Thursday, September 26, 2002

HITCHENS, NATION SPLIT! I've been permalinking to The Nation for the past year, not so much because I agree with most of its ultra-left-wing sensibilities -- I rarely do -- but because, when it came to covering the theft of the 2000 presidential election, they were on the side of the angels. Even those voters who were genuinely pleased -- or relieved -- to see Bush in the White House know, in their dark heart of hearts, that the outcome of the election did not represent the will of the people at that time. Small and shrill though it may be, The Nation was one of the few voices which refused to be stifled by those who insisted that the "get over it" argument trumps constitutional law and fair play, and I commend them for their efforts.

On the other hand, I've been infuriated with Christopher Hitchens more often than impressed. For sure, he gets a great many points for eloquence, but an equal number of demerits for each time he's denounced President Clinton as the "Rapist In Chief" -- one of countless scurrilous accusations that was just as likely as not fabricated (or "reimagined") by Clinton's political enemies -- purely for the shock value. Criticize the former President for his politics if you disagree with them; condemn him for the private behavior he's copped to, if you think it's that big a deal. But you don't matter-of-factly tar someone with criminal charges that remain, to this day, not only unproven but so utterly within the realm of hearsay that they are forever unprovable. (As "B" remarked to me recently, the plural of "anecdote" is not "facts.")

All that said, Hitchens' grasp on reality has lately become eminently sensible and commendable. Having weighed in squarely right of center on countering terrorism in general and "regime change" in particular -- in marked contrast to the stance of his publisher and colleagues -- I was beginning to wonder how much longer The Nation would put up with him.

Whoops. Got that one backward. Today, Christopher Hitchens announced that he has fired The Nation. His final column is not on-line at this writing, but Associated Press has the scoop, and quotes Hitch as follows:

"When I began work for The Nation over two decades ago, Victor Navasky described the magazine as a debating ground between liberals and radicals, which was, I thought, well judged," Hitchens writes.

"In the past few weeks, though, I have come to realize that the magazine itself takes a side in this argument, and is becoming the voice and the echo chamber of those who truly believe that John Ashcroft is a greater menace than Osama bin Laden."

Look. I think John Ashcroft is a uptight prick who has some really mixed-up priorities. But for all the whining that goes on about John Ashcroft in lefty circles, not a single person among them has been arrested and detained for speaking out against the menace of John Ashcroft.

That's how our democracy works. A small group of people hold office; We The People debate the issues, arrive at some abstract consensus, bend the office-holders to our collective will, and kick them out if they fail to perform to our satisfaction.

On the day this process fails and Ashcroft starts rounding up dissenters without charge or trial, I'll join my comrades in solidarity, in protest, and -- if it comes to it -- in Gitmo. In the meantime, Hitch and I have much scarier boogiemen to worry about.

Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Not remotely a complete time-waster....

Sunday, September 22, 2002

"...a Jordanian woman in Zarqa ripped off her enveloping black cloak and veil, to reveal a traditional long dress that was nearly as enveloping, and punched and kicked into submission three young men who had been verbally harassing her."

The official Petra News Agency reported Sunday that shopkeepers and passers-by believe the unidentified woman must have had martial arts training."

(From Jerusalem Post)

Saturday, September 21, 2002

MEET THE NEW BUSH - SAME AS THE OLD BUSH! We're getting a surprisingly large -- or maybe not too surprising -- number of Googlers looking for audio or video of GWBush's cover of "Won't Get Fooled Again."

There's a streaming audio source for the entire speech, right on the website. Fast-forward about ten minutes in.

UPDATE: While the transcript is still there, the streaming audio has apparently been removed from the White House website. So, as a public service, I bring you the salient video clip, TiVo'd right off the The Daily Show broadcast and streamed for your convenience by Mind Over What Matters. (Link requires Windows or somesuch Media Player.)

Alternately: Here's Comedy Central's own streaming video clip (requires RealMedia-compatible player).

Obviously, in its never-ending quest for currency of the realm -- more hits -- this page will have to make a point of deconstructing presidential speeches, press briefings and awkward casual remarks much more aggressively in the future.

UPDATE, Part Deux: Help me wrap my mind around what matters! If you have any trouble viewing the aforementioned streaming video -- seriously -- leave a note in the comments section. I'm having a litle trouble with it myself, but I can't tell whether it's a problem with my own MPEG conversion -- or just with certain problematic Media Player installations, "iffy" DSL connections, or firewall issues.

