Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Blogger Mike Stark assaulted by George Allen brownshirts. Video here.

Allen's response: "Things like that happen."


Via the Slog, the Bonecrusher makes a long-awaited return to the ring:
HARINGSEE, Austria, Europe's immense bearded vulture, sometimes called the "bone crusher," boasts a wingspan of nearly 10 feet, plucks meals from avalanche debris, and breeds its chicks in the subzero temperatures of the wintertime Alps. Its gastric juices register a "1" on the pH scale, nearly pure acid. Seething belly bile is a necessity for a creature that subsists mainly on weather-bleached bones.

One tough bird, to be sure, but Gypaetus barbatus has been suffering hard times for the past 100 years or so, all but eradicated from its Alpine roosts. Today, however, the bone crusher is soaring toward a comeback as the continent's most ambitious -- and priciest -- wildlife reintroduction project achieves small but biologically significant success.

The species was hunted nearly to extinction in the Alps by the start of the 20th century, mainly by farmers and sportsmen seeking government-paid bounties on eagles, vultures, and other raptors. But it was ornithologists, ironically, who administered the coup de grace. Dismayed by the bearded vulture's sharp decline, natural history museums dispatched collectors to kill specimens for mounted display.

We'll see how excited everyone is after the first few children get carried off...


Shorter Martin Peretz:
Mark Steyn is a horrible political writer, but I really get the sense that he hates Muslims, so therefore I must recommend him.

I, on the other hand, must recommend the comments section of The Spine, which is always entertaining, as the majority of commenters seem to appreciate the opportunity to point out that Peretz is a clown.

Monday, October 30, 2006


Michael Ledeen:
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is trying his hand at a new social endeavor: family planning on a national scale. The Iranian president has announced his willingness to decrease the number of hours worked by married professionals in an average week as a way of encouraging greater fertility. Ahmadinejad’s plan, which is said to be currently under review by the Ministry of Health, would reverse population control measures put in place by the regime over the past decade to boost prosperity. It envisions a near-doubling of Iran's population, to some 120 million souls, in the foreseeable future.

Ahmadinejad's initiative appears to have a clear objective: international dominance. "Westerners have got problems," the Iranian president has told reporters. "Because their population growth is negative, they are worried and fear that if our population increases, we will triumph over them." (London BBC, October 23, 2006; Melbourne The Age, October 24, 2006)

No doubt Jonah, who has been working on his book about fascism, will have had the same reaction as I. For this is right out of the fascist manual. Indeed, Mussolini once wrote an impassioned introduction to a very boring book (authored by one Richard Korherr, who I do not believe was from Bologna, and called something like "shrinking population, the death of nations") urging Italians to reproduce like Topsy. And of course Hitler had all those breeding programs, about which I will say no more for fear of being lumped in with Webb and Libby as a foul-mouthed (or is it foul-penned, or foul-keyboarded) sex fiend.

Wow, imagine that: Creating positive incentives to encourage families to have children. This Ahmadinejad is indeed a monster. Here in America, our own pseudo-populist reactionaries have developed a much simpler way of encouraging population growth, by simply prohibiting women from obtaining safe abortions.


Fareed Zakaria has an assessment of the tragedy that Iraq has become, and suggests some ways that we could make a smaller disaster out of a potentially huge one.

This is where he loses me, though:
There is one shift that the United States itself needs to make: we must talk to Iraq's neighbors about their common interest in security and stability in Iraq. None of these countries—not even Syria and Iran—would benefit from the breakup of Iraq, which could produce a flood of refugees and stir up their own restive minority populations. Our regional gambit might well lead to nothing. But not trying it, in the face of so few options, reflects a bizarrely insular and ideological obstinacy.

Unfortunately, there's a strong possibility that these changes will not be made in the next few months.

Not only is it a strong possibility that Bush will not change policy towards Iran and Syria in the next few months, even if he made a complete 180 degree shift in policy toward those countries tomorrow, I doubt that his two remaining years in office would be enough time to repair the diplomatic damage that his incompetent execution of ill-conceived policies and his endless trash talk has done.

But as news coming out of Bush's meeting with the fluffer brigade indicates, a policy shift is simply not in the cards. Reading the transcript, I see that I was perhaps over-hasty in my earlier characterization of Bush's understanding of his own policies as being "about as complex as a crayon drawing." With crayons you can still make out eyes, ears, and mouth. Bush seems to be working more with splotches of paint, noting that that one there looks like a spider, and we should kill it. And this one? This one looks kind of like a monkey, and monkeys are funny. But we should also kill the monkey.

Here's Rami Khouri, a journalist of whom I strongly suspect George W. Bush has never heard, on the growth of extremism in the wider Middle East:
[I]n the United States one hears of Hizbullah and Hamas described in the public realm almost always only as terrorist groups. The problem with this one-dimensional focus on the anti-Israeli resistance and military aspects of these groups is that it ignores everything else they represent. The recent war between Hizbullah and Israel, in part a proxy battle between the United States and Iran, revealed that Hizbullah taps into sentiments and political forces across the Middle East that are very much wider and deeper than only its successful quest to drive Israel out of Lebanon.

Whether one likes or dislikes Hizbullah, or admires or fears it, it seems abundantly clear now that its wide support throughout the Arab-Islamic Middle East and other parts of the world reflects its ability to tap into a very wide range of forces, sentiments and political movements. This is noteworthy for two reasons: Such forces and movements have never before come together as they did in the support that Hizbullah enjoyed in recent months, and collectively they represent a significant new posture of resistance and defiance of the United States and Israel that continues to reshape politics in the region.


It remains unclear if this represents a fleeting flash of emotions, or a historic new shift of political direction in the Middle East - a new regional Cold War in which Arabs, Iranians, Islamists, nationalists and state patriots join forces to confront the Israeli-American side with its handful of Arab supporters.

What is very clear, though, is that Hizbullah's political standing in the Middle East represents political forces and sentiments, and national issues, that far transcend the acts of terrorism of which it is accused, and that seem to totally define its perception here in the United States. It is a shame that a global power like the United States should allow itself to have such a provincial view of things in the Middle East. The toll of imperium is deep and blinding indeed, for dead Arabs and blinkered Americans alike.

When the only choice offered is between crusade and jihad, it doesn't take a 90 year-old orientalist to figure out what a majority of the people of the Middle East will choose.

Given this administration's inability to face reality and its complete lack of self-criticism, I think we've got to come to grips with the idea that we're not going to see any significant improvement in Iraq, or in the region, until we have a Democrat, or at least a not skull-clutchingly stupid Republican, in the White House, and the policies and ideology of the Bush administration repudiated.


Marc Lynch on al Qaeda and the upcoming U.S. election.

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Back in Baghdad after a year away, Anthony Shadid wonders whether things could be any worse.
As I stood in Firdaus Square this day, after invasion, liberation and occupation, I wondered what word described Baghdad.

"This is a civil war now," Harith Abdel-Hamid, a psychiatrist, had told me, trying to diagnose the madness. "When you see hundreds of people killed every day, corpses of people tortured in the streets every day, what else does it mean?"

"Call it what you will," he said, "but it is a civil war."

