Saturday, June 28, 2008

Alice Marquis Dot Com

My friend Alice just left voicemail to let me know that she has her own website which links to all her books and writings--and here's my link to An excerpt from the Works in Progress section:
Why Not Pop?
The Question that Changed 20th Century art
Here are the first paragraphs of the Work in Progress, subject to change any day.

Chapter 1
Heralds of Change

For some years during the supposedly quiescent 1950s, a genie was incubating within American culture; by the time it began drifting out of its bottle and was recognized as more than a fad but a force for drastic change, no one knew how to stuff it back in. An energetic new generation was taking over. Battered in the Depression and disciplined in a brutal world war, this group was better educated and more affluent than any generation in American history; it could afford to take chances. Its creative members were unlike the 1930s radicals, who had banded together to embrace political ideologies – Communism, Socialism, Trotskyism, and even, for some, fascism. The artistic rebels of the 1950s barged into the prevailing culture alone, leaping to the podium at bookstores, in colleges, and into art galleries, preaching … exactly what?

2. Arts Take Center Stage, 1961-1965

The election of John Kennedy and the White House’s strong focus on intellectuals and arts, persuaded a new generation of Americans to become interested in art, perhaps even to buy a work or two for the living room. Bathed in the light of optimism that accompanied the young president’s ascent to power, the heavy, difficult philosophical message of Abstract Expressionist art seemed a bit passé. In a prosperous country, where television and mass magazines coached the newly affluent in upscale behavior and jet set posturing, the public was ready to embrace whatever – and whoever – offered a fresh take on the world, and the illustrations and talking points for discussing it.

3. But Is It Art? 1962-1967

“Pop Art Sells On and On – Why?” was the plaintive headline in May 1964, above John Canaday’s sardonic article in the New York Times Magazine. After five years as chief art critic of America’s newspaper of record, he had a reputation for witty prose as well as an urbane resistance to various art factions that attempted to browbeat his taste. Canaday was also the first Times art critic with a solid background as an art historian. A graduate of University of Texas, he held an M.A. from Yale, had studied at the École Louvre in Paris, taught at Tulane University, directed the Philadelphia Museum of Art Education Division for nine years, and prepared a popular book series, Metropolitan Seminars in Art, for the New York museum. When he joined The New York Times, he was fifty-two years old and steeped in the Modernist canon. Understandably, John Canaday reacted warily to the advent of Pop art. He wondered about the staying power of works he saw as “just something old (commercial art) dusted off and jazzed up.” Still, he noted that the 1964 Biennale was “loaded with Pop,” and the blatant new direction was also “bulldozing its way through the groves of academe.” Pop’s improbable success “transforms the natural shudder of horror,” he wrote, “into the artificially induced frisson of pleasure that … is the first test of a work of art.”

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cousin Lucy's Spoon: More Everything is Deeply Intertwingled

Small world:Cousin Lucy's Spoon: More Everything is Deeply Intertwingled

Do you like this blog?

Then join its Facebook Fan Page...(I have no idea if this will work, but saw Arianna Huffington invited me to joint hers for the Huffington Post, so I thought, if it is good enough for Arianna, it's good enough to try...).

The Daemon in the Machine

Wired Magazine's Josh McHugh details how Leinad Zeraus (Daniel Suarez) employed Google, blogs, and print-on-demand technology to generate demand for his self-published techno-thriller:
Suarez finished Daemon in late 2004, then submitted it to dozens of literary agents. "Three actually read it," he says. "One thought it was too long for the thriller genre, and the other two thought it was too complex."

Finally, he and his wife, Michelle Sites, also an IT consultant, decided to take a page from the Daemon playbook and infiltrate the Internet's power grid. In fall 2006, they approached bloggers whose writings on gaming, warfare, AI, and social media Suarez had mined for the book. The couple formed their own publishing firm, Verdugo Press, and began producing copies through the print-on-demand service Lightning Source.

A dozen or so bloggers wrote posts about the book, kindling sales of up to 50 copies a month. Then in April 2007, Rick Klau, head of publisher services at Feedburner, got a copy. Two things happened: Google acquired Feedburner, and Klau, electrified by Daemon's all-too-plausible IT scenario, began pushing the book on anyone who would listen.

"I just felt it would be a travesty if a lot of people didn't read it," Klau says. A new colleague at Google, algorithm wrangler Matt Cutts, gave Daemon a shout-out on his blog. Cyberwar pundit John Robb mentioned it on his site, and Ito wrote that it was "believable and realistic and still mind-blowing." Brand blurbed it on Amazon, saying Suarez was "better than early Tom Clancy." As of March, more than 1,200 copies had been shipped, and Zeraus nee Suarez is planning to release a sequel, Freedom™, later this year. "When I finished the book," Brand says, "my feeling was that the sequel is not only desirable, but necessary."

Hopkins Grad Student Killed In Iraq

A sad email from Johns Hopkins President William Brody arrived this morning:
Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

We learned late today of the tragic death of one of our own in Iraq.

Nicole Suveges, a graduate student in political science who was working
in Iraq as a civilian, was among four Americans killed an explosion
Tuesday in the offices of the district council in the critical Sadr City
section of Baghdad.

Two U.S. soldiers, a State Department employee, an Italian translator
working for the Defense Department, and six Iraqis also were killed,
according to news reports.

Nicole was in Iraq as a political scientist working in the Army’s
Human Terrain System program, advising the 3rd Brigade Combat Team of
the 4th Infantry Division. A statement from BAE Systems, the company
that employed her, said she helped Army leaders working to reduce
violence in the community and rebuild local infrastructure. Her
intelligence and savvy, combined with her experience as an Army
reservist serving in Bosnia in the 1990s, reportedly made her especially
effective in her work to improve the lives of everyday Iraqis.

I am told that Nicole also was using this second tour in Iraq -- she
had previously served there as a civilian contractor several years ago
-- to complete field research for her planned dissertation. She was
exploring the process of transition from an authoritarian regime to
democracy. She was investigating especially what that process means for
and how it affects ordinary citizens.

Members of the Political Science Department describe Nicole as an
extraordinarily bright, engaging, kind person, intellectually curious
and outgoing. She also was known as an active citizen of the department,
regularly attending seminars and helping to organize graduate student
activities. As a former Reserve soldier herself and as a person in her
mid-30s, she brought a different and valuable perspective to the
intellectual life of the department.

Nicole was committed to using her learning and experience to make the
world a better place, especially for people who have suffered through
war and conflict. In that, she exemplifies all that we seek to do at
Johns Hopkins: to use knowledge for the good of humanity.

This is the third time in a little over a year that we have learned of
the death in Iraq of a young member of the Johns Hopkins community. Last
year, Lt. Colby Umbrell ’04 and Capt. Jonathan Grassbaugh ’03, both
of the U.S. Army, were killed in action there. Their deaths and
Nicole’s diminish us all. But their lives -- lives devoted to
service to others -- honor us and our university. We are better for
their having been among us.

Wendy and I join all of you in offering our deepest sympathy to
Nicole’s husband, to her family, to her colleagues and to her


Bill Brody

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Reporters Without Borders Asks Cuba to Free Imprisoned Journalist

Just got this email from Benoît Hervieu of Reporters Without Borders:

Reporters Without Borders appeals to Raúl Castro's government for a show of magnanimity towards the organisation's correspondent, Ricardo González Alfonso, and other imprisoned journalists in return for the European Union's decision on 23 June to lift the political sanctions it had imposed Cuba. The Cuban government had made this a condition for restoring normal relations with the EU.

"There have been a few advances in freedom of expression and information since Raúl Castro took over as Council of State president on 24 February, with Cubans being given the right to buy their own computer equipment or enter tourist hotels that have better Internet connections," Reporters Without Borders said. "The dialogue begun by the Spanish government undoubtedly contributed to this, just as it led to the release in February of independent journalist Alejandro González Raga and two other detainees from the 2003 'Black Spring'."

The press freedom organisation added: "A similar gesture is now needed with the 23 other journalists who are still imprisoned, 19 of whom have been held since the March 2003 crackdown. The EU sanctions imposed after the crackdown, which were suspended in 2005, have now been definitively lifted. The Cuba government got its way, so there is no longer any excuse for sidestepping the call for an improvement in human rights and free expression."

As well as being the Reporters Without Borders Cuba correspondent, González is the founder of the Manuel Márquez Sterling journalists' association and the independent magazine De Cuba. He was arrested on 18 March 2003 and was given a 20-year prison sentence on the absurd charge of being a "mercenary" in the pay of the United States. He has been held in Havana's Combinado del Este prison since the end of 2004.

Now aged 58, he suffers from high blood pressure and cervical arthritis, and has problems with his circulation and digestion. After a long spell in the prison hospital and a total of four operations in 2006 and 2007, he was returned to his cell on 27 January of this year, although he is still in very poor health.

