Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Cindy Sheehan and Company:
The left needs a smaller tent

Cindy Sheehan serves as a daily reminder of the left's inability to find guidance or choose its friends wisely. She met today with John McCain. Apparently they exchanged viewpoints, after which which McCain said of Sheehan: "She's entitled to her opinion," and "We just have fundamental disagreements." Sheehan then called one of our nation's most popular and respected leaders a "warmonger." The Democrat leadership may now be wishing the Secret Service had run her over back in Crawford. If there's a way she can do more damage to her cause, it will take some effort. Perhaps she could fly to Damascus and publicly kiss the ass of the tyrant behind the "insurgency" that killed her son. That's what George Galloway did.

As Sheehan completes her transformation from grieving mother to pathetic media tool, the Democrats have wisely opted to cut her loose. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry declined to attend last weekend's anti-war rally in Washington, D.C.--a decision that apparently woke the pacifists up to the fact that they have no useful friends in the party and no chance of having anyone to vote for in 2008 unless they learn to give war a chance. Sheehan's hammy behavior before the cameras, combined with her deepening addiction to the spotlight, has put off so many that her blather elicits more derision than applause even over at Huffpo. (One of the few positive comments in response to her latest post came from a member of the "Guns and Dope Party," whose web site is either dull satire or frighteningly wacko anarchism.) Her anti-Israel rant and lame attempts at denial made her fatally toxic to moderate Democrats. And her friends didn't always made a good impression at anti-war demonstrations around the nation on Sunday: the crowds were lousy with conspiracy crackpots, muddle-headed ex-hippies arm-in-arm with Starbucks multiculturalists, and masked vulgarians being lead around by unrepentant Communists. (To see some of Cindy Sheehan's fellow travelers, check out Zombie's collection of photos from the recent rally.)

I'm not hopeful that the left in America can get its act together. Its members seem caught between paradigms they won't abandon (no war, hate Bush, hate America) and reality they won't see (Saddam was not going away on his own, Hamas is not a force for good, sometimes America is). Zombie points out a perfect example of the cognitive dissonance straining the minds of the left today: a group in San Francisco called QUIT, which is apparently a U.N.-style acronym for Queers for Palestine. They march for the creation of a Palestinian state that would undoubtedly persecute gays. Baffling. Christopher Hitchens gives us an even better example of the disconnect among the left, pointing out that Communists in Iraq are bewildered by the support American leftists are voicing for the "freedom fighters" who are trying to silence or kill them.

In an interview in early July, Salam Ali, a member of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party, addressed the betrayal of the Iraqi left by the American left. The interviewer asked him to comment on the idea that the nascent government in Iraq is a fraud and the ICP would be better off siding with the "insurgency":

Some on the Western left insist that participation in the political process is a form of collaboration and that the insurgency represents a sort of national liberation movement like that in Vietnam or the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa.

Ali's response to my question on this comparison was mixed with anger and sarcasm. "This perception has nothing to support it in the real situation in Iraq," he replies. "It doesn’t exist. It's a myth. It's dangerous as well," he added. Such a comparison is based on a lack of understanding of the specific situation in Iraq and "makes a mockery" of the national liberation movements in other countries. He suggested that these views were made by folks, however well-intentioned, without any real contacts with Iraqis on the ground.

Bear in mind that the ICP opposed the invasion and occupation, and as Communists they certainly have no love for the Bush administration. But they know a good thing when they see it (like an open and democratic political process instead of groveling before a tyrant) and they know a bad thing when they see it (like an unholy alliance between scheming Baathists and bloodthirsty jihadis). The left in America, however, just isn't listening.

A democracy dominated by a single party is not desirable from anyone's perspective (even members of that party). Meaningful debate and the existence of choice are vital to the health of such a government. If the left is to have any place in the political process, they'll have to move away from the theatrics and back into the realm of thought. Anti-Semites, loons who see politics as an opportunity to dress funny or not at all, and those who just instinctively hate America should be visibly ostracized from the Democrat Party. The Democrats need a "good left," or their identity will shrivel away--already they're losing African Americans, Latinos, and labor unions because they're so damn vague about what precisely they plan to do. To be of any use to the Democrats, that good left needs to get its bearings, get rid of the baggage, and get serious.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

More Reuters bias

Reuters' latest headline about the escalation of violence in and around Gaza set off my journalistic bias alarm. I should to turn the alarm off while reading Reuters, but here we go ...