Perhaps. But I felt as though I was witnessing something more: the final, frenzied maturity of once-inchoate forces unleashed more than three years ago by the invasion. There was civil war-style sectarian killing, its echoes in Lebanon a generation ago. Alongside it were gangland turf battles over money, power and survival; a raft of political parties and their militias fighting a zero-sum game; a raging insurgency; the collapse of authority; social services a chimera; and no way forward for an Iraqi government ordered to act by Americans who themselves are still seen as the final arbiter and, as a result, still depriving that government of legitimacy.

Civil war was perhaps too easy a term, a little too tidy.

Friday, October 27, 2006


Apropos of the George Allen campaign's War on Jim Webb's fiction, Wolf Blitzer asked Lynne Cheney about a lesbian affair in the pioneer-era potboiler she wrote in the 80s (back when pioneer lesbianism was all the rage among the spouses of the Republican apparat), and about another of her novels in which "a Republican vice president dies of a heart attack while having sex with his mistress." (hrm) Cheney responded:
"Actually, that is full of lies. It's not -- it's just -- it's absolutely not true."

Well, the Democratic press release to which Cheney was referring may have been full of lies, however, the statements regarding her novels were not lies, were in fact completely true. Interesting. It's almost as if Lynne Cheney were, herself, lying...

Given her husband's own rather, shall we say, baroque approach to matters of fact and truth, it's interesting to imagine the home life these two reflexive prevaricators must have.

The Cheneys are at dinner. The sounds of people being tortured are heard in the background.

You were out late last night

No, I was in by 7.

I was here at 7, I went to bed at 8 and heard you come in at 11.

Now, that is just completely untrue.

You left the tank empty, I had to fill it up this morning.

Those are lies, lies and distortions. I filled the car up last night.

There was no gas in the car this morning.

You are full of baloney. That is just not true. Did you pick up the dry cleaning?

Yes, absolutely.

Where is it?

I absolutely did pick it up.

Okay, where is it?

I know precisely where it is.

Well, how come it's not here?

Sigh. You know, these types of smears and attacks are so typical.


I should say that it's strangely appropriate that Allen is choosing to do battle with Webb over fiction, given that George Allen, the tobacco chewing, cowboy boot wearing, confederate flag waving, noose collecting, pickup truck driving redneck from Southern California, is himself something of a fictional character, if a very poorly written one.

In Scooter Libby's books, pre-adolescent prostitutes are made to sleep in bear cages.


Brad Reed on conservatives' disappointment with Battlestar Galactica now that it's no longer a mirror for their best side. Among other wonderfulness, Reed introduces the terms "dorkofascist" and "jingonaut."


Patrick Seale:
Israel has killed 2,300 Gazans over the past six years, including 300 in the four months since Corporal Gilad Shalit was captured in a cross-border raid by Palestinian fighters on June 25. The wounded can be counted in the tens of thousands. Most of the casualties are civilians, many of them children.

The killing continues on a daily basis - by tank and sniper fire, by air and sea bombardment, and by undercover teams in civilian clothes sent into Arab territory to ambush and murder, an Israeli specialty perfected over the past several decades.

How long will the "international community" allow the slaughter to continue? The cruel repression of the Occupied Territories, and of Gaza in particular, is one of the most scandalous in the world today. It is the blackest stain on Israel's patchy record as a would-be democratic state.


Even more disturbing than the silence from London at these developments, and the collusion of Washington, is the entry into the Israeli government of Avigdor Lieberman as deputy prime minister. Born in Moldovia, Lieberman, a burly 48-year old, came to Israel at the age of 20. He is the leader of the far-right Yisrael Beitenu (Israel our home), a party composed mainly of Russian immigrants.

Best known for having recommended flooding Egypt by bombing the Aswan Dam, he is an ardent champion of the settlers and opposes any withdrawal from Palestinian territory. His solution is the "transfer" of Arabs out of Israel so as to create an ethnically pure country. He has advocated death for any Arab members of the Knesset who dare to meet members of Hizbullah or Hamas. In any truly democratic country he would be denounced and shunned as a dangerous fascist.

Instead, Lieberman is to be given the job of formulating Israeli policy regarding the "strategic threat" facing the country - a code word for Iran's nuclear activities. As Haaretz, the left-of-center Israeli daily, commented: "The choice of the most unrestrained and irresponsible man around for this job constitutes a strategic threat in its own right."


Mick Ronson.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I don't really have a comment about this Michael Ledeen post, other than to say that any idea to which Ledeen, Norman Podhoretz, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Santorum all subscribe is probably best avoided, and also that I would very much like to see these four in a remake of Duck Soup, although I would probably wait for it on video.


Dave Noon has some good comments on Byron York's account of President Bush's recent meet and greet with the conservative journalistic apparat, which, despite York's best efforts, reveals a president whose understanding of his own policies still seems to be about as detailed as a crayon drawing. Yes, Byron, the lines are big and bold and manfully drawn, but it's still crayon.

Cliff May, responding to York's piece, takes this lesson away:
We have indeed allowed the dominant metric to become that "people are dying and so the enemy is winning." The MSM have driven that message hard. The enemy can continue to make people die so the public will go on thinking the enemy is winning. And if the enemy is winning, we’re losing. In such a circumstance, the public will conclude: Better to cut our loses now than endure slow-motion defeat.

It’s this simple: Change the metrics or lose the war.

Now that's some triple distilled, 100 proof winger. Of course we're using the wrong metric, because the metric we're using shows we're not winning. Don't rethink or repair the strategy, just redefine "winning" in a way that shows the strategy is working.

May indicates that he thinks we should return to the Vietnam method of defining success by the number of enemy dead. That way, I suppose, every time a shopkeeper, lawyer, teacher, cabdriver, or teenager is killed, no matter by whom, we can chalk one up for our side, because they were probably with the insurgency anyway. What could go wrong?

It all makes sense, of course, when you remember that these guys still believe the liberal media lost that war for us, just like they're losing this one.


Via the Slog, Wired Magazine asked some sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writers for six-word stories. Favorites:
Machine. Unexpectedly, I’d invented a time
- Alan Moore

Longed for him. Got him. Shit.
- Margaret Atwood

1940: Young Hitler! Such a cantor!
- Michael Moorcock

Lie detector eyeglasses perfected: Civilization collapses.
- Richard Powers

Steve ignores editor's word limit and
- Steven Meretzky


Victor Davis Hanson:
The most frightening aspect of the present war is how easily our pre-modern enemies from the Middle East have brought a stunned postmodern world back into the Dark Ages.

Students of history are sickened when they read of the long-ago, gruesome practice of beheading. How brutal were those societies that chopped off the heads of Cicero, Sir Thomas More and Marie Antoinette. And how lucky we thought we were to have evolved from such elemental barbarity.

How brutal, indeed.
The water board technique dates back to the 1500s during the Italian Inquisition. A prisoner, who is bound and gagged, has water poured over him to make him think he is about to drown.

And yes, we are sickened.


Ralph Peters:
Iraq deserves one last chance. But to make that chance even remotely viable, we'll have to take desperate measures. We need to fight. And accept the consequences.

The first thing we need to do is to kill Muqtada al-Sadr, who's now a greater threat to our strategic goals than Osama bin Laden.

We should've killed him in 2003, when he first embarked upon his murder campaign. But our leaders were afraid of provoking riots.

Back then, the tumult might've lasted a week. Now we'll face a serious uprising. So be it. When you put off paying war's price, you pay compound interest in blood.

We must kill - not capture - Muqtada, then kill every gunman who comes out in the streets to avenge him.

