Friday, March 12, 2004

Random Thoughts

This is a bit wierd, but guess how many days it has been since 9-11 and the attack yesterday in Spain (up to but not including March 11th itself). Yeah, you guessed it.... 911. Isn't that just lovely.

Every now and then, you see something written that just gets it right, and that is the case, as usual with Mr. Lileks, who makes the right observation on how this stuff is perceived.
"I’m somewhat annoyed by the assertion that this act was “sophisticated,” and hence the work of those brilliant stratgerists of Al Qaeda. My definition of sophistication is somewhat different: it’s an unmanned drone flying over Pakistan, piloted by a guy in Florida, dropping a laser-guided bomb into the passenger cab of a truck full of Taliban. That’s sophistication. Synchronizing watches on detenators is not exactly all that tough. I’ll tell you what’s difficult: a dozen nervous sweating Swedes pulling off 13 simultaneous detonations in Saudi Arabia, where they might stick out. Spain of course is most Spanish; hence the name. But I assume there are enough immigrants living in Madrid, or native-born people of Arab origin, so that a guy walking through a train station with a backpack is about as unusual as a tourist in a loud shirt peering at a map."

And sometimes, I am truly uplifted by observations from unlikely places. Olavo de Carvalho, a Brazilian writer, explained why he came to the conclusion that Bush is right:
"In the last days of the war, though, when the clandestine cemeteries in Iraqi prisons were opened and the corpses started to be counted, I could not avoid noticing - and writing - that the decision taken by George W. Bush had been morally correct and even obligatory: any country that kills 300 thousand political prisoners must be invaded and immediately subdued, even if it does not constitute any danger to neighboring nations or to the supposed "international order".

National sovereignties must be respected, but not beyond the point where they arrogate to themselves the right to genocide.
The intrinsic moral correct[ness] of the American action is so evident and undeniable that every discussion that followed, in the international and Brazilian media, had to systematically eschew this aspect of the question, so that public attention could be focused at the problem of knowing whether Saddam Hussein did or did not have weapons of mass destruction, and therefore whether George W. Bush was right or not by invoking that reason in particular, among many others."

His readers had pressed him for his opinions; my gut tells me they were dissappointed. (Hat-tip, Norm).

And then, you read something and I just get scared. The New Republic did a review of Tim Robbins new play, Embedded. I know Robbins' politics are way out there, so I shouldn't be surprised. But when he writes and directs a play about an evil cabal with characters called Woof and Pearly White, who plot the invasion of a country called Gomorrah and who repeatedly shout "hail Leo Strauss" (a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany), you have to wonder how deep this disease is spreading. Does he think this is funny, or clever or simply the "truth exposed"? Is he a true believer, evil, or just an idiot? TNR's Lawrence Kaplan has some thoughts:
"Embedded, moreover, is not only dumb. It is poisonous, a production-length conspiracy theory guilty of the very sins it attributes to the "cabal" that it claims to expose. "
It's a very good article and worthy of a read. Whatever Robbins is, he is ultimately quite dangerous. Poison is the right word.

Say What?

Who said this today?
"If she did not know it yet, she knows it now: Europe is part of the battlefield of hyper-terrorism." .... "Nothing, evidently, no cause, no context, no supposedly political objective, justifies this kind of [large scale] terrorism."
"If the trail back to Al-Qaida is confirmed, Europeans should rethink the war against Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, as did the United States after the attacks of September 11, 2001. . . . Will March 11 have in Europe the same effect as September 11 in the US? After having spontaneously expressed their solidarity with the Americans, the Europeans, preoccupied with other forms of terrorism, found that the Americans had become consumed with paranoia. Contrary to the latter in 2001, Europeans today discover not only their own vulnerability, but also that they are confronted with a new phenomenon, mass terrorism. Like the Americans, they may now be forced to admit that a new form of world war has been declared, not against Islam but against totalitarian and violent fundamentalism. That the world's democracies are confronted with the same menace and should act together, using military means and waging at the same time a war for their ideals."

