You may only read this site if you've purchased Our Kampf from Amazon or Powell's or me
• • •
"Mike and Jon, Jon and Mike—I've known them both for years, and, clearly, one of them is very funny. As for the other: truly one of the great hangers-on of our time."—Steve Bodow, head writer, The Daily Show

"Who can really judge what's funny? If humor is a subjective medium, then can there be something that is really and truly hilarious? Me. This book."—Daniel Handler, author, Adverbs, and personal representative of Lemony Snicket

"The good news: I thought Our Kampf was consistently hilarious. The bad news: I’m the guy who wrote Monkeybone."—Sam Hamm, screenwriter, Batman, Batman Returns, and Homecoming

August 14, 2006

I Am Allowing Someone To Not Agree With Me 100% Here, But It's Just A One Time Thing So Don't Get Any Ideas

In my effusiveness about the recent piece with Aasif Mandvi on the Daily Show, I may have overlooked a few things. After agreeing the piece was very funny, Sam Husseini points out that:

* In the set up, Stewart mentions Israel, Lebanon and Iraq, but makes no mention of the Palestinians.

* Mandvi, who is "live from Beirut," implies that people there don't know about Christmas morning -- false.

* IED -- there are none in Beirut. If you hear a bomb in Beirut, it's Israel bombing, perhaps they didn't want to highlight that. [Actually, I think they did this for the sake of the "Improvised Explosive Opportunity" joke—Jon]

* What will result -- "a parliament" -- but Lebanon has a parliament. The problem with the parliament is that the Shia are dramatically under-represented because the country hasn't had a census since the 1930s, this favors the Christians, who tend to be richer.

* Changes foisted on a region -- it's not the changes that's the problem -- as if Arabs can't deal with democracy -- the problem is the sanctions, bombing, demonization, etc.

* "redrawing boarders without regard to ethnicity or religion" -- exact opposite of what happened -- boarders were drawn to exploit ethnic and religious differences, ie, Lebanon was carved out of Syria.

* "Latest theories of your political scientists" -- not the problem -- the US is in collusion with the worst elements of the House of Saud, not a new theory -- they are not attempting to impose democracy, they are using democratic rhetoric as a pretext, just like WMDs were a pretext....

Let the critique of Sam's critique begin!

ALSO: Here's a transcript of Sam asking Michael Chertoff, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton some questions before their TV appearances last Sunday morning.

Posted at August 14, 2006 08:06 PM | TrackBack

"ie, Lebanon was carved out of Syria"

That should be "e.g.". Clearly he will fail to withstand the brunt of any serious criticism.

Posted by: buermann at August 14, 2006 11:14 PM

Damn incongruaties!!

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 14, 2006 11:28 PM

That should be "e.g.". Clearly he will fail to withstand the brunt of any serious criticism.

You joke, but careers of people with the wrong views have been ruined for less. Meanwhile, William Kristol's life sails merrily onwards.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at August 14, 2006 11:32 PM

I am ever so happy that we have the caliber of people like Chertoff in positions of responsibility.
When we are weak we encourage terrorism is the mantra of Cheney thus the mantra of Bush thus we are up to our neck in trouble.

I noticed that in the interview Chertoff uses the same answer twice which seems to indicate a certain inflexibility in his thinking if thinking is actually what he is doing which I doubt.

Well that has been the problem all along hasn't it Jonathan? How many people actually understand the Middle East or know its history as well as Sam? Not too many, I certainly do not.

But as dumb as I am, not having graduated from Harvard, Stanford or Yale, I do understand some simple things in my own simply way. Killing people is wrong, invading other nations for the sake of grabbing power is not ethical and destroying infrastructures of other nations is not an opportunity for those nations.

Personally I thought juxtaposition of Bush and Rice telling us of the golden opportunities we are offering the Middle East was quite effective in revealing just how stupid this administration thinks we really are.

Posted by: rob payne at August 14, 2006 11:35 PM


I personally know people who were educated in the Middle East and they marvel at the complete lack of a decent education in this 'greatest nation on earth.' Even so, I am quite content to be ignorant if these so-called 'experts' represent the best and brightest in American foreign and domestic policy, trained and educated in the finest institutions of learning available here.

Thomas Keane states that 'learning trades and skills that'll enable them to support a family' and that the 'madrassas, which we know teach hate in a lot of cases' are more blatant lies in the same vein as the 'weapons of mass destruction' myth that was a key to enabling Bush and Company's invasion of Iraq.

Lee Hamilton mentions those 'thousands and thousands of things' which, if I'm not mistaken are called 'evidence' and as such, those 'things' of such importance should not have been subject to any deadline at all. Please cut me off short, Lee. 'Ok, thank you very much.'