Friday, September 20, 2002

UP NEXT, A REAL-LIFE THOLIAN WEB: "The area was strewn with rubble and bulldozers began digging a deep trench near Arafat’s building, completing the physical isolation of the Palestinian leader." "Israeli forces also erected a barbed wire fence encircling Arafat's office building..."

Dreaded Deadline Doom strikes again! Sorry, compadres and compadrettes, but some last-minute rush work is keeping me tied up in the office, and I'll have to skip tonight's NYC Blogger Bash. Regards to all.

"He was a loner" they'll say. "A quiet guy. Kept to himself."

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

ANATOMY OF A BUSHISM: The White House press core was slightly taken aback yesterday when, speaking off-the-cuff at a Tennesee school, George W. Bush inappropriately invoked the lyrics of Pete Townshend's Won't Get Fooled Again.

Making the case, once again, that Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted, Bush said:

"There's an old saying in Tennessee--"

Wait a minute ... I really have no idea if they say it in Tennessee ... for all I know, they might have a completely different set of sayings here. I'd better cover myself ...

"I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee -- that says--"

What am I thinking about? What's my point? Concentrate! Concentrate!

"--fool me--"

How does that go again? Does it start with fool me once, or fool me twice? Let me think... Fool me twice, shame on... no, that doesn't make any sense! It's gotta be...

"--once, shame on--"

Me? You? Me? You? Let me try it both ways ... Foolmeonce,shameonme,foolmetwice,shameonyou...? No -- that doesn't make sense. Or does it? Oh, hell, why do I ever stray from the prepared text? Gotta say something! Gotta take a chance! Let's try...

"--shame on you."

Yeah! Nailed it! Halfway home!

"Fool me--"

What did I just say five seconds ago? Did I say "once?" Did I already say "twice"? Damn! Which is it? Once or twice? You or me? Shame on -- oh, hell, I'm completely lost. I'm going to look like a complete idiot. Exit strategy. How does that old song go?

"--you can't get fooled again."

Whew! Close enough for government work...

Tuesday, September 17, 2002

COMEDY TONIGHT: Some months ago, the (native-born American citizen / US Army veteran) "Palestinian" activist and comedian Ray Hanania bared his true feelings on the Middle East conflict, in a forum which his American fans were rather unlikely to see unless they really went out of their way to look for it: the Lebanese newspaper Daily Star.

Far from the posture he took earlier this month -- the victimized up-and-coming standup comic who only wanted to share a few laughs and bring us all together, until that rotten Jewish comedy cabal got together and jealously Jewed him out of a choice booking -- here, Hanania comes clean about a great many other things on his mind:
...The dream of compromise with Israel is over, today, and it is clear to nearly everyone that Sharon has opened the door to the new possibility of correcting the original injustice of 1948 and restoring Palestinian control over all of Palestine, an action that the pro-Israel American apologists have dubbed as the “destruction” of the state of Israel.

...No matter how hard Israel and its manipulators in the American media try to prevent the world from seeing the truth of Israel’s viciousness, it comes out either on TV, the internet or in newspapers. The Israeli Army is guilty of Nazi-like war crimes, including executing in cold blood, Palestinian prisoners it has captured. Several of these executions have been captured on TV.

...The second intifada is working. The world can see the ridiculousness of Christiana Amanpour standing there asking Yasser Arafat, who is besieged in a bunker, if he will do something to stop the violence. More and more Americans have said they were appaled [sic] by her display of ignorance, and are now seeing the Palestinian cause as being the victim of Israel’s state terrorism.

...While President George W. Bush remains in a leadership stupor in the White House, incapable of doing anything, some view his inaction as the cause of the violence. That is true. His failure to lead has given Sharon the green light, dripping with red blood, to murder Palestinians at will.

...Israel’s Nazi-like government must be shown that its policies of murder and executions and killings will carry a heavy price in future talks, and that all of Jerusalem is now on the table and that all of Palestine is on the table, too.

Hey -- Ray, my man -- now that's funny! But what's your problem with Christiana Amanpour? Ray, don't you recognize a soul sister?

It's a pity. Rather than babbling lamely about "publicity protocol" violations and other transparent excuses, had Jackie Mason merely lobbed a few of these choice Hanania quotations at the media, his "controversial" firing of Hanania would have swiftly been deemed a non-event. However much CNN media loves to fictionalize the narrative of Palestinian Davids versus Jewish Goliaths, I think even Christiana Amanpour would counsel him ease up on the "Nazi-like" rhetoric. It just doesn't play well in the top-20 markets, y'know?

