Welcome back reader(s.) While you were drinking Bloody Marys to soothe the damage inflicted by your spirited displays of appreciation for our troops and/or the house you bought last year, this guy was fighting the Taliban. Yes there are still 34,000 American troops doing that! But supposedly, this time, they are winning, which would sort of lend credence to Bill Kristol's assertion that the media is covering up the inspiring success story that is the war, which is sort of why I don't really buy it, since Bill Kristol's assertions about media cover ups are probably about as grounded in reality as Bill Clinton's assertions about media cover ups, which is to say: yesterday Bill Clinton said the media was covering up the fact that Obama can't win. This stands in contrast to Hillary, who thinks he might win as long as he doesn't get assassinated first like back in 1968, the year two Egyptian med school students met and formed the modern-day jihad movement. Much has changed since then, as stories in this week's New Yorker and New Republic about jihadists' disenchantment with killing people will illuminate (also for instance, Megan and I were born.) So your life could be complete upon clicking through to the jump!
MEGAN: So, do you want to start with the slideshow of hotness that is Obama's personal aide? I mean, the article's nice, blah blah blah, but really, I think its purpose should just be to allow us to ooh and ahh over the dude.
MOE: Dude the hottest dude today is the Marine on the fucking front page of the Times and I fucking CAN'T FIND IT ONLINE.
MEGAN: This guy?
MOE: It should go with this story…do you see a picture there? Mine's not loading. I may have to scan. To support the troops, you know. Did you get through any of the New Yorker piece I sent on Fadl vs. Zawahiri?
MOE: And yeah, that guy! He just defeated the Taliban or something!
MEGAN: By the way, for the amusement of all, by Gchat banner ad is now this: "Dictionary.com Word of the Day - ribald: characterized by, or given to, vulgar humor."
MEGAN: Well, I think in the grand tradition of good friends, it's a great thing that you and I have very different taste in men. You can have your Marine, and I'll take the aide and we can both be happy!
MEGAN: Though I think we can all agree that any ladyboner can most easily be killed with this, which greeted me on the top of the New Yorker's site when I went to look for that article.
MOE: How was your weekend? I'm trying to think of some ribald conversations that transpired but 1. I don't really know what constitutes "ribald" when I just volunteered my fear that I had genital warts and 2. I actually ended up having a weirdly serious drunk conversation with a friend about God, and how he thought the Left was going to reclaim Jesus, and then I read half this piece about the jihad movement's ongoing internal debate over just how violent they really need to be and…uh…got a sunburn. Through a pair of black jeans.
MOE: Not Timid, that shot.
MEGAN: Yes. Not Timid is a good way of phrasing it.
MEGAN: Um, my weekend? Pretty relaxing, not much happened, you know, just had this little piece published in a minor news outlet.
MOE: So what's the deal? Do you want to read about Roger Stone while I examine the future of jihad?
MEGAN: I mean, want is probably a strong word since the article starts in a swinger club and one is thus forced to consider the thought of that man fucking, but yes, I'll do it as I think I'll garner more of an understanding out of that than the jihadist piece before coffee.
MOE: In the meantime China's not forcing fines or abortions on anyone who decides to get pregnant after losing kids to the earthquake. (To be fair: China stopped forcing abortions three years ago, I think, but it still happens sometimes?) Bill Clinton said a lot of idiotic things about how there's some vast elitist conspiracy to cover up the fact that Hillary is the inevitable next president and McCain asked Obama to visit Iraq with him, which I think is an excellent idea since he's not exactly safe here, as Hillary so saliently pointed out the other day.
MEGAN: Ok, well, now, my gag reflex has woken me up.
Not long ago, Stone went to the Ink Monkey tattoo shop in Venice Beach and had a portrait of Nixon's face applied to his back, right below the neck. "Women love it," Stone said.
Ummm, we're all women, right? Because I think we can all give this a resounding thumbs down.
MEGAN: Also, by the way, the fact that Reps Anna Eshoo and George Miller endorsed Obama really just means that Nancy wants to because obviously they only do what they're told. And while that phrase sort of pisses me off, I also sort of wish that Pelosi was that steely and puppeteery because then she might get more shit done.
MOE: Oh Jesus at this point any Democrat who endorses Obama should just not bother me with their headlines. I'm trying to focus on the brotherhood here. Also dude I have to get that pic of that marine who is totally hot
MEGAN: I'll need it, too, to wash the Roger Stone stench out from under my nostrils.
MEGAN: Things like this quote, from a Democratic strategist:
He once said to me, ‘Are you black? Are you Hispanic? Are you gay?' When I said no, he said, ‘Then why the fuck are you a Democrat? You should be with us.'
This guy should be denied all access to pussy, seriously. Pussy boycott.
MOE: Um, someone in my house whose name will go unmentioned is eating one of your Christmas cookies.
MOE: That's neither here nor there.
MEGAN: The pumpkin ones, or the nutmeg ones?
MOE: Lawrence Wright describing the changes in Cairo since he taught English there in the seventies reminds…me of China without the economic growth:
When I lived in Cairo, the population was about six million. Now it is three times that size. The unbearable congestion reflects the ungoverned quality of life in the city; pedestrians plunge into the anarchic traffic, their faces masked by fright or resignation. The virtual absence of any attempt to impose order-in the form of street lights or crosswalks-is characteristic of a government that has no sense of obligation to its people and seeks only to protect itself.
