W on the People of the Subcontinent

On Monday, W. spoke to reporters about the crisis in South Asia. Here’s what he said:

I don’t believe the situation is defused yet, but I do believe there is a way to do so, and we are working hard to convince both the Indians and the Pakis there’s a way to deal with their problems without going to war.

Not all the news reports mentioned his use of the word “Pakis”. The Reuters report has “Pakistanis”; the BBC dropped the offending clause altogether; and the later report in Newsday conceded that the President had used a “slang term” which it described, in unexplained, unsourced quotation marks, as “definitely a derogatory term for Pakistanis”. W.’s spokesperson later denied he meant to be disrespectful; and on the strength of a statement from a spokesperson at the Pakistani embassy that “he did not consider what Bush said to be an insult”, the people at Opinion Journal decided that
“the whole ‘controversy’ in other words, seems to have been an invention of the White House press corps”. Some useful discussion is over at monkeyfish.com.

Band left nameless by holy terror

From today’s New Zealand Herald:

New Zealand’s greatest rock band, Shihad, are changing their name because of its similarity to jihad – the Islamic term for holy war – fearing a backlash as they try to make their mark in America.Osama bin Laden has called a jihad against the United States following the September 11 attacks.

A new name is yet to be decided on. Shihad drummer Tom Larkin said the decision was a tough one to make given the 13 years they had spent under the banner. It had been devastating to consider the implications of changing their name, he said.

“We’ve just spent four months in the US and every news item talks of the ‘Jihad against America’. As far as 99.9 per cent of Americans are concerned, ‘jihad’ means fundamentalist terrorist war against all Americans’.

“We wouldn’t get played on radio, we wouldn’t get tours and what would be the point?”

The name Shihad comes from the misspelling of the word jihad the band lifted from the novel Dune.

The group aim to have the new name in place before playing the Australasian Big Day Out tour, which starts in Auckland next Friday.

Thanks to Aziz, for drawing it to the attention of the weblog.


There’s some entertainment over at the ever-dreadful CNN:

“A gaffe,” Michael Kinsley once observed, “occurs not when a politician lies, but when he tells the truth.”

CNN made a terrible gaffe over the weekend and told a terrific truth.

It was refreshing to see somebody finally spit out what we all know but what the networks go to ludicrous lengths to deny: They hire and promote news stars based on looks and sex appeal.

About 10 times over the weekend, CNN ran an ad promoting Paula Zahn’s new morning show, “American Morning,” with a male announcer purring, “Where can you find a morning news anchor who’s provocative, super-smart, oh yeah, and just a little sexy?”

The word sexy then flared onto the screen, accompanied by a noise that sounded like a zipper unzipping.

The ad’s naked truth stunned television insiders. “If they’re sexy, so be it,” said Don Hewitt, executive producer of “60 Minutes.” “It ain’t necessary to say it. It’s undignified.

“Whatever Paula brings to television,” he said, “it’s despite the fact that she’s nicely put together. It diminishes a first-rate woman journalist to label her sexy. Why doesn’t CNN say that Wolf Blitzer is sexy? He must be sexy to somebody.”

On Monday the embarrassed CNN chief, Walter Isaacson, yanked the spot. “It was a bad mistake,” he said. “I’m really sorry. The promotion department didn’t get it cleared. You can say sexy about a man but not about a woman.”

A CNN spokesman explained that the noise was not supposed to be a zipper sound, but more like a needle scratching across an LP record — a sound effect sometimes used on “Ally McBeal.” …

From Maureen Dowd’s column, in yesterday’s New York Times.

Russian Opinion

Another news snippet. Not surprising, but interesting nevertheless.

MOSCOW, Jan. 6 (UPI) — The majority of Russians prefer the lives they had lived before the country’s stormy economic reforms were launched in 1991, a poll said Sunday.

The survey, conducted by ROMIR-Gallup International public opinion research group, queried 2,000 respondents throughout Russia on New Year’s Eve.

According to the poll results, 55.1 percent of those asked said they wished they could have their pre-reform living standard returned.

Only 32.6 percent said they preferred their present lives. The remaining respondents were undecided.

The package of social and economic reforms, evolving chiefly from the Russian government’s attempt to drop communist state planning and introduce a market economy, saw millions of Russians hit by poverty and unemployment.

The age group most affected are the pensioners, who the reforms have deprived of many of the Communist-era social benefits, forcing them to make ends meet on meager pensions.

The really scary figures, of course, are the life expectancy figures: Stephen Cohen reports in his excellent Failed Crusade that male life expectancy in Russia has fallen to 58, roughly where it was at the start of the last century.


I recently finished Hardt and Negri’s Empire, and I’m beginning to organise my opinions about it on paper, so it’s a good time to post the links I’ve been accumulating slowly over the last few weeks. The best treatment still seems to me to be Malcolm Bull’s essay in the London Review of Books. It’s the more aggressively hostile reviews which reveal more about the present political climate, though, and these include Alan Wolfe’s often interesting essay in The New Republic, David Pryce-Jones’s barking piece in the National Review and Roger Kimball’s treatment in the The New Criterion. New Republic editor Peter Beinart’s weird argument that Empire has something to do with the September 11 atrocities is available here; Thomas Dumm interviews Michael Hardt here; and there’s a useful if not wholly up-to-date collection of documents relating to Negri’s conviction and incarceration here.


Welcome back.

Here’s some breaking news, from reuters.com:

BERLIN (Reuters) – Film-maker Leni Riefenstahl plans to release a new movie this year in time for her 100th birthday, half a century after her Nazi-era links ended a brilliant film career, a report said Sunday.

“The film will have its premier in August exactly in time for my 100th birthday,” Die Welt newspaper quoted Riefenstahl as saying in its Monday editions.

The last feature film Riefenstahl released was Tiefland in 1954. Since then she has found herself blacklisted because of her work during the Third Reich.

Triumph of the Will, a powerful documentary of the 1934 Nazi party rally in Nuremberg, helped cement Adolf Hitler’s image as the all-powerful leader. It also forever linked Riefenstahl with Hitler in the minds of many critics.

Her 1938 film Olympia, a documentary on the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, is considered one of the great and most innovative films of the 20th century.

The film-maker’s new 45-minute movie, Underwater Impressions, will be a compilation of footage from the more than 2,000 scuba dives she made in the Indian Ocean between 1974 and 2000, the report said.

There’s an informative Riefenstahl site here, and a pair of faintly peculiar fan sites here and here. Susan Sontag’s classic essay, “Fascinating Fascism” from the New York Review of Books has been reprinted here, and there’s an interesting, hostile article about Riefenstahl’s postwar photography in Africa by James C. Faris here.