Our policy of all-carrots-no-sticks has failed miserably. We delivered Iraq to zealots, gangsters and terrorists. Now our only hope is to prove that we mean business - that the era of peace, love and wasting American lives is over.

And after we've killed Muqtada and destroyed his Mahdi Army, we need to go after the Sunni insurgents. If we can't leave a democracy behind, we should at least leave the corpses of our enemies.

The holier-than-thou response to this proposal is predictable: "We can't kill our way out of this situation!" Well, boo-hoo. Friendly persuasion and billions of dollars haven't done the job. Give therapeutic violence a chance.
(emphasis added)

So the problem is that the streets haven't been running with enough blood? Jesus.

There is no curse in English or Arabic vile enough for the sort of person who calls for mass "therapeutic violence" from his comfy chair.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


Regarding John Judis's piece about John McCain frantically doing damage control in the wake of this Haaretz item, while Rob Farley and Matt Yglesias are right to point out that it reveals McCain in a confused, pandering fog, what's more striking to me is that we've apparently reached a point where a politician indicating, however gently, his support for Israel pulling back (almost, but not quite) behind the Green Line, that is, to its internationally recognized borders, qualifies as a potentially disastrous gaffe. That is chilling.

Let's remember that it was Bush who, in 2004, reversed almost four decades of U.S. policy when he recognized the legitimacy of large Israeli settlement blocs in the West Bank, and, even more astonishingly, took it upon himself to deal away the Palestinian right of return, effectively unilaterally deciding two of the major issues in the conflict in favor of Israel.

Under Bush, hardline Israel supporters have developed such a sense of entitlement that the mere hint that a McCain administration might move back toward a more "honest broker" approach is enough to get the klaxons ringing. Unfortunately, the American-Palestinian lobby doesn't have anywhere near the power to threaten consequences that the American-Israeli lobby does, which is one of the reasons we didn't see Bush tap-dancing then the way McCain has to now.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Shorter David Brooks:
"Listen, Sullivan, basing entire books upon lazy, questionable, overbroad cultural-political stereotypes is my beat. Back off."


Cruising the tacky, decrepit boardwalk that is Campus Watch, the better to understand exactly how my innocent, impressionable little mind is being sullied and perverted by the leftwing, Volvo-driving, plastic-recycling, Israemerica-hating professoriat this week, I came across Rachel Neuwirth's response to this article by Rashid Khalidi.

Khalidi's article is essentially a summary of his new book, which deals with the question:
Why did the Palestinians fail to establish an independent state before 1948, and what was the impact of that failure in the years that followed, down to the present? These questions are important, first, because Palestinian history must be properly understood if we are to comprehend the present, and because this history has significance in its own right.

In the West this is a hidden history, one that is obscured by the riveting and tragic narrative of modern Jewish history. In a sense, the history of the Palestinians has disappeared under the powerful impact of the painful and amply recounted story of the catastrophic fate of the Jews of Europe in the 20th century. However, achieving any serious understanding of the Middle East conflict requires comprehension of Palestinian history in its own terms, which includes but cannot be subsumed by Jewish and Israeli history.

This effort is important for another reason: namely, to ascribe agency to the Palestinians, to avoid seeing them either as no more than helpless victims of forces greater then themselves, or alternatively as driven solely by self-destructive tendencies and uncontrollable dissension.

Neuwirth's response begins this way:
Professor Rashid Khalidi raises a very pertinent question in his article Unwritten History, recently published in the Boston Globe. In essence, he laments that the Palestinians have not written down their own history and he observes that their failure to do so has made their claim for Palestinian statehood more problematic.


Peoples – real ones – know their history. History precedes the collective consciousness of a people. Jews, Kurds, Tibetans, Mongols, and a myriad others are very much aware of who they are. They need no latecomer to remind them of their origins, or to forge a newly minted history to redefine their identity. They know their past achievements and they have a common will for the future. So, if forty years after the word "Palestinian" entered the international lexicon – in its new, twisted and widely circulated meaning – we are still in search of their history, we may conclude it is because there has never been such a people. The "Palestinian people" was a late creation for political purposes aimed only at destroying the national aspirations of a real people – the Jews – rather than building a peaceful society.

...And proceeds to get worse from there. Suffice to say that these sorts of assertions of Palestinian non-peoplehood aren't taken seriously anymore outside of the Jabotinskyite fringe and Martin Peretz's dining room, so we don't really need to bother with them. (For those interested, Kimmerling and Migdal's The Palestinian People and Khalidi's earlier Palestinian Identity are two of the best works on the subject.)

In the way that one might follow a bad smell to discover its source, I decided to check out Neuwirth's website, which is called "Middle East Solutions." The site is built around Neuwirth's cunning plan for solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. And that plan is...population transfer. No, really, go read it. Rachel Neuwirth supports the complete ethnic cleansing of the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza. For their own good, of course. If you think this sounds suspiciously like other "solutions" you've heard before, you're forgiven. Neuwirth does not specify whether the Palestinians would be placed on train boxcars, but I suppose that will all get sorted out later, after they've been made to see how it's in their best interests to leave the homes and communities in which they've lived for generations, so that some newly arrived Russian immigrants can have a pool.

So the woman's obviously a nutcase, as if that weren't already abundantly clear. But leaving aside both Neuwirth's morally abhorrent advocacy of ethnic cleansing, to say nothing of her rather pathetic and disingenuous attempt to critique Rashid Khalidi, what interests me is this: How does challenging the fact of Palestinian peoplehood fall anywhere within the scope of Campus Watch's stated mission?
Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum, reviews and critiques Middle East studies in North America, with an aim to improving them. The project mainly addresses five problems: analytical failures, the mixing of politics with scholarship, (Good one! -ed) intolerance of alternative views, apologetics, and the abuse of power over students. Campus Watch fully respects the freedom of speech of those it debates while insisting on its own freedom to comment on their words and deeds.

As I wrote, the historical fact of Palestinian peoplehood has been pretty well established. The political argument against the Palestinians' right to a state in their own homeland, based upon crank theories about the undifferentiated Arab-ness of the Palestinians, however, persists.

It's one thing to police the debate about Israel, to defend Israel's reputation, and attack and attempt to intimidate its critics, or to vigorously criticize the Palestinian leadership as dishonest and corrupt. It's another thing entirely to suggest that the Palestinians don't exist as a people with a unique cultural identity, or that they exist only to the extent that they embody the desire of the Arabs to destroy Israel. That is, I think, unnacceptable. Such arguments, and the people who make them, deserve to be relegated to the same intellectual ghetto as Holocaust denial, and the Middle East Forum, which runs Campus Watch, puts itself squarely in such company when it publishes this sort of garbage.


You've got to be impressed with the total committment of a man who can survey the disaster that his words and ideas have wrought, for whom almost every newspaper headline is yet another puff of smoke from the wreckage of his ideology, and then conclude that it's "modern academics" who are out of touch.


Marc Lynch on the Fernandez Problem.
The State Department, and especially Karen Hughes, must back Alberto Fernandez to the hilt in this StupidStorm. If he's fired, or transfered to Mongolia, the United States unilaterally disarms in the 'war of ideas' as currently waged in the Arab media. While we do have 'rapid reaction' units coming online in Dubai and London, and CENTCOM has its own media outreach team, the fact is that Fernandez has been single-handedly carrying the American flag on the Arab broadcast media for years. America simply can not afford to lose him over a silly partisan media frenzy. And if Fernandez is punished, it's safe to guess that nobody will be foolish enough to step up and take his place and do what he did. And that will be a major loss for America in a place where it can ill-afford any more losses at all.


