Who will boycott the boycotters?
"I boycott everything that involves corporations," said Jennifer Durocher, a first-year anthropology and history student. "I think everything in this world should be boycotted."
The Compleat Shut Upmanship
No one is more strongly in favor of free speech than I am. However...
John Leo identifies this and other "current anti-speech ploys" on campus.
(via Bill Quick.)
The Mouse on the Mobius Strip
Reihan Salam describes France's position on the UNSC:
France is firmly opposed to any military action against Iraq that is not explicitly authorized by the Security Council. But France is on the Security Council, and wields a veto. But France is firmly opposed to any military action against Iraq that is not explicitly authorized by the Security Council. But France is on the...
I don't care how many times Michael Kinsley writes this column-- it's funny every time.
I'm not sure why, but for some reason this totally cracks me up.
I have no interest at all in the inter-blog controversy over that Rittenhouse guy's decision to black out his links to every site with a Little Green Footballs link. I don't happen to agree with his assessment of LGF (for pretty much the same reasons given by Moira Breen and Natalie Solent-- though, like most people I hardly ever venture into the comments section which has aroused so much consternation.) But James Capozzola is free to omit links to whomever he pleases, for whatever reason he chooses. The whole thing smacks of troll-bait anyway-- and I dare say he got more hits from hooking Steven den Beste than from anything else he's written ever before or is likely to write henceforward.
Moira drew my attention to the discussion of similar issues in Thomas Nephew's excellent Newsrack blog (continued extensively in his comments section.) He objects to the use of the phrase "religion of peace" as an ironic caption for items about extremist violence, saying that it "tars all Muslims with the brush of extremism." Here's how he puts it:
"Peaceful Religion Watch" is a recurring post title at Charles Johnson's "Little Green Footballs" web site: the accompanying post is some real example of ugly, extremist statements or deeds by people claiming to be acting in accord with Islamic principles. It's not the stories that are false, it's the implication the title gives those stories: that this is all there is to Islam.
It did make me think, though. If assigning the caption "a religion of peace" to an item about violent words or deeds isn't meant as a slight to all who practice the religion, what does it mean? Like many things, it only seems obvious until you try to articulate it. Bear with me while I try to puzzle it out.
"Islam is a religion of peace." I believe the sincere, ingenuous use of this all but meaningless sentence (for nothing is entirely "of peace") arises out of noble intentions and even reflects a considerable degree of truth, if not precision. It is intended to distinguish (a) the Islamist theo-thugs who murdered over 3,000 Americans and who dream of imposing a religious police state upon that proportion of the world's population they do not manage to kill, from (b) those Muslims ("the vast majority," in the equally platitudinous, equally accurate formulation) who are entirely free of such sentiments, sympathies, culpability or ambition. "Islamism" or "Islamofascism," the enemy's creed, Islam not as religion or culture but rather as a political ideology embodying the pursuit of a revolutionary-totalitarian societal transformation, is presented as a perversion or derailment of "true Islam," which is wholly benign, non-threatening, amenable to the interests of the US and the Western world. (As I know from letters sent to this site, many people don't realize that "Islamist" is not an exact synonym for "Muslim," but rather is something quite different. Thus the "Islamo-fascist" neologism is preferable, since its meaning is unmistakable.)
Assuredly, the distinction between (a) and (b) is a real one. Anyone who doesn't realize that there is such a difference (and I have no doubt that they're out there) probably does indeed need to be informed of the error with just such a crude, rhetorical sledgehammer. GWB seems to use the phrase every chance he gets, and this is presumably one of the reasons. There may, however, be other less creditable reasons: squeamishness about the potential offense that plain talk can give to particularized interest groups (i.e., the same sort of political correctness that drives the editorial choices of the New York Times and other media); and, still worse, a desire to appease powerful people and institutions who have solid, and often barely-hidden, connections to the sort of extremism that threatens us.
It seems to me that, far from being an attack directed at Muslims, the ironic use of "religion of peace" is actually a slap at George W. Bush and others who, no doubt with the best of intentions, have employed the banal phrase to avoid confronting or acknowledging a manifest reality: that the wickedness of those who attacked New York and Washington on Sept. 11 is inextricably enmeshed with the wickedness of the ideology of the perpetrators, their apologists, their fellow travelers, and their clandestine supporters; and that the ideology arises not out of a void, but from a variety of religious extremism that is propagated by some of our "allies" in the Middle East and their spokesmen and beneficiaries at home.
The fear that wrong-headed Americans might express their anger over 9/11 by targeting innocent Muslims for persecution was not an idle one, though in the event it turned out to be, for the most part, unfounded. (And no, I don't think that GWB's admonition had anything to do with it-- the American public isn't nearly as intolerant or blind to nuance as many suppose.) There are those who, sincerely or disingenuously, might mistake the required condemnation of the enemy's ideology for a blanket condemnation of all Muslims, which would be unequivocally wrong and foolish. There is also, to be sure, some sense in avoiding needless controversy when there are more important matters to attend to.
Yet the intimation that the bin Ladenite fascistic ideology has nothing whatever to do with "real" Islam, that it is nothing more than a bizarre perversion that practically no one in the Islamic world sympathizes with or accepts, the work of a handful of errant troublemakers, is a patently absurd and dangerous lie. The relationship between Islam (the religion) and Islamofascism (the ideology) is far, far more complex than that.
Steven Schwartz, who knows a fair amount about such things, in a recent interview rejected his interlocutor's conventional characterization of Wahhabism as "not Islam" (by which she meant not "true" Islam): rather, he noted that Islam has "many strains." He described the current situation as a "battle for the soul Islam," a battle which, in his view, the Saudi-funded extremists in the American Islamic establishment unfortunately seem to be winning. The American media (along, perhaps, with the American president) unwittingly collude by accepting American Wahhabis as the "official" spokesmen for Islam; these spokesmen "issue ameliorative statements intended to end discussion of the problem, and they closely watch the community and prevent traditional Muslims from expressing themselves openly about Wahhabism and its involvement with terrorism." Like this.
Whether or not it is the case that they are winning, it is clear that merely saying "Islam is a religion of peace" is a poor substitute for the kind of analytical approach that this complicated situation calls for. Yet that is, in fact, how it has been employed, as a substitute for honest, clear thought, and as an easy means for unscrupulous activists to derail discussion. The phrase retains what meaning it has only as an object lesson in how poor language can degrade discourse.
Irony can be a kind of protest against hypocrisy. That's what's going on here. For hypocrisy it is, or at least a contradiction requiring an explanation, to declare war upon the ideologues while excusing, defending, appeasing, even just failing to identify and call to account those who disseminate, fund, applaud or propagate the ideology.
Thus the problem with "religion of peace," the reason why many can't resist mocking it. At best, it's a well-intended platitude devoid of content. At worst, it's a pernicious platitude that has the effect of, in Moira Breen's apt phrase, "driving discussion into utter inanity." As much of this pseudo-controversy shows.
UPDATE: Rick Heller covers this angle more succinctly (i.e., better): "a sarcastic reference to a propagandistic platitude is hardly bigotry."
Stephen Pollard has this Sky News report report:
Just heard the ludicrous Abdel Bari Atwan, who Sky News persist in using as their Middle East 'expert', say this about the Kenyan attacks:
"Many people have criticised Osama bin Laden for failing to attack Israelis, and only targetting Americans and Westerners. They say he might be an Israeli agent".
And the Sky presenter didn't even raise his eyebrow in response.
A Royal Mess
The relationship between Prince Bandar, his wife, and the world of Saudi "charities," "relief workers," and "Islamic missionaries," in which diverse Saudi functionaries serve as donors, recruiters, protectors, and simple enthusiasts of terror, is elementary.
Zero Tolerance Watch, continued
Saddam hides arsenal in people's homes, according to the Times of London:
SADDAM HUSSEIN has ordered hundreds of his officials to conceal weapons of mass destruction components in their homes to evade the prying eyes of the United Nations inspectors.
According to a stream of intelligence now emerging from inside Iraq, the full extent of the Iraqi leader’s deception operation is now becoming apparent. As the UN inspectors knock on the doors of the major military sites in Iraq, suspected of housing chemical and biological weapons and banned missiles, the bulk of the evidence is being secreted away in people’s homes...
Intelligence picked up from within Iraq and from electronic intercepts of Iraqi communications has revealed that scientists, civil servants and Baath Party officials have all been ordered to store key components of Saddam’s secret weapons of mass destruction programme in their homes.
Iraqi farmers have also been ordered to play their part, according to intelligence sources. One source said that farmers were being told to hide drums of chemicals among stocks of pesticides.
In each case, the scientists, officials and farmers are being warned that they and their families will face severe penalties if they fail to hide these stocks of chemicals and biological materials from prying UN inspectors. Computers and laptops containing vital information about the weapons of mass destruction programme are also being hidden in people’s homes
The evidence of this latest concealment ploy is judged to be so damning that...
...President Bush and Tony Blair are considering...
Not even. Their plan is much more subtle and ingenious. Here's the end of the sentence, what the article maintains Bush and Blair are daring to consider:
...making a personal appeal to the Iraqi officials involved to let the inspectors know what is going on.
A senior Whitehall official said Mr Blair was considering reminding people in Iraq that they all had the same obligations as their leader to be open with the UN inspectors. It is hoped that at least some of those ordered to hide evidence in their homes might have the courage to come forward.
I doubt even Saddam imagined that hanging on to his weapons of mass destruction was going to be such a cakewalk.
Incidentally, the article also notes some "startling facts" emerging from recently-gathered intelligence. Among them, the straight dope on the referendum last month, when Saddam was "supposedly given a 100 per cent “yes” vote for continuing in office."
Baghdad claimed it was also a 100 per cent turnout. However, intelligence emerging since then has revealed that only one in three people actually voted.
Mark Steyn on Bush and the Saudi Princess:
The fawning legions of ex-ambassadors to Riyadh have been all over the TV assuring us that, oh, no, al-Qa’eda hate the House of Saud and want to overthrow it. But, interestingly, though Osama’s boys are happy to topple New York landmarks, slaughter Balinese nightclubbers, blow up French oil tankers, kill Philippine missionaries, take out Tunisian synagogues and hijack Moscow musicals, you can’t help noticing they do absolutely zip against the regime they allegedly loathe. There are 6,000 Saudi princes, but none of ’em ever gets assassinated. And, if anything mildly explosive goes off in the Kingdom, it somehow manages to get blamed on Western bootleggers. Statistically speaking, if you’re looking for the spot on the planet where you’re least likely to be blown to shreds by an al-Qa’eda nutcake, it’s hard to beat Riyadh. If al-Qa’eda hated the rest of us the way they supposedly hate King Fahd and co., the world would be as harmonious as a Seventies Coke commercial.
Clearly, the House of Saud has come to an arrangement with al-Qa’eda, and this arrangement involves, among other things, money. More interesting is why the administration insists on pretending otherwise.
Great column, plus he quotes Matt Welch. What more could you ask for? Well, here's what:
One day the Democrats will stop sleepwalking over the cliff and realise that this is Bush’s weak spot, and they’ve got incriminating pictures and all that sycophantic audio. And, if the Dems don’t realise it, then John McCain will, shortly before he runs for president.