His wife, Alida Viso Bello, told Reporters Without Borders on 23 June that for the past month he has not been getting the Captopril medicine that heart doctors prescribed for his high blood pressure, and that he is having a lot of arthritis attacks because he does not have an appropriate chair in his cell. Viso never got a reply to the request she submitted last February for him to be released on health grounds.

With a total of 23 journalists detained, Cuba continues to be the world's biggest prison for the media after China. It is the western hemisphere's only country that not does permit any form of media that is not under direct government control.

IRS Employee Arrested in DC Tax Scam Scandal

This link to footage from local NBC television station, WRC shows the "perp walk" of Robert and Patricia Stephen, allegedly part of a ring that stole more than $20 million in DC property taxes. Ten people allegedly in the ring have been arrested so far--but to date DC's Chief Financial Officer, Natwar M. Gandhi, has neither resigned in disgrace nor been fired by DC's new Mayor, Adrian M. Fenty...

Ironically, Gandhi was 2007 Governing Magazine award-winner for "Public Official of the Year." Alan Greenblatt's blurb was headlined: "Natwar M. Gandhi: Fiscal Guardian." Here's what Greenblatt said:
Natwar Gandhi knows how to make red ink turn to black. This spring, he was approached by Amtrak, which hoped to lure him to erase an enormous deficit as he had already done as chief financial officer for Washington, D.C. City officials did everything they could think of to keep Gandhi in his current position, including boosting his salary by nearly $100,000. And this money maestro, who arrived in America from India 40 years ago with $7 in his pocket, chose to stay put.

What makes Gandhi worth such big bucks is the fact that he has come to embody fiscal rectititude in Washington, a city that a dozen years ago faced a $518 million deficit and came close to bankruptcy. "He is really an indispensable person for the District," says Mark Plotkin, a local radio commentator. "He has maintained fiscal integrity, and that wasn't the case for the District before."

Washington Post: Human Rights Reports Lied

Alex De Waal's mea culpa in Sunday's Washington Post Book World about his work for Human Rights Watch makes for interesting reading. Some excerpts:
Some years ago in a rebel-held enclave of Sudan, I met a man whom I had reported as assassinated. He was chief Hussein Karbus, and I was introduced to him by the man I had said killed him, the liberation fighter Yousif Kuwa Mekki. Both of them thought my mistake -- made in a human rights report -- was hilarious...
...As if in anticipation of that premature obituary, my doctoral research in Sudan documented why almost a million people had not died in the Darfur famine of 1984. Like many other students in the social sciences, I was driven by the urge to help. At the time, the world's leading center of refugee studies was the University of Khartoum, so that's where I headed first. When I arrived in Darfur, I expected to find mass starvation apart from the few places aid had reached. But that wasn't the reality. The Darfurians were hardier and more resourceful than "disaster tourists" (mostly well-meaning volunteers) could imagine. The nutritional arithmetic -- the failed harvests, the late relief efforts -- said they should all be dead. They weren't...
...Writing a human rights report demands the prose of a prosecutor rather than an anthropologist. The classic report begins with the testimonies of victims. It moves on to describe the perpetrators' responsibility (although the accused are rarely asked to give their side of the story) and concludes with condemnation and exhortation. I wrote a lot of these over the years, each one ending with a list of pro forma recommendations to President Bashir -- to release prisoners, to stop torture and the like. I prodded the U.S. administration for more sanctions. If I made a mistake, as I did with Karbus, colleagues informally advised me not to call attention to it. Human rights groups' credibility on the big issues might suffer if we confessed even to small errors, or so some people thought. In 1992, I left Human Rights Watch but continued to work on war, famine and genocide in Africa....

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Yad Vashem Rejects Hillel Kook (Peter Bergson) Exhibit

Yesterday, my cousin Dorothy went to the Wyman Institute conference in Tel Aviv calling for the recognition of Peter Bergson (Hillel Kook) as a hero of the Holocaust at Yad Vashem. According to this Jerusalem Post article, they've officially rejected him:
The Bergson Group is credited with helping to persuade the president in 1944 to establish the War Refugee Board, which ultimately saved 200,000 Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

"Omitting the saving of 200,000 lives is a mistake," [Professor David] Wyman said.

At the end of their Yad Vashem meeting, Michman told the group that the decision would be reviewed in 10 years, Wyman said.

The presentation of the petition, written by former president of the supreme court Meir Shamgar, was marred after Yad Vashem officials barred members of the press from accompanying the small delegation of historians and Kook family members who were delivering it, since the Wyman Institute had not coordinated the event with Yad Vashem's spokesperson's office.

Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, who was out of the country when the group presented the petition to his office, had previously said that the context of the Bergson group's activities was outside the primary purview of the museum, which deals with the story of victims and perpetrators.

Cathy Buckle's Letters from Zimbabwe

You can read first-person accounts from Zimbabwe by Cathy Buckle on her website: Letters:
Saturday 22nd June 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
A blanket of fear has descended over Zimbabwe as we count down the last few days before the second Presidential election. Our streets and towns are seething with police, army and youth brigade members. Our shops are empty of all basic foodstuffs; filling stations still have no diesel or petrol; water and electricity supplies are scarce; queues at banks and cash machines are immense and prices increase at least once every day. The trauma of living like this has been compounded a hundred fold as now each day brings news of terror, torture, kidnapping, burning and murder. The reports are of barbaric behaviour and extreme cruelty and they are coming from all over the country. The perpetrators move in groups; sometimes they come in the day but more often it is at night.

Free Ian McEwan!

According to The Telegraph (UK), author Ian McEwan is under attack from the Muslim Council of Britain, for his outspoken defense of Martin Amis's right to criticize Islamism:
McEwan, 60, said it was "logically absurd and morally unacceptable" that writers who speak out against militant Islam are immediately branded racist.

"As soon as a writer expresses an opinion against Islamism, immediately someone on the left leaps to his feet and claims that because the majority of Muslims are dark-skinned, he who criticises it is racist," he said in an interview in Corriere della Sera.

"This is logically absurd and morally unacceptable. Martin is not a racist. And I myself despise Islamism, because it wants to create a society that I detest, based on religious belief, on a text, on lack of freedom for women, intolerance towards homosexuality and so on - we know it well."

McEwan recognised that similar views were held by some Christian hardliners in America.

"I find them equally absurd," he said. "I don't like these medieval visions of the world according to which God is coming to save the faithful and to damn the others. But those American Christians don't want to kill anyone in my city, that's the difference."
McEwan's personal website can be found via this link.

Why Doesn't the NY Times Appreciate Google News?

From this bitchy article in today's paper, it seems to have something to do with issues of control and fear of advertising losses--rather than appreciation for the great indexing job Google does for the paper (now that the NY Times' own printed index has become three pages of unreadable blurbs and plugs). Memo to NY Times editors: You can't force readers to read only what interests you and your advertisers (items about cross dressing for example)--try running news that interests your readers, and watch your circulation and hit counts grow...

Monday, June 23, 2008


Speaking of blog history, I tried a search for The Idler in the WayBackMachine depicted in Professor Wesch's Web 2.0 video--and it worked, sort of. They have archived --but not indexed-- all the back issues of Some that can now be looked at were marked with asterisks, on the Internet Archives WayBackMachine website:*/

National Press Club Blog

As a member of the National Press Club, I tried to get them interested in the Blogosphere way back when it was something new (see my July, 2002 article in The Idler, "Inside the Blogosphere: The Weblog Phenomenon," about a press event held at the Press Club--not mentioned by a single traditional media outlet at the time). I am glad to see that they have caught up with the times (though by now texting and mobile computing and social networking have become the next big things) and set up a National Press Club Blog, where you can read first-hand about Only In Washington-type events like a speech by Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergei Stanishev...I'm adding it to my blog roll.

E. Fuller Torrey's The Insanity Offense

Dr. Hilkert was of the view that involuntary commitment provides important protections to patients and society, and spoke to me about how people were dying for lack of psychiatric care. So, when I saw this review of The Insanity Offense: How America's Failure to Treat the Seriously Mentally Ill Endangers Its Citizensin the Wall Street Journal last week by Dr. Paul McHugh:, I thought of him, once more...
The new laws deprived psychiatrists of the authority to hold patients under surveillance. In the past, psychiatrists could keep patients in a hospital if they were "of such mental condition . . . [as being] in need of supervision, treatment, care, or restraint." Now patients could not be held unless "immediately" or "imminently" dangerous to themselves or others.

The harrowing effects were evident almost immediately, and Dr. Torrey recounts them in vivid detail in "The Insanity Offense." First he offers plenty of statistics to indicate the state of the problem as it exists today -- citing, for instance, the number of seriously mentally ill who are in prison (218,000) or homeless (175,000) at any given time. But just as "numbers are too abstract" to convey the magnitude of a large-scale tragedy such as an earthquake or flood, he says, the true horror that resulted from the "deinstitutionalization" of the seriously mentally ill is best conveyed by individual stories.

Dr. Torrey recounts murder after murder by mentally ill patients, each of whom was actively avoiding treatment. We learn about William Bruce, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and hospitalized but refused to take his medication. His mother "tried to get help everywhere," a friend related, but "at each phase she was turned away because he never hurt anyone." Bruce bludgeoned his mother to death in 2006 and slit her throat.

