Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Watching yesterday's Walt and Mearsheimer presentation on C-SPAN, and then reading Dana Milbank's column today, I begin to understand why his name has become a verb in some D.C. circles:
University of Chicago political scientist John Mearsheimer was in town yesterday to elaborate on his view that American Jewish groups are responsible for the war in Iraq, the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructure and many other bad things. As evidence, he cited the influence pro-Israel groups have on "John Boner, the House majority leader."

Actually, Professor, it's "BAY-ner." But Mearsheimer quickly dispensed with Boehner (R-Ohio) and moved on to Jewish groups' nefarious sway over Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who Mearsheimer called " Von Hollen."


This line of argument could be considered a precarious one for two blue-eyed men with Germanic surnames. And, indeed, Walt seemed defensive about the charges of anti-Semitism. He cautioned that the Israel lobby "is not a cabal," that it is "not synonymous with American Jews" and that "there is nothing improper or illegitimate about its activities."

Got that? Mearsheimer mispronounced the name of some Congressmen. (Gotcha!) Walt seemed "defensive" about charges of anti-Semitism. (I suppose Milbank expected him to embrace the charge?) Also, while it's apparently anti-Semitic to suggest that someone with a Jewish surname may have a special affinity for Israel, it's perfectly fine to imply that those with Germanic surnames may have a special affinity for anti-Semitism.

I have no idea of Milbank's particular views on the subject of U.S.-Israel policy, but this sort of lazy, irresponsible journalism only helps to obstruct a sorely needed debate. Part of the strategy of the pro-Israel crowd is to keep their critics occupied with accusations, sometimes subtle, usually not, of anti-Semitism, in order to avoid having to deal with the question of why the U.S. shovels some $3 billion at Israel every year. It’s almost comical that no matter how often or how much Walt and Mearsheimer differentiate between "American Jews" and "the pro-Israel lobby," so many of their critics refuse to hear it, and persist with the charges of racism and conspiracy-mongering.

Some have argued that Walt and Mearsheimer are partly to blame for this, that they left themselves open to criticism by defining the lobby too broadly. I think there’s something to that critique, but it’s also pretty clear that the two men would be libeled as anti-Semites no matter how narrowly or rigorously they defined their terms. In neither their original paper nor yesterday’s panel did Walt and Mearsheimer suggest, as Milbank asserts, that "American Jewish groups are responsible for the war in Iraq". Indeed, yesterday they went so far as to address and refute that very claim. The fact that Milbank, one of D.C.'s foremost peddlers of the conventional wisdom, would open his column with such a blatant lie, and probably receive no penalty for it, indicates how obscure and bizarre this discussion so often is in the U.S., and what an uphill battle is faced by those who want to put the U.S.-Israel relationship under greater scrutiny.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Could this not be considered anti-Semitism?

Answer: Because its authors are pro-Israel. Caricatures of spotty, sneering, nefarious, cabalist, string-pulling Jews are apparently permissible if those Jews are to the left of David Horowitz.

Saturday, August 19, 2006


Nasrallah is now the most popular figure in the Middle East, according to an Egyptian poll.

Friday, August 18, 2006


Just when I was having serious doubts that the Corner could possibly produce anything more stupid than Mark Levin's instant classic of knuckle-dragging wingnuttery "Videotaping a politician at a public campaign event is a dirty trick!", here comes Andy McCarthy, refusing to settle for a silver in the Olympics of dumb:
Remember back when the New York Times first disclosed the existence of the NSA's Terrorist Surveillance Program. A number of us contended that this should be grounds for a prosecution because it alerted the enemy to our signals intelligence efforts in wartime.

"NONSENSE!" replied the Times and its allies. You see, they explained, al Qaeda well knew that we were using every means in our arsenal to penetrate its communications. Telling terrorists about the NSA program didn't alert them to anything they weren't already well aware of.

Well, apparently the ACLU, CAIR, Greenpeace and the other "public interest" ogranizations who sued the government did not get the memo.

In order to convince Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to invalidate the NSA program, these plaintiffs had to establish that they had "standing" to sue — meaning that they had suffered some kind of individualized harm, something that was unique because it is not enough for standing purposes to simply claim a general objection to government policies.

So how did these plaintiffs claim to have been harmed? They are journalists, lawyers and scholars who do research and other work in the Middle East. But now, according to Judge Taylor's opinion, they have sworn in affidavits that "Persons abroad who before the program [became pubic knowledge] spoke with them by telephone or internet no longer do so." They are, she says, "stifled in their ability to vigorously conduct research, interact with sources, talk to clients," because people suddenly think the U.S. government is listening.

So which is it? Is the TSP leak a big nothing that changed no one's behavior, or a bombshell that changed everyone's behavior? Evidently, it depends on which scenario the Left believes will damage the Bush administration more on any given day.

Yes, because everyone knows that journalists, lawyers, scholars and al Qaeda operatives all go about their work with the same level of secrecy and suspicion*, and the fact that some journalists, lawyers and scholars changed their behaviour in the wake of the NSC wiretap stories is a strong indicator that al Qaeda responded in precisely the same way, after being similarly surprised. Yeah.

*(After all, they're pretty much on the same side, right? The latter group flies planes into buildings, and the former muddies our moral clarity and weakens our will to win with their "reporting," their "legal reasoning" and their "scholarly research.")

