually broke off and fell over. And that's why I made the decision I made. And you know, "chop" is a loaded word, and I refuse to accept it.



Joe Sacco reports on detainee abuse.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Attorney General Gonzales was interviewed on NPR yesterday, defending the president's authority to conduct wiretaps without a court warrant. It was another lost opportunity to find out why, if the president thought he had the authority to conduct wiretaps without a court warrant, he felt he had to lie, err, mislead about having gotten court warrants for those wiretaps?


Josh Marshall makes an interesting point regarding a Hillary candidacy.
Though I wrote five years ago that I find the whole idea of a Hillary presidential bid wildly improbable, I say the following as an admirer and supporter of Sen. Clinton. (She's my senator now, after all.)

But here's a reason for not supporting her candidacy that I don't hear often enough: political dynasticism.


George H. W. Bush left office to be followed by two terms of Bill Clinton. He in turn was followed by two terms of Bush's son. If those two terms of the son are followed by the election of Clinton's wife, I don't see where that's a good thing for this country. It ceases to be a fluke and grows into a pattern. It's dynasticism.

Agreed that dynasticism is something be avoided, but in a way this is unfair to Hillary. Unlike George W., who has no apparent aptitude for policy or governance and who very likely never would have gotten involved in politics were it not for the doors his family name opened, it was clear that Hillary had some skeelz before getting together with Bill Clinton. Looking into my crystal ball, which, it turns out, is actually a cantaloupe, it doesn't seem unlikely that Hillary would have gotten into politics on her own, and succeeded.

But could she win? It's true that Hillary arouses more visceral, personal hatred amongst her enemies than probably any other single American politician, but I tend to think that the people who hate Hillary so are extremely unlikely to vote for any Democrat, no matter how Republican-lite they try to make themselves. And I still think that a Hillary win is the only thing that could begin to redeem eight years of W., because I'm not just looking for a win here, I'm looking for a repudiation.


Harold Meyerson:
Incompetence is not one of the seven deadly sins, and it's hardly the worst attribute that can be ascribed to George W. Bush. But it is this president's defining attribute. Historians, looking back at the hash that his administration has made of his war in Iraq, his response to Hurricane Katrina and his Medicare drug plan, will have to grapple with how one president could so cosmically botch so many big things -- particularly when most of them were the president's own initiatives.


How could a president get these things so wrong? Incompetence may describe this presidency, but it doesn't explain it. For that, historians may need to turn to the seven deadly sins: to greed, in understanding why Bush entrusted his new drug entitlement to a financial mainstay of modern Republicanism. To sloth, in understanding why Incurious George has repeatedly ignored the work of experts whose advice runs counter to his desires.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Charges against Orhan Pamuk dropped.


I'm sad to see that NBC has cancelled The West Wing. In its best moments (most of which were pre-Aaron Sorkin's departure) it was the most unashamedly pointy-headed show on TV. In its worst it at least allowed us liberals to live, if only for an hour, in a country where our president was not an intellectual homunculus.

Following up on this post by Lance, I wonder if it's possible for half a show to jump the shark? Because that's pretty much what The West Wing did when it made C.J. Cregg President Bartlet's Chief of Staff. Allison Janney is an excellent actress, and C.J. is a great character, but her overnight transformation into a savvy political power player has been one of the least convincing story lines since the Harlem Globetrotters landed on Gilligan's Island. On the other hand, the presidential campaign story, first the primaries and now the general between Vinick (Alan Alda) and Santos (Jimmy Smits), has been one I've found consistently interesting.

Any way, sad to see it go.


Dennis Ross:
For the past two years, Sharon has been the driver of developments between Israelis and Palestinians. It was Sharon who first announced a policy of disengagement from the Palestinians. It was Sharon who then took this principle and carried out Israel's subsequent withdrawal from Gaza and the dismantling of settlements there. Finally, it was Sharon who left Likud, which he helped found, and set the stage for elections as the head of a new centrist party, Kadima.

Unmentioned by Ross, of course, is the fact that it was Sharon decided to scuttle negotiations with the Palestinians, insisting that there was "no partner for peace," a particularly preposterous assertion from a man who spent almost his whole political life undermining any peaceful overture to the Palestinians, and who was the number-one political advocate for the creation of the illegal settlements which are now, and have been, the single biggest obstacle to a two-state solution. Framing the story within the span of two years allows Ross to peddle the story of Sharon the innovator with a straight face, but the story begins to fall apart if we look back two more years, and utterly evaporates when we examine Sharon's career in its entirety.

