Commentary Magazine


Posts For: November 8, 2007

Obama Fumbles

Presidential campaigns have come to look like the Major League Baseball playoffs: drawn out, not really as competitive as the media would prefer, and loaded with filler material. Had Barack Obama simply viewed the mass-e-mailing of a photo allegedly depicting himself without his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance through this lens, perhaps this story would have joined other items in the filler graveyard.

But Obama chose to respond. “This is so irritating,” he told a crowd in Burlington, Iowa on Thursday. “My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was one or two.”

According to speech/language pathologist Dorothy Dougherty, the average infant starts babbling from the age of two to seven months, babbles with more sounds by nine months, articulates “real-sounding” words by twelve months, and should use 10-20 words regularly by eighteen months. Between the ages of two and three, children will answer questions with three-to-five word sentences, and have a vocabulary of 450 words.

Granted, like most individuals who seriously contend for the American presidency, young Obama was likely well ahead of the average infant. But his claim that he was taught how to pledge allegiance to his country while most babies are learning to say their own names is downright silly.

Read More

Presidential campaigns have come to look like the Major League Baseball playoffs: drawn out, not really as competitive as the media would prefer, and loaded with filler material. Had Barack Obama simply viewed the mass-e-mailing of a photo allegedly depicting himself without his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance through this lens, perhaps this story would have joined other items in the filler graveyard.

But Obama chose to respond. “This is so irritating,” he told a crowd in Burlington, Iowa on Thursday. “My grandfather taught me how to say the Pledge of Allegiance when I was one or two.”

According to speech/language pathologist Dorothy Dougherty, the average infant starts babbling from the age of two to seven months, babbles with more sounds by nine months, articulates “real-sounding” words by twelve months, and should use 10-20 words regularly by eighteen months. Between the ages of two and three, children will answer questions with three-to-five word sentences, and have a vocabulary of 450 words.

Granted, like most individuals who seriously contend for the American presidency, young Obama was likely well ahead of the average infant. But his claim that he was taught how to pledge allegiance to his country while most babies are learning to say their own names is downright silly.

Yet perhaps more disturbing than what Obama claims to have known as a baby is what he—and those circulating the photo in question—clearly haven’t learned as adults: the difference between the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem. A video available on CNN clearly shows that Obama’s missing hand-over-heart moment occurred during the chanting of the Star Spangled Banner. And unlike for the Pledge of Allegiance—which, as an oath, is practically always said with a hand over one’s heart—protocol during the National Anthem has always been more environment-dependent. As for the Pledge, the law states that civilians are to place their hands over their hearts and face the flag, but anyone who’s ever attended a baseball game knows that it’s most common simply to remove ones cap, stand respectfully and, if so moved, sing.

Of course, the whole issue of Barack Obama’s behavior has been generated by those who wish to insinuate that Obama is not a true patriot, with one commentator—on an Obama campaign-sponsored blog, no less—implying that “ . . .he is still a Muslim, intent on destroying America.” However, secular dissidents have shunned protocol by either turning away from the flag, or momentarily leaving during patriotic songs. Nor is this Obama’s Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf moment—the former basketball player, much unlike the non-Muslim Senator from Illinois, prayed during the National Anthem.

Obama could have made any of these obvious points in response to the circulated photo in question, if he was so bothered by it. Instead, he sought to rebut it with an embellished depiction of his youth—a campaign theme that is becoming grossly overplayed, to the extent that his official campaign bio contains more information about his upbringing than about his eight years in the Illinois State Senate. By constantly referring to his childhood—and, in this case, resorting to absurd claims about his infancy—Obama is exposing a weird political and tactical shallowness.

Read Less

More Fascinating Details from Lieberman

In the stunning speech he delivered today, which I wrote about just below, Sen. Joseph Lieberman sheds some horrifying light on one of the issues that made last week’s Democratic presidential debate so contentious — the amendment he co-sponsored in the Senate declaring the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization for the purpose of imposing economic sanctions on the group. For her vote in the affirmative, Hillary Clinton came under withering assault from her rivals for supposedly giving President Bush a green light to attack Iran militarily.

Lieberman:

The reason for [the] amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran—and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary—has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.