Monday, October 23, 2006


Mannion and Wolcott have a couple of good posts on Law & Order, and I'll just say that I really cannot stand Vincent D'Onofrio as Detective Goren. This is strange. I really like D'Onofrio as an actor, ever since I saw him in as Pyle in Full Metal Jacket. Loved him in Ed Wood, even with his voice dubbed. The Player? Hell yes. His performance in the "Subway" episode of Homicide is an acknowledged television treasure.

As Goren, D'Onofrio seems to offer a series of ticks, twitches and stutters for an actual portrayal, and it just seems entirely too put-on for me to enjoy. As a big Sherlock Holmes fan, I can appreciate the annoying know-it-all aspect of Goren's character, but something about it has never clicked for me.


Yglesias on criticism of the Lancet study:
Obviously, if the American and British governments -- or conservative think tanks and media outlets -- genuinely feel that the Hopkins team's methods were unsound, there's an obvious solution available to them: Design a method for a different comprehensive study of Iraqi mortality and fund its implementation. This is a sufficiently important question, and sufficiently difficult to pin down precisely, that it would make perfect sense for several different studies to be conducted.

Exactly right. But, of course, conservative think tanks would never conduct such a study, because they know that, whatever number they come up with, it will be more than we can bear.

Sunday, October 22, 2006


My own feelings about the International Solidarity Movement aside, I feel obliged to defend Rachel Corrie from the likes of Martin Peretz:
Here's the case of another forthcoming book, The Diaries of Rachel Corrie. The book is being published by the highly respected house, W.W. Norton. Shocked word from inside the house is that Norton plans to sell this as a latter Diary of Anne Frank. Anne Frank Rachel Corrie was not. The thought that she might be made over to be boggles the imagination.

Rachel Corrie was the young American woman who was killed in confronting an Israeli Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza in March of 2003. The rest of the story is very much in dispute, its circumstances having been hyped up by the International Solidarity Movement. The root of the story is really the roots of ISM, a virulently anti-Israel "peace" group that has fronted for Palestinian terrorism ever since it was started. In fact, ISM was complicit in the visit of two Pakistani-descended British Muslims who blew up a jazz club, Mike's Place, on the Tel Aviv beach.

"Complicit in the visits"? What the heck does that even mean? The extent of the terrorists' connection to ISM is this: They attended a memorial ceremony for Corrie, which was open to the public, and they told some people that they were "with" ISM. That's it. I suspect that Peretz is aware of this, covering his ass as he does with such imprecision.
Anne Frank had a tormented familial psychological life. But, in her place of hiding and in her arrest and deportation and in her innocent dream to go to Palestine (a part of the play that Lillian Hellman insisted be cut, but that's another matter), she was an innocent teenager. On the other hand, Rachel Corrie was a "peace tourist," inserting herself bodily on the murderous side of a deep historic dispute and feeling that she is nonetheless protected from fate. That is arrogance.

Not so much arrogance, I think, as naivete. It was naive for Corrie to believe that a country whose partisans trumpet its righteousness as vigorously as do Israel's wouldn't simply murder her in cold blood, that it might hit the brakes on the bulldozer before it buried her body under a mound of rubble.

Then again, part of me thinks she knew exactly what she was getting into. She'd spent several months living in Israeli-occupied Palestine, so it's likely that she was well aware of the brutality of which the IDF was capable.

Rachel Corrie was a young woman who put her body where her beliefs were. She gave up the comfortable life of an American college student in order to go and share the life of Palestinians under occupation. She felt responsible for the violence that was underwritten, continues to be underwritten, by the taxpaying citizens of the United States. Her activism, her willingness to put herself in harm's way because of her beliefs, both inspires and shames me, as it should inspire and shame us all.

I agree with Peretz, however, that the comparison to Anne Frank is inapt (though let's remember that Marty is basing his entire rant on "shocked word" from "inside" W.W. Norton, no doubt left for him at a secret dead drop where he gets all his hot tips.) Anne Frank was a child, a victim of circumstance. Rachel Corrie was an adult who made a moral decision to risk her life in the cause of justice. It would be more appropriate to compare Corrie to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, two northeastern American college students who travelled to the Jim Crow South to help register African Americans to vote, and were murdered, along with civil rights worker James Chaney, by racist thugs in Mississippi, 1964. Like them, Corrie left a comfortable life because she couldn't sit still for the violence being done in her name. Like them, Corrie was killed for it.

Rachel Corrie was "arrogant" like Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were "arrogant." She was a "tourist" like Goodman and Schwerner were "tourists."


Israel has admitted using phosphorous bombs in its war against Hezbollah this summer:
Israel has for the first time admitted it used controversial phosphorous bombs during fighting against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July and August.
Cabinet minister Jacob Edery confirmed the bombs were dropped "against military targets in open ground".

Israel had previously said the weapons were used only to mark targets.

Phosphorus weapons cause chemical burns and the Red Cross and human rights groups say they should be treated as chemical weapons.

The Geneva Conventions ban the use of white phosphorous as an incendiary weapon against civilian populations and in air attacks against military forces in civilian areas.

The U.S. has also admitted using phosphorous in Iraq.

Let the excuse-making begin.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Danny Gatton.

Thursday, October 19, 2006


Here's a story the axis of appeasement media have been completely ignoring:
An 81-year-old boater was in critical condition Thursday after a stingray flopped onto his boat and stabbed him, leaving a foot-long barb in his chest, authorities said.

"It was a freak accident," said Lighthouse Point acting fire Chief David Donzella. "It's very odd that the thing jumped out of the water and stung him. We still can't believe it."

Fatal stingray attacks like the one that killed "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin last month are rare, marine experts say. Rays reflexively deploy a sharp spine in their tails when frightened, but the venom coating the barb usually causes just a painful sting for humans.

James Bertakis of Lighthouse Point was on the water with his granddaughter and a friend Wednesday when the stingray flopped onto the boat and stung Bertakis. The women steered the boat to shore and called 911.

Surgeons were able to remove some of the barb, and Bertakis, who also suffered a collapsed lung, underwent surgery late Wednesday and early Thursday, the Miami Herald reported on its web site.

Ellen Pikitch, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, who has been studying stingrays for decades, said they are generally docile.

"Something like this is really, really extraordinarily rare," she said. "Even when they are under duress, they don't usually attack."

An 81-year-old man. Real brave, you cartilaginous bastards. When will these Neville Chamberlain marine biologists understand that we are at war with the stingrays?


Shorter Jonah Goldberg:
The Iraq war was a mistake, but many of the people who were against it were against it for reasons I don't consider appropriate. Therefore, I will continue as if I know what the hell I'm talking about.

Verbatim Jonah Goldberg, April 2002:
I've long been an admirer of, if not a full-fledged subscriber to, what I call the "Ledeen Doctrine." I'm not sure my friend Michael Ledeen will thank me for ascribing authorship to him and he may have only been semi-serious when he crafted it, but here is the bedrock tenet of the Ledeen Doctrine in more or less his own words: "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."...

The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense.

