Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Irfan Orga

A Turkish author whom I have read, to add to the Turkish reading list. A bookseller in Istanbul said I must read Orga's "Portrait of a Turkish Family," in order to understand Turkey. So I did, and was not at all sorry. I read it in one go, on a long bus trip from Istanbul to Urgup, some 15 hours across the Anatolian plain. The time went by quickly,through the night and into the dawn. Curiously, Orga went out with Ataturk's daughter, and wrote a biography of the Turkish leader, among other books, including cookbooks, which he wrote with his British wife. He lived in England. The afterword by his British son is fascinating. You can get it at Amazon by clicking this link: Portrait of a Turkish Family

Orhan Pamuk

Yesterday, President Bush quoted Ohrhan Pamuk in Istanbul, when he called for Turkey's inclusion in the European Union (an attempt to replay Reagan's "tear down this wall" moment?):

"The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has said that the finest view of Istanbul is not from the shores of Europe, or from the shores of Asia, but from a bridge that unites them, and lets you see both. His work has been a bridge between cultures, and so is the Republic of Turkey. The people of this land understand, as Pamuk has observed, that 'What is important is not [a] clash of parties, civilizations, cultures, East and West.' What is important, he says, is to realize 'that other peoples in other continents and civilizations' are 'exactly like you.' "

Here's a website devoted to the author, and here's where you can buy his new book, Snow at

Jihad Watch

This tip from Little Green Footballs, an interesting site: Jihad Watch.

Mark Steyn on the 9/11 Commission

Steyn's essay is called How the Sept. 11 commission blew it. Quote:

"These poseurs have blown it so badly they've become the definitive example of what they're meant to be investigating: a culture so stuck in its way it's unable to change even in the most extreme circumstances. Take this example from their report on Sept. 11:

"FAA Command Center: "Do we want to think about scrambling aircraft?"

"FAA Headquarters: "God, I don't know."

"FAA Command Center: "That's a decision somebody's going to have to make, probably in the next 10 minutes."

"FAA Headquarters: "You know, everybody just left the room."

"What's going on there? Well, the guys at HQ didn't understand this was their rendezvous with history, and they were unable to rise to the occasion. Isn't that just what the 9/11 Commission's done? They were appointed to take a cool, dispassionate look at the government's response to an act of war, but they were unable to rise above the most pointless partisan point-scoring.

"But I'd go further. I'd say the underlying assumption behind all the whiny point-scoring is false, and deeply dangerous. Most of what went wrong on Sept. 11 we knew about in the first days after. Generally, it falls into two categories: a) Government agencies didn't enforce their own rules (as in the terrorists' laughably inadequate visa applications); or b) The agencies' rules were out of date --three out of those four planes reached their targets because their crews, passengers and ground staff all blindly followed the FAA's 1970s hijack procedures until it was too late, as the terrorists knew they would.

"The next time a terrorist gets through and pulls off an attack, it will be for the same reasons: There'll be a bunch of new post-9/11 regulations, and some bureaucrat somewhere will have neglected to follow them, or some wily Islamist will have rendered them as obsolete as his predecessors made all those 30-year old hijack rules..."

Matt Labash on Michael Moore

Labash reviews Farenheit 9/11 here. The Weekly Standard also reprints an earlier Labash article, Michael Moore, One-Trick Phony, with this interesting tidbit:

"Once Moore hit the big time, most journalists swallowed his bootstrap revisionism, ignoring the less sexy reality that Moore had sipped liberally at the usual funding spigots. Laurence Jarvik, in a much-over-looked piece in Montage magazine, reported that Moore (who claimed he had never made more than $15,000 a year before Roger & Me) had been an NPR commentator, received two $20,000 grants from the MacArthur Foundation, secured a hefty advance from Doubleday for a book about Flint, and benefited from the largesse of Stewart Mott, the black-sheep GM scion who ran a family fund out of his New York penthouse where Moore sometimes stayed. (Moore, as is his way, accused Jarvik of being an envious liar.)"

BTW, the 1990 Montage article was titled: "Will the Real Michael Moore Please Stand Up?" Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it online.

Gang Stages Sixth Bank Holdup -- in Our Washington, DC Neighborhood...

We saw the police cars, TV crews, and yellow tape yesterday, then watched Fox News on WTTG broadcast footage of men wearing ski masks and carrying submachine guns storm our neighborhood bank. ThisWashington Post story gives a sense of it. It looked a lot like a terror attack, including a bombed out mini-van, burning near Rock Creek Park.

Why is such a terrifying crime wave occuring unabated in our nation's capital? One factor may a change in FBI policies after 9/11.

Although terrorists are well-known to use bank robberies to support their activities--the IRA and Weather Underground are two notorious examples--according to a June, 2002 article in the Christian Science Monitor, the FBI isn't so interested anymore.

Quote: "The classic American crime of bank robbery is on the rise across the nation, especially the more-violent versions of it. Yet the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation – which foiled that famous bank-robbing duo in 1934 [editor's note: Bonnie and Clyde]– is distracted by a bigger battle: the war on terrorism.

"Since Sept. 11, many FBI agents have worked full time on terror-related issues, letting other areas lag. And a major reorganization of the agency, to be announced within a month, is expected to include a significant downsizing of bank-robber tracking efforts."

Here's the full storyBank bandits move in as busy FBI retreats |

Note to the FBI: If bank robbers can get away with carrying submachine guns in broad daylight in Washington, so can terrorists...

Putin v. Yukos, Round 3

A Russian court has ruled that the government can seize Yukos assets to pay back taxes. What does this mean for Putin and the future of capitalism in Russia? The Moscow Times says it might be a good thing.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Fouad Ajami on Iraq

"America is not to stay long in Iraq. No scheme is being hatched for the subjugation of Iraq's people. No giant American air bases on their soil are in the offing. In their modern history, Iraqis witnessed direct British control over their country (from 1921 to 1932), followed by a quarter-century of a subtle British role in their politics, hidden behind a façade of national independence. Ours is a different world, and this new "imperium" is the imperium of a truly reluctant Western power.

"What shall stick of America's truth on the soil of Iraq is an open, unknowable question. But the leaders who waged this war--those "architects" of it who have been thrown on the defensive by its difficulties and surprises--should be forgiven the sense that things broke their way during that five-minute surprise ceremony yesterday morning. They haven't created a "new" Iraq, and sure enough, they have not tackled the malignancies of the Arab world which lay at the roots, and the very origins, of this war. America isn't acquitted yet of its burdens in Mesopotamia. Our heartbreaking losses are a daily affair, and our soldiers there remain in harm's way.

"But we now stay under new terms--a power that vacated sovereignty 48 hours ahead of schedule, and an Iraqi population that can glimpse, just a horizon away, the possibility of a society free from both native tyranny and foreign control. There is nervousness in Iraq: the nervousness of a people soon to be put to the test by the promise--and the hazards--of freedom."

From OpinionJournal.

Leaving Islam

An interesting title by a secularist named Ibn Warraq, found on a link from the website below at Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out.

Important thing to remember is that the traditional Islamic punishment for apostasy is death...

Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society

Take a look at the Institute for the Secularisation of Islamic Society.

80% of Iraqis want US to stop patrolling cities

Jonathan Steele, in The Guardian, has the story.

Voices of Iraqis

From The Guardian.

Privatise the BBC?

On the other hand, not everyone in Britain seems to want to give the BBC a chance.

"Kelvin MacKenzie, the former Sun editor and boss of TalkSport, today launched a stinging attack on the BBC, arguing the government should grab the bull by the horns and abolish the licence fee."

Quotes from Privatise the BBC, says MacKenzie in MediaGuardian:

"As the corporation prepares to launch its case for charter renewal, the Wireless Group chief executive insisted the BBC produced nothing the commercial sector could not provide itself and should be privatised.

"The BBC has got much too grand for itself and is much too large. It's time to sell it off," he told the Today programme on Radio 4.

"I would privatise BBC1 and BBC2 - they are straightforward light entertainment channels. I would also privatise BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, Radio 3 and Radio 5 Live. For Radio 4 I would just make a government grant to the Arts Council and let them get on with it."

If the BBC were to go private, Michael Grade would probably do a good job as CEO.