This charge had been corroborated by other sources….It was also consistent with nearly three decades of experience with the IRGC, which has been implicated in a range of terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies—long before the invasion of Iraq.

In light of this evidence, Senator [Jon] Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization was a no brainer. Rather than punishing Iranians indiscriminately, it would apply a set of targeted economic sanctions against the part of the Iranian regime that was responsible for the murder of our troops in Iraq….

[Indeed,] a bipartisan group of 68 senators, including several of the Democratic presidential candidates, had already signed onto a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year that asked for the IRGC’s designation along exactly the same lines as our amendment….

I was wrong….

First, several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception. On the contrary, by calling for tougher sanctions on Iran, the intention of our amendment was to offer an alternative to war.

Nonetheless, the conspiracy theories started to spread. Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it….

I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.

“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”

I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure….But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops. 

There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.

Remarkable. The full text of the speech, again, is here.

In the stunning speech he delivered today, which I wrote about just below, Sen. Joseph Lieberman sheds some horrifying light on one of the issues that made last week’s Democratic presidential debate so contentious — the amendment he co-sponsored in the Senate declaring the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization for the purpose of imposing economic sanctions on the group. For her vote in the affirmative, Hillary Clinton came under withering assault from her rivals for supposedly giving President Bush a green light to attack Iran militarily.

Lieberman:

The reason for [the] amendment was clear. In September, General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker testified before Congress about the proxy war that Iran—and in particular, the IRGC and its Quds Force subsidiary—has been waging against our troops in Iraq. Specifically, General Petraeus told us that the IRGC Quds Force has been training, funding, equipping, arming, and in some cases directing Shiite extremists who are responsible for the murder of hundreds of American soldiers.

This charge had been corroborated by other sources….It was also consistent with nearly three decades of experience with the IRGC, which has been implicated in a range of terrorist attacks against the United States and our allies—long before the invasion of Iraq.

In light of this evidence, Senator [Jon] Kyl and I thought that calling for the designation of the IRGC as a terrorist organization was a no brainer. Rather than punishing Iranians indiscriminately, it would apply a set of targeted economic sanctions against the part of the Iranian regime that was responsible for the murder of our troops in Iraq….

[Indeed,] a bipartisan group of 68 senators, including several of the Democratic presidential candidates, had already signed onto a piece of legislation introduced earlier in the year that asked for the IRGC’s designation along exactly the same lines as our amendment….

I was wrong….

First, several left-wing blogs seized upon the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, offering wild conspiracy theories about how it could be used to authorize the use of military force against Iran.

These were absurd arguments. The text of our amendment contained nothing—nothing—that could be construed as a green light for an attack on Iran. To claim that it did was an act of delusion or deception. On the contrary, by calling for tougher sanctions on Iran, the intention of our amendment was to offer an alternative to war.

Nonetheless, the conspiracy theories started to spread. Although the Senate passed our amendment, 76-22, several Democrats, including some of the Democratic presidential candidates, soon began attacking it….

I asked some of my Senate colleagues who voted against our amendment: “Do you believe the evidence the military has given us about the IRGC sponsoring these attacks on our troops?” Yes, they invariably said.

“Don’t you support tougher economic sanctions against Iran?” I asked. Again, yes—no question.

So what’s the problem, I asked.

“It’s simple,” they said. “We don’t trust Bush. He’ll use this resolution as an excuse for war against Iran.”

I understand that President Bush is a divisive figure….But there is something profoundly wrong—something that should trouble all of us—when we have elected Democratic officials who seem more worried about how the Bush administration might respond to Iran’s murder of our troops, than about the fact that Iran is murdering our troops. 

There is likewise something profoundly wrong when we see candidates who are willing to pander to this politically paranoid, hyper-partisan sentiment in the Democratic base—even if it sends a message of weakness and division to the Iranian regime.

Remarkable. The full text of the speech, again, is here.

Read Less

“Running out of People to Kill”

Today’s Washington Post reports this:

The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics. “People are starting to return to their homes,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. “There’s no question about it.”