If you hate America enough, you'll believe just about anything
I was halfway up the track that leads to the salt-mine at Taloqan, described by Marco Polo as producing the finest salt in the world, when an old man driving a donkey, two huge blocks of rock salt tied to its sides, stopped me and started jabbering in Persian. ‘He wants to thank you for getting rid of the Taleban,’ said my interpreter, as the man started shaking my hand. ‘Not at all,’ I said modestly. ‘Don’t mention it.’ ‘He thinks you are American,’ added the interpreter — rather snidely, I thought...
Shortly before I left on a trip to Afghanistan in August 2001, a left-wing don pointed me to an article by Jason Burke in the London Review of Books. ‘Very interesting piece. Apparently the Taleban aren’t that bad.’ It was nothing more than a credulous regurgitation of Pakistani propaganda. The Taleban, it claimed, were a spontaneous law-and-order movement of theology students revolted by the widespread rapes perpetrated by the warlords. This is rubbish. The Taleban were armed and funded by the Pakistani secret service to give Pakistan the control over Afghanistan that they thought was their right. And, despite looking hard, I have never come across any evidence of widespread rape of women in Afghanistan.
I read this article out to a class I took at Kabul University. I thought that they would find it quite funny, but halfway through I realised it wasn’t getting any laughs. I stopped because the women were angry. The few of them who had received any education during the long night of Taleban rule had done so at secret schools. The mother of one had been beaten with electrical flex because a spy from the ministry for the prevention of vice and propagation of virtue had heard her shoes clicking on the pavement.
‘Who is this man?’ she demanded. I said that he was the Observer’s chief reporter. ‘How can he say such things?’ ‘Because he hates America,’ I said. ‘He also says that all the Taleban did was to make law out of what had always been the case in rural areas.’ There was uproar. Even the men joined in. They thought that this was really impertinent and offensive. ‘He also says,’ I went on, ‘that there is no need to ban television because there aren’t any.’ ‘Who does he think we are. Of course we’ve got television.’ And that’s true. I’ve watched television all over the country, even in a Khirgiz yurt in the High Pamirs.
Those Devils in Skirts
(via On the 3rd Hand.)
Maybe they won't have to kill him again after all...
The latest tape statement attributed to Osama bin Laden is not authentic, according to a report by a Swiss research institute.
The Lausanne-based Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence says it is 95% certain the tape does not feature the voice of the long-missing terrorist leader.
Despite all of today's bad news, or perhaps rather particularly because of today's bad news, I would like to wish everyone a happy and safe Thanksgiving.
as with the simultaneously over-capacious and over-specific analogues ("terrorism," "anti-Semitism") we do seem to need a word for it. There are those in the Islamic world for whom the slogan "Death to America" is a real and meaningful invocation. There are those in Europe and elsewhere for whom the word "American" occasions a wrinkle in the nostril. And there are those, in America itself, for whom their country can do no right. I at any rate would claim, perhaps uselessly, to know this phenomenon when I see it...
Two Palestinian gunmen opened fire Thursday on a Likud Party office crowded with voters casting ballots in a leadership race and also attacked passengers at a nearby bus terminal in northern Israel. Five Israelis were killed and dozens wounded.
The War Begins?
Three suicide bombers blew themselves up in an Israel-owned hotel in Kenya; a "light plane" simultaneously dropped three "bombs" on the site; and at the same time, two missiles were fired at an Israeli airliner as it left Mombasa airport.
Kenya officials say they believe it was an al Qaeda operation. Say what you want about Israel: it's no "paper tiger." Whoever is responsible is messing with the wrong guys. And if a hint of Iraqi involvement surfaces (not at all out of the question) they won't wait for UN authorization to respond.
UPDATE: a "previously unknown group" calling itself the Army of Palestine has, via fax, claimed responsibility. (The Kenyan ambassador's statement that there was "no doubt" that the attacks were perpetrated by al Qaeda was issued before these faxes arrived.) At this point, who knows?
Bill Quick says: "This smells of a joint Palestinian-Iraqi operation to me, with Iraq supplying tools, planning, and money, and the Palis supplying the suicidally lunatic manpower." Maybe...
He's definitely right about one thing though: "folks who think this can't happen here in the United States are suffering from a potentially fatal failure of imagination."
The best de-linking post in the world, ever.
Update: This one ain't too bad, either.
Another powerful editorial from Salman Rushdie, on the Miss World fatwa, "fanaticism as usual," and other recent milestones in "the wonderful world of Islam" (the quoted phrases are his, irony included):
A couple of months ago I said that I detested the sloganization of my name by Islamists around the world. I'm beginning to rethink that position. Maybe it's not so bad to be a Rushdie among other "Rushdies." For the most part I'm comfortable with, and often even proud of, the company I'm in.
Where, after all, is the Muslim outrage at these events? As their ancient, deeply civilized culture of love, art and philosophical reflection is hijacked by paranoiacs, racists, liars, male supremacists, tyrants, fanatics and violence junkies, why are they not screaming?
At least in Iran the students are demonstrating. But where else in the Muslim world can one hear the voices of the fair-minded, tolerant Muslim majority deploring what Nigerian, Egyptian, Arab and Dutch Muslims are doing? Muslims in the West, too, seem unnaturally silent on these topics. If you're yelling, we can't hear you.
If the moderate voices of Islam cannot or will not insist on the modernization of their culture — and of their faith as well — then it may be these so-called "Rushdies" who have to do it for them. For every such individual who is vilified and oppressed, two more, ten more, a thousand more will spring up. They will spring up because you can't keep people's minds, feelings and needs in jail forever, no matter how brutal your inquisitions. The Islamic world today is being held prisoner, not by Western but by Islamic captors, who are fighting to keep closed a world that a badly outnumbered few are trying to open. As long as the majority remains silent, this will be a tough war to win. But in the end, or so we must hope, someone will kick down that prison door.
The man who attempted to hijack that Italian plane turns out to have been a would-be serial hijacker:
It later emerged the man had a history of hijackings, raising questions about how he had managed to secure a seat on the plane...
The man's mother, on learning that her son had hijacked a plane, reacted by saying: "My God, he's done it again!", said Italian newspaper La Repubblica website.
Peter Butler of the Royal Free Hospital in London said that new techniques and improved anti-rejection drugs have made it possible to graft a face on to another person. It is believed that a team of clinicians is being created at the Royal Free.
In the future, patients will be to have the donated "face" of a dead person, complete with arteries and muscles, grafted on to their own. The complicated and lengthy operation would give the recipient greater movement in their face, marking a departure from the mask-like characteristics of current grafting techniques.
This is a couple of weeks old, but still worth a look. sp!ked's Mick Hume laments the lack of persuasive arguments on both sides of the war/anti-war divide and in the process comes up with this fine withering passage:
For those of us opposed to Bush’s war plans on anti-interventionist grounds there is no comfort in today’s peculiar anti-war mood. Its rather loathsome character was summed up for me by a letter we received at spiked-online.com, arguing that those killed in the Bali nightclub could not really be considered innocent victims, since they were rich Western tourists who had ‘decided to enjoy themselves at the expense of folks in a Third World country’. Those killed in New York on 11 September were, it added, even less innocent, since they had chosen to ‘work in the generic cause of global imperialism’ on Wall Street. Our sympathetic correspondent concluded, ‘The only truly innocent are babies and the mentally challenged — the rest of us share all kinds of guilt.’ It is a depressing sign of the times that many will now proclaim such infantile, moronic sentiments who do not have the excuse of belonging to either of those categories.
It turns out that Bill Wyman, the music critic, received a cease and desist letter from attorneys representing Bill Wyman, former bassist for the Rolling Stones, demanding that he stop using the name Bill Wyman:
Journalist Bill Wyman was asked to cease and desist being Bill Wyman, "if indeed, (his) given legal name is Bill Wyman (a fact which we would insist be reasonably demonstrated to us)," according to the letter the paper received from attorney Howard Siegel of New York.
If journalist Bill Wyman turned out to truly be Wymanian, then Siegel asked that a "prominent disclaimer" accompany every mention of his very Wymanness.
Journalist Wyman suggested one: "Not That Bill Wyman."
I can't tell from this article exactly how it all got resolved, but apparently Bill Wyman ended up deciding to let Bill Wyman continue to call himself Bill Wyman.
I knew a guy in school whose name was John Lemmon.
(via Boing Boing)
For what it's worth, MEMRI has posted a summary of the contents of an interview with an "unidentified Iraqi official" from a London-based Arabic language daily newspaper. The u.I.o. boasts of previous occasions where Iraq "did not hesitate" to use weapons of mass destruction, and hints that this time won't be any different.
Then he added "oops, I mean, um, actually, let me rephrase that-- we haven't got any weapons of mass destruction this time. Heh heh heh..."
(I made that last part up.)
Also, according to this Weekly Standard blurb, MEMRI's Yigal Carmon says of the pseudo-Osama letter: "this is obviously a propaganda co-production of Suleiman Abu Geith... and Omar Bakri."
And another piece of red left my blogroll today...
If I'm reading this article correctly, it appears that the Telegraph is the only major British newspaper that does not have definite plans to start charging for content in the near future.
(via Peter Briffa.)
An unfortunate choice of words:
It's in inverted commas because, though these guys claim to be part of a "suicide bombing squad," there is some doubt as to whether they're telling the truth.
So the "question" "is": how does an as-yet-unexploded "suicide" "bomber" establish his "bona" fides beyond a "reasonable" doubt? (Or perhaps that should be "the" question.)
Never mind getting dandelions pulled, or the screen door patched or the beefsteak pounded
A lack of seriousness in Congress? No way...
The man knows everything
Noting my mention of a recent referral from a search for "famous quotes relating to goats," Dr. Weevil supplies one from Suetonius's Life of Caligula. As he says, it's not nearly as famous as it deserves to be.
Syd, Chuck, Kris, a dark globe, some drunk guy, and me, Elizabeth
So I'm walking down the street in Berkeley, and there's this hippie-type guy walking just behind me playing a Spanish guitar (not singing, just playing.) To my amazement, he was playing one of my favorite songs: the Syd Barrett tune that goes something like "oh where are you now pussy willow that smiled on this leaf when I was alone?"
He was doing a perfect, chord for chord, note for note rendition complete with the lovable, quirky, impossible-to-replicate rhythmic anomalies. (You know, a measure of four, then one of 5, then one of three and a half, then an unquantifiable pause, etc.) This is really hard to do. I've been trying ever since I was a teenager, and I've never been able to get the hang of it.
So I turn around to look at him, and perhaps to congratulate him on his taste and virtuosity, when I realize "oh wait, he's not playing that song at all. He's just drunk."
He looked at me like he thought I was going to punch him or something. So I said "hey," and we moved on.
This says something either very bad or very good about my personal aesthetic. Maybe both.
I was on my way to meet my good friend Chuck Prophet who just got back from all his touring for his new big radio record. We sat in Tully's cafe and spent about two hours talking about about how hard it is to write songs and how great Kris Kristofferson is.
A perfect day.
Let me join what I'm sure will be the blogospheric chorus:
As any connoisseur of the Sunday shows knows, guests and discussion topics are determined days in advance of the actual shows. Usually by Friday afternoon, the weekend's lineups are set. But when news breaks, the shows must adjust accordingly. This weekend's report from Newsweek about possible Saudi government financing of two of the 9/11 terrorists certainly qualified as news--and the Sunday shows responded with alacrity, adding guests and shifting focus. The Bush administration, on the other hand, was not so agile--and their silence on the Saudi story spoke volumes...
