Come Justin, On Kelly: Porn Titles for 2003 Movies. "Fill Bill, Vol. 1," "Looney Tunes: Back-Door Action," "T.W.A.T.," and dozens more. (via Gawker.)
Like any Romenskoid, I have been eagerly awaiting New Yorker film critic David Denby's new memoir, American Sucker, ever since hearing that it includes a confession of his addiction to Internet pornography. Sure, I didn't expect it would be as dryly witty as Anthony Lane's confession of porn addiction, nor as reliable as Lisa Schwarzbaum's, as frisky as Nathan Rabin's, or as filled with bizarrely irrelevant pop-culture references as Elvis Mitchell's. But I hoped that, given the nature of the topic, it would still be more exciting than a David Denby movie review.
So I was disappointed when I finally got my hands on a copy and found that the porn section spans a mere three pages (12-14), and is barely smutty at all.
Or is it?
Herewith, Denby's complete PG-13 confessional, annotated for maXXXimum salaciousness. It will not surprise you that most of the links are NOT SAFE FOR WORK, or, if you are David Denby, for anywhere. (You'll notice that I started to run out of steam after the first paragraph, but, honestly, that's about how long the joke is good for; also, some of these links are dead already and may no longer make much sense.)
"For the most part, I stayed home in the apartment that I loved. And instead of going out, I entered in that summer of 1999 a dark and empty tunnel, an enclosure illuminated along the walls by a flash of naked men and women. I had discovered porn on the Internet. In the solitude of night, and in my little study at home, where mighty volumes of Plato, St. Augustine, Hegel, Montaigne, Nietzsche — hardly my regular reading but a recent obsession — loomed over the desk, the kneeling young women awkwardly turned their eyes to the camera. They often had long and beautiful hair that they must have laboriously cared for; they looked for approval not from their partners but from the camera, which I thought was the true object of their desire. They wanted to be seen. And the men, ugly and strong, sullen, tattooed some of them, thick-membered, concentrating on their erection and their orgasm, lest they lose either — they were amateurs, not models, exercising the democratic art form of exhibitionism, with me as their willing audience. They all wanted to be seen, but I didn't want to be seen."
"'The worst thing that can be said of pornography,' Gore Vidal wrote in 1966, 'is not that it leads to ‘anti-social' acts but to the reading of more pornography.' I'm not sure that's the worst thing that can be said of pornography. But I know what Vidal means: Obsession leads not to satisfaction but to more obsession. Pornography is addictive. And Vidal wrote that sentence long before the development of the Internet, which so easily feeds the desire for more that it seems to mock appetite itself. You enter a porn site, try to back out, and get sent not to the previous screen but spilled sideways to another erotic site. Asian Frenzy? Latino Studs? Oh, why not? At least take a look. Even when you get out, mocking e-mails arrive, by the hundreds. The notes were confidential, blunt, chummy. Hello, Fellow Pervs, Kinksters, and Lifestylers… More goodies for you this week. Several new free sex stories are on-line (including part 7 of the My Wife Stella series). Stella! A man who was married to her, or said that he was, shared her with anonymous millions. Did it save his marriage?
"I had no desire to "chat"; I wanted only to gaze. After a while, as I spilled from site to site, I felt not that I was controlling and discovering porn on the ‘Net but that it was discovering me. It was seeking me out, reading me, and it found out things about me that I didn't know. I continued to review movies, I had dinner with friends, took care of the boys when it was my turn. I fed the cat, read the Times and the Journal, but I felt, at times, as if I were breaking into fragments. I had this appetite and that one, but what held them together?
"The Internet is always spoken of as a medium of connection, but it is also a medium of isolation that surfs the user and breaks him into separate waves going nowhere. There was the movie hunger, and the lust hunger, and the early stirrings of the money hunger. But where was the core, reconciling and joining the many elements together? In the tomes above the computer? My book about the classics was devoted to Columbia's version of the "core curriculum." That's why the big boys were up there, in the shelves above the monitor. What would they have said? Plato, observing a man staring at shadows in a cave, would not have been in the least surprised. But Hegel, I imagined, would have been dismayed by the passivity of erotic contemplation, and Nietzsche, I was sure, would have been disgusted by the absence of vigorous, joyful activity — fighting, dancing, revelry, lovemaking — even though Nietzsche, poor crazy bastard, was as terrified of women as any man who ever lived."