If this report is in fact true—and the Post points out that the Iraqi Red Crescent says the number of internally displaced people has increased significantly in the last year—it would be another important step in the path toward the healing of Iraqi society.

The situation in Iraq remains enormously challenging—and even if things continue to go well, it will take a long time before Iraq becomes a functioning state. At the same time, this year we have witnessed several significant developments in Iraq: a sharp drop in violence across much of the nation, al Qaeda’s taking enormous punishment, steps toward “bottom up” reconciliation, and Sunnis turning against al Qaeda and its murderous ideology. If Iraqis are beginning to return to their homes, it means we are beginning to see the positive, radiating effects of better security.

This good news should be juxtaposed with the comments made earlier this week by Representative David Obey. According to the Hill:

If violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents “are running out of people to kill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Monday. “There are fewer targets of opportunity,” Obey said in a speech to the National Press Club. Obey was responding to a question about reports touted by Republicans that security is improving in Iraq and that President Bush’s “surge” strategy is working. He stressed that military success has not led to political reconciliation.

These kinds of comments, made by a senior Democratic lawmaker, are by now perfectly predictable—but that makes them no less irresponsible. It remains stunning that critics of the war continue to deny what is true, simply because what is true is encouraging. Mr. Obey’s words embody what many of his Democratic colleagues think—and help explain why approval ratings for this Congress have sunk to new lows. Their marks are richly deserved.

Today’s Washington Post reports this:

The drop in violence caused by the U.S. troop increase in Iraq prompted refugees to begin returning to their homes, American and Iraqi officials said Wednesday. Tahsin al-Sheikhly, an Iraqi government spokesman, said 46,030 displaced Iraqis had returned last month from outside the country to their homes in the capital. He declined to comment on how the government determined those statistics. “People are starting to return to their homes,” said Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil, commander of U.S. troops in Baghdad. “There’s no question about it.”

If this report is in fact true—and the Post points out that the Iraqi Red Crescent says the number of internally displaced people has increased significantly in the last year—it would be another important step in the path toward the healing of Iraqi society.

The situation in Iraq remains enormously challenging—and even if things continue to go well, it will take a long time before Iraq becomes a functioning state. At the same time, this year we have witnessed several significant developments in Iraq: a sharp drop in violence across much of the nation, al Qaeda’s taking enormous punishment, steps toward “bottom up” reconciliation, and Sunnis turning against al Qaeda and its murderous ideology. If Iraqis are beginning to return to their homes, it means we are beginning to see the positive, radiating effects of better security.

This good news should be juxtaposed with the comments made earlier this week by Representative David Obey. According to the Hill:

If violence is decreasing in Iraq, it may be because insurgents “are running out of people to kill,” House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-Wis.) said Monday. “There are fewer targets of opportunity,” Obey said in a speech to the National Press Club. Obey was responding to a question about reports touted by Republicans that security is improving in Iraq and that President Bush’s “surge” strategy is working. He stressed that military success has not led to political reconciliation.

These kinds of comments, made by a senior Democratic lawmaker, are by now perfectly predictable—but that makes them no less irresponsible. It remains stunning that critics of the war continue to deny what is true, simply because what is true is encouraging. Mr. Obey’s words embody what many of his Democratic colleagues think—and help explain why approval ratings for this Congress have sunk to new lows. Their marks are richly deserved.

Read Less

An Unprecendented Speech by Joseph Lieberman

A lengthy excerpt of a fiery and unprecedented speech delivered today by Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Washington: 

Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush….

 

Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there.

Part of the explanation for this, I think, comes back to ideology. For all of our efforts in the 1990s to rehabilitate a strong Democratic foreign policy tradition, anti-war sentiment remains the dominant galvanizing force among a significant segment of the Democratic base.

But another reason for the Democratic flip-flop on foreign policy over the past few years is less substantive. For many Democrats, the guiding conviction in foreign policy isn’t pacifism or isolationism—it is distrust and disdain of Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular.

In this regard, the Democratic foreign policy worldview has become defined by the same reflexive, blind opposition to the President that defined Republicans in the 1990s – even when it means repudiating the very principles and policies that Democrats as a party have stood for, at our best and strongest….

Lieberman remains a Democrat in spite of the fact that he lost his state’s Democratic primary last year and won instead as an independent.