Two civilians wounded in Israeli missile strike (9/24 6:50 p.m.)

"That's funny," I thought. "I don't recall the word 'civilians' in the headline about Hamas' unprovoked rocket attack on the Israeli town of Sderot on Friday." Actually, I couldn't recall any article from Reuters about that attack, but a Google search revealed that Reuters did indeed devote 249 words to it. Most of those words were spent repeating Hamas' justification for the strike or down-playing the seriousness of such attacks: "Such rocket strikes rarely cause casualties."

Tell that to the family of Ella Abukasis, a 17-year-old resident of Sderot killed by a Hamas rocket attack in January.
Not rare enough.

Anyway, the headline for the Reuters article about the strike on Sderot does not call the Israeli victims "civilians"--though they were--and it reduces the incident to a "claim" by including the attribution in the headline:

Palestinian rocket wounds five Israelis - army (9/23 9:50 p.m.)

It seems that Israeli rockets are fact, while Palestinian rockets are possibly fiction--an invention of the "army."

Reuters needs to establish and enforce some journalistic guidelines specifically tailored for its reporters covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. That is, unless they want to be perceived as a mouthpiece for marginalized terrorists.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Elie Wiesel keeps his cool

Fausta at Bad Hair Blog has done a nice summary of Elie Wiesel's lecture and Q&A session at Princeton Wednesday night. Wiesel is notable for having once received a Nobel Peace Prize despite the fact that he actually deserved one.

Someone in the audience had the gall to ask Wiesel if he sees any parallels between the Nazis and Bush. If I'd been in Wiesel's shoes, I'd have leapt down from the stage and knocked the moron's head off with the mic stand. I guess that's why I keep getting passed over when they're giving out peace prizes. Wiesel kept his cool. Read his answer at Bad Hair Blog.

Thursday, September 22, 2005


Russia and China have cowed France, Britain, and Germany into weakening the language of the latest U.N. resolution on Tehran's nuclear deception and recalcitrance. Iran has already violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty, a breach that would normally result in immediate referral of the issue to the Security Council. By not evening threatening such action, the European powers weaken the already ridiculous U.N., turning it yet again into a coalition of the unwilling. Sadly, this seems to set the stage for a repeat of 2002-2003, wherein the U.S. will have to construct another coalition outside of the U.N. to enforce the organization's own rules and resolutions. It was difficult last time, and it won't be any easier this time around.

The headline says it all:

EU backs down on Iran

Monday, September 19, 2005

Carnival of the Revolutions


Round the world in twenty-two steps. Here's this week's collection of developments in democracy, rights, and the revolutions that carry them forward. As always, we've got some progress, some regress, and some that are just a mess.

Let's begin on the road to Damascus ...

Mustafa at Beirut Spring finds some interesting hints at future policy in Saad Hariri's choice of whom to meet (and whom not to meet) at the U.N. this past week.

Further south along the Mediterranean coast ...

Turning to recent events in Gaza, Different River has put together a great compendium of comment and photos on the destruction of synagogues there by "jubilant" Palestinians.

And across the border into Egypt ...

Freedom for Egyptians draws some interesting parallels between the murder of Syria's Rafik Hariri and the assassination of Anwar Sadat nearly twenty-four years ago. The similarities in the political motivations of these killings reveal much about obstacles to democracy in the Middle East. "Both Hariri and Sadat are liberators. Hariri won Lebanon’s sovereignty and freedom and Sadat won peace. Enemies of Hariri and Sadat are the same if not the killers."

Moving down into the horn of Africa ...

Ethiopundit brings us a fascinating look at how Ethiopia (and much of Africa, for that matter) ended up in its particular mess today. This is a work in progress, according to the authors, but well worth reading in its current draft.

And ET Wonkette at Weichegud! gives Jimmy Carter a well-deserved thrashing for his years of helping corrupt tyrants keep Ethiopians on a steady diet of dust.

And across the Gulf of Aden ...

Jane at Armies of Liberation thinks that the U.S. government may be about to let realpolitik cynicism screw the forces of liberal democracy in upcoming Yemeni elections. Administration officials may even be about to welcome to Washington a Yemeni official suspected of involvement in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Jane also notes in another post that U.S. intelligence can no longer claim to be mystified about the origins of the Cole plot, thanks to revelations of the crack work of Able Danger.

