Newspaper Blogs

October 17, 2003

IS EVERYONE NUTS?....Sometimes there's just so much stuff going on that you end up sort of frozen. You can't blog about all of it, so you just give up. For example:

  • Why is the South Carolina Democratic Party thinking about selling advertising space on their primary ballot? Are they nuts?

    Apparently not. A bit panicked, perhaps, but not completely loony. Sheesh.

  • Why do we have a deputy undersecretary of defense who says about defeating a Muslim warlord in 1993, "I knew my god was bigger than his. I knew that my god was a real god and his was an idol"? Is he nuts?

    Apparently so. And his boss says it's no biggie.

  • Why, during a screed about movie violence, did Gregg Easterbrook decide to blame greedy Jews?

    Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?

    Is he nuts?

    I guess not. His apology today, even if it did take too long in coming, seemed genuine enough. But don't let it happen again. (And put a link to the apology in your original post, OK?)

  • Madeline Albright is in France promoting her new book and gave an interview on French radio that was critical of U.S. foreign policy. Tacitus (the blog, not the person) thinks she's nuts. Is she?

    Actually, I don't know. Since she's already said all this stuff in her book, what's she supposed to say when she's interviewed in a foreign country? I didn't really mean it? Or is she never supposed to leave the United States?

    I'm a little confused about this business of former administration officials who aren't supposed to criticize the current administration, especially when overseas. I'm not sure if this tradition has ever really been followed all that closely, and I certainly have my doubts that anyone has paid serious attention to it in the past two decades. Comments?

  • Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad recently made some anti-semitic remarks. Yawn. Dog bites man. But when the EU decided to formally condemn the statement, French President Jacques Chirac blocked it.

    Is he nuts? Or what? Jacques, baby, you sure make it hard for your friends to denounce mindless France bashing when you pull stuff like this. Get a grip.

So is everyone nuts? Apparently the answer is no; yes; not really; maybe; and yes.

Why am I not reassured?

Posted by Kevin Drum at October 17, 2003 03:51 PM | TrackBack


Yes... yes they are.

Posted by: Joshua at October 17, 2003 03:56 PM | PERMALINK

Gregg Easterbrook supports Ariel Sharon so he can't be anti-Semitic.

Tsk. Tsk. Tsk.

Posted by: Dan the Man at October 17, 2003 04:03 PM | PERMALINK

Hey, Berlusconi says Mussolini never killed anyone, (though Mussolini killed thousands of Jews) and the Anti-Defamation League gave him an awrd for supporting Sharon.
You can now deny the Holocaust and get awards from the ADL. That, my friends, is nuts.

Posted by: sym at October 17, 2003 04:14 PM | PERMALINK

On Jacques Chirac - the Muslim immigrants are a major voting block. If he has to choose, he will always choose catering to the Muslims.

He is really not particularly a nice person to begin with.

Posted by: Rick B at October 17, 2003 04:20 PM | PERMALINK

Kevin, just curious. When I posted the last comment your server tried to plant a cookie in my machine. Any idea what it was?

I did permantently reject it, of course.

Posted by: Rick B at October 17, 2003 04:21 PM | PERMALINK

Rick: I don't know for sure, but I assume it's the cookie that saves your personal info so you don't have to re-enter it the next time you comment.

Posted by: Kevin Drum at October 17, 2003 04:31 PM | PERMALINK

Dan, I think that Atrios was able to clarify that Gregg was only criticizing 'Big Jewy Jews' like Harvey Weinstein, not right-wing Jews like Sharon. What a complicated world we live in.

Posted by: bink at October 17, 2003 04:32 PM | PERMALINK

Rick B:

It just remembers your name & email for the comment fields.

Posted by: taktile at October 17, 2003 04:34 PM | PERMALINK

Easterbrook isn't nuts for his Jewish comment. Okay, not nuts JUST for his Jewish comment. But, he's a prude. Tarantino is a genius of the cinema. If you think his movies are just hackneyed violence, go watch Blade II, or The Texas Chainsaw massacre. Tarantino's films are operas, and like the best operas, misunderstood by puritanical idealogues.

Posted by: Greg G. at October 17, 2003 04:46 PM | PERMALINK

Now, see, I have to disagree with Greg. G. I despise Tarantino ever since I saw Resovoir Dogs. I would have left if I were older and less enamored of the man who owned the VCR. As it was, I watched little and still find I have an aversion to "Stuck in the Middle." The movie wasn't genius. It was just mindless glorification of violence with nothing else to recommend it, IMO.

The Easterbrook Jewish comment, though, is a WTF?