I cannot think of a speech delivered by a major figure in a political party (Lieberman was, after all, the Democratic nominee for vice president only seven years ago) as stinging about the status of his own party as this speech is. Ever. Perhaps commenters can come up with something comparable (but remember, I’m not talking about back-benchers or gadflies, but rather figures of central importance to their party).

A lengthy excerpt of a fiery and unprecedented speech delivered today by Sen. Joseph Lieberman in Washington: 

Since retaking Congress in November 2006, the top foreign policy priority of the Democratic Party has not been to expand the size of our military for the war on terror or to strengthen our democracy promotion efforts in the Middle East or to prevail in Afghanistan. It has been to pull our troops out of Iraq, to abandon the democratically-elected government there, and to hand a defeat to President Bush….

 

Even as evidence has mounted that General Petraeus’ new counterinsurgency strategy is succeeding, Democrats have remained emotionally invested in a narrative of defeat and retreat in Iraq, reluctant to acknowledge the progress we are now achieving, or even that that progress has enabled us to begin drawing down our troops there.

Part of the explanation for this, I think, comes back to ideology. For all of our efforts in the 1990s to rehabilitate a strong Democratic foreign policy tradition, anti-war sentiment remains the dominant galvanizing force among a significant segment of the Democratic base.

But another reason for the Democratic flip-flop on foreign policy over the past few years is less substantive. For many Democrats, the guiding conviction in foreign policy isn’t pacifism or isolationism—it is distrust and disdain of Republicans in general, and President Bush in particular.

In this regard, the Democratic foreign policy worldview has become defined by the same reflexive, blind opposition to the President that defined Republicans in the 1990s – even when it means repudiating the very principles and policies that Democrats as a party have stood for, at our best and strongest….

Lieberman remains a Democrat in spite of the fact that he lost his state’s Democratic primary last year and won instead as an independent.

I cannot think of a speech delivered by a major figure in a political party (Lieberman was, after all, the Democratic nominee for vice president only seven years ago) as stinging about the status of his own party as this speech is. Ever. Perhaps commenters can come up with something comparable (but remember, I’m not talking about back-benchers or gadflies, but rather figures of central importance to their party).

Read Less

Michael Scheuer Watch #11: The Danish Affair Is Not Over

A well-placed Washington source has written to me to point out that in my previous post I misunderstood an important aspect of CIA secrecy regulations. He informs me that even when the press reports about classified facts, former and present CIA officers are enjoined, under penalty of prosecution, from commenting in any way that might confirm those classified facts.

In other words, if Scheuer did talk to Politiken about the extraordinary rendition of a terrorist suspect and confirmed that the rendition occurred or provided other details, he might still be at risk for prosecution. It is necessary therefore to re-raise some questions that have still not been put to bed.  Read More

A well-placed Washington source has written to me to point out that in my previous post I misunderstood an important aspect of CIA secrecy regulations. He informs me that even when the press reports about classified facts, former and present CIA officers are enjoined, under penalty of prosecution, from commenting in any way that might confirm those classified facts.

In other words, if Scheuer did talk to Politiken about the extraordinary rendition of a terrorist suspect and confirmed that the rendition occurred or provided other details, he might still be at risk for prosecution. It is necessary therefore to re-raise some questions that have still not been put to bed. 1. Did Scheuer comment to Politiken about the rendition operation?

2. If he did, was the information he provided still classified even if details about it were previously available in the media?

Connecting the Dots is conducting an experiment in collaborative investigative journalism. So far, the experiment is reaping handsome dividends. Readers are sending in dots at a steady clip, helping us construct as accurate as possible a picture not only of the Danish Affair but also of other fascinating matters pertaining to our hero yet to be discussed.

If you can help me connect more dots, write to letters@commentarymagazine.com and put Michael Scheuer Watch in the subject line.

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here.

Read Less

Must-Read Newspaper Column of the Week

Jonathan Gurwitz, a newspaper columnist in San Antonio heretofore unknown to me, has written a splendid and focused piece that begins: “You know the situation in Iraq has improved when the U.S. military starts to receive criticism for inflating security threats.”

