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Welcome back to PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE! I am your host, Ken McCracken.
We had a really big response this week, which will probably make for one of the longest posts ever here at WILLisms.com, so sit back
and take it all in.
And . . . Bear Down, Chicago Bears! Rick Moran, you're a pundit among pundits, but you are WRONG this time! (God I hope).
Our topics this week are these:
Topic 1: What do you think will be the next big development, for good or ill, in the Middle East?
Topic 2: If you could bring back any single TV series for one more season, which would it be and why?
Our first guest is Jay Tea from Wizbang! Welcome back Jay Tea, whaddya say?
I'm no scholar of the region, but I see three major developments on the
horizon, and all will have a huge affect on the region and the world.
The first is a confrontation with Iran about its nuclear ambitions. I'm sad
to say I don't see this ending in anything short of violence. The only
question is how violent and how final it will be.
The second is a possible coup in Syria. Bashar Assad -- dubbed "The
Dorktator" by far wittier and knowledgeable people than I -- never had a
very strong grip on power, and the events in Lebanon and Iraq have shaken
his already tenuous grasp.
But the one that will happen soonest, I think, is the utter collapse of the
Palestinian Authority and Gaza's descent into chaos and anarchy.
The PA has elections scheduled for January 23, and the clashes between Fatah
and Hamas are growing more and more strident. Fatah is seen as the more
moderate of the two, but it's not really much of a difference. Fatah
endorses killing the Jews until they go away; Hamas wants to kill them all.
Hamas looks like, by hook or by crook (most likely crook), they will win the
majority of seats in the election. A good chunk of the rest of the world has
already said that they will not deal with a Hamas government, including the
United States and Israel. But regardless of the results, I expect both sides
will claim fraud and return to their preferred method of expression,
violence. With Israel having sealed off their borders, and Egypt likely to
do the same, the region will descend into a charnel house as the terrorists,
deprived of other targets, will turn on themselves and the Gazans who have
Inevitably, there will be a call for "peacekeepers" to go in and end the
fighting. This will be a misnomer; as there will be no peace to keep, they
would be peace MAKERS, in the spirit of the old nickname for the Colt
revolver. And if it happens, I hope that there will be no Americans in the
force. Many of the Palestinians see the United States as their enemy, and
our presence will give them cause to set aside their grievances and unite in
attacking us. At that point, they just might learn what it means to have the
US as a foe.
If the world is lucky, the chaos in Gaza will claim the lives of many of the
most fanatical, and the survivors will see the logical result of the decades
of intransigence, terrorism, and hatred they have revelled in. At that
point, there might be a slim hope for peace in the Holy Land.
But, sadly, I doubt it.
Now for topic 2:
A while ago, I once heard Fox described as "the network where great science
fiction goes to die." The body count of excellent shows killed by Fox is
legendary. But the single greatest atrocity they every committed was their
rape and murder of Joss Whedon's "Firefly."
Whedon is, in short, an entertainment genius. He created "Buffy The Vampire
Slayer," which ran for seven seasons across two networks. The spinoff,
"Angel," lasted five seasons, and but for studio politics could have gone on
for at least one more year. He also wrote "Toy Story," the big Disney/Pixar
Fox came to Joss, and asked for a series. He crafted a brilliant sci-fi
western, with a cast of nine(!) remarkable characters, one battered
spaceship, and a wonderfully fleshed-out universe. He produced a two-part
pilot that introduced it all and gave the audience a taste of what was in
Fox loved it. They signed a deal for a half-season, with the promise of more
if the ratings were good.
And then they set out to kill it.
First, they demanded a new pilot. Too much exposition, not enough action,
they said. Give us a script for a new pilot, with all sorts of flashiness
and excitement. And no rush, Joss -- take the whole weekend.
Joss did it, so they started tossing more barriers in his way. They bounced
it around the schedule. They aired episodes out of order, shredding the
continuity Joss is famous for building. They bumped it entirely some weeks,
leaving the rapidly-growing fan base wondering when the hell it would be on
next. Finally, when they couldn't think of anything more to do to the show,
they just canceled it outright. As a final insult, they made the last aired
episode "Serenity," the two-part pilot they had never gotten around to
But Joss Whedon's fans are not like most people. In fact, the phrase "rabid
wolverines" might be a bit of an understatement. They pushed for the few
episodes made (including three that Fox never bothered to air) to be
released on DVD. Then they bought and bought it, making it one of the
best-selling DVDs of the last couple years. And they demanded more, until
Universal gave Joss the green light to bring Firefly to the big screen.
"Serenity" wasn't a smash hit, I'm sad to say. Despite the valiant efforts
of the Browncoats (it was three of the six movies I went to last year), it
looks like it'll about break even. The DVD was released in near-record time,
though (less than three months after opening day in the theatres), and it
also shot to the top of the charts.