Another online poll to fuck with. The American Family Association wants to present Congress with what it thinks are the predetermined results of its gay-marriage poll. Spread the word and see if we can tip the balance.
So it's not a rhetorical question? I like James Taranto as a blogger, even as I loathe his politics, so it brings me no joy by which I mean, busted, sucker! to note that he got very sloppy today.
One of his recurring rubrics is "What Would We Do Without Experts?" in which he mocks headlines that are so self-evident as to be not newsworthy, as in: "Experts: Saddam Surrender a Sign of Cowardice"
Today's installment is "Capture of Saddam Will Have Little Impact on Hunt for bin Laden: Experts". I agree that that's a "duh" story, but earlier in today's Best of the Web, here's how Taranto mocks Howard Dean for saying that the capture of Saddam does not make us safer:
For the sake of argument, let's assume that the left-wing critique is correct: Iraq is a "distraction," diverting troops, resources and attention from the war against al Qaeda. If this is true, then the way to make America safer now that we're in Iraq is to finish the job so that we can free up the men and resources we're currently spending there and put them back to work in Afghanistan or wherever al Qaeda lurks. In other words, even people who thought liberating Iraq was a strategic mistake should be cheering every tactical victory there--if, that is, they really care about our national security.
True, Taranto's not saying he believes this necessarily, but he does find it a reasonable argument to make, and therefore, one would think, a claim by experts that this is not the case would in fact not be self-evident. Perhaps Taranto should actually read past the headline in this case.
On a political note, of course, Dean did cheer the capture of Saddam on both a tactical and moral level, something you probably don't know from the one soundbite that most of the press pulled out of his speech.
More substantively, the of-course-we're-safer-now argument fails on two counts. Here's how Taranto puts it: "If you believe, as we do, that liberating Iraq was vital to American national security, then obviously Saddam's capture has made America safer." Well, I don't, since it's now pretty clear that we could have kept him boxed in without a war (and, hopefully eliminated him through other means), but even if you do, Iraq was liberated back in April, so: mission accomplished. Saddam was hiding in a hole letting his beard grow. The claim isn't that liberating Iraq didn't make us safer, it's that capturing Saddam doesn't make us safer. Those are two separate issues.
Secondly, says Taranto, "Saddam's capture was a necessary step, arguably the most important step, toward final victory in Iraq. Does Dean really believe a victorious America will not be safer than a defeated one, or one stuck in a quagmire, would be?" I hope he's right. I hope that capturing Saddam does lead to a democratic Iraq that's not a puppet of US military and corporate interests, which is how I define "final victory". But I don't think it will, and neither does Dean. Argue with that if you want, but to pretend that saying "capturing Saddam does not make us safer" is the equivalent of saying, "it would be better if we lost the war" is just picking a fight.
That's fucking sick. I mean, he made her eat Grape Nuts?
But if you ask someone who wanted the kid to die, big success!
"A Montgomery County first-grader who died of a flu-related illness Dec. 5 was the first North Carolina child to die of the flu this season, officials said last week.
Beth Rowe-West, head of the immunization branch of the state Division of Public Health, said the Wake County victim's flu appeared to be mild, probably because he had been vaccinated.
'In this case, the secondary infection proved deadly,' she said.
State health officials were reluctant to call the vaccine a failure in the case of the Cary child because the shot did appear to lessen the youngster's symptoms. Still, the shot did not prevent the illness, and as a result, he was susceptible to the pneumococcal infection.
'In that sense, if you ask the parents, it was a failure,' said Dr. Jeffrey Engel, state epidemiologist."
