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Two Filmmakers With Eyes Open

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Readers of this blog are probably aware that blogger, novelist, and filmmaker Roger Simon has not failed to understand the message stabbed to the freshly slaughtered body of Theo Van Gogh. Aside from Hollywood’s collective lack of shock and outrage over the violent act itself, why has there been so little (read none) evidence of American filmmakers recognizing that war has been declared on the free expression of ideas through film (that being just for starters)?

And we’re not talking about a need to grudgingly tolerate the freedom of people to make films bearing reprehensible ideological messages, we’re talking about a man being brutally murdered because he made a film exposing the oppression of women. You’d think this would merit even the most token expression of solidarity against the silencing of artistic and political speech from ‘progressives’ in the Hollywood film industry.

Well Roger, as far as I’m concerned, is Hollywood now. By moral default. And so is a screenwriter named Bridget Johnson. Here’s Johnson from a WSJ article that Roger links to today:

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh’s short film “Submission,” about the treatment of women in Islam, written by female Dutch parliamentarian and former Muslim Aayan Hirsi Ali, had aired in August on Dutch TV. Van Gogh was riding his bike near his home when a Muslim terrorist shot him, slashed his throat, and pinned to his body a note threatening Ms. Ali. This appears to be an organized effort, not the act of a lone nut; Dutch authorities are holding 13 suspects in the case.

After the slaying, I watched “Submission” (available online at ifilm.com) and my mind is still boggled that 11 minutes decrying violence against women incites such violence. There’ve been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don’t remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn’t see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over “Bowling for Columbine.”

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we’ve heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying.

Johnson identifies as a conservative and speaks of a growing conservative culture within Hollywood. I applaud Johnson for speaking out on this issue. But I don’t want liberal filmmakers to evade this. This is an issue that should not fall prey to the division between Left and Right.

I consider myself a liberal (though I’m still scratching my head over what the hell has happened to my liberal friends, where they have gone) and I’m still outraged that Roger Simon is the only liberal in Hollywood whose voice has been audible on the Van Gogh murder and what it portends. In light of this sort of failing on the part of liberals, I am much more comfortable in the company of conservatives like Johnson who are willing to pick up some of the core principles my comrades have left to rot. But I’m not fully content with that. It’s time for my fellow liberals to wake the hell up.

Ukraine Links

Posted by Jeremy Brown

I admit I don’t know much about what’s going on in Ukraine. As I read up on it I’ll post some links that seem useful. Here are a few to start with:

A fistful of Euros has numerous links for more information.

Pora, a student pro-democracy organization in Ukraine has a website with frequently updated information (via Harry’s Place who also have a number of posts to scroll through)

Instapundit is a good place to scroll through in search of links to people blogging this story.

If you have any links to suggest please add them in the comments.

Zeroing in on Zarqawi?

Posted by Jeremy Brown

If this is true and leads to a capture it would certainly help to set an optimistic tone for the January 30th elections:

Kirkuk – Security forces were on Tuesday focussing their hunt for Iraq’s most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on an area in north-central Iraq after receiving a tip-off, an Iraqi national guard officer said.

“We received concrete information from very reliable sources that Zarqawi was transferred today (Tuesday) to Tuz Khormatu and is heading to Baquba,” staff brigadier general Anwar Hamad Ameed, the national guard chief in the northern city of Kirkuk, told AFP.

He gave no further details.

I don’t know whether he’s a myth or a composite, but if so he is a myth and a composite responsible for some of the most horrific acts of murder it is possible to conceive of. (Hat Tip: Roger)

Autorantic Virtual Moonbat

Posted by Jeremy Brown

At Harry’s Place I found an oracle of wisdom you simply must visit: a moonbat robot. You can ask it any question about any subject. Read the FAQ’s below, but then go ask some questions:

QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Is the AVM a “he” or a “she”?

It thinks gender is a social construct, and will be extremely offended if you assign it a sex. So, go ahead and do it.

Does it matter what I type?

Not much. Other than occasionally sneering at some word or phrase it doesn’t like, the AVM largely ignores all inputs, and rants about topics at random, just like a real moonbat.

I’d have posted it here, but I don’t want to turn Michael’s blog into a whimsical funhouse, or rather, I don’t think that was my mandate.

UPDATE: Actually, what am I saying? Michael’s the one who posted a picture of Rudy Giuliani in drag just before flying off to Libya for Turkey Day. But one feels a pull to be over-formal when guesting on someone else’s blog; I think I have a small sense of how Michael felt guest blogging on Instapundit.