(Link via Shark Blog)

UPDATE: what about all that supposed evidence of war crimes against Palestinians? Gee, what can I say? I can't argue that the evidence doesn't exist. In fact, such war crimes are all very real, and very well-documented. Here's a compilation of several very graphic examples in which the victims are all Palestinian civilians who were executed without benefit of trial or due process. (Caution: Not for the squeamish!)

ROOT CAUSES: (according to Mark Steyn)
The story of the last 30 years is the emergence of "a new world middle class," as Professor Xavier Sala-i-Martin calls them in his study The World Distribution Of Income. This class is made up of some 2.5 billion people in the developing world, whose standards of living now approach those of the West. That's to say, roughly half the people in the developing world are doing pretty well economically. As Virginia Postrel wrote in The New York Times recently, taking the world's population as a whole, in 1998 "the largest number of people earned about $8,000 -- a standard of living equivalent to Portugal's."

Why hasn't the Middle East shared in this economic growth? Because they're failed states run by kleptocrats who govern by clan and corruption and whose starting point is to exclude half the population -- the women -- from the economic life of the country.

This page hasn't made a point of linking to every Mark Steyn commentary because he is already so well-connected elsewhere in the Blogosphere. But, apparently, I have some readers who aren't familiar with this brilliant essayist whose work is a pleasure to read, not only for its acerbic wit, but moreso for the uncomfortable truths about institutionalized ignorance and racism he routinely lays bare.

Consider the oversight remedied. Oh, and here's a couple more uncomfortably factual tidbits he tosses off, almost as an afterthought, en route to some larger and cleverer point:
In the words of Hussein Mussawi, former leader of Hezbollah: "We are not fighting so that you will offer us something. We are fighting to eliminate you."

OK, that's just his opening position. ... Mr. Mussawi is obviously a hardliner, but we should certainly be able to "work with" more "mainstream" figures in the movement such as Sheikh Muhammad al-Gamei'a, an Egyptian bigshot who was the imam at the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque in New York at the time of last September's unfortunate example of the price of American arrogance. Back in October, the big-time Westernized imam thought it was all to do with America's Jewish influence: "You see these people all the time, everywhere, disseminating corruption, heresy, homosexuality, alcoholism, and drugs. Because of the Jews there are strip clubs, homosexuals, and lesbians everywhere. They do this to impose their hegemony and colonialism on the world ..." [emphasis mine. -jlz]

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

HEADLINES! I'll be in the audience of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, taping this afternoon, airing at 11:00 pm (rerun at 12:30 am). The likelihood of your catching a glimpse of me is remote in the extreme, but if you want to give it a shot, I'll be the guy in the Home Movies cap.

(Bad luck of the draw: Tonight's guest will be Zach Braff, the star of NBC's "Scrubs." Consolation prize: Lewis Black.)

UPDATE: (Your Moment of Zen...) It's amazing, the illusions they can create with lenses. The Daily Show's studio is so tiny, the mice were ... well, the mice were amazed at how tiny it is. By comparison, Conan's studio is Yankee Stadium, and The Daily Show is the dugout.

Seriously, The Daily Show's studio is comparable to a mid-sized hotel conference room, occupying roughly a 35-foot by 35-foot square. A little over 1200 square feet. If that much. When Stephen Colbert is doing his green-screen "remote," it almost is a remote, because they've got him standing so nearly outside the studio that he might as well be. And the control room? -- heh-heh -- there is no friggin' control room! Just a couple of engineers working the boards right behind the audience risers.

The whole setup looks so rinky-dink that it could have passed for my college audio-video lab 25 years ago -- the only significant difference being the talent in front of the camera. (Oh -- and the cameras probably cost one-fiftieth as much, and represent about 20 magnitudes of qualitative improvement.)

And what of Zach Braff? We wuz robbed! We never saw him. Zach's segment was pre-recorded after one of last week's shows. And Lewis Black was either bumped, or the Comedy Central schedule was posted incorrectly. Boo.