Finally, Radosh.net is becoming known for something more wholesome than, well, you know. In the last several weeks, a good chunk of my traffic is been from people searching for "Best Christmas Movies", and finding the list I compiled for those ungrateful cheapskates at Gear. I hope they find the sugarplum-free recommendations bracing å? hey, that's what you get when you let a Jew make these choices.
I recently saw that Entertainment Weekly named the Alistair Sim Christmas Carol the best Xmas flick of all time. Since it's not on my list, I suppose I should explain that, um, I've never seen it.
As of this moment, The Return of the King is getting a unanimous perfect score on MetaCritic. And here's the difference between a dull critic and a wise one. James Berardinelli of something called "ReelViews" says, "Labeling this as a 'movie' is almost an injustice. This is an experience of epic scope and grandeur, amazing emotional power, and relentless momentum," while Time's Richard Corliss understands that "an epic with literature's depth and opera's splendor... could be achieved only in movies." Really, a movie critic who thinks if something is really good, it shouldn't be called a movie? Get that guy a job reviewing books or something. And then fire him.
Aaron Mannes reads the wrong religion into Battlestar Galactica: The Colonials were forced from their homes, their civilization shattered. A few, with the will to carry on, gathered the survivors and began searching for a mystical home world (a legendary 13th Colony known as Earth) while beset by merciless, specicidal enemies. This material resonated it was science fiction for Herzl, for Ben Gurion, for Moses! This was Jewish science fiction. (For me, this association was strengthened because in the original Battlestar Galactica opener, after the destruction and the Galactica's escape, a provisional council was formed and its sleazy appeasing leader always merged in my head with Edward G. Robinson leading the licentious festivities around the Golden Calf in The Ten Commandments.)
Sorry, guy, everybody knows BG is a Mormon parable.
I haven't gotten around to watching the new incarnation, but it's still on my ReplayTV. Any fellow geeks out there who can tell me if it's worth 4 hours of my time?
"Igry." Learn it. Use it. I couldn't care less about the -gry riddle, but I stand firmly behind Francis's efforts to spread the word igry because it so obviously fills a need in the English language. The word means "painfully embarrassed for or uncomfortable about someone else's incredibly poor social behavior, or descriptive of such poor social behavior." As in, "I love Freaks and Geeks but poor Sam makes me so igry."
Among the news items I missed while Gina and I were busy spawning is the the return of the terror futures market, this time minus the terror. Back in July I found myself in the unusual position of defending the Pentagon against knee-jerk condemnation of what I thought was a pretty imaginative, potentially valuable plan (and a relatively harmless one, compared with how intelligence agencies usually work). So I'm glad to see that the Policy Analysis Market is back in business, and that they've found a way to explain it to people that doesn't rely on the gambling metaphor, which is what freaked everyone out:
A good analogy for what will be launched in March 2004 is an opinion survey based on a long questionnaire. This is the sort of thing that most everyone has been asked to fill out from time to time, whether at work or for some commercial marketing effort. In the case of the Policy Analysis Market, however, you need only fill out the parts of the survey that you find interesting.
In the standard survey format, all the respondents are asked to answer all the questions, even though each may feel he or she only has good information about a subset of the questions. The result is a bunch of noisy information.
In the case of the Policy Analysis Market, survey respondents, who will be called traders, will have an incentive to focus on the subset of questions about which they feel they have the best information. The Policy Analysis Market will be a demonstration of a new type of market-based information gathering and refining tool. If the demonstration is successful, then an improvement will have been made in the way distributed information on matters of public importance is gathered and measured.
It'll be interesting to see exactly what scenarios traders will be
gambling offering their opinions on, but violent acts have been taken off the table. That was probably essential PR, but I wish it hadn't been necessary. There are two types of arguments against including acts of terror in the market. The argument from morality I found to be pompous grandstanding (Hillary's specialty) that had more to do with seemliness than genuine moral concern (as if fighting terror is otherwise a tea party). The arguments that the market would actually spark real world violence in any number of ways I found unpersuasive.
