Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Thoughts on Iraq v. Saddam et al. (as promised)

Okay, let's take the required boilerplate about the triumph of justice over barbarism, the redemption of Iraqi society, etc. etc. as given. (Not that I don't mean it; but I don't intend for this blog to be an echo chamber.)

The interesting issues here all relate to the benefits of having Iraqis try Saddam as against a Balkans-style international tribunal; and pace to the ICC-skeptics, the null potential of acquittal in either venue is not a factor in deciding which is best.

The strongest point in favor of an Iraqi trial is that it would bequeath to Iraqis a sense of self-determination that while still abstract, is far more particular and more easily appreciable than the nominal sovereignty granted by Mr. Bremer in his departure. It would allow Iraqis to claim with some justification that they---and not the Americans or the British---were the ultimate arbiters of justice in Saddam's case. A corollary point, of less immediate but greater long-term importance than the emotional salve provided by a domestic trial, is that an Iraqi trial conducted fairly, impartially, and with all due rights accorded to the defendant (though not a scrap more than what he is entitled to), would establish a potentially unbreakable precedent for the conduct of a constitutional judiciary.

However, from a strictly legalistic standpoint, I would think that the cause of human rights and international justice absolutely demand a reckoning between Saddam and the community of civilized nations. While Iraqis were his principal victims, his myriad crimes were perpetrated against all of humanity. Just as the prosecution in Anglo-American criminal justice represents not just the immediate victim, but the whole of the state (Virginia v. Smith or Rex v. Smythe), the Anglo-American judicial principles enshrined at Nuremberg treat war crimes and crimes against humanity as matters that must be resolved internationally. And even from a practical standpoint, the entire civilized world---not just Iraq---has a bill a grievances with Saddam that has to be settled.

In the coming days I'll try to work out my position more definitely. Meantime, I welcome suggestions on how to balance the concerns of international justice with the concerns of nation-building in Iraq.

France Gets Revenge for Agincourt... the Euro 2004 soccer championships, according to Reason's Michael Young. He doesn't mention that les Bleus crashed out against Greece in the quarter-finals (revenge for the 1054 schism? anti-Byzantine policies of the Avignon papacy?), but I think there's definitely something to the idea that field sports, with their uniforms, national anthems, concepts of "attack" and "defense" (which English sports writers prefer to the wimpier by contrast "offense" and "defense" of American football), captaincies, vice-captaincies, etc., preserve somewhat both the traditions of battlefield warfare and national antagonisms---by which I mean something stronger than just rivalries. Even Yankees vs. Red Sox looks like a lovers' spat compared to the Somme campaign redux of every England v. Germany match in major soccer competitions.

Further, Young's implication, that the consolidation of the EU into a supra-national state will be consistently hampered by the technocratic bloodlessness---and utter tone-deafness on the role of Geist, emotion, and sentimentality in electoral politics---on the part of the EU administrators. For more on the prospects for the creation of a pan-European identity, see Jan-Werner Mueller in the most recent Dissent.

And for more on the slow but inevitable progression of human politics into one-world technocracy, see Orwell's remarkably prescient Road to Wigan Pier.

Thought for the Day

"Who's looking out for you?"---Bill O'Reilly

"Big Brother"---George Orwell

What An Asshole That O'Reilly Is

In addition to being forced to admit (through legal pressure) that Molly Ivins is not a socialist, and that Eric Alterman is not, in fact, a smoking buddy of Fidel Castro, this humble son of an accountant ("who couldn't have come from any lower down on the social scale") got his ass handed to him by Georgetown law professor David Cole in a segment that was supposed to serve as a platform for O'Reilly's ongoing attacks on the leftists/secularists/traitors-in-our-midst at the New York Times.

Astonishingly, however, the nadir of the interview was not O'Reilly's (rare) failure to overcome his guests' mastery of what intellectuals like to call "facts" with subject-changing, invented data, and sheer decibel output. In fact, the low point, which never aired, came when O'Reilly (to his own surprise) broadcast a clip of 9/11 Commission Chairman Tom Kean essentially corroborating the NYT report O'Reilly wished to claim was a distortion. To the apparent shock of his guests, O'Reilly cut off taping and called a mulligan on the segment so that he could badger Cole with innuendo about bias at the Times without getting bogged down in pesky little things like the complete and utter baselessness of his charges.

Look forward to regular O'Reilly Is An Asshole Watch installments in the future.

Iraqis to Take Care of Their Own Bastards

Very, very good news.

I'll have more to say about this later.

Quote of the Day

"Excuse me, are you Jewish?"

