So much progress in the new year!

Even the Bush administration seems to be backing off its earlier advocacy of torture, but Bush's under-the-table appointee to the board of the United States Institute of Peace, the nutcake Daniel Pipes, rages on. His newest idea is to advocate placing people in internment camps in the United States on the basis of religion.

Of course the idea of placing people of a certain religion in camps is hardly original to Mr Pipes. He was influenced by his political models. But the inspiration he acknowledges is the forced internment of US citizens of Japanese descent during the Second World War. The US government has acknowledged that this internment was illegal, and in 1988 offered an official apology and reparations. Have a look at his interesting effort to call the consensus of policy-makers, historians and the judiciary "revisionist!" (Note to Mr Pipes: do look up "revisionist" in a dictionary).

Mr Pipes does indicate a dim awareness that his ideas are shared by no sane person on the face of the planet, acknowledging that his proposals meet with "near-universal disapproval" and that "polite society shies away" from dangerous lunatics like him. He attributes this to a reflexive tendency "to condemn in advance any use of ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion in formulating domestic security policy," which seems like a roundabout way of admitting to being a violent racist on the far edge of the fringe of the fringe of even his own wacko habitus.


Happy new year? I'm not done complaining about the old one

In the new year's message from Serbian prime minister Vojislav Koštunica:

"On its way out is a year which was, by many measures, difficult. In that year we did not live the way we expected and how we deserve."

So it isn't so much that you ought to be wished a happy new year. It's much more important that you be persuaded that the old one was sad.

Can we tolerate East Ethnics?

Ian Buruma wrote an odd piece for the New Yorker in which he takes an insane person's murder of an obnoxious racist as a sign that tolerance cannot survive, and then proceeds to blame the whole thing on an imaginary "Middle East."

I thought of responding, but a post at Dragi Erazmo pretty much says everything I thought.



Thank the internet spirits for Norm Jensen of One Good Move, who finds the most fascinating and hilarious items to post on his site. Set aside three minutes and fifty five seconds to enjoy this mockumentary film (a Quicktime video file) on the unique oratorical style of Mr Bush. The genius of the presentation is explained by Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechalist (underplayed by Andy Dick).

Jerry Orbach, 1935-2004

He had a celebrated career in musical comedy for several decades before he took on the role for which he became known around the world, as the world-weary and sarcastic detective Lenny Briscoe in the television series Law and Order. According to reminiscences, he actively participated in writing the series as well, and was not only a much-loved actor but also a nice person. Now Jerry Orbach has died, of prostate cancer at the age of 69.

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His comforting and long-running presence will be missed by insomniacs everywhere.


Lessons in free market economics

Thanks to the always very perceptive Dušan Pavlović.

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Deadline for ICTY indictments

There is an interesting essay with a developing discussion over at The head Heeb by a guest writer, one Doug M.

He writes about the impending deadline for the ICTY prosecutor to file indictments -- 31 December, just two days from now. Most of the essay is dedicated to speculating as to whether an indictment is likely to be filed against Ramush Haradinaj, the former guerrilla commander who has recently become prime minister of Kosovo. But there is plenty of interesting reflection beyond that as well.

Phobias for fugitives

The Croatian justice minister, Vesna Škare Ozbolt, is quoted today as explaining that the fugitive Ante Gotovina, who is charged by ICTY with war crimes and crimes against humanity, is afraid to face the charges against him because a previous prison sentence in Nicaragua made him "phobic of any kind of imprisonment."

And no prosecutor would want to file charges against people who are afraid of prison. Only against people who fantasize about it.


Susan Sontag, 1933-2004

Today the writer Susan Sontag died, of leukemia at the age of 71. She was a specialist in no field and a contributor to many, and although critics might say that she invited controversy without being prepared for it or that her best ideas were far behind her, she managed for a long time to occupy a role that has largely disappeared in the US: the public intellectual with something cogent to offer on a wide range of subjects, for whom coherence and erudition are values independent of a particular object.

That role was probably the product of the existence of an established upper class -- one whose members were interested in more than the construction and maintenance of their own fortune, and who felt the need to justify their position by offering something in return. That class was easy to ridicule while it was still around, but it will be hard to replace now that it is gone.

New for admirers of popular culture

This is either a new magazine or one I have just heard about. Either way, it will probably be interesting to have a peek at Popboks, the official publication of the "Society of admirers of popular culture." It is edited by the courtly Goran Tarlać, and among the contributors are some of the finest popular culture writers Belgrade has to offer. In addition to the magazine, the site offers archives of the historic popular culture magazines Džuboks(1974-1985) and Ritam (1989-1995).


Roasted potatoes with lemon

This is simple, and often impresses people beyond all reason. The original recipe was from a book I got from a Greek market in Worcester, but that one called for inordinate amounts of butter which ended up giving the whole thing a soapy flavor, so I changed it. They go nicely with any sort of roasted meat, but it would be a shame if that meat were anything other than lamb. The "it would be a shame if you did anything other than what I do" line I got from Marcella Hazan's cookbooks, great recipes but an imperious tone.

The roasted potatoes

enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a roasting pan
6-8 potatoes, the small to medium type are best
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper
enough broth to almost cover the potatoes (from kockice is fine, I like Knorr's vegetable kockice)

Cut up the potatoes any way you like, thick slices or wedges are best. Put them in an oiled roasting pan.
Pour the lemon juice over them, sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Pour the broth over that.
Put them in the oven and roast them with whatever meat you are roasting, about 90 minutes.

That is really all! Simple and transcendent.