Ready? Le Monde (Hat Tip: Sully, during a lull between his epileptic Gay-Marriage fits). Yep, the same paper that wrote the headline "We are All Americans" but then followed that in the body of the text with why we had it coming.

Do they finally get it? Doubt it, but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Well, now he's in real trouble...

Wow. O.J. just can't catch a break. Now, he's being accused of stealing DirectTV service.

I expect that soon we will see a reward being offered for the guy who planted the gizmos in his house.

More Dumping on the Kerry Bandwagon

I think we will have fun with Kerry. Here is Lileks catch on a recent speech by The Man of Nuance to the Arab-American Institute:
Kerry said:
When I was in the region in early 2002, I saw first hand the devastating impact of this ongoing conflict on the daily lives of both Palestinians and Israelis. In Ramallah, for example, Palestinian women, traveling on foot, were forced to stand in long lines at check points with their children tugging at their sleeves and their arms loaded with groceries or other basic needs. And while they were struggling to get through the day, Israelis were also living in fear of another terrorist attack – not sure whether to get on a bus or go to a restaurant.

I’ll give him credit for the order in which he presents these seemingly equal inconveniences. But note how the first example is described with sympathetic human details – children, tugging at sleeves! – but the fear of getting nails shot through your vitals on a bus is described in an abstract, generic fashion.

The speech was made on October 17, two weeks after a suicide bomber in Haifa killed 21 people in an Arab-Jewish owned restaurant; three kids and a baby were among the dead, and the wounded numbered 60.

Here are the faces of the dead.[Lileks links to a site]

The word "Haifa" does not appear in the text of the Senator's remarks."

Read the whole thing.

Why I'm disgusted. Again.

It seems that on December 7, Teresa Heinz-Kerry, the wife of the presumptive Democrat candidate for President, gave out cute little pins at a gathering which "read in the center: “Asses of Evil” with “Bush”, “Cheney”, “Rumsfeld” and “Ashcroft” surrounding it."

Ah. The President of the United States is an evil ass. I see. You know, I never thought it appropriate to call President Clinton "Bubba." It's diminutive and while I think Clinton demeaned the office of the President, I will not do so.

But the wife of the Democrat nominee thinks that's just dandy. "Aren't we funny?"

Jim Lileks has several good points on this and other matters today.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The Best Argument Yet For Gay Marriage

According to the Hitch, it'd drive the mullah's mad.
When I become bored or irritated by the gay marriage battle--and I do, I sometimes do--I like to picture the writhing faces and hoarse yells of the mullahs and the fanatics. Godless hedonistic America, not content with allowing divorce and pornography, has taken from us our holy Taliban and our upright Saddam. It sends Jews and unveiled female soldiers to our lands, and soon unnatural brotherhood will be in the armed forces of the infidels. And now the godless have an election where all they discuss is the weddings of men to men and women to women!

And then I relax, and smile, and ask my [gay] neighbors over, to repay the many drinks and kind gestures that I owe them."


Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Thinking Passionately

Perhaps enough has been said of Mel Gibson's The Passion. I have been a bit torn by all the hoopla; I must admit that when those fellow members of my Tribe, whose politics happen to lie left of center, start talking about Jew-hatred (they, of course, would never use such a term), I not only doubt their intuitions, but get that hunch that nothing good will come of it. I think in this case I may have been both wrong and right. Their intuitions may have been right, but the PR bonanza that Mel garnered at our expense has been enormous and I have to wonder if Abe Foxman is getting some of the royalties.

