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The LA Times has a good, straightfoward, article on Iranian support — or at least ambivalence — about a US war on Iraq (Thanks to Andrew Sullivan for the link). This is hardly news to NRO’s Michael Ledeen who has been the point-man on Iran for quite a while.

A Small Front in The War On Terror


Or at least the war to protect this truck.


Not An Empire


Also, the negotiations with Turkey offer another important lesson: We’re not an empire. Empires do not negotiate to use their own bases and they do not take no for an answer. We did the former and were willing to do the latter. Every week I go on TV or on radio and have some lefty — and a few righties — drone on at me about America’s “imperial designs.” Maybe we need a new word for what America is , but it’s not an empire.

Web Briefing: February 1, 2015



I have real sympathy for Turkey and I am glad that we’ve apparently worked out a deal. This is not the case of a petulent ally trying to take advantage of us. First, the Turks were legitimately screwed by the US after the last war, losing billions after helping us out. The Turks wanted us to at least get rid of Saddam and we didn’t. A second gulf war will create real costs for the Turks and since this is an elective war and we need Turkey’s help they deserve some compensation. I don’t know where the cost-benefit line is, but my guess is that the Pentagon and the White House do. So any deal they cut is probably a deal worth cutting. Also, this war is unpopular with the Turkish public and Turkey is a democracy. Democratically elected governments need to offer their publics some rationale for going to war. And, because Turkey is a democracy, we’ll desperately need them as friends if we are going to tout them as the model for a post-Saddam Iraq.


Robert, I Am in Near Complete Agreeance With You


I agree that it was disappointing, though truth be told I didn’t watch much of the Grammys. Still, Fred Durst’s — the lead singer of Limp Bizkit — declaration: “I hope we’re all in agreeance that this war should go away as soon as possible” was pretty funny. I just wished he could have gone on about the consignment in the musical community that violins are never the solvent.

Downright Disappointing


As awards shows go, the paucity of anti-American/anti-war comments and general sleazy behavior was, frankly, disappointing. An off-hand comment from Fred Durst here, a “No War” guitar strap from Sheryl Crow there. Someone else mentioned the need to “get this war thing out of the way soon” (no hawk would disagree). Whether the presenters and performers were taking orders from the producers or actually showing some restraint because the they were back in New York, this was a pretty tame affair. What’s a conservative to do when America’s entertainers generally behave themselves?

Does Nelly Own a Tv?


Given the horrific nightclub fire in Rhode Island on Friday, shouldn’t someone have told rapper Nelly that having the neon flames and pyrotechnics going on during his live performance of “Hot in Herre” might have created some unpleasant thoughts in the audience at home (or even in the theatre, for that matter)?

Strummer Watching


The Coldplay/Phil deal was on the same stage where later, Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, and Stevie Van Zandt of the E Street Band would pay tribute to the late Joe Strummer of the preeminent punk band, the Clash, with a rousing rendition of “London Calling.” Wonder what Strummer would think of that juxtaposition?

The Orchestra Set


Thirty years ago, as classic rock bands like Yes, Jethro Tull, and the Moody Blues started recording with orchestras, it helped create the backlash called punk, which tried to strip rock back down to its basics. Now THE cool modern rock/alternative band of the moment, Coldplay, performs at the Grammys with members of the New York Philharmonic…

No Grammy Corrective


One thing that differentiates the Recording Academy from the Motion Picture Academy: The former never gets the concept of “make-over” awards. For example, the Grammys screwed up big-time 18 years ago in giving Album of the Year to Lionel Richie instead of Bruce Springsteen. If this were the Oscars, this year would have been the perfect time to recognize the Boss with the big award. Instead talented, but rather banal, newcomer Norah Jones swept everything including the Album prize. It’s a nice, inoffensive, jazz-pop production, but hardly outstanding. Say what you like, but at least Springsteen and Eminem actually present provocative points of view on their albums.

Whouley Hypocrisy, Batman, John Kerry’s Running For President!


“If that occurred in another country,” said Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, “people would be taking the floor of the Senate and bemoaning thuggism.” That’s how the Democratic presidential candidate once described the behavior of GOP activists in Florida during the weeks of limbo following the 2000 election, when the GOP was being accused of suppressing black voter turnout. But Kerry’s Republicans were amateurs compared to what some of Al Gore’s operatives did earlier that year, on the day of the New Hampshire primary, when Gore held off a strong challenge from Bill Bradley by less than 6,400 votes. Partway through the afternoon, according to a recent report in the Boston Phoenix, Gore’s campaign obtained exit polls showing Bradley in the lead. So they literally took their fight to the streets: “Knowing that Bradley’s strength came from tony tech havens such as Bedford, the Gore team organized a caravan to clog highway I-93 with traffic so as to discourage potential Bradley voters from getting to the polls.” The Gore campaign’s Michael Whouley was one of the masterminds behind the traffic jam, and he’s so proud of this effort he recently bragged about it at a Harvard Kennedy School symposium. But don’t expect John Kerry to take to the floor of the Senate and bemoan Whouley’s thuggism–he decided to hire the guy instead.

