Saturday, June 22, 2002

I HAVE RETURNED FROM AN EXTREMELY BUSY but highly enjoyable couple of days in our nation's lovely capital. First, I shall read, and then I shall write.

Incidentally, for whatever it's worth (not much, I think) a White House intern working in the Intergovernmental Affairs branch where they're working on the logistics of the Homeland Security Department reorganization says that Tom Ridge will not be the new secretary -- allegedly of his own free will.

Friday, June 21, 2002

COLOR ON THE $20 BILL? sounds downright un-American today. I'll be dead in my grave before I use wacky European-style multicolored money.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

I'M CURRENTLY IN WASHINGTON DC AT ONE OF my biannual conferences with the Partnership for Excellence in Government where I'm a youth partner helping them learn how to connect with the young people (hint: blog) so posting may be limited until I return on Sunday. On the other hand, I'm posting right now and may post more later thanks to the good people at the Hilton Garden Inn Business Pavillion (free internet access is a good thing). In case I don't, though, check out the blogs to the left or else read Mick Hume's piece on the "anti-imperialism of fools". Good stuff.
IT'S A COMEDY OF ERRORS IN THIS WaPo story about the Rev. Jerry Vines' contention that Muhammed was a "demon-possessed pedophile." Evangelical groups are standing by the remark, but Jews, Muslims, and mainline Protestants are condemning it for anti-Muslim bias. Only problem is, it sounds like Vines was right:
Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64 of the Sahih Bukhari edition of the Hadith says, "The Prophet married [Aisha] when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old." But Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said many Islamic scholars interpret that passage to mean Aisha was 16 when she was betrothed to Muhammad and 19 when they wed.
What exactly is that interpretation based on? Pardon me if I don't find it very convincing. Plus, even if she was 16 when she was betrothed, I'm not really comfortable with that either. As for the charges of demon-possession, well, I don't believe in demons (or angels, god, etc.) so I guessVines was wrong about that.

On this other hand, this is pretty clearly a red-herring. Anyone ought to be able to see that what matters is what Muslim religious leaders are actually teaching about conduct in the world and not what the Koran "really" says. What I'm really interested in, though, is this:

The controversy has also embroiled the White House. President Bush, who has repeatedly declared that the U.S. war on terrorism is not a war on Islam, apparently was unaware of Vines's statement when he praised the Southern Baptist Convention last week for its tradition of tolerance.
Now what tradition of tolerance would that be? The tradition of tolerance for slavery? The tradition of vicious anti-gay slurs? The tradition of narrow-minded sexual morality. Puh-leeze.
I'VE BEEN MEANING TO MENTION DEMOSTHENES for some time now -- it's a very worthy anonyblog responding "to the dominance of conservative rhetoric online" and he (or she) unlike me has the guts to question the hegemony of the all-powerful InstaMan from who all blessings flow. Back to the point, this post on Friedman's Iran column is good stuff:
This is possibly the most hopeful news for the secular west that I've heard in a while. Why? Well, because Iran is the example of Shari'a in action, and this move away from the clerics and towards secular democracy (with the inevitable influence of Islamic law, but likely with a growing tolerance of non-Islamic peoples within the country as the zeal to convert by the sword fades) points out what would happen were the "Islamists" to take over other states in the area- sooner or later, the religious leaders would lose control and moderation would begin in earnest. Which is, oddly enough, pretty much what has happened with Christianity in much of the West.
I think that this analysis provides two strong reasons for believing that our policy toward the Middle East should be centered on a vigorous advocacy of democracy. The first reason is that it can't but discourage reformers in Iran and elsewhere when they see that the leaders of Western countries don't seem to think that they deserve democracy and good government. The second reason is that we don't need to live in such abject terror of the idea that if Mubarak or whomever democratized that their countries would just be taken over by theocrats. If the actual experience of theocracy takes some of the luster off the idea that everything would be okay if only the Mullahs were in charge, then maybe it'd be a good thing for some more places to at least be given the opportunity to try it.
ON MADELEINE KANE'S RECENTLY DISCOVERED SITE one can find the "Bloggers' Rhapsody" here's a sample:
(To be sung to "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" by George & Ira Gershwin)
You praise my weblog
And I'll mention your blog.
You link my weblog
And I'll link to your blog
Weblog,
Your blog,
Weblog,
Your blog,
Let's call the whole thing off.
I'll just come right out and admite that I crave hits. Lots of bloggers out there say they don't care if anyone reads their sites, they're just having fun. I always suspect that people who say that either (a) are lying or (b) have so many hits that they just can't imagine life without them but maybe they're telling the truth and I'm just different. Anyways, I do do this for fun, and it is fun, but it's only fun because I think someone besides me reads it and likes it, so I guess what I'm saying is that everyone should link to me and e-mail all their friends and tell them to read me and stuff. Yeah. More hits = good times.
PERUGIA, AN ITALIAN SOCCER TEAM, has just fired Ahn Jung Hwan of South Korea after Ahn scored the game-winning goal in the South Korea-Italy World Cup match. When will these simplisme Europeans learn that their outmoded nationalism stands in the way of peace and prosperity? Seriously, though, if South Korea managed somehow to beat, say, the US national basketball team, we'd have them all on planes to America that afternoon, signed to play in the NBA the following morning, and having dozens of US citizen babies within a year. Then their kids'd grow up and kick some ass for our team. That's the American way. Italy's never gonna get anywhere with this attitude.

