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The Chutzpah of Bernard Lewis

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 10:20 PM EDT

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A small group of Middle East studies academics, led by Bernard Lewis, have formed a new professional group, the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa, according to InsideHigherEd. Their stated reasons for establishing the group are "the increasing politicization of these fields, and the certainty that a corrupt understanding of them is a danger to the academy as well as the future of the young people it purports to educate." Funny, that, because Lewis, from his perch at Princeton, is probably the country's greatest practitioner of Mideast studies in the service of politics. A few of Lewis' greatest hits:

  • Participated in a pre-9/11 "study of ancient empires, sponsored by [Donald] Rumsfeld's office, to understand how they maintained their dominance," according to the Times.
  • Became one of the earliest and most public proponents of war with Iraq soon after 9/11, writing op-eds for the Wall Street Journal, including "A War of Resolve" and "Time for Toppling."
  • In a series of personal meetings after 9/11, helped disabuse Dick Cheney of "his former skepticism about the potential for democracy in the Middle East," according to Time.
  • Earlier this year, received standing ovation after defending the Christian crusades in his speech accepting the Irving Kristol Award at the American Enterprise Institute.

The new association rounds out its apolitical "Academic Council" with U.S. News columnist Fouad Ajami, National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson, and former Secretary of State George Schultz.

—Justin Elliott

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Hindu American Foundation on the Defense About Lobbying Practices

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 9:51 PM EDT

Last month, the New York Times published an article about how the Hindu American Foundation, a "human rights group whose purpose is to provide a voice for the 2 million strong Hindu American community," sees Jews as a "role model in activism." The article states that HAF "learned from the success of Jewish groups that it needed a full-time staff member to lobby Congress."

The HAF has shot back with an online statement accusing the NYT of skewering the "views expressed in an interview" with one of its member. The statement says that "as a non-profit organization, the Foundation does not lobby officials for any legislation, and our efforts are limited to educating legislators as to issues of importance for Hindu Americans."

The thing is, there's a thin line between "educating" and "lobbying." HAF's response probably has a lot to do with the fear of being accused of prohibited lobbying activities as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, but they proudly post press releases and photos about their "achievements" on Capitol Hill, like this Washington D.C. reception in September of this year —the fourth annual get-together of its kind during which they meet with senators and Congress members. In addition, they have a D.C. office to bring a "consistent Hindu American voice to Capitol Hill, the White House and non-governmental organizations in Washington, D.C."

None of these actions are unlawful, and non-profits brief Congress members on special interest issues all the time. But HAF's statement makes it seem like they aren't vigorously inclined to be politically active in Washington when they are clearly skirting the line between lobbying...and well, lobbying.

—Neha Inamdar

The Players Behind Anti-Muslim Pogrom Caught On Tape

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 7:32 PM EDT

Last week, the Indian independent weekly newspaper Tehelka published the findings of their six-month long undercover investigation into the Gujarat 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom which left more than 2,000 people dead. Armed with spy cams, journalist Ashish Khetan captured incriminating evidence of the state's collusion.

The expose reveals how various government and political party affiliates were involved in planning the carnage. One attacker said that Muslims should not be allowed to breed, and recounted how he ripped open the stomach of a woman nine months pregnant and pulled her fetus out, and then threw it in the fire.

The state's complicity is not new news. In 2002, the Human Rights Watch published a 68 page report pointing to the state's involvement and in 2005, the U.S. State Department revoked Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi's visa to the U.S. for his involvement. But the importance of this expose is that this time, it was all caught on tape.

At first, the expose elicited mud slinging that had little to do with the actual evidence of state complicity. Modi's party, the BJP, claimed that the expose is a "political stunt" and it's "confident" that it will still win the elections. Others charged that it was a "political conspiracy to defame the Hindus." But long time politician and Railways Minister Lalu Prashad Yadav has demanded the immediate arrest of Modi, while the Concerned Citizens of Gujarat, a civil society organization in Gujarat, protested yesterday, urging citizens to depose Modi's government and demanded a re-broadcast of the Tehelka expose since it has been banned in most of Gujarat. Let us hope that state officials do not escape justice.

—Neha Inamdar

Breaking: Schumer and Feinstein to Support Mukasey's Nomination

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 5:52 PM EDT

No sooner had Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy said he'd oppose Michael Mukasey's nomination when Chuck Schumer and Dianne Feinstein announced they'd support him. Yesterday, David posed the question of whether the Dems would unite to torpedo Mukasey's nomination, in light of his views on executive power and refusal to call waterboarding torture, or whether they'd wimp out. Looks like we have our answer.

Heavy Rotation: Calvin Harris - I Created Disco

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 5:47 PM EDT

mojo-cover-calvinharris.jpgWith my rep around here as a glowstick-waving techno-bunny, I try to restrict my postings about dance music (really!), so the Riff doesn't turn into, you know, XLR8R's Dubstep Blog. But every once in a while an electronic full-length comes along that sticks in my head and seems like a candidate for mass crossover success, and right now that CD is the fantastic debut from Calvin Harris.

Another Scottish wunderkind, his clearest antecedent in the realm of solo Scot electro producers is, of course, the brilliant Mylo, and their styles do have some similarities, especially a kind of cheeky take on a certain decade between the '70s and the '90s. But while Mylo often seems to veer off into hypnotic, dreamy chill-out sounds (and doesn't sing), Harris is all about getting down and dirty on the dance floor, and strutting his stuff with winking, goofy vocals. Check out "Vegas," in which he insists, in a kind of Zen koan of partying, "I've got my car, and my ride, and my wheels… I've got my drugs, and my stuff, and my pills":

Just when it seems like the funky bassline is all we get, an unexpected chord pattern swoops in over the top, giving the track a strange edge of uncertainty.