The fact that Jonah was taking his cues on Middle East policy from Michael Ledeen, the stark-raving neoconservative nutjob's stark-raving neoconservative nutjob, is pretty much all you need to know. Does anyone else get the distinct feeling that these guys' entire national security posture can be ascribed to their being picked on as kids?


Now here's an Iranian revolution that even President Bush can get behind:
"It is very easy to buy drugs in Tehran," 27-year-old A. told Ynet. He is well aware that drugs are banned under Muslim law but says that "it is permitted to smoke drugs and drink alcohol in parties that I organize."

He said police raided one of his parties once and arrested him and his friends. They were jailed for two days and asked to pay a fine.

His parties are held in a secret location in the affluent north of the capital. He says the south is poor and overcrowded.

"When I organize a party I tell my friends to tell their friends on the internet and by SMS," says A.

The head of Iranian Studies at the Tel Aviv University Prof. David Menashri sketched the changing trends in Iran: "There is life behind the veil. The Iranian youth is more secular than any Muslim country in the Middle East. The regime of the religious led to a rebellion in the direction of secularity and distance from religion. Young people dance at parties, leave for trips outside the capital and climb mountains at the weekend – they ski."

The Islamic Republic's Revolutionary Guards are in charge of enforcing strict Muslim laws and ensure the survival of the revolution.

"The Revolutionary Guards learned to live with this and today they are more forgiving to these things. Outside they behave like the regime wants them to, but at home they drink, go wild, and listen to western music. To a certain extent there is double life," Prof. Menashri says.

If the members of the Tehran posse could join forces with Michael Ledeen's Army of the Great Iranian Zoroastrian Revival, we might really have something...


One of the main questions I've been exploring in my study of the Sadr movement is how much control Moqtada himself actually exercises over the Mahdi Army, and the extent to which fighters who identified as "Sadrist" were committed to Moqtada himself, and his stated goal of an Iraqi Islamic state, or more committed to running neighborhoods and killing Sunnis. I thought that this article from last August, while giving a very good overview of the movement itself, somewhat overestimated Sadr's personal power, and this article from today's Washington Post confirms that his control over some of the more extreme elements which identify as "Sadrist" is virtually non-existent.

From what I've read, the Mahdi Army was always more of a loose coalition of militias than a single army, but in the violent months since the bombing of al-Askariya last February, there was a real question of whether Moqtada was in fact turning the violence on and off, as it seems he was able to do throughout 2003 and 2004, or whether he was really trying, and failing, to keep the lid on as he consolidated his substantial political gains from the December elections.

Ironically, the same things which originally drew so many young, angry Shias, many of them religious school washouts, to Moqtada after the U.S. invasion, his youth, his relative lack of scholarly credentials, his legitimacy derived from his martyred father, his militant stance against the U.S. occupation and the government created by it, and his slang-riddled, radical sectarian-nativist rhetoric, are the very things which have left him open to challenges from higher-ranking clerics for the movement's leadership, to charges of "selling out," and which have fanned an anti-Sunni inferno which is blazing out of control.


God bless Keith Olbermann, one of the few American TV journalists actually doing his job. Seriously, read the whole thing.


Santorum gets his War of the Ring on:
Embattled U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said America has avoided a second terrorist attack for five years because the "Eye of Mordor" has been drawn to Iraq instead.

Santorum used the analogy from one of his favorite books, J.R.R. Tolkien's 1950s fantasy classic "Lord of the Rings," to put an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq into terms any school kid could easily understand.

"As the hobbits are going up Mount Doom, the Eye of Mordor is being drawn somewhere else," Santorum said, describing the tool the evil Lord Sauron used in search of the magical ring that would consolidate his power over Middle-earth.

"It's being drawn to Iraq and it's not being drawn to the U.S.," Santorum continued. "You know what? I want to keep it on Iraq. I don't want the Eye to come back here to the United States."

While I'm sure Jonah Goldberg appreciates Santorum putting the war in terms that he can understand, it's likely that such an inappropriate analogy will do more to alienate the all-powerful geek bloc than to rally them, Rohirrim-like, to Santorum.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


In the Line of Duty 4.


This op-ed by Jeff Stein is troubling, to say the very least.
For the past several months, I’ve been wrapping up lengthy interviews with Washington counterterrorism officials with a fundamental question: “Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shiite?”

A “gotcha” question? Perhaps. But if knowing your enemy is the most basic rule of war, I don’t think it’s out of bounds. And as I quickly explain to my subjects, I’m not looking for theological explanations, just the basics: Who’s on what side today, and what does each want?

After all, wouldn’t British counterterrorism officials responsible for Northern Ireland know the difference between Catholics and Protestants? In a remotely similar but far more lethal vein, the 1,400-year Sunni-Shiite rivalry is playing out in the streets of Baghdad, raising the specter of a breakup of Iraq into antagonistic states, one backed by Shiite Iran and the other by Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states.


But so far, most American officials I’ve interviewed don’t have a clue. That includes not just intelligence and law enforcement officials, but also members of Congress who have important roles overseeing our spy agencies. How can they do their jobs without knowing the basics?

The basics indeed. Imagine someone trying to understand modern American politics without being aware of the differences between evangelicalism and Protestant liberalism, or of the divisions within those groups. Or think of someone studying the American civil rights movement without knowing who Moses was, or ever having read the story of the Hebrews' flight from bondage in Egypt. They'd be able to understand the broad outlines of the movement, its goals and accomplishments, but wouldn't be able to appreciate the richness of Rev. King's and other leaders' rhetoric, or the way that so many Americans' consciences were convicted and moved to activism through their skillful appeals to common faith.

Similarly, if you have no idea who Ali or Husayn were, or how the story of their martyrdom and years of oppression by Sunni rulers animates Shia politics, it's all just a bunch of dudes in robes.

This isn't to say that in-depth study of Islamic history is a prerequisite for understanding Middle East politics, but a basic familiarity with it makes a huge difference. I think that one of the things preventing Americans from an accurate conception of politics in Arab societies is the idea, fostered by people like Peretz, Pryce-Jones, and Patai, that Arabs practice an arcane, inherently violent sort of tribalistic politics that our superior rational Western mindset cannot grasp. This is just nonsense. The politics within different societies may be driven by culturally specific stories and traditions, but that doesn't mean that the politics of those societies should be incomprehensible to us. The notion that "they don't think like we do" is itself a form of racism, coming as it so often does in the guise of "hardheaded, clear-eyed analysis." Politics, in my opinion, to a great extent, is politics. But I digress...

In any case, it certainly shouldn't be too much to expect that the head of a House intelligence subcommittee charged with overseeing the C.I.A.'s performance in recruiting Islamic spies and analyzing information should know the difference between Sunni and Shia.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Lance Mannion has a good post on the Conservative War on Halloween, which reminded me of a story of my younger days in church.

The year is 1988, late October. I was thirteen years old. A speaker came to our youth group to teach us about the evils of Halloween, its roots in paganism and Satanism and witchcraft, and also that heavy metal music was a gateway to devil worship. Throughout his presentation, the speaker used materials and recordings from Mike Warnke.

Who is Mike Warnke? Mike Warnke is one of the great bullshit artists of American Christianity, and you know that's saying something. In 1973 Warnke published a book called the Satan Seller, in which he told of his experiences as a Satanic high priest and his eventual conversion to Christianity. For almost two decades after, Warnke made a great living as a speaker in churches and conventions as an "expert" on Satanism and the occult.