A couple of interesting articles, on both sides of the equation, are floating out there right now. One by Zev Chafets, conforms more to my instincts. His basic point is that the story that Mel is telling is largely faithful to the account in the New Testament and that the movie really was not made for Jews or is really about Jews; and that we shouldn't be telling him or Christians how to interpret their text. Also, he points out that it is implicitly pro-israel. As he says:
"Lately, Yasser Arafat has taken to declaring that the original inhabitants of Israel were Palestinians. But there are no Palestinians in Gibson's Jerusalem, just as there were none in the Gospels. Jesus and his disciples are as Israeli as Ariel Sharon. The Arabs are still 600 miles and 600 years from the Holy Land.
If the Anti-Defamation League were smart, it would stop bugging Mel Gibson for an apology and ask instead for a couple hundred copies of the movie.

Well, I understand his general point and I like his tone, but it is clear Mel had some choices in how he interpreted scripture and those choices went decidely against the Judeans. But his point that we shouldn't be giving interpretative advice is off-point, if only because the interpretation is NOT the real point here. But I will get to that in a second. First, let me point out Hitchens latest. Our Man holds no punches, and in fact gives Mel a flailing consistent with what is witnessed in the Passion. After recounting stories of Mel Gibson as a joke-telling homophobe, he notes that:
"I think that it's a healthy sign for our society that so many Jews have decided to be calm and unoffended by the film, and that so many Christians say they don't feel any worse about Jews after having seen it. We have a social consensus where Jews feel more secure and Christians less insecure. Good. But this does not alter the fact that The Passion is anti-Semitic in intention and its director anti-Semitic by nature. Some people including myself think that Abe Foxman and the Anti-Defamation League are too easily prone to charge the sin of anti-Semitism. But if someone denies the Holocaust one day and makes a film accusing Jews of Christ-killing the next day, I have to say that if he's not anti-Jewish then he's certainly getting there."
He then recounts the interview with Peggy Noonan:
"Noonan asked him a question that he must have known was coming, and which he must have prepared for, and she asked him in effect to "make nice" and agree that the Holocaust actually had occurred. His answer was, to all effects and purposes, a cold and flat "no." A lot of people, he agreed, had died in the last war. No doubt many Jews were among the casualties. It's one of the most frigid and shrugging things I have ever read. You would not know from this response that the war was begun by a fascist ruling party that believed in a Jewish world conspiracy, and thus that all of those killed were in part victims of anti-Semitism."

Right on, brother. The Man is getting to THE point. He recognizes, what so few do, the disease that anti-semitism is, and how ALL of civilized democratic society is its victim. And he recognizes that Mel doesn't get that. And then he finishes with this:
"Gibson announced a few weeks ago that he had cut the scene where a Jewish mob yells for the blood of Jesus to descend on the heads of its children (a scene that occurs in only one of the four contradictory Gospels). Gibson lied. The scene is still there, spoken in Aramaic. Only the English subtitle has been removed. Propagandists in other countries will be able to subtitle it any way they like. This is all of a piece with the general moral squalor of his project. Gibson's producer lied when he said that a pope Gibson despises had endorsed the film. He would not show the movie to anyone who might object in advance. He will not debate any of his critics, and he relies on star-stricken pulp interviewers to feed him soft questions. Now, as the dollars begin to flow from this front-loaded fruit-machine of cynical publicity, he is sobbing about the risks and sacrifices he has made for the Lord. A coward, a bully, a bigmouth, and a queer-basher. Yes, we have been here before. The word is fascism, in case you are wondering, and we don't have to sit through that movie again." (emphasis added).

