Commentary Magazine


Topic: producer

Is This the End of Land-for-Peace?

Some have noted that the situation in Egypt may mark the demise of Israel’s land-for-peace strategy. At the New York Post, Abby Wisse Schachter makes this point well, as she looks into Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt (h/t Israel Matzav):

Consider how the agreement with Egypt worked out. Because of its military success in 1967 and 1973, Israel actually had the entire Sinai Peninsula with which to bargain and that piece of land represented a massive physical buffer between the two countries. Then, after having relinquished the territory and removed hundreds of Israelis from their homes in Yamit (no they were not crazy religious “settlers”), the Israelis got a cold, even belligerent, peace with Egypt that never prevented Egypt from remaining the greatest producer of anti-semitic literature in the world. … And finally, 30 years later, the agreement still rests in the hands of one man, the dictator of Egypt. If Mubarak had been assassinated as his predecessor Sadat was, the accord might have been cancelled years ago.

It’s still far from clear how a new Egyptian government would impact the peace treaty, but, according to the Jerusalem Post, protesters in Egypt have been calling for the peace treaty to be revised by the leadership that succeeds Mubarak:

[Egyptian protester Hazan] Ahmed said he didn’t want Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel completely demolished, but for it to undergo a serious change.

“It should be remodeled. With Mubarak leaving, we know that whoever comes next will remodel the agreement.”

And, of course, any land-for-peace deal with the increasingly unstable PA would be an even bigger strategic blunder if the West Bank government ends up collapsing. Israel undoubtedly has taken note of this, and it’s sure to be factored into the negotiations with the Palestinians.

Some have noted that the situation in Egypt may mark the demise of Israel’s land-for-peace strategy. At the New York Post, Abby Wisse Schachter makes this point well, as she looks into Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt (h/t Israel Matzav):

Consider how the agreement with Egypt worked out. Because of its military success in 1967 and 1973, Israel actually had the entire Sinai Peninsula with which to bargain and that piece of land represented a massive physical buffer between the two countries. Then, after having relinquished the territory and removed hundreds of Israelis from their homes in Yamit (no they were not crazy religious “settlers”), the Israelis got a cold, even belligerent, peace with Egypt that never prevented Egypt from remaining the greatest producer of anti-semitic literature in the world. … And finally, 30 years later, the agreement still rests in the hands of one man, the dictator of Egypt. If Mubarak had been assassinated as his predecessor Sadat was, the accord might have been cancelled years ago.

It’s still far from clear how a new Egyptian government would impact the peace treaty, but, according to the Jerusalem Post, protesters in Egypt have been calling for the peace treaty to be revised by the leadership that succeeds Mubarak:

[Egyptian protester Hazan] Ahmed said he didn’t want Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel completely demolished, but for it to undergo a serious change.

“It should be remodeled. With Mubarak leaving, we know that whoever comes next will remodel the agreement.”

And, of course, any land-for-peace deal with the increasingly unstable PA would be an even bigger strategic blunder if the West Bank government ends up collapsing. Israel undoubtedly has taken note of this, and it’s sure to be factored into the negotiations with the Palestinians.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

Uh oh: Eliot Spitzer is back in the political ring, “acting as an unofficial adviser to New York’s current governor, the hapless David Paterson, whose campaign for re-election is basically in the toilet.” But not to worry, he’s going through an intermediary, an arrangement with which the shameless Spitzer “has had rather a lot of experience.”

Uh oh: Cliff May reviews the troubling trends in Iraq and efforts by Iran to ban candidates and manipulate the Iraqi elections. “It would be a cruel irony — not to mention a terrible defeat — if the sacrifices Americans have made were, in the end, to produce an Iraq dominated by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinijad [sic], enemies of Iraq, freedom, and democracy — enemies sworn to bringing about a ‘world without America.’ Why don’t Biden and Obama recognize that? And why are their critics not more vocal about the fact that they do not?”

Uh oh: ” Both the number of workers filing new applications for unemployment insurance and producer prices unexpectedly surged, dealing a setback to hopes the economy was showing a strong recovery.Initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 31,000 to a seasonally adjusted 473,000 in the week ended Feb. 13, up from an upwardly revised 442,000 the prior week, the Labor Department said.”

