From the “Islamophobe” files, the Council on American Islamic Relations has forced a radio station to apologize for a skit it aired. CAIR would be considered the “moderates” last time I checked, yet they’re connected to terrorist group Hamas, which is currently under threat from the “moderate” (only by degree) Al Aqsa Brigades. And obviously however “moderate” CAIR might be, it apparently does not believe in nor respect the First Amendment.

Did you hear the one about the American publisher that cancelled an upcoming book out of fear that it will make Muslims mad enough to get violent? They must be a bunch of Islamophobes too.

Germany must be chock full of Islamophobes.

I’m an avid reader, and in my spare time I read mostly novels that have nothing to do with any present situations or politics. At all. I treat reading as part mind food, part escape and honestly, part tranquilizer.

So lately I’ve been reading this pre-WWII novel, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse by Vicente Blasco Ibáñez, which I picked up as an e-book, er, somewhere. The U of VA’s electronic library, I think. It’s been made into a movie I haven’t seen.

It starts off with some slow storytelling, centering first on the immediate outbreak of World War I and then running back deep into the 1870s to show how the main character, a sort of derelict half Frenchman half Argentinian who is wealthy by heritage, got to be where he is when the war breaks out. Wading past that, the reader arrives back at the outbreak of the war as it’s experienced in Paris. What the author describes is staggering from a 21st century point of view. At the outbreak of World War I, if the novel is anywhere close to the facts (and being published in 1920, it’s probably close enough) the French government commandeered nearly every single automobile in the entire country and used them for the army, meaning the owners never saw them again. Nearly all men of age and ability dropped whatever they were doing and rushed to enlist to go off and fight the Gerrys. Any men who didn’t go voluntarily were found and sent. Those who managed to avoid the war because they weren’t French citizens got cross looks. There were checkpoints to monitor personal movement pretty much everywhere, and the trains were almost exclusively used to move armies around. If you wanted a ticket to the country for a little R&R, tough. Don’t you know there’s a war on?

I’m not saying that these wartime measures were good things; I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with them. Most wartime measures are draconian and therefore bad. But I am saying that looking back into history can offer today’s civil liberties absolutists and carping critics of the Bush administration’s tactics in the current war a good strong dose of perspective. Nobody’s talking about doing any of the things that were pretty much standard wartime adjustments during previous generations.

As for The Four Horsemen, once you get into the wartime drama it’s fairly interesting. The main character, about 20 years old at the outbreak of the war, is your typical self-absorbed urbanite who can’t be stirred from his cynicism to take on any sort of patriotic duty at all. He’d fit right in on today’s college campuses. I hope there’s some character development on the horizon, or this novel is going to drag. But at least it will be a good tranquilizer.

Re the Foley story, how strange is it that in a city awash in teenagers in close proximity to powerful people, the legal age of consent is lower than in most other jurisdictions? I can’t help but wonder if the local statute was passed during a time when Congress directly governed the city. It probably wasn’t or if it was, it probably had nothing to do with the page program, but it does make you wonder.

Also, the rest of the country must think the political class has gone mad. Here you have a scandal involving an older man sending explicit IMs to teenagers, and Washington has already descended into a finger-pointing frenzy.

There are always two teams on the field (at least). Sports fans tend to blame every setback on a bad play call by the coach, or a botch by the QB, whatever, but seldom just note the fact that even if your guys get the exact right call and execute it to perfection, the other team is there on the field for the express purpose of stopping your team. Both sides are there to make a play, and only side one can usually consider any given play a success. Many plays are failures for both teams.

I bring this up because politically we tend to ignore the fact that there are other countries or alliances with their own agendas at work in geopolitics. Many of them are working resolutely to thwart whatever we do, and they see that as their job and objective in the world. We will, for instance, blame the Clinton administration for its failures on North Korean nukes or 9-11, or the other side will blame Bush for chaos in Iraq or Iran’s nukes, but seldom take into account a bedrock truth: The other guys have an agenda of their own and no US policy or incentive package will deter them from that agenda. Making nice won’t cut it. It’s a shame, but it’s how the world works. We can try to tweak this or that package of sanctions or incentives and we can bring one, two or a hundred allies to the bargaining table with us, but in the end the other side is still going to try to score if they can see any way to do it. The Iranians want nukes because they believe for a variety of reasons that it’s in their self-interest to have them. Their self-interest does not align with ours and never will as long as the current regime rules. They have been our sworn enemy since 1979. What part of “Death to America” don’t we understand?

By the way, one of the players on the other team is ronery Kim. He’s trying to make a big play these days, too. That play may bring back the age of the samurai. I don’t think that’s part of his plan, but it may be what he gets.

Shouldn’t schools hiring bilingual education teachers make sure that those teachers are, you know, actually bilingual?