And Then There Were Five

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 5:39 PM EDT

Citing Michael Mukasey's reluctance to answer questions about the legality of waterboarding, Senator Patrick Leahy just added his name to the expanding list of Judiciary Committee Dems (five currently) who plan to vote against the president's AG nominee on Tuesday. "There may be interrogation techniques that require close examination and extensive briefings," Leahy said during a press conference in Vermont this afternoon. "Waterboarding is not among them. No American should need a classified briefing to determine whether waterboarding is torture."

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When Did Negroes Become Nerds?

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 4:21 PM EDT

Mark Anthony Neal never fails. He finds a way to use his love of black music to talk about everything black at once. This time, he's gotten at something that's been worrying me for awhile now: when, and why, did public black culture become so degraded? I don't just mean rap's excesses but the paltry cultural footprint we're leaving these days when we used to mesmerize with our art.

No matter how much harder being black used to be, at least we knew we were the coolest people on earth. Hang us from trees though whites certainly did, they still envied us our style and rightfully so. We bad! and the world couldn't keep its eyes off us, on stage, screen or vinyl. The Temptations, afros, Chuck Berry, Lena Horne, The Cotton Club, jazz, blues, gospel. Now, public black culture is mostly rap, reality shows, overwrought r&b and over-priced clothing lines. Neal notes:

In his too-brilliant-to-be-dismissed collection of essays bloodbeats: vol. 1, Los Angeles cultural critic Ernest Hardy writes that "selling blackness is permissible in the mainstream marketplace; celebrating it is not. Few folks know the difference." The occasion for Hardy's observation was the release of the music video for Janet Jackson's "Got Till It's Gone," of which he writes that the video "not only works the artfulness and artsiness that lie at the heart of everyday blackness but envisions a world of African cool, eroticism and playfulness that is electrifying in its forthrightness." "Got Till It's Gone" was released a decade ago and Hardy's argument is no less true today. Indeed blackness seems an industry unto itself, accessible on myriad media platforms and as pervasive as the air; there's rarely a moment where one can't conceivable choke on blackness—especially as the remote surfs past another reality show under-written by the Viacom Corporation. But where does one celebrate blackness at this moment?

Blackness is everywhere but it doesn't seem to be about much. Ironically, this occurs to me on the ever rarer occasions when black artistry does what it's supposed to, what it used to do so much more reliably—remind me that blackness is amazing. Dreamgirls, the Color Purple and Corinne Bailey Rae shocked me. They made me cry; all those beautiful shades of black and all that talent. I had no idea how much I'd missed seeing myself being incredible, transcendant. Seeing blackness loved. They literally made me ache a little—I have to get out more—and realize that I missed blackness. I think the world does, too. 50 Cent is a poor replacement for Curtis Mayfield.

CBS' Vital Campaign News Coverage, Elizabeth Kucinich Still Has a Tongue Ring

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 2:30 PM EDT

Yesterday, Casey made the point—while reporting that the South Carolina Democratic Party voted not to include comedian Stephen Colbert on the state's primary ballot—that fringe candidates often get, well, pushed to the fringe during election season and never get a chance to weigh in on real issues. Case in point—CBS' interview with Dennis Kucinich and his wife Elizabeth. You can watch the entire interview here and Salon's Tim Grieve makes it so you don't have to. Basically, following a painful series of the same question ("So, you would be willing to meet with him?") surrounding Kucinich's already well-publicized assertion that he would be more than willing to speak directly with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad if he were elected president, CBS' Hannah Storm launches into how hot his wife is and asks to see her tongue ring. Honestly, I'd rather hear about what's in the presidential candidate's pockets or I don't know, what he thinks about healthcare or the world's energy crisis, but I guess I'm expecting a bit much from the Early Show.

Friday? Aye, It's Music News Day

| Fri Nov. 2, 2007 2:11 PM EDT

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  • Wait, you're telling me that after the whole build-up and lottery rigamarole, the Led Zeppelin reunion show scheduled for November 26th in London is being postponed because Jimmy Page hurt his widdle finger? Oh, but you're also telling me it was actaully a fracture, and the show's already been rescheduled for December 10th? Okay then.

  • Meat Loaf halted a gig in Newcastle, UK last night after only a few songs, announcing not only the end of the show but of his musical career. "I can no longer continue," he said, "this is the last show I may ever do in my life." Audience members reported the singer had seemed "drunk" and was slurring his words during the concert; Meat Loaf apparently tours with an oxygen tank by the side of the stage due to health concerns.
  • Rapper Da Brat was arrested in Atlanta last night after allegedly hitting a waitress in the face with a rum bottle. Ouch. She posted $50,000 bail and was released. Da Brat was the first female rapper to go platinum. More importantly, what's that horrible yellow polka-dot jacket she's wearing? Is that a promotional shawl for Bee Movie?
  • Do you like music, except for all those musical parts? Well get your rhythmic butt to the 19th Annual Drum-Off Grand Finals in Hollywood January 5th, where drummers from Bad Religion, The Roots, No Doubt and Pennywise will, you know, drum. The event brings percussionists from around the country together to compete for a $10,000 prize and the ignorance of fans everywhere.
  • Dueling Videos in the Aftermath of Hillary's Debate Stumble

    | Fri Nov. 2, 2007 11:32 AM EDT

    After Hillary Clinton's subpar performance in the most recent debate, the Clinton campaign tried to take the spotlight off her blunders by releasing this video, called "The Politics of Pile On":

    And it may come back to hurt her, because it invited the Edwards campaign to release this video, called "The Politics of Parsing":

    Obama has been talking a lot about how he's going to start attacking Clinton. Edwards, on the other hand, has actually started attacking Clinton.