Jonathan Gurwitz, a newspaper columnist in San Antonio heretofore unknown to me, has written a splendid and focused piece that begins: “You know the situation in Iraq has improved when the U.S. military starts to receive criticism for inflating security threats.”

Read Less

Barack Obama’s “Mission-Critical” Assignment at the CIA

In the name of open government, the CIA continues to declassify sensitive documents at a torrid pace. From deep within the agency’s document vaults, we now have a tantalizing revelation about a candidate for the President of the United States.

Posted yesterday on the agency’s website is a copy of a letter from the CIA dated November 28, 2005, attempting to recruit Obama to take part in a covert operation under the codename: “In the Spirit of Unity and Service: Remember! Celebrate! Act!” 

As the CIA letter explained to Obama, “Our focus is on mission-critical diversity, which we believe is essential if we are to overcome the radical, and sometimes extreme, forces currently arrayed against our country.”

It is not known if Obama agreed to participate in this clandestine initiative against the radical, and sometime extreme, forces. Whatever the case, Connecting the Dots has some questions about the operation, and about the declassification process at the CIA.

Read More

In the name of open government, the CIA continues to declassify sensitive documents at a torrid pace. From deep within the agency’s document vaults, we now have a tantalizing revelation about a candidate for the President of the United States.

Posted yesterday on the agency’s website is a copy of a letter from the CIA dated November 28, 2005, attempting to recruit Obama to take part in a covert operation under the codename: “In the Spirit of Unity and Service: Remember! Celebrate! Act!” 

As the CIA letter explained to Obama, “Our focus is on mission-critical diversity, which we believe is essential if we are to overcome the radical, and sometimes extreme, forces currently arrayed against our country.”

It is not known if Obama agreed to participate in this clandestine initiative against the radical, and sometime extreme, forces. Whatever the case, Connecting the Dots has some questions about the operation, and about the declassification process at the CIA.

1. Why was this “mission-critical” affirmative-action initiative classified?

2. Why are names of officials in the CIA’s Office of Diversity Plans and Programs redacted from the letter? Are these CIA officers covert in the same sense that Valerie Plame was covert?

3. Is the decision to release such “mission-critical” information now, in the middle of Obama’s race for his party’s presidential nomination, an attempt to influence the course of American politics in violation of the CIA’s charter?

4. Most interestingly of all: why was this letter cc’ed to Hillary Rodham Clinton, another candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination? Is there a cabal in the CIA trying to help or hurt these two candidates by releasing this information now?

Read Less

Palestinians in East Jerusalem Say: Please Don’t ‘Liberate’ Us

An extraordinary admission from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem in advance of the Annapolis summit, as recounted by Ilene R. Prusher in the Christian Science Monitor:

Those feeling skittish about the city’s potential partition aren’t just Israelis – who traditionally take the position that Jerusalem should be Israel’s united capital – but also Palestinian Jerusalemites, who fear that their standard of living will fall if they come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“I don’t want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here,” says Ranya Mohammed as she does her afternoon shopping in Shuafat.

“I’ll go and live in Israel before I’ll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport,” says Mrs. Mohammed, whose husband earns a good living from doing business here. “I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I’m not ready to give up.”

Nabil Gheet, a neighborhood leader who runs a gift and kitchenware outfit in the adjacent town of Ras Khamis, also resists coming under the PA’s control.

“We have no faith in the Palestinian Authority. It has no credibility,” he says, as his afternoon customers trickle in and out. “I do not want to be ruled by Abbas’s gang,” he says, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

An extraordinary admission from Palestinians living in East Jerusalem in advance of the Annapolis summit, as recounted by Ilene R. Prusher in the Christian Science Monitor:

Those feeling skittish about the city’s potential partition aren’t just Israelis – who traditionally take the position that Jerusalem should be Israel’s united capital – but also Palestinian Jerusalemites, who fear that their standard of living will fall if they come under the control of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“I don’t want to have any part in the PA. I want the health insurance, the schools, all the things we get by living here,” says Ranya Mohammed as she does her afternoon shopping in Shuafat.