Posted by: Magenta at October 17, 2003 05:07 PM | PERMALINK

"People are crazy and times are strange." - Bob Dylan ("Things Have Changed")

Posted by: David Raatz at October 17, 2003 05:07 PM | PERMALINK

Tacitus's incredulity that Albright would dare criticize Bush in France is par for the course for Tacitus. He makes it seem that France is nearly an enemy nation, rather than an ally (most of the time) which worked against us in the UN on one issue -- for reasons which, in hindsight, look valid. I think he must be on liberal-Dan-Rather "He's my Commander in Chief" track. But Bush isn't anyone's Commander in Chief except the military's.

Tacitus is like those boxers who are called "gentlemen" because they can speak in sentences and don't bite. He's not as bad as his peers, but he has a number of deep-rooted convictions which make it pointless for people who don't share those convictions to try to talk to him, as far as I'm concerned.

I realize that the host of this site as well as many posters here disagree on the Tacitus question. And we can expect the man himself to show up pretty soon explaining that I'm uncivil, but I don't remember witnessing any fruitful exchanges with the guy.

Posted by: Zizka at October 17, 2003 05:14 PM | PERMALINK

To paraphrase:

"No one's to blame.
We're only human,
Victims of the insane".

Posted by: Sovereign Eye at October 17, 2003 05:26 PM | PERMALINK

Zizka -

All true, but really, does it matter? The basic operating procedure for Tacitus or anyone else from "that side" is: Bush is a genius. Nothing about him or his administration can, or should, ever be questioned. Ever. And look, over there: Clinton!

Posted by: craigie at October 17, 2003 05:27 PM | PERMALINK

>Tacitus's incredulity that Albright would dare criticize
>Bush in France is par for the course for Tacitus.

Um, that's as may be, but seeing as the man himself is on another continent right now, a more relevant statement might be that Tacitus' guest blogger Macallan is one of the most conservative (and annoying, to my mind) contributors to that site. And yeah, he doesn't like the French.

Posted by: Max at October 17, 2003 05:28 PM | PERMALINK

I did a couple of screeds on my blog about the Easterbrook thing. Despite being a yid myself, I didn't even notice that the bit in his original post (the part Kevin excerpted above) could possibly be construed as a bigoted "the Jews are greedy" sentiment. I certainly didn't have a problem with his apology on that note. However, I did, and still do, take offense at the next sentence in his original post:

"Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice."

What's with invoking the Holocaust? It's absurd. The argument that Easterbrook pursued throughout his post, that certain movies are immoral and irresponsible in how much violence they show, is an argument that's as old as the cinema itself, and it'll be around as long as movies get made. I completely disagree with his take on the issue, but he's certainly free to raise it. However, what does the Holocaust have to do with it? If he thinks movie executives are being irresponsible, OK, but what does he achieve by beating them over the head with the Holocaust? How is that, in any way, a legitimate point in a debate about violence in the movies? It's ridiculous.

Posted by: Haggai at October 17, 2003 05:44 PM | PERMALINK

I should add that I didn't find anything Easterbrook said to be bigoted or anti-Semitic in any way (like I mentioned, I didn't even notice the Jews/money thing until he posted his apology). But I am pretty sensitive about applying the Holocaust to arguments in such a slip-shod way.

Posted by: Haggai at October 17, 2003 05:56 PM | PERMALINK

Hellooooo! Grady Little!

The two best lines I've heard

1) He's so dumn even Scalia wouldn't vote to execute him

2) The first manager search the Red Sox do will be for Grady Little's mangled body.

Harsh? Oh yes, yes indeed.

But there is a reason.

Posted by: SamAm at October 17, 2003 06:50 PM | PERMALINK

What say we distinguish Chirac from France, as we distinguish Bush from America? Or would we rather be judged by Bush's actions?
Also, Chirac is really not a nice fellow, as Rick notes.
Hey, Haggai had the same reaction to Easterbrook as myself! I'm seeing few people struck by that.
SamAm, I'd send that remark to my sister Judy in Boston, except she really doesn't like jokes about dead bodies.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 17, 2003 07:15 PM | PERMALINK

I'm surprised too, John. I'm kind of mystified at the attention that the Jews/money thing has gotten, as it seems to me like a very strained connection for anyone to have read that into Easterbrook's original post. On the other hand, there's little doubt that he intended to invoke the Holocaust in that specific way. Not anti-Semitic or bigoted, as I said, but pretty nasty.