By begging off this week's Sunday shows, the Bush administration managed to avoid having to answer these questions right away. But laying low has its downside--namely, the Bushies have now allowed Lieberman and others to frame the debate, and when the administration finally does get around to addressing the Saudi matter, it will be forced to do it on the terms that Lieberman and the others have set. It's not like the White House to cede the initiative when it comes to public relations; but, in this instance, the Bushies have opted for the extra time because, in the matter of the Saudis and 9/11, the administration has apparently concluded it is dealing with an extremely volatile situation. Based on what we saw today, there's no reason to believe they're wrong about that.
Aside from the actual content of this story (the details of which are very nearly as significant as they're cracked up to be-- the overall issue incalculably so) it's also fascinating from a political stagecraft angle. Watching it play out is something else. It's like a movie, a morality play about political hubris and the pundits who love it. The Republican army is utterly victorious in the Glorious Midterm Elections, its foes nothing more than mangled chunks scattered across the battlefield. The victors retire to the palace for a grand feast and celebration. They fought bravely, and the defeat was so decisive that everyone is certain their benevolent rule will endure, unchallenged in any serious way by the defeated enemy, till the end of time. We hear the sound of the cheering of a great crowd: it's the Emergent Republican Majority proclaiming that they will never vote for anyone else ever again. The audience expects the credits to roll...
...we see Joe Lieberman's hand, groping in the bloody snow, for what, we know not. Suddenly, the hand alights upon a copy of Newsweek, which seems to be shining with an unearthly inner light. With tremendous effort and visible pain, Lieberman arises and trudges towards the palace, holding the magazine aloft. The crowd of rabble who had, in a previous scene, been triumphantly exchanging their betting markers for crumpled wads of cash are now shown handing back the cash to the other crowd of rabble; some are tearing the markers up, some gazing upon them wistfully. The Republicans refuse to come out of the palace, recognizing the potential power of Lieberman's makeshift amulet... and in the distance, we see the massing hordes of the more dangerous, common enemy, preparing for battle...
I don't know how the movie ends. Saudi-gate won't solve all of the Democrats' problems. It will be tricky to use it effectively, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if they can't manage it. But it is a real issue, upon which Bush himself is extremely vulnerable. And it's not going to go away.
Frankly, I don't much care about the political sweepstakes. I'm just glad the issue is finally being raised. Whatever happens, we learn, once again: it ain't over till it's over. And even then, well, you never know.
Could it be for real? Who knows?
I'm sure there will be those who will make a great deal of hay over the rhetorical similarity of some of it to Chomskyite Indymedia-type "anti-Imperialist" claptrap. I'll leave it to someone else to try to come up with the wittiest way to make this relatively trivial and banal observation. (To my surprise, and to his credit, Andrew Sullivan has resisted the temptation: his long post on this letter is eloquent, clarifying and utterly non-trivial.)
If nothing else, this Osama or pseudo-Osama has presented us with fodder for a thousand cheap high school debate society gags, similar to that provided by Hitler's vegetarianism, e.g., "in other words, like Osama bin Laden, you believe that the US isn't doing enough to prevent global warming," or "so Rush, would you say you agree with Osama bin Laden that Bill Clinton's escape from punishment for his immoral acts in the Oval office is the worst event in our history...?"
Trivia aside, the biggest surprise about this letter, for me, is its lucidity. The religious stuff sounds completely wacko, like that sort of thing always does; but it is possible to follow it. The anti-Imperialist stuff is preposterous, but far more clearly-stated than I'm used to seeing from home-grown anti-Americans: if Gore Vidal ever learned to express himself half as clearly, he'd probably be much more effective as a self-styled "enemy of the state." It has a certain "all of your base are belong to us" quality, evoking a Surrender Earthlings message delivered by movie Martians. Yet, though risible and absurdly implausible, the demand for, the expectation of, "complete submission" to Sharia law, on pain of death, is nonetheless far more disturbing than it ought to be: because they really mean it, you see?
It's puerile, atavistic in multiple layers (the usury paragraph achieves a "medieval" flavor that adds a whole old dimension to the Hitlerian anti-Semitism it otherwise invokes-- a grim irony to be sure); it is hectoring when it isn't whining; it is obtuse, belligerent, nasty, appallingly devoid of humanity or charity. It is stylistically monotonous and irritating: reading it is like being pestered by a mosquito you can't swat away. It achieves the oppressiveness of totalitarian rhetoric, but with a lot less jargon. It conjures the impression of an announcement issuing from a loudspeaker at some kind of bizarre, implausible religious concentration camp. Despite the "religious" content, though, the author seems spiritually dead, a machine animated only by hatred and cold belligerence. But he does not rant or rave incoherently, like so many of us do.
In short, to my surprise, it doesn't sound crazy.
In case there was any doubt: it's a religious war. That's how they see it. As such, there is no compromise, no tolerance, no "live and let live." "Simplistic" as it still sounds, they really do hate America and our way of life; they hate, mock, and want to destroy the very idea of freedom, of democracy, of pluralism, of tolerance, of secular law; they hate Jews; they hate humanity. It's not an exaggeration, or a convenient hypocritical conceit. It's not "propaganda." It's actually true.
I recently saw Christopher Hitchens on some talk show or other glibly say something like: "they want to live in the 6th century desert with just one book. Their demand is that you cease to exist." Turns out, he was right.
UPDATE: Instantman says the letter is bogus. I'd say that's more likely to be the case than not. As Andrew Sullivan says, though, either way, it's a sincere attempt to sum up the Islamist/al Qaeda position, written by someone who obviously put a great deal of effort into the project. Otherwise he's an extremely clever satirist. And it has been enthusiastically circulated among al Qaeda sympathizers. Anyway, Reynolds has posted a concise reply.
Why Ken Layne is great, part xxxxvii.
This post by Josh Marshall begins as a sort of comment on Krauthammer's recent by-the-numbers piece on the "left-wing idiocy" of Bill Moyers, Paul Krugman, et al. (Well, not entirely by the numbers: this one includes a prescription for Thorazine-- a novel, maybe even handy, twist.) I enjoy this sort of thing as much as anyone, but I try not to let a good time get in the way of the truth. (I'm a shameless liar, of course: a good time usually wins with me. But nevertheless...) Marshall's comment is apt: "whatever other causes or effects the election may have had, it popped the cork on a new bottle of conservative conceit and self-congratulation."
The interesting part of the post, however, spurred by the fact that the Krauthammer piece appears in the Weekly Standard, is a perceptive question:
What happened to conservative reform? National Greatness conservatism? You know, McCain-ite TR worship and the rest?
Some will say that National Greatness Conservatism is alive and well in the zeal for the drive to Baghdad. But that's a weak rejoinder. Aggressive foreign policy was only part of the equation. The truth, I think, is pretty clear: it's dead...
What happened is that Bush got popular because of the war. And after that happened why did anyone need reform anymore?
From Joan Jett's open letter to Rolling Stone:
I tried to find some cleverly worded way to express my disgust with your "Women in Rock" issue, but what i have to say is really quite simple: You guys are completely retarded.
The historic NATO summit in Prague was cast largely as another chapter in the geopolitical melodrama about Saddam Hussein. "Bush draws NATO allies to anti-Iraq campaign," The Globe and Mail's headline read on Thursday morning. "U.S. Wins NATO Support on Iraq," the Financial Times chipped in yesterday.
The forest missed by the tree-obsessed press was vast, and worth considering. Beyond the real significance of guaranteeing security for oft-trampled Central and Eastern European countries, the Prague summit provided them with their first tangible multilateral reward for overthrowing communism, gave U.S. President George W. Bush a noticeable shot in the arm and served as the crowning achievement of Czech President Václav Havel's fabled political career.
Defining Victory Down
Mark Steyn's latest, much-linked column is entertaining as always, and as usual, there's some substance between the one-liners:
For over a year now, nothing has been asked of Muslims, at home or abroad: you can be equivocal about bin Laden and an apologist for suicide bombers, and still get a photo-op with Dubya; you can be a member of a regime whose state TV stations and government-owned newspapers call for Muslims to kill all Jews and Christians, and you'll still get to kick your shoes off with George and Laura at the Crawford ranch.
This is not just wrong but self-defeating. As long as Dubya and Colin Powell and the rest are willing to prance around doing a month-long Islamic minstrel-show routine for the amusement of the A-list Arabs, Muslims will rightly see it for what it is: a sign of profound cultural weakness.
As things stand, there are only three countries that are serious about the "war on terror": America, Britain and Australia. And, even within that shrunken rump of the West, there are fierce divisions... President Bush's resoluteness doesn't extend to his Secretary of State or even, during Ramadan, to himself. The longer this already too long period of phony war continues, the more likely it is that even these stalwarts will decay and Canadianize. I worry about the thin line on which our civilization depends. This last year has been too quiet.
That's a tough one. But I wonder if some of it might not have to do with the fact that Bush partisans have constructed a giant self-congratulatory feedback loop, declaring Victory in advance of action; constantly reassuring each other, for example, that "defeating" the moribund, politically-retarded Democrats and diplomatically out-manoeuvering the French makes GWB into some kind of cross between Abe Lincoln and Winston Churchill. Anyone who can handle Tom Daschle and Jacques Chirac with such aplomb will make short work of our real enemies, right? That is, when the time is right, by and by, after the process has run its course. All part of the master plan, for regime change or disarmament or cooperation (which is a kind of regime change, isn't it?) Or preemption or containment or unilateralism or multilateralism, that sort of thing. Some of us might prefer a more direct approach, but that's just Dubya's way, and who's to say it's not the best solution, whatever it is?
And anyway, back to the main point, isn't that Nancy Pelosi just awful?
Steyn himself wrote one of these victory-dance columns just last week. Maybe Bush read it along with all the others, and forgot that technically he still has to trot around the bases before he gets official credit for hitting another one out of the park.
OK, I'm kidding. Mostly. But it is amazing that GWB hasn't come in for stronger criticism from the right, given the lackadaisical post-Afganistan phase of his own war on terror, and the non-confrontational attitude towards countries which some consider to be our most dangerous enemies. Steyn's column (the second one, I mean) is a rare example to the contrary. Granted, from the perspective of those who would like a war to occur, the situation might have been far worse under Gore; but one must assume they'd consider that to be a pretty low standard. At any rate, I don't think there's any doubt that had a President Gore decided to entrust the fate of Iraq and its WMDs to the UN and to continue the Saudi suck-up policy, they wouldn't be putting much energy into devising ingenious rope-a-dope theories to sustain their wishful thinking; rather, they'd be fisking him from here to kingdom come morning, noon, and night. I'm sure Bush means well, but some constructive criticism from his friends wouldn't go astray.
I see merit in both columns, contradictory though they may be. The French were wrong (though it may yet turn out that they were wrong "like a fox"), and the Democrats deserved to lose, in part because of their lack of credibility on defense. But on what, at this point, is Bush's unquestioned credibility based? How long does he get to enjoy such uncritical credit for striking intermittently tough attitudes and articulating aggressive policies that somehow never get put into practice? As Bill Quick memorably put it, you can only dine out on Afghanistan for so long.