Uh oh: “The Treasury Department said Wednesday that the deficit for January totaled $42.63 billion. That left the total of red ink so far this budget year at $430.69 billion, 8.8 percent higher than last year when the deficit soared to an unprecedented level of $1.42 trillion. Obama, in sending Congress a new budget plan on Feb. 1, projected that this year’s deficit would hit $1.56 trillion and would remain above $1 trillion for three consecutive years. He forecast the 2011 deficit, for the budget year that begins next Oct. 1, would total $1.27 trillion.”

Uh oh (for the Obami): A new low — only 24 percent of voters think health care is the most likely achievement for Obama.

Uh oh: Evan Bayh is going to lose his halo in the mainstream media. “Sen. Evan Bayh is throwing a wrench in the works of a signature administration initiative, expressing reservations about the plan for the government to eliminate private-sector middlemen and make student loans directly.” Translation: he’s against a government takeover of student loans.

Uh oh: Michael Bennet’s embrace of the public option and reconciliation isn’t playing well back home in Colorado: “Most Americans want Congress to start over on health care reform, but it seems Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet would rather jam it down our throats. Ignoring the message that voters sent in Massachusetts, and shedding any notion that he intends to be a moderate Democrat, Bennet is leading a pack of liberal senators who want to push through health-care reform using a process known as reconciliation. How is it possible that Sen. Bennet, yet to receive one vote from a Coloradan, has such a tin ear for what most Coloradans and Americans want?” Colorado is already rated a “toss-up” (subscription required), but recent polling had Bennet down by double digits.

Uh oh (for the Left): Politico runs a forum entitled “Liberals( progressives) are they finished?” Hard to say any major political movement is ever “finished,” but it isn’t a healthy sign when you have to ask.

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Re: Obama Takes Aim

The released Obama budget contains many new taxes, including the proposed hike in 2011 of individual tax rates as the Bush tax cuts expire. Just last week at the State of the Union, Obama was bragging that he hadn’t raised taxes on anyone. Well, that’s changing fast. There is the $122 billion in higher taxes from “international tax enforcement and reform.” And the president is proposing to repeal several tax preferences for fossil fuels, raising taxes by $39 billion over 10 years. He also proposes to reinstate Superfund taxes ($20 billion), tax carried interest as ordinary income ($24 billion), modify the cellulosic biofuel producer credit ($24 billion), and repeal last-in-first-out accounting ($59 billion).

But, as John points out, perhaps most shocking is the administration’s revival of an idea panned last year: limiting charitable deductions for upper-income earners. The Orthodox Union, for one, objects, releasing a statement that reads in part:

The President proposes that taxpayers earning more than $250,000 will have their ability to deduct contributions to charities reduced from a rate of 35% to a rate of 28%. (Thus, for example, a person making a $10,000 contribution to a charity would, under the Obama proposal, receive a tax deduction of $2800, as opposed to $3500.) The Administration claims that the current tax deductibility is a disparity that this budget will remedy.

Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, issued the following statement:

The Orthodox Union, like so many in America’s nonprofit sector, is gravely concerned over President Obama’s budget proposal to reduce the rate of deductibility for charitable contributions. Even in good economic times, a proposal such as the one put forth in the President’s budget would adversely affect America’s charities. In these distressed times, in which charities are serving more people’s needs while at the same time already suffering a dramatic downturn in donations, the proposal to reduce the rate of tax deductibility for contributions is a recipe for disastrous displacements and cuts in much-needed non-profit sector institutions and services.

It is hard to imagine this proposal will fare any better than it did last year, when it faced a firestorm of bipartisan opposition. It is a measure of just how impervious the administration is to public opinion and political realities that it would seek to recycle an idea this bad. And this once again suggests that the Obami will no longer be in the driver’s seat on legislation. Really, what lawmaker is going to vote to take a bite out of charities when the unemployment rate is in double digits?