The most awful example was the murder last year of 32 students and faculty at Virginia Tech by Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old student who had been court-identified as in need of treatment but allowed by the college to attend classes because the school would not treat mentally ill students -- even those suffering from schizophrenia -- unless the students requested it. Mr. Cho could not be involuntarily committed because he was not an "imminent danger" to himself or others and was not "substantially unable to care for himself." As Dr. Torrey writes: "This is one of the most stringent state commitment statutes in the United States and another example of how changes in mental illness laws in the 1970s and 1980s continue to have real consequences."

Given the difficulty of committing the seriously mentally ill for involuntary treatment, our jails and prisons have become de facto mental institutions. Dr. Torrey's data indicate that more than 30% of inmates are mentally ill. He also describes the abuse they suffer in these brutal environments and the increase in suicides by mentally ill prisoners. The hellish scenes described by Dorothea Dix in 1843 have returned -- with a vengeance, given the huge increase in the American population since the mid-19th century.

What is to be done? "The Insanity Offense" calls for a restoring of some central state responsibility for these patients in ways that would permit monitoring them regularly, keeping them on their medications and insisting on a protected-care setting if they relapse. It is not necessary to reopen all the old state hospitals: The programs that are needed could be carried out in clinic offices with backup, shorter-stay hospital beds.

Al-Hurra's Last Hurrah?

Today's Washington Post article by Craig Whitlock suggests that somebody in Washington may be tired of paying millions of dollars for Arabic-language broadcasting that practically nobody watches:
Al-Hurra -- "The Free One" in Arabic -- is the centerpiece of a U.S. government campaign to spread democracy in the Middle East. Taxpayers have spent $350 million on the project. But more than four years after it began broadcasting, the station is widely regarded as a flop in the Arab world, where it has struggled to attract viewers and overcome skepticism about its mission.

Propaganda has become a primary front in the war against terrorism, with the United States and al-Qaeda each investing heavily to win over hearts and minds. This article examines one aspect of the U.S. effort to influence people through the airwaves. Tomorrow, another will look at al-Qaeda's online propaganda campaign.

Since its inception, al-Hurra has been plagued by mediocre programming, congressional interference and a succession of executives who either had little experience in television or could not speak Arabic, according to interviews with former staffers, other Arab journalists and viewers in the Middle East.

It has also been embarrassed by journalistic blunders. One news anchor greeted the station's predominantly Muslim audience on Easter by declaring, "Jesus is risen today!" After al-Hurra covered a December 2006 Holocaust-denial conference in Iran and aired, unedited, an hour-long speech by the leader of Hezbollah, Congress convened hearings and threatened to cut the station's budget.

"Many people just didn't know how to do their job," said Yasser Thabet, a former senior editor at al-Hurra. "If some problem happened on the air, people would just joke with each other, saying, 'Well, nobody watches us anyway.' It was very self-defeating."
Here's a link to a critical report on Al-Hurra from the GAO.

Sarkozy Pledges French Support for Israel

From today's Jerusalem Post:
Insisting that he had not come to teach Israelis a lesson in morality, Sarkozy said that the only people who could make peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians were the two parties themselves, saying, "No one can do it without you, and it's a mistake to think that anyone else can do it for you."

In stating the case for an independent Palestinian state, Sarkozy, who is of Jewish descent, made the point that if anyone could understand Palestinian yearning for statehood it was the Jews who suffered so much and so long to realize that dream for themselves.

Yet while advocating the establishment of a Palestinian state, Sarkozy took great pains to assure Peres that he personally was, is and will be Israel's friend and that France would stand by Israel politically, economically and even militarily if necessary.

"The Iranian crisis is the central crisis of the world," he said, implying that while Israel may be the first potential target, no other country would be safe, and in this respect he pledged that France would always be at Israel's side to defend her existence.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

Digital Ethnography

My students' use of this very popular YouTube video about Web 2.0:

led me to about KSU professor Michael Wesch's collaborative student-faculty website devoted to world cultures at KSU--Digital Ethnography.

His interesting manifesto on education and pedagogy, published in Canada, is called Anti-Teaching (PDF).

Daniel Pipes: Know Your Enemy

From the Jerusalem Post:
"Defeating terrorism" has, indeed, remained the basic war goal. By implication, terrorists are the enemy and counterterrorism is the main response.

But observers have increasingly concluded that terrorism is just a tactic, not an enemy. Bush effectively admitted this much in mid-2004, acknowledging that "We actually misnamed the war on terror." Instead, he called the war a "struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world."

A year later, in the aftermath of the 7/7 London transport bombings, British prime minister Tony Blair advanced the discussion by speaking of the enemy as "a religious ideology, a strain within the world-wide religion of Islam." Soon after, Bush himself used the terms "Islamic radicalism," "militant Jihadism," and "Islamo-fascism." But these words prompted much criticism and he backtracked.

By mid-2007, Bush had reverted to speaking about "the great struggle against extremism that is now playing out across the broader Middle East." That is where things now stand, with U.S. government agencies being advised to refer to the enemy with such nebulous terms as "death cult," "cult-like," "sectarian cult," and "violent cultists."

In fact, that enemy has a precise and concise name: Islamism, a radical utopian version of Islam. Islamists, adherents of this well funded, widespread, totalitarian ideology, are attempting to create a global Islamic order that fully applies the Islamic law (Shari‘a).

Thus defined, the needed response becomes clear. It is two-fold: vanquish Islamism and help Muslims develop an alternative form of Islam. Not coincidentally, this approach roughly parallels what the allied powers accomplished vis-à-vis the two prior radical utopian movements, fascism and communism....

...In the final analysis, Islamism presents two main challenges to Westerners: To speak frankly and to aim for victory. Neither comes naturally to the modern person, who tends to prefer political correctness and conflict resolution, or even appeasement. But once these hurdles are overcome, the Islamist enemy's objective weakness in terms of arsenal, economy, and resources means it can readily be defeated.

Raymond Ibrahim: Know Your Enemy

From The American Thinker:
As recently as 2006, former top Pentagon official William Gawthrop lamented that:

"the senior Service colleges of the Department of Defense had not incorporated into their curriculum a systematic study of Muhammad as a military or political leader. As a consequence, we still do not have an in-depth understanding of the war-fighting doctrine laid down by Muhammad, how it might be applied today by an increasing number of Islamic groups, or how it might be countered" [emphasis added].

This is more ironic when one considers that, while classical military theories (Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, et. al.) are still studied, the argument can be made that they have little practical value for today's much changed landscape of warfare and diplomacy. Whatever validity this argument may have, it certainly cannot be applied to Islam's doctrines of war; by having a "theological" quality, that is, by being grounded in a religion whose "divine" precepts transcend time and space, and are thus believed to be immutable, Islam's war doctrines are considered applicable today no less than yesterday.

While one can argue that learning how Alexander maneuvered his cavalry at the Battle of Guagamela in 331 BC is both academic and anachronistic, the same cannot be said of Islam, particularly the exploits and stratagems of its prophet Muhammad -- his "war sunna" -- which still serve as an example to modern day jihadists. For instance, based on the words and deeds of Muhammad, most schools of Islamic jurisprudence agree that the following are all legitimate during war against the infidel:

- the indiscriminate use of missile weaponry, even if women and children are present (catapults in Muhammad's 7th century, hijacked planes or WMD by analogy today);

- the need to always deceive the enemy and even break formal treatises whenever possible [see Sahih Muslim 15: 4057];

- and that the only function of the peace treaty, or "hudna," is to give the Islamic armies time to regroup for a renewed offensive, and should, in theory, last no more than ten years.

Koranic verses 3:28 and 16:106, as well as Muhammad's famous assertion, "War is deceit," have all led to the formulation of a number of doctrines of dissimulation-the most notorious among them being the doctrine of "Taqiyya," which permits Muslims to lie and dissemble whenever they are under the authority of the infidel. Deception has such a prominent role that renowned Muslim scholar Ibn al-Arabi declares: "[I]n the Hadith, practicing deceit in war is well demonstrated. Indeed, its need is more stressed than [the need for] courage" (The Al Qaeda Reader, 142).

Aside from ignoring these well documented Islamist strategies, more troubling is the fact that the Defense Department does not seem to appreciate Islam's more "eternal" doctrines, such as the Abode of War versus the Abode of Islam dichotomy, which in essence maintains that Islam must always be in a state of animosity vis-à-vis the infidel world and, whenever possible, must wage wars until all infidel territory has been brought under Islamic rule. In fact, this dichotomy of hostility is unambiguously codified under Islam's worldview and is deemed a fard kifaya-that is, an obligation on the entire Muslim body that can only be fulfilled as long as some Muslims, say, "jihadists," actively uphold it.