BBC Issues Manifesto

Michael Grade, the new head of the BBC has issued a Manifesto. According to the Guardian: "he also made the creative standards of the BBC a central plank of the corporation's manifesto, promising to make quality and innovation the watchwords of everything on the BBC."

Almost fifteen years ago, I interviewed Grade for my book "Masterpiece Theatre and the Politics of Quality," when he was head of Channel Four. Grade had produced a number of British classic serials broadcast on PBS. During our meeting, he held a big cigar, just like his famous uncle, Lord Grade, founder of ATV. Grade was watched a soccer match on a small television throughout the interview, muted it from time to time, turned on the sound for a "g-o-o-a-l" -- and impressively managed to pay full attention to both the game and our interview. Multi-tasking before multi-tasking was cool, in a way.

Shortly after speaking with him, Grade left Channel Four to buy a football club. So, I think he has a pretty good chance of accomplishing what he sets out to do.

The Kurds Worry about Iraq Handover

"Kurdish politicians speculate that the power transfer to the interim Iraqi government could launch a series of political account settling, which might lead to violent vendettas" according to this article in Haaretz.


Just added "Wanderlustress" to the blog links on the left, thanks to a link from The Argus. A sample post:

About Me: "I boarded my first airplane, alone, when I was six years old. I went from Bangkok to Washington, D.C., via an overnight in Tokyo and a layover in Anchorage, Alaska...And my wanderlust feet haven't stopped since!
Now, I'm an ex-Private Banker turned Peace Corps volunteer, where my concerns are for people living on less than $1 a day and not those living on $10 million a year."

Victor Davis Hanson on the Iraq Handover

Here: "The key, of course, will be for the United States to stay engaged as it did in Korea and the Balkans--and not flee as it did in Vietnam circa 1974-5. Only its vigilant presence can ward off potential enemies of nascent American-sponsored democracies. Ambiguity, in fact, is nothing new to American forces abroad that still are not always quite sure of the parameters of independent action in Kosovo after seven years--or even in Korea after 50."

Tariq Ali and Daniel Pipes on the Iraq Handover

From Australian broadcasting's Lateline . Some highlights:

Tariq Ali: In any of these countries, if democracy comes, and I think people in the Arab world want democracy, you could have governments hostile to US interests in the region...

Daniel Pipes: Yes, it does worry me and the democratic paradox is something I'm very well aware of and my answer to it is don't go immediately to full-scale elections. We saw that in Algeria in 1982. Snap elections after decades of authoritarian rule and the Islamics were on their way to rule...

Tariq Ali: I don't believe there has been a transfer of sovereignty. It's an illusion. That's what you want to us to believe, but no one in Iraq is going to believe it - that a former CIA agent has been appointed prime minister of Iraq and we're all meant to sit back and applaud.

It's just a joke and certainly most Iraqis won't believe it, which is why the resistance will continue and NATO training Iraqi soldiers is fine, but what if the soldiers desert and join the resistance which has been happening and which could happen tomorrow...

Monday, June 28, 2004

National Review on Iraq Handover

Not looking good, as best one can say, according to Michael Rubin is : "Even though the rushed, secret handover telegraphed fear, Iraqis will nevertheless cheer."

Juan Cole on the Iraq Handover

What does it mean that Paul Bremer left Iraq ahead of schdule? Juan Cole argues that Bremer is fleeing his own disaster.

Weblog Bookwatch

This is another site listing books mentioned by Blogs:

Books on Blogs

Are listed at All Consuming, a website that links here, sort of a Blog Bestseller central.

John Kerry Bores from Within

Andrew Sullivan has a masterful analysis of John Kerry's election strategy. He says Kerry can "bore" his way to victory. It just might work.

To Saddam's prisoners, US abuse seems 'a joke'

Tip of the hat to Tim Blair for this article from Lebanon's Daily Star.

Persian Journal

And here's a blog about Iran: Persian Journal.

Netflix Fan

We recently started using Netflix. That makes Netflix Fan an interesting blog to read.

Mark Steyn on Bill Clinton

"Somewhere along the way, "My Life" morphs seamlessly from Bill's relations to other people's relations. One minute the old schmoozer is in the Ozarks glad-handing a "segregationist optometrist" (they didn't see eye to eye) and a great-aunt who has the biggest melons in Arkansas; the next he's glad-handing the nephew of Sherman Billingsley, owner of the Stork Club. The day after that, he's in ethics class helping out his new buddy, King Faisal's nephew Prince Turki, later the deeply sinister longtime head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service and now ambassador in London. This is ethics class in Georgetown, I believe, not at Miss Marie Purkins's School for Little Folks. But even so, where's Michael Moore when you need a documentary exposé of the murky decades-old ties between the House of Saud and the House of Bill?"

The rest is online at OpinionJournal.

In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong

I just started reading this book, but already feel like recommending it to anyone who would like some background into the signficance of terrorism. It is Amin Malouf's In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong.

Justin Frank's "Bush on the Couch" and the APA Goldwater Rule

Harper Collins, Michael Moore's publisher (curiously, a division of Rupert Murdoch's media empire, something Moore neglected to mention in "Farenheit 9/11") has a new Bush-bashing book out, by a psychiatrist who claims to have psychoanalyzed the President, although he never treated him.

The books is Bush On the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by Justin A. Frank, M.D

One of our readers emailed us that the American Psychiatric Association prohibits any professional analyst from making a psychiatric judgement without personally examining a patient. He asked if such behavior is unethical.

We looked into the question. Yes, such behavior is unethical.

It is banned not only because it is not scientific, but also because it might cause the entire field of psychoanalysis to be held in disrepute, and perhaps even face legal liability. The APA rule, called the "Goldwater Rule," was adopted after Barry Goldwater sued for libel, when "Fact" magazine published a survey of psychiatrists who said he was crazy in 1964. Goldwater won.

Here is the relevant history from The Politics of Stigma:

"In October 1964, in an effort to discredit presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, the publisher of the now defunct 'Fact' magazine published the results of a survey he had commissioned in which more than 1,189 of the 2,417 psychiatrists answered 'no' to the question, 'Is Barry Goldwater psychologically fit to be President of the United States?' The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the American Medical Association assailed the survey as 'yellow journalism,' with the APA noting that:

"By attaching the stigma of extreme political partisanship to the psychiatric profession as a whole in the heated climate of the current political campaign, Fact has in effect administered a low blow to all who would advance the treatment and care of the mentally ill of America."

Subsequently, the APA adopted what it called 'the Goldwater Rule' which forbids doctors from offering a psychiatric opinion on a public figure unless the psychiatrist has personally treated the official and has authorization to break patient-doctor confidentiality. Although it is difficult to know with any certainty the effect of any one factor on a political campaign, it appears that the incident contributed to Mr. Goldwater's defeat in the presidential election. He did, however, successfully sue the magazine's publisher, becoming one of the few public figures to win such a libel suit."

Here are some of Frank's psychological findings, as they appear on the Harper-Collins website:

*Bush's false sense of omnipotence, instilled within him during childhood and emboldened by his deep investment in fundamentalist religion

*The president's history of untreated alcohol abuse, and the questions it raises about denial, impairment, and the enabling streak in our culture

*The growing anecdotal evidence that Bush may suffer from dyslexia, ADHD, and other thought disorders

*His comfort living outside the law, defying international law in his presidency as boldly as he once defied DUI statutes and military reporting requirements

*His love-hate relationship with his father, and how it triggered a complex and dangerous mix of feelings including yearning, rivalry, anger, and sadism

Frank concludes: "Bush's rigid and simplistic thought patterns, paranoia, and megalomania -- and how they have driven him to invent adversariesw light on an administration whose record of violence and cruelty seems increasingly dependent on the unstable psyche of the man at its center. Insightful and accessible, courageous and controversial, Bush on the Couch tackles the question no one seems willing to ask: Is our president psychologically fit to run the country?"

It is pretty clear that, if the blurb on the Harper Collins website is accurate, Frank has violated the APA "Goldwater Rule." He is bringing shame on the psychiatric profession by politicizing the psychoanalytic method, in a manner not unlike Soviet psychiatrists who diagnosed political disssidents as insane, in order to lock them up in mental hospitals.

Now the question is: what will the American Psychiatric Association do?

A set of APA ethics rules can be found here.