The released Obama budget contains many new taxes, including the proposed hike in 2011 of individual tax rates as the Bush tax cuts expire. Just last week at the State of the Union, Obama was bragging that he hadn’t raised taxes on anyone. Well, that’s changing fast. There is the $122 billion in higher taxes from “international tax enforcement and reform.” And the president is proposing to repeal several tax preferences for fossil fuels, raising taxes by $39 billion over 10 years. He also proposes to reinstate Superfund taxes ($20 billion), tax carried interest as ordinary income ($24 billion), modify the cellulosic biofuel producer credit ($24 billion), and repeal last-in-first-out accounting ($59 billion).

But, as John points out, perhaps most shocking is the administration’s revival of an idea panned last year: limiting charitable deductions for upper-income earners. The Orthodox Union, for one, objects, releasing a statement that reads in part:

The President proposes that taxpayers earning more than $250,000 will have their ability to deduct contributions to charities reduced from a rate of 35% to a rate of 28%. (Thus, for example, a person making a $10,000 contribution to a charity would, under the Obama proposal, receive a tax deduction of $2800, as opposed to $3500.) The Administration claims that the current tax deductibility is a disparity that this budget will remedy.

Nathan Diament, director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, issued the following statement:

The Orthodox Union, like so many in America’s nonprofit sector, is gravely concerned over President Obama’s budget proposal to reduce the rate of deductibility for charitable contributions. Even in good economic times, a proposal such as the one put forth in the President’s budget would adversely affect America’s charities. In these distressed times, in which charities are serving more people’s needs while at the same time already suffering a dramatic downturn in donations, the proposal to reduce the rate of tax deductibility for contributions is a recipe for disastrous displacements and cuts in much-needed non-profit sector institutions and services.

It is hard to imagine this proposal will fare any better than it did last year, when it faced a firestorm of bipartisan opposition. It is a measure of just how impervious the administration is to public opinion and political realities that it would seek to recycle an idea this bad. And this once again suggests that the Obami will no longer be in the driver’s seat on legislation. Really, what lawmaker is going to vote to take a bite out of charities when the unemployment rate is in double digits?

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Media Double Standards

Reminders of the mainstream media’s egregious political double standard vis-à-vis liberals and conservatives come on an almost daily basis. The latest is this week’s New York magazine, the cover of which features a head shot of John McCain smack in the middle of a bulls-eye target, accompanied by this charming teaser copy: “Target: Bush-Backing, Surge-Loving, Economically Clueless Geezer.”

Just try to imagine the frenzy of outrage that would ensue if a right-wing journal were to put on its cover Barack Obama’s face in a bulls-eye, along with the words “Target: Jeremiah Wright-Backing, Surrender-Loving, Foreign Policy-Clueless Slickster.”

The liberal blogosphere would suffer a nuclear meltdown and publications like…well, like New York would immediately commission articles on such an incendiary, and potentially tragic, choice of words and imagery and what it says about the scary intolerance–the “bitterness,” if you will–of Red-State America. Meanwhile, the New York Times would torture readers with a numbing slew of front-page news and “news analysis” pieces (think Augusta National Golf Club circa 2002-2003) on American bigotry, Republican sleaziness, and the approaching racial apocalypse.

But what about Obama’s condescending remarks on middle-class, small-town voters and their values? His words are a precise reflection of what liberal elitists have been thinking and saying for decades (with relative impunity in the private sector but at great cost during presidential campaigns). Yet similarly demeaning generalizations about subgroups on liberals’ endangered species list invariably result in orgies of self-righteous denunciation.

There’s something in the liberal mindset that causes otherwise intelligent and rational people to view small towns and their residents with inordinate fear and loathing. It’s why Hollywood, the epicenter of pop-culture liberalism, has long portrayed “townies” in a sinister light and often in need of help provided by their big-city superiors. In his 1979 book The View From Sunset Boulevard, Ben Stein devoted a chapter to “Small Towns on Television.” While a few of the writers and producers Stein interviewed had some positive things to say about small towns, the general attitude was highly negative and derogatory. “There are a lot of dumb, violent people in small towns,” declared the producer Garry Marshall (he of such brainy fare as “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” and “Joanie Loves Chachi”). One unnamed producer told Stein that small towns are “the kinds of places where the Ku Klux Klan could grow today . . . right now.” Asked whether she saw small towns as “frightening,” the late producer Meta Rosenberg “at first said ‘No,’ and then added, ‘Jesus, they did vote for Nixon.’”