"What, do you want to check my penis?"---Larry David

Reviewer's Corner

I just finished watching the newly released second season of Curb Your Enthusiasm on DVD, which is better than the first fucking awesome season and not as good as the third holy-shit-that-shit's-fucking-funny season.

Simply put, this is the greatest show in the history of TV. Think Seinfeld unhindered by attempts at punchlines or conformity to hackneyed sitcom structural conventions---and most of all, unhindered by Jerry. Buy it and watch it many many times.

Moment of the season: Larry David, after a stranger accuses him of being a self-hating Jew for humming Wagner while waiting in line for a movie---and after a series of events which force Larry to take revenge on this same person---hires a chamber orchestra to perform Wagner on the man's lawn at 5 in the morning, with Larry as conductor.

Tyrants In Black Robes Watch

Huge Supreme Court victory yesterday for those of us who want your Christian children to be exposed to ultra-hardcore porn.

Bill O'Reilly claimed that the law struck down by the SCOTUS was intended "to protect children from vile pornography." Actually, I wouldn't mind a law protecting me from "vile" pornography---but I say hot, sexy, sweetass pornography for all.

But Did They* Kill Jesus?

*I'm one of them, if that isn't clear by now.

Anyway, Lenny Bruce had the final word on this a few decades ago (slight paraphrase): "It's time to set the record straight. Not only did we kill Jesus, but it was my family. We found a note in the basement, it said, 'I killed him--Uncle Sol.' But that's not all. When he comes back, we're going to kill him again."

Amen brotha.

Making Fun of Democrats

It gets even worse than that MTV interview. Love the "in effect"s.

Father, Son, and Holy Account No.

A reader posted this comment re: my postings re: Gibson:

"Mel just called me from the bank. He says to thank you for watching his film. He is going on a wonderful vacation thanks to you. And by the way, he gives his royal salutations to Hollywood as he has enjoyed rattling its cage."

A) The version I saw was pirated. I'm not paying a dime to support that horsecocksucker.

B) If this is true then the last laugh is on a segment of Gibson's American defenders: the dupes who---unlike the cynics and (mercifully small number of) bonafide anti-Semites (e.g. Gibson himself) that comprise the rest of his coalition---actually think this waste of celluloid is a worthy piece of devotional art. Money-lenders in the temple, etc.?

(I wish I could come up with a good joke about crucifying-mankind-upon-a-cross-of-gold here, since it would afford me an easy segue into making fun of Democrats.)

What about the bottom line?

*And how much money has Gibson's opus garnered in Muslim countries?

Turkey: $1,839,059 receipts to date; $585,138 opening weekend; more than 4:1 advantage over the #2 film that same weekend

UAE: $1,343,400; $541,700; more than 5:1 (same categories)

Lebanon: $1,187,416; $300,000, ~3:1

Egypt: $203,603; $111,171; ~2:1

I'd be appreciative if anyone can find figures on all time (real dollar) cash totals for movies in these countries, but my hunch is that this is going to break records.

*current as of the report being published, presumably several months ago (at least the comparison to the #2 films is enlightening)

So What do Arabs think of The Passion?

As if the editors of Atlantic Monthly had psychic access to my June 2004 thoughts back in April or whenever they planned the August 2004 issue (why is it that every magazine is sent back to us through a time machine from a few weeks/months ahead?), here's their excerpt of the Middle East Research Institute's "Reactions in the Arab Media to The Passion of the Christ":
Traditional Muslim belief accords Jesus Christ prophetic rather than divine status, insists that he was taken up to heaven before the Crucifixion, and frowns on artistic representation of religious figures. Nonetheless, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a hit in the Middle East, where Arab reaction to the film--as documented by the Middle East Research Institute--has less to do with theology than with current regional politics. That is, Muslims seem to see the film as all about Israel and, to a lesser extent, Iraq. "The Palestinians are still being exposed to the kind of pain to which Jesus was exposed during his crucifixion," Yasir Arafat's media adviser recently announced. A columnist in the Syrian government daily Teshreen made similar comparison's between Gibson's Christ and those who are "crucified every day at the hands of the American and Jewish-Zionist executioners," adding, "Now the Iraqi people are facing the same ordeal and walking the same Via Dolorosa." One director in Qatar insisted that "the film does not depict Judaism or all Jews as responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus," [love those Qataris--ed.] but most of The Passion's most enthusiastic Muslim fans disagreed: Egypt's government-owned daily declared the film a "courageous challenge to the political, financial and media power of the Jews," and Kuwait's leading Shia cleric lobbied the government to let it be shown in his country--despite its conflicts with Islamic teachings--because it would present "a good opportunity to reveal the crimes committed by Jews against the Christ and many other prophets." But perhaps the most intriguing interpretation came from the Saudi journalist who wrote that The Passion of the Christ should persuade Arabs to stop blaming Jews for the Middle East's troubles. Why? Because "if the Jews had ultimate control over Hollywood and what happens there, as our fathers, grandfathers, writers and books say, a film against them would not be produced by the hub of the world's film industry."