Farther north on the peninsula ...

Captain Ed at the Captain's Quarters sees a chink in the wall of gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia. Apparently, women will be allowed to both vote and run in upcoming local elections. Some skepticism is probably in order, but Captain Ed makes some good points in his analysis of what the Saudi royal family may be up to.

And across the Persian Gulf in the land of the Ayatollahs ...

Amil Amani writes in The American Thinker about how the mullahs in Iran are trying to shove pre-Islamic Persian culture down the memory hole in the name of Allah.

Marching east across the Dasht-e Lut ...

Lastango at Daily Pundit offers an excellent primer on the Afghan elections, whose results should be announced this week.

Sohrab Kabuli at Afghan Lord covers the elections in Afghanistan with commentary and photos. The English is a little tricky here and there, but the account is worth reading. Sadly, the news is not all good.

The hard-working Gateway Pundit reports on Taliban terrorism and U.N. hypocrisy: an election day attack on a dam in Afghanistan. Back in 2001 both the U.N. and Taliban officials protested loudly that U.S. military action might damage the dam and put thousands of lives at risk. Now that the U.S. is not the culprit, no one seems quite as concerned.

And south over the Arabian Sea to a small archipelago ...

Robert Mayer at Publius Pundit reports on the dismal state of affairs in the Maldives, where it looks like the only positive development lately is that oppression inspires "freedom-blogging." Don't let mainstream media's complicity with "the mullah" of Male keep the truth hidden. Mayer provides a number of links to Maldive blogs.

Across India to the Himalayas ...

Paramendra Bhagat (a fellow New Yorker) at Democracy for Nepal works on strategy for his countrymen struggling to bring democracy to their troubled nation. I'm not too familiar with Nepalese politics, but what he's proposing sounds like civil disobedience along the lines of Tiananmen, but with a clearer behind-the-protest plan for structure and change. It looks like an uphill battle, given the current three-way fight between monarchists, Maoists (yikes!), and democrats. This revolution is truly a work-in-progress, and Bhagat's blog looks to me like the best way to follow it.

And then north over China ...

Neo-neocon calls our attention to the possible significance of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's retaining power in recent polls in Japan. The comments demonstrate that there is disagreement on this topic ... well worth a look.

And across the Pacific and North America to the Big Apple ...

After last Tuesday's primary to choose their candidate for mayor, Democrats are trying to chuck New York State's election law (Sec. 6-162) in the trash in the interest of unity. Hypocrisy isn't just for the Third World anymore.

Speaking of which, let's jet down south a thousand miles ...

Alfonso Chardy at Net for Cuba reveals that Cubans are sailing to Florida in record numbers. (Maybe they're actually those doctors Fidel said he'd send to New Orleans.)

Vcrisis looks at Hugo Chavez's designs on certain islands in the Netherlands Antilles. The great anti-colonialist may have dreams of a "Greater Venezuela."

And Jorge Arena at The Devil's Excrement examines Chavez's attempts to shred Venezuela's (latest) constitution.

And on a related topic, Ironman at Political Calculations gets out the slide rule and the graph paper and provides a statistical proof for what most of us already figured: the more governments meddle with economics, the harder it is to do business.

Over the Atlantic to Europe ...

Curzon at Coming Anarchy thinks that the results of yesterday's elections in Germany bode ill for that nation's floundering economy.

Then skirting over the north coast of the Black Sea ...

Also at Coming Anarchy, Younghusband wonders if Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev (the proud planner of the Beslan massacre) isn't trying to spread his brand of violence all over the North Caucasus. Whether the goal is another Islamic state spanning ethnic and national boundaries or just control over the oil-pipeline routes, this kind of expansion could set the region back drastically.

And south across the Caucasus Mountains, bringing us almost back where we began ...

Oneworld Multimedia looks at cafe culture in Armenia and sees revolution brewing. Apparently, the chatter at all levels of society there points to a growing intolerance for corruption, the lack of rule of law, and the "obscene wealth and political power of the oligarchs."

For an interesting snapshot of trends in freedom and rights around the world, check out Maximiliano Herrera's "Freedom in the World." This week he updates his ratings of Liberia, Nicaragua, Kyrgystan, Burundi, Guinea Bissau, Lebanon, and Sudan. In Herrera's estimation, all but Nicaragua have seen recent improvements, trends toward greater political freedoms, respect for civil rights, or both.