Michael Moore Attacks Newsweek's Michael Isikoff

He essentially is calling Isikoff a liar. This dispute might be interesting, since Isikoff was the reporter who told the world about Monica Lewinsky. You can read Moore's blast here

Sunday, June 27, 2004

Uzbekistan Update

For those interested in Uzbekistan, I have an account of human rights de-certification hearings on Capitol Hill last Thursday in The Argus.

Belmont Club

Tip of the hat to Instapundit for linking to the Belmont Club, a reality check on war coverage, among other things.

Getting Away with Murder...In the Peace Corps

In another excellent item in the Washington Post Book Review, Richard Lipez reviews Philip Weiss's real-life murder mystery about the Peace Corps, A Killer Among Us. Set in Tonga, in 1975, the story sounds so incredible, it must be true. A sample quote:

"Tongans were, if anything, far more inclined to find American customs and morality unfathomable in the immediate aftermath of Gardner's murder. The Peace Corps seemed to care more about Priven than his victim, or her friends, or her confused and distraught family back in the United States. Peace Corps volunteers have no diplomatic immunity, and the local authorities wanted to follow Tongan law, which meant putting Priven to trial under their jurisdiction and either imprisoning or hanging him. The Peace Corps, suddenly not so respectful of local customs, just wanted to get Priven out of the hands of these backward Third Worlders..."

You can buy the book here.

Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 is not so hot...

Last night, I saw Farenheit 9/11. We had been present outside the theatre at the premiere, by accident, a few days earlier. We had seen the crowds of prominent Democrats and Washington celebrities, the limousines, the layers of security, some looking like gangsters, who surrounded Moore, wearing formal attire, not a cap and blue jeans, as he was whisked into his limousine.

But after seeing the film, it is clear there was a lot more sizzle than steak. Moore isn't a threat to the Republic, he's not even a threat to Bush. Chris Hitchens can fix himself another drink and relax. As a good friend told me, it's nothing new, she saw this film before, during the Vietnam war. We know how it ends..

If I were a Republican, I would screen the film for President Bush and the re-election campaign right away. For Farenheint 9/11 is a damp squib, despite all its awards and all the hype. It does have a few funny bits of irony. But overall, there is just not a lot there. It will not make a difference in the 2004 election campaign.

If this is the worst the opposition can come up with, Bush stands a fighting chance to win.

Some themes in the film touch upon legitimate issues, such as special treatment for the Bin Laden family, Homeland Security foul-ups, and a lack of preparedness before 9/11.

And Moore does make a point about politicians needing to put their children in the military. The only Congressman who talks to Moore agrees on this point, telling him, "I don't disagree with you."

But Bush can fix this problem right away. The Roosevelt kids fought in WWII, and Bush might ask his daughters to consider signing up, at least to work in military hospitals with the wounded. It would be good for morale, and help their image, too.

That said, the rest of the film is a bunch of innuendo, conspiracy mongering, and cheap shots. Every President takes vacations. Bill Clinton played a lot of golf, among other recreations. You can also watch Bill Clinton shaking hands with Saudi princes, a lot of shady deals went on in Arkansas, just like Texas. So there is nothing special about any of the scandals. And many of the American soldiers who appear seem perfectly decent, ordinary folks caught up in a hellish battlefield. Well, Sherman said "War is hell." Obviously, it is.

There are clearly some problems, but overall, the troops don't actually look panicked or demoralized, despite Moore's attempt to convey that impression.

One subtext--that America went to war primarily to increase sales of Bradley fighting vehicles by Carlyle Group subsidiary United Defense, and to make the world safe for UNOCAL's Afghan pipline, or for Halliburton's defense contracts is just ridiculous.

The opening charge in the film, that Fox News delivered the 2000 election to Bush because a relative worked there, is just plain silly. That's not how our system works. And in the end, not one Democratic Senator voted to overturn the result, and as the opening sequence shows, Al Gore signed off on the transfer personally. Why would Al Gore be in on the fix that deprived him of the Presidency?

In the end Farenheit 9/11 is so primitive and ignorant that a even John Kerry supporter who saw the film with us (interestingly, there were Kerry recruiters outside the movie theatre, every bit as aggressive for their own cause as two the Marine recruiters appearing in the film) thought it important to note that Michael Moore never graduated from college and doesn't really know very much about world history, culture or politics. So don't expect too much. Another person in our group said that she actually felt sympathetic to President Bush after watching it.

Me too.

Imperial Hubris: Why the West Is Losing the War on Terrorism

Today's Washington Post Book Review gives a rave review to Anonymous's (AKA Mike) new book on the CIA and war on terror, by Richard Clarke.

Quote: "Anonymous has painted a detailed picture of that enemy -- and, despite the administration's ubiquitous phrase, it is not 'terrorism,' faceless and abstract. Terrorism is a tactic. The enemy is 'an Islamic insurgency,' a multinational movement to replace governments in the Islamic world with fundamentalist theocracies..."

You can order the book from Amazon here.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Handicap Sheet for 2004

I saw Charlie Cook speak at an event at the Women's National Democratic Club yesterday. He said that right now, the 2004 election is too close to call. Bush is helped by the economy and hurt by Iraq. Kerry is basically a protest candidate without much personal support, but since the election is a referendum on the incumbent, it doesn't much matter that he has "less personality than an ashtray." Cook believes John Edwards is the only candidate for Vice President who could help Kerry's national poll numbers, but that Kerry does not like Edwards personally, and is more comfortable with someone like Dick Gephardt, who would not gain him a single vote. So, he can't predict what Kerry will do. Overall, the most even-handed and fair political analysis I've heard in Washington. No wonder he is everyone's guru (there were 2 pollsters on the panel with him, a Republican and a Democrat, who praised him equally). To read Cook's election analysis for yourself, just click on The Cook Political Report

Afghanistan's Bactrian Gold

Reuters reports that museums around the world are lining up to host a tour of Afghanistan's Bactrian gold.

Through Our Enemies' Eyes: Osama Bin Laden, Radical Islam & the Future of America

Anonymous' (AKA Mike) book about the CIA, Osama Bin Laden, and the Bush administration is on sale at

Friday, June 25, 2004

Natan Sharansky Online

"I think it is a dangerous double standard when it is expected that every piece of territory that will be under the control of the Palestinian Authority will be free of Jews, while it goes without saying that Arabs are an integral part of all the territories which are controlled by Israel. This means that from the beginning we are speaking about the coexistence of very different types of societies - one a democratic Israel and the other a dictatorship based on racial cleansing. I don't believe in this type of peace and this was one of my main objections to the disengagement plan."

The entire Haaretz Q & A is now online.

A Brief History of Nestorian Christians

"By the middle of the sixth century, Nestorians churches had sprung up all over Asia, from Sri Lanka to Mongolia and from Egypt to China, and everywhere in between, including Turkestan, India, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Like many missionaries confronted with illiterate societies, the Nestorians were led to create writing systems for the languages of peoples they wished to convert, such as Mongolian, Uighur, Sogdian, and Manchu, all based on Syriac...."

Read all about it in The Argus: Nestorians and the Legend of Prester John

Do We Need More Troops in Iraq?

Victor Davis Hanson considers the question, and says it is not a matter of numbers, but choice of strategy and tactics:

"Our problem, in short, is not that Donald Rumsfeld is fighting wars with too few troops and then being too stingy in allotting occupation forces. Rather, our concern with restraining the use of the vast power of those already in the field has put us at risk of creating self-fulfilling prophecies. We have seen a Gulf War I and now a Gulf War II. Gulf War III is surely on the horizon if, failing to learn the lessons of the last two victories, we once more remove the stakes from the hearts of seemingly defeated and moribund killers."

Healing Iraq

Found this Iraqi blog on Healing Iraq is written by Zeyad, an Iraqi dentist. It makes for interesting reading.

Are Women the Key to Democracy?

Raymond Lloyd argues that democracy can be measured by how women are treated. His organization,shequality has a website, and numerous proposals for bringing about what he calls "paritocracy." That is, political parity among women and men. His latest posting is a paper for the NATO summit, and there are also archives of earlier proposals.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Bush's IQ is Above Average

Aubrey Immelman calculates that it must be over 115, compared to John F. Kennedy's 119, and places him in the 86th percentile of American college graduates. He adds that JFK graduated 65th in his high school class of 110 students. For more, read Bush's bad rap.