Touching stuff from the Kuwaiti Shi'ite, no? And to think that we committed crimes against "other prophets" as well---though one wonders which ones he has in mind, since the majority of both Christian and Islamic prophets are taken from, er, the "Prophets" portion of the Hebrew Bible.

Btw, can anyone tell me who the Islamic prophets are aside from those taken from the Jewish tradition (including the apocrypha), plus Jesus and Mohammed?

Anyway, I don't think it would be premature on my part to declare a small victory (even if I might have unintentionally hurt the feelings of Serbian non-fascists). This is what happens when a piece of vile anti-Semitic propaganda is shown among populations trained to recognize (and rejoice at the sight of) anti-Semitic images---quite unlike homegrown rednecks who, to their credit I suppose, can't be made to feel malice towards Jews as a sort of Pavlovian response.

The Daily Schadenfreude

Okay, I have to confess to being a long suffering Mets fan. But unlike the majority of Mets fans, I 1) do not think the Yankees are demons and that George Steinbrenner is an avatar of Prince Ba'al; and 2) like many Yankees fans I get an almost erotic thrill from watching Red Sox fans squirm as their team manages its annual collapse.

So the Yankees demolished the Sox 11-3 yesterday, opened up a 6.5 game AL East lead (their largest this season), and somewhere in this great land of ours a young mother gave birth to a strong healthy babe who will one day break the hearts of Bostonians all over again.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

And in the World of Rugby

Summer Internationals:

New Zealand 2(matches)-0 England

Australia 1-0 England

Australia 2-0 Scotland (the Scots also lost to Australian club sides)

South Africa 2-0 Ireland

South Africa 1-0 Wales

Argentina 1-1 Wales

The Southern Hemisphere is utterly dominant (except for one Wales victory against minnows Argentina); thus the rip in the fabric of space-time resulting from England's World Championship has been repaired.

Ka mate!

Quotes of the Day

"Sacramento will never be the capital of California."---the Diesel

"I'm not worried about the Sacramento Queens."---Ibid.

The Big Aristotle Serious About Trade

When Shaq says he wants out of LA, he means it. The LA Times reports that he's put his house up for sale.

Meanwhile, ESPN quotes the Daddy as saying "What I said in L.A., I wasn't (messing) around." I think I can guess what word Shaq actually used. Also, apparently "Dallas and Sacramento, at this point, are the only two teams in circulation that can realistically combine with the Lakers on a Shaq trade." Shaq in Sacramento? Really? So much for the theory that the Lakers would want to move him into the Eastern Conference to avoid having to play against him frequently.

It's Alright For Me Though

'An account in the Soccer Report column on June 22 about Ethan Zohn, a former player in Zimbabwe who won $1 million on the CBS reality show "Survivor: Africa" in 2002 and has capitalized on his moment of fame by starting an international nonprofit AIDS awareness foundation on the continent, misstated a word in a comment he made. Mr. Zohn said, "We can make value judgments all we want, but through some cultural differences it has been all right for men in Africa to have multiple sex partners" — not "all right for me."'---New York Times corrections, today (scroll down).

Last Item Re: Gibson (I Swear)

An e-mailer thinks I'm hyper-ventilating about the chances that Gibson Christ Superstar will incite anti-Jewish violence:

I can understand the frustration in certain circles that the American rednecks they so look down on have thus far failed to produce even a single pogrom in response to Mel Gibson's recent movie, thus showing that they obviously don't understand the movie. These critics are thus reduced to predicting future pogroms once the movie opens in more sophisticated foreign markets.

Well nobody is claiming that the Ukranian peasants of the Pale of Settlement era or the Saudi peasants of today are any more sophisticated than Protestant rednecks; merely that the former group have been inculcated to respond to anti-Semitic imagery in specific and predictable ways, whereas the latter group have no knowledge of the Catholic liturgical calendar, much less the traditional iconography of European anti-Semitism.