But I'll say this about Jon Stewart: You see him reading copy off the teleprompter every day, so you think what's impressive is his impeccable delivery and comic timing. But when he's schmoozing with the audience pre-show, he's out there on the high-wire without a net -- and he is completely, utterly comfortable up there. It's like listening to a great jazz musician improvising, feeding off the crowd's vibes. You have no idea where he's going -- and he has no idea where you're going to lead him -- but not for a moment do you worry that he'll hit a sour note and embarrass himself.

Unlike, say, a Robin Williams who is compelled to channel his manic energy through various characters and alter-egos, Stewart is absolutely comfortable in his own skin. Unlike Letterman, he does not ooze contempt for his audience or seek to mine humor from their humiliation. And especially unlike Leno, he is not wholly dependent on a large writing staff to keep his material fresh. If all you've ever seen of Leno is The Tonight Show, you don't know how good his stand-up act really is -- but I've seen it three times, and it's pretty much the same great act, over and over again. Jon Stewart, I think, could probably wing it every night with no preparation, and more often than not, get away with it.

This guy is destined for bigger and better. And -- what a refreshing change of pace -- he knows it, and he's not afraid of it, and he doesn't hate himself for it.

DON'T RAISE THE BRIDGE - LOWER THE WATER! Here's a creative workaround for getting under a closed drawbridge. Don't try this at home. (Thanks, Dale Jones!)

Thursday, September 05, 2002

SWEET JEBUS, NO WONDER THEY WERE REJECTED! This may be the funniest thing of all time. (Link requires some dang-ol' media player.)

WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE? ... asks Michael Oren:

Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Pearl Harbor attack, later lamented that Japan had "awakened a sleeping giant." His prophecy proved entirely accurate. Today, we look back on America's recovery from that catastrophe with overwhelming awe and pride. It will be interesting to see, then, how posterity judges the aftermath of September 11.

Questions may well be raised about America's failure to respond to terror more vigorously, and its preference for mourning over vengeance. Why, historians might ask, were young people so reluctant to enlist?

Why would the president entertain the leaders of the country that supplied most of the perpetrators of and the funding for the murder of 3,000 Americans?

One conclusion, however, is already indisputable. Had it responded to Pearl Harbor as it did to September 11, the US would not have won World War II...

UPDATE: What, Michael Oren didn't make the point eloquently enough? The "debate" rages on in the Comments link below.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

IS THIS FUNNY? An up-and-coming standup comedian, Ray Hanania [Ha-na-NEE-ah] thought that he was about to get his big break last week, when he was scheduled to open for Jackie Mason at Zanies, a popular Chicago comedy club.

That much of the story, everyone seems to agree upon. Beyond that, things get very foggy.

The Chicago Tribune [link requires onerous registration and activation procedure] offers up the story in what seems like a fairly straightforward and well-documented manner:

Zanies in Chicago canceled a comedian of Palestinian descent as an opener for Jackie Mason [a Jew who uses Jewish subject matter in his comedy] ... because of the local comic's take on Arab-Israeli relations and because he violated protocol about pre-show publicity." [Emphasis mine]

Protocol? More on this a little later. Meanwhile, The Washington Post, picking up the Associated Press wire story, put things a little differently. Attributing Jackie Mason's manager, Jyll Rosenfeld, as their source, AP reported:

"Hanania ... was told hours before the show he couldn't perform because he is Palestinian." [Emphasis mine] -- also copying the AP story nearly word-for-word, including the misspelling of "Zanie's" with an apostrophe -- went on to report that Zanies' general manager, Linda Moses, apparently not having yet reconciled her story with the line Mason's people were promoting, claimed to have bounced Hanania largely because of his "inexperience."

"It's just the fact that he is an unknown," Moses said. "(Mason) is just not comfortable with having an unknown act. It's understandable. In cases like this, the club must defer to Mason's wishes."

One wonders, then, what Linda Moses was thinking when Hanania was booked in the first place. But directly contradicting her kinder, gentler cover story, CNN quotes Jackie Mason's manager, Jyll Rosenfeld, as saying:

"It's not exactly like he's just an Arab-American. This guy's a Palestinian. ... Jackie does not feel comfortable having a Palestinian open for him. Right now it's a very sensitive thing, it's just not a good idea. ... Nothing personal against this fellow ... Jackie doesn't even know him."

Well, well, well. Things look pretty bad for the three supporting actors in this narrative, while Hanania appears to be the innocent victim of a racist conspiracy. Shall we play the obligatory word-substitution game? Imagine if it was Dave Chappelle whose opening act was cut, and Mason's manager had explained it away by saying: "It's not exactly like he's just an African-American. This guy's a Frenchman!"