“I’ll go and live in Israel before I’ll stay here and live under the PA, even if it means taking an Israeli passport,” says Mrs. Mohammed, whose husband earns a good living from doing business here. “I have seen their suffering in the PA. We have a lot of privileges I’m not ready to give up.”

Nabil Gheet, a neighborhood leader who runs a gift and kitchenware outfit in the adjacent town of Ras Khamis, also resists coming under the PA’s control.

“We have no faith in the Palestinian Authority. It has no credibility,” he says, as his afternoon customers trickle in and out. “I do not want to be ruled by Abbas’s gang,” he says, referring to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Read Less

Rosie’s Mishegas

Earlier this week, Peter Wehner mentioned that 9/11 Truther Rosie O’Donnell might be getting a talk show on MSNBC. Alas, the deal has fallen through, ensuring that gems like the stream-of-consciousness poem below will be appearing only on her website:

msnbc
one hour
live
following keith olbermann

we were close to a deal
almost done
i let it slip in miami
causing panic on the studio end

well
what can u do

2day there is no deal
poof
my career as a pundit is over
b4 it began

just as well
i figure
everything happens for a reason
bashert—as we say

and on we go

At least she’s using Yiddish!

Earlier this week, Peter Wehner mentioned that 9/11 Truther Rosie O’Donnell might be getting a talk show on MSNBC. Alas, the deal has fallen through, ensuring that gems like the stream-of-consciousness poem below will be appearing only on her website:

msnbc
one hour
live
following keith olbermann

we were close to a deal
almost done
i let it slip in miami
causing panic on the studio end

well
what can u do

2day there is no deal
poof
my career as a pundit is over
b4 it began

just as well
i figure
everything happens for a reason
bashert—as we say

and on we go

At least she’s using Yiddish!

Read Less

Bookshelf

• I like short, opinionated books—when they’re smart. John Silber’s Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art is all these things, and it’s also stimulatingly grumpy. The subtitle gives the game away, for Architecture of the Absurd is a slashing attack on those “starchitects” whom Silber believes to be indifferent to the needs of their clients, preferring instead to build interesting-looking structures that are impossible to live or work in: “Architects are now to consider themselves descendants of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, ‘geniuses’ who by right break all laws and conventions . . . . they behave as if they owe nothing to their clients or the public beyond the gift of their genius.”

Before reading Silber’s book, I wondered whether his dislike of the buildings of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind would slop over into a broad-gauge attack on all modern art. The answer is that it does—and it doesn’t. On the one hand, Silber is identically dismissive of John Cage’s 4’33” and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, writing off both works as nonsensical exercises in aesthetic absurdity. (He’s half right.) Yet he is highly responsive to a fair amount of modern architecture, praising Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building as “stunning masterpieces.” It is postmodernism, not modernism, that draws most of his fire:

The basic problem is that Libeskind asserted the fallacy of the “iconic architects:” that a building is fundamentally like a book or sculpture or piece of music. By means of this conflation the architect is permitted to create like an author, painter, or sculptor without regard for the fact that, unlike books, sculpture, and music, which may be ignored or visited at one’s pleasure, a building is lived and worked in and must meet the needs of its users.

What gives Architecture of the Absurd its sharp edge is that Silber, who worked in his father’s architectural practice as a young man, later spent much of his adult life supervising the building program at Boston University, of which he was president from 1971 to 1996 and chancellor from 1996 to 2003. Thus he knows more than most laymen about the practical consequences of theory-driven architecture, and his indictment of its practitioners’ failings is both specific and damning. Even those who disagree with his jaundiced view of modern art will find it hard to ignore passages such as these:

Most absurdist architecture . . . has been built at the bidding of 501(c)3 corporations. CEOs and trustees of museums, symphony orchestras, and especially universities yearn to house their institutions in iconic buildings that Genius has wrought. In such institutions, decisions are made by persons who are not spending their own money, who take no personal financial risk, and who often lack the knowledge and experience in building necessary to ensure that the needs of the institution are met. They are thus often intimidated by smooth-talking, imperious architects and vulnerable to the pretentious jargon that is now the vernacular among both architects and critics.

Amen, brother.