With Hamas poised to dominate Palestinian elections I suspect Israel's leaders are looking back somewhat fondly on the good old days of Arafat. It's important to recognize, too, how Hamas got its start, as an Israeli-supported Islamist alternative to the secular nationalist PLO. Smell that? That's blowback.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Review of two new books tracking the conflict between creationism and evolution, and an interview with Daniel Dennett.


In a somewhat overwrought essay on Sarah Silverman (via Andrew Sullivan), Terry Sawyer beautifully captures the basic cowardice of Ann Coulter's schtick:
Silverman's champions should acknowledge that the surface-level of her performance dovetails nicely with the right-wing brand of performative bigotry whose message is more along the lines of: "We all know that black people are lazy and feminists are ugly lezzies, so I'm going to be the only person brave enough to say it." Irony can easily get deployed as a responsibility dodging device. Ann Coulter buttresses comments such as "When contemplating college liberals, you really regret once again that John Walker is not getting the death penalty. We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors," with claims that liberals have no sense of humor about the threat of being mass murdered, even though part of her larger intellectual project has been to pathologize liberalism and make its claims synonymous with "Anti-Americanism". In this instance, irony is used to keep the argument about the ability of the attacked to "take a joke", even while the pernicious core of the argument seeps into popular discourse in a slightly less extreme form. Both the impolitic and the "politically incorrect" are themselves market norms; so common that everyone from Dennis Miller to Coulter can envision themselves heavyweight shadow boxers with the ghost of political correctness. Sarah Silverman is not Ann Coulter by any unsavory stretch of the imagination, but both of them spill outrageous sentiments into discourse only to cower back into suspicious explanatory coves of irony, sarcasm, or theoretical hide-and-seek.



The first thing that I noticed about Match Point was how neatly Woody Allen lifts right out of New York and into London. ("And, playing the Hudson River, the Thames.") There's a slightly different flavor to the proceedings, but the familiar pieces are there, the well-observed verbal slights, the bourgeois fatuousness, and of course the deeply pathetic quality of the scheming, infatuated man, who I haven't seen portrayed this well since Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters.

The plot's similiarity to Crimes and Misdemeanors, one of Allen's greatest films, has been commented on a lot, but I think it's a significant change that both the husband and the other woman are written as outsiders this time around. Nola and Chris are both users, in a sense, but Chris is better at it, or has been more lucky. The mother (the excellent Penelope Wilton, last seen as Shaun's mom in Shaun of the Dead) approves of him. As a male, the fact that Chris is a relentless, if studiously passive-aggressive, social climber is not a liability for him the way it is for Nola. It's also significant that Chris never really seems to struggle too deeply with the question of whether to commit murder the way that Martin Landau's Judah did in C&M. Once it becomes clear to Chris that his lifestyle is threatened by Nola, it's more just a question of when and how.

Allen sneaks some deft little gags into the film, which announce his presence both more subtly and effectively than any Hitchcockian cameo could have. The sequence where Chris fumbles to assemble the shotgun in the neighbor's apartment is a minor masterpiece of comic logic, and such an unmistakably Woody Allen moment that I could almost hear Benny Goodman's "Sing Sing Sing" playing off a scratchy phonograph in the background. (Also, from the moment it first becomes apparent that Chris intends to use a shotgun, of all things, I kept thinking of Orwell's Decline of the English Murder.)

Jonathan Rhys Myers and Emily Mortimer are both first-rate. James Nesbitt and Ewan Bremner as the murder investigators almost steal the movie with all of five minutes of screen time. At first I couldn't figure out whether Scarlett Johannsen was just doing a bad job acting, or doing a good job playing a woman doing a bad job fronting. Her performance didn't really gel until her post-audition drink with Chris, at which point she seemed to relax into the role, which makes sense given that 1) the character had had a few drinks and 2) could let her guard down as she confided in a fellow climber.

Anyway, I thought it was great work, if not exactly a return to form, from one of our greatest artists.

Scott Lemieux has a good review over at LGM.

Saturday, January 21, 2006


Gets 12 years:
A former Defense Department analyst was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison yesterday for passing government secrets to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group and to an Israeli government official in Washington.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said Lawrence A. Franklin did not intend to harm the United States when he gave the classified data to the employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, one of Washington's most influential lobbying organizations. When he pleaded guilty, Franklin, an Iran specialist, said he was frustrated with the direction of U.S. policy and thought he could influence it through "back channels."