In so far as inductive reasoning is valid, those of us who worry about the capacity of this film to promote anti-Semitism abroad should not feel nervous about the position we have staked out. Indeed, the assumption of the motifs of traditional Christian anti-Semitism by contemporary Jihadist Islam is a major factor in the narrative of our current civilizational struggle---witness the popularity of an Egyptian film version of that crass Czarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

He then takes me to task for picking on the Serbs:

It's a bit make dire predictions about the Serbian response and imply that it is likely to be more pogrom-happy than that of other European markets. The Serbs have historically been so worn out after a long day's work oppressing Albanians, Bosnians, Croats, etc etc. that they have little energy left by the time they come to the letter J.

He cites a calming of Serbian ethnic violence following the end of the wars of the mid-90s, as well as the (authentic and commendable) Serbian history of resistance against the Nazis

I'd like to apologize for having potentially offended the Serbs and all the other populations of the contending states in the Balkan Wars who are, in fact, too tired for now to resume campaigns of murder and terrorism against the region's few remaining Jews.

Transcript of F9/11 Parte the Firste

Go here for the transcript of the first half (or so) of Moore's film. As you'll be able to see, the movie's verbal component is shriekingly infantile. Like I said, too bad Moore can't shut the hell up.

Fidelity to the Word of God (En Archae ein h'Gibson)

Another e-mailer sort-of defends Gibson's presentation of the Gospels:

[Have you read] Matthew 27:25, and so forth? The
current theological position is that the guilt for the crucifixion is universally applicable to all of mankind, of course, but there is certainly no question that the testimony of the gospels is that Pilate was reluctant to convict or execute; that the priests and scribes of Jerusalem demanded crucifixion; that the people of Jerusalem chose Barrabas to be released, not
Jesus; that priests and others mocked Jesus in the course of his sufferings. If one were, like Mr. Gibson, a believing Christian, one would presumably accept the testimony of the four gospels of the New Testament as veracious, and if so, one could hardly avoid an Oberamergau [sic]-like depiction of hostile priests, scribe, and community. I would assume that, if one were a believing Jew, one would say something like: "And they (the priests and scribes and people of Jerusalem) were right to act as they did, and he got what he deserved" (possibly in private, when sufficiently outnumbered). But it seems to me that both sides are perfectly entitled to hold mutually unacceptable opinions on all this. I do not believe that the events of the Christian Passion can be edited down into a universally agreeable version on which both believing communities can happily sit down and read together every spring. Consequently, I think Jewish demands for censorship of the Christian gospels, and suppression of negative depictions of Jewish behavior in the course of depictions of the Passion of Christ, are absurd, self-serving, and presumptuous.

Well, for starters, I think I've already made it clear that I take the Voltaire line on censorship. And I certainly agree that "the events of the Christian Passion [cannot] be edited down into a universally agreeable version on which both believing communities can happily sit down and read together." That's the point though, isn't it? The Gospels themselves do not agree with one another. So Gibson's claim that he is merely a faithful lamb presenting the Revealed Word of God immediately exposes itself as both self-pitying and self-aggrandizing horseshit. Anyone who wishes to dramatize the Gospels has to employ editorial discretion constantly. And every time Gibson was called upon to make such interpretive determinations, he decided on the most anti-Jewish version of events the Gospel stories provide. E.g.: Although Gibson lyingly claimed that he had excised the controversial "blood-guilt" verse in Matthew (and not any of the other Gospels), all he in fact did was remove the English-language subtitle while preserving the Aramaic soundtrack. Serbian Orthodox distributors will have their own chance to add subtitles, and audiences in Egypt, say, or Saudi Arabia will understand the Aramaic and not even need subtitles; refer to what I said in the posting below about pogrom-inducement.

Moreover, Gibson consistently adds details to the narrative that are not present in any of the Gospels---though they might well be interpolations of much more recent (and, need I say, virulently anti-Semitic) interpreters. The Gospels themselves, for example, characterize Pilate as a cold-blooded bureaucrat who shirked responsibility (washing his hands and all that), while the best historical accounts portray him as a cruel overlord who enjoyed or at least took satisfaction in the suppression of Jewish national sentiment through harsh punishments. So the Pilate who is introspective, conflicted, and above all sympathetic---to say nothing of the darling Frau Pilate---is an invention of Gibson's diseased fantasy (or was it the anti-semitic 18th century German nun upon whom he relied so heavily).

I could go further: Why is it that all the Jewish characters look like profiles in a Nazi physiognomy textbook (except Jesus and his disciples who are all 6-footers and look like they come from Hyannisport)? Why does Satan travel among Jewish children and turn them into demons? But the case has already been made quite well.