In 1990, the Christian magazine Cornerstone published an expose which showed Warnke's story to be a complete, utter fabrication. True to what Twain said, Warnke's lies had gotten halfway around the world before the truth had gotten its shoes on, and today a large portion of what conservative evangelicals believe about Halloween and Satanic practices is derived from Warnke's fabrications.

The book is worth checking out, it's absolutely hilarious. It reads precisely how you'd think a too-late-to-the-party square would imagine Satanism to be, the topper being the swinging bachelor pad, complete with two blonde love-slaves, that his congregation provides for him.

P.S. After the presentation, I totally got into heavy metal (shows devil sign, makes metal face).


Great post from F. Gregory Gause on Pope Benedict's comments on faith and reason in Islam. The money:
For me, the more dangerous assertion in the Pope’s speech was underplayed in the media. He raised the issue of forced conversion to make the point that reason precludes forced conversion, and “not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature.” Since His Holiness accepts the idea that forced conversion was part of Islam, this leads him to question whether Muslims believe that God is bound by reason. Here he turns to theology. He makes the argument, absolutely correctly, that the dominant strain in Muslim theology is that God is absolutely transcendent, omnipotent and inscrutable, not bound by any human category, including reason. The debate in the 10th century between the Mu’tazali rationalists, who were steeped in Greek philosophy and argued that, in effect, God is bound by His reason, and their opponents, who argued for the absolute transcendence of God, was decided against the Mu’tazilis. The Pope concedes that a similar debate occurred in Catholic theology about a century later, between rationalists like Thomas Aquinas and voluntarists like Duns Scotus and William of Occam (he of the famous razor). That debate was decided the other way, in favor of those who argued that God is bound by His reason.


It is on this point about faith and reason that the Pope makes his most serious error, that Islam is not a faith that respects reason. In the footnotes to his talk, added after the controversy arose, he writes, “In quoting the text of the Emperor Manuel II, I intended solely to draw out the essential relationship between faith and reason. On this point I am in agreement with Manuel II, but without endorsing his polemic” (my italics). The Pope, while professing his respect for Islam, doubts that it is a faith which respects reason, and thus implicitly questions the value of dialogue with it.

This is just profoundly wrong. His Holiness is an academic theologian, and thus would naturally look to theology for the essence of the role of reason in any religion. As I said above, his reading, at least on a superficial level, of the relation of reason to God’s essence in mainstream Sunni thinking is correct (though he ignores other important strains in Islamic theology, including all of Shi’ism, in his argument). However, it ignores the profound grounding in Greek rationalism that Muslim philosophers like al-‘Ashari, who argued against the Mu’tazilis, couched their points. It also ignores the absolutely central role of reason in areas of Islamic intellectual and philosophical development outside of theology. Law is central here. Muslim philosophers might not use the instruments of human reason to question the Quran itself (as the Mu’tazilis did), but in their development of shari’a, Islamic law, from its sources in the Quran and the hadiths they relied enormously on human reason. Reasoning by analogy (qiyas) has been a central element in the development of shari’a. The application of shari’a to specific cases is completely dependent upon the reason of the judge. To say that Islam, as a religion, is inimical to reason is just not true. Its entire legal edifice, developed over the centuries, refutes this charge.

Read the whole thing.


Joel Mowbray has essentially rewritten his Muslim-bashing column from a month ago, so I guess I can just link to my Mowbray-bashing post and move on.

Monday, October 16, 2006


If I wanted an honest assessment of Edward Said's legacy, you know who I wouldn't turn to? Martin Peretz.
Said's life as published by himself is made up of facts, half-truths, and irrefutable but meticulously constructed lies. Said rushed into print with a memoir called Out of Place, the name of the other reviewed film. And he rushed into print when Justin Reid Weiner had published a painstakingly precise, even obsessive, examination of Said's life in Commentary (September 1999). I confess it had been sent to me first, and I didn't run it. It was one of my greatest journalistic mistakes in then already a quarter-century of editing The New Republic. The sheer facts amounting to a great truth are so dispiriting, and one is led to the conclusion that Said--whatever his manic genius--was a fraud. No doubt about it. Please read this article. It is an eye-opener and a mind-sharpener.

Yes, please do read the article, which is indeed obsessive, is indeed an eye-opener, at least in regard to the straws at which hardcore revisionists will grasp in order to dismiss anyone who challenges their preferred Israel narrative.

The Commentary piece purported to discredit Said by showing that, wait for it, Said spent more of his youth in Cairo than he had let on, and that his aunt, not his father, actually owned the Said family home in Jerusalem. Not so much thin gruel as eating water with a spoon and calling it soup. For the committed revisionist like Peretz, however, this is more than enough to conclude that Said was a fraud, that there is no such thing as a Palestinian, and that the Zionist Irgun were freedom fighters, not terrorists like that stoopid Yasir Arafat.

As to Peretz's claim that he was offered the Weiner piece first, and turned it down, I have a hard time believing that Martin Peretz would turn down anything that would discredit Edward Said (contrary to Peretz's claim that Said was "obsessed" with him, the truth is quite the opposite). I suspect Peretz knew then, and probably knows now, that the article was incredibly weak, and didn't want to be the first one to publish it, though he's more than happy to reference it on his blog now that it has accrued some small measure of credibility simply by virtue of having been published elsewhere.

Interestingly, the Weiner article referred to Said as a "professional refugee," implying that there was something improper about basing his activism in his own family's exeriences in the Palestinian catastrophe of 1948. Think about that for a minute. I'm sure you can imagine the spittle-flecked accusations of anti-Semitism that would issue from Peretz if anyone were to refer to Eli Weisel as a "professional Holocaust survivor". Oh, wait, you don't have to imagine, because here's Peretz labeling Norman Finkelstein not only an anti-Semite (Finkelstein is Jewish) but a Holocaust-denier (Finkelstein's parents are Holocaust survivors) because of Finkelstein's work claiming that some Jews have exploited the memory of the Holocaust, both for personal gain and to immunize Israel from criticism.

Regarding Peretz's claim that Said's "star in the academy is dimming," I imagine Peretz clicking his heels three times when he says this. Wish harder, Marty. In my experience, Said's influence in area studies is still very strong, if not dominant. This is both good and bad, and just briefly I'll say that I think the Saidian post-Orientalist discourse has, in many ways, become almost as constraining as the Orientalist one that Said described in his famous essay of that name. It's true that a lot of area studies scholars are completely enthralled by Said, and while I don't count myself among them, I think the post-Orientalist lens is an indispensable tool for studying the Middle East.

The bottom line, however, is that, whatever one thinks of his work, Edward Said was genuinely committed to facilitating a more informed debate about the Palestine-Israel conflict, and to achieving a just solution for both Arabs and Jews in the Middle East. Martin Peretz, on the other hand, remains a thug.


I've checked on the forest, and it's fine. Also, poker is a stupid, stupid game and you should never play it. This is a fantastic album, and you should listen to it often.

In closing, this may be the greatest drink ever made.

Friday, October 13, 2006


In just a few short hours I depart for the 2006 Gentlemen's Wilderness Fellowship Retreat. As I will have no access to television, this qualifies as "camping." In a move that I have no doubt will prove unwise, I will be making chili for a house full of men tonight.


