David Lesch

I was just taking a break from laughing at the teabaggers, and stumbled across an interesting interview on MSNBC with Trinity University’s David Lesch. Professor Lesch is the working-man’s Juan Cole, by which of course I mean he hasn’t appeared on the Daily Show… yet. However, he has testified before Congress on issues pertaining to the Middle East, and actually made sense.

Lesch has spent quite a bit of time with everyone’s favorite opthamologist-in-chief, Bashar Al-Assad, who has granted him unprecedented access over the past several years. He has apparently recently returned from yet another visit with the President in Syria, and spent a few minutes talking to Chuck Todd on MSNBC about the new possibilites for a relationship between the US and Syria.

What was also noteworthy was Chuck Todd’s final words: he thanked Lesch for not staying locked up in the ivory tower. This reminded me of Joseph Nye’s article from Monday’s Washington Post. If I weren’t trying to pack up my life and move in the next two days, I’d write another thousand words about this problem, one which I personally faced during my four tortuous years in the academy. In lieu of that, I’d suggest reading Lesch’s book, which outlines a few of the reasons I am obsessed with Syria. I can’t wait to read his new one coming out this year.


Obama and Notre Dame

While I try to ignore Catholic institutions as a general rule, I have thoroughly enjoyed the creative ways in which outraged Catholics have expressed their disapproval over Notre Dame’s commencement speaker, Barack Obama. A close family member is in the administration at the university, and she has gleefully told me about all the emails, phone calls, and even handwritten(!) notes she has received from all those offended. However, in the weeks since the announcement was made, Notre Dame has – surprisingly – not rescinded the invitation, and I thought it was pretty much over.

I love being wrong, especially when the New York Times weighs in. But Pat Buchanan is an all-time favorite. I mean, he says – with a straight angry face – that everyone killed by the death penalty is guilty. Really? Someone better tell them that they’re wasting their lives.

He’s my generation’s Zac Efron, only different.

I’ll admit it: I am completely obsessed with Donald Rumsfeld.

When Bush was “elected,” I was despondent. Of course, I was also about to graduate from college with a degree in religious studies, so that might have had something to do with it. Until, that is, I caught wind of his nominee for Secretary of Defense. While I could never confess my sudden infatuation to my Commie pinko friends, I often caught myself staring at his face in the newspaper. He was definitely a crook and a liar, but he was also … a very good dresser.

I think I like him because he was just such an unmitigated disaster. I can identify with that, although I’m new to public humiliation. I mean, this guy did absolutely nothing right. I’m not certainly not a resounding success, but if I show up to work hungover, hundreds of thousands of people don’t die. I eagerly await his mea culpa. For the time being, though, at least he went away. I wish Dick would follow suit.

My favorite GOP hand-wringing of the week

Unless you live in a hole, you’ve seen the famous Obama bow to the Saudi king at the G20 summit last week. I can understand why certain people would have a problem with this. These are the same folks who think Obama hates America because he acknowledged that the country made a few missteps over the past eight years, although they will give themselves coronaries if they keep taking things out of context less than 100 days into the new administration. Jon Stewart, of course, gets it exactly right.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Obama meant to show subservience to King Abdullah. Don’t you think it would be more effective to do this? Or this? I think that the relationship between America and Saudi Arabia is deeply problematic, and I certainly hope that Obama will consider extricating America’s nozzle prong from Saudi’s black gold. His support of a renewable energy platform indicates that he’s at least going to start the process.

But I’m willing to concede that bowing to assholes is never good form.

Opening salvo

I’ve been talking for years about starting a blog on the Middle East. Graduate school ruined the act of writing for me for over a year, but I think I’m ready to come back. Bear with me as I reacquaint myself with words and how to put them together.