But wait. It gets worse. CNN reported further:

"Members of Chicago's Arab-American community did take it personally. ... "I'm outraged," said Ali Alarabi [president of the United Arab American League]. "It is an act of hate and racism against Palestinians, and we demand an apology."

Why, Hanania couldn't have gotten better publicity if he'd orchestrated the whole thing.

Almost as if he'd planned the appearance in advance -- almost as though he'd set his alarm clock expressly for this purpose -- Ray Hanania began his counterattack campaign by phoning in the "Curtis and Kuby" radio show on New York City's WABC-AM very early last Wednesday morning, at about 6:00 a.m. (5:00 Chicago time). Here, I don't have the benefit of links or transcripts, so I'm going from memory -- but the gist of Hanania's complaint was that Mason had personally signed off on having Hanania open for him, and was personally responsible for his being fired after he had second thoughts about being associated with a Palestinian. Hanania insisted that his comedy act included no content that would inflame Arab-Jewish relations. All he wanted to do was to tell a few jokes and bring us all closer togther.

Later that morning on WABC's John Gambling program, guest-host Richard Bey took a call from an incensed Jackie Mason, who -- regrettably -- didn't exactly manage to successfully acquit himself. Mason made it sound as though he had been personally betrayed, putting the blame for this incident squarely on Hanania's back, claiming that Hanania owed HIM an apology. To hear Mason tell the story, Hanania had originally presented himself as an "apolitical" comic, but immediately upon getting the Zanies booking, he began aggressively promoting himself as "the Palestinian comedian who was opening for the Jewish comedian." This act of self-promotion was the so-called "protocol" that Hanania had violated, and was itself sufficient pretext for Zanies to fire him.

But Mason further claimed that Hanania's manner of self-promotion had singularly spurred a torrent of angry calls from Zanies patrons and ticketholders. These loyal (if conveniently un-named and unverifiable) patrons, Mason claimed, were prepared to boycott the Mason show en masse if Hanania appeared as scheduled. That left him with no choice.

Mason exonerated Zanies management, repeatedly insisting that it was all very well and good for critics to say that Zanies should "take a principled stand" -- but that those critics were not the ones who would be "going out of business" by keeping Hanania on the bill. No one should be "forced to go out of business" to defend a principle, insisted Mason -- apparently unaware of how many brave, principled individuals have risked or lost their lives to defend his freedom to go on the radio and say any damnfool thing he pleases.

I started taking notes on these events as they began to unfold a week ago -- but as I began to write up a coherent report, it seemed as though something was missing from the story. So I sat on my notes for a few days, to see how events continued to unfold -- and also, to see if any of my Blogbrethren might also weigh in on the story. Unfortunately, Daypop -- the Blog search engine -- seems to be out of commission right now, so I haven't been able to find ANY references or links, other than what has appeared in the mainstream press. (A subsequent updated Chicago Tribune story has Jackie Mason, on damage control, quoted as insisting "I love Palestinians" at a press conference later that day -- but that's about it.)

Let's concede immediately that Jackie Mason and his manager (it's not as if she was "freelancing") -- and to a lesser extent, Zanies management -- come off in a very bad light here. Which is hardly surprising. Jackie Mason is a washed-up Borscht Belt comic whose idea of "funny" consists of inserting a handful of Yiddish words or expressions into his anecdotes -- most infamously, words like "shvartze," which, for the uninitiated, is the functional equivalent of the "n-word." For Mason to further cloak his racism in the guise of a magnanimous gesture -- to avoid inflaming Jewish-Arab animosities and enable Zanies to "stay in business" -- only serves to make Zanies look like a co-conspirator in his own shameful, cowardly act.

That said, I'm glad that I let this story age for a few days. Because it turns out that there's another side which the mainstream media has entirely missed -- or wilfully ignored.

Jackie Mason behaved abominably and gets no defense from these quarters. But so has the mainstream media behaved equally abominably. Once again, they have turned a complicated story into a simple one, for the purpose of serving up a convenient, biased narrative that sells papers and supports their editorial agenda. Once again, mainstream media is complicit in pushing the cultural mythology of the mean, racist Jew putting down the weak, innocent Palestinian.

That ain't the whole story, folks.

Ray Hanania did not materialize out of a vaccuum last week, nor is he the innocent victim he would like you to believe he is.

