Saturday, May 20, 2006


I'll be taking an extended break from blogging as I concentrate on Arabic language study and writing my thesis.

Monday, May 08, 2006


This article in today's Washington Post gives some needed historical context to the current immigration debate. Shorter version: Claims that immigration was somehow more "orderly" in days past are nonsense. Immigration into this country has always been something of a free for all. Wage-depression has always been a genuine concern. And fear of cultural dilution and "race-mongrelization" have always been used to incite hatred toward newcomers.

I think John Winger put it well:
We're all very different people. We're not Watusi, we're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital A, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're underdogs, we're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold. But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt.




WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President George W. Bush on Monday nominated Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden as CIA chief, setting up a battle with some members of the U.S. Congress over having a military man head the civilian spy agency.


Some Congress members have said a general heading the CIA could give the Pentagon too much sway over U.S. intelligence gathering. Others have said he is too close to the White House and lacks experience building a clandestine service.

The CIA is in charge of gathering human intelligence and Hayden, the former head of the National Security Agency, has most of his background in technological intelligence gathering.

As head of the NSA, he was in charge of eavesdropping operations. Bush has said Hayden was the one who proposed the domestic eavesdropping program after the September 11 attacks.

As a matter of politics, this may be Bush's way of engineering a showdown over warrantless wiretapping. As a matter of practical, responsible governance, this is such a dumb idea that I strongly suspect it originated with Doug Feith.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


A few years ago, there was a rumor about that agents of the evil Lucas empire were going around buying up all prints and copies of the original versions of the Star Wars trilogy, because Lucas felt that his new versions represented the fulfillment of his true vision, and didn't want those of us for whom the originals have meant so much to be able to enjoy them without feeling his cold, clammy, digital claw upon our shoulders. Perhaps this rumor was not true. I'm not sure, I can't find anything about it on the web. The point is that it certainly could be true, as this sort of Stalinist airbrushing is completely in keeping with the controlling cultural despot George Lucas has become. This is, after all, the man who signed off on Greedo shooting first. You know, Evil.

After hearing that the original films would soon no longer be available anywhere in the galaxy, I hunted down the best versions of them available, and transported them in secret to be kept safe by my relative in the country, Mr. Underhill.

But, surprise. The Evil One announced the other day that he will now be releasing the original, un-digitally marred trilogy on DVD. I suspect this may be a ruse to draw the last extant copies of the old films out into the open, where they may be rounded up by his troops and disposed of. Now is the time for caution. At least I'm not one of the suckers who bought the recently released DVD versions of the digitally revamped films, as the upcoming DVDs will include those versions along with the orgininals.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


Following on Rob's excellent post yesterday about The Cult of the Will to Torture and Kill, Holy Dolphin Girl chimes in with this doozy on the Moussaoui verdict:
Excuse me, I'm sorry, and I beg your pardon, but the jury's decision on Moussaoui gives me a very bad feeling. What we witnessed here was not the higher compassion but a dizzy failure of nerve.

How removed from our base passions we've become. Or hope to seem.

It is as if we've become sophisticated beyond our intelligence, savvy beyond wisdom. Some might say we are showing a great and careful generosity, as befits a great nation. But maybe we're just, or also, rolling in our high-mindedness like a puppy in the grass. Maybe we are losing some crude old grit. Maybe it's not good we lose it.

No one wants to say, "They should have killed him." This is understandable, for no one wants to be called vengeful, angry or, far worse, unenlightened. But we should have put him to death, and for one big reason.

...He could have stopped it. He did nothing. And so 2,700 people died.

Yeah, no one wants to say "They should have killed him" except for almost the entire conservative media. Nothing says "political bravery" like calling for the death of Muslim terrorists on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Far from being cowed by the forces of liberal oversensitivity, as Noonan insists, I think the Moussaoui jurors displayed real nerve, real will, in applying our nation's laws appropriately, and rising above the atmosphere of vengeance and fear that has been stoked by our government and media in general, and by the prosecution in this case in particular.

Dahlia Lithwick's coverage of the trial has typically been very good.


