Showing newest posts with label comedians. Show older posts
Showing newest posts with label comedians. Show older posts

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rusty cages

You wired me awake,
And hit me with a hand of broken nails.
You tied my lead and pulled my chain,
To watch my blood begin to boil.

This is not a debate on the pros and cons or the effectiveness of torture.

I repeat. This is NOT an argument in favor or against torturing or nearly torturing prisoners to extract information from them. That can be a topic for another posting.

Does everyone understand that? I am NOT arguing that torturing people is moral or immoral. Ok? Great, now let's continue.

I was listening to the Opie and Anthony show today and their guest Pete Dominick, who is a DJ on the Sirius/XM channel, POTUS. Unlike my last entry about the show, this exchange did not involve a lot of laughing and joking...rather it became a pretty serious debate about whether torturing al Qaeda prisoners is effective or not. Jim Norton and Anthony Cumia argued in favor of torture while Pete Dominick was adamant that he could convince them that it was not the way.

I'm going back up to say this one last time, this article is NOT about the merits (or lack thereof) of torture. It IS about the fact that Dominick, in an attempt to prove his point, related accounts he had read from CIA interrogators (known as "gators" to their colleagues) that captured Iraqis said the reason they were fighting the Americans was to avenge the humiliation of Abu Ghraib.

Since torture is back in the news once again, (and because this administration is obsessed with re-defeating Bush on a daily basis) I would like to once and for all, BURY this misconception. Because you see, this is a favorite tool of apologists and say that our actions in the world are what inspires the enemy to fight us. They, like Dominick point to editorials like this one, written by "Matthew Alexander" a former 'gator that did some tours in Iraq and was very upset by what he saw. I put his name in quotes because it's pseudonym, he uses a fake name for "security reasons." From the article:

I learned in Iraq that the No. 1 reason foreign fighters flocked there to fight were the abuses carried out at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Our policy of torture was directly and swiftly recruiting fighters for al-Qaeda in Iraq. The large majority of suicide bombings in Iraq are still carried out by these foreigners. They are also involved in most of the attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq. It's no exaggeration to say that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse.

Pretty damning stuff...except that it is based purely on emotions and not in reality at all. I have no doubt that Mr. Alexander was in Iraq and was told this fairy tale by the people he met there. I have no reason to doubt any part of his story (I guess) except for his interpretation of it.

For one thing, why on Earth would he believe these people that the reason they signed up to kill Americans was because of Abu Ghraib? If you captured a Nazi during WWII and he told you the reason he signed up to fight for Germany was because the Jews were responsible for Germany's humiliation in the first World War...would you believe him? Would you drop what you were doing and say to yourself "gee, every Nazi I talk to just HATES Jews and Gypsies and homosexuals....perhaps they have a point!" I thought rule number 1 of being a spy was not to buy into the enemy's propaganda.

But then let's even say that these prisoners, (again, people who were in the business of murdering Americans) actually believed what they told Alexander. Unfortunately, the statistics (as well as the history of the region) are just not on their side.

Let's first of all look at the statistics. The news story broke on April 28th, when 60 Minutes II aired photographs of Iraqi prisoners in pretty horrifying positions. For those who remember what Iraq was like in 2004, April of that year was one of the worst months on record for American soldiers in the entire conflict. In fact, according to, 135 American soldiers were killed in April/2004...2nd only to November of the same year which had 137 KIA. Obviously in April, Iraqis were extremely angry about something...proof positive you say that Alexander's point is a valid one? Not so fast...

Remember, the scandal broke at the END of April. If we look at the following month of May, the amount of Americans killed is 80...a 40% DECREASE at a time when Abu Ghraib fever was sweeping the world. Everyday another American or world leader was getting on international television and condemning the actions of these rogue soldiers. The "Arab street" was in an uproar all through May...and yet, we see a 40% decrease in attacks on Americans. Well, maybe al Qaeda was expending all of its resources on recruitment efforts in May and needed to devote some time to training.