Now I may be wrong, but it seems like the principles articulated on 9/20/01 and in the 2002 State of the Union address, the ones which won over so many skeptics among his critics, the ones that led many who did not vote for Bush to express, to their own astonishment, relief that the guy they voted for was not in the White House-- these principles appear to be in a shambles. Taking the fight to the enemy, making no distinction between the terrorists and their abettors, dismantling the "axis of evil," the newly unapologetic confidence in American power-- much of this seems to have been diluted into a kind of low-grade mush. Afghanistan was the necessary preliminary step; but it was supposed to be peripheral to the main order of business, which was to challenge, de-fang, and if necessary defeat the states that sponsor, shelter, and encourage Islamofascist extremist proxies in their collective war on America and her interests and allies. After Afghanistan fell, hawkish pundits crowed that the only way to earn the respect of these enemies was to face them head on and defeat them utterly, and that only such crushing defeats would quell their ardor for launching further campaigns. This may have been true enough, but for some reason we failed to take the next step. I fear that much of this momentum, this progress toward an Islamofascist attitude adjustment, if such it was, has now dissipated. Do they still see the US as a "paper tiger" that lacks the will to challenge them in any serious way? It seems as though Saddam Hussein does. Well, why wouldn't he? He has no reason to fear the UN (his partner in obfuscation) and the US doesn't seem to be all that into dropping bombs these days.
In the meantime, Bush spent several months thrilling the hawks and scaring the bejesus out of the Europeans with a series of bellicose speaking engagements and sabre-rattling commencement addresses on unilateralism and the "doctrine of preemption" that, it now appears, served no purpose other than to thrill the hawks and scare the bejesus out of the Europeans. What was gained during all those months of empty rhetoric and "Homeland Security?" Incremental progress in tracking down and gathering intelligence on al Qaeda members, which is laudable to be sure, and time to prepare and organize our forces for a theoretical future engagement with Iraq and others, which is only prudent. (Iraq has had a year to continue its programs, too, of course; but, on the plus side, we've introduced rigorous shoe inspections at airports and soon we're going to have a giant database of domestic credit card purchases.) We (and they) will have even more time now that we have deliberately enmeshed ourselves in a UN inspections process intentionally designed to hamper and impede American action.
There are those who maintain that the Bushies, in keeping with a carefully-formulated long-term plan whose brilliance is yet to be revealed, entered into this inspections charade with the express intention of abruptly disentangling themselves from it on December 8th. The Europeans won't like it, but there's not much they can do. There was never much they could do. And the point is... ? Never fear, my poppet, all will be revealed in time. They've been saying this sort of thing for a year, like Jehovah's Witnesses telling you to mark your calendar for successive Second Comings-- the only thing that changes is the date. You know, I'm beginning to wonder if they know what they're talking about.
These are tough decisions, with serious risks and grave consequences, and I don't propose that they be taken lightly or hurriedly. They were never going to be easy. Someone has to make them though. I remember thinking, during the 2002 State of the Union address, that Bush would have a lot of explaining to do if Saddam Hussein were still in power in January 2003. At the time it seemed scarcely conceivable. Now it's all but certain.
We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons. (Applause.)
Copycats, or worse...
Islamic Jihad has attempted its first known al Qaeda-style suicide boat attack on an Israeli naval vessel off the north Gaza coast. Rather small potatoes for al Qaeda, but you never know. It doesn't sound as though the small patrol boat that discovered the self-detonating seafaring psychos was the intended target. What were they aiming for?
Miss World contestants are preparing to fly to London, amid criticism over the decision to host the beauty pageant in the UK...
The UK's Islamic Liberation party has condemned the contest as offensive to people of any religion...
Spokesman Sajjad Khan told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "The idea of having a beauty contest anywhere would be against many forward-thinking people, whatever faith and whatever ideology."
He added: "A beauty contest is anathema, more akin to the dark ages than having a contest in the 21st century."
The Irony Olympics
"Hate Speech" alert: Lock her up
Why is two women being killed each week acceptable, whereas the murder of two blacks or gays would not be?
Are you ready for... Anarchist Parenting?
Up until now I have been unable to stay at home with my oldest son and un-school him. He is now 15 years old and doesn't want to be home schooled, so he's in public school. After all of these years of participating in the school system, I finally decided just last month that I would never again make that mistake. That is, of course, if I can help it.
My family is quite privileged inasmuch as we are even capable of considering unschooling our two younger boys. However, we are also just making it week-to-week, selling plasma twice a week for miscellaneous living expenses, juggling from month to month to prevent this utility or that one from being shut off.
At this very moment, I think our water has just been disconnected (yep, I was right).
No business like show business
I'm not as up-to-date as I ought to be on the activities of aging British Socialists, so I wasn't even aware that Tony Benn has a "highly rated one man show" called Free at Last (which is incidentally also the title of his published memoirs.) Well, he does indeed, though judging from this description it sounds like more of a promotional speaking tour than a "show."
Nonetheless, the Brussels performance described in this article seems to have had its moments:
In the UK his show is normally attended by the converted, but here in Brussels the audience was very different. Many of the 500 or so spectators had come along out of curiosity. Eurocrats, MEPs, lobbyists, consultants, journalists, thinktank-ers, research assistants and lawyers all crammed in to hear the 77-year old reminisce about the past and fulminate about the future...
One of Benn's main criticisms was that there is not enough democracy in Brussels, a point with which it is hard to argue.
The European commission, he reminded the audience, is not elected and therefore not accountable, and the European parliament, he told crestfallen MEPs, is not a parliament in the real sense of the word...
The most important question to ask someone in power, he quipped, was how you go about getting rid of them, and in the case of the European commission the disturbing answer is you can't.
A prominent Tory MEP who insisted on shouting "Hear Hear!" after any of Benn's pronouncements he liked (and there were many of them) reminded the audience that doubts about the EU and its direction are shared by the right too.
(via Airstrip One.)
A good material breach is hard to find, as TNR's Ryan Lizza explains:
This week's international debate over the definition of material breach is a harbinger of things to come. In fact, the debate over paragraph eight will be nothing compared with the coming war over paragraphs three and four. Those paragraphs mandate that, by December 8, Iraq must provide the inspectors with "a currently accurate, full, and complete declaration" of every aspect of its chemical, biological, nuclear, and missile programs...
Despite Bush's tough rhetoric on Wednesday in Prague--"Deception this time will not be tolerated"--State's interpretation is that even the most bogus declaration cannot by itself equal material breach. Paragraph four says that "false statements or omissions in the declarations submitted by Iraq pursuant to this resolution and failure by Iraq at any time to comply with, and cooperate fully in the implementation of, this resolution shall constitute a further material breach [emphasis added]." State's reading of this paragraph--the only one in the resolution in which material breach is defined--is that lies in the disclosure must be accompanied by noncooperation with inspections to reach material breach...
"There is no material breach until Iraq has not cooperated in the verification of the declaration," says a Western diplomat who was closely involved with the negotiations. "Merely telling lies in the declaration is not in itself a casus belli." In fact, the presence of the word "and" in paragraph four was key to getting a unanimous vote. "The British were extremely specific about this," adds one diplomat. "[U.K. Ambassador Jeremy] Greenstock stressed it and stressed it." The Brits concur. "It's the two things together," says a British official. "To get to the level of material breach, we're talking about a lie in the declaration and noncooperation" with the inspectors. As long as there is cooperation, even if the inspectors discover that the declaration was false, there is no material breach.
This interpretation, of course, gives Saddam zero incentive to be forthcoming in the declaration. Why should he provide Blix with any clues when he is only really going to be judged by his cooperation with inspections on the ground?
I have a nightmare along these lines every three weeks or so. *shudder*
The death toll of the Nigerian Miss World riots, which have now spread to the capital, stands at 100.
This Victor Davis Hanson column, like every other VDH column, will be linked to by everyone hither and yon. He makes a convincing case that the US-Iraq war, should anyone ever manage to start it, will probably wind up as a siege/blockade of Baghdad:
[Saddam] has learned that a conventional battle with the United States amounts to a circus in which thousands of poor draftees surrender to either helicopters or Italian reporters. Therefore we should realize that Saddam accepts that on Day One of the next war, he will lose his entire air space. He concedes as well that, a few days later, what provincial conscripts do not surrender will, like the Taliban, be obliterated in the field. Some regional cities staffed by such units could fall within hours to coalition forces and popular uprisings.
In short, his only real alternative is to circle his wagons in Baghdad and accept the realization that his own people loathe rather than support him. We see that popular discontent as a given and to our great advantage; he accepts the former reality, but not altogether the latter...
If Saddam can hold out for a month or two in Fortress Baghdad, use his own population of millions as veritable hostages whom he prays will be casualties to collateral bombing damage, snipe at Americans who venture Mogadishu-fashion into his redoubt, and like Chechens send out an occasional salvo or some terrorists to cause havoc — he believes he can create a war of attrition and wage it with a few thousand diehards hidden among the general population. Under such a scenario, merely his continued survival will be a rallying cry that not only might change Iraqi opinion, but could galvanize the Arab street should Americans or Jews start dying in real numbers.
As well they might.
John Weidner has posted this article from the Deutsche Presse-Agentur (not available on-line.) Here's an excerpt:
"I want him dead, even if I or my family lose all our belongings and our whole existence," said Farugh, a 39-year-old trader in Suleymanieh. "And believe me, I mean it," he added.
The bitter hatred towards the Iraqi president in the Kurdish regions is unanimous. No Kurd can forget the genocide in 1988 when Saddam brutally killed hundreds of families in the northeastern Kurdish town of Halabja by dispersing toxic gas. "The hatred is genuine and justified. What he did to us (Kurds) in 1988 is unimaginable," said Saadi Pireh, the foreign policy spokesman of Suleymanieh, the centre of the Patriotic Union (PUK) governed Kurdish autonomy. "He should be on trial at the Hague Tribunal as war criminal at least," said the spokesman.
The Kurdish people however are less diplomatic and call for Saddam's assassination either by United States military intervention or a coup within the ruling Baath party. "I want to see his death live on CNN," said Rahman, a member of the PUK Peshmargas (Kurdish military forces) and one of the few survivors of Halabja, where he lost his parents and his younger sister. "Only then might I forget Halabja and only then might my recurring nightmares of the massacre of so many innocent Kurds come to en end," he said.
Here's the WaPo account of the latest suicide busbomb, horrific details included. Savages.
Take a look at Bill Quick's close-reading and commentary on this Reuters report about Colin Powell's latest televised statements on Iraq. I think he's right. It certainly looks as though the administration is laying the groundwork for a retreat. (Or perhaps an indefinite delay, which comes to the same thing.)
Did you think that the December 8th deadline for Iraq to declare its weapons programs was the moment of truth, and that the resulting "severe consequences" would include an invasion? Despite the enduring faith of some of GWB's indefatigable cheerleaders, this time-table has always seemed a bit far-fetched to me. Powell's statements seem to bear out this skepticism. At minimum, this looks like an attempt to preserve the (disastrous) option of inaction, in the event that the Commander in Chief is unable to summon the fortitude to make the decision to act. (Of course, if this can be accomplished while leaving the impression that action is just around the corner, so much the better.)
President Bush said on Wednesday that Saddam would be entering his "final stage" if he says in the declaration that he has no such weapons.
Other members of the Security Council say that a false declaration alone would not justify war.