Indeed they did. As, in 1972, did the majority of Americans in 49 of 50 states. Twelve years later, Ronald Reagan, another Republican reviled by the Left, scored another 49-to-1 knockout (with Minnesota taking Massachusetts’s place as the lone entry in the losing column.) But in the eyes of liberal elitists, unless we pull the Democratic lever, we’re all bitter small-town Americans.

Reminders of the mainstream media’s egregious political double standard vis-à-vis liberals and conservatives come on an almost daily basis. The latest is this week’s New York magazine, the cover of which features a head shot of John McCain smack in the middle of a bulls-eye target, accompanied by this charming teaser copy: “Target: Bush-Backing, Surge-Loving, Economically Clueless Geezer.”

Just try to imagine the frenzy of outrage that would ensue if a right-wing journal were to put on its cover Barack Obama’s face in a bulls-eye, along with the words “Target: Jeremiah Wright-Backing, Surrender-Loving, Foreign Policy-Clueless Slickster.”

The liberal blogosphere would suffer a nuclear meltdown and publications like…well, like New York would immediately commission articles on such an incendiary, and potentially tragic, choice of words and imagery and what it says about the scary intolerance–the “bitterness,” if you will–of Red-State America. Meanwhile, the New York Times would torture readers with a numbing slew of front-page news and “news analysis” pieces (think Augusta National Golf Club circa 2002-2003) on American bigotry, Republican sleaziness, and the approaching racial apocalypse.

But what about Obama’s condescending remarks on middle-class, small-town voters and their values? His words are a precise reflection of what liberal elitists have been thinking and saying for decades (with relative impunity in the private sector but at great cost during presidential campaigns). Yet similarly demeaning generalizations about subgroups on liberals’ endangered species list invariably result in orgies of self-righteous denunciation.

There’s something in the liberal mindset that causes otherwise intelligent and rational people to view small towns and their residents with inordinate fear and loathing. It’s why Hollywood, the epicenter of pop-culture liberalism, has long portrayed “townies” in a sinister light and often in need of help provided by their big-city superiors. In his 1979 book The View From Sunset Boulevard, Ben Stein devoted a chapter to “Small Towns on Television.” While a few of the writers and producers Stein interviewed had some positive things to say about small towns, the general attitude was highly negative and derogatory. “There are a lot of dumb, violent people in small towns,” declared the producer Garry Marshall (he of such brainy fare as “Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Mork & Mindy,” and “Joanie Loves Chachi”). One unnamed producer told Stein that small towns are “the kinds of places where the Ku Klux Klan could grow today . . . right now.” Asked whether she saw small towns as “frightening,” the late producer Meta Rosenberg “at first said ‘No,’ and then added, ‘Jesus, they did vote for Nixon.’”

Indeed they did. As, in 1972, did the majority of Americans in 49 of 50 states. Twelve years later, Ronald Reagan, another Republican reviled by the Left, scored another 49-to-1 knockout (with Minnesota taking Massachusetts’s place as the lone entry in the losing column.) But in the eyes of liberal elitists, unless we pull the Democratic lever, we’re all bitter small-town Americans.

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The Moderate Supermajority

My CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.

First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.

Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.

I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims — aside from secular terror-supporters — too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists.

More than one fourth of the population of Lebanon demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on March 14, 2005, and stood against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis that has been sabotaging their country for decades. When I lived in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Beirut, the overwhelming majority of my neighbors belonged to that movement. The international media gave them lots of exposure, but moderate, liberal, secular, and mainstream conservative Muslims elsewhere rarely get any coverage. They are almost invisible from a distance, but it isn’t their fault.

Journalists tend to ignore moderate Muslims, not because of liberal bias or racism, but because sensationalism sells. At least they think that’s what sells.

And reporters often assume extremists are mainstream and “authentic” when they are not. Somehow, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been designated the voice of American Muslims. But CAIR is, frankly, an Islamic wingnut organization with a minuscule membership that has declined 90 percent since September 11, 2001. (More people read my medium-sized blog every day than are members of CAIR.)