Incidentally, not all of Gibson's editorial decisions tell in favor of anti-Semitism (though none tell against it); sometimes he seems to include things just for the sake of adding to the film's sadism quotient. The most obvious example is Jesus's interminable flogging and torture, which garners a few non-graphic sentences in some of the Gospels, but becomes the shlock-horror frontespiece of the film. I believe the current Vatican line is that Catholics should not focus their attention on Jesus's physical suffering, but that can't matter much to Gibson, who is closely connected to a pre-Enlightenment splinter group that thinks that the throne of St. Peter is vacant.

Apropos of mainstream/sane Catholicism, one correspondent writes:

"His blood be upon us and our children" cannot be understood to extend beyond a handful of generations (seven at the very most). [Where does the number seven come from?--ed.](This is called "higher criticism"). Therefore to say that Jews in the Middle Ages, or contemporary Jews, or even Second Century Jews bore any responsibility for the crucifixion greater than that of Man generally is an error. Furthermore to impute the guilt of the crowd that cried out to people at home minding their own business or to their children is irrational.

To paraphrase the grammar (though not the vocabulary) of Father Andrew Greeley, this film is sadomasochistic pornography that has nothing to do with Jesus.

The Correct Plural form of a Feminine Noun Meaning "One Who Gives Blowjobs"

Via e-mail I've been told that my use of the word fellatrixes (referring to female campaign lobbyists) might be incorrect. The e-mailer was right in pointing out that the strictly Latinate plural ending would have resulted in "fellatrices."

I confess I'm not sure. A google search indicates that my version is the more popular one; however, that doesn't mean that it's grammatically correct.

The evidence in my favor is that modern English tends to add English noun endings to even purely Latin words: stadiums, not stadia; museums not musea. Interestingly, the Latin plural "agenda" has become a singular in English (does anyone out there say "agendum"?) while the bastardized plural "agendas" is commonplace. On the other hand, we still preserve the datum/data distinction (even if datum is out of favor), and similarly declined words (e.g. matrix/matrices) go against the trend in preserving the Latin ending. [Could that be because those words tend to be technical?--ed.]

In order to avoid this dilemma, I plan to revert to using the good ol' Saxon "cocksucker."

Kerry-Hitler 2004?

William Saletan and Jacob Weisberg in Slate detail an ad commissioned by the Bush campaign that portrays senior figures in the Democratic party as somehow associated with the most senior figure in the NSDAP. Cutting to the chase:

"The Bush video's opening white-on-black graphic says, "The Faces of John Kerry's Democratic Party. The Coalition of the Wild-eyed." Next comes a parade of angry speakers: Al Gore, Hitler, Howard Dean, Michael Moore, Dick Gephardt, Hitler, Gore, and Kerry."

Christ these guys are assholes. The choice for intelligent people this November is either to vote for Kerry or sit it out. Reading that report almost makes me regret defending the Bushies against Michael Moore's demented attacks (well not really).

On the other hand, I'm comforted by the fact that, as Weisberg points out, this sort of garbage can only hurt Bush.

Tyrants in Black Robes Watch

"Many think it not only inevitable but entirely proper that liberty give way to security in times of national crisis-—that, at the extremes of military exigency, inter arma silent leges. Whatever the general merits of the view that war silences law or modulates its voice, that view has no place in the interpretation and application of a Constitution designed precisely to confront war and, in a manner that accords with democratic principles, to accommodate it."---Antonin Scalia, noted judicial activist (Hat tip: Andrew Sullivan).

The Passion of the Moore

Are the parallels between these two paranoid and hysterical films totally obvious? Liberals and leftists have the same problem in confronting Moore's movie as conservatives did with Mel Gibson's The Passion of Jim Caviezel (and did you notice, by the way, that Ebert & Roeper recommended both films, in a particularly spectacular display of gullibility and cowardice). On the whole, I have to say that liberals are performing almost as badly as conservatives did several months ago. While a number of liberal reviewers have conceded that the film trades on a mountain of distortions and half-truths, they tend to follow that up with a cowardly exculpatory statement.

Here's the basic pattern: "Well sure, Moore misstates some facts and proclaims many of his own opinions to be facts, but he's still doing the necessary job of showing people the depth of awfulness of this administration. And besides, what are Moore's errors when compared with the willful lying of the President and his advisors." Michael Musto in the Village Voice and David Edelstein in Slate provide typical examples of the species: they acknowledge that the film is propaganda but excuse that because it serves a higher purpose.