I don't think it's all part of some elaborate, perfectly-planned disinformation campaign to keep the enemy guessing. (Though, if so, it will have been one of the most effective in history: if there is an attack on Dec. 9th, thereabouts, or even in the next year, I'm pretty sure it will come as a complete surprise to Saddam Hussein-- he clearly believes that the US and the UNSC are just blowing smoke.) Is Powell merely playing "good cop" to Bush's "bad cop"? There's some precedent for this, of course. But to what end?
I keep thinking of another, more worrying, good cop/bad cop scenario, in which the Bush administration with its bellicose rhetoric is the bad cop to the UN/EU's conciliatory good cop. The mutual, unarticulated, de facto goal: to preserve the status quo in the Middle East while cultivating the appearance that something is being done about the problem. That was the goal of the GHWB foreign policy team (many of whom are still with us), and it led to the disastrous lack of resolution to the Gulf War and to so many of our current problems. 9/11 was supposed to have changed everything. We shall see.
As it stands at this moment, we have something like the worst-case scenario on our hands: a strident ultimatum backed by threats that no one takes very seriously. Meanwhile, the clock is still ticking, and our Islamist enemies grow more emboldened with every second.
The Islamic anti-Miss World rioting in Nigeria has now killed fifty people and injured another two hundred.
In Thursday's rioting, more than 50 people were stabbed, bludgeoned or burned to death and 200 were seriously injured, Ijewere told The Associated Press.
At least four churches were destroyed, he said.
Many of the bodies were taken by Red Cross workers and other volunteers to local mortuaries. Many people remained inside homes that were set afire by the demonstrators, [Emmanuel] Ijewere [president of the Nigerian Red Cross] said.
Shehu Sani of the Kaduna-based Civil Rights Congress said he watched a crowd stab one young man, then force a tire filled with gasoline around his neck and burn him alive. Sani said he saw three other bodies elsewhere in the city.
Alsa Hassan, founder of another human rights group, Alsa Care, said he saw a commuter being dragged out of his car and beaten to death by protesters.
Schools and shops hurriedly closed as hordes of young men, shouting "Allahu Akhbar," or "God is great," ignited makeshift street barricades made of tires and garbage, sending plumes of black smoke rising above the city. Others were heard chanting, "Down with beauty" and "Miss World is sin."
Al-Qaida leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the network's chief of operations in the Persian Gulf, has been captured, senior U.S. government officials said Thursday.
Al-Nashiri, a suspected mastermind of the USS Cole bombing in October 2000, was taken in an undisclosed foreign country earlier this month and is now in U.S. custody, officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity... Al-Nashiri is suspected in a number of other al-Qaida terrorist plots, including the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings... U.S. intelligence believes he was behind the Oct. 6 attack on the French tanker off the coast of Yemen that left one crewman dead, said a U.S. defense official...
In addition to the Cole attack, officials say he has been involved with a number of plots targeting the U.S. Navy in the past three years.
He is thought to be behind a nearly identical attempt to bomb another destroyer, the USS The Sullivans, nine months before the Cole attack, at Aden. That attack failed when the suicide boat, overloaded with explosives, sank.
Most recently, he has been tied to a failed al-Qaida plot to bomb U.S. and British warships crossing the Strait of Gibraltar, U.S. officials have said. In June, three Saudis were arrested in Morocco in connection with that plot.
He is also suspected of being behind plans to bomb the 5th Fleet Headquarters in Bahrain, a plot revealed in January by another top al-Qaida operative captured by Pakistan after fleeing Afghanistan.
So why isn't Prince Charles in jail?
That's the obvious facetious question, sure to be asked over and over in connection with the case of Robin Page, the Telegraph writer who was arrested and jailed for saying that "the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims and gays."
The Prince of Wales said much the same thing in a letter to Tony Blair back in September. It's a common enough formulation amongst the pro-hunting lobby in Britain; indeed, it's something of a cliche.
Mr. Page and Prince Charles are irrefutably correct when they maintain that "rural folk" ought to have the same rights as any other minority group, though it's certainly possible to question the implication that they, in fact, do not. At worst, it may be hyperbole or balderdash to compare the plight of British country people with that of government-certified victims of racism, religious persecution, or sex discrimination. A strongly-worded letter to the editor of the local paper, denouncing such intemperate rhetoric, might be called for. Such a letter might even suggest, as such letters often do, that the likes of Mr. Page and the Prince of Wales are a menace to society and ought to be locked up. Yet even those with extreme anti-toff sympathies might well wonder whether it's a good idea to allow The Authorities unlimited power to take it upon themselves actually to do so.
How, exactly, is this statement "hate speech?" How does uttering it "stir up racial hatred?" No one can say, because "hate speech" is a contentless category. To ban it is to criminalize the expression of unspecified opinions or "attitudes," which are to be determined as the need arises. My guess is that the mere utterance of the words "blacks, Muslims, and gays" in a context that was not sufficiently deferential, by a speaker who (one assumes) fits none of these pigeonholes himself, is what triggered the inquiries by the Sensitivity Police. (nb: if Jews are ever added to this "endangered species" roster of officially protected minorities, those on the editorial staff of the Guardian had better watch their step-- not that that's likely to occur.)
If the Telegraph's account of the affair is to be believed, Page was brought in for questioning because the chief constable had received "a number of complaints." They put him in a jail cell until he agreed not to insist on consulting a lawyer. "Are you a racist?" they asked. "No," he replied. He was released on bail and ordered to report to the police again in January, for some unspecified further procedure.
In America, such idiocy might be noted ironically under the rubric "your tax dollars at work" (outrage optional.) But then, we have a First Amendment. The citizens (read "subjects") of Great Britain don't. And, as Iain Murray says, they really need one. God help 'em.
"It's time to save journalism from its saviors," is the sub-head of this excellent, inspiring polemic cum book review from Matt Welch.
Monopoly newspapering in the U.S. is an idiosyncratic -- and extremely lucrative -- business, conducted largely by a small handful of companies. It is entirely possible that many accepted industry practices, such as maintaining massive staffs (the hardly top-notch San Francisco Chronicle has more than 500 editorial employees, for instance), are more accidental artifacts of evolution than logical organizations of resources.
Four out of five new newspaper hires have journalism degrees, but maybe one in 5,000 have been plucked from the fertile minor leagues of online journalism, at a time when Internet punditry has exploded in popularity while newspaper op-ed sections continue to disappoint. The stock newspaper columnist caricature of the nonconformist, passionate, politically incorrect populist is found almost exclusively on the Web nowadays.
Layne has the final word:
Maybe it doesn't matter. These people are dying out, along with their sick and bloated industry. If it ever gets really weird around these parts, I'd trust Matt Drudge and the editors of Maxim a helluva lot more than these pompous frauds.
The low-down on Wahhabism, Again
Here's an interesting interview with Stephen Schwartz, authority on Wahhabism. Check out his response to Kathryn Jean Lopez's question "how widespread is it?" The anwer is a concise, perspective-restoring run-down of the degree of Wahhabist influence throughout the Islamic world.
And what about the US?
Unfortunately, the U.S. is the only country outside Saudi Arabia where the Islamic establishment is under Wahhabi control. Eighty percent of American mosques are Wahhabi-influenced, although this does not mean that 80 percent of the people who attend them are Wahhabis. Mosque attendance is different from church or synagogue membership in that prayer in the mosque does not imply acceptance of the particular dispensation in the mosque. However, Wahhabi agents have sought to impose their ideology on all attendees in mosques they control.
The entire gamut of "official" Islamic organizations in the U.S., particularly the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) are Wahhabi fronts.
I have never seen a single serious interview with an Islamic religious figure on Western television. This is in itself a shocking fact. Of course, first an interviewer would have to know who to interview and what questions to ask. But if you don't know who or what to ask you have no business proclaiming how much of the Islamic world hates us and supports terror...
Of course, for much of the media, the primitive and simplistic image of Muslims as uniformly extremist and terrorist is easier to report, more popular, and "better TV" than that of a complex conflict inside a world religion. It also supports the left-wing claim that it's all our fault, or Israel's. It's so much easier to say they all hate us because of our hegemony and Zionism than to say, as I do, that they don't all hate us, and that the real issue is the battle for the soul of Islam.
As for the situation in the U.S., condemnation of Wahhabism and even of terrorism have been sparse for the following reasons:
Wahhabis (CAIR, etc.) are granted status by U.S. media as the main Islamic spokespeople. They issue ameliorative statements intended to end discussion of the problem, and they closely watch the community and prevent traditional Muslims from expressing themselves openly about Wahhabism and its involvement with terrorism. The U.S. media let them get away with this.
Most immigrant Muslims in the U.S. came to this country to get away from extremism and are horrified to see that their faith is in extremist hands here.
Zero Tolerance Watch
The Iraqi government has accepted without protest the right of UN weapons inspectors to make unannounced checks on "special" sites belong to President Saddam Hussein, an issue that helped derail the inspections in the 1990s, UN officials said Wednesday.
"That is settled by the resolution. It wasn't even discussed," chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said..
Iraqi Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Wednesday that Iraq would fully cooperate with weapons inspectors, but he vowed to prevent them from gathering "intelligence."
"Any demand or question or a manner of work that conforms with the objective of the inspectors who want to verify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction will be met with full cooperation," Ramadan said in an interview from Baghdad with the private Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation.
"But for demands which are clearly (meant) for intelligence or for other objectives that have nothing to do with the weapons of mass destruction, we will act in such a way so as to safeguard the country's sovereignty and security," he said.
Iraq had raised sovereignty in barring inspectors from Saddam's palaces and other sites in the 1990s.
Somehow, I don't think they're buying it.
Steven Chapman has posted an inventory of the thirty minutes of new material in the Lord of the Rings Special Edition DVD.
I'm going to have to buy one now, though I will always harbor a deep, bitter, murderous resentment owing to the fact that I was tricked into buying the not-so-special one that immediately preceded it. Or maybe I should wait for the extra-special edition that will probably come along? Nope, I've got to have the additional "concerning Hobbits" bit, the full suite of Galadriel's gifts, and Gandalf's uttering of the Black Speech at the Council of Elrond. (Though, I have to say, I could probably do without too much more of Haldir.)
I wonder how many times they're going to be able to sell this material to suckers like me. Time will tell.
The Quotable Mr. Murray
To my astonishment, Iain Murray has brought "the Emperor's New Clothes" back to life as a meaningful (read "not boring") political allegory. The immediate subject is the folly of the social engineering schemes fashionable in the 60s, but it could easily be applied to many other cases where earnest, unthinking revisionists have, in the name of progress, destroyed everything of substance in traditional institutions while offering very little of value to take its place (e.g. Vatican II, education in the liberal arts, "the Canon," etc.):
The true situation was, it seems to me, the reverse of Hans Christian Anderson's tale. The Emperor was fully, and splendidly, clothed, but the little boy said he was naked. No-one wanted to contradict the little boy, so obviously the representative of progress, a visionary indeed, and so the Emperor was stripped naked and left to shiver in the cold, ridiculed by all.
I'm not so sure that political correctness is a spent force in the US, as this author claims. He does have a point, however, that recent trends in British law and politics effectively pull the rug out from under an entire genre of British opinion journalism:
In America in the 1990s, I specialised in stories highlighting the horrors of political correctness. For a new correspondent seeking easy targets, it was like shooting fish in a barrel, and I am rather ashamed now of the relish with which I took aim...
We are now in the disastrous position of having imported wholesale all the once-fashionable baggage of North American political correctness without having a sufficiently flexible political system to rid ourselves of it. Because of the snuffing out of any conservative pulse in our de facto Blairite one-party state, we are still embracing a trend which is now being reversed in the country where it started.
