Attacking paper tigers

I’ve now watched two episodes of Aaron Sorkin’s new show, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Well, to be completely honest, I sort of watched two episodes, sinced I slept through most of the second.

The show has the usual Sorkin trademarks — incredibly rapid-fire dialogue, some of it clever; a camera that likes to spin and zoom; and speeches, lots of speeches. This time, the speeches meld Sorkin’s two primary concerns: studio control over show content and Evangelical Christians.

In Sorkin’s world, the studios are constantly bowing down to the Evangelical Christians and bleaching “cutting edge” content from the brilliant work done by writers and directors. Sorkin is remarkably unconcerned by the fact that the studios are business-making entities and that their obligation to their shareholders isn’t to be cutting edge, but is to appeal to the greatest number of advertisers — which means attracting, not attacking, the largest audience demographic.

In the 24 hour a day cable world, if Sorkin has something burning to say, he can find a venue. As it is, despite his attacks on the studios, NBC seems happily to have assumed the martyr’s roll of hosting a show savaging its own approach to TV (although I’m sure the network bigwigs console themselves with the thought that, since they’re hosting the show, NBC must be considered a network that doesn’t pander in the way Sorkin describes).

In any event, as Sorkin constantly flexes his puny muscles with his brave attacks on Christians, I can’t help but think of my own recent American Thinker article about the Democrats’ horror of being on the receiving end of a verbal challenge to their ideas. You see, that’s what this whole Studio 60 is about: How dare those Evangelical Christians use market power in a capitalist economy to say I’m not brilliant? Further, how dare they challenge my attack against them?

I’d be much more impressed with Sorkin’s freedom of speech positioning if, instead of attacking Evangelical Christians who, for the most part, merely huff and puff about his inanities, he’d throw in a few Mohammed jokes or perhaps have a cutting-edge joke two about burkhas, honor killings, submission, free speech riots, etc.  Attacking paper tigers is scarcely the way to make the point about freedom of speech in a dangerous world.  But, as we well know, because the Kennedys, Trumans and Roosevelts are long gone, the Democrats’ enemies of choice are always the paper tigers who won’t fight back.

Get a first life!

Mr. Bookworm came home from work yesterday quite excited. A friend had introduced him to one of those interactive online worlds, this one called Second Life. Here is how Second Life describes itself:

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely built and owned by its residents. Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by 340,465 people from around the globe. * From the moment you enter the World you’ll discover a vast digital continent, teeming with people, entertainment, experiences and opportunity. Once you’ve explored a bit, perhaps you’ll find a perfect parcel of land to build your house or business.

* You’ll also be surrounded by the Creations of your fellow residents. Because residents retain the rights to their digital creations, they can buy, sell and trade with other residents.

* The Marketplace currently supports millions of US dollars in monthly transactions. This commerce is handled with the in-world currency, the Linden dollar, which can be converted to US dollars at several thriving online currency exchanges.

It is definitely an impressive bit of computer technology. To me, though, it’s also completely pointless. Why in the world would I want the “thrill” of making an avatar dance? And so what if I amass a fortune in fake money?  I have way too much to do in my real life to fuss around aimlessly in a “second life.” However, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an extremely task oriented person. There are a few things that give me immediate pleasure — reading, ice cream, blogging. Everything else I do for a purpose. I like to play computer games, for example, but only if they involve problem solving (which is why I really liked Myst).

Really, the only thing that fascinated me about Second Life was my husband’s rationale for thinking it’s great:  you can be in a community with and meet thousands of people.  To appreciate why this is fascinating, you have to understand that, in our first life, here in reality-world, Mr. Bookworm is not at all a social person.  He finds it exhausting and overwhelming to meet new people.  What this means to me is that Second Life is really a perfect venue for shy people who crave social interaction, but can’t quite achieve that in the real world.

When moonbats converge

Al-Zawahri has emerged has the newest spokesman for the “Bush lied, people died” meme.  Frankly, if I were a major party during a time of war, I’d kind of prefer to distance myself from the enemy’s rhetoric and I’d be deeply disturbed to find that the enemy is echoing mine.  In fact, moonbats are probably proud that they’ve got their “America is losing the war” message across so convincingly, it’s now coming right from the horse’s mouth.