In the midst of criticizing Tom Hayden, Andrew Sullivan writes:
It still amazes me how the far left is still much, much more concerned with bringing George Bush down than in building Iraq up. The contempt some of them once had for the Iraqi people's fate - they were quite happy to see Iraqis consigned for decades to Saddam's tender mercies - is now matched by their zeal to abandon the country to Jihadists and theocratic Shiite thugs.

I've concluded that Sullivan occasionally takes a sort of hallucinogenic "political independent" drug that causes him to see things that aren't there. Read Hayden's post and you might notice that it contains not a single mention of George W. Bush, odd for a piece which is supposedly concerned with bringing Bush down. Sullivan can't for a moment consider that Hayden, or anyone, might genuinely believe that U.S. troops are currently the most significant cause of violence in Iraq, but if he stares at Hayden's post long enough he can just see the Bush-hatred emerging, like a zebra's head from a tree stump. Dude! I'm freaking out! Deep breaths, deep breaths, it's cool, it's cool. Have a cigarette, Andrew.

The tiresome canard that the left (or any significant portion of it, far or near) wants Bush to fail more than it wants Iraq to succeed is just that. It's trash. It's a way for conservatives (and "independents") to shout "Yoink!" and escape through a rhetorical trap door. I've been around some lefties whose hatred of Bush approaches the cultishly fanatical, but never once have I heard any of them express the wish that Iraq collapse (even more) so that Bush would be politically damaged. The claim that leftists "were quite happy to see Iraqis consigned for decades to Saddam's tender mercies" is likewise an historically innaccurate libel. It was a conservative president who sided with Saddam against Iran, even after it was revealed that Saddam had used chemical weapons against Iranian troops and Iraqi Kurds. It was another conservative president who abandoned the Iraqi Shi'a to slaughter after encouraging them to rise up. It hardly needs pointing out that, if we're keeping score, and we should be, the American left's record of support for human rights, including in Iraq, beats the right's with a big, big stick, and that the vast majority of human rights organizations worldwide operate from the political left, a fact which conservatives rarely hesitate to point out when trying to dismiss politically inconvenient reports issued by those organizations.

(For the record, I disagree with a lot of Hayden's critique. I think Packer is of the two best American journalists covering the Iraq story, along with Anthony Shadid. I have no knowledge of Packer ever "fix[ing] the facts to suit the policy he favors," as Hayden claims. Indeed, Packer's body of work on the war, in addition to being simply great journalism, has been, in my view, a very serious and candid attempt at coming to grips with his initial support for the war, and with the war's implications for the future of liberalism and American foreign policy.)

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


As Jacob Weisberg notes, The Star-Spangled Banner is a pretty poor national anthem. Matt Yglesias notes that it was written during, and memorializes, a fairly dishonorable war. I'll add that it's a song written about a flag, for pete's sake. A national anthem should be a big shout out to the neighborhood, a sort of national boast, and I'm sorry but the SSB just doesn't represent like it should represent: "We're free, we're bave, but how about that flag, eh? Eh? Ya like that flag?" I've got nothing against the flag, I like it a lot in fact, but I just think that our anthem, rather than commemorating the flag's staying power during a right boner of a war, should list things of which we're proud, the qualities we admire and to which we continue to aspire. A good American anthem would include references to the Bill of Rights, barbecue, and Blue Note records.

I've always been partial to the Philippine national anthem. The Ukrainian one is close to my heart for obvious reasons, and of course the French have themselves a beauty, excellent for singing in clubs in occupied North Africa.


On the passing of John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006), I'll just mention that he was the only guest I ever saw on Firing Line who made William F. Buckley visibly insecure (all the stranger because the two were friends.) Usually it was Buckley who would assume a superior, condescending posture toward his guests, causing them to scrape and scramble for some way toward the rhetorical high ground. Not so with Galbraith, who slouched his ginormous frame into the chair opposite Buckley and held forth while barely glancing in Buckley's direction for the entire episode, while Buckley simpered and stuttered.

I miss Firing Line.