Yet despite all these problematic but revealing doctrines, despite the fact that a quick perusal of Islamist websites and books demonstrate time and time again that current and would-be jihadists constantly quote, and thus take seriously, these doctrinal aspects of war, apparently the senior governmental leaders charged with defending America do not.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I Like This Obama Statement, Too...

From The New York Times:
Senator Barack Obama announced on Thursday that he would not participate in the public financing system for presidential campaigns. He argued that the system had collapsed, and would put him at a disadvantage running against Senator John McCain, his likely Republican opponent.

With his decision, Mr. Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.

Mr. Obama made his announcement in a video message sent to supporters and posted on the Internet. While it was not a surprise — his aides have been hinting that he would take this step for two months — it represented a turnabout from his strong earlier suggestion that he would join the system. Mr. McCain has been a champion of public financing of campaign throughout his career.

“The public financing of presidential elections as it exists today is broken, and we face opponents who’ve become masters at gaming this broken system,” he said. “John McCain’s campaign and the Republican National Committee are fueled by contributions from Washington lobbyists and special interest PACs. And we’ve already seen that he’s not going to stop the smears and attacks from his allies running so-called 527 groups, who will spend millions and millions of dollars in unlimited donations.”
Now, perhaps Obama should call for the repeal of McCain-Feingold...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Steven Waldman: Obama Should Pick Jim Webb for VP

From Wall Street Journal Blogs:
As for Sen. Webb’s views on affirmative action, my first reaction was: while only President Nixon could go to China and only President Clinton could end welfare, only Sen. Obama could possibly consider someone who has called affirmative action “state sponsored racism that is as odious as the Jim Crow laws.” Imagine the message Sen. Obama could send about race if he chose Sen. Webb: Not only am I not some Jeremiah Wright protégé, but I’ve chosen as my partner a man who feels that the main consequence of the last 20 years of racial policy is the disparagement of whites. When I say I want to unify the country, I mean it.

Make no mistake: almost any discussion of affirmative action is fraught for Sen. Obama. As a black man, it would be difficult for him to adopt Sen. Webb’s view that affirmative action should be limited only to African Americans, leaving out Hispanics and women, two groups he desperately needs. He could lean in the direction of Sen. Webb’s other approach, allowing for class elements to be considered in hiring and college admissions, an idea about which Sen. Obama has already expressed some sympathy.

Picking a running mate with controversial views on affirmative action will surely open up a can of worms, but it is a can that will be opened anyway. The issue hasn’t arisen directly so far in part because Sen. Clinton, agreeing with Sen. Obama’s views, didn’t challenge him. Democrats are kidding themselves if they think it won’t come up in the general election. And having Sen. Webb on the ticket would enable Sen. Obama to seem reasonable and deeply respectful of anti-affirmative action views.

Sen. Obama has been able to partly traverse the rifts within the old New Deal coalition by emphasizing unifying issues like the Iraq war and the economy and through the neat trick of having been born in 1961, and therefore skipping the Vietnam-related culture wars. For younger voters, that’s sufficient. But for older voters, like the ones who voted against him in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, he has work to do.

Sen. Webb is not a safe pick. His views on women in the military could cost Sen. Obama among Clinton voters, and some Hispanics might worry about his views on affirmative action. But an Obama-Webb ticket has the potential to bring home those who left the party for Ronald Reagan and George Wallace, bridging the gap between African Americans and working class whites.

"Moderate Islam" is Not the Answer

Hugh Fitzgerald explains why not:
The next step is for Infidels to understand why it is that the many failures of Muslim states and societies stem from Islam itself. This includes political failures: that tendency to despotism, that inability, save in kemalist-exceptional Turkey and one or two other places, to accept democracy, and even then what is in place is not democracy in the advanced Western sense of that word. It also includes economic failures: despite ten trillion dollars in unmerited oil revenues since 1973 alone, the Muslim states have failed to create modern economies, and are still helplessly dependent on Western and other foreign workers. And save in kemalist-exceptional Turkey and Bourguiba-exceptionalist Tunisia, they either have that oil money, or where the manna of oil wealth is unavailable, they rely in large part on the disguised Jizyah of foreign aid from Infidels. Or the local Muslims rely on exactions of wealth from their more industrious non-Muslim fellows, as in Malaysia with its Bumiputra system. The social failures -- the grotesque mistreatment of women and of non-Muslim minorities -- are again less evident in that handful of Muslim countries, such as Kemalist Turkey, where Islam has been systematically constrained, or in one or two of the stans where the anti-religious campaigns of the Soviets, and the very large non-Muslim populations, have helped to reduce the power of Islam. An example of that is Kazakhatan.

The intellectual failures of Islam are a result of two things: the severe discouragement of free and skeptical inquiry, which is in the first place prompted by the desire to prevent Islam itself from being questioned, and which in turn leads to a climate in which no questioning can take place. In a world where those who dare to openly question the faith can be attacked and killed -- by mobs if not by the forces of the government -- it is unsurprising that intellectual development, including but hardly limited to the kind of thing measured in very rough fashion by Nobel Prizes, is limited. There has been hardly any development of science under Islam in the past thousand years. Arab literature, according to the poet Adonis, is in a permanent state of crisis; it "does not exist." Indeed, the greatest achievements in literature have been those by Persian poets, such as Firdowsi, Sa'adi, Hafiz, and Omar Khayyam, who stand much higher in the Western consciousness, standing virtually alone, than in the Iranian mental pantheon. And all of them sang of matters -- wine, women, song, and so on, and in Firdowsi's important case of the Shahnameh, of pre-Islamic Iranian history -- that can be said to violate both the spirit and the letter of Islam.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

George Will on John McCain's "Contempt of Courts"

In today's Washington Post:e:
McCain, co-author of the McCain-Feingold law that abridges the right of free political speech, has referred disparagingly to, as he puts it, "quote 'First Amendment rights.' " Now he dismissively speaks of "so-called, quote 'habeas corpus suits.' " He who wants to reassure constitutionalist conservatives that he understands the importance of limited government should be reminded why the habeas right has long been known as "the great writ of liberty."

No state power is more fearsome than the power to imprison. Hence the habeas right has been at the heart of the centuries-long struggle to constrain governments, a struggle in which the greatest event was the writing of America's Constitution, which limits Congress's power to revoke habeas corpus to periods of rebellion or invasion. Is it, as McCain suggests, indefensible to conclude that Congress exceeded its authority when, with the Military Commissions Act (2006), it withdrew any federal court jurisdiction over the detainees' habeas claims?

As the conservative and libertarian Cato Institute argued in its amicus brief in support of the petitioning detainees, habeas, in the context of U.S. constitutional law, "is a separation of powers principle" involving the judicial and executive branches. The latter cannot be the only judge of its own judgment.

In Marbury v. Madison (1803), which launched and validated judicial supervision of America's democratic government, Chief Justice John Marshall asked: "To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained?" Those are pertinent questions for McCain, who aspires to take the presidential oath to defend the Constitution.

Edward Bernard Glick on the American Intelligentsia

From The American Thinker:
When the Soviet Union collapsed, Marxism collapsed in Russia and in Eastern Europe. But it survived in U.S. universities, where politically-correct feelings are now more important than knowledge, and where politically-correct emotions are now more important than logic and critical thinking. Our students and graduates are well trained, but badly educated. Outside of what they must learn to make a living, they don't know very much. But they have been taught to feel sad, angry or guilty about their country and its past.

In the main, our students and graduates, no matter where they went to school, don't understand that China, in return for Sudanese oil, is supplying the weapons used to commit genocide in Darfur. But they feel bad about the Darfurians. They don't now that the Palestinians have rejected every opportunity to have a state of their own. But they feel sorry for them and they blame the Israelis for their plight. They aren't familiar with the Koranic verse "the Infidel is your inveterate enemy." But they keep searching for the "root causes" of Muslim hatred and many of them believe that terrorism is the result of what the United States and Israel, obviously the two worst countries on this planet, do or do not do.

Deficient in history, geography, and economics, our college-trained citizens cannot fathom that the main reasons for high gasoline prices are the speculation in oil futures and the continuing industrialization of Japan, China, India, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, and other countries. Instead, they blame the "greedy" U.S. oil companies, whose "obscene" profit margins are not as high as many other industries. Nor do they understand that their simultaneous and illogical opposition to nuclear power, coal, liquified petroleum gas, on-shore and off-shore oil drilling, and new refineries guarantees that we will have energy shortages and high energy prices.

Their professors don't make the big bucks in America. What their professors do earn, however, are huge psychological incomes in the form of power -- the power to shape the minds of their students and the power to influence their colleagues who want raises, sabbaticals. grants, promotions, and tenure. One of the best ways to influence students, colleagues, and the citizenry at large is to hire, promote, and tenure only those people who agree with you. Duke University is a case in point. Some time ago, its psychology chairman was asked in a radio interview if his department hired Republicans. He answered: "No. We don't knowingly hire them because they are stupid and we are not."

If I were a psychologist, Duke would never hire me, for I am a Republican, and a Jewish one at that. Moreover, when I was an active academic during and after the Vietnam War, I audaciously taught politically-incorrect courses: civil-military relations and the politics of national defense.