SAT Scores of the Rich and Famous

George W. Bush: 1206. Al Gore: 1355. Bill Bradley: verbal 485 (math not disclosed). Amy Tan: below 1200. Paul Wellstone: below 900. Drea de Matteo: 800 (combined verbal + math).

All this and more in Bad Scores, Good Company.

CIA's Anonymous -- Not.

Explananda linked to Laura Rosen's item exposing the CIA critic of Bush Administration policy known as Anonymous . His first name is Mike, and we learn that his suggestion to blow up an Al Qaeda training camp was turned down by the CIA because it might involve killing "members of royal families." Looks like Mike might be outed pretty soon. He's already clearly identifiable to those who follow the CIA.

Now, if we could only find out who the Royals in question might be...

State Department Corrects "Patterns of Global Terrorism"

Click here for revised 2003 report...

Iran to free captured British sailors

According to this story in The Guardian.

Mobile Phones, Cable News, and the Internet fight terror better than the DHS, FBI, and CIA

So says J.B. Schramm in the Washington Post today. His point:

"On Sept. 11, 2001, American citizens saved the government, not the other way around. A first review of the Sept. 11 commission's report indicates that the system failed, but that is wrong. While the U.S. air defense system did fail to halt the attacks, our improvised, high-tech citizen defense 'system' was extraordinarily successful..."

You can read it all here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Fascinating Testimony about America's Iraq Failures

From Rend Al-Rahim. After obligatory statements of gratitude, she quickly makes her point:

"I will concentrate on the issues of occupation, loss of sovereignty, dis-empowerment of Iraqis, and failed expectations. Occupation. One of the reasons for deteriorating relations is the strategic decision by the Coalition to declare a military occupation of Iraq. Iraqis wanted and welcomed the US and the Coalition as liberators and partners, not as occupiers. We wanted liberation to have an Iraqi face and to take ownership of it. In the event, we felt we had been sidelined. Prior to military action in 2003, Iraqis who spoke to policy makers in Washington urged the US not to adopt the posture of occupation. We felt that this would be counterproductive and send the wrong signal to Iraqis. Despite our recommendation, the Coalition declared that it was an occupying power, and took on full military, political and operational authority, to the dismay of many Iraqis. There really is no "nice" way to describe military occupation once you experience it first hand. Occupation is offensive, both in principle and in practice, and it is especially sensitive in a part of the world that has suffered long periods of foreign rule. Declaring an occupation dealt a blow to Iraqi dignity and national pride...."

As Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing.

Lilieks on Hitchens on Moore

Lileks on a roll: "I am reasonably sure he wrote both pieces in the same state of furious irritated inebriation, and both strike me as two-pack essays. Forty cigarettes, minimum. "

Ask a future Prime Minister of Israel a Question

Haaretz will have an online Q & A with Nathan Sharansky on Thursday. Many see him as future Prime Minister of Israel. You can ask a question by clicking here: Haaretz - QA

Watch The Clinton Interview

Drudge has reported that Bill Clinton blew up in his BBC interview. You can watch excerpts here:BBC NEWS | Programmes | Panorama | The Clinton Interview. Or the whole thing here: BBC NEWS | Programmes | Panorama

The Master and Margarita

Saw the Synetic Theatre's forceful production of The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov's Russian classic, last Saturday night. It was captivating. The show was largely done through pantomime and dance, in the Russian style, like a mini-Rite of Spring meets Dr. Faustus. The choreography was super. The staging reminded me of the Ilhkom experimental theatre in Tashkent. If you have a chance to see this troupe--and they are coming to New York City for the Fringe festival--don't miss it.

Unfairenheit 9/11 - The lies of Michael Moore

Slate has an interesting article, by Christopher Hitchens:

"A film that bases itself on a big lie and a big misrepresentation can only sustain itself by a dizzying succession of smaller falsehoods, beefed up by wilder and (if possible) yet more-contradictory claims."

Ray Charles' Memorial Service

Just found this link to NPR's coverage of the Ray Charles Memorial Service. Clint Eastwood, B.B. King, Willie Nelson and Stevie Wonder...

The CIA v. Ahmad Chalabi

Daniel Pipes says blame the CIA, not Ahmad Chalabi, for Iranian intelligence failures:

"In the end, what Mr. Chalabi did or did not do is nearly irrelevant; his detractors in the American government, ironically, bear the onus for having informed the Iranian opponent about a vital piece of intelligence."

Monday, June 21, 2004

Take Away the Saudi Oil

Writing in this week's Spectator, Mark Steyn analyzes the import of recent events in Saudi Arabia:

"Say what you like about these wacky Islamofascists but they've got it pretty well thought out: desecrate and flaunt the corpses of the big-time infidels; murder the Asian janitors and maids to collapse the support structure of the expat communities; kill the Saudis as a warning to the locals not to collaborate with the foreign devils; and put a big announcement on the Internet declaring that 'our heroic fighters were able, by the grace of God, to raid the locations of the occupying American oil companies ...which are plundering the Muslims' resources'. "

His solution? Take away the Saudi's oil weapon:

"...At the very minimum, Washington needs to have solid, detailed contingency plans for securing the oil fields, and making sure the Hashemites are on stand-by to return to Mecca and Medina. Saudi Arabia can't be saved, and the more we postpone reaching that conclusion and acting on it, the messier it's going to be..."

Something to think about.

Zimbabwe this week by Cathy Buckle

You can find the latest Zimbabwe news this week from Cathy Buckle, author of "African Tears."

History of the Assassins

Why are Americans like Paul Johnson beheaded by terrorists? It's nothing new, as Amin Malouf's Samarkand explains. This novel looks at the origins of the Assassins, a terrorist cult that is a spiritual ancestor of today's Al-Qaeda.

Malouf, a Lebanese living in Paris, gives a chilling account of the rise and fall of international terror a few centuries ago. The novel that weaves its spell from the Titanic to ancient Persia, Afghanistan, and what is present-day Uzbekistan. The plot hinges on a search for the manuscript of Omar Khayyam's Rubaiyaat, with a few twists and turns.

As someone who has been to Samarkand, I can highly recommend this book.

My Life

We saw him on 60 Minutes with Dan Rather on Sunday Night. He looked pretty good. Talked like he had been in therapy. Aside from a few Freudian slips, he seemed pretty on top of things. So, why not read the book?

Here's where you can buy a copy of Bill Clinton's memoirs at

Sunday, June 20, 2004

Sudan Headlines

Latest News from the Sudan

Indonesia: Back to the Future

Another item from the Washington Post, after the collapse of Indonesia's stability and economy in the wake of terrorist attacks, General Suharto's political party finds itself with renewed popular appeal.

Bill Cosby is Right

Patrick Welsh, a teacher at T.C. Williams High School in suburban Washington, DC, says Bill Cosby is right in calling gangsta rap a bad influence on minority youth.

Saturday, June 19, 2004

A Helsinki Accord for the Middle East

On June 15th, there was an interesting hearing in Washington, where Ambassador Max Kampleman and former Soviet dissident Nathan Sharansky (now an Israeli minister), called for a Helsinki Process for the Middle East.

England's Al Jazeera

Tom Gross thinks it is the BBC, judging from this article in National Review Online.

Is Bush a Patsy for Bin Laden?

"Anonymous" seems to think so. You can read his story here, in The Guardian.

Blasphemy Trial for Russian Art Exhibit

Artsjournal tipped this interesting cultural controversy in the International Herald Tribune: Trial centers on blasphemy in Moscow art exhibit.

Russia in Search of Itself

Librarian of Congress James Billington, a keen observer of Russia, has a new book out. It's called Russia in Search of Itself.

Russia said Iraq attack was imminent after 9/11

There are a lot of articles about Russian warnings to the US that Saddam Hussein was planning a follow-up to 9/11. Here's one of them, from Australia: Putin says Iraq planned US hit - Iraq -

Vladimir Putin's Russian Restoration

What is Putin up to in Russia? A good explanation can be found in this article by Leon Aron. It's not what you think...

Friday, June 18, 2004

New Iraq Government Threatens Martial Law

The Financial Times reports that the new Iraqi government is considering imposing martial law to fight terrorism.

To crush the Qubec Liberation Front, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau imposed martial law in Canada in 1970. He was challenged at the time, asked how far he would go, he answered, "just watch me!"