Lastly, I'd like to direct this Carnival's readers to a site honoring those American men and women in uniform who have given their lives to help the people of Iraq and Afghanistan in their struggles for democracy and peace.

Thanks to all those who submitted. If anyone thinks I missed a submission or wants to submit something late, please email me at I may add an update to this post later today.

Thanks also to Will at for managing the Carnival and the submissions with such efficiency. Be sure to check back in at the Carnival of the Revolutions home base for the hosting schedule and to make submissions for future Carnivals.

UPDATE (21 September, 10:00 p.m.):

I received yesterday an email from Joshua at One Free Korea with a late submission for the Carnival. Instead of simply sending me a link to a single post of his own, Joshua seems to have done my job for me with regard to both the Koreas. He's written two paragraphs summing up the latest developments in North and South Korea, complete with links to posts (on his own blog and on others) that provide more info and analysis.

Joshua should consider hosting the Carnival of the Revolutions in the future. He has the knack. [Correction: Joshua did one just a few weeks ago, one I missed thanks to a chance meeting between my iBook and a concrete floor. I'm about to read it. Looks impressive.] Though these two paragraphs differ stylistically from my work in this week's Carnival, they're too good to overlook. (The HTML is also not my own, and it has been copied into and out of an email, so it may look a little different from the usual Commoner Sense post, until I modify it. I will not blockquote it, though it is not my writing, since it becomes too confusing in blue with all the links.) Here it is:

South Korea

A modest backlash has taken shape in the wake of South Korean leftists' violent attempts to tear down a statue of General MacArthur at Inchon . . . on September 11th. One of OneFreeKorea's unnamed sources in the House of Representatives provided him a copy of a letter from Congress to President Roh expressing concern about the violent protests. (The Marmot has proof that the protestors are taking some fairly vicious talking points from Pyongyang). South Korea's left-wing president, Roh Moo-Hyun, betrayed his fear of alienating some of his hard-left voters by letting his Foreign Minister send the response during the weekend to fly it under the media radar; One senior member of Roh's Uri party even praised the protestors for their "deep ethnic purity." In the meantime, Roh was at the United Nations railing against American imperialism and dodging hundreds of protestors who denounced his support for the North Korean regime and his silence about the horrific human rights abuses there.

North Korea

This week saw North Korea--which proclaims itself cleansed of racial impurity--agree in principle to prompt denuclearization, only to renege on its agreement the very next day. One of OneFreeKorea's sources on Capitol Hill explains to a think tank (and the rest of us) why this was a bad deal for the United States in any event; indeed, North Korea's behavior may have helped the U.S. position far more than an agreement would have. Meanwhile, the United States appears to be finding its voice and direction in its thus-far-fruitless quest for a consistent policy for the likely event of a diplomatic breakdown. The story that most of the media missed is how the seizure of high-quality North Korean-made counterfeit dollars ("supernotes") in the United States may have already brought one Chinese bank to the brink of insolvency (more here at NKZone, and here).

Meanwhile, another urgent problem looms: North Korea will soon stop accepting food aid despite the fact that the World Food Program believes that 6.5 million North Koreans--most of them in political classes the regime disfavors--depend on that food. Will a new flood of refugees or a another famine be the result (the last one killed millions)? Thankfully, Mongolia has quietly made room for a small number of North Korean refugees.

UPDATE (21 September, 11:21 p.m.):

Thanks, Joshua. I'm putting One Free Korea up in my consciousness-raising links list.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Carnival of the Revolutions submissions

I'll be hosting the Carnival of the Revolutions this coming week. Will Franklin at coordinates the host schedule and submissions for the Carnival. Please use the Carnival "home base" to submit any democracy/freedom/revolution-related posts you would like to see included, as well as to check out the schedule for future hosts. It's also a good idea to send me a "heads up" at to be sure I know about the submission. I keep late hours and will be accepting submissions until late Sunday night/early Monday morning. Look for the Carnival here at Commoner Sense around noon on Monday.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

From fascism to fashion:
Two odd nights out

What if they'd been on the same evening? Tough choice ...