Wow. Maybe he is right. And this gets to THE point which I believe Chafets missed. It isn't about interpreting scripture .... the scripture is pretty clear and Matthew takes a decided view on who is to largely blame for the cruxifiction. Although liberties are taken, the story is the story (as Chafets himself points out). I have no doubt whatsoever that the suffering of Jesus as depicted in this story is an incredibly meaningful and ultimately redemptive account for Christians and as such, they should feel free to embrace it. And Mel should feel free to celebrate it. The issue, however, is that this story has been used for centuries as a justification for the persecution of Jews and that is something that Mel has chosen to ignore. If he had come out and said something to the effect that 'this is a very central story to my faith and it is an ultimately positive story, but one that has been abused by others over time to persecute Jews, and my point is to change that dynamic/distortion', it would have been a completely different result. Instead, he acts surprised by those who would challenge him, defending his movie simply as not anti-semitic. Not even Foxman is saying it is anti-semitic, but it can and has been used for those purposes, and Mel is no where on that issue (I think his point is that it is a pure story, and is what it is, and if people don't get it, that is their problem ... to deny more is to imply that there is something wrong with it in the first place). Either he is ignorant, or not very smart, or so blinded by his story that he can't understand the issue. Or, it is something far more nefarious, and the Hitch is on to it.

I remember I once knew an artist that wore a swastika as an earring. I asked him about it and he defended it rigorously, saying that in India and other places, it is a sign of peace. He happened to be right, as I found it in abundance when I went to India. But my point to him was that while that may be the case, here, in the world we live in, that symbol has become one of the most horrible symbols of hate and death to ever exist, and if wants to redeem it, he will need to take responsibility for the feeling he hurts along the way when he proudly displays it.

The bottom line for the Passion, is that Mel avoided his responsibility to humanity. This powerful story, so central to many Christians, has been abused historically in spite of the very love of human-kind that Gibson professes to uphold. When he mass distributes it to hundreds of millions of people worldwide, he needs to assume responsibility for how that message will be delivered and the impact it has. One would think that, having publicly embraced the positive aspects of this story's message, he would zealously protect it from those who, as in the past, would use it as an instrument of hate. That he hasn't even tried, makes me more than a little nervous.

Friday, February 27, 2004

The so-called International Court of "Justice."

Paul Greenberg tries to put the Kafka-esque travesty occurring at the International Court of Justice Jew-bashing into perspective.

As he notes:
The Jewish state is the only one of the UN's 100-some-odd members, and some are very odd indeed, to be excluded from serving on its Security Council.

In passing its annual resolution condemning religious intolerance, the U.N.'s General Assembly deliberately excludes any mention of anti-Semitism.

. . . .

As Yasser Arafat tried to tell Bill Clinton at Camp David, just before rejecting still another Israeli peace offer, the Jews have no historical connection to the Temple Mount. (Which would have surprised King David.)

Martin Luther King Jr. called Zionism the national liberation movement of the Jewish people. In 1975, the General Assembly of the United Nations called it an international crime.

No one says it out loud: A lynch mob in black robes is still a lynch mob.

As Bob Dylan sings in "Neighborhood Bully":
The neighborhood bully he just lives to survive
He's criticized and condemned for being alive
He's not supposed to fight back, he's supposed to have thick skin
He's supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He's the neighborhood bully.

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He's wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He's always on trial for just being born
He's the neighborhood bully.

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he could apologize
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He's the neighborhood bully.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Why are these people our allies?

The official Saudi Arabian tourism website lists the people who will not be issued visas:
An Israeli passport holder or a passport that has an Israeli arrival/departure stamp.

Those who don't abide by the Saudi traditions concerning appearance and behaviors. Those under the influence of alcohol will not be permitted into the Kingdom.

There are certain regulations for pilgrims and you should contact the consulate for more information.

Jewish People

Well, they really put it right out there! No Jews!

Of course, even the non-Jewish bulldozer-diver Rachel Corrie would find it difficult:
If a woman is arriving in the Kingdom alone, the sponsor or her husband must receive her at the airport.

Every woman must have confirmed accommodation for the duration of her stay in the Kingdom.

A woman is not allowed to drive a car and can therefore only travel by car if she is accompanied by her husband, a male relative, or a driver.

(hat-tip: James Taranto's Best of the Web)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Time Suck Alert...

Yet another roadblock in the path of efficient work, Whatever Happened To... is a site which tells you, well, whatever happened to former celebrities and others whose 15 minutes are up.