Ray Hanania has an audit trail.

Ray Hanania is actually a well-known professional media and communications consultant in Chicago, and a senior executive for (what he describes as) a national public relations and public affairs company. He's also a former radio talk show host, and a frequent guest on various local public-interest television news programs.

In other words -- he's a guy who knows all too well how to use the media to his advantage. When he needs to ask the United Arab American League to denounce someone and demand an apology, you can bet Hanania's got their number on speed-dial.

And while he promotes himself as "the Palestinian comedian," his own resume reveals that he is actually a native-born American citizen -- a Vietnam veteran, no less! -- whose parents happen to have emigrated from Jerusalem and Bethelehem. While he obviously feels very strongly about his Palestinian heritage -- and I surely don't begrudge him his cultural identity -- he is no more Palestinian than I am Russian for being descended from Russian immigrants.

Hanania also runs his own very political self-promotional website called "Arab American Media Oasis" -- which, among other things, contains an archive of his political columns written for The Daily Herald. This is apparently a minor regional paper that serves primarily Chicago-area suburbs, although Hanania describes it as a "major American newspaper" -- and further puffs up his resume by describing himself as "the only Palestinian Arab American writing a column on Middle East issues on a weekly basis for an American daily newspaper." (With enough qualifiers, any credential can be made to sound impressive.)

At one time, Hanania was also a reporter and columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times, for which he wrote a four-part series on the life of Palestinians under "Israeli occupation" in 1991, a story which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. This, of course, is the ultimate in resume puffery. It may have been an extraordinarily well-written and important piece of journalism for all I know -- but to be recognized with a Pulitzer nomination is no more difficult than coughing up the entry fee, filling out a short application form and mailing it before the deadline.

I've read some of Hanania's columns (here's the most recent one) and I'll reserve judgment on his politics for now -- except to say that, while he is extremely knowledgable about the historical facts that are important to him, he views the Arab-Israeli conflict through an extremely narrow keyhole -- cropping out the "big picture" in favor the tiny image in the center of the screen that reveals only those things he wants to see. Beyond that, I'll add that he and I have more common cause than you might otherwise expect.

But that said, what especially interests me right now is that, three months ago, Hanania began writing -- a blog! And if you're looking for laughs, Hanania's blog -- Arab American Humor & Thoughts -- is the place to go -- that is, if you're into jokes that are as funny as your average Kahil cartoon.

Hanania claims that he only wants to be judged on how funny and entertaining he is ... that if he was fired because he is a "lousy comedian," then he would be satisfied that he was fired fairly.

So -- you be the judge. Here are a few examples of Ray Hanania's written humor, taken directly from the archived pages of his very own blog:

"Poli" -- means multiple. "tic-ians" means a lot of people who bug you and get under your skin. "Bugs that lie" would be a better name for that. But, we'd have to check with the Israelis before making any changes. After all, Congress is Israeli Occupied Territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered that a postage stamp be commissioned to honor his leadership. The stamp was printed and distributed but his aides reported that while stamps were being sold, very few were being used on letters. In fact, Prime Minister Sharon had yet to receive a letter with one of his postage stamp portraits ... Sharon ordered the Mossad, if it could find the time between assassinating Palestinian political leaders, and cultivating Americans to spy for Israel, to investigate why the stamp was not being used. After an exhaustive study, the Mossad reported that the problem was that the stamps were being used improperly. Nearly everyone was spitting on the wrong side.

A TALE OF PALESTINIAN WILL POWER: An old man lived alone in Palestine. He wanted to dig his potato garden, but it was very hard work. His only son, who would have helped him, was in an Israeli prison. The old man wrote a letter to his son and mentioned his predicament. Shortly, he received this reply, "For HEAVEN'S SAKE, Dad, don't dig up that garden, that's where I buried the GUNS!"

At 4 A.M. the next morning, a dozen Israeli soldiers showed up and dug up the entire garden, without finding any guns. Confused, the old man wrote another note to his son telling him what happened, and asking him what to do next.

His son's reply was: "Now plant your potatoes, Dad. This is the best I can do for you at this time."

Ha ha.

In closing, a few final points:

What is this promotional "protocol" that Hanania supposedly violated? It should come as no surprise to anyone that success in showbiz depends at least as much, if not more, on self-promotion than on talent. If Hanania has gotten it into his head that he wants to succeed as a comedian, of course he has to promote himself -- and if "The Palestinian Comic" is the hook that works for him, then it's his professional duty to repeat that line at every opportunity.