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

BRITNEY'S OPENING A RESTUARANT! take it away Oliver!
DOES ANYONE KNOW WHY THIS SITE looks all fucked up on Mozilla? Specifically, all these lines (generated with hr color="black" tags) are gray, not black as they should be.
SEVERAL PEOPLE HAVE E-MAILED OR WRITTEN COMMENTS to say that I was wrong in this post to suggest that Christian fundamentalism's sympathy with many of the aims of Islamic fundamentalism was hampering our war on terrorism. Nevertheless, I was right, and if you're interested in similar commentary check out this off the pine post as well as the Bull Moose's latest. Many have suggested to me that the Christian-Muslim alliance is "just" about abortion, but the abortion debate isn't just about abortion any more than the debates over adoption or marriage rights for gay couples are only about adoption and marriage rights. All of these things are debates about gender equality and sexual freedom, and though the Christian right doesn't go nearly as far as the Islamic right in attempting to repress people of whose lifestyles they disapprove, the underlying views of what human behavior ought to be like are quite similar.

UPDATE: Nick Denton too.

THE WEEKLY STANDARD REPORTS THAT the Republican Party often serves the interests of big business rather than the American people. Gasp! Who knew? Well, the Democrats have been on to this point for a few decades now. Even the Republican-loving DLC figured this one out last month with a little help from the Bull Moose. Now obviously the Democrats are not blameless either in terms of the "special interest" groups who often wield power on our side of the aisle, but the tones of shock in which this corporate-Republican axis are being reported are really too much. What's next -- stories about how government agencies often act in terms of bureacratic self-interest rather than to make this country better? How about the fact that the TV news is designed more to attract viewers and make money than to promote intelligent discourse? Shocking.
YOU KNOW THOSE DAMN LIBERAL ELITES who run this country? Don't you hate them? Me too. The hypocrisy is really galling. Fortunately, Lesly Carbonne's around to set things straight:
Is the hypocrisy of today's cultural elites limitless? Is the Pope Catholic? After years of haranguing the Boy Scouts of America for refusing to place young boys in danger of sexual abuse, the liberal intelligentsia is now condemning the Catholic Church leadership for doing exactly that.
Pardon. I thought we were criticizing the BSA for refusing to let gay men be scoutmasters and that we were criticizing the Catholic Church for not refusing to let child abusers by priests. That seemed like two different things to me, but apparently not because:
While not all homosexuals are child molesters and not all child molesters are homosexual, there is a strong enough correlation to mean that the BSA's policy is prudent and responsible. Although homosexuals constitute only about two percent of the population, they represent one third of child molesters.
These stats sound a bit dubious to me (two percent, in particular, seems low), but also note that they don't actually include the one piece of information that would actually be relevent to deciding whether or not some kind of sexual orientation profiling is warranted -- the percentage of homosexuals who are child molesters. Almost all serial killers, for example, are white men, but very very very few white men are serial killers (because very few people are serial killers) so no one thinks that banning white men from some area would be a reasonable public safety measure.
SO IT TURNS OUT THAT THE BUSH PLAN TO save the solvency of Social Security by reaping the endless efficiencies of the free market (paging Martha Stewart...) is really just a plan to save money by cutting benefits. Ah compassion. Perhaps if we'd spent a bit less on farm subsidy boondoggles there'd be some cash available to meet the government's actual obligations to its people.