• I like short, opinionated books—when they’re smart. John Silber’s Architecture of the Absurd: How “Genius” Disfigured a Practical Art is all these things, and it’s also stimulatingly grumpy. The subtitle gives the game away, for Architecture of the Absurd is a slashing attack on those “starchitects” whom Silber believes to be indifferent to the needs of their clients, preferring instead to build interesting-looking structures that are impossible to live or work in: “Architects are now to consider themselves descendants of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra, ‘geniuses’ who by right break all laws and conventions . . . . they behave as if they owe nothing to their clients or the public beyond the gift of their genius.”

Before reading Silber’s book, I wondered whether his dislike of the buildings of Frank Gehry and Daniel Libeskind would slop over into a broad-gauge attack on all modern art. The answer is that it does—and it doesn’t. On the one hand, Silber is identically dismissive of John Cage’s 4’33” and Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, writing off both works as nonsensical exercises in aesthetic absurdity. (He’s half right.) Yet he is highly responsive to a fair amount of modern architecture, praising Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building as “stunning masterpieces.” It is postmodernism, not modernism, that draws most of his fire:

The basic problem is that Libeskind asserted the fallacy of the “iconic architects:” that a building is fundamentally like a book or sculpture or piece of music. By means of this conflation the architect is permitted to create like an author, painter, or sculptor without regard for the fact that, unlike books, sculpture, and music, which may be ignored or visited at one’s pleasure, a building is lived and worked in and must meet the needs of its users.

What gives Architecture of the Absurd its sharp edge is that Silber, who worked in his father’s architectural practice as a young man, later spent much of his adult life supervising the building program at Boston University, of which he was president from 1971 to 1996 and chancellor from 1996 to 2003. Thus he knows more than most laymen about the practical consequences of theory-driven architecture, and his indictment of its practitioners’ failings is both specific and damning. Even those who disagree with his jaundiced view of modern art will find it hard to ignore passages such as these:

Most absurdist architecture . . . has been built at the bidding of 501(c)3 corporations. CEOs and trustees of museums, symphony orchestras, and especially universities yearn to house their institutions in iconic buildings that Genius has wrought. In such institutions, decisions are made by persons who are not spending their own money, who take no personal financial risk, and who often lack the knowledge and experience in building necessary to ensure that the needs of the institution are met. They are thus often intimidated by smooth-talking, imperious architects and vulnerable to the pretentious jargon that is now the vernacular among both architects and critics.

Amen, brother.

Read Less

Michael Scheuer Watch #10: The Cheese Danish Affair and Ron Paul

Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People – about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence – about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True – about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

Read More

Our hero has surfaced. As I predicted, he has been compelled to move from the mainstream to the margins. The latest sighting has occurred not in one of the mass-media outlets where until recently he had regularly appeared, but on a website called The Jingoist: When the Righteous Make the Wicked Quake. (The post has evidently been removed but is available here.) 

Recent articles on The Jingoist bear such titles as:

Zionists Using Holocaust to Silence People – about how the “Chief Rabbi of the Orthodox Jewish Community in Austria, Moishe Arye Friedman, believes that the ‘Zionist regime is using the Holocaust concept as a tool and weapon to silence people.’”

French President Accused of Working for Israeli Intelligence – about how  “Sarco the Sayan” (Hebrew for helper) is “one of the thousands of Jewish citizens of countries other than Israel who cooperate with [Mossad case-officers].”

New AG Nominee: Zionist Dream Come True – about how Michael Mukasey, once confirmed as Attorney General, will work “with his buds in the Senate, Schumer, Feinstein and Specter . . . to smother any attempts to seek the truth on the actual perpetrators behind 9/11” and is likely to “take his oath of office with his hand on the Torah and not the KJV Bible.”

Now that we illuminati have illuminated the stage from which our hero wishes to speak, let us turn to the substance of his comments.

Based upon a story in the Danish paper Politiken, I had raised questions about Scheuer’s role in igniting a political firestorm recently in Denmark by “disclosing” – my word – information about the CIA’s extraordinary rendition of Talat Fouad Qassem, an Egyptian extremist, who had been granted political asylum in Denmark, but was seized by the CIA while visiting Croatia, shipped to Egypt, and executed.