Iraq is not the problem — or, at least, not the only problem

Lovely, lovely writing from Jonah Goldberg [updated link that might actually work]:

Every serious analysis of the Islamic world today describes a genuine tectonic shift in a vast civilization, an upheaval that cuts across social, religious and demographic lines. This phenomenon dwarfs transient issues such as the Iraq war. Are we to believe that once-moderate and relatively secular Morocco is slipping toward extremism because we toppled Baathist Saddam Hussein? Do we believe that those mobs who burned Danish embassies in response to a cartoon wouldn’t have done so if only President Bush had gone for the 18th, 19th or 20th U.N. resolution on Iraq? Millions of young men yearning for meaning and craving outlets for their rage would have become computer programmers and dental hygienists if only Hussein’s statue still towered over central Baghdad? Would the Pope’s comments spark nothing but thoughtful and high-minded debate from the Arab street if only Al Gore or John Kerry were in office?

Iraq is the excuse du jour for jihadists. But the important factor is that these are young men looking for an excuse. If you live your life calculating that it’s a mistake to do anything that might prompt murderers and savages to act like murderers and savages, you’ve basically decided to live under their thumb and surrender your civilization in the process.

Malthus among Muslims

To switch from Malthus to Hobbes, if you want to to be depressed by communities in which life for the average citizen is nasty, short and brutish, read this rundown of late twentieth century death tolls in Muslim nations (sometimes with help from the holier than thou French and Russians).  Sadly, rather than resulting in Muslim nations seeking ways to avoid these grim statistics, it seems to have inured the more radical amongst them to the horrors of violent death.

Jennifer Loven does it again

Jennifer Loven is a lady with a reputation — one that the Power Line team has carefully documented. I’m sure she comes by her biases honestly– her husband, after all, worked for Bill Clinton and advised John Kerry during his run for office. Coming by your biases honestly, though, is a completely different thing from holding yourself out as an objective reporter for an ostensibly unbiased news agency. Of course, the reality is that there is perfect synchronicity when the rabidly anti-Bush Loven works for the equally rabidly anti-American AP.

In any event, Loven’s latest hatchet job is more subtle than her usual pieces of op-ed masquerading as news. This time, she reports on a speech Bush gave today in which he criticized the Democrats’ ability to handle the jihadist war being waged against us.

The article starts off with what actually sounds like news: Bush gave a speech criticizing the Democrats. Loven goes on to the next news point: the Democrats vehemently challenge Bush’s characterization of their ability to handle jihad. She then notes the timing of this rhetorical war: elections are a mere six weeks away. So far, so boring.

Things get interesting when Loven, predictably, drags in NIE stuff:

The war of words continued a nearly weeklong tussle by both parties over the implications of a newly revealed estimate, an analysis of terror trends put together by the nation’s top intelligence analysts in 16 spy agencies.

The document concluded that Iraq has become a “cause celebre” for jihadists worldwide, whom it said have grown in number and geographic reach. The report said the factors, such as the Iraq war, that are fueling the jihadist movement’s growth outweigh its vulnerabilities and that, if the current trend continues, risks to the U.S. interests at home and abroad will grow.

Portions of the five-month-old report were leaked over the weekend, and Bush ordered the key judgments – four of its 30 pages – declassified on Tuesday in hopes that wider availability of most conclusions would quell the criticism.

What was immediately obvious to me, but may not have been so obvious to those less news aware than I, is the fact that Loven restates the early NY Times talking points about the leaked portions of the NIE report, but ignores completely the conclusions that could be drawn from the more substantive material Bush officially released. Indeed, Loven is careful to imply that nothing in the more comprehensive and authorized release actually challenges the NY Times position: “Bush ordered the key judgmments . . . declassified on Tuesday in hopes that wider availability of most conclusions would quell the criticism.” A sentence such as that inevitably leads the reader to believe that these “hopes” were faint and unrealized.