PROTEIN WISDOM ON THE LATEST arrests in Saudi Arabia:
Gee. 9 months and they've managed to find 13 suspected terrorists in all of Wahabbi Central -- to make 13 arrests in a country where you can't chuck a fig without hitting a half dozen bad guys busy sipping sweet tea and plotting the destruction of something or other.
The madness really must end, but it won't unless the leadership in this country is willing to name the enemy -- would-be Islamic theocrats -- and admit that the government of Saudi Arabia isn't an ally in the struggle against that enemy, or even a potential ally, it is the enemy and the threat is the Saudi Arabiazation of the world.
ANOTHER SUICIDE TERROR ATTACK: There's really nothing to say at this point.
HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD? radical chic Columbia Professor Edward Said writing in Al Ahram calls for an end to suicide bombings:
Who else but the Palestinian people can construct the legitimacy they need to rule themselves and fight the occupation with weapons that don't kill innocents and lose us more support than ever before? A just cause can easily be subverted by evil or inadequate or corrupt means. The sooner this is realised the better the chance we have to lead ourselves out of the present impasse.
His primary thinking on this question seems to be tactical, rather than moral, but recognizing the futility of a given course of action can be the first step to recognizing its wrongness. Unfortunately, however, the time when secular nationalists like Said had any real influence over the Palestinian movement is long gone.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

AS WE ALL KNOW, THE OVERWHELMING MAJORITY of Muslims oppose terrorism, so if it just happens that two-thirds of British Muslims oppose efforts to stop terrorism (it's in the last graf) well, then, I think we should all be good little boys and girls and ignore that piece of information entirely. Repeat after me, kids: Islam means peace...Islam means peace...Islam means peace...Islam means peace...Islam means peace...Islam means peace...Islam means peace...don't you feel better now?
PAT BUCHANAN ALMOST CERTAINLY WAS DEEP THROAT! No...wait...Deep Throat was at the FBI. Can't these crazy neoliberals make up their minds? Obviously it would be more interesting if it turned out to be Buchanan, but I think there's a bit of a flaw in Josh Marshall's logic:
After all this time, why wouldn't this person come forward to get some of the limelight?

It's hard to figure ... unless he was someone still operating in those Republican circles where that sort of disloyalty would be very damning and even career-threatening. That is, unless it was someone like Patrick J. Buchanan.

I agree that Deep Throat is probably someone who's still operating in Republican circles, but Pat Buchanan's not operating in those circles. He quit the Republican Party to build a purer brand of conservativism. It seems to me that someone hell-bent on exposing the Republican Party as a corrupt betrayal of its old principles would be eager to let the world know about his earlier act of disloyalty to the organization.

UPDATE:Stanley Kuttner doesn't give a shit. Well, I think it's interesting, so there. But his book is real good. Go buy it.

I'D ALWAYS THOUGHT THAT Lime Wire was just for pirating MP3s and stuff, but it turns out you can use it to get whole programs like Photoshop 7. Not that I would ever violate the intellectual property of my good friends at Adobe or violate the law in any other way. Never. I swear.
KOREA, TURKEY, THE USA, SENEGAL, BRAZIL, ENGLAND, GERMANY, AND SPAIN will face off in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals. Warbloggers will doubtless be heartened by the poor showing of European stalwarts like France, Portugal, and Italy, but I think the real story here is the near-total collapse of Latin American football. The Euros still have half of the top teams in the game, as long as you let them count Turkey which is counted as European for soccer purposes, but what's happened to our Spanish speaking friends down south?