Wednesday night my wife and I attended the Galloway/Hitchens debate at Baruch College here in Manhattan. It turned out to be less edifying than I had anticipated, though considerably more lively than any debate I'd seen previously. Galloway was more George Hamilton than Alexander Hamilton, his bald pate glowing practically orange from a good dose of Syrian summer sun. Hitchens came to the podium looking as if he'd finally arrived at the Alka-Seltzer end of a three-day bender. He seemed irritable and indeed already irritated, perhaps because some woman representing one of the groups sponsoring the debate had just given a blatantly pro-Galloway introduction to the event--wildly inappropriate, but not surprising at all. Amy Goodman assumed what turned out to be her thankfully ineffectual role as moderator, and the fun began.

Hitchens got the first go, and elicited surprisingly strong applause from an audience gathered in one of the bluest cities east of the Mississippi. The woman next to me commented that there seemed to be quite a few Hitchens supporters present. I informed her that I was one of them, sparking a brief and fruitless comparison of our viewpoints on the war. As the debate progressed, she turned out to be an utter lunatic, and one possessed of the ability to produce with her fingers, lips and lungs a brain-rattling whistle somewhere in the 200-decibel range. Her performance inspired me to break form and later add my own voice to the chorus of boos that Galloway earned for telling an audience of New Yorkers that we brought 9/11 on ourselves. Aside from that, I limited myself to clapping.

The topic of the debate was supposed to be the war in Iraq. Hitchens repeated his standard (and convincing, to me) list of arguments against do-nothing pacifism. Galloway dragged out the usual collection of distortions and half-truths. He even pulled the old Lancet "100,000 civilians dead" claim out of the rubbish and threw it to the cheering throngs. Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib Abu Ghraib. New Orleans is evidence that Bush is evil. Ho. Hum. Unfortunately, the most interesting parts of the debate were the ad hominem daggers each man had hidden up his sleeve. Galloway made oblique and not-so-oblique references to Hitchens' drinking and denegrated Vanity Fair. (I wonder if he would be so dismissive of the magazine at a table with David Halberstam and Bob Woodward. Granted, Paris Hilton is on the cover, but VF did scoop everyone on the Mark Felt/Deep Throat revelation.) Near the end of the debate, Galloway also forced Hitchens to deny once again that he works for the Bush White House, an odd accusation. Hitchens came dangerously close to accusing his opponent of concealing involvement in the U.N. Oil-for-Food scandal. He straightforwardly called Galloway a tyrants' toadie, guilty of sucking up to every fascist dictator he can find. Pretty sordid stuff, and the mood infected the crowd, so before long Hitchensian and Gallowite enclaves emerged in the composition of the balcony crowd, pockets of true believers who sometimes seemed to be carrying on rowdy debates of their own. Someone down on the orchestra level kept lowing like a cow every time Hitchens tried to make a point. This debate didn't need Amy Goodman, it needed my grade-school principal, Sister Bridget.

There weren't many high points to this evening. Galloway said nothing worth repeating, though the papers are making a small stir over his comment that Hitchens was a butterfly who has now "turned back into a slug," and a slug leaves a trail of slime wherever it goes. Wow. That metaphor would have been clumsy enough if Galloway had been content with sticking to scientific reality and said caterpillar. Hitchens did not offer much about Iraq that we have not heard before--those of us who don't have our palms clapped firmly over our ears. He did have one observation about Galloway that is worth noting: The man visited Syria in July and praised the insurgency in Iraq. That insurgency killed Casey Sheehan, in whose posthumous exploitation Galloway now participates. If this doesn't demonstrate the vile hypocrisy of the left, I don't know what does. Will Cindy Sheehan think about Galloway's words in Damascus when he's standing beside her on tour? I doubt it. Many on the left in America have proven themselves capable of climbing blithely into bed with every odious creature that lurches up out of the muck, so long as it can gurgle, "Bush sucks."

Galloway turned out to be every bit the pompous blowhard I expected. In a Scottish accent oddly tinged with a hint of something Middle-eastern, he generated far more heat than light, throwing the pacifist-left half of the audience precisely the bones they expected: while Halliburton rapes Iraq, Bush, Cheney, and Rove engineer the mass-drowning of impoverished minorities. (The moonbat beside me seemed to have a Tourette's tic that would emerge each time she heard the name "Cheney"--a sort of dog-bark combined with wailing-wall head-bobbing.) While Hitchens lambasted Galloway for things he said and did eight weeks ago, Galloway responded by dredging up decades-old tales of Hitchens praising the Palestinian struggle for liberation, the Vietcong, and even Galloway himself. Hitchens denied only his alleged praise for Galloway. Following the same weak approach, Galloway accused Hitchens of inconsistency on Iraq, pointing out that he had vociferously opposed the first Gulf War. This Hitchens also did not deny, responding that he changed his position on Iraq only after meeting Iraqi Kurds near the end of the war in 1991. Hitchens said that he had not repudiated his original views, he just no longer held to them. This bit of hairsplitting drew some derision from the audience. Though it may be a valid distinction, it sure looked like waffling. If your Kurdish friends are right, why not repudiate your earlier views? If you're suggesting that there is some validity to the anti-war position, then you're doing more for Galloway's argument than Galloway himself.