It worked.

Afghanistan's Quaker King

The Argus, again, with the story of the real-life inspiration for Kipling's story, "The Man Who Would Be King"-- The Argus: Afghanistan's Quaker King.

To Certify Or Not... US Policy Towards Uzbekistan

This month, the United States will decide whether to cut off aid to Uzbekistan because of human rights violations. There is a continuing discussion of this issue in The Argus, which has reprinted some excerpts from Zeyno Baran's congressional testmony, To Certify Or Not... US Policy Towards Uzbekistan. You can read her complete testimony, as a PDF file, here.

Thursday, June 17, 2004

More CIA Torture News

It looks like the CIA is deeply involved in the torture scandal. Is this one reason why Tenet suddenly quit?

Are Blogs a Menace?

The Weekly Standard seems to think so, based on the Hugh Hewitt essay linked above. He worries that Chinese, Russians, and international terrorists are spreading propaganda through blogs.


On the other hand, it seems to this reader that many Blogs are busy exposing propaganda spread by major media outlets, and are a good alternative source of information, a true "marketplace of ideas."

Of course, a few years ago the Weekly Standard had a cover story headlined something like: "Smash the Internet!"

So it sort of figures.

National Endowment for the Arts Debate Redux

Thanks to artsjournal for noting the start of the annual debate about the National Endowment for the Arts.

Since it's that time of year again, I asked the NEA whether Presidential portraitist Simmie Knox had ever been funded individually or through an institution, for his works or an exhibit of his works, or if he had ever served on an NEA selection panel.

Answer: The NEA had no record in its database of any support for Simmie Knox.

That makes Knox's individual artistic and professional accomplishment, as a former sharecropper, teacher, and artist working from his garage, all the more impressive.

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Simmie Knox in the New York Times

Yesterday, Knox was also profiled inThe New York Times . Best quote to inspire aspiring artists:

"Mr. Knox describes his professional journey as a series of fortuitous setbacks and discoveries. 'It has happened many times for me,' the painter said in an interview after the morning's events. 'Things that I thought were liabilities turned out to be assets.'"

More on Simmie Knox

The Washington Post finally got around to profiling Simmie Knox today. Most interesting tidbit, Knox was let go by the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, because they wanted to go in a "new direction." Also interesting, how Bill Cosby saved his career through private commissions for his friends and family--and to memorialize his son, slain under suspicious circumstances in Los Angeles.

So Torture Is Legal?

That's the question asked today by Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum. She connects the dots on American torture policy, and finds the buck stops with President George W. Bush. She says Congress won't act, and nobody in Washington seems to care. Applebaum, who documented Soviet atrocities in her book "Gulag" is outraged, demanding more public attention to this matter. My bet: the Washington Post won't let this story die.

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

CIA Torture Program Began In Clinton Administration...

Again, thanks to Explananda, a link to this story about CIA kidnapping and torture operations in Albania, from the weblog Obsidian Wings. It looks like what the CIA called among its most successful operations may have resulted in the bombings of US Embassies. As Andrew Sullivan says, here's the money quote:

"As the CIA operation drew to a close, an Arab newspaper in London published a letter on August 5, 1998, signed by the International Islamic Front for Jihad. The letter vowed revenge for the counterterrorism drive in Albania, promising to retaliate against Americans in a 'language they will understand.' Two days later, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were blown up, killing 224 people..."

The Religious Policeman

Thanks to Explananda, a weblog just added to the list on the left, for linking to The Religious Policeman, a very interesting weblog from Saudia Arabia, or at least about Saudi Arabia. It gives one some hope...

Simmie Knox, Presidential Portraitist

The CBS Evening News had a good segment on Simmie Knox, the artist who painted Bill Clinton's portrait. It is linked above.

And our local Washington, DC news channel devoted more time to the story, local artist makes good.

Knox is 68 years old, made his career as a teacher. Only in retirement has he been able to devote himself fully to painting. His studio is a converted garage behind his Silver Spring home. Knox has a website here, where you find portraits of Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Thurgood Marshall, as well as Bill Cosby, and others who have sat for him. He also participates in the weblog Stroke of Genius, dedicated to portraiture.

It is significant that the Clintons chose an artist working in a traditional style--a 1996 profile appeared in The World and I magazine, an affiliate of the conservative Washington Times--to paint their official portraits, rather than one of the "NEA Four." A personal decision, yes, but also an aesthetic and political one.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Was Reagan a Citizen of the World?

Found this quote online while writing the Huntington story below:

"I couldn't help but say to [Mr. Gorbachev], just think how easy his task and mine might be in these meetings that we held if suddenly there was a threat to this world from another planet. [We'd] find out once and for all that we really are all human beings here on this earth together."

~Ronald Reagan, 1985

It seems to me that Reagan's understanding of both nationalist and universalist perspectives helped make him an effective, popular, and successful American President.

Mr. Huntington Goes to Washington

Samuel Huntington was here in Washington, DC this evening.

He appeared at Politics and Prose bookstore to talk about his new book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America's National Identity. He deserves credit for facing a hostile audience, and Carla Cohen deserves credit for inviting him--it was the first time Huntington spoke at the capital city's most famous bookstore. Hostile questioners included a follower of Lyndon LaRouche who told the audience to pay attention to the man dressed in a Ku Klux Klan outfit protesting in front of the shop. Not quite a circus, Huntington was allowed to make his presentation without interruption.

In the end, the bookstore protesters may be evidence that Huntington is right about one thing--the Protestant tradition is alive and well in the USA.

In a larger sense, Huntington makes a case for a new American nationalism.

But his cracks a few eggs in making his omlette. In addition to being hard on immigrants, Huntington is hard on cosmopolitans, as well as "citizens of the world." Such nationalism can turn out to be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on how people approach it. After all, Lincoln was a nationalist in a good way, finally putting an end to slavery.

So, Huntington sketches four different scenarios for the future of American nationalism, ranging from a new melting pot to tribal warfare. He's got his bases covered, at least.

Overall, Huntington seems to reject American universalism in favor of particularism; he had some harsh words about American attempts to reform the Middle East in Iraq, "and the rest of the world." Although he said he didn't want to discuss it, he ought to.

Because Reformation is certainly at the heart of the Protestant project. John Winthrop went to "New England" to build a city on a hill to enlighten the whole world, not just Belmont, Brookline, Quincy, or Waltham.

In any case, the American experiment has had continual tension between nationalism and universalism since the American Revolution. Which really springs from French Enlightenment roots, despite all of Huntington's attempts to say America is just an offshoot of Great Britain. It wasn't only French ideas, or universal ideas, more accurately, that were the foundation for America. There were also French money, French arms (DuPont), and French soldiers and sailors from Haiti, as well as those "cosmpolitans" and "citizens of the world" like Von Stueben and Pulaski, volunteers from many countries who saw themselves as part of an international revolutionary struggle.

After Lafayette and his French comrades under General Rocheambeau defeated the British here, they went back to make the French Revolution--and were known in Paris as "the Americans." That was regime change long before Saddam Hussein, internationalist, cosmpolitan, and universalist. Oh yes, and a lot of "Anglo-Protestants" ran away to Canada. And some French soldiers decided to stay.

Huntington's thumb is on the scale of nationalism; but to fully understand the American version, and explain our history of expansionism, he would need to equally recognize America's universalism. America does have an Anglo-Protestant element, of course, especially the Establishment described by sociologist Digby Baltzell, but it is safe to say that there is much more to America than the Eastern Establishment. Alistair Cooke did a wonderful job of this in his television history series, America, opening the show in New Orleans, and visiting bordellos as well as jazz clubs. But unlike Huntington, Cooke really was an Englishman--who rejected Britain, renounced his sovereign, gave up his passport, and became an American citizen.

In a way, to accept Huntington's case whole may be a victory for multiculturalism, for his America may be a mere hypenated fraction of the nation, the "Anglo-Protestant-America."

National identity, like the conflict of civilizations, is an important issue. Huntington deserves credit for wrestling with it, and facing down protesters. One does not have to agree with his prescriptions, to find his presentation thought-provoking and worthwhile.