The coalition of Islamist parties in Pakistan got three percent of the vote in the recent election. Pakistan’s radicals have made a real mess of the place, but they can’t get any more traction at the polls than Ralph Nader can manage in the United States.

Riots in the wake of the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad was one of the most pathetic “activist” spectacles I’ve ever seen, but the press coverage blew the whole thing way out of proportion. The same gaggle of the perpetually outraged have been photographed over and over again, like the bussed-in and coerced Saddam Hussein “supporters” at rallies in the old Iraq who vanished the instant television cameras stopped rolling. Take a look at the excellent 2003 film Live from Baghdad, written by CNN producer Robert Weiner, and you will see a dramatization of this stunt for yourself.

Last July in Slate Christopher Hitchens busted his colleagues. “I have actually seen some of these demonstrations,” he wrote, “most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn’t be if there was a big, surging mob involved.”

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has been quoted in tens of thousands of articles, but hardly any journalists have ever mentioned, let alone profiled, Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini, the liberal Lebanese cleric who outranks Nasrallah in the Shia religious hierarchy and is an implacable foe of both Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Every suicide and car bomber in Iraq gets at least a passing mention in newspapers all over the world while far fewer reporters have ever told their readers about the extraordinary anti-jihadist convulsion that swept the entire populations of Fallujah and Ramadi last year.

Almost no mention is given to the Kurds of Iraq who are just as Islamic as the Arabs in that country, and who purged Islamists root and branch from every inch of their autonomous region. “We will shoot them or break their bones on sight,” one Kurdish government official told me. More people have been murdered by Islamists in Spain than in their region of Iraq in the last five years. Such people can hardly be thought of as passive.

Let us also not forget the mass demonstrations and street battles with government thugs that have been ongoing all over Iran for several years now.

There is, I suppose, a dim awareness that the world’s newest country – Kosovo – has a Muslim majority. But who knows that the Kosovar Albanians are perhaps the most staunchly pro-American people in all of Europe, that they chose the Catholic Mother Theresa as their national symbol, that there was a cultural-wide protection of Jews during the Holocaust? Their leaders told Wahhabi officials from Saudi Arabia to get stuffed when help was offered during their war with the genocidal Milosovic regime in Belgrade.

Radical Islamists are more densely found in parts of the Arab world than most other places, but Arab countries as diverse as Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are nearly Islamist-free. “Nothing Exploded in Tunis or Dubai Today” isn’t a headline, but I think it’s safe to infer from the utter dearth of sensationalist stories from such places that radical Islamism there isn’t much of a problem. It isn’t exactly clear to me what more the people in those countries ought to be doing. I have met hundreds of brave Iraqis who joined the police force and the army so they can pick up rifles and face the Islamists, but the moderate Muslims of countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mali, and Oman have few resident radicals to stand up against.

There certainly were radicals in Algeria. 150,000 people were killed there during the Salafist insurgency during the 1990s, and the government, military, police, and civilian watch groups have since all but annihilated the jihadists.

The world could use more moderate Muslims who push back hard against the Islamists, but huge numbers already do wherever it is necessary and possible. So far with the exception of Gaza, mainstream Muslims everywhere in the world risk arrest, torture, and death while resisting Islamist governments and insurgencies whenever they arise.

My CONTENTIONS colleague Abe Greenwald takes a gloomy view of a new Gallup survey that shows 93 percent of the world’s Muslims are moderates. “We need to find out from one billion rational human beings why they largely refuse to stand up for humanity and dignity instead of cowering in the face of fascist thugs,” he wrote.

First of all, I’d like to agree with Abe’s point that even this sunny survey suggests we still have a serious problem. If seven percent of the world’s Muslims are radical, we’re talking about 91 million people. That’s 65 times the population of Gaza, and three and a half times the size of Iraq. One Gaza is headache enough, and it only took 19 individuals to destroy the World Trade Center, punch a hole in the Pentagon, and kill 3,000 people.

Some of the 93 percent supermajority support militia parties such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the West Bank’s Fatah. So while they may be religious moderates, they certainly aren’t politically moderate.