It went back and forth like this for over an hour, with more guidance from the timekeeper than from the moderator. Hitchens and Galloway arrived at their own ground rules without any input from Goodman. They respected each other's right to speak more or less without interruption, though there was a good deal of groaning and eye-rolling. When they did interrupt, it was usually done in good humor and taken in good humor as well. (I was surprised at the level of civility, considering that Galloway regularly calls Hitchens a drunk and Hitchens has lately added Galloway to his criminal prosecution wish-list, where he can share a cell with Henry Kissinger, I suppose). Goodman did pose some questions to direct the "discussion" segment of the debate, but her questions were pointless and overtly biased. She asked Hitchens whether he thought his new, hawkish viewpoint earned him different treatment in and from the media. She did not ask Galloway if his viewpoint earned him different treatment from corrupt tyrants and central players in the Oil-for-Food scandal. Ultimately, it was Galloway, not Goodman, who announced that the evening was losing steam and perhaps it was time to wrap things up. He was right, and Hitchens apparently agreed, for he had already fished a cigarette and lighter from his jacket pocket as Galloway made his closing comments. I watched Hitchens nervously, afraid he might light up right there on stage and be immediately lynched by the fascist leftists who today disgrace the term "liberal." He restrained himself, however, and the evening came to a peaceful, civilized close. As we shuffled out onto the street amid the muttering crowd, I felt depressed. We stopped for a quick dinner and then headed straight home and to bed, exhausted just from watching the spectacle.

The next night found us at quite a different venue: the runway show for the Zac Posen Spring/Summer 2006 collection, one of the last events of Fashion Week in Bryant Park. In the interest of total disclosure, Zac is a family friend, so don't expect an unbiased review. I'm also about as qualified to critique couture as I am to handicap a horse race. But I do like beautiful clothes and certainly don't mind beautiful people, and there were plenty of both at the show. (The only beautiful person at the debate--in the Page Six sense of the phrase--was Viggo Mortensen, who was whisked off the "will call" line and plunked in a front row seat long before we took our places in the balcony. He bought a copy of Galloway's book and made notes or doodled on the flyleaf during the debate. Sadly, Mortensen has pitched his political tent alongside Sean Penn and Johnny Depp, proving once again that acting skill and intellect just might be mutually exclusive.)

Despite being better organized than Baruch, the team at the door had no record of my reservation, so I had to wander around outside the tent for a while in shame and humiliation until a fashion angel devised a plan to get me in. Once safely inside--away from the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth--I took a place beside my wife, the seat which apparently had been reserved for me anyway, since no one else came to claim it, and every seat and square foot of standing room in the place was taken.

The show began much closer to schedule than had the debate, despite involving dozens more people and the complications of lights, music, and of course, costume--another testament to the efficiency of capitalism. In fairness, the Posen people did not have to run everyone through a metal detector. The fashion world is actually more sensible than Hollywood, and they seem cognizant of the fact that they operate well below the radar of jihadis. Eliminating the evil of Seventh Avenue decadence is rather low on Osama's list of things to do. (The debate, on the other hand, did attract a few "Magnificent 19" types--glowering and bearded young Arab men who could give the willies to anyone with a boarding pass.) So once the paparazzi had been herded into their pen and Diddy had taken his seat, the show was on. (I feel so much closer to him since he dropped the "P.")