Michael’s Latest on Tech Central

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Check out Michael’s latest column on Tech Central Station. It’s an important subject that is not all over the blogs at the moment. This one’s about Belgium’s banning of the popular right wing political party, Vlaams Blok. Michael ties this in to the larger picture of a Europe at an uncertain crossroads, the unpopularity of discussing the growth of Islamist fundamentalism in Europe, and the dangers of a liberal society unwilling to think its way out of the false dichotomy “between left-wing fantasy and right-wing lunacy.”

Or read it and tell me how my teaser is missing the real crux of the piece. But read it.

Intercontinental Fact Check

Posted by Jeremy Brown

You’re too nice to say it so I’ll say it to myself: ‘lighten up, Brown.” Well I will. I will try to contain my peculiar brand of gloomy optimism. But by way of transition, let me share the following tidbit. Ali, who blogs at Iraq the Model, has done a little fact check on a post by Juan Cole:

I was surfing the net as usual to find out what’s happening in the world, as I rely mainly on the net instead of TV now When I came across this article by Dr Juan Cole that made me feel ashamed of myself. This man who doesn’t live in Iraq seems to know more about the history of Iraq than I do.

[...]

He also provide a link to another article by a professor of Arab studies in the university of Colombia and use it as a reference to back up his theory. What Dr. Cole was trying to tell us, as you can see in his article, is that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraq’s history as a symbol for the large rebellion/revolution against the British back in 1920. His source, Dr. Rasheedi goes as far as considering Fallujah the start point of that event and says in his article:

“To restore Iraq to their control, the British used massive air power, bombing indiscriminately. That city is now called Fallujah.”

Finally Ali remembers that yes, indeed this was the version of events he’d learned…in a film funded by Saddam Hussein:

So anyway everything looked ok and my mind regained its peace, as everything the two well-informed professors said seemed to match perfectly with what Saddam’s hired director sowed us in his movie!

So what is the version of events that is commonly understood among Iraqis of Ali’s community, and in a historical text (by a sociologist/historian named Dr. Ali Al Wardi)?

No revolution inside Fallujah, no bombing at all and not even the leading role they described for the tribes near Fallujah in the revolution that magically turned to be inside Fallujah in their posts.

Anyway, I don’t know which is worse; that the two experts in Arb world didn’t know about Dr. Al Wardi and his writings or that they knew but chose Sadam’s version of Iraq’s history!?

Thesis Question for PHD Candidates in English Lit.

Posted by Jeremy Brown

This one is chiefly for those specializing in 19th century English writers, but anyone can play:

If you can call someone a little Dickens and expect blushing and giggles, then why do things turn so ugly when you call someone a little Trollope?

Ok, that was just to prove that Michael is on vacation this week. I will now return to serious blogging. I invite your comments though.

An Assassination Would Have Been Embarrassing Too

The pride of the Chilean police and its power elite might have been chafed a tad had Bush been assassinated while visiting, so I’m pleased on their behalf that such a faux pas did not occur:

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president’s space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

In the fracas that ensued, amid a flurry of half nelsons, one Secret Service agent wound up jammed against a wall. “You’re not stopping me! You’re not stopping me! I’m with the president!” an unidentified agent can be heard yelling on videotape of the mayhem.

The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at [Secret Service shadow, Nick] Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

[...]

Marcelo Romero, a reporter with Santiago’s newspaper La Cuarta, said: “All of us journalists agree that President Bush looked like a cowboy. It was total breach of protocol. I’ve seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy.”

Also:

By Saturday night – though it had not been announced – Chile had already begun calling the guests to the dinner planned for Sunday at La Moneda, the presidential palace that was the site of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. The dispute over the dinner on Sunday centered on the question of whether the Chilean guests would be required to go through metal detectors before dining with Mr. Bush, a standard practice for the Secret Service. The Chileans told Mr. Bush’s delegation that the practice was humiliating. “Can you imagine someone like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having to submit to an inspection by gringo security agents in order to get into our own seat of government?” asked one of the disinvited Chileans, who spoke on condition that he not be identified. “That’s an affront no Chilean was going to tolerate, and Lagos had no choice but to act the way he did.”

So, no U.S. sponsored coups, no Chilean facilitated U.S. presidential assassinations, but a few bruised egos. All in all I don’t know what anyone is complaining about.

Plus, they had fried fish which I also had for dinner last night. And if the Crackerbarrel had seen fit to screen me through security, I’d have taken it in stride I think.

Learning Their Names

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has launched a website offering online access to their recently completed database of over 3 million names of Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust (via The New York Times).