In America, local congressmen can test popular support for quotas or affirmative action legislation by running against it, but this cannot happen here under the Westminster system. Nor is there a British judicial tradition of individuals challenging politically correct measures in the courts.
Perhaps we deserve this fate after sniggering so smugly at the United States for so long. And no wonder American tourists aren't coming to Britain any more. These days they must find us intolerably dull and earnest, with absolutely no sense of irony.
This article in the Daily Californian (on Berkeley's civil defense preparedness) contains this nugget of brilliant analysis:
at least one expert said terrorists probably won't bother targeting Berkeley.
"Berkeley is very anti-war, so it would seem a very unlikely target, because it would turn a bastion of anti-war feeling against you," said UC Berkeley political science professor Darren Zook.
I'm having a strange flashback to 9/12/01 when massive idiotarian Michael Moore posted this now-deleted, disgusting message on his on-line journal:
Many families have been devastated tonight. This just is not right. They did not deserve to die. If someone did this to get back at Bush, then they did so by killing thousands of people who DID NOT VOTE for him! Boston, New York, DC, and the planes' destination of California-- these were places that voted against Bush!
Why kill them?
Grab hold of my talons, Gandalf...
Awhile back Andrew Sullivan identified what he described as a relatively new American political category:
There's a new group of people out there who are socially liberal but also foreign policy realists, especially among those who have been awakened to political engagement by September 11. Some of these used to be Scoop Jackson Democrats, but today's breed doesn't buy into the big government liberalism of the 1960s and 1970s either. Some are neocons who don't love the social right. Others are just Generation X and Y, who simply accept the social diversity of modern culture and want to see it defended against theocratic barbarians. These people are not comfortable with the Republicans' flirtation with the religious right, or their prosecution of the drug war or mixing of church and state; and they're not impressed by the Democrats' lack of seriousness in foreign policy or enmeshment with public sector interest groups. They're politically homeless, these people - but were probably key swing voters in the last election.
When I first read this, I, like many others I'd guess, thought to myself: "yes, absolutely-- that describes me perfectly. Well done, Andrew."
And, like many others, I'd guess, I also thought to myself: "there's no way on earth I'm ever going to go around referring to myself as an eagle. I mean, come on..."
Now Sullivan has actually started to use this term as an ordinary word, with no disclaimer, inverted commas, or indeed any explanation. I wonder how this appears to those who didn't happen to read his original post:
Good for liberal Polly Toynbee for seeing what we eagles have long argued...
Who knows: maybe I'll get used to it. "Hawk," in political contexts, no longer makes me think of an actual bird. Not usually, anyway. I really want to be the best eagle that I can be, so I'll keep trying.
Read my beak: God Bless America.
Tim wins, again.
Here's my favorite bit of the original piece in the Sydney Morning Herald:
"I've maintained a fairly low standard of living in terms of cars, houses and planes and in that way I don't have to make a huge amount of money to maintain my lifestyle," she said.
So it goes...
Kofi Annan says the recent attacks on US and British planes do not violate the UNSC resolution; the administration disagrees but declines to press the point. (There's that "zero tolerance" again...)
Charles at Little Green Footballs says:
This is a precursor of what’s going to happen when evidence of weapons is discovered in Iraq; Annan will obfuscate and deny and make light of the findings. Kofi Annan stood and watched and dithered as hundreds of thousands died in Rwanda, and now he wants to do the same thing as the ruthless thugs who rule Iraq frantically work to obtain the Arab bomb.
John Cole channels Scott Ritter.
Well said, Bill.
The Bush administration has been quite successful at leaving the impression, despite little evidence, that decisive action is always just around the corner. Running around saying "this time we mean business" is all very well, but it can't work indefinitely. The talk about "zero tolerance" sounds like so much bluster. My gut feeling about the Bush administration and Iraq has always been that they are using publicity stunts and grandstanding to play for time while they figure out what to do. I'm afraid that that may still be the case. (The Iraqis are lying about the weapons programs, and they're shooting at us, for God's sake-- what part of "zero" don't they understand?) Saddam seems to believe that the US will ultimately shrink from taking action and that the weapons inspections charade will be distracting enough for long enough to allow him to continue his nuclear program to "completion." It is, indeed, his only hope, but it may well be granted to him.
A confrontation with Iraq is inevitable. If Bush doesn't deliver on his promises to meet the threat in the next month or so, my guess is that it will occur some time in 2005, under some president other than him. Yet it's by no means certain that this will not be too late. Some of Bill's commenters accuse him of panicking needlessly, but there are grounds for worry. There are many possible scenarios, all of them nightmares. Here's how one commenter (to another item) sees it playing out:
If Saddam ever got a nuke and couldn't get a second one before the US invaded, I'd guess that he would set it off in the Iraqi desert and then tell the world that he had four or five more. This would probably stop the war in its tracks. If this happens, Bush has failed and we will learn how to live with a nuclear armed Iraq just as we will learn how to live with a nuclear armed Korea. That future will include the end of Israel and the total dominance of the Mideast by Saddam. Additionally, if an Islamic/Western conflict becomes inevitable then so does nuclear war.
When all else fails, former 60s radicals and their would-be apologists always resort to a variation upon this dubious theme. You have to wonder if they really think they're fooling anyone other than themselves.
The familiar mantra is, in this case, intoned by one Derek Hanekom, a member of the South African parliament and prominent defender of SLA fugitive James Kilgore. What he's referring to, of course, is the SLA's idiotic, pseudo-political crime spree, a pointless string of terrorist publicity stunts whose destructiveness was limited only by its perpetrators' own merciful ineptitude. (Though not nearly limited enough.)
It's a good deal less surprising than it ought to be that this point of view is tacitly endorsed by the authors of this piece ("from SLA terrorist to liberal activist") in today's SF Chronicle.
Kilgore appears to have put the violence behind him, while nurturing or honing whatever political thinking the SLA originally had.
"The SLA represents a continuity in his thinking, but his methods have changed," said Martin Jansen, director of Workers World Radio Productions, where Kilgore has been on the board of directors since 2000. "He's quite dedicated to his cause."
If I were a "liberal activist" trying to revive The Dream, I'd be doing everything I could to put at least a barge-pole's distance between myself and anything associated with The Movement's worst, most inane monsters. I can't quite credit it, but there are some people who even now have failed to grasp what was wrong with the SLA in the first place. That's scary.
The Worst of the Worst
A couple of readers have emailed to ask for more info on Ulrike Meinhof and the Baader-Meinhof gang/Red Army Faction.
This site should tell you all you need to know about the German counter-culture's w. o. t. w.
The Case of the Missing Baader-Meinhof Brains
One of Meinhof's twin daughters then traced her mother's brain to a formaldehyde jar held at the University of Magdeburg. She sued for custody of the brain, with the intention of burying it with the rest of the mortal remains of the terrorist whom official Germany once feared like Osama bin Laden.
The court decided to put an end to the macabre affair. Meinhof's daughter will be allowed to retrieve the brain. During the litigation, however, the authorities admitted that three more terrorist brains were still making the rounds. They also belonged to members of the Baader-Meinhof gang, also called Red Army Faction, who committed suicide in the same Stuttgart prison a year after Meinhof.
“I retired in 1988, and I know they were still in Tübingen then,“ Jürgen Pfeiffer, the neuropathologist who examined Meinhof's brain at Tübingen University, told SWR radio.
Although a university spokesman said the brains were gone and nobody knew where they were, Pfeiffer said that “brains don't just disappear.“
Ain't Life Grand?
I've just been informed by Germaine Greer that I am malignant tissue, more trouble than I'm worth, probably best exterminated. Hmm. She may have a point.
On the other hand, Michelle Malkin has helpfully identified radical feminism's silver lining:
This naked truth cannot be disguised: The era of radical feminist sexual liberation has produced a generation of shameless skanks.
Three men have been charged over a alleged plot to release cyanide gas in the London Underground, say police.
They are believed to be from either Tunisia or Morocco.
Reports say the suspects are part of a muslim fundamentalist group with links to al-Qaida.
Rabah Chekat-Bais, 21, Rabah Kadris, in his mid 30s, and Karim Kadouri, 33, all of no fixed abode, have been charged under Section 57 of the Terrorism Act 2000 for the possession of articles for the preparation, instigation and commission of terrorism acts.
Unemployed Chekat-Bais appeared before London's Bow Street Magistrates Court last Monday and Kadris and Kadouri, also both unemployed, appeared in the court on Tuesday.
All three men were remanded in custody to appear before magistrates again on November 18.
Scotland Yard is refusing to comment on claims in the Sunday Times the attack involved releasing cyanide gas on the Tube network.
Quote of the Day
Yeah, I know Moira Breen already has it covered, but I find I am unable to resist reproducing this awesome quotation from an academic email list contributor:
Half the population of [the people in our society] earns below the median household income of about $37,000 -- less than what it would take to provide a "middle class" lifestyle !!
This set of "found letters" made the needles of my internal pathos-o-meter jump a bit more than usual-- I think it's because of the palindromes and the McDonald's application.
My Inner Monster
The current system of British education emphasizes the inculcation of prepackaged attitudes and opinion over the Platonic goal of cultivating the ability to think for oneself, according to this interesting spiked column, which is also the springboard to a characteristically perceptive sermon on the pseudo-religious excesses of enviro-extremism by the illustrious Steven Chapman:
There's a kind of neatness about modern environmentalism that might be worthy of a chuckle if it wasn't so worryingly influential: the Third World must not industralise for the sake of the environment, hence its economy is destined to remain predominantly agrarian and hence at the mercy of seasonality. Even when crops are good tariff barriers and subsidies to Western farmers precludes profitable export of their produce. Why are there subsidies? Partly to protect farmers' jobs but also because - at least in the UK - farmers are no longer seen as farmers, i.e. people working primarily to grow food for our consumption, but are seen as much as 'custodians of the countryside'. To drop subsidies might mean a switch to larger-scale, less environmentally-friendly types of farming. So - to all the poor brown people of the world: don't blame us! Blame Gaia, our new goddess!
I fear, however, that, despite his enviable education, he's wrong about the Age of Aquarius: the ability to add syllables to words in order to make them fit a tune is one of the few things that separates us from the lower beasts. Though, for all I know, there may indeed be a totalitarian monster inside me trying to get out. More on this as It develops. Scan on, ba-ay-by...
More on the INS
Check out the comment section on this post from Matt Welch for some horror stories that are far, far worse than mine-- so far, anyway. (I've really gotta get me one of those comment-routine doohickies like everybody else has...)
We're lucky we live near the BART-accessible San Francisco INS. If we had had to travel a hundred miles each time we had to visit (like one forlorn commenter and many, many others) we never would have stuck it out and I'd be trying to "become English" now. In the six months since my wife arrived, I estimate that we've had to go there around eight times. The phone number for the office is a closely guarded secret; the national 800 number is useless if you need to discuss a specific case; if you have any problem at all, you just have to go there. Each one of these visits takes the entire day. If you're not in line by 6 AM, you might as well forget it-- you'll never even get to the window that dispenses the "tickets" before they stop giving them out at noon.
In his response to the comments, Matt writes:
In L.A., where we have an immigrant or two, you have to line up three hours before the place even opens, if you want to have a spot. Often, the people inside do not speak Spanish, which is funny, because 98% of those standing in line *do*.