First of all, is it really likely that this film will make any positive difference for the Democrats? Is anyone who hasn't yet made up his mind about the election going to be swayed by this film? Is it any less an instance preaching extreme orthodoxy to a choir than Mel Gibson's Merry Romp through the Garden of Anti-Jewish Homoerotic BDSM? Secondly, there are exactly infinity false claims that one could make about George W. Bush. And infinitely many of them could result in his public image being tarnished. Does that mean it's okay to say anything at all that could be damaging to the president? Back in the day when David Brock was a right-wing liar, and Rush Limbaugh &co. accused Bill Clinton of murdering Vincent Foster, Democrats tended to be opposed to baseless and injurious smear campaigns. What happened?

Thirdly, amid all of Moore's unsupportable attacks, he failed to actually include anything about the true depravity of the administration's conduct of the war. (That can be found here.) The fact that serious Democrats can take this movie seriously reminds me why I'm not a Democrat (and I do need to be reminded often enough).

Let's not forget however, that around the time of the release of Mel Gibson's feature-length gay porno/Oberammergau remake, conservatives, on the whole, acted worse if anything. Although there were a few enlightened souls who denounced it for the load of pogrom-inspiring dreck that it was (if you think that's an exaggeration, wait until it's released in Serbia or Pakistan)---and here I'm not counting non-Republican eagles and libertarians like Andrew Sullivan---incurable national hemorrhoids like Bill O'Reilly (who also believes that a Jewish cabal controls the media) conflated accurate criticism of Gibson with hatred for Christians and America too (natch). Jewish conservatives like David Horowitz---who operates on the assumption that leftists are anti-Semites but millenialist Protestants are not---were even more contemptible because they really do know better. Of course, nobody can top the pussilanimity of Michael Medved, arguing that Jews complaining about the film's outrageous anti-Semitic iconography would be guilty of fueling world-wide anti-Semitism.

That said, the nannies on the left and the right who wanted to censor these films can get the hell out of my country. USA USA USA!!!

Monday, June 28, 2004

Tigris and Euphrates Update

So we ran the old Statue of Liberty play on al-Sadr et al-Zarqawi et al. First, as pretty much everyone agrees, the transfer of power was never going to have much more than symbolic importance anyway. If bumping it up a couple of days will pre-empt a wave of revanchist attacks, then this constitutes a bit of good news.

But it's not as if the attacks are about to stop. I suppose one of the calculations, aside from getting important people like Bremer the hell out of there before he could become a casualty, was to prevent the awful PR that would have resulted from a major a jihadist offensive simultaneous with the transfer of power. Nevertheless, expect to see headlines like "As Iraqis Assume Sovereignty, Terrorists Strike at Interim Gov't, U.S. Troops." The tragedy is that a heightened frequency and lethality of terrorist attacks is a likely result both of our position in Iraq improving and of its weakening.

Update to the Update:
According to BBC's world report (not exactly the most pro-American news source), the "Iraqi street," for lack of a better term, is energized and optimistic about the handover. We'll see if that sentiment can survive the inevitable Islamo-fascist reprisal killings. But it's important to remember that even symbolic gestures can be significant, and that despite what John Kerry once very accurately called a "fucked up" post-war administration, there are signs, however small, that a bit of optimism could be justified. At the very least, things could be much, much worse (and might still get there).

Hooking for a Strong America

As the New York Daily News reports, escort services are kicking operations into high gear in anticipation of the upcoming GOP convention (Hat tip: Wonkette).

Since I'm a betting man, it's time to lay some odds.

Odds of Rick Santorum requesting to get his ass torn up by a prostitute strapping on a big black prosthetic phallus:

Odds that I would donate 50% of my future earnings to some bullshit cause like world peace if doing so could make that happen (Santorum's violent strap-on ass banging):

Odds that someone at the convention will wind up staining his/her sheets with Santorum:

Odds that Rick Santorum's pre-Enlightenment sexual ethics are a symptom of repressed polyandrous homoerotic lust:

Odds that Michael Bloomberg will bang a prostitute inside a Mr. Softee Truck:

Odds that lobbyists do even more sucking off of conventioners than the call girls outside:

Odds that the lobbyists are better and more experienced fellators (and fellatrixes; far be it from me to be sexist):

Odds that the prostitutes do more to keep their dignity intact than the delegates:

Odds that one of the delegates will request that a prostitute actually hum that horrific Lee Greenwood song while giving him a hummer:

Odds of an attending televangelist giving in to temptation:

Odds that said televangelist will figure out a way to blame it on sinful New York City:

Odds that Hannity and Colmes will pay to double-team a hooker:

Odds that, if they do, Colmes will be forced to watch Hannity do her:

Odds of John McCain's head exploding during the convention:

Odds that it will happen on live TV

Tyrants in Black Robes Watch

Here's the first of what I hope will be a regular feature. It's going to chronicle high court (Supreme and Federal) decisions that (simultaneously) advance the common lot of mankind and piss off the sort of people who complain about courts advancing a liberal social agenda. So this is installment one:

Put flaming judicial activists like Anthony "God doesn't hate fags" [yeah, right--ed.] Kennedy on the Supreme Court bench and watch as traditional American values---like holding our own citizens indefinitely without rights, representation, specific charges against them, or any (even modestly) near-term expectation of a trial and due process---get whittled away.