The story of The 101st Fighting Keyboarders, a heartwarming tale of the triumph of the human spirit over inconvenient facts, and of a group of people who gave up absolutely nothing for a cause that they believed in.


Eddie Hazel.

Thursday, October 12, 2006


Great post by Leila Hudson on the wingnut misrepresentations of the concept of taqiyya (which I also wrote about here), as well as a long overdue shredding of the odious Glenn Beck.

For those unfamiliar with the man or his schtick, Beck is essentially Bill O'Reilly for people who find Bill O'Reilly too intellectually taxing, and who prefer their pseudo-populism with a large helping of entitled fratboy smugness. If you think that mocking the name "Ahmedinejad" is the height of political humor, then by all means check his show out.


A new blog journal by Middle East experts, organized by Abu Aardvark's Marc Lynch.


Gazan Abdel Rahman Salem Thabet describes a common occurrence under Israeli occupation:
"On 24 August, at 23.30, someone from the Israeli army called me on the phone and ordered me to leave my home quickly.

There are 12 people in our family. The officer also told me to tell all my neighbours to leave their homes at once.

Then, at midnight, the Israeli army bombed my home. Half an hour after the phone call.

An F16 destroyed my home with two rockets. They demolished the four-storey house completely.

The reason they gave was that one of my sons is planning attacks against Israel.

But this son hasn't lived with me since 2004. He lives in the middle of Gaza, between Gaza City and Khan Younis, in Nasiriya Camp.

My home is near Jabaliya camp, much further north.

The Israeli army punished my entire family because of one person - my son - who is not even living in our area.

Until now, no-one has agreed to rent me a home for the 12 people in my family.

They say I am working against Israel and they think the Israeli army will destroy the buildings they rent to me.

We have all been living in one tent since our house was destroyed. The Red Cross gave us the tent."

Wednesday, October 11, 2006


While ordinarily I think it's wise to dismiss out of hand anything that begins with the phrase "Last evening on my radio show...", this bit of geo-strategery from Mark Levin is just too wonderful to let go:
Last evening on my radio show, I suggested that in dealing with North Korea's nuclear test it was time to go back to the Cold War model of Mutually Assured Destruction; that we assist Japan and South Korea in developing nuclear weapons; and that we also arm Taiwan.

I've got a better idea: Why don't we just nuke the whole region ourselves straightaway and be done with it? End the suspense!

Levin's suggestion reminds me of my favorite bit from Blackadder Goes Forth, in which Blackadder explains the reasons for the war to his trusted manservant Baldrick, as they sit in their muddy trench on the Western Front, awaiting the final push.
Blackadder: You see, Baldrick, in order to prevent a war in Europe, two super blocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast, opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way, there could never be a war.

Baldrick: Except, well, this is sort of a war, isn't it?

Blackadder: That's right, there was one tiny flaw in the plan.

George: Oh, what was that?

Blackadder: It was bollocks.



A British investigation has found no evidence that Iran is supplying weapons and training to militias in Iraq.

This March 2005 report from the International Crisis Group said the same thing.


One of the most offensive conservative memes regarding Iraq is the excuse that our noble efforts to liberate that country were thwarted by "Arabs being Arabs". Ralph Peters demonstrates:
Well, you face the future with the Iraq you've got, not the Iraq you'd like to have. We owe the Iraqis one last chance, and it's up to them to take it.

But no more U.S. troops. Make the Iraqis fight for their own country. If they won't, we need to accept that a noble endeavor failed.

People get the government they earn. Those of us who believed that the situation in the Middle East required desperate measures may have to accept that the cynics were right when they insisted that Arabs can't govern themselves democratically. What if it doesn't take a village? What if it takes a Saddam?

If Iraq does fail, the cold truth is that the United States will do fine. We'll honor our dead, salve the wounds to our vanity and march on stronger than ever (with the world's most powerful and most experienced military). But the Middle East will have revealed itself as hopeless.

Ho hum. Tomorrow is another day. This show's no good, what else is on? This killing field we've created is harshing my glorious patriotic nationalistic flag-humping reverie.

The cynics indeed. The people who have argued that the Arabs can't govern themselves democratically, and thus desperate measures were required, are among those who supported this war. This may be a favorite strawman of President Bush, one which helps him avoid having to address substantive criticisms of his conduct, or the fact of his own incompetence, but I have yet to read one liberal critic who opposed the war on the grounds that Arabs can't govern themselves democratically. They argued that democratic governance would not result from Bush's invasion, and they were right.

While the "Arabs being Arabs" excuse is at least helpful in that it exposes the latent bigotry which resides at American conservatism's grinchy little heart, let's get this straight: The blame for the Iraq debacle is first and foremost on the people who took us there, the people who saw the intelligence and said that what wasn't there was there, who lied and claimed they knew where the weapons were when they didn't, who planned the invasion and vehemently refused to plan for after the invasion, and who haven't told us the truth since the moment they decided to invade. Blaming the people whose lives have been upended by the invasion is more than wrong, it's perverse.


Fist of Legend.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


The Amazing Screw-On Head, in case you haven't seen it. Very well done.

Monday, October 09, 2006


Lebanese scholar and political activist Chibli Mallat on the Princeton Project on National Security's recently released report, Forging a World of Liberty Under Law.
The current US administration is often impatient with law and justice, and a recent Congressional bill has not helped matters by effectively allowing the president to continue widening the net of "enemy combatants," and to deprive them of their basic constitutional right to a hearing before a normal court. I cannot understand why this is being done, and why the Bush administration continues to ignore that liberty under law that is a necessary foundation of a world order shaped by America. As Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson once observed about the US Constitution: International law is not a suicide pact. When embraced, it offers a formidable array of tools for redress. We have already seen how authoritarian countries in the Middle East have happily embraced the US drift to lawlessness, which justifies their own abuse of power and of human rights. One hopes that the Princeton report serves as a wake-up call when it comes to the most severe danger to the world: a US collapse into unchecked rule of force.


Mark Levin:
Meanwhile, there's something truly perverse about Nancy Pelosi throwing mud balls at Hastert and the Republican party for failing to protect the pages (putting aside Gerry Studds for the moment) when Pelosi has accepted donations from the ACLU Foundation. The ACLU has represented the North American Man-Boy Love Association (NAMBLA) and has sought to destroy the Boy Scouts because of its commitment to traditional values. Pelosi has accepted money from the ACLU Foundation despite its connection to NAMBLA. I've not heard a single major news outlet report this. Why is there no demand that Pelosi return the contributions and denounce the ACLU?

Indeed, whay can't the stoopid MSM see that associating with an organization that once represented the American Nazi Party is equal to fellating Hitler?

This sort of transparently false equivalence seems to be Levin's main stock in trade. Okay, that and Arab-hatred. And piss-poor legal analysis.


Friday's season 3 premiere of Battlestar Galactica was excellent. A few comments:

- Making Tigh a one-eyed mullah was a nice touch.
- The fact that Jammer survived a bomb explosion ten feet away from him suggests that he's a cylon.
- Starbuck as The Prisoner: brilliant.
- I appreciated The Great Escape reference at the very end.