Despite the screw-ups, our case was relatively straightforward. But you never know. Here's the scary part:
What's worse, and what few people realize outside of civil rights fanatics and people like us, is that the 1996 Anti-Terrorism Act gave border guards and INS drones the unappealable power to ruin your freakin' life with one lousy stamp. We lived in terror of "the dark room" -- that room off to the side at LAX, where jabbering Russians and freaked-out Arabs and bewildered Asians would sit with Emmanuelle, while the immigration dupes made tasteless jokes about people's names, and ruined the lives of maybe 1 in 10 of the people there, all of whom had just been on an airplane for 5-20 hours.
(Like most English people, my wife has around thirty-eight names. The INS can't handle it, especially now that she has an additional one, i.e., mine. They truncate, abbreviate, and mangle it to make it fit, and they do it differently every time, with varying degrees of accuracy. James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George Dupree's passport probably has all of his names; but I bet his green card just says something like James Dup ree, George. Somewhere, buried in an inaccessible CIS file in a broken database, there's an addendum saying "also known as Weather Pree OK" Try explaining that to the guy at the airport.)
I'm really looking forward to Matt's promised post on post-9/11 immigration reform.
Not that there's anything wrong with that...
You're reaching, Josh. I think they're going overboard with the anti-Nancy rhetoric, too. But she is a San Francisco liberal.
"They come in here, these mods, asking for animal paws to hang on their scooters, and then while your back's turned a nice bit of skunk vanishes up their knickers..."
As you can see, last night we rented Smashing Time. Many people I know and admire have, or least affect, a great deal of fondness for this kitschy mod-sploitation film, but this is the first time I'd ever seen it. Dan Treacy swiped the title and "plot" for one of my favorite TV Personalities songs, thereby automatically putting viewing it on my list of things to do before I die-- there's that one out of the way anyhow.
It's probably too silly and slapstick to be effective satire (the director appears to have been guided by the maxim: when in doubt, cream pie fight!) But some of its gags still work, even now that London no longer swings. Yvonne's hit song "I'm so Young," often covered but never equalled, is pretty brilliant, the kind of parody that surpasses the genuine article.
I can't sing, but I'm young
Can't do a thing, but I'm young
I'm a fool, but I'm cool
Don't put me down...
I also liked "You Can't Help Laughing," a TV show whose host disguises himself as the foreman of a wrecking crew and surprises unsuspecting members of the public by demolishing their houses and compensating them with glittering prizes.
When Yvonne is awarded a check for ten thousand pounds after having her flat destroyed, they ask her what she'll do with the money. She exclaims: "Well first I've got to go to Carnaby Street, 'cos I've got to be dressed right, y'see? And then I'll get a pad and I'll find an agent and become famous, of course! And if I can't become famous on ten thousand pounds I give up!"
You know, I think we've all been there.
(By the way, Lynn Redgrave's high-pitched, exaggerated Northern-accented voice sounds more than a little like that of Cartman from South Park-- so we can call the film "prescient' as well.)
Was Carnaby Street really as hip, baby, as it was cracked up to be? (These days it's more like a giant Hot Topic.) Was there ever really a Switched-on Jabberwock Gallery on Bond Street? Probably not, but I'm going to choose to believe that there was.
My wife could barely tolerate it, and much of it is hard to take. Still, out of sheer perversity, I give it four benzedrines out of a possible six.
Now if I could just get my hands on a copy of Up Pompeii. Hey there! Orgy girl...
They Saved Ulrike's Brain
The brain of Red Army Faction leader Ulrike Meinhof, preserved for 26 years since her suicide and used for research, will be returned to her family for burial at her twin daughters' request, prosecutors in Germany said Thursday.
Earlier this week, a professor in the eastern German city of Magdeburg acknowledged that he had been studying the brain since 1997.
I know it's meant as an "acceptance" of the UN resolution, but to me the letter itself sounds like a casus belli. At least, it doesn't sound like full cooperation.
On the TV last night, Kofi Annan said he would wait to determine Iraq's intentions and whether the letter's language "is an indication that they are going to play games."
No mystery there: they are going to play games.
Apparently, the Immigration and Naturalization Act contains a "Gerry Adams loophole," devised by Ted Kennedy specifically for Adams and, according to Joel Mowbray, put into dangerous general practice by the State Department. The Act says that "advocating terrorism, through oral or written statements is usually not a sufficient ground for finding an applicant ineligible."
I don't see how any of this even applies to Adams himself. He has not only advocated terrorism, but is an unrepentant member of a terrorist organization and the leader of its faux-legitimate political front organization. Any way you slice it, it's inconsistent with the US's stance against terrorism to allow a figure like that to roam the land, shaking hands, kissing babies, raising funds, etc. Yet I don't think it's desirable, nor even remotely possible, to seek to deny entry to every single misguided soul who has ever been seduced into approving of or supporting the cause of his despicable comrades, even if they have expressed themselves "through oral or written statements." I'm afraid the same goes for guys named Mohammed, as long as they really are scrutinized rigorously to determine whether they might pose a plausible danger. (Oh yeah, and deny, detain, or track them once this determination is made.) These are the the steps that don't appear to be taken thoroughly or consistently enough.
Of course, unsavory as it is, Adams's physical presence doesn't endanger any Americans (not directly anyway-- some unfortunate American could get caught in an IRA "operation" partially funded by these activities.) It's undeniable, however, that they do continue to let some truly dangerous people in. "In the 12 months after 9/11," Mowbray writes, "State knowingly gave visas to 79 applicants whom [sic] it knew were in the FBI's TIP OFF database (a watch list of those for whom there's reasonable suspicion of terrorist ties.)" There's no excuse for that, whatever the Immigration Act may say.
In all honesty, I'm of two minds on this. On the one hand, I'm all for erring on the side of caution when it comes to determining who is likely to try to blow us up once they get here. On the other, I'm uncomfortable with the idea of ideological litmus tests, even when it comes to immigration. As I see it, what's lacking isn't a more stringent definition of the limits of visa eligibility, but a more effective process of investigating and screening out those who are likely to pose a threat. This system is clearly broken, but no amount of definitional tinkering will fix it. Removing the word "not" from the above-quoted sentence would be of little practical value.
My own experience with the INS and the visa application and processing system has been one of endless, tedious screw-ups caused by poor communication amongst departments, general incompetence, and ludicrous procedures that plainly run in the face of common sense. The various departments involved (The State Department, Justice Department, INS and SSA) seemed hardly able to communicate with each other at all; none of them recognize each other's documents or directives; each almost seems to be in a state of denial that the others exist. In the midst of my routine fiancee visa-marriage-adjustment of status process, everything ground to a halt because of a data entry error at the port of entry and a dysfunctional data base. The fact that my wife had two last names (a maiden name and a married one) apparently caused a total meltdown of the INS computer system, which is extremely odd for a process solely dedicated to dealing with marriage visas. Most irritating of all, perhaps, is the fact that government personnel now routinely use 9/11 as an excuse for just about any screw-up or problem.
It all eventually worked out, and, irritating though it was, I didn't really mind having to jump through some hoops and riding out the disordered process. We had nothing to hide, and I knew it would only be a matter of time. I'm glad they check out people like us to make sure we're not trying to scam the system. But I couldn't help thinking: if they can't keep track of two people who return to their offices day after day begging to be kept track of, how the hell can they handle the cases where someone is trying to evade detection? And while they were putting the little English country girl with the provocatively-placed ankh tattoo through the ringer for the umpteenth time, or shuffling through the 300 plus pages of photocopied financial records that I had to file each time we talked to anyone, I couldn't help wondering whether Mohammad Atta had this much trouble. I'd bet he didn't.
The INS is a bit like an elementary school with an elaborate after-school activities program but no books. It's a case of misplaced priorities. A great deal of time, effort, and resources are wasted on relatively trivial matters, while the important stuff appears to be neglected. I'd say at least some of the resources they devote to investigating little English country girls and their rock and roller husbands ought to be diverted to identifying applicants who are on the FBI's most-wanted list. Just a suggestion.
The Robot Legislature Speaks
Many have noted the amusing tendency for the news media to refer, without apparent irony or qualification, to members of Iraq's fake parliament as "law-makers" or "legislators."
I wasn't going to say anything, but I do believe that the SF Chronicle's Onion-esque sub-head highlights the absurdity more clearly than most:
DEFIANT LAWMAKERS URGE HUSSEIN TO DO WHATEVER HE THINKS IS BEST
Putin became agitated Monday after a reporter from the French newspaper Le Monde questioned his troops' use of heavy weapons against civilians in the war in Chechnya...
"If you want to become an Islamic radical and have yourself circumcised, I invite you to come to Moscow," Putin said.
"I would recommend that he who does the surgery does it so you'll have nothing growing back, afterward," he added.
George W. Bush, the pharaoh of the age.
David Blunkett attempts to explain why the British government would like to abolish key elements of English common law. He begins:
Sometimes one small word can tell us more than a lengthy speech. Among the many thousands of words which will be written about the Criminal Justice Bill, I wonder how many will focus on the fact that we always refer to the criminal justice system rather than the criminal justice service...
I have difficulty believing anyone could be convinced by what follows, in which time-honored protections of basic civil liberties are dismissed as archaic "twisted traditions" that are hopelessly out of step with the times. Tyranny is groovy, baby, yeah. The Telegraph's editors make short work of it, but so could anyone with a modicum of common sense and human decency.
The classic authoritarian trick of pretending that being tough on defendants is the same thing as being tough on crime has never been so poorly-disguised.
UPDATE: The great Iain Murray, as so often, supplies an apt rejoinder: "the 'twisted traditions' are all enshrined in the US Bill of Rights. Care to come over here and call them 'twisted,' David?" In the comment section, his wife, Kris, is even more concise: "What kinda joker is this idiot?" I think we know what kind...
Joshua Micah Marshall joins the chorus of commentators who see the Democrats' lack of credibility on Iraq and national defense as key to the thoroughness of their recent defeat. (It's Salon "premium," which means that those who are too cheap/sensible to pay for the "$120 value" have to forward through several screens of advertising for a car they'll probably never be able to afford, but in this case it's worth it: the article is excellent.)
Here's the meat of it:
The simple fact is that American foreign policy has for more than a decade been based on our unwillingness to allow Saddam to acquire the bomb. The policies we'd been using to hold him in check have broken down. And we're thus faced with a simple decision: accept what we'd been unwilling to accept -- a nuclear-armed Saddam; find some way to get Saddam back in check; or settle our beef with him once and for all, as the White House proposes. For all the administration's swaggering indifference to international institutions and simplistic readings of the dynamics of Middle Eastern politics, this is a basic fact that the administration confronted squarely and the Democrats did not.
The Democrats had excuses aplenty -- many of them valid. The Democrats wanted the president to make the case for the necessity of war. Fair enough. But it was never clear why the president had to "make his case" before the Democrats could figure out what their own Iraq policy should be. Other Democrats argued that, as important as Iraq might be, our first priority is al-Qaida, and going after Iraq now might hobble our more pressing struggle against terrorism. Again, good argument. But it would be a lot more convincing if these same Democrats had been pushing to resolve the Iraq question before Sept. 11. And of course most of them weren't. That fact makes this argument sound like what, for most of them, it was: an excuse.