It would not have been possible, of course, to gather the names of all six million Jewish victims:

The half-century effort could not identify all the six million, Mr. Shalev said. In large parts of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, no documentation was kept by the squads who shot to death entire Jewish populations of some towns or by Nazi troops who dispatched ghetto inhabitants to death camps, where they were gassed upon arrival. In Hungary, most of the lists of the 437,000 Jews rounded up by the Hungarian police and sent to Auschwitz in a period of 56 days in 1944 were never located, Mr. Shalev said.

But the opportunity to truly understand the sea of humanity that was removed from the earth but, more importantly, to be reminded that these were people, not just victims, is an incredible thing:

Mr. Roth spoke about his grandfather, Shimon Rosenwasser, who was killed at Auschwitz. Mr. Roth remembered him “as an observant Jew but also an outdoorsy type who owned a lumber business and could pick up a hatchet and cut a tree down.” He hopes his own grandchildren will learn about his grandfather from the Web site.

“These were human beings,” he said, “who lived, laughed, cursed, fought, who did the things human beings do.”

I have no specific knowledge of having lost family members to the holocaust, and I knew that my tenuous searches for people named ‘Bron’ or ‘Brunn’ or ‘Braun’ wouldn’t enlighten me, nor would searching for Levines for any trace of my mother’s side of the family. Probably no distant relatives are there waiting for me. But the exercise has been very affecting. Even if you’re not Jewish, try entering the names of Jewish people you’ve known or admired. It’s a way of reaching into this awful history and rescuing its victims from anonymity.

And it occurs to me that one way to honor the lives of the people in that database might be to learn about the lives of people still living in Darfur and see what we might be able to do. This is a good place to start.

Zeyad’s Frightening Report

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Zeyad, the Iraqi dentist who blogs from Baghdad at Healing Iraq, reports that fighting has moved into Baghdad. Zeyad finds himself at the heart of a very frightening situation and he blogs a first hand report that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up:

Fierce fighting has been going on in several areas of Baghdad for the last 4 hours. I was supposed to leave for Basrah this morning, as soon as I walked out of the front door I was face to face with ten or so hooded men dressed in black carrying Ak-47′s and RPG’s. They had set up a checkpoint right in front of our door.

[...]

We watched them from behind the door with my mother frantically trying to get us inside. There was an exchange of fire and someone was bellowing “Where are the National traitors? (referring to the National Guards) Let them come and taste this.” More shooting followed.

First, I think I can speak for all readers of this blog in saying I hope Zeyad and his family stay safe during this turmoil.

My next reaction, now that the wave of sympathetic fear has made its journey through my gut, is to zero in on the single phrase, among so many jarring phrases, that I am convinced characterizes what is going on now: ‘hooded men’.

Here in the U.S. even White northerners like myself don’t need to be reminded to be put off by the image of hooded militia running through residential neighborhoods looking for people to slaughter and terrorize.

Here is a look back at the ‘race riot’ in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921:

This happened in the racially and politically tense atmosphere of northeastern Oklahoma. The area was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity at that time.

By June 1, white mobs had invaded the segregated black part of town and destroyed the Greenwood district, known nationally as the “Black Wall Street” for its economic success. Hundreds of people were killed; dozens of businesses, 1,256 homes, many churches and a hospital were destroyed, in an area covering 35 blocks. Estimates of the dead range up to 300. After the governor declared martial law, black people were rounded up by the National Guard and put into the baseball stadium. Several black families, such as Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher’s, fled for more peaceful cities.

Contrast the target of U.S. military operations then with the targets now. Again, Zeyad:

A jet fighter was now screeching over our heads and it let off some flares apparently in an attempt to scare away the ‘Mujahideen’. They left their positions for a while and slowly people started to come out. Parents nervously dragging schoolchildren behind them and youngsters who were undecided whether to move on or return home.

And Strategy Page offers some important context on what is now going on in Iraq (via Instapundit):

American troops now control all of Fallujah and have found extensive evidence of terrorist and criminal gangs using the city as a headquarters. Evidence was found of torture chambers, and video sets used for filming the execution of kidnap victims. Moreover, the body of a woman, thought to be foreign aid executive (Care International) Margaret Hassan, was also found in Fallujah. A video of her murder was recently released by her killers, and it appears that the killing was done in Fallujah. Without Fallujah as a “safe area” for keeping hostages, killing them, and getting away with it, the terrorists have to do their dirty work in cities where there is a strong police presence, and nearby American troops. That’s what’s happening in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities right now. The gangs are trying to control neighborhoods in these cities, and are not succeeding.