Michael Chertoff claims he is quite the observant expert, yet has not observed that all of his answers tend to resemble the same remark: 'War on terror is won by strength, not through weakness.' "Awwk! Awwk! Winner strong. Awwk! Awwk! Loser weak! Awwk! Awwk!"

Much hypocrisy is found in this constant banter about strength especially coming from a pencil-necked geek who should not be seen in public with his Shirt-Off!

Posted by: americanintifada at August 15, 2006 01:18 AM


I see exactly why you've allowed someone to disagree with you in this rare instance: it's because you are essentially right, and Sam is wrong!

Husseini is obviously a very thoughtful observer of Middle Eastern affairs. However, in this case his nitpicks – no matter how accurate – miss the larger point. That point, as you suggested in your original reference, is that Mandvi is brilliant in his role, and that his pungent humor drives home broad points about U.S. Government attitudes towards the Middle East. Getting the details (which Sam enumerated) right would have added nothing to the effectiveness of the segment, and would have been very difficult for the writers to employ.

Oh, and Sam also neglected to mention that the IED sound effect lacked the proper echo which one would hear under the circumstances, and that IED's are almost never detonated at night, and that Mandvi would be required to wear a protective vest if he were actually in Lebanon, and...

Posted by: Tony C. at August 15, 2006 06:13 AM

Who ARE these "boarders" that should be drawn or redrawn? Sounds like crime against humanity to me.

Posted by: donescobar at August 15, 2006 08:46 AM

Although Aasif was in Beirut, I took the whole bit to be about violence in the Arab world in general, mostly about Iraq, not just about Beirut - the lead-in quotes from Rice, etc., were about Iraq, I think. In that context, many of these "mistakes" can be forgiven or disappear.

Posted by: saurabh at August 15, 2006 01:21 PM

I'm not really very knowledgeable about the region, I think I revealed my ignorance to Jon at least a couple of times. My central point, beyond the "nit-picking", is that crits like those featured on Stewart's show and other quasi liberal US venues tend to take the administration at its word in terms of goals.

I don't think Stewart was really questioning Bush's goals as far as WMDs go on Iraq before the Iraq invasion. And now, he's not questioning their goals as far as "democracy promotion," even as Bush (with Saudi help!) arranged for the bombing of the most functioning Arab democracy. Even in this very good segment, Stewart does not do this.

By accepting the motives and merely criting/mocking the policies, Stewart at a certain level has -- dare I say it -- acted as an enabler of Bush.

Beyond that, Stewart (who does touch on oil) could do stuff on cluster bombs, non reporting on Israel nukes, violations of international law. He won't and as such he is the opiate of the liberals.


Posted by: sam -- err -- osama at August 15, 2006 03:06 PM

Sam--err is correct. Even Jon Stewart apparently buys into this notion that Bush is trying to spread democracy in the Middle East, when at best Bush favors elections if they put into power people who will be our willing puppets.

Not that Bush represents any great change in American foreign policy in that regard.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at August 15, 2006 03:28 PM

Agreed, Sam; Jon Stewart and TDS writers are liberals, not radicals. Another possible nitpick is that Aasif Mandvi isn't of Arab background (he's Indo-American).

But, that said, the bit was daring exactly because of how rarely Americans are put in the position -- in mass entertainment, news, or political discussion -- of seeing things from a non-American viewpoint.

Posted by: Nell at August 15, 2006 03:38 PM

It's not so much that they think we're that stupid, it's just they REALLY believe that bullshit themselves, therefore if we believe it then we're "real smart too". It's those who don't believe that bullshit that they perceive as ignorant and stupid.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 15, 2006 05:24 PM

Really, whether liberal or radical, it's just ridiculous for anyone to take at face value the Bush administration's professed desire for a democratic Mideast -- there's a million contradictions (and therefore jokes) in that because it's so obviously, well, laughable... but if you blow up that notion, you have to ask what they really want to do and then you get into issues of economic interests and neo-colonialism. It's just more comfortable to limit the discussion to neo-conservatism....

Posted by: sam -- err -- osama at August 15, 2006 05:54 PM

One should never doubt the ability of the human mind to rationalize the irrational, especially when MONEY AND POWER are involved.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at August 15, 2006 09:03 PM

Um, I think the joke was about how joyful the residents of the middle-east are because we are bombing the shit out of them. As to the question "Is Jon Stewart a liberal?" Consider that the purpose of the show is to induce us to consume shit, that we don't need, made from materials extracted from the residents of the middle-east at rock bottom prices because we are bombing the shit out of them.

Posted by: coriolis at August 15, 2006 11:42 PM

What an eye opener! I'll never tune into Comedy Central for serious foreign policy analysis again.

Posted by: Seen and Heard at August 16, 2006 12:36 PM