Maybe if PAM gets some results, they can phase in the hardcore stuff.
Al Franken hones in on another one of my pet peeves: "Fox was literally laughed out of court. Now usually when you say someone was literally laughed out of court, you mean they were figuratively laughed out of court. Not in this case. People came from miles around to see this historic First Amendment case and laughed throughout the hearing."
Why on earth do people say "literally" when they mean the precise opposite? It's not so bad in casual conversation, but I see it all the time in print. My mother just came across a sentence in a critically acclaimed memoir that said something like, "The words literally fell like mountain rain on the people in the room." It doesn't even make the image more powerful, which is presumably the intent. Wouldn't that simile be more striking without the word literally in there?
The folks at Mad magazine seem just a little bit angry at our president. The above gag (it's worth looking at the large version) is kinda funny certainly more than any other "highlights" from their recent issues but what really stands out is how bitter it is. "blood-stained hands"? And is that a swastika on the bottom left? Who's writing their stuff, BuzzFlash? (Link via Rick Bruner)
Greenport has been nominated as a finalist in the AMERICAN DREAMTOWN, USA 2004. I have no idea what that actually means but publicity is publicity. We are competing with Cooperstown and Tarrytown for New York State American Dreamtown - and if we win, are then eligible to be THE American Dreamtown - YIPPIE!
Log onto the American Dream Town site and VOTE.
Let's kick Cooperstown ASS. Help HUMILIATE Tarrytown. Nobody is as American or Dreamy or Towny as GREENPORT! If you don't believe me log onto our official website we have a carosel! What's more American Dreamy Town than that? And if you have time, check out Verbena [her store, from which Milo & Margalit received some charming welcome-to-earth presents] lots of cool holiday gifts STILL available.
Englewood, Colo. is not happy about A Litte Off the Top, a lingerie hair salon. "I don't have a problem with the business," insists Jill Schaffer, area pervert. "I always thought a Grease Monkey with girls dressed like Elly May Clampett would be great. But it is not something I want in a residential neighborhood."
We're working on it. Will this do in the meantime?
You'd think Eminem could chip in a little bit to buy a better web site for his kid brother.
Great article by Jonathan Chait on why Bush isn't a moderate just because he's gone and created a massive federal entitlement:
This argument betrays a common misunderstanding of the precise nature of the president's right-wingery. Bush's extremism does not lie in the purity of his devotion to the teachings of Milton Friedman but rather in the slavishness of his fealty to K Street. The distinction is a fine one, but it's highly revealing. In most instances, being pro-free market and pro-business amount to the same thing. Businesses usually want the government out of their way, which is why the business lobby threw its weight behind Bush's efforts to cut taxes, scuttle workplace safety standards, and so on. The way you tell the difference between a free-marketer and a servant of business is how he behaves when the interests of the two diverge. And all the evidence, including the Medicare and energy bills, points to the conclusion that Bush is happy to throw free-market conservatism out the window when business interests so desire. [snip]
Similarly, the Medicare bill, supposedly evidence of Bush's moderation, is in fact typical of his domestic agenda, which revolves around granting favors to powerful interest groups. Again, most of the major liberal and conservative think tanks opposed the bill. But the pharmaceutical companies were ecstatic with it: Not only does it subsidize drug purchases, it specifically prohibits the federal government from using its negotiating power to hold down the cost of the drugs it purchases. (Got that? Those who spend your tax dollars are forbidden from striking a good bargain with the drug companies.) The American Medical Association was brought on board with a promise to boost Medicare reimbursements. And employers received federal subsidies--more than twice what they requested--to help cover the cost of their retirees' health care. As Thomas Scully, the Bush appointee who heads the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, put it, businesses received "way beyond their wildest requests" and "should be having a giant ticker-tape parade." Perhaps deeming a ticker-tape parade unseemly, the Business Roundtable and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce instead launched a lobbying campaign on the bill's behalf.