"Back channels," yes. A Defense Department analyst felt he could more easily influence U.S. policy by working through an Israeli lobbying organization than within his own chain of command. That's just great

Thursday, January 19, 2006


Hamas Children's TV. I submit to you that the photos (one of the mom and son watching TV, one of the dad partying with furries) could be from what looks like a pretty good Palestinian remake of The Shining.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006


Today would have been Ben Franklin's 300th birthday, if only the inventor (and scientist, journalist, printer, politician, economist, ambassador, volunteer firefighter, musician, and philosopher) had invented some sort of life-extending device. But he didn't, the lazy bum.

Monday, January 16, 2006


Asharq Alawsat has a brief history of the Ba'ath Party in Syria.


An Israeli settler is acquitted of beating Palestinian farmers--after he confessed.
Avri Ran, who is thought to be the leader of the 'hilltop youth' settlers, was acquitted on Monday of charges of attacking Palestinians and of causing serious damage, despite the fact that he confessed to the crimes.

The Old South has risen again...on the West Bank.

Meanwhile, the stridently revisionist Israeli Insider is trafficking in the same old lies regarding "abandoned" property:
The army declared Hebron, the City of the Jewish Patriarchs, a closed military zone forbidden to non-resident Israelis.

Israeli police seized buildings and rooftops in a Jewish settler enclave in the holy city of Hebron on Monday, restoring order after three days of riots sparked by plans to evict Israeli squatters from an abandoned Palestinian market. (emphasis added)

From a YNet interview with a Palestinian resident of the "abandoned market."
Palestinians in Hebron have been facing a "Jewish intifada" for five days now, with stones, eggs, metal bars and bottles hurled at them and at security forces.

Nidal Awaiwi, who lives in the market area of the city, the focal point of tensions where settlers refuse to leave, told Ynet about the violence that he, his wife, and eight children have experienced.

"At first they burned stores in the old vegetable market, afterwards they came to us and the shops under the house, and started to destroy everything they came across," he said.

Awaiwi said that during one incident, "we were sitting at home knowing that settlers were rioting outside. They didn't stop throwing objects at the Palestinians, at the stores and businesses, and at passersby.

"Suddenly we heard the sound of stones coming closer to us, and then stones fell into the home. I looked outside and saw a large group of settlers who entered my home, into the children's room. They took the television that was there, went up on the roof, and threw it down. They threw everything that came to hand, rocks, bottles, and even large rocks. I don't know where they got them from…all the while they hurled abuse that I am ashamed to repeat."

The incident took place while Awaiwi's eight children were at home, huddled in fear and shouting in hysteria, he said.

"There is no life here. There is danger everywhere. The interesting thing is that the settlers must enter through the army post on the roof in order to enter my home. In my opinion, not only did the soldiers not prevent this, they also directed them to do it. Around midnight, soldiers knocked on the door. I asked if they were soldiers or settlers, they said soldiers, and I opened the door. I thought they came to clarify what happened before, but instead they placed me and my wife against the wall, ordered us to stand with our faces against the wall, and severely beat my oldest, 16 year-old son," said Awaiwi.

The soldiers stayed in the house from midnight until three in the morning. Awaiwi says he begged them to let him use the bathroom. "Although I told them I was a diabetic, they didn't let me," he said.


One of the residents, looking at the journalists surrounding Ashrawi, told a friend: "Everyone talks, nobody does anything, and everyone looks to steal and advance themselves. I swear by Allah that I'll only vote Hamas." His friend agrees, saying: "Inshallah (God willing), only Hamas."

Saturday, January 14, 2006


A Swiss senator carrying out an inquiry into claims the CIA has run illegal secret detention centres in Europe has said he has no doubt they exist.

Dick Marty accused the US of violating human rights and attacked European nations for their "shocking" passivity in the face of such violations....

The BBC's Imogen Foulkes in Bern says Mr Marty's comments come amid growing controversy within Switzerland over the leak of classified information from the Swiss intelligence service.

The document appears to confirm the existence of secret CIA interrogation centres in several Eastern European countries, she says.

It contains details of an Egyptian government fax which was intercepted by Switzerland's intelligence service in November.

The fax suggests the Egyptian government knew through its own sources that the CIA was running secret interrogation centres for terror suspects in Romania, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Macedonia and Kosovo.