I do believe, for what it's worth, that Zac is the most talented young designer working today. I base this judgment on two observations. First, his designs are eye-catchingly innovative and possess a feminine grace often strangely absent in women's fashion. Second, a woman in a Zac Posen dress never looks like she got smooth-talked by a personal shopper at Barney's, or like she's an extra on the set of a French science fiction film. Zac's designs seem to animate the beauty of the women wearing them ... not every cut for every woman, naturally, but when it works, it really works. I left the show feeling uplifted. We skipped dinner, went straight out, and didn't return home until dawn.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

A rare bit of relativism here at Commoner Sense

I have to grit my teeth while writing this, but truth is truth, and Protestants and Catholics in Belfast have spent the latter part of the summer hurling insults and bombs at each other. Before I criticize the bloody Sunni/Shiite rift in Islam once again, I must concede that Christianity--though considerably less psychotic--is just as deserving as Islam of being driven off the face of the earth. Just because Christians aren't presently capable of bloodlust equal to their Muslim counterparts doesn't mean we should tolerate them until they are. Religion is evil [see the update below], and anyone arguing otherwise has a lot of explaining to do.
Dar al-Harb, Christian style

Secular government that subjugates all religious ideology and differences to democracy and the absolute separation of church and state is necessary for the creation of a peaceful and just world. And I'm sorry, but secular democracy is by necessity athiest, and it may (by democratic vote) allow abortion, allow capital punishment, allow gay marriage, and allow women (or men, for that matter) to wear miniskirts and fishnets if they so please. If you don't like it, find a piece of undisputed territory and create your own medieval state. We'll mostly likely have to build a wall around it in a few years (for our own security), but it's your choice. Civilization ... love it or leave it.

I was raised Catholic, sort of. My mother is Catholic (I think she still is ... haven't bothered to ask her lately how that's working for her), my father is Protestant (Anglican, or American Anglican, or Episcopalian ... I'm not certain, and I could hardly care less). At a very early stage in my upbringing they seemed to have arrived at a mutually acceptable amalgam of the two disparate "faiths," an agreement that I would be raised with occasional doses of religion (perhaps innoculations would be more accurate) augmented by a regular diet of reason. The steady, inane droning of the priests who educated me served to hammer home the message, and by age eighteen I was an agnostic. No better way to create a fallen Catholic than eight years of Catholic school. I am now a tolerant anti-theist, which for me means that I don't care what you think about the universe as long as you don't desire that I think the same. But start hurling bombs at people who disagree with you, and tolerance wanes.

Catholics and Protestants disagree about a number of things, some quite important: birth control, abortion, and capital punishment, for instance. These issues should be immediately and without question turned over to a secular, democratic government (one that provides equal protection and rights to men and women, to ensure that the democracy is genuine). They also disagree about a number of absurd, practically meaningless questions, none that really matter at all to anyone living today: Should baptism be performed soon after birth or later? Should we bow down before statues? Was Mary born without sin? Did she get to take her body with her to heaven? Is this thing I'm putting in my mouth matzoh or human flesh? Should we cut off part of our infant's genitalia? (Is the absurdity getting through yet?)

Tossing a hand grenade over any of these issues is simply ridiculous. But nobody in Belfast--or in Bagdad, for that matter--is really committing murder solely on the basis of such idiotic disputes. Religious hierarchies have managed to reduce people in these places to states of prehistoric tribalism. And for that, we should all condemn religion, set it aside, take whatever spiritual beliefs we have and hold them close and quiet within our hearts. Let secular, democratic government handle public life. Focus our lives on doing what is right, which most people seem capable of understanding until they listen to priests and imams.

Update: I've received a fair bit of justifiable criticism for the stridency of this post. My apologies for the "evil" statement in the first paragraph--it's simplistic and over-the-top, as well as offensive to those who choose to believe. I let the vision of streets aflame in my ancestral homeland get the better of me. My feelings about the absurdity of the issues that religions deem important will stand as expressed.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Who's to blame for the blame game?

The Associated Press this morning points out that finger-pointing and backbiting have dominated the aftermath of Katrina, a marked change from the "let's all pull together" attitude following 9/11. The writer attempts to place the blame for the blame game on differences between the attacks and the hurricanes, such as that Osama bin Laden apparently had nothing to do with Katrina (though he may believe otherwise).
The extraordinary showing of national and political unity displayed after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, is nowhere to be found in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

That's right ... and you know why? Because "national and political unity" didn't serve the Jerry Springer model of conflict-based media. Respectful, reasoned analysis doesn't sell nearly as well as hyperbole and speculation. So now we have a reporter actually asking the President for comment on the rumor that the U.S. military deliberately flooded New Orleans by blowing up the 17th Street Levee in the hours after Katrina struck. Had any reporter indulged in such ludicrous and irresponsible gossip in the days after 9/11, there would have been a backlash. Not so anymore.