There’s no denying that the current flareup in the fighting is disturbing to read about and is a horror for the people involved in it. But I don’t see how anyone can deny that this is a struggle for the advancement of Iraq’s future as a free, potentially democratic state. This is a struggle that we have every reason to hope will succeed and, I think, much justification for being cautiously optimistic about.

Nazis are from Mars, Fascist Jihadists are from Venus

Posted by Jeremy Brown

This is my first guest post on Michael’s blog so I don’t mind explaining myself a little before I tell you what the title of this post means. The first thing is that I am very much in favor of a two state Israel/Palestine solution. But to me this means two independent, democratic states, each intolerant of terrorism.

I’m no knee jerk supporter or opposer of Israel and I’m wary of Arial Sharon’s motives, but I think the security wall was a necessary measure. There is a lot that’s right with an ugly wall that helps save innocent people from being brutally murdered. What I dislike about the wall is that it has violated the 1967 borders it should have stayed within.

And I shouldn’t have to state this for the record, but I oppose fascism, terrorism, and anti-Semitism regardless of context. This gets back to the title of the post.

But first, here’s an example of anti-Semitism in one of its oldest formal manifestations: the ‘blood libel’ (an all-purpose method of demonizing an entire race or religion by spreading the idea that they sacrifice babies to drink their blood for religious rites. So this too makes context irrelevant, though blood libel seems to have endured as a form of anti-Semitism almost exclusively).

If anti-Semitic blood libel was good enough for 1st century Greece then why shouldn’t it still be happening in 21st century Westchester, NY (via Solomonia):

This Saturday (Nov. 20), a fundraiser will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, raising money to bring a Palestinian art exhibit to the New York metro area. Here’s one of the paintings from the proposed exhibit (previously shown in Houston, TX), portraying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon collecting and boiling a young Palestinian’s blood:

sharoncooking2.jpg

Also included in the exhibit would be art and text that glorifies terrorist murder:

[t]o several of the artists, the subject of the martyrs is an all-important topic. A true martyr is anyone who gives his life in service of his people, including…suicide bombers that attack Israeli civilians.

I can anticipate the objections some people will have to my characterization of this, so let me say that I have little patience for those who denigrate the Palestinian populace as a whole. But I can think of no greater insult to a nation, race, or creed than to purport to represent the soul of its culture through the words and images of its most sociopathic element. Let’s see Palestinian art that tells ugly truths, that challenges comfortable assumptions, by all means. But — does this really have to be said? — let’s please not make apologies for the murdering fascistic militants who are just as poisonous to the future of a free Palestine as they are to the future of Israel.

To continue with this notion that there is no socially redeeming form of fascist terror, no kinder gentler terrorism, I was going to share a few thoughts about the murder of Margaret Hassan and the strange things a few people are saying about her killers, but I’ve taken up a lot of real estate here already. I’ll just say that Robert Fisk is deluded to the point of dementia if he is truly trying to parse out the relative levels of compassion between one group of terrorist kidnappers and another.

Other abducted women were freed when their captors recognised their innocence.

But not Margaret Hassan, even though she spoke fluent Arabic and could explain her work to her captors in their own language.

If anyone doubted the murderous nature of the insurgents, what better way to prove their viciousness than to produce evidence of Margaret Hassan’s murder?

What more ruthless way could there be of demonstrating to the world that the US and Interim Prime Minister Iyad Alawi’s tinpot army were fighting “evil” in Fallujah and the other Iraqi cities?

At best this is a case of confusing survival strategy with journalism (in the same way that you might want to know which guard at Auschwitz was less likely to summarily shoot you than some of the others but you’d be wrong to impute compassion or human decency to such a person) and at worst it’s…well it’s classic Robert Fisk. Here’s a bit more from Norm Geras.

Programming Note

After talking about it for six months it is finally time. I’m going to Libya. And I’m leaving first thing in the morning.

Keep checking in on the blog, though. Jeremy Brown will be guest-blogging for me while I’m away. He’s one of the few people in the world whose opinions comprehensively overlap mine. He writes well. And he’s funny. So there will be plenty of fresh content here until I get back after the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Be nice to Jeremy while I’m out. Be nice to each other. And if anyone in the White House is reading this, please, if you plan to bomb Tripoli, wait until I get back. K? Thanks kindly.

UPDATE: Guest-blogger Jeremy has this to say on his site:

Well it’s Thanksgiving, a time when tens of millions of American tourists will be shlepping over to Libya with their families for yet another cookie cutter holiday festival.

See. I told you he’s funny.