My dad, like me a big fan of character actors, alerted me to the passing of Vincent Schiavelli on Dec 26. Schiavelli will probably be best remembered as Mr. Vargas in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, though my favorites were his role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and his brief but very memorable appearance as the assassin Dr. Kaufman in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Mr. Schiavelli was also an accomplished chef and writer of cookbooks. Here's his recipe for Coscia 'i Maiali Arrustutu (Sicilian Roast Pork Loin):

1 3-lb. boneless pork loin
1 tbsp. black peppercorns
1 small yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
6 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large pieces
3 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine

1. Preheat oven to 375 F. Generously salt pork loin, then put it on a roasting rack fitted into a medium roasting pan.

2. Wrap peppercorns in a clean kitchen towel, then crush by pressing with the bottom of a heavy skillet or tapping gently with a mallet. (Peppercorns should be cracked, not ground.) Pat cracked pepper on top of pork loin, then add chopped onions, patting them gently into place on top of loin.

3. Put potatoes into a mixing bowl and toss with salt and oil, then add to roasting pan. Roast pork and potatoes for 45 minutes, then add wine. Stir potatoes and cook for an additional 45 minutes, basting occasionally. Remove pan from oven, transfer pork to a cutting board, and allow to rest for five minutes before carving. Transfer potatoes to a platter, arrange sliced pork loin over potatoes, and top with any pan juices.

Friday, January 13, 2006


As staggeringly ill-considered as Pat Roberston's comments about Sharon were, a decidedly up upside is that the world will be spared (for now) Pat Robertson's Bible Land theme park in Israel. Mysterious ways indeed.

A quick word on Joel, the book that Pat referenced in his fit. Joel was a minor prophet with a small, very angry book, which in my King James doesn't even cover four full pages. You know how some people have little reading pulpits where they leave their open bibles? You can't leave the Book of Joel open and have it be all Joel. You're getting into Hosea or Amos on either side. Joel would very likely not get his own ride at Pat Robertson's Bible Land, probably get stuck in an animatronic Hall of Prophets exhibit. Still, Joel is enjoyable as a concentrated blast of prophecy, with the usual message: shape up.

I'm pretty sure Pat Robertson considers himself a prophet in the tradition of Joel, though records do not reveal whether Joel, son of Pethuel, had a private plane.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Reading about the latest attempt by President Bush to shield himself from criticism behind the bodies of the servicemen and women whom he sent to Iraq under-equipped and under-supported, insisting that he wants a debate that "brings credit to our democracy, not comfort to our adversaries," I was reminded of this story from the Economist which mentions the positive effect that American domestic opposition to Bush's policies has had on Arab opinion of the U.S. The criticism is seen as both an indicator of the sort of healthy democracy that many Arabs desire, and a sign that Bush's imperial pretensions (as they are perceived in much of the Arab world) are not supported at home. Credit to our democracy, in other words.

So remember friends, whenever you call President Bush an incompetent, misguided, crusading torture-lover, you're helping to win the war on terror.

Monday, January 09, 2006


In what may very well be the greatest blog comments thread of all time, Alec Rawls defends his theory that the Flight 93 Memorial in Pennsylvania is actually a secret "Islamo-fascist shrine." Do yourself a favor and just read it.

Sunday, January 08, 2006


Tapped by the mighty Lance.

Seven things to do before I die:

1. Address the UN.

2. Jam with Edward Van Halen.

3. Become fluent in Arabic enough to tell jokes well.

4. Knee William Bennett in the testicles.

5. Tell Leonard Cohen how much his work has meant to me.

6. Carefully clean and reload a Glock 17 in front of my daughter's prom date while taking long pulls off a bottle of Wild Turkey.

7. Get into a shark cage and go in the water with great whites.

Seven things I cannot do:

1. Work up an urge to climb a mountain, sky dive, bungee jump, or hike farther than it takes to find a decent drink.

2. Juggle.

3. Forgive George Lucas for Greedo shooting first.

4. Get my clothes directly from my body to the hamper.

5. Live somewhere where I can't walk to get a paper.

6. Cook without garlic.

7. Muck two pair, no matter how certain I am that I'm beat.

Seven things I say most often:

1. "Neat." As in bourbon.

2. "From the top."

3. "Fold."

4. "J'ACCUSE!!!"

5. "Sweetie, when you do that it makes daddy want to move to a new city and start a new family."