The Wahabi Threat

The Guardian takes on Wahabism in this report from William Dalrymple in Pakistan. (Bernard-Henry Levy discussed the Wahabi connection in his book on Daniel Pearl's murder). Dalrymple has a point, though "serves you right" isn't a terribly strong policy prescription. Living in Uzbekistan, I was often told that the reason people joined Islamist fundamentalist cells in Central Asia was "for the money." Saudi-backed groups were reportedly paying members $100 a month to spread Wahabism, if not to organize terrorist acts, while college professors or others working on Uzbek government salaries made about $20 a month. Only multinational corporations and NGOs paid more than the Wahabis. One interesting aspect, Uzbek and Russian media call the people we call Islamist, "Wahabi." They are philologically correct -- and we are using euphemisms.

"We Cannot Live Like This Any Longer..."

Leon Aron explains the collapse of the USSR in psychological terms, in his analysis of Reagan's influence on Russian leaders.

Evil, Hollywood-Style

A little closer to home Lileks has a review of Black Dahlia Avenger, Steve Hodel's book about the notorious 1947 Black Dahlia murder case, which accuses his own father of the crime (Amazon posts dispute this conclusion). Lileks is right to say that 1947 was an interesting year. I'll never forget watching Tyrone Power in Nightmare Alley. Powerful film noir, very psychological, chilling. Made in 1947.

Feeding Bin Laden's Minotaur

Thanks to Little Green Footballs for pointing out this essay by Victor Davis Hanson on al Qaeda and terrorism. He calls our approach to Bin Ladenism, "Minoan." And he's pretty convincing. As Glenn Reynolds says, read the whole thing.

War, Evil and The End of History

Bernard-Henri Levy, author of "Who Killed Daniel Pearl?", has a new book War, Evil and The End of History about five war zones. According to the publisher:

"In Sri Lanka, he conducts a clandestine interview with a terrified young woman escaped from a suicide-bomber training camp . . . he journeys, blindfolded, into the Colombian jungle to interview a psychotic drug lord who considers himself the successor to Che Guevara and fronts a bloodthirsty "guerilla" army . . . Levy surreptitiously observes the nameless slaves working the diamond mines that fund an endless war in Angola . . . airdrops into a rebel stronghold in the blockaded Nuba mountains of the Sudan . . . "

I haven't read it yet, but mean to do so, especially since after Uzbekistan, we travelled to Sri Lanka, during a "truce" between the government and the Tamil tigers. There we saw the aftermath of a conflict in which some 60,000 had died--and where non-Islamic suicide bombers were among the perpetrators; Tamils supported by India, fighting against the Sinhalese.

We toured the country for a few days. There were soldiers, roadblocks, etc. But life went on; resorts -- Bentota Beach had a lovely luxury hotel -- historical sites -- fantastic Kandy, a hilly former capital, hosts the Buddhist Temple of the Tooth -- nature parks -- an elephant "orphanage" which was the setting for Elizabeth Taylor's spectacular "Elephant Walk" -- all were doing a business. Columbo was bustling with trade. If it weren't for the civil war, it looked liked Sri Lanka could give Singapore a run for its money. Modern, clean, efficient.

So I certainly look forward to reading what Bernard-Henri Levy has to say...

Pivot Point of the World, Part II . . .

For those interested in Central Asia, former Peace Corps volunteer Nathan Hamm has put together a wonderful weblog about the region, The Argus. Full disclosure, he just published my essay on today's version of "pivot point" geopolitics: UZBEKISTAN AT A CROSSROADS

Central Asia: Pivot Point of the World

Although many Americans today tend to think of Central Asia as a far away land of little importance, this was not always so. In 1904, geographer Halford Mackinder gave a talk to the Royal Geographical Society in London, arguing that Central Asia was the "pivot point" of the world.

Mackinder's views were widely disseminated in the former Soviet Union, which controlled the region until its collapse. Today, independent Uzbekistan lies at the pivot point of Central Asia (just above Afghanistan). As I discovered while teaching last year at Tashkent's University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED), Mackinder's geopolitics are still taught, not least because they give Uzbekistan some importance in world historical development. Indeed, this December UWED will be hosting an international conference in honor of Mackinder, celebrating the 100th anniversary of his "Pivot Point" lecture. It is being co-ordinated with Cambridge University, thanks to the efforts of Nick Megoran, a geographer at Sidney Sussex College.

In the June 10th issue of the New York Review of Books, Paul Kennedy revives interest in Mackinder, in a discussion of Niall Ferguson's new book on American Empire (unfortunately, the text is not available online to non-subscribers). So, to give some background on the Mackinder revival, the title line above links to a Mackinder page at the University of North Carolina.

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Paris Blues

Caught the last half of Paris Blues on TV last night. This 1961 film has an all-star cast: Sidney Poitier, Diahann Carroll, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, and Louis Armstrong. The score features Duke Ellington's music. It is so sophisticated , the ending so allusive, that it really sticks in one's mind for a long time long after it ends. Poitier and Carroll met while making this picture, beginning an 8-year affair. Their chemistry is great. Joanne Woodward is Mrs. Paul Newman, and that sort of comes through. A strange and powerful effect. Director Martin Ritt uses a dark, realistic style. Black and white. Gritty. Not easy to watch, quite slow and subtle. But they don't make 'em like this anymore. A serious film about serious people and serious themes. You can listen to the theme by clicking here, and you can find it on VHS at

Ronald Reagan as Admiral Farragut on Death Valley Days

In this episode of Death Valley Days the future President puts down an insurgency -- without firing a shot. Although probably intended to be a parable of McCarthyism, it resonates with Reagan's strategy for victory in the Cold War, as well as current events.

Better than "Patterns of Global Terrorism"

Little Green Footballs: tackling pithy conundrums

Is the "Patterns of Global Terrorism" Report a Scandal?

CNN founder Reese Schonfeld says so. He thinks the terrorism report controversy is a big story, because: "This administration keeps making up numbers; deficit numbers, casualty numbers and now terrorist attack numbers..."

Schonfeld has some additional sharp comments about the Washington press corps, which he characterizes as the orifice through which government passes its output to the American people.

NYT theatre critic confesses Reagan could act...

In today's New York Times (registration required), veteran Broadway critic Frank Rich declares that, well, yes, Ronald Reagan really was a good actor:

"Though he never studied with Lee Strasberg, he practiced the method; his performance was based, however loosely, on the emotional memory of a difficult youth as the son of an itinerant, sometimes unemployed alcoholic. That Reagan triumphed over this background during the Depression, developing the considerable ambition needed to work his way through college and eventually to Warner Brothers, informed the sentimental optimism that both defined (and limited) his vision of America as a place where perseverance could pay off for anyone. It was indeed the heartwarming role of himself...

"The problem is not merely that Mr. Bush lacks Reagan's lilting vocal delivery. As any professional actor can tell you, no performance, however sonorous, can be credible if it doesn't contain at least a kernel of emotional truth."

One problem that Bush faces with the Reagan legacy is that he appears to be campaigning as a son of Reagan, instead of the son of George H.W. Bush. On Fox News Sunday today, Weekly Standard publisher Bill Kristol endorsed this approach, saying Bush 43 could run campaign ads asking: "Who would Reagan vote for?" and "Win one more for the Gipper." (Kristol is son of Irving Kristol).

This hereditary mentality, typical of the Bush dynasty--Bush 41 ran as Reagan's presumptive heir,too--misses a crucial point about Ronald Reagan: he was his own man. Unlike the Bushes, pere et fils, Reagan asked to be judged by his deeds, not by who his parents, or wannabe parents, might have been.

To really follow in Reagan's footsteps, George W. Bush must be able to affirmatively answer Reagan's 1984 question to the American people:

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Status Anxiety at National Cathedral

The Washington Post reports status anxiety among Washingtonians attending Ronald Reagan's service:

"A funeral years in the planning -- Nancy Reagan met every six months or so with key advisers to update preparations -- began with the gradual arrival of the guests, who had colored dots discreetly marked on the back of their tickets. Black dots sat way in the back; status-conscious Washingtonians soon figured out that orange was better, red better still and yellow quite exalted. Twenty-five heads of state converged on the cathedral, and 11 former heads of state, and 180 ambassadors or foreign ministers."

Those seeking to understand Washington's obsessions might want to read Alain de Botton's charming new book, Status Anxiety, which lists among the causes of this phenomenon: lovelessness, snobbery, expectation, meritocracy, and dependendence. Among the solutions discussed are: philosophy, art, politics, Christianity, and bohemia.