Edward Bernard Glick is a professor emeritus of political science at Temple University and the author of "Soldiers, Scholars, and Society: The Social Impact of the American Military."

Obama: Forget Eighth Grade Graduations...

I liked this item in Obama's Father's Day Speech:
You know, sometimes I'll go to an eighth-grade graduation and there's all that pomp and circumstance and gowns and flowers. And I think to myself, it's just eighth grade. To really compete, they need to graduate high school, and then they need to graduate college, and they probably need a graduate degree too. An eighth-grade education doesn't cut it today. Let's give them a handshake and tell them to get their butts back in the library!

Will Bush Lose Kandahar to Taliban Offensive?

From The Sydney Morning Herald:
THE Taliban destroyed bridges and planted mines in villages outside Kandahar, the biggest city in southern Afghanistan, residents and officials said yesterday, after hundreds of fighters swarmed into the strategically important district in an apparent push for control and preparation for battle.

More than 700 families had fled the Arghandab district 15 kilometres north-west of Kandahar, said Sardar Mohammad, a police officer at a checkpoint on the Arghandab River. "Last night the people were afraid, and families on tractors, trucks and taxis fled the area. Small bridges inside the villages have been destroyed," he said.

In response to the Taliban's move, the Afghan Army yesterday flew four planeloads of soldiers from the capital, Kabul, to Kandahar. NATO's Canadian forces have also been redeployed in preparation for possible conflict.

Fleeing villagers said NATO troops had dropped leaflets by air warning people to leave the district.

Agha Lalai Wali, an official with the government-sponsored Peace and Reconciliation Commission in Kandahar, said the Taliban had surged into the area on Sunday, setting up several checkpoints.
Heck of a job of "Peace and Reconciliation"...

Ann Althouse on John Yoo's Lousy Logic his op-ed about the Supreme Court's Guantanamo decision in today's Wall Street Journal:
Now, wait a minute. Yoo is not saying merely that the proper constitutional interpretation yields strong executive powers in the area of war. He's saying that war is different, and courts should not dare to follow their ordinary — business-as-usual — approach to constitutional interpretation. That, in fact, is an argument for judicial willfulness, because it demands that the judges look at real-world conditions, have views about what is good and bad, and adjust the meaning of the Constitution accordingly.

Do not misread me. I'm not saying whether I think the majority or the dissenters in Boumediene did a better job of constitutional interpretation. I'm also not saying whether I think any of the Justices went beyond interpretation and picked the result they believed would do the most good. I'm not even talking about whether ideas about what is good belong in proper constitutional interpretation.

I'm only saying that Yoo contradicted himself.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fred G. Hilkert, 79

Last night, I received a call from the son of my psychiatrist, Fred G. Hilkert, to let me know that his father had died suddenly. Dr. Hilkert had been helping me to deal with the death of my father. He was a a psychoanalyst with a picture of Freud in his office, as this article from Psychiatry Online noted:
The office of Fred Hilkert, M.D., contains an etching of Sigmund Freud, a 19th-century divan, and an antique Greek bell krater (a container used for mixing wine and water). The ashes of both Freud and his wife were comingled in such a krater, the Washington, D.C., psychiatrist explained to Psychiatric News. The krater symbolizes what Freud felt was his greatest discovery, the Oedipus complex, derived from the play by Sophocles, "Oedipus Rex."

Although most American psychiatrists probably do not have such tangible reminders of Freud in their offices, few would dispute that Freud's concepts are still packing a powerful punch today, 150 years after his birth, regarding the practice of psychoanalysis, the practice of psychodynamic psychotherapy, and even the practice of psychiatry in general.

"Look at the number of people who confess to crimes they never committed! Unconscious guilt, and the need to confess, we have learned directly from Freud."

Power of Unconscious Still Rules

Even if Freud contended that the Oedipus complex was his greatest discovery, American psychiatrists are more likely in 2006 to rate his unveiling of the unconscious as his most momentous contribution to psychoanalysis, psychodynamic psychotherapy, and psychiatry in general.
In our discussions of how to cope with my father's death, Dr. Hilkert encouraged me to say Kaddish, the traditional Jewish prayer for the dead--despite what I had assumed was a psychoanalytic predisposition against superstition. I have done so, and have found saying Kaddish a comfort in time of loss. Interestingly, Dr. Hilkert was not Jewish--he was a German-American raised as a Catholic who later tended towards Episcopalianism. He was active in the Psychoanalytic Society of Washington, The American Academy of Psychoanalysis, and a member of the Cosmos Club. Like my father, he had been raised in the Bronx, where he went to the Bronx High School of Science--as my father once said when I related this item, "he had to be really smart." (Dad didn't make the cut, he graduated from George Washington High School.) His license plate read: "Freude."

A Google search turned up Dr. Hilkert's article in The Psychoanalytic Review about "Midwifery of the Soul: A Holistic Perspective on Psychoanalysis. Collected Papers of Margaret Arden" that helps explain how he saw his role:
Dr. Margaret Arden is an associate member of the Independent Group in the British Psycho-Analytical Society and gravitates toward their openness to ideas from other disciplines. It is her thesis that only receptivity to new ideas can enable a necessary reformulation of Freud's ideas and free psychoanalysis from its nineteenth-century mechanistic Cartesian constrictions. Dr. Arden's goal is psychic truth, and she states it can be found in religion as well as in psychoanalysis, the analyst as midwife to insight, which in her view is symbolically equivalent to religion's enlightenment.
I am grateful to have been his patient. For me, Dr. Hilkert was a midwife to insight about my father. (He was also a good general practitioner, diagnosing a number of non-psychological medical conditions). Like my late uncle Fritz Rath (also a psychoanalyst), Dr. Hilkert asked that his body be given to science, so there won't be a funeral. However, there are plans for a memorial service Friday, June 20th at 11am at St Albans Church.

May he rest in peace.

Washington Post obituary here.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Accomplices Opens in Hollywood

It's gratifying to see that Bernard Weinraub's play, somewhat inspired by my documentary film on the subject, is scheduled to premiere in Hollywood on July 12th at the Fountain Theatre, directed by Deborah La Vine. Here's the blurb:
a true story

by Bernard Weinraub

directed by Deborah LaVine
(director of A Shayna Maidel and Kindertransport)

produced by Simon Levy and Deborah Lawlor

The true story of Hillel Kook (aka Peter Bergson).

The FBI spied on him.

The State Department wanted him deported.

Jewish leaders opposed his activities.

Yet despite this intense and sometimes frenzied opposition, firebrand activist Hillel Kook (known as Peter Bergson) succeeded in shattering the wall of silence that surrounded news about Hitler's annihilation of the Jews.

During World War II, Kook spearheaded an extraordinary campaign of public rallies, hard-hitting newspaper advertisements, and lobbying in Congress that forced America to confront the Holocaust. Whether by mobilizing hundreds of rabbis to march on Washington, or by recruiting Hollywood celebrities such as Ben Hecht, Edward G. Robinson, Paul Muni, and Eddie Cantor to support the Jewish cause, Kook displayed an uncanny ability to take a long-ignored issue and propel it to the forefront of public interest.

Veteran NY Times reporter Bernard Weinraub writes a blistering account of the fight to save millions, and the conspiracy of silence and inaction that continues to haunt us to this day.
And here's an article in Jewish Theatre News:
Weinraub was a political reporter based in Washington D.C. when he was assigned to cover a documentary called Who Shall Live and Who Shall Die? by the young filmmaker Laurence Jarvik. "I became personally interested in the story," he explains. "Some of the men who had been in Bergson's group were living in New York at the time and I began interviewing them, but I wasn't sure where I would go with it. Then I came to L.A. years later and took a playwriting course at UCLA. It was taught by The Fountain Theatre's Simon Levy, and there I wrote the first scene of what was to become The Accomplices."

The finished play won a Stellar Network award, which led to its premiere in New York by The New Group in March, 2007 and a Drama Desk Award nomination for Best New Play. It had its second production at the GableStage at the Biltmore in Coral Gables, Florida. "[Weinraub] shows the makings of a forceful political scribe," wrote Daily Variety, noting the "unwavering intelligence" of The Accomplices. "This is a story that needs to be told, and Weinraub does so with moving clarity," agreed Time Out New York. Said the Jerusalem Post, "[Weinraub's] riveting play has the ability to tell this story to an audience that may never crack open a history book. In resurrecting this confrontation for the stage, he has tapped into a message that is as timely as it is dramatic."

The cast of The Accomplices includes Steven Schub as Peter Bergson; William Dennis Hurley as fellow Zionist Samuel Merlin; James Harper as FDR; Brian Carpenter as Breckinridge Long; Gregory G. Giles as FDR advisor Sam Rosenman; Dennis Gersten as playwright and screenwriter Ben Hecht; and Peter Henry Schroeder as Rabbi Wise. Also in the cast are Cheryl Dooley, Kirsten Kollender, Stephen Marshall and Donne McRae.
There's more about it in this Playbill article. You can buy tickets to opening night on the Fountain Theatre website--$28.00...

