Monthly Archives: July 2006

On the Money

At a moment when many possible presidents would flinch, President Bush this morning patiently reminded everyone about what’s going on, who’s responsible, and who needs to do what to stop the bloodshed:

As we work with friends and allies, it is important to remember this crisis began with Hezbollah’s unprovoked terrorist attacks against Israel. Israel is exercising its right to defend itself. And we mourn the loss of innocent life, both in Lebanon and in Israel. We’re determined to deliver relief to those who suffer; we’re determined to work to resolve this crisis.

To achieve the peace that we want we must achieve certain clear objectives: Lebanon’s democratic government must be empowered to exercise sole authority over its territory. A multinational force must be dispatched to Lebanon quickly so we can help speed the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Lebanese people. Iran must end its financial support and supply of weapons to terrorist groups like Hezbollah. Syria must end its support for terror and respect the sovereignty of Lebanon.

This approach will make it possible what so many around the world want to see: the end of Hezbollah’s attacks on Israel, the return of the Israeli soldiers taken hostage by the terrorists, the suspension of Israel’s operations in Lebanon and the eventual withdrawal of Israeli forces.

The current crisis is part of a larger struggle between the forces of freedom and the forces of terror in the Middle East. For decades, the status quo in the Middle East permitted tyranny and terror to thrive. And as we saw on September the 11th, the status quo in the Middle East led to death and destruction in the United States, and it had to change. So America is opposing the forces of terror and promoting the cause of democracy across the broader Middle East.

This task is long, it is difficult work, but it is necessary work. When democracy spreads in the Middle East the people of that troubled region will have a better future. The terrorists will lose their safe havens and their recruits, and the United States of America will be more secure. The hard work of helping people realize the benefits of liberty is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come.

Predictable Sequence

On Thursday, a videotaped message from al-Qaeda’s Ayman al-Zawahiri calls on Muslims everywhere to rise up against Israel.

On Friday, a Muslim walks into a Jewish organization’s building in Seattle and starts shooting at anything that moves, killing one person and wounding five others.

On Saturday, the media treat it pretty much like just another random act of maniacal gun violence.

ABC News

What’s In The Papers

More on Todd Haynes “biopic” of Dylan, to be titled “I’m Not There,” from the Toronto Star today (shooting will allegedly begin on Monday in Montreal):

The plan is to have various actors play Dylan at various stages of his life, from his early days up to his 50s. (He recently turned 65.) A complete cast list was finally announced this week, just in time for the start of lensing, and they include well-knowns and unknowns. The six Dylan players are Heath Ledger (replacing Colin Farrell, who dropped out), Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Ben Wishaw (who played Keith Richards in Stoned) and Marcus Carl Franklin (TV’s Law & Order).

Blanchett is female and Franklin is black. This really will be an unusual movie.

The supporting cast includes Heath Ledger’s partner Michelle Williams (who will play the love interest to Blanchett’s Dylan), Julianne Moore, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Canada’s own Bruce Greenwood.

“Bob Dylan was somebody who has rejected all of the various personas that he has embodied over the years,” director Haynes (Far From Heaven) told the press at Cannes in May.

“He continues to move forward by discarding himself, so my idea is to put together a film of multiple characters and tell their stories simultaneously. It’s going to be weird, not a traditional narrative by any means.”

It’s no wonder Dylan likes the idea. It’s not like anything the director puts in such a nutso-sounding film is going to stick to Dylan in any way.


And another big story in the press today that invokes Bob is one about the Welsh singer Cerys Matthews. From This Is London, Dylan saved me from heroin hell:

“I couldn’t walk, couldn’t breathe,” she says quietly, scarcely audible above the clamour of the north London gastropub where we meet. “I was allergic to heroin. My body would react against it. It fills your lungs up. You suffocate yourself. So what do you do? You make a conscious decision to live. It would have been the end if I hadn’t made that decision.”

The strength to make that choice, she reveals, came from an entirely unexpected quarter. “I had a telephone call from Bob Dylan and from Yusuf Islam [the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens] in a two-week period and it gave me the confidence to follow what my heart was telling me, which was just to get out. I don’t know why they rang, it happened out of the blue.

“I’d like to keep the conversations private but it was a strange time because I’d almost given up hope on everything and started to lose the plot a bit, and that’s a pretty sorry place to be. [Then] these spiritual guides called and it helped me gather strength to change things and move and start again. I just did it by leaving the country and living in the middle of nowhere for a year.”


Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Gossip columnist Liz Smith was at a fancy screening of Woody Allen’s new film in New York City, and from her column today is the following snippet:

Oh, here’s something I picked up while wandering about. I was told Scarlett Johansson would soon be filming a music video with Bob Dylan, directed by the Oscar-nominated Bennett Miller of “Capote” fame. “There he is, go ask him,” said my source. I approached Miller, who was all smiles, as we had been big supporters of “Capote,” but when I asked about the video, he paled and said, “Uh, no. Where did you hear that? Not . . . no, nothing to say.” He grabbed the hand of his ladyfriend Sarah Vowell, the author of “Assassination Vacation,” and vanished into the subtly lit recesses of Le Cirque, in the direction of Scarlett.

So I knew it was no good asking her, either.

This could be nothing, but it rings true because this would be about the time a video would be shot for any potential smash-hit singles from Modern Times, which will be released one month from now. Dylan himself is currently on a break in-between his European tour and his forthcoming tour of minor-league baseball parks in the U.S..

So, what about the funny reaction from Bennett Miller? I guess maybe it’s this: When Dylan’s people tell you to keep a secret, you keep the secret, dammit. Memories of the horse’s head in his bed that persuaded him to take up the project are no doubt still fresh.

LOL, as the kids say.

Battle Fatigue

There’s an interesting perspective on the Israel/Hezbollah war from an Israeli blogger I linked to once before. Then, the Rabbi was pleasantly impressed by an impassioned speech Prime Minister Olmert made the Knesset. At this point in the proceedings, however, he is losing confidence.

The IDF asked Olmert and his cabinet for permission to fight like an army. Olmert said no. Rather, Olmert has ordered increased air strikes in Beirut and the north. He’s succeeding in wrecking Lebanon, but he’s not uprooting the Hizbolla from the bunkers of South Lebanon. Even worse, his lack of understanding is a double touchback in Israel’s own end zone: First, for years, the Palestinians (Sunnis) in Lebanon and the Lebanese Shiites that form the core of the Hizbolla hated each other with a passion. Now, Olmert is forging them together. Second, Olmert’s strategy is forcing the Lebanese man on the street – who up until now hated the Hizbolla – into a flag-waving Hizbolla supporter.

I tend to disagree with his implication at the end of his post that it is the U.S. administration pushing Olmert into this position of conducting only a very limited ground war — although it certainly might be true. However, I think the unique thing about the current scenario is that the Bush administration has been willing to — if you’ll forgive the metaphor — hold back the Red Sea of international pressure and give the Israelis time for a decisive offensive. The Olmert government has demonstrated a reluctance to use the opportunity, and at this point the time has probably passed for such a strategy to be adopted (quite possibly to the chagrin of the U.S. administration). If so, it’s an unprecedented reversal of roles.

Last week, I quoted the Israeli general Udi Adam who said, “I suggest not counting the dead,” on the eve of what might have then become a broad ground offensive. Today, the dead certainly are being counted — not that you can blame the mourners. There seems to be a serious lack of appetite for this war among many in Israel, and of-course that’s understandable from any decent people. However, this could prove to be a particularly bad time to flinch.