A philosophical therapist, the British author, who is on a book tour--coming to Politics & Prose bookstore in the national capital on June 18th--presents his thesis that " status anxiety possesses an exceptional capacity to inspire sorrow. That the hunger for status, like all appetites, can have its uses: spurring us to do justice to our talents, encouraging excellence, restraining us from harmful eccentricities and cementing members of a society around a common value system. But, like all appetites, its excesses can also kill. That the most profitable way of addressing the condition may be to attempt to understand and to speak of it."

Saturday, June 12, 2004

Was Bill Clinton Reagan's Ratifier?

Dick Morris, who is not always right, but usually provocative, makes a compelling case that Bill Clinton was Ronald Reagan's "ratifier," taking the Reagan legacy into the Democratic party agenda, and using it to promote welfare reform and a balanced budget. He points out that Eisenhower did a similar thing to FDR's New Deal. And he might have added that Tony Blair Thatcherized Britain's Labor Party with great success.

It seems to me that in this case, Morris knows what he is talking about. Ronald Reagan's disciple was Bill Clinton, much as the Democratic FDR followed in Republican Teddy Roosevelt's footsteps. This alternating pattern may not be a law of politics, but it is an interesting phenomenon.

What it means for the upcoming election is not clear. Perhaps that Kerry can make a play for the Reagan mantle, too.

Squirrels vs. Dog: The difference between Reagan and Bush 41

"And in leaving the White House, the very last day, he left in the yard outside the Oval Office door a little sign for the squirrels. He loved to feed those squirrels. And he left this sign that said, ``Beware of the dog,'' and to no avail, because our dog Millie came in and beat the heck out of the squirrels..."

Nothing better captures the difference between Reagan and Bush 41 than this comment, which may have sprung directly from Bush's unconscious.

Patti Davis at the Reagan Library

One aspect of President Reagan's burial service in Simi Valley was the sense of closure to a history of family tensions. During the Reagan administration, Patti Davis (she didn't want to use his name, but her mother's)was rebellious, posing for Playboy, writing tell-all books, sensational novels, and living with LA rockers, etc. Closer to Jane Fonda, in some ways, than her father.

At yesterday's events, she appeared as an ideal daughter, devoted, genuinely loving to her mother, and close to her brother. Patti's eulogy was warm and loving, showing a sense of understanding for her father. The parable of the goldfishes, as it were, contrasted her youthful impatience with her father's more mature understanding of life. By telling that story, at her own expense, Patti was making a gesture of reconciliation between generations.

So, when Patti and Ron came to Nancy's side when she broke down at the casket, not wanting to let go, it was an illustration of love, caring and tenderness, that they would look after Nancy as their father had done.

In a sense, that moment provided a symbol of closure for the "Generation Gap" of the 1960s, which affected many American families, including the Reagans.

Ron Reagan v. Bush 43?

Did Ron Reagan take aim at President George W. Bush during his Simi Valley eulogy? It sounded like it, at least to this viewer. Here's what Ron said:

"Dad was also a deeply, unabashedly religious man. But he never made the fatal mistake of so many politicians wearing his faith on his sleeve to gain political advantage. True, after he was shot and nearly killed early in his presidency, he came to believe that God had spared him in order that he might do good. But he accepted that as a responsibility, not a mandate. And there is a profound difference."

And how he said it, with Reaganesque firmness, as a matter of principle rather than personalities, almost as if he were channelling his father. Could Ron, Jr. be picking up the torch?

Friday, June 11, 2004

Anne Applebaum: The next Melvin Lasky?

Yesterday evening, Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum , author of the recent book Gulag, spoke to the DC chapter of the Fulbright Alumni Association.

Her point was that there is now a struggle going on for the Reagan legacy.

Applebaum made a case for Reagan as an ideological Cold Warrior, who understood the importance of communication, and supported the work of people like Melvin Lasky, whose biography is linked above.

Melvin Lasky was instrumental in the CIA-funded Congress on Cultural Freedom, and editor of the CIA-supported Encounter magazine until 1990. Applebaum joked the journal's closure was a casualty of the end of the cold war.

Applebaum said America needs more international cultural programs, criticized cutbacks in exchange programs, and called for a renewed emphasis on reaching out to intellectuals in Europe and around the world. Her conclusion: America needs a new Melvin Lasky.

This was also the thrust of an oped Applebaum published in the Washington Post not long ago. One might disagree with her prescription--CIA funding eventually blew up in the face of Encounter and the CCF, damaging their credibility; one could argue that the left did win the battle of the intellectuals, that it was popular entertainment programs like "Dallas" that had a greater effect in showing up Communism (reason: freedom is more fun than slavery), yet clearly intellectual elites do play a significant role, one which needs to be understood.

Applebaum's was a provocative talk, and it was good to hear someone in Washington taking culture and intellectual ideas seriously.

Her bottom line: that America is in a war of ideas with Islamist fundamentalism.

How one goes about fighting that war of ideas can be debated, but Applebaum is correct to point out that one of Reagan's legacies is that he was serious about the Cold War being a clash of ideas. Hearing her talk seriously about taking ideas seriously, and tying it to Reagan, may have been controversial in a room full of academics (and Applebaum may not realize how controversial her ideas are), and it was a welcome tonic.

It just may be that Applebaum herself turns out to be the next Melvin Lasky.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

How will history rank Reagan?

James Taranto has an interesting article about ranking American Presidents. Only three Presidents are ranked as great: Washington, Lincoln, and FDR. Each was associated with a victorious war: the American Revolution, the Civil War, and WWII. Clear-cut victory is good for a high ranking, it would seem. He has a new book out about the topic: Presidential Leadership: Rating the Best and the Worst in the White House.

A curious concluding observation: "Those who believe that history runs in cycles will be interested to note that the three great presidents took office at 72-year intervals--Washington in 1789, Lincoln in 1861 and FDR in 1933--and that this November it will have been exactly 72 years since the election of our last great president."

Dinesh D'Souza' s point: Reagan really was a man of ideas...

Reading Dinesh D'Souza, a former Reagan speechwriter who also wrote a very good biography, is a reminder that Reagan was interested in ideas, and aware of the importance of ideology. He cast the anti-communist struggle in clear ideological terms--something Bush still has not done vis-a-vis the threat of Islamist fundamentalist terrorism--and offered a countervailing set of principles. That was why so many "Mensheviks" became Reaganites in the end--anti-communist socialists were part of the Reagan consitutency, hard as that seems to believe for those outside. Many of the "Scoop Jackson Democrats" who became neoconservatives shared these intellectual origins.

One other point, to add to D'Souza's analysis. Reagan realized the significance of the fact that communism was a slave system and the Soviet Union a slave society. He worked with American labor unions to organize in Eastern Europe. He had a very good relationship with the AFL-CIO, which did the groundbreaking work with Solidarity in Poland, the crack that brought down the Iron Curtain. Rationale: workers in the Soviet Union were not paid as well as workers in the west, remember the joke, "they pretend to pay us, and we pretend to work?" There was a mutual interest for labor unions and the USA to organize labor behind the iron curtain. Workers were actually better off in a free society than a communist one, and would respond.

The ideological basis for communism, the welfare of working people, would be shown to be mistaken. The workers in the workers state would become American allies. They would bring down the slave system from within.

It worked.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Ronald Reagan and Me

After watching the impressive state funeral of Ronald Reagan--getting his casket up all those steps was unbelievable--I had to add my two cents. For, although I never met him, Ronald Reagan brought me to Washington.

I grew up in a typical liberal household back East, and we moved to California while Ronald Reagan was still governor. There was a lot of culture shock. He was indeed popular, but not with the people we knew. My parents both taught at the University of California, and Reagan was the man who fired Clark Kerr over the Free Speech Movement. He instituted tuition. He cut the budget. He was anti-intellectual. Etc.

Actually, he was perhaps even more reviled than Nixon. Because academics gave Nixon credit for being smart, while they thought Reagan was just a dumb actor. Reagan was such a large figure in the iconography of my consciousness that I thought I would produce a documentary film exposing him. I remember this well, it was in the early 1980s. I was going to work with Laurence Leamer, who wrote a popular Reagan biography called "Make Believe" and we were going to have Gore Vidal host the picture. We even met with Gore Vidal for drinks at the bar of the Beverly Hills Hotel. He was very funny, in a waspish way, and did imitations of Reagan and his circle. If he were not an author, Vidal probably could have made a living on the nightclub circuit. He's much better as an entertainer than a political analyst. But I digress...