Friday, June 13, 2008

Believe it or Not: Iran Supplies Oil to Israel

From The Jerusalem Post:
"I don't see any problem if Iranian oil is arriving in Israel," said Moshe Shahal, who served as energy minister from 1984 to 1990, "because it's not coming straight from Iran."

Shahal explained that once oil is on the open market, its source becomes clouded. In a sense, he said, the oil loses its nationality while retaining its quality.

"The national oil companies sell their oil to buyers who in turn sell the oil on the free market," Shahal went on. And it was entirely possible that Israel had therefore been buying oil that originated in Iran for years. "The people selling the barrels of oil never see a barrel of oil in their life, they're just making the sales," he said.

"In my time, people came to me and said we had the opportunity to buy oil from all kinds of exotic locations - including Libyan oil or Syrian oil - countries with whom we obviously don't have normal relations," said former Labor MK Shahal, now a lawyer in Tel Aviv. "I approved those purchases, because it was good oil, and it wasn't coming directly from the governments of those countries, but from private sellers on the free market."

Today, he said, "I don't believe there is a target to specifically buy oil from Iran. But if it is being purchased, it would be through these types of opportunities."

The issue arose earlier this year, when, an Israeli Web site that follows business and energy-related stories, asserted that Iranian oil was regularly reaching Israel, despite the dire state of relations between the two countries, with Teheran regularly predicting Israel's imminent demise and Israel leading the calls for greater international efforts, including wideranging trade sanctions, to thwart Iran's nuclear program. reported that the oil was being transported and purchased through one of the world's largest commercial ports, Rotterdam.

"This is well known around the world," said Moshe Shalev, the editor of EnergiaNews and the author of the article. Shalev said that after the oil is purchased through a third party, the Haifa-based oil company, Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline, stores it and then moves it to Bazan, Israel's largest oil refinery, also located in Haifa, to prepare it for commercial consumption.

Shalev cited a source with ties to Bazan as initially leaking the story. He maintained that the Eilat-Ashkelon Pipeline has Iranian ties dating back to the time of the shah.

Supreme Court Decision in Boumediene et al. v. Bush, President of the United States

I'm not a lawyer, but this 5-4 Supreme Court decision from Justice Kennedy sounds OK to me:
Our opinion does not undermine the Executive’s powers
Commander in Chief. On the contrary, the exercise of
those powers is vindicated, not eroded, when confirmed by
the Judicial Branch. Within the Constitution’s separa-
tion-of-powers structure, few exercises of judicial power
are as legitimate or as necessary as the responsibility to
hear challenges to the authority of the Executive to im-
prison a person. Some of these petitioners have been in
custody for six years with no definitive judicial determina­
tion as to the legality of their detention. Their access to
the writ is a necessity to determine the lawfulness of their
status, even if, in the end, they do not obtain the relief
they seek.

Because our Nation’s past military conflicts have been of
limited duration, it has been possible to leave the outer
boundaries of war powers undefined. If, as some fear,
terrorism continues to pose dangerous threats to us for
years to come, the Court might not have this luxury. This
result is not inevitable, however. The political branches,
consistent with their independent obligations to interpret
and uphold the Constitution, can engage in a genuine
debate about how best to preserve constitutional values
while protecting the Nation from terrorism. Cf. Hamdan,
548 U. S., at 636 (BREYER, J., concurring) (“[J]udicial
insistence upon that consultation does not weaken our
Nation’s ability to deal with danger. To the contrary, that
insistence strengthens the Nation’s ability to determine—
through democratic means—how best to do so”).

It bears repeating that our opinion does not address the
content of the law that governs petitioners’ detention.
That is a matter yet to be determined. We hold that peti­
tioners may invoke the fundamental procedural protec­
tions of habeas corpus. The laws and Constitution are
designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary
times. Liberty and security can be reconciled; and in our
system they are reconciled within the framework of the
law. The Framers decided that habeas corpus, a right of
first importance, must be a part of that framework, a part
of that law.
Whatever Bush thought he was doing in Guantanamo (which this blog has urged be shut down), the President's scheme obviously has not been working--Osama Bin Laden is still at large, the anthrax attacks have not been solved, the US is still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Americans are still being intrusively probed at airports some seven years after 9/11. Time to try something else...such as the American legal system, which worked well enough for Rudy Giuliani to clean up mob influence in New York City.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chingiz Aitmatov, 79

From the International Herald Tribune:
Chingiz Torekulovich Aitmatov was born Dec. 12, 1928 in the village of Sheker, in northwestern Kyrgyzstan's Talas region, to a family of Communist Party activists. In 1935, Aitmatov's family moved to Moscow.

Three years later his father, Torekul Aitmatov, a Kyrgyz Communist leader, was sent to a camp where he was executed as part of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's purges. His body was found 60 years later in a mass grave in northern Kyrgyzstan. That personal tragedy was reflected in a number of Aitmatov's works.

His 1986 novel "The Scaffold" was among the most widely read books of the perestroika years. The story of a defrocked priest who meets a violent death after infiltrating gangs of drug traffickers and poachers, it was filled with Biblical references and contemplation of the nature of evil.

Aitmatov "was flooded with awards, medals and state adoration but always remained honest and incorruptible," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted Russian writer Viktor Yerofeyev as saying. "He was an example for the intelligentsia of the 1970s Brezhnev era, when there was no hope that literature could maintain its innocence."

Several Soviet films were based on Aitmatov's novels, which lovingly evoked Kyrgyz folklore and color. Renowned Russian film director Andrei Konchalovski's "First Teacher" follows Aitmatov's book about Soviet authorities' battle for people's hearts and minds in remote areas of Kyrgyzstan.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Aitmatov's novels found a new audience in the West and gained popularity in Germany.

Amid the Soviet breakup, Aitmatov entered the diplomatic sphere and served as the Soviet and then Russian ambassador to Belgium from 1990 to 1993. In 1995, he became Kyrgyzstan's ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands and also represented his home country in the European Union, NATO and UNESCO.
More at

Agustin Blazquez: An Open Letter to Amnesty International

June 12, 2008

Mr. Larry Cox, Executive Director, Amnesty International USA
Guantanamo Cell Tour
Mr. Njambi Good, Campaign Director, Amnesty International USA
Denounce Torture Campaign

Dear Mr. Cox and Mr. Good

I appreciate the efforts of Amnesty International USA to expose and eliminate human rights violations. What criteria do you use to determine which cases you will work on and which you will not?

I have to question choosing anti-American terrorists held in Cuba over the overwhelming number of Cubans – most of them blacks - being held on the other side of the Guantanamo fence in conditions far worse, for a much longer period of time.

Unlike the prisoners you are supporting, the cell of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet has not be observed by outsiders, however, Dr. Biscet, - a black political prisoner – has been able in a clandestine way to get word out to the world precise measurements and details of his cell, his horrible living conditions and tortures.

How about building a mock-up of Dr Biscet’s cell to exhibit through out the U.S.?


Agustin Blazquez, President
Uncovering Cuba Educational Foundation (UCEF), a non-profit organization [501(c)(3)]

Free Mark Steyn!

Here's a link to a blog dedicated to the British Columbia's Human Rights Tribunal trial of Mark Steyn, which was covered in a strangely convoluted article on the front page of today's New York Times. Mark Steyn has his own account on his blog:

A note to our readers
Now that the first show trial is behind us, SteynOnline is going on hiatus for a while. I have to do some far-flung traveling in connection with a forthcoming project that would have been coming forth a whole lot sooner were it not for these thought-police investigations.

Thanks to everyone who's swung by these parts to read a column, enter a competition, buy a book or drop a missive to Mark's Mailbox, and in so doing helped make this last year our most successful yet. I'm especially grateful to all those who chose to express their support by buying America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It and much else during last week's farce in Vancouver. We don't have a legal defense fund and, to be honest, I far prefer it, if you want to chip in, that you get a book or a T-shirt or a mug in return. That way we all win.

However, if you are anxious to help the cause, a good way to do so is to donate to the Freedom Five - the handful of bloggers targeted by Richard Warman, the man who embodies what's gone wrong with Canadian "human rights". Please feel free to toss a buck or two the way of Ezra, Kate, Kathy, and Connie and Mark at Free Dominion. They could use some help.

In the meantime, check the Binkmeister at Free Mark Steyn! for daily updates on the campaign to restore free speech to Canada. And check in with my pals at The Corner for all the fun, frivolity and sheer despair of Campaign 2008.

See you soon,

For some background, here's an excerpt from Rich Lowry's June 10th New York Post column about Steyn's case:
The piece was obviously within respectable journalistic bounds. In fact, combining hilarity and profound social analysis, the article could be considered a sparkling model of the polemical art - not surprising, given that Steyn is one of North America's journalistic gems.