I’m less inclined than Abe to give the remaining Muslims — aside from secular terror-supporters — too hard a time. I work in the Middle East, and I used to live there. I meet moderate Muslims every day who detest al Qaeda and their non-violent Wahhabi counterparts. I know they’re the overwhelming majority, and a significant number are hardly inert in the face of fascists.

More than one fourth of the population of Lebanon demonstrated in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on March 14, 2005, and stood against the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis that has been sabotaging their country for decades. When I lived in a Sunni Muslim neighborhood of Beirut, the overwhelming majority of my neighbors belonged to that movement. The international media gave them lots of exposure, but moderate, liberal, secular, and mainstream conservative Muslims elsewhere rarely get any coverage. They are almost invisible from a distance, but it isn’t their fault.

Journalists tend to ignore moderate Muslims, not because of liberal bias or racism, but because sensationalism sells. At least they think that’s what sells.

And reporters often assume extremists are mainstream and “authentic” when they are not. Somehow, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been designated the voice of American Muslims. But CAIR is, frankly, an Islamic wingnut organization with a minuscule membership that has declined 90 percent since September 11, 2001. (More people read my medium-sized blog every day than are members of CAIR.)

The coalition of Islamist parties in Pakistan got three percent of the vote in the recent election. Pakistan’s radicals have made a real mess of the place, but they can’t get any more traction at the polls than Ralph Nader can manage in the United States.

Riots in the wake of the publication of Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Mohammad was one of the most pathetic “activist” spectacles I’ve ever seen, but the press coverage blew the whole thing way out of proportion. The same gaggle of the perpetually outraged have been photographed over and over again, like the bussed-in and coerced Saddam Hussein “supporters” at rallies in the old Iraq who vanished the instant television cameras stopped rolling. Take a look at the excellent 2003 film Live from Baghdad, written by CNN producer Robert Weiner, and you will see a dramatization of this stunt for yourself.

Last July in Slate Christopher Hitchens busted his colleagues. “I have actually seen some of these demonstrations,” he wrote, “most recently in Islamabad, and all I would do if I were a news editor is ask my camera team to take several steps back from the shot. We could then see a few dozen gesticulating men (very few women for some reason), their mustaches writhing as they scatter lighter fluid on a book or a flag or a hastily made effigy. Around them, a two-deep encirclement of camera crews. When the lights are turned off, the little gang disperses. And you may have noticed that the camera is always steady and in close-up on the flames, which it wouldn’t be if there was a big, surging mob involved.”

Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah has been quoted in tens of thousands of articles, but hardly any journalists have ever mentioned, let alone profiled, Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini, the liberal Lebanese cleric who outranks Nasrallah in the Shia religious hierarchy and is an implacable foe of both Hezbollah and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Every suicide and car bomber in Iraq gets at least a passing mention in newspapers all over the world while far fewer reporters have ever told their readers about the extraordinary anti-jihadist convulsion that swept the entire populations of Fallujah and Ramadi last year.

Almost no mention is given to the Kurds of Iraq who are just as Islamic as the Arabs in that country, and who purged Islamists root and branch from every inch of their autonomous region. “We will shoot them or break their bones on sight,” one Kurdish government official told me. More people have been murdered by Islamists in Spain than in their region of Iraq in the last five years. Such people can hardly be thought of as passive.

Let us also not forget the mass demonstrations and street battles with government thugs that have been ongoing all over Iran for several years now.

There is, I suppose, a dim awareness that the world’s newest country – Kosovo – has a Muslim majority. But who knows that the Kosovar Albanians are perhaps the most staunchly pro-American people in all of Europe, that they chose the Catholic Mother Theresa as their national symbol, that there was a cultural-wide protection of Jews during the Holocaust? Their leaders told Wahhabi officials from Saudi Arabia to get stuffed when help was offered during their war with the genocidal Milosovic regime in Belgrade.

Radical Islamists are more densely found in parts of the Arab world than most other places, but Arab countries as diverse as Tunisia and the United Arab Emirates are nearly Islamist-free. “Nothing Exploded in Tunis or Dubai Today” isn’t a headline, but I think it’s safe to infer from the utter dearth of sensationalist stories from such places that radical Islamism there isn’t much of a problem. It isn’t exactly clear to me what more the people in those countries ought to be doing. I have met hundreds of brave Iraqis who joined the police force and the army so they can pick up rifles and face the Islamists, but the moderate Muslims of countries such as Turkey, Kazakhstan, Mali, and Oman have few resident radicals to stand up against.