Note that all these measures would require the government to spend more money. But they triggered nary a complaint from conservatives. What they hated about the Medicare bill was the part about helping senior citizens buy medicine. When the government gives money to sick people, you see, that's incipient socialism. When it gives money to drug companies, doctors, and employers, that's the free market in action.
I was looking at the headlines when I got it: Al Gore's endorsement of Howard Dean is the establishment's way of co-opting, or at least making sense of, what they could never fathom -- that Dean is a winner. Check the spin: Gore gets credit for securing the nomination for Dean (no doubt the chance to be a king-maker played a part in Gore's decision). And the media, which has been hating Dean and his surge, now gets to be comfortable with him because after all Dean isn't winning on his own merits, he's winning because Al Gore likes him. Balance has been restored.
Hey, it's close enough for blogging.
Late last year I wrote an appreciation of Eminem's radical politics, wondering what the guy had to do to get noticed for incendiary raps something other than homosexuals and Vicodin. Now we know. The Secret Service ultimately decided not to launch a formal investigation into Em's "I'd rather see the president dead" track, which, I note, is called "We As Americans." The man is redefining patriotism harder than Wes Clark. If we're lucky, he'll convince every one of his fans to vote against Bush. Either that or to spit in your onion rings.
Sheesh! Nobody talked about "reshaping the race," when I endorsed Dean last week. Actually, I'm glad I got that on record before Gore did so no one would think his approval influenced me [Maybe your endorsement influenced Gore Ð Ed.. Um, I don't have an editor ÐDLR]. I also think I criticized Dean unfairly when I took him to task for trafficking in conspiracy theories. Stupidly I did not listen to the whole interview, relying on a quote put out by right-wing critics. The quote itself is pretty indefensible, but Dean later made clear that when he said Bush may have been "warned ahead of time by the Saudis," he didn't mean that Bush was specifically told that on Sept. 11, hijackers would fly planes into the World Trade Center (only Jews got that call), but rather that he may have had more specific intelligence that Al Qaida was plotting to hijack planes and use them as missiles in general, which he brushed off. Not only is that not conspiratorial, it's probably close to the truth.
I also pointed out that one of the things I like about Dean is his willingness to take the fight directly to Bush Ð- on policy levels, of course, but also on political ones, which is why I think he can win (or at least, why he has a better chance than rest of the Democratic field; I don't actually think Bush is beatable Ð yet). Bill Greider makes the same point, more persuasively:
Howard Dean is an odd duck, certainly, in the milieu of the contemporary Democratic Party. He is, I surmise, a tough and savvy politician of the old school--a shrewd, intuitive pol who develops his own sense of where the people are and where events are likely to take public opinion, then has the guts to act on his perceptions. That approach--leading, it's called--seems dangerously unscientific in this era of high-quality polling and focus groups, the data interpreted for politicians by expensive consultants. The press corps has not had much experience with Democrats of this type, so reporters read Dean's style as emotional, possibly a character flaw. He reminds me of olden days when Democrats were a more contentious bunch, always fighting noisily among themselves and often with creative results.
The ubiquitous "party sources" have explained that Dean merely caught a lucky break by declaring early and forcefully against the war on Iraq at a time when Americans were overwhelmingly prowar. Who knew things might change? The doctor knew.
A more pertinent question is, Why didn't other leading candidates see this tragedy coming? Their reticence was symptomatic of the inert Washington insiders, exceedingly cautious, indifferent to whatever roils the party's rank and file, and always a few steps behind the curve. The explanation that Washington candidates voted for the war on principle or were misled by Bush doesn't help them. Their blindness to the potential consequences (now unfolding) is another reason to be for Dean. He, meanwhile, speaks plainly to the error of US imperialism. "America is not Rome. We do not dream of empire. We dream of liberty for all."
The man also stands his ground in a fight. When someone jabs him, he jabs back. Pundits describe this quality as dangerous, and no doubt it gets him into trouble occasionally, but what a refreshing departure from the rope-a-dope calculations of the Clinton era. This trait is what I like about him most. In my experience, it's more revealing than a politician's positions on issues. With issues, Dean is pretty much what he says: a middle-of-the-road moderate, neither left nor right, though middle in Vermont is liberal ground. As governor, he was skilled at maneuvering through contending forces, sometimes angering both sides in the process.