You have to figure that it takes at least a month for new hires to be fully proficient in how to blow themselves up and how to demand a fair trial/lawyer when captured...insiders tell the RONMOSSAD blog that the "effectively managing Western laws and benefits to your advantage" part of the training program comes after HR explains to you how to put in a sick day request and what to do about sexual harrassment in the workplace. So with training out of the way, you have to figure then that there would be a major spike in violence in June. Right?

June/2004: 42 Americans killed. Almost a 50% decrease from the previous month. Hmmmm.

In July the number went up to 54, an increase but not anywhere near where it was BEFORE the story broke. In fact we do not see a major increase in American fatalities until November of 2004, a full 6 months after the news of the abuses got out. And lest you think it was a slow burn that finally resulted in an explosion of Abu Ghraib-motivated, consistent violence against Americans, the following month of December had half the fatalities. The war as we know it did not become a real chaotic free-for-all until 10/2006-10/2007 when civil strife pushed American casualties fairly consistently into the triple-digit range. For the "recruiting tool" scenario to hold water we would have to accept that the enraged Iraqis sat on their anger for nearly 2.5 YEARS before finally erupting in violence. Does this make sense to anyone? Anyone at all?

The defense is wraawng

But wait - it gets better. In mid-March of 2006 additional Abu Ghraib pictures were released and we were forced to relive the scandal anew. March of 2006 had only 31 American deaths, the quietist month since February/2004. Breaking down the month into halves (the story was released on the 15th), 16 of these deaths occurred from the 1st-15th and 15 occurred from the 16st-31st. In short there is NO CORRELATION between the Abu Ghraib abuses and American deaths. None. Period.

Finally, let's not forget that historically, this argument doesn't work either as this issue did not begin with Abu Ghraib or Iraq. Our friends over at TROP have a counter that they update with every attack that is committed in the name of Islam:

Thousands of Deadly Islamic Terror Attacks Since 9/11

Based on painstakingly meticulous record-keeping, they have a database of Islam-related violence that is broken down by day, week, month and year. If you click on this link, you will see that between September/2001 and the beginning of the Iraq war (which was a full YEAR before the Abu Ghraib story broke) Islamic terrorists had killed THOUSANDS of non-Muslims. What was the motivation for those attacks? Prisoner abuses? The Israeli operation in Gaza? The 2006 Lebanon war? What did Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay have to do with the attacks in Mumbai from last Thanksgiving? And how about this historically random sampling of incidents:

April 18, 1983: U.S. Embassy bombing in Beirut, Lebanon. 63 killed

January 28, 1980: A Lebanese jihadist hijacked a Middle East Airlines Boeing 707 with 137 people on board. This flight took off from Baghdad, Iraq and was scheduled to land in Beirut, Lebanon.

June 2, 1978: In Israel, five people were murdered and 20 were severely injured in an explosion on a bus in Jerusalem.

May 15, 1974: In Ma'alot, Israel, 22 Israeli high school students, aged 14–16, from Safed were killed by three members of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Before reaching the school, the trio shot and killed two Arab women, a Jewish man, his pregnant wife, and their 4 year old son, and wounded several others.

August 19, 1974: In Cyprus, U.S. Ambassador Rodger Davies and one local employee, an embassy secretary, were killed when armed Cypriot Muslims fired shots at the ambassador's office and residence.

September 5, 1972: Eight Palestinians broke into the Israeli quarters of the Olympic Village during the Munich Olympic Games at dawn and took 11 members of Israel's wrestling team hostage. All the Israelis were executed by the time the crisis was over.

August 29, 1960: Jordon's Prime Minister, and 11 of his associates, were assassinated with a bomb placed in a public building.

Need more? Think American and Israeli foreign policy is to blame? Somehow these attacks are justified because of it? Ok...

1936: Haj-Amin al Husseini, the leader of the Palestinians and inspiration of Yasir Arafat instigated uprisings that left hundreds of Jews and thousands of Arabs dead in the British Mandate of Palestine. He later travelled to Nazi Germany and assisted the Nazis with planning the Final Solution...going so far as befriending Adolf Eichmann and training SS units. He also issued a fatwa encouraging "resistance" in Iraq that led to hundreds of Arab deaths and riots against the dwindling Jewish population of Iraq.