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Apparently, according to NRO's Mark Levin, recording what a politician says at a public campaign event now qualifies as one:
RE: ALLEN [Mark R. Levin]
Not one word about the Webb campaign's dirty trick in having one of its volunteers, camcorder in hand, harrassing Allen as he campaigns around Virginia. It's good that Allen has a mean streak, if in fact he does — enough compassionate conservatism. But I doubt his mean streak comes anywhere near McCain's.

Allen has been an excellent senator, and he was an excellent governor — which gives us significant insight into how he would govern should he become president. Nothing about him suggests any kind of discriminatory instincts. Yes, the libs will blow this out of proportion. That's what libs do, as they sanctify Robert Byrd "the Conscience of the Senate" and tolerate all kinds of racism and anti-Semiticism from their ranks. Allen slipped and apologized. Unlike Rich, I doubt it will be in most people's minds when voting, except those who want it to be.

I don't think I'm going out on a limb by suggesting that Allen's uttering of an anti-Arab slur is a plus in Levin's book. Even if it was in French.

Okay, now back to my hard liberal work of sanctifying Robert Byrd and tolerating all kinds of racism and anti-Semiticism...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


A big Kool-Aid OH YEAH! to Matt Yglesias for putting his finger on Charles Krauthammer:
He's one of -- if not the -- most genuinely pernicious people on the American intellectual scene. A forceful polemicist, blessed with the ability to engage in staggering levels of dishonesty on behalf of shockingly wrongheaded ideas. Or, as the vice president of the United States put it, "a man I admire very much . . . one great American . . . a superior intellect."

As if to demonstrate precisely Yglesias' charge, here's Krauthammer last week in Time, presenting his familiar fakakta version of Middle East history, in which the Israelis stand around making the desert bloom, pausing in their prayers for peace only long enough to repel periodic attacks from the undifferentiated mass of Jew-hating Arabs.
Something radically new is emerging in the Middle East: the century-old Arab-Israeli dispute has been transmuted from a nationalist to a religious war. And as a result, the Arab-Israeli wars are now merging into the global conflict between radical Islam and the West.

Well, not that radically new. Krauthammer and other Likud-types have been trying for years to conflate the U.S.'s war on terror with Israel's war on the Palestinians, and the conflict with Hezbollah has given them a perfect chance to try again.

The Israeli writer Amos Oz has written that the Arab-Israeli conflict is really three conflicts. The first involves the effort by Arab nationalist regimes to destroy what they perceived, not entirely unreasonably, as a Western colonial outpost in their midst. The second involves the effort by militant Islamists to restore all of historic Palestine as an Islamic waqf (religious endowment). The third involves the effort by the Palestinian people to assert their right to establish a state in part of their homeland. Conflating and confusing these conflicts only helps extremists on both sides, and handicaps moderates, which is, of course, Krauthammer's goal.

Saturday, August 05, 2006


Earlier today, I stopped by a garage sale down the block from my home, and managed to double the size of my indefensibly small DVD collection with the purchase of Blade Runner, Enter the Dragon, and Annie Hall, each one a genre-redefining classic in its own right.

The guy was asking $3 each for the films, and $1 for the hardback book I wanted. As a reasonably experienced market haggler, I know better than to simply fork over the asking price. Here's how it went:

How much for these?

Three bucks each for the movies, one dollar for the book.

I feel kind of bad not haggling with you over this, but $10 seems so reasonable.

We can pretend to haggle, if you want.

Okay. How much do you want for these?

Ten bucks.

Rrmm, how about ten bucks?

I can go down to ten bucks.

Sorry, I'm out of here.

Okay, okay! Ten bucks, ten bucks.

Fair enough.


Upon returning home, my first move was to watch the cavern fight scene in EtD where Lee takes on, like, fifty uniformed flunkies, dispatching them in various creative ways, using first only hands, feet, and orgasmic facial expressions, and then a succession of weapons, culminating, of course, in his Free Nunchaku Clinic, three astonishing minutes of film which are probably responsible for more self-inflicted backyard injuries than any others in cinema history.

Thence to Annie Hall, where I skipped forward to relive one of the formative experiences of my cultural life: The Marshall McLuhan scene.

I was thirteen, had nothing else to watch, my parents had rented Annie Hall the night before, there it was on top of the TV. I knew who Woody Allen was, but nothing more. I knew he was supposed to be funny. With a resigned sigh, I took the cassette out of the box, pushed it into the player, and plunked down on the couch. There were the opening credits, which would eventually become as familiar and comforting to me as an old blanket, then cut to this nerdy dude talking right at me in heavy Brooklynese about life, relationships, and old women in the Catskills. Heh, pretty funny. When it got to the doctor's office with the redhead kid as young Alvy ("The universe is expanding!" "What is that your business?!!"), I started to get into it, yeah this was definitely worth watching, but when it arrived at the scene were Alvy pulls Marshall McLuhan from behind the easel in the theater lobby to confront the pontificating pinhead behind him in line, the film achieved a state of sublime funniness for me. I'm not exaggerating when I say that I had a religious experience there and then.

The fact that I had no idea at that time who Marshall McLuhan only proves the brilliance of the gag.

Later, tonight: "If only you could see what I've seen with your eyes."


What does David Horowitz have less of: Shame or credibility?

Thursday, August 03, 2006


Here's a fun little exercise: Read Robert Pape's NY Times op-ed about the Hezbollah movement, and the phenomenon of suicide terrorism and its roots in resistance to foreign occupation (a subject on which Pape has written one of the definitive works.)

Then read Alan Dershowitz in today's NY Daily News, insisting that foreign occupation does not cause terrorism.

Then raise your hand if you can tell who's full of crap.