I think Republicans are actually a little scared that Dean is so good at playing Bush's game. David Brooks is shockedshocked that Americans are getting behind a politician who knows how to reinvent himself:
My moment of illumination about Howard Dean came one day in Iowa when I saw him lean into a crowd and begin a sentence with, "Us rural people. . . ."
Dean grew up on Park Avenue and in East Hampton. If he's a rural person, I'm the Queen of Sheba. Yet he said it with conviction. He said it uninhibited by any fear that someone might laugh at or contradict him.
Precisely, in other words, the way Bush says such things. In fact, Brooks goes on and on pointing out Dean's shifting personas (though no one will ever be able to splice together an old Dean vs. new Dean debate the way The Daily Show did so effectively with Bush) and his allegedly frightening self-confidence: "A normal person with no defense policy experience," sniffs David, "would not have the chutzpah to say, 'Mr. President, if you'll pardon me, I'll teach you a little about defense'"
With every sentence like that I thought, Oh I see where Brooks is going with this: at the end he's going to say, Surprise! Replace Dean's name with Bush throughout and you'll see that they're essentially the same animal (Brooks has made a similar point before). But instead his punchline is, "The only problem is that us rural folk distrust people who reinvent themselves. Many of us rural folk are nervous about putting the power of the presidency in the hands of a man who could be anyone." Oh really, so who the fuck are you supporting. The self-proclaimed compassionate, inclusive, environmentalist who's currently in office?
Bushies suffer a similar disconnect when they dismiss Dean by saying that anger Ð as if that's all he's about Ð can never win the support of the American people. But what was Bush's campaign about if not anger. Sure, he talked about tax cuts, but his big applause line was his promise to "restore honor and dignity to the Oval Office." He beat Al Gore (if he did) because Americans were still seething over Bill Clinton's hummers. At least Dean voters have something real to be angry about.
This seems like a good time to look back at the roots of the anti-gay marriage movement: "In 1975, an American man named Richard Adams tried to get and American visa for his Australian partner, Anthony Sullivan, arguing to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that they had been married by a minister in Colorado and that Mr. Sullivan should be treated as a spouse. The INS promptly replied with a form letter denying the visa. In the space where the reason for the denial was to be indicated, the agency stated: 'You have failed to establish that a bona fide marital relationship can exist between two faggots.'" --Errol Louis, writing in the New York Sun
Let's-hope-he's-being-ironic quote of the day: "With a heavy dose of fear and violence, and a lot of money for projects, I think we can convince these people that we are here to help them." Lt. Col. Nathan Sassaman on the West Bankification of Iraq.
While I was busy with other things a couple of weeks ago, the debut issue of the newly revamped mMode Magazine hit the stands, or would have, if it were sold on stands as opposed to being distributed free in cell phone stores and through the mail.
mMode Magazine, as some of you know, is the lifestyle publication of AT&T Wireless, and it's worth reading because, well, I'm the deputy editor. That's right, finally someone took up my longstanding offer to sell out -- and I couldn't be more pleased with how much I went for. The magazine isn't bad either, especially since it was essentially cobbled together from scratch by Chris Tennant and myself, though it is odd to think that with its 3.3 million circulation, it will probably be the most widely-read work I've ever done.
It's more impressive in print, but plenty of good stuff got repurposed for the poorly-designed Web site, including an exclusive Jinx Society adventure, my guide to the world's coolest vehicles, my introduction to moblogs, Marjorie Ingall's Confessions of a Mom on the Run, an original comic by Josh Neufeld, and Kevin Guilfoile's trend story on personalization.