6. "Hold on, I want to try something I saw in a cartoon once."

7. "Jemand muß für dieses geschossen werden." (German: "Someone must be shot for this.")

Seven books I love:

1. De Profundis, Oscar Wilde

2. Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72, Hunter S. Thompson

3. In The Land Of Israel, Amos Oz

4. The Right Stuff, Tom Wolfe

5. My Uncle Oswald, Roald Dahl

6. Many Years From Now, Paul McCartney

7. Creation, Gore Vidal

Seven Movies I Watch Over and Over:

1. Young Frankenstein

2. The Asphalt Jungle

3. Way Of The Dragon

4. Jaws

5. The Godfather

6. Miller's Crossing

7. The Truman Show

Seven Songs I Play Over and Over Again:

1. The New Pornographers "The Laws Have Changed"

2. Amon Tobin "Get Your Snack On"

3. The Raindrops "The Kind Of Boy You Can't Forget"

4. Bill Frisell "Moon River"

5. Crowded House "Don't Dream It's Over"

6. Various arias from The Barber of Seville as sung by Bugs and Elmer. "Let me cut your mop! Let me shave your crop! Daiiiiiiiin-tillllll-eeee!" (one of Lance's, enthusiastically seconded by me)

7. Van Halen "Women In Love"

Seven things that attract me to...blogging:

1. Riches

2. Power

3. Influence

4. Constant endorsement offers

5. Whining

6. The ability to write things like, for instance, "William Bennett is a simpering, self-righteous, hypocritical doofus whom Jesus himself would leap over several rows of synagogue pews to knee in the testicles" and have it go out immediately for public consumption.

7. Riches

Seven people I want to join in too:

1. Stacius.

2. Leslie.

3. Rob.

4. Erik.

5. William Bennett.

6. Raoul Vega.

7. Brian.

Saturday, January 07, 2006


Amos Oz on Sharon's legacy:
They called him a bulldozer when he planted the settlements, and indeed he acted like a bulldozer when he uprooted them. The evacuation of the Israeli settlers from Gaza was a military operation. Sharon smashed the settlers in Gaza in the same blitzkrieg style in which he won his many wars. Not a single building in these settlements was left intact.

However, what he did in 35 years he only had two years to begin to undo. All the settlements in the West Bank and on the Golan Heights still stand as monuments to the old Sharon. He is leaving us taking with him the answers to two great mysteries: why in the autumn of his life had he suddenly converted so radically; and what else was he going to do in the direction of peace and reconciliation?

One thing, however, Sharon never succeeded in doing, not even when he evacuated Gaza to the last inch. He never really sat down with the Palestinians to try to talk with them the way one neighbour speaks to the other neighbour. Not even the way one godfather sits down with another godfather after a long feud. Ariel Sharon is leaving us even as he is signalling to us - I understand my mistakes. I finally tried to mend them, but life was just too short.

Friday, January 06, 2006


President Bush said Sharon "had a vision for peace." I suppose I have to agree, Sharon did have a vision. It looks like this.

Gore Vidal once wrote of Richard Nixon something to the effect that the reason only Nixon could go to China was largely because of people like...Nixon. Not just because Nixon had impeccable anti-Communist credentials, but because he personally had helped create a political atmosphere in which any peaceful overture to the Communists would be met with accusations of cowardice, treason and un-Americanism. I think this is true of Ariel Sharon in regard to the Palestinians and the Gaza withdrawal. It's to Sharon's credit that he recognized, at long last, that Israeli colonization of Gaza was impractical (I'm quite sure he never recognized it as immoral or unjust), but also unfortunate that the nature of Israeli politics is such that he was able to present himself as a "centrist" simply by agreeing to return a small portion of stolen land. There have already been more Israelis transferred into the West Bank than were removed from Gaza. Sharon insisted that he had "no partner for peace." In fact, he made absolutely sure of this.

Claims that Ariel Sharon made Israel safer are short-sighted. It is of course a good thing that terror attacks on Israelis have lessened over the last year (after a stunning increase near the beginning of his tenure), but I know of no one who would argue that Israelis enjoy genuine security. The wall that so many insist on crediting with preventing attacks has exacted a hugely disproportionate and morally indefensible toll on the Palestinians whose land it bisects, destroying the homes and farmland of thousands, and making normal economic and social life impossible for thousands more. The occupation which does so much to incite terrorism, as well as the building of settlements which the occupation facilitates, has continued, indeed has increased. As long as it does, and I know many Israelis understand this, it will always just be a matter of time before the other shoe drops. While I don't doubt that the Israeli people are resilient enough to deal with that sort of existence, I really don't think they should have to. But this is what Sharon left them.