Who would have imagined that the highest court in the judiciary might have a problem with unlimited executive power in an inherently judicial affair? Public Citizen/Activist/Looker-Out-For-You Bill O'Reilly at 8pm on how this advances the "Ssssecularist" agenda.

For a less nuanced view of Moore...

Refer to Christopher Hitchens' review in Slate.

Moore's Coda... an excerpt from George Orwell's 1984, describing the division of the world into three totalitarian superstates, Oceania, Eurasia, and Eastasia, who remain in a constant state of war with one another, in order to maintain perpetual and total control over their populations, to the point of controlling historical memory. If this analogy is supposed to be apposite of anything, then Moore is suggesting that the USA, Iraq, and al-Qaeda are morally equivalent, and also the USA is already a totalitarianism or on its way to becoming one. These ideas belie themselves, so I won't comment on them any further.

I will say, however, that this use of Orwell is preposterous. That portion of 1984 is specifically not Orwell's own voice; it is first presented as the work of the dissident leader Emmanuel Goldstein (a stand-in for Trotsky), and later turns out to be a forgery composed by Oceania's Inner Party. At the end of the book, it's anyone's guess whether the world is as it's presented in those pages; in any case, The Book is a crude Trotskyist tract, containing none of the nuance that Orwell required in his own political writing. If Moore had read a bit more, he might have noticed that Orwell's main opponents were Western leftists who before WWII favored neutrality with fascism (as if such a thing were possible) and later contorted themselves to excuse the atrocities of Soviet communism. Notice that Orwell despised pacifism, because he suspected that outside certain small religious communities, it harbored a desire for the defeat of Western liberalism. If by chance Moore is aware of this, then his conscription of Orwell is a transparently cynical abuse of the man's legacy.

Celsius 9/11

Well, I saw Michael Moore's new film on Saturday. A few observations:

1) This is not a tightly woven movie. It alternates between old-style Moore (a la Roger & Me) stunts, like reading the Patriot Act on a Mr. Softee truck outside Congress, extended lunatic montages where Moore spews both far left and far right conspiracy theories, Riefenstahl-style cinematographic propaganda, and, to be fair, some powerful photo- and video- documentary moments. The panel at Cannes said this movie won the top prize purely on its cinematic merits. I say bullshit.

2) Michael Moore's voice becomes even more grating on one's ears when he's barely suppressing a sneer or a chuckle in the background.

3) It would have been a much, much better movie without narration. Maybe even a good movie. After a (cinematically) promising start, there's a 20-30 minute lull where Moore narrates a complicated web of hypotheses linking the Bush family and the U.S. government with the royal house of al-Saud and the bin Ladens. If you didn't recognize the voice and only saw that part of the movie, you would think it was the work of some demented kook who also thinks the CIA/aliens have installed mind control devices in the crowns of his teeth---who had somehow learned slick video editing techniques. In professionally produced films, the only time you see this sort of thing is when the writer or director are intentionally trying to be ironic. The classic of the genre is the scene in Dr. Strangelove where General Ripper tells Captain Mandrake that fluoridation of water is an insidious plot by the International Communist Conspiracy to corrupt our "precious bodily fluids."

4) Moore has a strange fascination with the facial tics of his enemies. There are frequent close-ups of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Ashcroft, and especially Bush jerking their heads off-camera or otherwise manipulating their features. In one scene, Moore catches Bush naughtily rolling his pupils to the corners of his eyes for a few seconds, and the effect is to make Bush look like a comic book villain. This sort of propaganda stinks to high heaven. It is an absolutely substance-less attack on Bush, an attempt to portray his apppearance as vaguely but perceptibly sinister. No one could rationally alter their opinion of Bush one way or another after seeing that. But the point is to make impressionable people get an intuitive whiff of sulfur and brimstone when they see Bush's visage. Very cheap stuff; refer to my comments about the Cannes judges above.