Among the questions I asked were whether the information involved was classified and, if it was classified, how such disclosures differed from leaks in the past by renegade CIA agent Philip Agee, and more recently, by Larry Franklin, who pleaded guilty to violations of statutes governing the improper disclosure of classified information.

On The Jingoist, our hero points out that the information in question was not classified; indeed, he shows that there had been a number of press reports detailing this episode in the past, one of them appearing in the Associated Press as far back as 1995.

Connecting the Dots, which seeks to construct as accurate as possible a picture of matters pertaining to intelligence (and other issues), will happily acknowledge that it was remiss in having raised a question about our hero to which the answer turned out to be readily available in the public domain.  Let us give Scheuer his due. He is right about this matter and Connecting the Dots was wrong in suggesting that he had done something wrong and/or illegal with regard to the Danish affair. 

But Connecting the Dots was not wrong in one thing: namely, predicting that no matter what the issue under discussion, be it Denmark or cheese Danish, our hero would inevitably bring it around to his true obsession, the state of Israel and American Jews who support the state of Israel.

On The Jingoist, he has done precisely that by arguing that I, along with “Goebbels-wannabes at the National Review, the American Thinker, and other organs of the Israel-first media” are guilty of promulgating a “Big Lie.” He goes on to explain:

Their tarting-up of the [Talat] rendition operation . . . is just part of their ongoing attempt to discredit the case and to try to convince Americans that U.S. and Israeli interests are identical, and so spying on America for Israel – and suborning American citizens to commit treason – is really an okay and even admirable activity.

In response to my suggestion that he has a habit of casting aspersions on American Jews, Scheuer responds:

I do not cast aspersions, I forthrightly damn, and pray that God damns, any American – Jew, Catholic, Evangelical, Irish, German, Hindu, hermaphrodite, thespian, or otherwise – who flogs the insane idea that American and Israeli interests are one and the same.

Let us continue connecting the dots. A man who speaks in this language, and who does so on a flagrantly anti-Semitic crackpot website, was in charge of the CIA’s efforts to counter Osama bin Laden. More recently, Scheuer has been involved with the presidential campaign of maverick Republican Ron Paul. Back in May they appeared together at the podium of the National Press Club in an event billed as an opportunity to “educate former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani on foreign policy.”

Here are several more dots to connect:

1. What does Michael Scheuer’s posting on The Jingoist tell us about him? 

2. What does it tell us about the officials at the CIA who put him in charge of countering Osama bin Laden?

3. What does it tell us about the television networks that continue to employ him as an expert consultant?

4. Is Scheuer currently an official or unofficial adviser to Ron Paul?

5. If elected, would President Paul appoint Scheuer to run the CIA?

A complete guide to other items in this Michael Scheuer Watch series can be found here

 

Read Less

Look What’s At #20 On the Times Bestseller List

War and Peace. Seriously. (It’s a new translation.)

War and Peace. Seriously. (It’s a new translation.)

Read Less




Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor to our site, you are allowed 8 free articles this month.
This is your first of 8 free articles.

If you are already a digital subscriber, log in here »

Print subscriber? For free access to the website and iPad, register here »

To subscribe, click here to see our subscription offers »

Please note this is an advertisement skip this ad
Clearly, you have a passion for ideas.
Subscribe today for unlimited digital access to the publication that shapes the minds of the people who shape our world.
Get for just
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
YOU HAVE READ OF 8 FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
FOR JUST
Welcome to Commentary Magazine.
We hope you enjoy your visit.
As a visitor, you are allowed 8 free articles.
This is your first article.
You have read of 8 free articles this month.
YOU HAVE READ 8 OF 8
FREE ARTICLES THIS MONTH.
for full access to
CommentaryMagazine.com
INCLUDES FULL ACCESS TO:
Digital subscriber?
Print subscriber? Get free access »
Call to subscribe: 1-800-829-6270
You can also subscribe
on your computer at
CommentaryMagazine.com.
LOG IN WITH YOUR
COMMENTARY MAGAZINE ID
Don't have a CommentaryMagazine.com log in?
CREATE A COMMENTARY
LOG IN ID
Enter you email address and password below. A confirmation email will be sent to the email address that you provide.