I'll also say that other than the need to put in repeated references to AT&T products and services, Chris and I had pretty much free reign in creating our "faux edgy" editorial content -- the theme of the magazine is "mobility" in case you're wondering -- and I'm authentically proud of how most of it turned out. An exception is Tim Carvell's timeline of mMode through history, which was really funny when he wrote it and ended up, for various reasons, being kind of "eh."
And like it or not, issue two is in the works.
Of the many, many (OK, three) e-mail correspondences I've struck up via this site, one of my top three, easily, is with Sam Smith, a vision-impared artist whose brilliant work reminds me oh, the irony of so-called visionary artists Howard Finster and Mose Tolliver (plus it's a lot cheaper to collect, though still just the other side of my post-twins, post-mortgage budget). His titles alone make his paintings worth the asking price. The one above is called, "Would You Believe I'm Armed to the Teeth?"
Here's Sam explaining why he's a pacifist: "I definitely think my vision has made me see things the way I do. It's a cliche, but I think of the personal as the political. For example, being a pedestrian in this city that is so reliant upon cars, I've had many close calls. In fact, I was actually hit by a car a couple of years ago. I've often said that, the Disability Act isn't enough, the handicapped ought to be allowed to shoot people who aren't nice to us! But the point I'm trying to make is, as much as I'd like to blow away careless drivers, it's not going to make the world a safer place. Likewise, fighting terrorism with state sponsored terorism isn't going to work either. It makes me irate that people don't see that."
I'm not entirely convinced by his arguments, but I'll say one thing: someone get that man a blog!
Here's the picture he thinks goes along with that comment: A Sticky Situation, Oar Not?
Best-when-out-of-context quote of the day: "'Someone give me a list of universities that allow sex acts in the classroom." --Spokesman for NYU's Tisch School of the Arts
If Heaneyland! is not yet on your daily blog-reading list, here are a few of the latest reasons it should be:
Also of import in this story, we learn that the Iraqi nickname for Tony Blair is "Monkey of the Desert. The lightbulb moment in Ian Fisher's interviews with Iraqi insurgents and their supporters comes halfway through:
His choice of the word 'mujahedeen' was perhaps one of the most telling details about what this insurgency would like to be.
The word means 'holy warrior,' and for many Muslims it connotes brave struggles against occupiers over centuries, against the crusaders a millennium ago or against the Russians in Afghanistan a mere two decades ago. These resisters would like that honorable title bestowed on them. The recruiting leaflets the American military says were found here called for Iraqis to join them on a 'jihad,' or holy war, against the Americans ? prompting a large United States military raid on the town this week.
But the Americans increasingly use a different word: 'fedayeen.'
In Iraq, the fedayeen were Saddam Hussein's dark-uniformed storm-troopers, who, unbroken after the American-led alliance invaded Iraq last spring, appear to be among the most potent force behind the attacks on Americans and their allies here, American officials say.
Many Iraqis also consider the resisters fedayeen, even those Iraqis who strongly oppose the American occupation here, and worry that Mr. Hussein would return if the resisters win.
'If it were not for Saddam, I think more people would have joined already,' said Kashid Ahmad Saleh, 48, a farmer here who is deeply angry at the American presence."
Uh oh. A ubiquitous assumption -- often, but not always unspoken -- about the war is that once Saddam is killed the resistance will finally fall apart because 1) he won't be around to direct and/or inspire his followers (remember how that already happened after we got Uday & Qusay?) and 2) the legions of Iraqis who hate him but fear him will no longer be afraid to join the Americans against the remaining Baathists. But this opens possibility 3) once Iraqis know for sure that driving out the Americans won't lead to the return of Saddam, the resistance will explode.
That would kinda suck, huh?
I finally got around to looking at the actual transcript of theHardball segment in which Howard Dean refers to four times to "The Soviet Union." Not that anyone really thought this was anything more than a slip of the tongue, but I had not seen anyone mention that just a few minutes before his gaffefest, Dean actually mentions "the former Soviet Union." So all he was doing was using shorthand on second reference, not at all an uncommon way of speaking.