4a) The most gruesome of these moments is when he catches Paul Wolfowitz slobbering on a comb and then using it to part his hair. Okay, that is really unhygenic and nauseating. But what on earth does it have to do with criticism of Mr. Wolfowitz's job? Wolfowitz then stands there facing a camera, Moore slows down the speed of the film and closes in on Wolfowitz's face bearing a rather cruel looking grin, and as he flashes yellowed teeth all I could think about was how closely Moore was flirting with anti-Semitic iconography---he needed drawn-on horns. Moore closes the film with an excerpt from 1984 (more on that below); but the joke's on Moore---he has recreated graphically the two-minute hates of Emmanuel Goldstein.

5) Moore ends one of the conspiracy theory sequences by declaring that Saddam Hussein's Iraq had never threatened the USA, never killed an American, and never even attempted to kill an American citizen. Rr-ee-aa-ll-yy? We do know for a fact that Hussein tried to have George H.W. Bush assassinated. We also know that he was involved in the 1993 WTC bombing. We know that he had funded suicide terrorism in Israel and Palestine, which claimed American as well as Israeli (and Palestinian! lives). During the first Gulf War, he took American civilians hostage---not exactly a non-threatening gesture; and during that same war he launched scud missiles at Israel, endangering Israelis, Americans, and, it bears repeating, Palestinians. What sort of person wouldn't be keen to this sort of bullshit?

5a) And in another disgraceful sequence, he portrays Iraqi life before the war as a kind of Arabian Carnivale. Children are laughing and playing, grown-ups flash broad smiles, people are happy, there is general prosperity and leisure. . . and then the bombs start dropping and all of a sudden the entire Iraqi population is immolated. It's as if everyone had an uncle killed and an aunt maimed. If Moore were to document the atrocities of the Saddam Hussein regime, e.g. the gassing of Kurds at Halabja (a Hitler moment), the deliberate immiseration/starvation of the Marsh Arabs (a Stalin moment), the gulag prison system (a Hitler/Stalin institution), this would be a very different film indeed. One thing Michael Moore is definitely unconcerned with is truth.

6) But the film does have some better moments. Early on, he displays the famous photograph of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein. Not faked. Lots of people knew about it (or should have), and I was one of them, but this was the first time I'd actually seen the photo and it still had both a ghastly and a shocking effect. There is one superb gotcha moment where Moore is filming outside the Saudi Arabian embassy, and is approached and questioned by a Secret Service unit. To whom he asks, "Why is the Secret Service guarding a foreign embassy?" I'd like to know the answer to that one myself. Similarly, underneath the voice-over of the Saudi conspiracy segment, Moore shows Bush I and Bush II both being awfully chummy with that fat evil lizard, Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, whom they have apparently nicknamed "Bandar Bush." Simply inexcusable. But once again, if Moore could have shut his mouth, it would have been more powerful.

7) He also does a good job portraying the casualties of war on both sides; those are images I think all publicly-minded citizens should see. But the effect of it is a lot more ambiguous than Moore intends. One could find similar images of German and Japanese civilians from WWII; does that mean we were wrong to go to war? The movie also follows around a mother who convinced several of her children to join the army, and watches her gradually break down following her son's death in a helicopter crash. Definitely worthy material for a documentary. But more ambiguous than Moore intends, and totally incongruous with the baby-killer montage earlier in the film.

8) There's a bit I'm leaving out, but this should get the point across. It's worth seeing for your own edification. If you sat through The Passion of the Christ either A) You liked it and I hate you. or B) Well-stomached, now watch this.

Act I Scene I

So this is where it starts. Certain things are lacking on this blog; like links, a proper description of it or me, a defining vision, etc.

Still I think it has a lot of promise (because I'm such a damned good writer and people naturally gravitate toward my ideas). Most of what I have to say will be about politics and culture, not necessarily in that order (and really, what I'm interested in is the politics of culture). But I'll also be talking about bodybuilding, sports, poker (now you know my hobbies), stuff I saw on TV that pissed me off, and whatever else seems pertinent.

I think the model blog so far is (go there now if you've never visited). Andrew didn't invent the medium but he transformed it into a credible alternative source of news and commentary---assists to Instapundit, Romenesko, the Urgrossvater Mickey Kaus, and anyone else I should have mentioned but didn't (my apologies).

The title of the blog comes from the name of one of my favorite books (and fuck you if you think that's just pretension), which in turn is taken from the name of one of my favorite songs (that title has an apostrophe). Well then, let's get started.

-Dan (hereafter, in the blogosphere, Finnegan)

P.S. I'm not here to shock but I'll be very liberal in dropping F-bombs. John "Blinded by the Tits of Justice" Ashcroft can go FuCC himself.

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