Wasted talent, bad poetry, this essay has it all.


The wheels are falling off the NY Times
A while back we had a (*ahem* heated) discussion about "Porky's Revenge" And it seems that this month's issue of O is jumping in on the conversation. David Skinner has the scoop.
The telcos are laying fat pipes for the residential customer. Interesting timing...
I hate to say it, but I am more than a little unsettled by the notion that the U.S. is considering covert ops in Iran. Granted, this war on terror had to be fought on many simultaneous fronts, but let's finish what we start.
Mugabe may be falling thank God.
The Gaurdian has found Salam and has turned him into a columnist. Sweet.
Clifford Geertz writes in the current New York Review of Books about the West’s varied efforts to hastily grasp Islam and the quality of the works created to that end. From Bernard Lewis’ What Went Wrong, to Karen Armstrong’s Islam: A Short History the quality and rhetorical tactics of the offerings has varied a great deal.

Sept. 11th and all that has occurred since has created an unprecedented level of interest and urgency regarding Islam. The “Other” that we are now juxtaposed against is something even more foreign than usual.

The familiar, almost intimate enemy we precipitously lost with the dissolution of the Soviet Union is being replaced in our minds by something far less well defined, much further removed from the political history of nineteenth- and twentieth-century Europe and America. Communism, with its roots in the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, at least had a Western pedigree.

The West in general and America in particular has long held a fascination with “otherness”. But while the appeal (and conversely repulsion) is often entangled with the other’s exoticness, it must be categorized and given familiar reference points. Islam is no different. Geertz sees four broad approaches to categorizing Islam:

There is, first, the "civilization" approach, which opposes "the West" as a whole to "Islam" as a whole and compares their fates. Second, there are the attempts to pick apart the various streams of contemporary Muslim thought and practice and place them within a culturally familiar grid of ideological contrasts—to sort "good" Islam (and "Islamists") from "bad," "real" from "false," "authentic" from "hijacked," "tolerant" from "terrorist" in terms of recognized categories of political expression. Third, there are conciliative, or reconciliative, efforts seeking out "many are the roads but God is One" convergences between Islamic teachings and those of the other major religious traditions so as to lay a positive course for their co-evolution. And finally, there are place-, or people-, or nation-focused studies that conceive of "Islam" less as a cohesive mega-entity persisting through time, than as a collection of particular, in many ways disparate, "family-resemblance" traditions coming into more and more immediate and difficult contact with one another as the vast and entangling forces of all-over modernity advance.

The Economist weighs in on Bush's tax plan. Their verdict: Not Good.
I gotta say, $4.5MM for an aircraft carrier is a steal.
I gotta say, $4.5MM for an aircraft carrier is a steal.
AOL luvs Microsoft. Maybe peace in our time is possible. Interconnected business interests always to me seems the best road to peace.
Kinsley's take on the Supreme's Family and Medical Leave Act ruling. Ms_sue has the scoop over at Plastic.


Hitch's turn to lamblast Sidney Blumenthal.


As always, Joi Ito at the forefront of emergent democracy trends, points us to this wonderful essay from James Moore about the Second Superpower.
Michelle Dielio reports on blogging in Iran and the impact it's having on Iranian culture and society.
David Horowitz takes on Christian Conservatives.


Sobering words from Stanley Hoffman


The San Francisco Chronicle has a review of Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History.The book tells the amazing story of the Congressman who waged a personal crusade to covertly support Afghanistan in their war against the Soviets.

Charlie Wilson, a maverick Texas democrat, once called “the biggest party animal in Congress” by the NY Times was an unlikely source for one of the biggest and most consequential foreign policy efforts in U.S. history.

Wilson was, in short, a screwup's screwup, a clown prince of wasted political talent, which just happened to be a role that provided excellent political cover. No one would imagine the backroom scheming of such a flamboyant blunderer could actually amount to anything, and yet Wilson was able to funnel billions of dollars to Afghanistan. He did this, amazingly, by constantly giving the CIA more money than it wanted and forcing the agency to find a way to use it.

The CIA set out to ensure a Vietnam for the Soviets, and Afghanistan was perfect. They gave the Afghani forces millions of dollars in arms and supplies, trained them in urban guerrilla-style warfare, and covertly let them know they had the most powerful ally on the planet. Losing the brutal and disheartening war in Afghanistan contributed a public and lethal blow to the floundering Soviet empire. The blowback from the arms and training given to the forces in Afghanistan has dire consequences that still resonate around the globe. the story itself, however, is truly amazing.
The Weekly Standard chimes in on Leo Strauss. I am still reeling from the amazing insights that came from all of you from our discussion of Strauss a few weeks back.