As you can see in my original blogpost about this from earlier this week, what I was really charged up about was his complete hack job on Tarantino. Now if someone doesn't like his movies, OK, to each his own, I can respect that, even though I'm a major fanboy. But put together a decent argument, will ya? Easterbrook pummelled a straw man (violence is clearly not the only reason anyone watches Tarantino movies), and stupidly at that, with the ludicrous prediction that nobody will care about Tarantino's movies in 50 years. Anyone who knows the slightest thing about movies knows that won't happen. I'm not necessarily equating "influential" with "good," as I've seen many highly regarded movies from years past that I didn't like, but I still acknowledge that they're extremely influential, even with regards to movies and directors that I love. I used "Blow Up" as an example of an influential movie that I don't like--oddly, Coppola's "The Conversation," which is very heavily influenced by "Blow Up," is a personal favorite. Never mind the Holocaust references, slipshod criticism is what really gets movie fanatics like me riled up :)

Posted by: Haggai at October 17, 2003 07:52 PM | PERMALINK

Haggai: So why *do* people watch Tarantino movies? So far as I can tell, he gets down and wallows in filth and people praise his genius.

On the Easterbrook question: What one Jewish friend of mine most objected to was him holding Jews to a higher standard on the basis of them having been victims. Um?


Posted by: Mary Kay at October 17, 2003 08:10 PM | PERMALINK

Does such a thing as a non-annoying conservative exist? This is a serious question.

Maybe I'm one but I just don't know it.

Posted by: Troy at October 17, 2003 08:16 PM | PERMALINK

I've only seen Pulp Fiction on DVD (didn't like R.D. when I caught it on cable recently).

Pulp Fiction was a "comedy of violence", with most everything working out in the end.

Kill Bill seems similar.

I can understand why many people do not find this genre interesting or worthwhile, as it's not.

But it is entertaining for storylines to just go off into the weeds very unexpectedly (like in Pulp Fiction).

Posted by: Troy at October 17, 2003 08:19 PM | PERMALINK

This idea that it's unpatriotic to criticize your home country's government when you're in a foreign country is one that I've heard before. The idea seems to be that criticism is all very well, but it has to be, in some sense, kept in the family or it's not constructive.

It made me somewhat ashamed at the time because I have, in fact, on multiple occasions, criticized my home country's government to foreigners when in foreign countries. And sometimes it was just a weak response to a kind of moral bullying. When you're surrounded by a bunch of drunken Canadians loudly asking you why you and your countrymen could have been so bone-stupid as to idolize Ronald Reagan, it's easier to just explain that you didn't actually idolize Ronald Reagan, and, in fact, thought he was kind of dim at the time and would have voted against him were you of legal age, than to go into a long spiel about historical context and explain why some otherwise-inclined intelligent people of good faith might have voted for him. And that's hardly heroic behavior.

But on the other hand, it also seems wrong to outright lie or stonewall about these things just to be patriotic. And I think it's also good for the image of our country abroad to show that there is internal dissent; too often, people describing the US population (or any country's population) from outside seem to regard its people as a homogeneous like-minded bloc.

Posted by: Matt McIrvin at October 17, 2003 08:36 PM | PERMALINK

I think Tarantino's dialogue is great, and his characters get into very interesting situations. That's not too specific, but it's mainly what I like about his movies. Kill Bill, at least the first part that's already out, doesn't have much going on the dialogue front, but I still thought it was great (supposedly Vol. 2 will be more character/dialogue heavy). Another thing I really like about all his movies, KB included, is his use of music. I think he almost always finds great songs that fit the mood of the scene perfectly, and one of the common threads connecting all my favorite movies is that I like how they use music, either an original score, songs from other sources, or a mix of both.

Of course, many people don't like his dialogue and don't find his characters interesting, and thus they find nothing to like in his movies. That's fine, it's largely a subjective matter of one's own personal preferences, but it's not the same thing as saying that there's nothing but violence on-screen in his movies, which is false. The most notable exception on this front is Jackie Brown, which doesn't have any graphic violence in it at all (a few shootings, but nothing bloody). It's very different from his other movies, and Easterbrook obviously either hasn't seen it, or is content to ignore it because it's not convenient for the argument he wants to make.

Posted by: Haggai at October 17, 2003 08:42 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Albright's comments and the notion that a former Secretary of State shouldn't critique current foreign policy, let's recall that on April 13 of this year, Lawrence Eagleburger [Sec. of State under George H.W. Bush] told the BBC, "If George Bush, Jr. decided he was going to turn the troops loose on Syria and Iran - after that he would last in office for about 15 minutes. In fact if President Bush were to try that even now, I would think that he ought to be impeached. You can't get away with that sort of thing in this democracy."

Why are Albright's comments to foreign media any worse than Eagleburger's?

Posted by: \sockeye at October 17, 2003 09:02 PM | PERMALINK

i'd like to see madeline albright and gregg easterbrook in kill bill volume 2.

Posted by: skippy at October 17, 2003 09:14 PM | PERMALINK

Okay, I'm reading the text of the speech. I'm not seeing a lot of Anti-Semitism.