1915: The Turks blamed their lack of success in WWI on the Armenian Christians. They force the entire population of two million people from the homes and land - killing over a million unarmed Armenian men, women, and children.

Sources: Google searches, news stories, TROP and

Both of those events occurred LONG before the state of Israel was founded and DECADES before the very first American soldier ever set foot on holy Saudi Arabian or Iraqi or Lebanese soil.

And there's more...much more. Attacks on Jews. Attacks on Christians. Attacks on Muslims. Just general chaos emanating from the Middle East ever since Muhammad founded his new religion in the 600's. And before that, blood feuds between tribes lasted for generations...Muhammad just took it from the inter-tribal level and made it international. The Middle East has been a historically violent place years and decades and centuries and millennia before Abu Ghraib, or Gaza or the security fence or even the founding of the State of Israel. The torture scandals are as much a cause of Islamic terrorism as drinking cola is a cause of higher SAT scores. (it's NOT)

But perhaps more importantly than any of this, is a point that Norton brought up during the debate with Dominick (which is supported by the history). Saddam Hussein and other Arab/Muslim leaders have committed much worse atrocities against their own populations for centuries. Where was the insurgency against them? Or if there could be no insurgency for some reason...where was the outrage from the "Arab street" ? Where was the outrage from the apologists who are so quick to point fingers at American and Israeli foreign policy? Do they even know about Turkish foreign policy?? Or Iraqi, Egyptian and Palestinian domestic policy???

So don't tell me it's about Abu Ghraib or torture or any of that nonsense. Torture may or may not be an effective tool for intelligence officers but it does NOT create new terrorists or new enemies for the West. PERIOD.

But I'm gonna break,
I'm gonna break my,
Gonna break my rusty cage and run.
-Johnny Cash (cover of Soundgarden)

And anyone who tells you differently is just selling you the enemy's propaganda. Intentionally or unintentionally.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Will the real Jon Stewart please shut up?

Once upon a time I used to watch the Daily Show. Many many years ago, before the entire world had lost its mind, this Weekend Update clone was one of the funniest shows on television. With its mix of news satire, lampooning of so-called serious reporters and their story selection (as well as the subjects of those stories), and host Jon Stewart's very clever and often self-deprecating humor...the show caught like wildfire with younger Americans - especially college students. In fact, a 2004 Pew Research Center report found that 21% of people 18 to 29 rely on Jon Stewart for their news.

But things started to change in 2004. During the election that year something seemed a about the coverage. Yes there were jokes about both candidates, but there seemed to be something a little...harsher about the Bush jokes. The audience cheers and laughter only seemed at the expense of the Republican candidate. And then, there was this...

...Stewart's softball interview with John Kerry. Keep in mind this was at the height of the "flip-flop" and Swift Boat controversies. And just so that you don't think that Stewart isn't capable of hard-hitting interviews, take a look at this segment with National Review columnist, Jonah Goldberg.

So we can establish the fact that Stewart doesn't like conservatives and George Bush, but does like John Kerry. Which makes sense because that's pretty much the audience he's catering to. It's also not surprising because Stewart, born Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz, is Jewish. And as we all know, Jews hate Republicans. Oh and like Sarah Silverman, he is JEWWWWWWWISH. Take this passage from a recent Moment Magazine writeup on him:

Dispensing Jewish humor like a tic, Stewart’s impish grin, self-deprecating punch lines and jokey cultural references are a staple of the show. He has referred to himself as “Jewey Von Jewstein” and cracked wise on Jewish noses, circumcision, anti-Semites, Jews who play baseball (a short list), Israel as “Heebie Land” and his grandma at Passover. When it comes to Jewish and Israeli politics, he stomps where WASPier comedians fear to tread. But although he regularly brings up the fact that he is Jewish, he rarely speaks earnestly about his Jewish upbringing or what being Jewish means to him.

Well of course he doesn't speak about what being Jewish means to him...he changed his last name to Stewart and married a Catholic woman. My guess is that it doesn't mean all THAT much. But it makes for some hilarious jokes.