Thursday, January 05, 2006


Tim Graham in the Corner, distilling the fetid oceans of wingnut "thought" into a single, highly potent gulp of goofballery:
Letterman's Cindy [Sheehan]-boosting -- her loss makes her an oracle who cannot be criticized -- shows how the liberal media culture no longer sees a war on terrorism worth waging.

Yes (oh yes!), a talk-show host sympathizing with a mother's loss of her son is an unmistakable indicator of the overwhelming liberal consensus that we should junk our military, turban up and embrace militant fundamentalist Islam. I mean, why doesn't Letterman just put an Osama in 08! sign on the front of his desk?

Letterman better hope that Bill O'Reilly doesn't decide to "get into his life."

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Juan Cole comments on Jack Abramoff's funneling embezzled money to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Abramoff's dense network of illicit finances and phony charities might end some political careers in the United States. But the investigation into his activities by the FBI also shed light on the ways in which rightwing American Jews have often been involved in funding what are essentially terrorist activities by armed land thieves in Palestinian territory.

Indeed, it was this terror funding of Israeli far right militiamen that tripped Abramoff up, since the FBI discovered that he had misled Indian tribes into giving money to the Jabotinskyites, and then began wondering if he had defrauded the tribes in other ways. (You betcha!) The Indian leaders were furious when they discovered they had been used to oppress another dispossessed indigenous people, the Palestinians, calling it "Outer Limits bizarre" and saying that they would never have willingly given money to such a cause.


Now here's the thing. If a Palestinian-American had diverted $140,000 from a Muslim charity to "security equipment" and "sniper lessons" for Palestinians on the West Bank, that individual would be in Gitmo so fast that the sonic boom would rattle your windows.


Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Mirette Mabrouk in the Daily Star on the prosecution of Egyptian opposition leader Ayman Nour.
Nour, the head of Al-Ghad party was charged earlier this year with falsifying signatures needed to gain legal recognition for his party. His trial began on June 28 and in a singularly unfortunate case of miscasting, the judge appointed was Adel Abd al-Salam Gomaa, who in 2002 gained international fame as the person who found American University in Cairo professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim guilty of "damaging Egypt's reputation abroad." One would have thought that the subsequent international hoopla over that trial then - and the ensuing embarrassment - would have set off warning bells among Egyptian officialdom. Apparently not.

This Nour trial did not start auspiciously. Seven people were tried along with him, five of whom alleged Nour had pressured them into forging the signatures; another was tried in absentia; and the seventh later retracted his statement two days into the trial, clearing Nour. He claimed that state security agents had pressured him into lying about the case. It took two attempts before Gomaa agreed to place the retraction in the record.

Gomaa refused to grant defense requests for access to important documents, among them the allegedly forged signatures. The defense also railed against the judge's initial refusal to allow them to subpoena an official of the Public Audit Bureau who had been seen discussing plans with another defendant to "entrap Nour in the forgery scheme," according to a Human Rights Watch report.


IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon has an item entitled "The Israeli Model for Counter-terrorism," which must rank with "The Ken Lay Model for Business Integrity," "The MC Hammer Guide for Successful Investment" and "The Frank Stallone Model for Achieving Mega Super-stardom" as the most eyebrow-raising of all time.

Strategic considerations in counterterrorist operations must account for the absence of an exclusively military knockout option against terrorism. Policymakers must therefore operate on two fronts against terrorism: the short-term battle against the terrorists and the long-term battle to win the hearts and minds of their constituents.

That's truly priceless coming from the man who notoriously stated that his policy toward the Palestinians was guided by the idea that they "must be made to understand in the deepest recesses of their consciousness that they are a defeated people."

Unsurprisingly, in the course of his remarks, Yaalon makes no mention of the fact that Israel has for almost forty years maintained a crushing occupation of the Palestinian people, or that the daily humiliations and violations of that occupation might play any part in fomenting Palestinian resentment, resistance and terrorism. I'd offer that one of the best defenses against being repeatedly stung by bees is to cease beating their hive with a stick. Or, you could do what Israel has done, which is to continue swatting at them while stealing their honey, and condemning the bees for their anti-Semitism.