The Anti-Ikes


Peggy Noonan wishes Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton would show a little class, a little patriotism, and shut up already.

“The Bonnie Blue Flag”


One interesting letter came from a California reader, who objected to the use of the rousing Confederate anthem “The Bonnie Blue Flag” in Gods and Generals. He says the filmmakers changed the lyrics to put the Confederates in a better light. He says the lyric (in the film) that says:

We are a band of brothers, and native to the soil/Fighting for our Liberty with treasure, blood and toil.

…is a bowdlerization. The original lyric, he says, goes like this:

We are a band of brothers and native to the soil/Fighting for the property we gained by honest toil.

Slaves were property, of course. The reader accuses the filmmakers of “falsifying history” to downplay the fact that one thing the Confederates were fighting for was the preservation of slavery. Regarding the true lyrics, the reader says not to take his word for it, to look it up.

So I did — and I found both versions. Here’s the “liberty” version; here’s the “property” version. Which one was sung by the Confederates? Somebody let me know.

Gods & Generals Redux


Thanks for all the mail on my Gods and Generals column. I am baffled by the few readers who thought I was somehow justifying slavery by my defense of the film against the political criticism it received. All I can say is: read the thing again. Who in their right mind would justify slavery today? Ron Maxwell’s film certainly doesn’t. But it does put the Confederate generals in a more human light, which serves to illuminate the tragedy of their gallant service. Being willing to fight and die for one’s homeland is noble; when the defense of that homeland includes protecting that homeland’s right to enslave human beings, it’s tragic. Anyway, lest there be any confusion, I’m glad the South lost, because that loss not only delivered the slaves from bondage, but it delivered Southern slaveholders, and those whites who supported slavery, from their own corruption.

Others have written to say that Lee, Jackson, et al., were traitors, pure and simple, and they shouldn’t be given any sympathy. I think this is the error of presentism, which is applying contemporary standards to a time and culture far removed from our own. Similarly, some have said that the Southern generals should have known that slavery was wrong. Again, this is applying the moral standards and clarity of the present day to the past, which is problematic. This is not to excuse, simply to offer a possible explanation for the failure of the South’s moral imagination in that era. You know, 150 years from now, our descendants may say of us, “How on earth didn’t they know how evil [abortion/cloning/etc.] was? How could they have let it be legal? How could their consciences have been so dull?”

On The Other Hand


Now it’s coming out that other bands have performed at The Station nightclub in the past using pyrotechnics (Fox News is even airing home video of one of these bands on stage there, sparks flying) — directly contradicting the owners’ statements that they would never allow pyrotechnics there.

A Startling Report


A conservative UK think tank has released a scathing report about the steep decline of the Church of England, blaming left-wing and gay militancy within ecclesial ranks for the what it terms an across-the-board collapse of membership in the church. The report calls for Anglican bishops to resign because of the catastrophe. Interestingly, part of the report was written by novelist Fay Weldon, a former secularist liberal and a recent Anglican convert, who writes that the C. of E. is “bent on self destruction,” and that Prince Charles was so enamored of Islam now “that the Church might well wish to disestablish itself in order to keep its distance.” Mercy!

Nigerian Email Scam Death


Reuters, Again


“Israel to Split Christ’s Birthplace with Barrier”. I’m picturing a wall in the middle of the Church of the Nativity.

Wwje? (3)


One reader’s suggestion: “soul food, of course.”

Film Review of The Year


This is how a writer in the Village Voice recently began a review of the work of Lithuanian filmmaker Sarunas Bartas:

“A voice from the frontier of both post-post-industrial civilization and art-film reductionism, Lithuanian film-maker Sarunas Bartas may be the ultimate litmus test for hardcore cineastes. His films represent a polar cap of inhospitable cinematic ordeal – they withhold orthodox pleasures so strenuously you imagine the filmmaker as a marching ascetic, disgusted with a decadent movie world. A Bartas film rarely moves, and is never host to more than a few moments of inconsequential dialogue – you arrive long after life has already wound down into hopeless silence.”

Popcorn anyone?


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