Animal Rights.

Cox & Forkum, once again, get right to the point.

Animal "rights" activists don't love animals. They hate people.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

When you've won, what do you protest?

In a scene out of P.C.U., a group of University of Oregon students have protested Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, a play that has evidently sparked a global feminist movement, for not being "inclusive" enough.

I miss college. I miss hearing sentences like:
"Know that what you are seeing tonight is not the result of an inclusive process,"

"Know that this space was not one where honest questions and concerns about race were tolerated."

This is evidently what happens when activists actually get what they wanted. The women's movement was successful. Women have equal legal rights, women may enter any profession, and more overtly run the world. (They ran it before, also, but had to let the men pretend they were in charge.)

So what's the problem with the Vagina Monologues?

Well, evidently, there was a "lack of representation of different kinds of women in "The Vagina Monologues" production." It seems that "Women of ' variety of skin colors, body sizes, abilities and gender expressions'were not adequately represented."

It's a shame, really. Because "this could have been a more diverse cast, but a safe and welcoming environment was not created for people that [the protester] consider[s] to be 'underrepresented.'" Specifically, she noted, "only one other woman of color remained in the show. 'Plus size' and queer women were also not well-represented, she said." Apparently, when advertising for the woman-only cast, they didn't put up a sign, "free milk and cookies for fat black lesbians." (And by the way, why is "Plus size" in euphemism quotes but not queer?)

The director of the show (who I'd wager is not a George W. Bush supporter) tries gamely to defend herself with logic:
[The director] said about 85 people auditioned for the show and there wasn't a large pool of "visible" people of color to choose from. She said it is also not always possible to tell one's ethnicity or sexual orientation just by looking at the person, adding that she does not usually ask people what their sexual orientation is at an audition.

Which is good, because that wouldn't really create a safe space, would it? "Hey, you, audition-chick! You a lesbian?" Seems to me that would invite a similar protest.

I'd also expect a protest over the Oregon Daily Emerald headline on this related story, "Tensions explode at 'Vagina' discussion."


Update: Thanks, Professor Volokh!


For those who have not feasted yet on what is probably the funniest political website by any blogger, do yourself a favor and checkout Allah Pundit. He is completely irreverent and often vulgar (some of you might find his stuff at times a bit over the top). But he is incredibly witty and well-read and ... I happen to agree with his politics (to many, including followers of Islam, he will be anywhere from mildly to extremely offensive). Often he takes the voice of radical islamist (hence the site name), finishing many of his sentences with the arabic put-down 'kufr' (which technically means "to show ungratefulness to Allah and not to believe in Him and His religion.")

I first read him when he wrote a parody of Tom Friedman. I still laugh out loud when I read it. He captures that glib smuggness combined with informed-idiocy masquerading as intelligence. You should read the whole thing and also read the actual Friedman articles that Allahpundit links to (it shows you how well he captures him).

This guy also covers regular politics and has been all over Dean for months with some outrageous 'cartoons'. But today, with Edwards showing some surprising strength in Wisconsin, he put up a few mock campaign posters that had me on the floor. A must see.

I have to say, .... he is on to something. The Democrats want a winner. Period. They don't care who...just someone to beat Bush. And anyone who leans that way might even think this way.

Anyway, enjoy Allah. He is a hoot.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Can you pass the Third Grade?

Let's see.

CIA -- Iraqi Rewards Program

Do you have any intelligence about Iraq? Well, please let the CIA know about it.

I assume they also have some less self-selected sources.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Tony Snow

I have exhausted all of my sources in attempting to learn why Tony Snow was suddenly disappeared from his Sunday program, and replaced by the terminally inadequate Chris Wallace. Usually, one can easily learn the behind-the-scenes stories behind these moves. However, I have been unable to learn one single thing. Fox has not responded to e-mails... nor has Tony Snow. If there is anyone reading this, and you have any ideas, please let me know.