Dean's bullshit with sealing his Vermont papers is less forgivable but also not a big deal to me, since I doubt there's anything in them worth reading. Still, it would be nice, in this day and age, to have a president who embraced openness by default.
A bigger concern, which has not gotten quite the same attention, is Dean's conspiracy-mongering on the Diane Rehm Show (real audio):
Caller: Once we get you in the White House, would you please make sure that there is a thorough investigation of 9/11, and not stonewall it?
Dean: Yes. There is a report, which the president is suppressing evidence for, which is a thorough investigation of 9/11.
Rehm: Why do you think he's suppressing that report?
Dean: I don't know. There are many theories about it. The most interesting theory that I've heard so far--which is nothing more than a theory, it can't be proved--is that he was warned ahead of time by the Saudis. Now who knows what the real situation is? But the trouble is, by suppressing that kind of information, you lead to those kinds of theories, whether they have any truth to them or not. And eventually they get repeated as fact. So I think the president is taking a great risk by suppressing the key information that should go to the Kean commission.
That's the kind of wacky shit I get from my friend Jake all the time, but Jake isn't running for president. As James Taranto points out, "If a Republican candidate had said of Bill Clinton, 'The Clintons may have murdered Vince Foster--but it's only a theory,' he would have been pilloried in the media, and rightly so."
I'm still supporting Dean because, despite what the punditocracy says, I think he has the best chance of beating Bush -- partly because he's willing to fight on the same level.
Peter Jackson talks about designing Skull Island for his King Kong remake. "I'm interested in Kong being quite stylized and the jungles of Skull Island I want to be very over-the-top, like a jungle from hell." Sounds good, but what goes unmentioned is how he intends to apply this aesthetic to reconstructing 1930s New York City. The possibilities are delicious. Blimps, please!
'Scuse me, while I kiss this guy. In today's Washington Post, David Ignatius writes: The Geneva accord that was presented yesterday -- proposing hypothetical terms for a settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict -- reminds me of the old John Lennon song, 'Imagine.' I love that song, loopy as it is.
Imagine there's no countries,
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people,
Living life in peace.
I know, I know, not a promising start to a column no matter how you slice it, but it really goes wrong when Ignatius continues to ruminate about this song he supposedly loves: It may be romantic nonsense, but it's a nice distraction from reality. And I feel the same way about the Geneva accord. Sometimes it's important to have a 'peace process,' even when the prospects for real peace seem slim. It's like imagining the existence of an afterlife -- the very notion of a blessed end state gives people a reason not to do terrible things in the here and now.
Ah, so that's why he started with the second verse -- the first verse proposes the exact opposite of the point he wants to make:
Imagine there's no heaven,
It's easy if you try,
No hell below us,
Above us only sky,
Imagine all the people
living for today...
At least he didn't go with Happiness is a Warm Gun.
Bad framing devices aside, his point is a good one:
If a peace process is underway, it encourages people to think that there is an alternative to the state of war. It posits a future when things will be different. It empowers those who want to change the status quo...
The idea of compromise embodied in the Geneva accord is threatening to those who believe they can have it all. It's threatening to Sharon, who promised that his harsh methods would provide the security that Israelis demand. And it's threatening to the Muslim militants who argue that suicide bombings will eventually force a demoralized Israel to capitulate.
The real illusion in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the idea of victory. It ain't going to happen -- no matter how many suicide bombings or house demolitions each side attempts. By contrast, the idea of a negotiated peace settlement ought to seem practical. I like the thought of Israelis and Palestinians sitting in their homes this week, looking over the maps and clauses of the Geneva accord, and telling each other, "You know, maybe this isn't so crazy after all.
Plus I'm a brilliant diplomat, as my careful choice of words shows.
In an interview, Mr. Carter criticized both leaders in the region for not moving forward aggressively to make peace and the Bush administration for what he called its 'bias' toward Israel. He speculated that history might have been different if he had been re-elected president in 1980.
"Had I been elected to a second term, with the prestige and authority and influence and reputation I had in the region, we could have moved to a final solution," he said.