In any case Moment Magazine came to the conclusion that Stewart is "the perfect Jewish ambassador" to represent us to the gentiles.

Is he really?

In his first show back from his Christmas vacation Stewart kicks off 2009 with a segment called "Strip Maul."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Strip Maul
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

After yet another President Bush joke (will these ever end?) Stewart goes on (grinning and laughing the whole time) to remark that "it's not like Hamas lobbing missiles is an unusual and new occurrence, why does Israel feel they have to react so strongly now?" Why indeed. Stewart decides that it's because Israel is worried they won't have "carte blanche" in the "bombing department" from Obama. After some clips of American politicians supporting what should be a country he has an emotional connection to, Stewart appears frustrated with their one-sidedness.

But most galling is his mocking of Bloomberg's analogy for the "disproportionate force" argument at the end of the segment. Stewart actually appears to JUSTIFY the Palestinian rocket fire into Israel by making a joke about having "forced that guy to live in [his] hallway and make him go through check points every time he needs to take a [expletive deleted]."

Really Jon?

He then goes on to have an awkward interview with the new host of Meet the Press, David Gregory. In it he remarks at how "surprising" it his to him that no one ever seems to criticize Israel in "any way" for their "behavior" (claps and cheers abound after his statement). Stewart brings up the Israeli settlements, also as an apparent justification for the Hamas action and refers to Israel as a third rail issue.

Ok terrific.

I'm not even sure where to start here...

Wait I know...SHUT UP JON! You've made it clear that you don't care about your heritage or about Judaism in general, except for as a cheap laugh on your show every so often. You've made it clear that you have a political agenda - you support the Democrats which by definition makes you biased. And if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a comedian with an agenda. Your job is to make us LAUGH not to convince us to vote for your candidate, but that's a different conversation entirely.

Here's ANOTHER "ambassador" for the Jewish people ripping on Israel's right to self-defense. It's EMBARRASSING. And I'm so sick and tired of it already.

Jon - it's not your place to represent us to ANYONE. You don't like Israel's reaction to Gaza? You think Gaza rocket fire is because of SETTLEMENTS? You mean the settlements that Israel dismantled in Gaza? The ruins of which the Palestinians are now firing rockets from at your brothers and sisters? You ignorant, embarrassment to the Jews. Have you ever even read the Hamas charter? Have you ever watched Palestinian television?

You say Israel "forces" Palestinians to "live in the hallway" huh? You have a problem with checkpoints? Do you know why there are checkpoints? Let me educate you Jonathan. It's because when there were no checkpoints, Hamas and Fatah Palestinian SUICIDE KILLERS would do everything they could to sneak into Israel and bomb women and children in pizza stores. Do you understand what that means? You're sitting at the Sbarro on 33rd St in Manhattan with your son Nathan Thomas and your daughter Maggie Rose when all of the sudden


Oh and hey - those same poor people who have to go through the checkpoints that you are so upset over (who would kill you and your children the first chance they could) celebrated this event with a "Sbarro Cafe Exhibition" complete with body parts and pizza slices. Oh and Jon, that was just one of FOUR such attacks in the month of August/2001. So yes, we have some checkpoints.

You know what else we have though, Jonathan? Doctors. And that guy that we force to live in the hallway and go through checkpoints? We also treat his son for cancer. Would Hamas do that for your children, Jon? Or would they try to blow them up during your Passover seder? That is, assuming you have a Passover seder.

You get it now? You understand maybe why EVERYONE with any common sense or understanding of the situation backs Israel? You understand why no one in Congress criticizes Israel's response? No Jon, it's not because you can't criticize Israel and still get elected. It's because Israel is RIGHT.

Hamas is WRONG.

Israel is RIGHT.

It's that simple. But what does it matter who's right and who's's all about the ratings and the Oscars and moving out of cable and onto a major network. Right Jon?

You may be a funny guy, but you are most certainly NOT our ambassador.

And for God's sake Jon, it's pronounced Is-RA-el not Is-REAL.