The fact is that the report is neither an indictment nor an accolade. Instead, if one ignores political waffle, it states what it obvious to all: While the global Jihad is spreading, the US is also taking reasonable steps to deal with that spread (and there are further reasonable steps it can take, as well). This is scarcely a surprise to anyone who has been reading newspapers since 1979. The Iranian Revolution was the first salvo in the renewed jihad, and it has been gaining momentum ever since. To engage it in battle in Iraq may have accelerated its growth but, as the preceding 25 years have shown, doing nothing did not prevent its growth.

What I like about the report is the fact that it indicates that fighting Al Qaeda-led jihadism is doing something that our more passive approach never did: it’s damaging Al Qaeda. Thus, the report opens by noting that “United States-led counterterrorism efforts have seriously damaged the leadership of al-Qa’ida and disrupted its operations.” This conclusion is not altered by the fact that the report also acknowledges that Al Qaeda continues to grow and change (something it was doing before the US took it on in battle, and something that it also does in countries that have desperately been showing their bellies).

Significantly, even if one strongly disagrees with the whole concept of fighting back, rather than immediately conceding defeat (as the Democrats would have had us do), the report is pretty clear on one fact: if the Islamists believe they’re losing in Iraq, they’ll become demoralized and go away. The unstated corollary is that, if we slink away, handing them a victory, nothing will stop them.

You should read the report for yourself. Mostly, it seems to say that Al Qaeda will continue to be a problem, but that there are ways to weaken and defuse it. To me, that’s good practical information. For Jennifer Loven to write what purports to be a news article, while leaving out most of the actual news, is just one more in the list of her disgraceful practices under AP’s aegis.

UPDATEHere’s Jonah Goldberg saying what I was trying to say about the slow increase in Muslim violence (which was a pretty strong increase when you consider that this first phase culminated in 9/11), and the acceleration with the Iraq war:

If you’ve ever stood up to a bully, you know how this works. Confrontation tends to increase the chances of violence in the short term but decreases its likelihood in the long term.

As always, you’ll be giving yourself reading pleasure if you read the rest of Goldberg’s article.

Have some fun with words; maybe help win an election

Mike, at Mike’s America, has started a slogan contest for the upcoming elections. Check out what he’s posted, and start adding some comments of your own. As everyone knows, I’m no good at pithy, but I’d love to see what others come up with. This is especially true because I’ve often thought that, at least in my neck of the woods (ultra-liberal), the Democrats have excellent bumperstickers. I may not agree with their ideas, but I like how clever their slogans are.

Olbermann — the gift that just keeps giving


If you don’t get the reference in this great Day by Day cartoon, you have to read Olbermann’s latest defense of Clinton and attack on Bush. Here’s a link to the video and a transcript.

Then, read Iowahawk’s satire. The only problem with the satire is that, when you have such an over the top piece of material to work with, it’s very hard to take it anywhere further. That is, since the original speech itself reads like a satire, what’s left?

Love and marriage go together . . . like a political party

I’d heard that people who had more children were more likely to be conservative. Indeed, I think I read in Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything that this is a logical outgrowth of the fact that Dems are pro-choice, are more likely to limit the number of children they have, and are therefore voluntarily decreasing the Democratic demographic. Two USA Today articles, though, really spell out the difference between conservative value voters (usually Republicans) and liberal lifestyle voters (usually Democratic). The first is an article about how marriage and Republicanism march together:

House districts held by Republicans are full of married people. Democratic districts are stacked with people who have never married. This “marriage gap” could play a role in the Nov. 7 congressional elections. Democrats need a net gain of 15 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

• Republicans control 49 of the 50 districts with the highest rates of married people.

•Democrats represent all 50 districts that have the highest rates of adults who have never married.

The same issue of USA Today looks at the political fertility gap, too:

Republican House members overwhelmingly come from districts that have high percentages of married people and lots of children, according to a USA TODAY analysis of 2005 Census Bureau data released last month.

GOP Congress members represent 39.2 million children younger than 18, about 7 million more than Democrats. Republicans average 7,000 more children per district.