I'm seeing a lot of anger at Israel and solidarity with the Palestinians, but the idea that Israel is successfully manipulating world politics to its advantage is hardly controversial or racist.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 17, 2003 09:35 PM | PERMALINK

Jesus, Kimmitt, I used to think you were a sensible lefty commenter. "...the idea that Israel is successfully manipulating world politics to its advantage is hardly controversial or racist."? Are you trying to tell me that "..the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them." is "hardly controversial or racist"? And do you really think Israel is "successfully" manipulating world politics? Because it doesn't seem like Israel is terribly popular in world opinion.

Posted by: scott h. at October 17, 2003 11:55 PM | PERMALINK

So Chirac is bad because he moves to block a motion from the EU condemning a speech by the Malaysian PM that proposed that Muslims worldwide stop and think before they act. (Like Kimmitt, I'm not seeing anti-Semitism in the speech: a whole lot of anti-Israel feeling, but it's a lying folly to confuse being anti-Israel with being anti-Semitic.)

Last year the IDF killed a UN worker inside a Red Cross zone. Syria proposed a Security Council motion condemning Israel for this act. Who blocked it?

Clue: not Chirac.

Posted by: Jesurgislac at October 18, 2003 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

Madeline Albright is now a private person. She can say whatever the hell she wishes concerning the Bush administration to whomever she wishes.

Posted by: raj at October 18, 2003 06:06 AM | PERMALINK

There is no mention of Chirac or France in the Yahoo! News story linked to by O'Toole. At least not anymore. I wonder why not?

Anyway, Google News provides plenty of links to the story.

Posted by: sockeye at October 18, 2003 07:00 AM | PERMALINK

Regarding Boykin's comments, I'm wondering how much of the support here in the U.S for the Iraq invasion is religiously based. I've talked with quite a few people who see the "war on terror" as a war between Christianity and Islam. They really don't care when the reasons for invading Iraq turn out to be without basis, because they have given the administration tacit approval to say publicly whatever it takes to takes to prosecute their war, and they don't see any significant difference between secular Muslims and radical fundamentalists.

Posted by: Paul at October 18, 2003 07:23 AM | PERMALINK

Paul, that's incredibly depressing. I hadn't really thought of that, but it does explain why folks wouldn't be concerned if there's no WMD evidence or Iraq-9/11 ties. I can see a clear population segment who'd feel like that.
That's a Bush vote in 2004.

Posted by: John Isbell at October 18, 2003 08:30 AM | PERMALINK

Remember that some of us are probably not human in any way that really matters. Either they are on the road to being evolved into something else or never made the cut in utero.

This lame theory of mine explains so much.

Posted by: M. L. Foster at October 18, 2003 08:49 AM | PERMALINK

>>Okay, I'm reading the text of the speech. I'm not seeing a lot of Anti-Semitism.

gotta disagree - whenever he refers to "Jews" rather than "Israel" - that is anti-semetic.
It's one thing to take issue with the policies of the Israeli government - it's quite another to talk about "the Jews". That becomes "us" against "them" and is labelling and inciting against a whole group of people vs. objecting to the policies of one government. Sorry that you don't see it that.

Posted by: Andy X at October 18, 2003 09:54 AM | PERMALINK

I guess. I mean, when I say, "The Jewish people have endured terrible pogroms over history, but have impressively managed to form their own state and defend it against attack through their commitment to moral action, education, and unity," is that anti-Semitism? Or when I say, "There is a widespread perception that the Jewish people will oppress Muslim people for the rest of history, but this perception is false -- the state of Israel is not the same thing as the Jewish people, and Muslims can find ways to morally free the Palestinians," is that anti-Semitic? Because those are both repackagings of statements made in the speech.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 18, 2003 02:51 PM | PERMALINK

No, they're not, but I'd say those were rather charitable repackagings of what he said. I mean I could allow for errors and translation. Maybe they were sloppy on translating "Jews". Maybe the word they translated as "enemy" is not apt. But how many ways are there to translate "the Jews rule this world by proxy"? I do think when you get into "Jews rule the world" territory, then yes, that's anti-Semitic. At the bare minimum it should raise a red flag, set off alarm bells. And it's that statement that makes me less willing to interpret his remarks as mere anti-Israel/pro-Palestinian sentiment.

Posted by: scott h. at October 18, 2003 05:54 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding former members of the executive criticizing the sitting President while overseas, I don't know if there is a "tradition". It is true that when George Bush 1 left the White House, he kept a very low profile, and you didn't see Jim Baker running around the globe criticizing Bill Clinton. Beyond that, you have to go back another 12 years before you have the next change of power...and Jimmy Carter's crew certainly had no grounds to criticize anyone regarding foreign policy. Go back four more years...Gerald Ford also kept a low profile. So I don't know if that qualifies as a tradition, but the Clinton crew certainly have broken from their recent predecessors in this regard.

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