The Canadian Islamic Congress took offense. In the normal course of things, that would mean speaking or writing to counter Steyn. But not in 21st century Canada, where the old liberal rallying cry "I hate what you say, but will fight for your right to say it" no longer applies.

The country is dotted with human-rights commissions. At first, they typically heard discrimination suits against businesses. But since that didn't create much work, the commissions branched out into policing "hate" speech. Initially, they targeted neo-Nazis; then religious figures who'd condemned homosexuality; and now Maclean's and Steyn.

The new rallying cry is, "If I hate what you say, I'll accuse you of hate." The Canadian Islamic Council got the Human Rights Tribunal in British Columbia and the national Canadian Human Rights Commission (where proceedings are still pending) to agree to hear its complaint. It had to like its odds.

The national commission has never found anyone innocent in 31 years. It is set up for classic Alice-in-Wonderland "verdict first, trial later" justice: Canada's Human Rights Act defines hate speech as speech "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt." That language is so capacious and vague that to be accused is tantamount to being found guilty.
Unlike in defamation law, truth is no defense, and there's no obligation to prove harm. One of the principal investigators of the Canadian Human Rights Commission was asked in a hearing what value he puts on freedom of speech in his work, and replied, "Freedom of speech is an American concept, so I don't give it any value." Clearly.
Here's a question that I haven't seen asked anywhere: What's the position of international activist groups like Human Rights Watch regarding this case? For the Right to Free Speech--or against it?

UPDATE: I sent this email to Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), and the Committee to Protect Journalists:
Dear Press Officer:

Has Human Rights Watch issued a report on the Canadian trial of Mark Steyn in today's NY Times? There are human rights claims on both sides of the case, so I would think it would be of interest to your organization.

If not, why not?

Thank you.

Laurence Jarvik
So far, I have received only one reply, from Reporters Without Borders (RSF):
Yes Sir, we are following the case with our canadian section in Montreal. Best regards
Benoît Hervieu
Despacho Américas / Americas desk
Reporters sans frontières
47, rue Vivienne
75002 Paris - France

tél. : +33 (0) 1 44 83 84 68
fax : +33 (0) 1 45 23 11 51
e-mail :
Will keep readers posted, should any further responses come in...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Raymond Lloyd on Transforming NATO

The military and terrorist threats to democracies in the 21st century have at least three sources. The first is from rogue regimes, like Syria and Iran, which finance extra-territorial militias and terrorists. The second results from our consumerist over-dependence on totalitarian and authoritarian suppliers, manufactures from China, and oil from Saudi Arabia. It is not that those countries provide an imminent military threat, but their protégés, like North Korea and Sudan, can create regional military mayhem or provoke regional arms races. The third is from militant Islam, as opposing Sunnis and Shiites project their millennium-long rivalry onto third parties and other faiths, including Christians, Jews, Hindus and Buddhists. The solution to such problems may not be military: Sunni-Shiite rivalry, for example, may be resolved, if not in a democratic Iraq, then by communities living peacefully together in democracies which have already succeeded in separating church and state. But meanwhile any and every democracy may be threatened.

There are other threats to security, such as piracy, drug-running and human trafficking, which may best be met by collective action. Again a precedent exists, in the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), formed on 31 May 2003 among (now) 15 core democracies within and outside Nato, and with a further 60 countries cooperating on an adhoc basis, an association which exists to search ships and other transports suspected of carrying nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and materials. Other forces which a new association might foster include a Genocide Intervention Force, such as I wrote about in the paper prepared for the Nato summit in Istanbul in 2004, and downloadable from my website’s Conference Papers page; and an International Women’s Brigade, led by women now playing a significant role in many democratic armed forces, given that military rape, still perpetrated in Darfur and the eastern Congo, is recognized as a war crime.

The North Atlantic Treaty was signed in Washington in May 1949. Any new Democratic Allies Treaty Organization would have to have US participation, if not US initiative. This is partly because the US spends more than many other democracies put together on the maintenance and development of its military. It is also because the US has become the first target of the enemies of democracy, the most common antithesis to democracy now being, not communism or even totalitarianism, but envy and anti-Americanism.

A Scandal in Paris (1946)

The red envelope from Netflix last week contained a nice surprise from my own distributor's (KINO International) catalog: Douglas Sirk's A Scandal in Paris. Starring George Sanders and Akim Tamiroff as a couple of French thieves who end up running the police force--Sanders plays François Eugène Vidocq, the 19th century French commissioner of police who penned a scandalous Casanova-like memoir--it is truly a story of redemption and second chances (as David Mamet said in another context). Funny, serious, sad, and happy, Douglas Sirk combines melodrama, comedy, and social commentary in a charming tale of tragedy with a happy ending. There is also an amusing commentary on the role of art, when the two thieves pose for a church's illusration of St. George slaying the Dragon--a joke that becomes serious by the end of the picture.

I liked A Scandal in Paris even more than Rebel Without a Cause. Add it to your Netflix queue.

MacWorld on the New iPhone 3G

MacWorld's account of Steve Job's presentation at Apple's World-Wide Developer's Conference:
11:37 PT - DM: They're proud that they're doing this with better battery life. 300 hours of standby time, 2G talk time is up to 10 hours (from 8 hours); on 3G talk time, other phones have 3-3.5 hours. The iPhone has 5 hours of 3G talk time. "That's actually a very large amount of 3G talk time. We're very proud of this." Browsing is 5-6 hours of high-speed browsing. 7 hours of video and 24 hours of audio. (Small text; "All figures are 'up to').

11:38 PT - DM: And it looks like GPS is in there too. Shazam. Location services is going to be a big deal on the iphone with the 2.0 software. Right now they get data from Cell Towers and Wi-Fi, and now they get GPS (it shows up as a little blue dot). And using the GPS data they can actually do tracking. They drove down Lombard St. And they can actually track as they move using GPS. You That is pretty damn crazy. "You get the idea."

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Jonathan Kuntz on the Hollywood Fire

Jonathan Kuntz taught my American Film History course and John Ford seminar at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television. So, I was interested to see this op-ed about the Hollywood fire in yesterday's New York Times:
Among the sets that burned this week were the courthouse square from “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Back to the Future,” and a New York street from countless films and television shows. These sets themselves had been damaged and altered many times, and were mostly false fronts to begin with — so what has really been lost? The physical residue of great movie memories, no more, simulations of simulations. The studio can rebuild the sets, as they have before — now configured as much to the tour tram as to the camera — and they’ll likely be better fakes than ever.

More serious may be the loss of the circulating 35-millimeter theatrical prints. While not original masters, these are the copies made for screenings at repertory theaters, art museum retrospectives and in college classes. Universal has already canceled screenings of “Rear Window” and Howard Hawks’s “Scarface” for the U.C.L.A. film history class I teach, along with all their other titles for the indefinite future.

Universal controls a big chunk of Hollywood history. Their own prodigious output includes “All Quiet on the Western Front,” the third film to win the Oscar for best picture; classic monster series like “Frankenstein,” “The Mummy” and “The Wolfman”; the comedies of Abbott and Costello; the melodramas of Douglas Sirk; and hundreds more. In addition, through wise acquisitions in the Lew Wasserman era, Universal also owns the rights to many additional Paramount titles, including various Alfred Hitchcock classics, the Marx Brothers movies and Billy Wilder’s film noir “Double Indemnity.” Prints of many of these seem to have been destroyed.

This latest fire, I hope, will prompt Universal and its fellow majors to better preserve not just key titles like “Duck Soup,” “Dracula” or “Vertigo” — which will surely be reprinted and return to circulation — but also the other 90 percent of their inventories, the less famous and therefore more vulnerable titles that the studio may not feel justify spending thousands to save. These are exquisite samples of 20th-century American culture and deserve to always be seen in their extravagant, sensual, big-screen glory.

Friday, June 06, 2008

JTA: Israel to Bomb Iran Nukes if Diplomacy Doesn't Stop A-Bomb Development

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports that the Iranian-born (Isfahan, raised in Teheran) former Israeli Defense Minister has delivered an ultimatum:
Israel will attack Iran if international diplomacy fails to rein in Tehran's nuclear program, Shaul Mofaz said.

"If Iran presses ahead with its plan to develop nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The window of opportunity is closing," the Israeli transportation minister, a former defense chief, told Yediot Acharonot on Friday. "The sanctions are not effective. To stop the Iranian nuclear program, an attack is inevitable."
Maybe that's what Bush and Olmert were talking about in at the White House the other day?

Wikipedia on the RFK Assassination

Forty years later, here's the money quote:
Sirhan Sirhan was strongly anti-Zionist. A diary found during a search of Sirhan's home stated, "My determination to eliminate RFK is becoming more and more of an unshakable obsession. RFK must die. RFK must be killed. Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated. .... Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June 1968." It has been suggested that the date of the assassination is significant, because it was the first anniversary of the first day of the Six Day War between Israel and its Arab neighbors. When Sirhan was booked by police, they found in his pocket a newspaper article that discussed Kennedy's support for Israel. At his trial, Sirhan testified that he began to hate Kennedy after learning of Kennedy's support for Israel.
RFK's Palestinian assassin, Sirhan Sirhan, has his own Wikipedia entry here.