Now, I don't know the business from the inside -- so it's entirely possible that Zanies actually does have a clause in their contracts that forbids their acts from doing their own promotion of a specific Zanies appearance -- but does anyone seriously believe that such rules are routinely and universally enforced? This was selective discrimination, plain and simple.

On the other hand, Hanania is kidding himself if -- as he was quoted by AP and CNN -- he actually said the words, "I'm upset because I deserve to be on stage." That's more than just a performer's ego talking. Spot-check his collected writings about the Middle East conflict, and it quickly becomes self-evident that this is a cultural conceit -- and an extension of the same mindset that would also insist that "I'm upset because Palestinians deserve to occupy all the land between Jordan and the sea." Everything important in his world view is skewed by what he believes the world owes him. Little or nothing is about what he's earned.

And to imagine that Jackie Mason was not entitled to give Hanania the axe when he learned that his opening act was someone whose political writings are, in fact, both inflammatory and highly visible, is naive in the extreme. Had young Jerry Seinfeld written a highly visible newspaper column in which he routinely made inflammatory remarks about Palestinians, you can be certain that he'd never have gotten his Seinfeld Chronicles TV pilot off the ground, either -- no matter how many well-placed media-controlling Jews were rooting for him.

(Incidently, Hanania claims that his main comedic influence is "the popular television Arab stand-up comic, Jerry Seinfeld." Seinfeld's mother is a Syrian Jew from Damascus -- which, says Hanania, qualifies him as half-Arab. Apparently, it's not enough that the born-in-the-USA Hanania has pasted a "Palestinian" label onto himself; he's determined to apply his own preferred labels to everyone else, too.)

Finally -- if, after all this, you still think Hanania got a completely raw deal from Zanies, think again. He may not have had his shot at opening for Jackie Mason, but Hanania was also scheduled to appear as the featured comedian at Zanies on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, sans Mason. That invitation was not canceled, but Hanania nevertheless declined to appear for those weekend shows -- either to protest his treatment at the hand of the racist Zanies comedy mafia, or to garner more sympathy and publicity for his appearances elsewhere. You be the judge.

UPDATE #1: Both Hanania and Mason squeezed in an appearance -- one after the other -- on The Today Show, briefly presenting their positions to Matt Lauer's wider audience -- and there's no getting around it: Hanania comes off as one hell of a slick media operator, while Mason -- having obviously never been blindsided by a publicity stunt like this -- elicits a small amount of sympathy from me. But judge for yourself. (Link requires Window Media Player.)

And while you're at it, here's a blurry video clip of Hanania's actual standup act, as performed at another venue. Is he funny? Inflammatory? A benign teddy bear? You be the judge.

UPDATE #2: Posting to his blog last Friday, Hanania says:

Hi. Does anyone know Jackie Mason? I have a bill I'd like to give him for all the publicity and PR I got him ...

And they say the Jews invented chutzpah?

UPDATE #3: Mark Evanier comments:

The one place I might disagree with Jay is when he says, "Mason — having obviously never been blindsided by a publicity stunt like this — elicits a small amount of sympathy from me." Not from me. I think Jackie Mason has spent most of his career working the other side of this racket, rushing to the press to claim victimization (and, often, discrimination) every time he's suffered any kind of setback anywhere. He may not have had it done to him before but he certainly knows the drill.

GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN: A few months ago, David P. -- better known as Desert Pundit in these parts -- engaged me to design a new, decorative masthead, to replace the rather ordinary Times Bold headline banner which had been stuck, afterthought-like, at the top of his page.

We went back and forth on this thing a few times, tweaked it a bit, and came up with something which I thought was halfway decent --

--And that was the last I heard from Desert Pundit. His last e-mail to me was June 24, and his final blog post was June 30.

We trust that Desert Pundit's prolonged absence signifies nothing more sinister than his having lost the will to blog. If anyone knows David P. and has some further inkling of his situation, please contact me.

In the meantime, the Desert Pundit link on my Blogroll is being parked under the heading "Essential Reservists" -- along with Insolvent Republic of Blogistan and Brain Droppings, which have also been inactive for too long. May these stalwart bloggers reemerge from their self-imposed exile when they are tanned, rested and ready.

MENTAL BLOCK? Have I simply forgotten how to use the dang thing? -- or is Daypop out of order?