One day during my visit, I went to Cairo University, whose buildings are practically crumbling from neglect. There are nearly two hundred thousand students, a good many more than there were when Zawahiri and Fadl studied there. Although the campus was quiet, the mood of the students was troubled, if subdued. Their professors had been on strike because of low pay; in Cairo's poorer neighborhoods, riots had broken out over the cost of bread, and, in a middle-class area, residents had marched against pollution. The government's response to the desperation had been to round up eight hundred members of the Muslim Brotherhood and throw them in jail.
MEGAN: Is it a bad thing that I snorted at the last sentence? Because if it is, I don't wanna me good.
MOE: I was going to blockquote another paragpraph but that feels lazy so I'm gonna summarize: Egyptians, like a lot of Middle Easterners, were psyched about 9/11 bc they thought it would force Americans to reexamine their support of their corrupt autocratic regimes and help eke out a middle path that embraced neither the status quo nor Islamism. Sadly that did not happen. Turns out we are not so good with "middle paths." Oh and btw Iran has nukes it's a grave and serious and urgent threat!
MEGAN: Oooh, way to bury the good tidbits! So, Charlie Black who is the Big Bad Lobbyist in McCain's camp, until very recently worked for the firm that Stone helped found, which was bought by the firm that Mark Penn helps run.
"So what that means is that Mark Penn is Charlie Black's boss," Stone told me. "And they said I was sleazy."
MEGAN: Ha, the Egyptians thought that having he crap bombed out of us would make us re-examine our support of corrupt and autocratic regimes? I guess their knowledge of history is at least as bad as most Americans'.
MOE: Holy shit. Okay, so the Lawrence Wright story profiles some of the jihadist movement's foremost dissenters, namely a doctor named Sayman Imam Al-Sharif aka Dr. Fadl who met Ayman al-Zawahiri in med school in 1968 — hey! another awesome thing that happened that year, alert the boomer era hagiographers — but became estranged from him in the nineties and went off to practice medicine in Yemen and last May tried to call the whole thing off in a letter to a newspaper.
MEGAN: Oh, so, he's like an idealist? One Op Ed can stop a jihad or something?
MEGAN: Pen is mightier than the sword?
MOE: Etc. etc. ... well, I guess he is like the William F. Buckley of Jihad, you know? The intellectual center of the movement apparently. And so he had a lot of followers. One was a guy named Karam Zuhdy. The rift sort of began in the nineties and Zawahiri tried to preempt it by holding a mass shooting in Novemeber 1997 in the ruins of Queen Hatshepsut's temple and 62 people died. ANYWAY, Zudhy and his pals would minister to prisoners and try to get them to first renounce terrorism, then extremism, etc…gradually try and reform them etc. etc.
MOE: Most poignant passage so far:
Many of these Islamists had fantasized that they would be hailed as heroes by their society; instead, they were isolated and rejected. Now Karam Zuhdy and other imprisoned leaders were asking the radicals to accept that they had been deluded from the beginning. It was an overwhelming spiritual defeat. "We began going from prison to prison," Ahmed recalled. "Those boys would see their leaders giving them the new conception of the revisions." Ahmed recalls that many of the prisoners were angry. "They would say, ‘You've been deceiving us for eighteen years! Why didn't you say this before?' "
Despite such objections, the imprisoned members of the Islamic Group largely accepted the leaders' new position. Ahmed says that he was initially skeptical of the prisoners' apparent repentance, which looked like a ploy for better treatment; however, several of the participants in the discussions had already been sentenced to death and were wearing the red clothing that identifies a prisoner as a condemned man. They had nothing to gain. Ahmed says that one of these prisoners told him, "I'm not offering these revisions for Mubarak! I don't care about this government. What is important is that I killed people-Copts, innocent persons-and before I meet God I should declare my sins." Then the man burst into tears.
MEGAN: Wait, so, like, there's Reconciliation in Islam, too?
MEGAN: Also, it's sort of heartwarming that they learned that killing people is bad, though!
MOE: Yeah well if they can get the memo maybe even someone like Doug Feith could reject his old…haha no.
MEGAN: Wait! Wait! Maybe the secret is that you have to go to prison? Because I could be down on running that experiment with good ol' Dougie.
MOE: I got till 10:30 incidentally and scanned that picture and I'm pretty sure not even I expected that 30% of the auto sales in California are made with home equity loans…especially since it would appear that California also holds claim to the market with the highest average price-to-rent ratio, a pretty good barometer of how inflated a real estate market is. A place in East Bay, California costs — or cost past tense, anyway — 51 times its annual rent. 42.5 in San Jose. That is, just for the record, insane.
MEGAN: Yeah, my sister lives out there and in Palo Alto these cute little bungalows that are barely bigger than my condo or your apartment are, like, $1 million and people rent them out and I don't see how you'd have the money to pay that kind of rent and not buy the place.
MEGAN: On the other hand, 18% of Americans believe the sun revolves around the Earth.
MEGAN: Oh, hey, btw, weren't you asked what happened to Aung San Suu Kyi last week? The junta's decided to extend her detention by another year despite laws there that you can't be detained without trial for more than 5 years. Apparently, her being free while they're fucking up the country more is a bad thing.