There certainly were radicals in Algeria. 150,000 people were killed there during the Salafist insurgency during the 1990s, and the government, military, police, and civilian watch groups have since all but annihilated the jihadists.

The world could use more moderate Muslims who push back hard against the Islamists, but huge numbers already do wherever it is necessary and possible. So far with the exception of Gaza, mainstream Muslims everywhere in the world risk arrest, torture, and death while resisting Islamist governments and insurgencies whenever they arise.

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The Elephant (or Knockoff Godzilla) in the Room

With Cloverfield, producer J.J. Abrams and director Matt Reeves clearly had no intention of seriously addressing September 11th. As Keith Uhlich said, the movie’s more or less “a first person episode of Felicity interrupted by a humongous, pissed-off crustacean!” Serious political commentary was never the point.

And that’s fine. Watching WB-network-ready downtown hipsters get crushed by humongous monsters is every American moviegoer’s God-given right, or something like that. But the problem is that the film tries to have it both ways. So, despite the film’s political apathy (it’s more concerned with girl troubles than international affairs), we get shots that are clearly meant to invoke the terror and panic of that day’s events: buildings crash, sending walls of debris push through downtown streets; ash-covered New Yorkers walk zombie-eyed through the lower-east side; TV news reports lead with graphics declaring that the city is under attack. Yet somehow, not one of the movie’s characters mentions September 11th. Is it even remotely possible that the similarity wouldn’t occur to any of them?

It’s a cheap and, I think, telling, appropriation of the days’ events. On one hand, it doesn’t want anything to do with the reality of September 11th; on the other, it borrows the images and sensations from the day in service of what is no more (at best) than an agreeably shallow bit of entertainment. J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, it seems, are exclusively interested in the day as spectacle, for its “wow factor,” as if no one should much worry about reimagining the 9-11 as a theme-park ride and ignore the rest

With Cloverfield, producer J.J. Abrams and director Matt Reeves clearly had no intention of seriously addressing September 11th. As Keith Uhlich said, the movie’s more or less “a first person episode of Felicity interrupted by a humongous, pissed-off crustacean!” Serious political commentary was never the point.

And that’s fine. Watching WB-network-ready downtown hipsters get crushed by humongous monsters is every American moviegoer’s God-given right, or something like that. But the problem is that the film tries to have it both ways. So, despite the film’s political apathy (it’s more concerned with girl troubles than international affairs), we get shots that are clearly meant to invoke the terror and panic of that day’s events: buildings crash, sending walls of debris push through downtown streets; ash-covered New Yorkers walk zombie-eyed through the lower-east side; TV news reports lead with graphics declaring that the city is under attack. Yet somehow, not one of the movie’s characters mentions September 11th. Is it even remotely possible that the similarity wouldn’t occur to any of them?

It’s a cheap and, I think, telling, appropriation of the days’ events. On one hand, it doesn’t want anything to do with the reality of September 11th; on the other, it borrows the images and sensations from the day in service of what is no more (at best) than an agreeably shallow bit of entertainment. J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves, it seems, are exclusively interested in the day as spectacle, for its “wow factor,” as if no one should much worry about reimagining the 9-11 as a theme-park ride and ignore the rest

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CNN: The Last Name In News

I only saw a little of the Republican presidential debate last night, which featured video questions sent in through YouTube selected by CNN. There’s a lot of griping this morning about how the debate was an embarrassment and a bad night for the GOP in general because CNN chose questions that were either defiantly peculiar, beneath contempt, or freakish. I wonder if there’s a little oversensitivity at work here, because the great surprise of the first YouTube debate in September, featuring Democrats, was how substantive it was and how it forced the Democratic field to engage for the first time in discussing policy differences. That was even true about the question from the man dressed in the snowman costume.