Travel Writing

My worst kept secret is that I would rather write about travel than politics — although I enjoy political writing, too, or I wouldn’t bother with it. This year I finally got to do a little travel writing. And if things go my way, next year I’ll write even more.

After I returned from Tunisia a few months ago I wrote two essays about my experience. The first was about the people. The second is about the country.

That second essay was put into deep freeze because the election overshadowed practically everything else. Now that the election is over it’s finally time to publish it. So here it is: Crossing the Fossa Regia. Please read this one. I worked hard on it.

Rudy in ‘08

Okay, so a poll four years in advance isn’t worth a whole lot. But it isn’t worth nothing, so let’s look at it. Turns out Rudy Giuliani is the GOP favorite for president in 2008.

So much for the Republicans being the party of fundamentalist whackjobs. Giuliani is a blue-stater. He was a member of New York’s Republican Party and New York’s Liberal Party, but not a member of New York’s Conservative Party. When he campaigned for mayor of New York City he campaigned in drag, saying he was a Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican. (Rent Victor Victoria if you don’t get the gag.)

giuliani_in_drag.jpg

(Above: Mayor Rudy Giuliani in drag.)

I’d vote for him with pleasure, without hesitation, without apology, without feeling conflicted, and without holding my nose. He’d win, too, in a landslide. He’s a Republican (of the RINO variety) who was elected and re-elected in one of the staunchest bastions of left-wing politics in the country. Talk about your cross-over appeal. Joe Lieberman is only a bat boy in Rudy’s league.

James Dobson, Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Fallwell would finally, at long last, get the political nightmare they’ve deserved for a long time – a cosmopolitan socially liberal Republican president. I’d love to see them form their own party where they can talk to themselves about how godless, decadent, and depraved everyone else is.

Giuliani is neither red nor blue. He’s purple, like most of America. I can’t think of anyone (except perhaps for Barack Obama or John McCain) who would be better able to rally the country. Unlike George W. Bush he really is a uniter.

If he runs I will register as a Republican for the first time ever – I am still a registered Democrat – so I can vote for him in the primary. Then I’ll vote for him as president if he wins. What better way to relegate both reactionary leftists and religious right fundamentalists to the political oblivion they deserve.

Hitchens on Kissinger

Vanity Fair has finally decided to publish at least one of Christopher Hitchens’ essays online. It’s a rip-roaring barn-burner about Henry Kissinger’s complicity in Latin American fascism. (I do not use the word lightly. If the shoe fits, and in this case it does, the swaggering generals will wear it. Read the whole article if you think I’m off-base.)

Gene over at Harry’s Place says:

I expect Hitchens’s rightwing cheering section will be more subdued about this piece than they have been about his attacks on the antiwar Left. If they acknowledge it at all, that is.

Since I am not exactly a member of Hitchens’ newfound right-wing cheering section (I’ve been a fan of his for almost a decade, back when both of us were lefties) the fact that I both acknowledge and endorse his latest piece probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. But for whatever it is worth, count me as one person who is not on the left who strongly suggests you read it.

To whet your appetite, here’s a powerful preview.

Sometimes, in spite of its stolid, boring commitment to lying, a despotic regime will actually tell you all you need to know. It invents a titanic system of slave-labor camps, for example, and it gives this network of arid, landlocked isolation centers the beautiful anagram of gulag. (Adding the word “archipelago” to that piece of bureaucratic compression was the work of an aesthetic and moral genius.) The stone-faced morons who run the military junta in Burma used to call themselves slorc (State Law and Order Restoration Council), which was hardly less revealing. The Brezhnev occupation regime, imposed on the romantic city of Prague after the invasion of 1968, proclaimed its aim as “normalization”: a word eloquent enough in itself to send every writer and artist either hastening across the border or entering “internal exile.” The British colonial official who thought up the term “concentration camp” (because, after all, the discontented Boer families of South Africa needed to be “concentrated” somewhere, if only for their own good) was an innocent pioneer of this lethal and revealing euphemism. In the end, the mask will grow to fit the monstrous face that lies underneath.

A possible exception to this is the word desaparecido, which was the special new expression that was added to the bulging, ugly lexicon of terror and dictatorship in the 1970s. In English, it simply means “the one who has disappeared.” But when pronounced in Spanish it possesses, at least to my ear, a much more plaintive and musical tone. It’s as if you could hear the lost ones crying out, still. It has an awful, lingering attractiveness to it, which becomes chilly and almost pornographic when you reflect how long and how loudly they were made to scream before they were dispatched, and buried like offal or garbage.

Read the whole thing, please.

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