In any case, what followed were a lot of complications, and the partnership didn't work out. No film was ever made, which was a Good Thing, since I subsequently ended up working at The Heritage Foundation and sitting in rooms with people like Ed Meese, who led Governor Reagan's side in Berkeley battles over "People's Park." I couldn't believe it then, it is hard to believe now.

What I remembered most clearly was that I couldn't get access to the rights to use Reagan's old Warner Brothers movies--by the way, they were good, he was a perfectly good actor, he was not a B actor, and King's Row, his favorite, is a really sophisticated picture; and the Santa Fe Trail is really excellent, too. Trivia tidbit, Ronald Reagan was considered for the role of Rick in Casablanca, but it was given to Bogart at the last minute. Jack Warner liked him, which is why Reagan was always telling Warner stories. In any case, I wanted to use a lot of clips, and it wasn't going to be possible. The other night I saw some outtakes on 60 Minutes, that I had never seen, and they were really funny, and that was Reagan. So, the first thing from my research that affected me was that Reagan was not a bad actor. I had been laboring under a false impression.

The second thing that hit me, somehow, was that he had really truly been a man of the left for many years. For some reason I found myself at Bertolt Brecht's old house in Santa Monica, the one he wrote all those somber poems about, it was a perfectly nice house. And the man who now lived there, who was clearly an old leftist, said oh, yes, Reagan had been at parties with Brecht during the war. Now, maybe that man was making things up. And maybe not, because Hollywood is and was a pretty small community, people run into each other pretty easily.

But in any case Reagan's left credentials were pretty solid. He had organized a student revolt at his college, for example. Well, anyhow, he turned against the Communists, and they never forgave him. He drove them out of the Hollywood unions, because he knew the threat they posed. And he knew because he certainly had been on the same side earlier on. And in the end, I think that is how he knew how to deal with Gorbachev and break the Soviet Union. He knew how Communists think and how they act. This is something that good, grey corporate Republicans simply had no clue about, and still don't. Reagan also had been a union organizer, and he knew the way workers think and feel. Again, something most corporate types find a mystery.

Anyway, I ended up doing graduate work in film school, studying television. I remember that at orientation we were asked why we were there. And I said, because I want to know why Reagan is so successful. I guess I was being glib. Everyone laughed, thinking it was a joke.

But funnily enough, I did learn. And his success did have to to with his being an actor. For actors always have to have a truth that guides them, in every scene, in every role. They play to the truth of the character, to the truth of the scene. And where it intersects with their truth, they connect and can do a great characterization. It is, in a word a symbiosis, or a dialectic to the marxist-trained thinkers. But what became clear was that the people who were saying "let Reagan be Reagan" knew who Reagan was, and Reagan knew who he was. He once said, "I know who I am." That was a great revelation. Because at that age, and at that time, I didn't know who I was.

Well, I thought I was heading away from politics into the arts, but one thing led to another, and I ended up doing a dissertation on Masterpiece Theatre, hosted by Alistair Cooke. And what should I discover? One of the predecessors, along with Omnibus, and Playhouse 90, and all the rest, was GE Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan. Anthology drama. Reagan was an American Alistair Cooke, as well as a sports announcer.

Well, it just kept getting more and more interesting. And the Reagan Revolution even got to this lifelong liberal, and I ended up writing an application to do a study of the privatization of PBS for the Heritage Foundation. Of course, I had been in England to do dissertation research, and found Thatcher's establishment of Channel Four as a private channel very interesting. It worked, and was paid for by commercial advertising. Anyhow, the Heritage Foundation brought me to Washington, where I learned another interesting thing about the Reagan legacy.

It turned out that the most vicious anti-Reaganites were associated with George Bush the Elder. Immediately upon taking office, he ordered ALL the Reagan appointees to be fired. John Sununu wouldn't do it, so Andrew Card, now White House chief of staff for George Bush the Younger, did the deed. And yes, they were all let go. Incredible. This caused a lot of ill will at the Heritage foundation, where at one event a younger staffer carried a mock head of George Bush the Elder on a platter, and he lost his job for that, but it expressed the general feeling.

Because although Reagan was anti-communist, he was a revolutionary. It was true. And George Bush the Elder was an Establishmentarian.

The Heritage Foundation had brought me to work for them, although I had no personal ties, and no "loyalty." I found myself in a very sympathetic milieu. Because Reagan supporters were really interested in ideas, they were sort of outsiders. And they would try things and if they worked, great. It was like show business, every picture is another chance, nobody bats 1000, and so forth. But for the Bush people, everything seemed wired, rigged, based on accidents of birth, schooling, personal connections. A closed shop, rather than an open shop.

Later I worked for the anti-communist David Horowitz (not the television consumer reporter, one would often have to add), also a Berkeley alumnus (as was David Brock, interestingly). He had set up a press called Second Thoughts Books, based on the title his book about his turn against communism. And he said Reagan had inscribed a picture to him with words to the effect, "I had second thoughts, too..."

And so had I. One seminal event was going to the Berlin Film Festival and crossing into East Berlin, which was a "showcase" city. Brecht's son or grandson or some relation had said, oh you simply must see the East, it has so much culture, etc. And so went over to visit. It was just horrible, looked like WWII hadn't ended, tanks everywhere, nothing in the stores, nothing to eat. Just lots of vodka and piles of coal in the street. Buildings still with holes in them--and this was in 1981. I was taken away and searched at the border, no harm done, but not pleasant going in. We had to change money to worthless currency, open a worthless bank account. All around us were depressed faces of grim people. It was grey and horrible. Especially compared to West Berlin, which was better than New York at that time. So Reagan's phrase, "evil empire" spoke to my own experience.

One other big event. I was still in film school and went to a Berkeley alumni event in Los Angeles in 1984 wearing a Mondale button, in the home of a successful lawyer. He had a picture of himself with John F. Kennedy. He told me he was going to vote for Reagan, and I was shocked. Why? He said he couldn't stand the way the party had changed, that Jerry Brown had appointed terrible judges, and that Reagan had made really first-rate appointments. At that time, young and not very worldly, I simply chalked it up to his being succesful. But now I know where he was coming from. What Alistair Cooke had called "the ghastly 60s" had pushed him out of the Democratic camp. The Democrats had left him.

This was the same terminology Reagan used. And it was this liberal individualism that was so attractive. Understanding this truly liberal side of Reagan's legacy, for after all there is nothing conservative about a revolution, I would suggest, is one key to understanding his success.

Welcome to LaurenceJarvikOnline...

Welcome to LaurenceJarvikOnline. This is where you'll find the usual blog self-indulgence, hobby-horse riding, and instant reactions. So if that turns you off, as it does many people, please feel free to click to from whence you came.

For those who remain...

What I hope will be a little different in this site is the orientation. I spent last year living in Uzbekistan, and on returning to the USA was a little surprised by how shrill everything seemed. Granted that I had been living in an authoritarian state, but the over-politicization of almost everything in the land of the free seemed a little ridiculous. There were such sharp divisions between the "Red" and "Blue" America that almost every topic was seen in partisan terms. Frankly, it was disappointing. There didn't seem to be much but Bush-Bashing or Bush-Cheerleading to choose from.

And everyone seemed to have gone off the deep end. No one appeared to want to be part of what used to be called "the vital center."

Where had all the centrists gone? Long time passing...

So, after stewing in a funk for a while, I said, what the heck, I'll join the pool party and start a blog of my own. The idea, at least for now, is to try and be a little bit thoughtful. I hope the undertow doesn't pull too strongly, that this doesn't degenerate into something shrill or partisan. And to offer some thoughtful bits and pieces from reasonable perspectives on anything that crosses my mind, with the customary links to different other sites, blogs and posts.

So we'll see. This won't be as big a deal as, or, or or, or, or But in a small way, I'll try and carve out a little bit of web room for thoughtful, reasonable, and interesting items that others might miss, and bring them to attention when I can.

And put in my two cents, every once in a while, for what it's worth.