(As Marshall also points out, on his blog, it's probably more likely than not that the Republicans will end up doing themselves an injury by over-zealously pushing an unpopular paleo-conservative domestic agenda. But there's still no way the Democrats will be able to benefit from any of that if they continue to have such little credibility on defense.)
Daniel Pipes calls for "adult supervision" of American university faculty and administrators.
Of Hawks and Hippies
Dennis Ross, in today's Washington Post, spells out exactly how Saddam might be allowed to slip out of the trap, avoid a full-scale attack, and continue his surreptitious WMD programs:
Many have said that Hussein is homicidal, not suicidal, and that when faced with the alternatives of survival or acceptance of disarmament, he will accept disarmament.
Maybe, but I doubt Hussein feels he is truly being faced with that choice. In his mind, he believes he has been able to maneuver inspection regimes before, and this one, despite the toughened language and anywhere-anytime provisions, ultimately will be no different. And he may be right...
Hussein will certainly try to create the impression that he is complying with the resolution. No doubt he will turn over voluminous quantities of documents; he may even turn over materials he has heretofore hidden. But he will not turn over the crown jewels of his WMD programs -- especially in the nuclear and biological areas. He will count on the chief inspectors -- Hans Blix and Mohamed El Baradei -- not wanting to declare he is in violation of his obligations before they have even sent full inspection teams into Iraq.
The temptation on the part of the inspectors will be to declare that Iraq has taken a step in the right direction and that they remain willing to work with it, but that it is of course up to the Security Council to decide whether Iraq is in compliance and what steps to take. Will France and Russia be willing to declare this is the moment for the use of force? Unlikely.
Am I the only one who has doubts that this will be what actually happens? Hawks (relievedly) and hippies (bitterly) seem universally to share the conviction that this war is now inevitable. Of course, the scheme outlined above is a mite simplistic: in reality, there could be lots of twists and turns, threats and counter-threats, UN stagecraft, administration grandstanding, stages of deployment, etc., with an anti-Israel demonstration or two thrown in for good measure. But the bottom line is that Saddam Hussein must believe that an immediate overwhelming attack is the unavoidable consequence of even attempting to "play" the system. Despite the tough talk, the impressive diplomatic manoeuvering and apparent, albeit grudging, world-wide acquiescence, I doubt he does. And I have to say, I have a hard time believing it myself.
EU officials have held a series of meetings with Hamas leaders in Syria and Lebanon in an attempt to persuade them to confine their attacks to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Moira Breen asks the key questions with regard to the recently-Instapundited editorial about the $500-a-plate fund-raising dinner for Gerry Adams in New York: "Who are these cretins? And, fools though they may have been, shouldn't they bloody know better by now? No?"
I imagine most heavy drinkers have experienced the vaguely- or ill-disguised IRA hat-passing ritual at this or that American "Irish" bar at one time or another. We're talking small change here, of course, not $500 brisket dinners. I have to admit that in those days it never occurred to me to wonder just how much terrorism the crumpled dollar from the sloppy fellow slumped next to me would actually buy. (I usually had other things on my mind in those situations.)
According to a defensive commenter on Moira's site, around 12% of the PIRA's budget comes from American contributions. The commenter sees this proportion as small enough to vindicate the contributors (and I confess I had assumed it would be a bit more) but it's actually quite a lot when you think in terms of total body count. As Emily says, even one penny is too much. I had also assumed that such fund-raising would be much, much more difficult in the aftermath of 9/11. I don't know whether or not that's true, but it's clear that the opportunities haven't dried up completely. (Where does the other 88% come from? I mean, besides from kidnapping, extortion, bank robberies, drug trafficking, that sort of thing?)
Doubtless, most have no idea where the money is going. But some, even those in the under-500 club, at least imagine that they do. At one of the two hat-passing episodes I've witnessed, a lumpy pile of clothes on the stool next to me temporarily sprang to life and assumed human shape long enough to contribute some quarters from his tip-pile and mutter "this is why they'll never target Americans." Perverse. But true enough.
As for Adams, I'm with Professor Reynolds: I'm surprised they let that guy walk around at all.
Duck, Duck, Mongoose
Here's a good mid-term election post-mortem from Barbara Amiel, including some nice metaphors from the animal kingdom.
Bush is Konrad Lorenz and the American electorate is a row of ducks following him around, quacking "Daddy." (She means this in the nicest possible way.)
As for the Democrats:
they were rather like mongooses. A mongoose crouched in the bushes can spot the tiny triangular head of a snake but might easily miss a steamroller. It is attuned to look for danger from that small shape but doesn't have the field of vision for bigger threats. Similarly, the reality of war as a threat to America has simply not been a part of the post-war Democratic vision.
Just when you thought TV couldn't get any weirder...
The tragedy of the inconvenient husband. (Nice desktop, Dusty.)
These Days are Ours
There's this episode of Happy Days where Richie is being harrassed by some biker hooligans. One of them wants to "rumble" at Arnold's, and Richie is terrified. Fonzie gives him some sound advice on deterrence, based on the idea that a credible threat of effective retaliation can, on its own, pre-empt potential rumbles. Everyone respects and fears the Fonz, and no one would dream of messing with him. But, he asks, "have you ever, even once, seen me in a fight?" Richie considers the question and realizes, to his surprise, that the answer is no. That's the Fonzie Doctrine: act tough, everyone backs down, and all the chicks dig you.
The ne'er-do-wells show up, but when Richie attempts to put the Fonzie Doctrine into practice, it's a miserable failure. "There's one thing I forgot to tell you, Cunningham," explains the Fonz. "It doesn't work unless you've actually hit someone at some point in your life." Mere bravado, in other words, isn't always enough.
I hate to be a spoil-sport, but, Afghanistan notwithstanding, I'm still trying to figure out whether GWB is more like the Fonz or more like Richie in this allegory with regard to Iraq. I agree with most commentators that the Republican success in the mid-term elections had a lot to do with 9/11 and national defense: Bush has managed to leave the impression that he's a strong leader who will not shrink from taking action to defend this country and who is capable of dealing effectively with the Iraqi threat. (Plus, the Democrats achieved the miracle of appearing even more bumbling and ineffectual than Congressional Republicans-- but that's another story.) Anyway, he almost has me convinced, too. But there's something a little strange about the self-congratulatory line spun by hawkish Bush partisans when it comes to the elections, the UN, and Iraq. If giving Saddam one last chance to comply with a rigorous inspections regimen before forcibly disarming him or removing him from power is the way to go, and if that was the brilliant plan all along, why wasn't this ball rolling months ago? Why the delay? Surely not just to score some points against the Democrats and the French?
I think (and hope) that Michael Kelly probably had it right in his recent summary of the show so far: after months of empty, saber-rattling rhetoric and indecisiveness, the Bush administration finally "pulled its act together." And not a moment too soon.
It's not too late. (Here's how you know it's not too late: you haven't been blown up yet.) But will Saddam still try to wiggle out of it, and could Bush still let him? Mmm-hmm. Correctimundo.
Mmmm... Dark Globules
I missed out on a lot in my days of self-imposed, lethargy-soaked exile, including this swell blog from Angie Schultz. Check out her response to the Will Hutton "dark week for democracy" column tersely mentioned below.
Interestingly, this desultory kiss-off to Christopher Hitchens is probably the most coherent thing Katha Pollitt has ever written.
Sadly, coherence is the last thing I look for in a good "left-on-left polemic" (Matt Welch's apt phrase.) I much prefer good, old-fashioned wild-eyed raving. Then again, I'm a bit shallow...
Dissolve the people and elect a new one
What an idiot.
UPDATE: Tim Blair, eminent Straussian, takes Mr. Hutton apart piece by piece, in his inimitable fashion. His Straussian readers chime in as well. Nice.
"Any child can see through that, but many adults can't..."
I haven't read Christopher Hitchens's book on Orwell, but this interview about it is quite interesting. Favorite quote:
I think Hannah Arendt said that one of the great achievements of Stalinism was to replace all discussion involving arguments and evidence with the question of motive. If someone were to say, for example, that there are many people in the Soviet Union who don't have enough to eat, it might make sense for them to respond, "It's not our fault, it was the weather, a bad harvest or something." Instead it's always, "Why is this person saying this, and why are they saying it in such and such a magazine? It must be that this is part of a plan." Some of that mentality is involved, certainly, in the way the old left people like Raymond Williams write about Orwell. They never lose that habit of thought.
Political correctness, by the way, is a very mild form of this. I mean, people who talk about political correctness as being a kind of thought police have no idea of what a thought police is. But political correctness does have the same mentality. It means that intellectual argument is doomed. Objective truth simply becomes a thing to jeer at, because obviously there's no such thing as objectivity—unless of course you're politically okay, in which case you can be objective. Any child can see through that, but many adults can't.
First Amendment Fetishists
According to this report, pointed out by Bill Quick, the Council of Europe has finally adopted the long-discussed measure to criminalize internet "hate speech," including "hyperlinks to pages that contain offensive content." There's an interesting exchange about differing attitudes about free speech in the Daily Pundit comment section.
Though I agree with them, of course, it seems to me that the champions of American-style free speech protection are presenting a scenario that may be a bit too rosy here. Bill points out in a comment/response that "many Americans think the civil liberties protections in the First go too far." That's true; it may even be that most Americans feel that way, and that exceptions should be made in this or that circumstance. We First Amendment absolutists are, as a practical matter, a minority in this country as well as in the world. It's a good thing we have a document, because, as Bill says, it's doubtful whether it would be adopted today.
If you ignore him, he'll go away...
...but where's the fun in that?
I'd say Ron Rosenbaum grants far too much importance to Gore Vidal's latest round of nut-job conspiracy theorizing, but there's a lot of amusing and satisfying rhetoric in the over-reaction. By the end, Rosenbaum starts to sound a bit batty himself, but that's what often happens when you enter into a dialog with a madman.
The amazing thing about Vidal in crackpot mode is how seriously this stuff is taken in England. Not just by college kids and Socialist Workers Party ninnies, but by otherwise ordinary grown-ups. It's almost like they want to believe it...
Gray is the New Nixon
So, there's this nice essay from Roger Kimball on the "root causes" of anti-Americanism...
Yeah, I know, I disappeared for awhile. After nearly ten months of posting practically every day, I just ran out of steam. And as that Spoons guy observed awhile back, once you stop it's really hard to get started again. Plus, my computer broke, I got married, and I had to do some work at my rock and roll pseudo-job-- the usual story, I suspect.
Anyway, around August 6th I was in the midst of planning a little tour of Japan, and then, suddenly, I was in the midst of the tour itself. While in Tokyo waiting for a sound check or something, I got a nice little email from blog-celeb and kindred spirit (as I flatter myself) Ken Layne: "I'm bored. Write something." That sounded like a great idea, and I had every intention of writing something to amuse Ken and perhaps dozens of disinterested on-lookers.
Well, those Tokyo nights took care of that.
(A couple of suggestions for those traveling to Japan: (1) make sure to ask what it is before you eat it and (2) make sure that whoever you're asking understands the question. Also, if you want to see a picture of the future, just hang out with some Japanese teenagers and observe their bewildering utility belts-- it's just like living in space...)
I'm not sure if I'm "back"-- blogging is a lot of work, and I'm extremely lazy by nature. But I'm going to give it a shot. Probably.
Thanks to everyone who sent "where the hell are you?" messages.