The most compelling character in the premiere for me (and one should watch the webisodes to gather the full story) is Duck, the first suicide bomber. Duck's pregnant wife was killed in a Cylon attack on a temple where the resistance was storing weapons, before which time Duck had little interest either in religion or resistance, and after which he becomes a devoted religious warrior. Duck is who we should think of whenever we here Bush talking about "fighting them over there" so we don't have to fight them here, as if there were some fixed number of terrorists and once we kill them all, we can declare the war over. A good portion of the people fighting and blowing themselves up in Iraq and Palestine, probably a majority, are people just like Duck, people who would very much prefer to be settled down with a wife and kids and a boring job, responding to events in the only way that makes sense to them, with vengeance and death. (If BSG wanted to be really topical, they'd have a Charles Krauthammer-esque Cylon newspaper columnist who condemns Duck's baseless, culturally-imbued anti-Cylonism.)

It's unfortunate, if not completely surprising, that this is the only television forum where such ideas about occupation, resistance, insurgency, and terrorism can be offered without drawing down the condemnation of the right (and time will tell about that). Not even knowing for sure if Adama is returning, Tigh makes war against the Cylons to make war against the Cylons. Keeping them "off-balance" is an end in itself. He resists to resist, and, by turning to suicide bombing, he effectively conscripts every other human in the cause. It will be very interesting to see how Adama eventually deals with this.


TEHRAN, Oct. 8 — A senior cleric who opposes religious rule of Iran and a number of his followers were arrested Sunday after clashes with the riot police over the weekend, news agencies reported.

Ayatollah Boroujerdi said that he had written to the United Nations secretary general, Kofi Annan, to the European Union foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, and to Pope Benedict XVI and others seeking protection and asking them “to make efforts to spread traditional religion,” separate from politics, ILNA reported.

“I believe people are fed up with political religion and want traditional religion to return,” ILNA quoted Ayatollah Boroujerdi as saying.

Protesters who were interviewed on opposition radio and satellite television channels Saturday said that the supporters of Ayatollah Boroujerdi were prepared to die in his defense.

The Iranian authorities are wary of any challenge, particularly from top clerics, to the system of clerical rule that was established after the 1979 Islamic revolution by the revolutionary leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Iran has an elected president and Parliament, but final authority lies with the supreme leader, currently Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khomeini's theory of the rule of the jurisprudent (velayet i-faqih), in which a leading ayatollah serves as final religious and political authority until the return of the Twelfth Imam, is still viewed as something of a marginal idea among Shi'i scholars, most of whom support Shi'ism's traditional non-involvement (or at least not overt involvement) in politics.
Iranian authorities had charged Ayatollah Boroujerdi with lacking sufficiently senior religious credentials to speak out on the matter. They also accused him of sacrilege.

This is somewhat ironic, given that Khamenei was sped up through the ranks specifically to serve as Khomeini's replacement, in violation of Shi'ism's tradition of promotion by consensus and acclaim. Many ayatollahs have questioned Khamenei's scholarly credentials and ability to rule.

It seems much more likely to me that political change will come to Iran as a result of dissatisfaction over religious rule, and the "innovation" represented by Khomeini's theory, lead by clerics such as Boroujerdi who argue that it is un-Islamic, than by liberal-secular activists, Michael Ledeen's claims that "Islam is very unpopular in Iran nowadays" notwithstanding.

Given the general view of the United States in the Middle East right now, the best thing Bush could do to bring about reform in Iran would be to throw his full support behind the Iranian government. I'm only half-kidding.

Friday, October 06, 2006


While it's admittedly a very good show, certainly compared to other network crap, I've had some issues with the U.S. version of The Office. American spinoffs of British shows have a sketchy history, you're more likely to end up with Coupling than you are with All in the Family, but there was even more reason to be concerned about The Office, the original version of which ranks among a small handful of the the greatest television shows ever. Indeed, much like David Ruffin's lead vocal on Ain't Too Proud to Beg, it slips the surly bonds of its genre to achieve a place among the Great Works of Art.

My two biggest problems with the U.S. version are the documentary aspect, and the show's treatment of Michael Scott. In the BBC series, there's not a moment when you are unconvinced that the show is a documentary, that things are happening off camera and out of mic range that will eventually prove important, and that the crew is just lucky to catch certain moments when and how they do. In the American version it's obviously a set-up, multiple cameras and shot/reverse shots are used a lot during conversations, and the camera shows up to catch scenes that seem very unlikely. Also, and maybe this is just a personal thing, Jim acknowledges the camera way too much. In the BBC series, you get the sense that everyone is trying hard to work with the documentarians and ignore the camera, but Tim (the BBC character on whom Jim is based) occasionally just can't bloody help it. He needs some acknowledgment from someone of the sheer, stunning ridiculousness of this office life. He's not conspiring with the audience, as Jim is, he's looking to the actual camera crew for affirmation that he is not insane.

Michael Scott. In the BBC series, David Brent spends two seasons as a pathetic, insecure, resentful clown. It's only in the final Christmas special, indeed in its last ten minutes, within the space of a few beautifully written scenes, that you are finally allowed to like him, and then you love him. I think Steve Carell's portrayal of Scott is very good (and impressively different from Ricky Gervais's David Brent), but I haven't enjoyed the way the character is offered redemption about every other episode, as if the writers simply didn't trust U.S. audiences to return every week for a main character who is an insensitive jerk. I'm sure those who've only seen the U.S. version are saying "Uh, Michael Scott is an insensitive jerk..." Yeah. Get thee to a video store.

Anyway, I wrote all that to write this: Last night's episode was fantastic. It was the first one I've seen which really took the show's idea in a new direction, and opened up even more possibilities for future episodes. I pretty much lost it when Dwight told Angela that she could "be in charge of the women," and I was on the floor at about the same time Dwight was, begging Michael's forgiveness.



Brian May.

Thursday, October 05, 2006




I recommend Rob Farley's review of World War Z, and the ensuing comments discussion of the best weapons to use against zombies.


John Podhoretz:
David Corn, 2006: "[The list] includes nine chiefs of staffs, two press secretaries, and two directors of communications—is that (if it's acucurate) it shows that some of the religious right's favorite representatives and senators have gay staffers helping them advance their political careers and agendas"

Joseph McCarthy, 1950: "A list of 205 people...who, nevertheless, are still working and shaping the policy of the State Department."

Obviously, for Podhoretz's comparison to work, David Corn would have to be a stark-raving homophobe spearheading a Democratic purge of homosexuals. The notion that homosexuality is something to be ashamed of, that homosexuals are "the enemy within", to be fought as Communists were fought, however, is entirely a conservative Republican one. A proper comparison would be to a journalist who claimed to have a list of Communists on Joe McCarthy's own staff.

Also, I'm guessing that Corn's list, unlike Joseph McCarthy's, is an actual list with actual names, and not simply a note to himself to "Remember to buy likker".

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


36th Chamber of Shaolin (aka Master Killer).

The monk San Te is played by Gordon Liu, who played Johnny Mo and Pai Mei in Kill Bill.

Monday, October 02, 2006


Neil Armstrong can breathe easier:
For nearly 40 years Neil Armstrong has been accused of fluffing his lines during his first steps on the Moon.

On tapes of the Moon landings, he appears to drop the "a" from the famous quote: "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

But new analysis of the tapes has proved Mr Armstrong right after all.

Computer programmer Peter Shann Ford used audio analysis software to show that the missing "a" was blotted out by transmission static.

Interesting, I never knew there was a controversy over this. Anyway, I've always preferred the Onion's coverage (nsfw), found it more realistic.