Monday, June 17, 2002

IS THE PROBLEM REALLY, AS SOME WHITE HOUSE AIDS ARE SUGGESTING that John Ashcroft is too high-profile or is he just a bad Attorney-General. One striking thing that occurred to me in the past few days is that despite all the talk of reorganizing the government, Bush still hasn't proposed changing any of the high-level personnel in his government. Administration defenders rightly say that Bush can't be blamed for having failed to prevent 9/11 -- stopping terrorism wasn't anyone's top priority on September 10 -- but if the administration is serious about reorienting American policy toward the war on terror, then shouldn't they be bringing the right people on board to do it with? I mean, how likely is it that Bush just happened to have assembled the ideal group of people to lead a struggle against terrorism even though, by his own admission, that wasn't what he was thinking of when he assembled his team?
THE REAL MEDIA BIAS, AS I'VE LONG COMPLAINED is not liberal, or pro-Palestianian, but insidiously pro-Pashto and anti-Tajik and Northern Alliance in general. See this graph from today's NYTimes that totally buys the Pashtun line on how the new Afghan cabinet should be composed:
The current interim cabinet is dominated by ethnic Tajiks. Other groups, especially the majority Pashtuns, want to ensure that they are not squeezed out from the new government.
The Pashtuns, you see, aren't the majority of the Afghan population at all -- they're a plurality, a small but crucial difference. There's also the question of how "dominated" by Tajiks the cabinet really is. The Prime Minister, after all, isn't a Tajik, he's Pashtun. The domination of which they speak are the three Tajiks who hold the most important ministries -- Fahim at Defense, Abdullah at Foreign, and Qanooni at Interior. But Qanooni's already agreed to step down and Abdullah's only half Tajik. Considering that Tajiks are around one quarter of the population is this really such disproportionate representation? I don't think so. The real story here is that the Pashtuns made a bid for total domination of the government in the guise of the Taliban, lost, and now are snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with the connivance of a gullible Western press and an American intelligence and defense establishment that's still busy fighting the Soviet Union.
ANDREW SULLIVAN WRITES OF COLLABORATION BETWEEN THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT and Islamic fundamentalists:
They’re natural allies in many respects – the belief that women should be subservient to men, that homosexuality is an abomination, and so on. And they have every right to co-operate at the U.N. But why the Bush administration should want to ally itself with Islamist states in this fashion is beyond me, except pandering to their extremist wing. How can the First Lady champion women’s rights in Islamist countries, while her husband blesses those in America who find such repression of women something to admire and aspire to?
I agree with Sullivan's sentiments, but am surprised (well, maybe disappointed) by his surprise. There are many people who might be loosely described as being on "the right" of the American political spectrum -- supporters of deregulation, free trade, and the war -- who are strangely unable or unwilling to see that George W. Bush isn't really one of them. He ran for president as a conservative. He describes himself as a conservative. He is a conservative -- not a libertarian. The religious right isn't an "extremist wing" of the American conservative movement -- it's the base of the Republican party. Bush doesn't sometimes pander to religious conservatives he is a religious conservative. John Ashcroft wasn't made Attorney General for his anti-terrorism credentials, it was for his anti-abortion credentials.

Christian fundamentalists like Bush and Islamic fundamentalists have similar visions of the world even if few Christians would go as far as the Taliban or Saudi Arabia in imposing draconian controls on gender, sexuality, and fun, and needless to say Christian fundamentalists have been much better about not killing people in recent years, but they're still very similar worldviews. That, of course, is why the administration is busy talking about terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, and basically every conceivable enemy other than the one we're actually facing -- militant Islam.

JOSH MARSHALL REVEALS THAT VAGUELY fascistic phrase "Homeland Defense" derives from none other than vaguely fascistic US Senator Strom Thurmond.