Did Clinton's Kazakhstan Scandal Seal Obama's Nomination?

Joshua Foust of Registan seems to think Bill Clinton's Kazakh connections helped Obama--and hurt Hillary:
Did Kazakhstan Give the Election to Obama?

That’s the running theory. The latest angry outburst from former U.S. President Bill Clinton was in response to an article in Vanity Fair magazine, detailing the Clinton’s many shady connections to backroom deals and his “intemperate manner of speaking.”

The Kazakhstan connection here is that infamous handshake Clinton arranged for Canadian mining magnate Frank Giustra with Nusultan Nazarbayev in exchange for a large donation to his NGO. The meeting between Giustra and Nazarbayev resulted in Giustra’s company getting a major stake in Uranium mining rights. Uranium appears to be at the center of Kazakhstan’s rush onto the world stage as a legitimate economic and resource player, making Clinton a lynchpin figure for the country’s further development prospects.

Granted, it is a stretch to say BoratGate (I am so so so sorry, but I couldn’t help myself) actually sank Hillary’s campaign all by itself. But it was another cog on the wheel of their Schroeder-like dealings. And shame on Bill Clinton for not having the dignity to pander to legitimate patrons, like the Saudi Royal family, or Japan.

Juan Williams on Barack Obama

From today's Wall Street Journal:
The heart of Mr. Obama's problem is that he risks being defined by Rev. Wright and Father Pfleger. Most American voters know him only as a fresh face with an Ivy League education, an outstanding credential – editor of the Harvard Law Review – an exciting speaker, and a man who stands for much-desired change. Beyond that he is a political mystery with a thin legislative record. But when voters look at his past for clues to the core of his character, they find religious leaders calling for God to damn America and concluding that America is the greatest sin against God.

To deal with this controversy effectively, Mr. Obama needs to give another speech. This time he has to admit to sins of using race for political expediency – by knowingly buying into divisive, mean messages being delivered from the pulpit. He has to say that, as a biracial young man with no community roots, attaching himself to Rev. Wright and the Trinity congregation was a shortcut to move up the ladder in the Chicago political scene. He has to call race-baiting what it is, whether it comes from a pulpit or calls itself progressive politics. And he has to challenge his supporters, especially his black base, to be honest about real problems at the heart of today's racial divide – including out-of-wedlock births, crime, drugs and a culture that devalues education while glorifying the gangster life.

Mr. Obama also has to raise the bar for how political criticism is handled in his camp. Step one is to acknowledge that not every critic is a racist. His very liberal record and his limited experience, like his association with Rev. Wright, is a fact, not the work of white racists. Just as he calls for the GOP not to engage in the politics of fear over terrorism, Mr. Obama needs to declare that he will refrain from playing the racial victim, because he understands such tactics will paralyze political debate and damage race relations.

Only by admitting to his own sins can Mr. Obama credibly claim that he has seen the promise of our country, in which Americans of all colors work together. Only then can he convince dubious white voters that he is ready to move beyond racial antagonism and be their president.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama's AIPAC Speech

The presumptive Democratic nominee spoke to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee convention yesterday, on the day he won the Presidential nomination delegate count:
You see, my great uncle had been a part of the 89th Infantry Division – the first Americans to reach a Nazi concentration camp. They liberated Ohrdruf, part of Buchenwald, on an April day in 1945. The horrors of that camp go beyond our capacity to imagine. Tens of thousands died of hunger, torture, disease, or plain murder – part of the Nazi killing machine that killed 6 million people.

When the Americans marched in, they discovered huge piles of dead bodies and starving survivors. General Eisenhower ordered Germans from the nearby town to tour the camp, so they could see what was being done in their name. He ordered American troops to tour the camp, so they could see the evil they were fighting against. He invited Congressmen and journalists to bear witness. And he ordered that photographs and films be made. Explaining his actions, Eisenhower said that he wanted to produce, "first-hand evidence of these things, if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to propaganda."

I saw some of those very images at Yad Vashem, and they never leave you. And those images just hint at the stories that survivors of the Shoah carried with them. Like Eisenhower, each of us bears witness to anyone and everyone who would deny these unspeakable crimes, or ever speak of repeating them. We must mean what we say when we speak the words: "never again."

It was just a few years after the liberation of the camps that David Ben-Gurion declared the founding of the Jewish State of Israel. We know that the establishment of Israel was just and necessary, rooted in centuries of struggle, and decades of patient work. But 60 years later, we know that we cannot relent, we cannot yield, and as President I will never compromise when it comes to Israel's security.

Not when there are still voices that deny the Holocaust. Not when there are terrorist groups and political leaders committed to Israel's destruction. Not when there are maps across the Middle East that don't even acknowledge Israel's existence, and government-funded textbooks filled with hatred toward Jews. Not when there are rockets raining down on Sderot, and Israeli children have to take a deep breath and summon uncommon courage every time they board a bus or walk to school.

I have long understood Israel's quest for peace and need for security. But never more so than during my travels there two years ago. Flying in an IDF helicopter, I saw a narrow and beautiful strip of land nestled against the Mediterranean. On the ground, I met a family who saw their house destroyed by a Katyusha Rocket. I spoke to Israeli troops who faced daily threats as they maintained security near the blue line. I talked to people who wanted nothing more simple, or elusive, than a secure future for their children.

I have been proud to be a part of a strong, bi-partisan consensus that has stood by Israel in the face of all threats. That is a commitment that both John McCain and I share, because support for Israel in this country goes beyond party. But part of our commitment must be speaking up when Israel's security is at risk, and I don't think any of us can be satisfied that America's recent foreign policy has made Israel more secure.

Hamas now controls Gaza. Hizbollah has tightened its grip on southern Lebanon, and is flexing its muscles in Beirut. Because of the war in Iraq, Iran – which always posed a greater threat to Israel than Iraq – is emboldened, and poses the greatest strategic challenge to the United States and Israel in the Middle East in a generation. Iraq is unstable, and al Qaeda has stepped up its recruitment. Israel's quest for peace with its neighbors has stalled, despite the heavy burdens borne by the Israeli people. And America is more isolated in the region, reducing our strength and jeopardizing Israel's safety.

The question is how to move forward. There are those who would continue and intensify this failed status quo, ignoring eight years of accumulated evidence that our foreign policy is dangerously flawed. And then there are those who would lay all of the problems of the Middle East at the doorstep of Israel and its supporters, as if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the root of all trouble in the region. These voices blame the Middle East's only democracy for the region's extremism. They offer the false promise that abandoning a stalwart ally is somehow the path to strength. It is not, it never has been, and it never will be.

Our alliance is based on shared interests and shared values. Those who threaten Israel threaten us. Israel has always faced these threats on the front lines. And I will bring to the White House an unshakeable commitment to Israel's security.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Danish Prime Minister Says Pakistan Bombing "An Attack Against Denmark"

From the Copenhagen Post:
One Dane has been confirmed dead in the first terror attack against the country

Monday's car bombing of the Danish Embassy in Pakistan in which as many as eight were killed, including one Danish citizen, will not affect the country's foreign policy, according to Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

'We will maintain the security and foreign policy that we have followed, and which has been approved by a majority in parliament', Rasmussen said.

'We view this as an attack against the Danish Embassy and an attack against Denmark. It is a wretched and cowardly attack.'

Although no one has yet claimed responsibility for the bombing, PET, the Danish domestic intelligence agency, is operating on the assumption that it was an act of terrorism carried out by al-Qaeda.

A team of investigators from PET, the Defence Intelligence Agency and the Foreign Ministry will now travel to Islamabad to assist the Pakistani authorities in their enquiry.

Literacy and Longing in LA

Speaking of the past coming right back at you suddenly, while I was in LA Dutton's bookstore in Brentwood closed down. It was a very good bookstore, (more here from the Huffington Post's Tom Teicholz [is this the same Teicholz I went to school with in the Riverdale section of the Bronx?]) and ended up playing a big role in my life and that of someone I know, who used to go there when we lived in Santa Monica, and every time we visited my parents.

From the press, I learned that the bookstore also features prominently in Karen Mack's novel (written with Jennifer Kaufman) Literacy and Longing in L.A. In another curious coincidence (call it fate?), Karen Mack was my first college instructor. She taught a course in dramatic literature at Santa Monica College that I attended in a special program while going to Santa Monica High School. She was a great teacher, and conveyed such enthusiasm for theatre that I ended up following that calling to the bloody end--MFA and PhD from UCLA's School of Theatre, Film and TV.

I read the book, and while it's not Shakespeare, it's a nice way to revisit locations from my youth in Brentwood, Santa Monica and West Los Angeles--sort of down memory lane. Yes, there's a Hollywood angle. And even a sort of happy ending. Good for reading on an airplane, which is where I finished it. Warning: there are a couple of explicit sex scenes that are hard to take for a former student of the author...