What is notable, however, is what a hash CNN is making in this long election season of its self-described reputation as “the first name in news.” In two successive debates now, CNN has made editorial decisions that range from the bizarre to the scandalous. The bizarre conduct came in the Democratic debate in Nevada two weeks ago, which concluded with a bubbly young woman asking a vapid question about whether Hillary Clinton preferred diamonds or pearls. When that young woman came under withering assault for wasting time with something so stupid, she said she had wanted to ask about nuclear-waste removal but that a CNN producer had pushed her to come up with something lighter.

Think about that the next time someone tells you that CNN is preferable to the Fox News Channel because it is “more serious.” (Yes, for the record, I am a Fox News Channel contributor, but in this context, even MSNBC is positively Ciceronian compared to CNN.)

 The scandalous aspect last night is that three Democratic operatives were allowed to pose as “unaffiliated voters” asking questions specifically designed to embarrass the entire Republican party, not just the candidates on stage. Given the fact that it took bloggers all of 12 seconds to figure this out, one has to ask how on earth CNN producers didn’t think to do the elementary spade work of simply Googling the names of the questioners to ensure they met the “unaffiliated voter” standard CNN and YouTube had set out.

It’s easy to see why CNN’s producers liked their questions. It’s because those questions echoed the partisan prejudices of CNN producers. This sort of liberal media bias would have been far less of an issue if we were talking about a debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, because in those circumstances both candidates are seeking to govern all Americans, even those who don’t vote for them. But in a Republican primary debate, when it is GOP members who are trying to determine which candidate should best represent their party, an overwhelmingly Democratic institution like CNN needs to be specially conscious of the way its biases might play into question selection. If CNN had been conscious about this, and had therefore been prudent about checking out the identities and preferences of the video questioners it had selected, it would have avoided plunging itself into a days-long spiral of embarrassment about the network’s lack of professionalism, absence of care, and spiraling unseriousness.

I only saw a little of the Republican presidential debate last night, which featured video questions sent in through YouTube selected by CNN. There’s a lot of griping this morning about how the debate was an embarrassment and a bad night for the GOP in general because CNN chose questions that were either defiantly peculiar, beneath contempt, or freakish. I wonder if there’s a little oversensitivity at work here, because the great surprise of the first YouTube debate in September, featuring Democrats, was how substantive it was and how it forced the Democratic field to engage for the first time in discussing policy differences. That was even true about the question from the man dressed in the snowman costume.

What is notable, however, is what a hash CNN is making in this long election season of its self-described reputation as “the first name in news.” In two successive debates now, CNN has made editorial decisions that range from the bizarre to the scandalous. The bizarre conduct came in the Democratic debate in Nevada two weeks ago, which concluded with a bubbly young woman asking a vapid question about whether Hillary Clinton preferred diamonds or pearls. When that young woman came under withering assault for wasting time with something so stupid, she said she had wanted to ask about nuclear-waste removal but that a CNN producer had pushed her to come up with something lighter.

Think about that the next time someone tells you that CNN is preferable to the Fox News Channel because it is “more serious.” (Yes, for the record, I am a Fox News Channel contributor, but in this context, even MSNBC is positively Ciceronian compared to CNN.)

 The scandalous aspect last night is that three Democratic operatives were allowed to pose as “unaffiliated voters” asking questions specifically designed to embarrass the entire Republican party, not just the candidates on stage. Given the fact that it took bloggers all of 12 seconds to figure this out, one has to ask how on earth CNN producers didn’t think to do the elementary spade work of simply Googling the names of the questioners to ensure they met the “unaffiliated voter” standard CNN and YouTube had set out.

It’s easy to see why CNN’s producers liked their questions. It’s because those questions echoed the partisan prejudices of CNN producers. This sort of liberal media bias would have been far less of an issue if we were talking about a debate between the Democratic and Republican nominees for president, because in those circumstances both candidates are seeking to govern all Americans, even those who don’t vote for them. But in a Republican primary debate, when it is GOP members who are trying to determine which candidate should best represent their party, an overwhelmingly Democratic institution like CNN needs to be specially conscious of the way its biases might play into question selection. If CNN had been conscious about this, and had therefore been prudent about checking out the identities and preferences of the video questioners it had selected, it would have avoided plunging itself into a days-long spiral of embarrassment about the network’s lack of professionalism, absence of care, and spiraling unseriousness.

Read Less




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