What mainstream media learned from 9/11 is that they don't have to adapt in the face of horrific tragedy. They can continue to make division and controversy their goals, to do their best to create the national atmosphere that suits their needs and not the needs of the people. Meanwhile, they can claim the pious defense that the muck they're raking up (or inventing) serves someone's interests. Remember when the media tried to drive a wedge into the war effort by playing the race card? We had to listen to plenty of hysterical speculation from people like Charles Rangel that the pain of war would fall with unfair weight on America's minority population, since "[a]ccording to his office, minorities comprise more than 30 percent of the nation's military." Well have a look at the photos of the young men and women who've lost their lives in Iraq. If 30 percent of our front-line soldiers are minorities, then insurgents in Iraq must be somehow targeting the whites. By my informal count, it appears that roughly 10% of those killed are African-American and another 10% are Latino. Casualties almost precisely reflect the racial make-up of the nation, but does anyone in the mainstream media feel it necessary to call attention to this, now that reality would not serve to cause tension and bitterness? No. Not a peep. Race and the military was only an issue when it had the potential to cause conflict and controversy.

Selling acrimony has become the number one priority of America's mainstream media. The AP is part of the problem. Their duplicitous attempt to find reasons for America's poisonous political atmosphere belongs up there with O.J. Simpson's ongoing investigation into his ex-wife's murder.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Can evil turn good?

"Just tell me how I can help! I'm there for you!"

Reporters and editors in the mainstream media find something titillating about the potential for national humiliation in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina. Offers of aid from Venezuela, Iran, and Cuba have earned more attention from the media than far more substantial (and certainly less disingenuous) offers of assistance from countless other nations. The outstretched hands of tyrants are symbolic, and in a profoundly mean-spirited way (not like Sri Lanka's touching "token" donation of $20,000 in aid). The fact that the underlying message of these three offers is more significant than their substance is revealed in the media's relative lack of interest in the follow-up. Eli Lake in The New York Sun today strays from the pack and writes an interesting piece about what's become of the proposed deliveries of food, water, oil, and doctors.

Chavez made the offer of food and water just three weeks after he threatened to completely stop all shipments of Venezuelan crude if the U.S. doesn't stop meddling in their affairs. By "meddling" they mean objecting to Chavez providing arms to FARC "insurgents" in Colombia and cloaking cocaine dealers with Venezuelan diplomatic immunity. In any event, Lake writes that the U.S. has apparently said yes to their offer.

Iran offered oil, but on the condition that we suspend the economic sanctions in place over the mullahs' funding terrorism and making "Death to America" the driving philosophy of their foreign policy. When the people of the Iranian city of Bam needed help after an earthquake in 2003, the U.S. government quietly set aside differences and sanctions and allowed American assistance to flow unconditionally. Our government wisely decided to pass on the Iranian extortion.

Cuba offered to send doctors. Now this might be a sincere gesture, but it looks more like an absurd insinuation from Castro that the medical system in the U.S. is lacking compared to his own. Will he next offer to send a team of his vaunted literacy experts to teach the victims of capitalism now huddled in the Astrodome how to read? If it were a publicity ploy, sending hundreds of doctors to America could turn out to be risky for Castro. I suppose each one would come handcuffed to an escort from the G2, lest Fidel find his plane a little lighter upon its return from the Land of the Free. Talk about Doctors Without Borders. If it weren't for Cuba, China, and North Korea, the word "defector" could be finally laid to rest. (Cuba's missing one baseball player and one ballet dancer after the latest defections.) Lake says we politely declined, apparently since we don't even have diplomatic relations with Cuba. Another report--this one focusing on the difficulties of accepting and coordinating foreign aid offers--quotes a State Department official as saying we simply have enough medical personnel already.

North Korea has been more principled, holding out to America nothing more than its standing offer to nuke Anchorage. In a radio statement (radio being the most effective means of communication on the darkened upper half the peninsula), Kim Jong Il's government had this to say:
"The U.S. government has been neglecting the poor residents of New Orleans for a long time ..."

Their hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't for the fact that two million North Koreans starved to death over the last decade while Kim Jong Il parties on in Pyongyang.
massgamesLots of circus. Not much bread.

Perhaps the North Koreans can send over a hundred thousand of their "mass games" performers to entertain the refugees in the Astrodome.