Many Democrats represent areas that have many single people and relatively few children. Democratic districts that have large numbers of children tend to be predominantly Hispanic or, to a lesser extent, African-American.

There are opinions from experts in both articles explaining these phenomena and their effects on politics. I don’t know how much I need an expert. As I noted in my first paragraph, since abortion is often (not always, but often) a bright line between people who hew Left and those who hew Right, it’s easy to see that people who have more children are less likely to support abortion and correspondingly more likely to support Republicans. Likewise, marriage is still a statement of tradition — and often one connected with having children — so that too ties in with more conservative values. People who have children also tend to look longer down the line, rather than to immediate needs and emotions, and I think that too results in a right-ward lean.

Hat tip: JL. (I don’t know if you want your full name used, JL, but you know who you are, and you have my thanks.)

Will this make a difference?

The reclusive Aga Khan, who is known for his wealth and race horses is, in fact, the spiritual leader of the Ismalis, the world’s second largest Shiite Muslim sect. He spoke to reporters recently. The NPR report is here. I assume there was more than this little bit on NPR, but it is interesting what he had to say.

The Aga Khan began by saying that the West needs to learn more about Islam. To me, that was pap. His two next points were more interesting. First, he said that the answer is pluralism. It was an incredibly vague statement, since he didn’t identify examples of countries in which a lack of pluralism is a problem, nor did he name places where pluralism would be a solution. However, to the extent that, say, America is a pluralist society, and Saudi Arabia is not, I suspect he was tactfully addressing the latter and not the former.

If I’m correct in my understanding, his second comment, which was that Governments need to face political problems, can also be understood to be directed to repressive Arab regimes. I took his vaguely worded statements to mean that, if the Arab nations would extend greater rights to their citizens and create situations that would allow for oil wealth to benefit all citizens, many of the problems we’re now facing would go away.

I think it’s especially likely that the Aga Khan was addressing these prickly dictatorships precisely because his language was so vague. Nobody is ever vague when attacking America and the West. However, if you’ve learned anything from Danish newspapers, and Berlin opera companies, and Papal ruminations, it’s that you use allusion and indirection to speak to the radicals and their regimes, not clarity and forthrightness.

Israel is finally figuring out that the media is part of the problem

Israel, which is that oddity, a free society in the Middle East, is finally figuring out that a free press is one thing, a corrupt, dishonest press another:

The Government Press Office held a meeting with heads of foreign news agencies earlier this month to protest the doctoring of photographs of the recent Lebanon war and the ongoing conflict with the Palestinians, and warned them that action could be taken against them if this practice continued, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

The director of the Government Press Office, Danny Seaman, told the Post Israel reserved the right to act against any media outlets working out of Israel if they “fail to conduct themselves in a professional manner.”

The foreign journalists’ coverage of the Lebanon war was discussed, with the meeting focused on doctored photographs used by news agencies, Seaman said.

“This was something new to the world, but we’ve seen it before,” he said. “We expect them to take precautions in the future. If they are not taking the necessary measures to maintain professional standards then we reserve the right to take action against their offices in Israel.”

The GPO cannot act directly against foreign press services, but it can make recommendations to the Communications, Foreign and Defense ministries, Seaman said.

The only action taken by the government against the news agencies during the recent war was to send complaints to their main offices.

Although the news agencies, so free with other’s leaks, shut down their representatives entirely from talking about the meeting, an AP spokesman nevertheless freely patted his organization on the back:

Speaking on behalf of AP, international editor John Daniszewski said if one of their photographers was caught doctoring photographs, he would be fired immediately.

“I heard about it in regard to the Reuters stringer,” he said in a phone interview from New York. I think they’re trying to tar everyone with the same brush.

He said both Israelis and Palestinians often criticized the way they were covered, but that the agency had its own “gold standards” of accuracy and fairness to meet.

“It’s such a contentious part of the world and other organizations and parties are going to want to pull coverage into one area or another,” said Daniszewski. “We try to go straight down the middle. If anyone wants to raise issues, we are always willing to talk about it.”

This would be the same AP, of course, that recently saw one of its reporters arrested for terrorist activity, a story it sat on for months.