There are still plenty of adventures of the crew of the Serenity to be told.
And, in a perfect world, the Sci Fi Network would pony up the money to get
at least half a season of new episodes to be made, and the ratings would
But that would depend on one factor: the good will of Fox, which still holds
the TV rights to Firefly. And for them to allow someone else to make the
show would be to admit that they could have done it right in the first
place, and they screwed up. And that, I'm sad to say, just ain't gonna
Our next guest is a newcomer to the Roundtable, Barbara Moeller of Quid Nimis
. What are your thoughts, Barbara?
The current situation in the Middle East is dominated by the imminent acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran. The press and
the American public have been very late to wake up to the danger posed by Iran, but bloggers like Regime Change Iran have been
carefully and thoroughly documenting the inexorable progress that this regime has been making toward its stated goal of
When Ahmadinejad was "elected," the American press willfully downplayed his rather sordid resume and the ludicrous, obvious
rigging of the elections. He is clearly a puppet of the mullahs, he is clearly a fanatic.
With respect to Iran, the world will react slowly and impotently. Expect utter silence from Saudi Arabia, who really wants
Israel obliterated, but are probably thinking that a nuclear Iran is not a good trade off for that laudable goal. Europeans
can't even muster enough manliness to have a birth rate in whole integers: they are never going to stand up to the Iranians.
Jack Straw (British Foreign Secretary) has taken the military option "off the table." Things will be referred to the Security
Council and ho hum... in the end Israel will bomb Iran's nuclear facilities with the backing of the US and all hell will break
loose. I would keep my eye on ship movements in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean, if I knew how to do such things.
In the immediate future, Ariel Sharon will pass away. Iraq will continue to have high casualty counts, which will slow our
troop reduction somewhat, but there will be a tipping point and the Sunnis will abandon the insurgency by in large. al Qaeda in
Iraq will continue to wreak havoc but the situation will be very strange: their sophistication and deadliness will increase
even as they lose their constituency in Iraq itself. In a couple of years, they will be seen and treated by Iraqis generally
as outlaws, not liberators.
Topic 2: "My World and Welcome to It" with William Windom. It only lasted two seasons but was an outstanding, intelligent
sitcom based on the writings and drawings of James Thurber. When I moved to Texas I became close friends with a woman who grew
up in SoCal like I did and we still talk about movies and TV. Her father was a script writer for many shows. I mentioned
"My World" once and how much I admired it and she said, "That was my dad's show!" It turned out that it had been his pet
project, he had created it entirely. Small world.
Our next guest is WILLisms.com guest pundit and Roundtable regular, Hoodlumman of File It Under
. What's up?
Unfortunately, I think the next big development in the ME involves
Iran. It looks like sanctions will be first but I doubt that will be
successful in stopping Iran's nuclear goals. I don't know that
anything will stop Iran now. They have oil, so they have a great
bargaining chip to get materials and knowledge from countries that
don't have oil.
Secondly, we all see how great sanctions were at causing Saddam to
capitulate. He actually began bribing folks in the UN.
I think in the next five or so years, we'll see conflict in Iran.
Hopefully it'll be an internal uprising by Iran's defiant youth
realizing they don't want or have to be the target of US, Israeli or
other country's missles.
Maybe that's wishful thinking but it makes sense to me...
Topic 2: If I could bring back one TV series it'd be the A-Team. I think it'd
be great to show today's youth all the greatness that was the
Hannibal, B.A. Baracas, Peck and Murdock.
Why? They never lost, never killed anyone and there plans always came together.
Always. And because of Mr. T. Mr. T = awesome.
Our next guest is a return visitor to the Rountable, Giacomo of Joust the Facts
. How do you see things Giacomo?
The Middle East is obviously going to be the epicenter of world politics for the foreseeable future. It's hard to make a
living predicting what will happen there. I think the two most prominent recent developments have been the stroke suffered by
Ariel Sharon, and the nuclear desires of Iran. The next big development will be that these two nearly simultaneous events will
head toward resolution. I'm not that optimistic that the resolution will be pleasant.
It's likely that Sharon, after the stroke and assuming he survives, will not be able to continue as Prime Minister, and will
need to be replaced. What type of PM does Israel choose? Is it to be someone who shows deference to the path outlined by
Sharon, or does a more liberal or a more hardline leader emerge? Will the new leadership allow Iran to continue rattling it's
nuclear saber, and talk at times about the destruction of Israel without 'pre-empting'? Are the Western Democracies able to
contain the nuclear efforts of Iran? And what happens in the region if Israel decides that the Iranian nuclear work needs to
To avert an escalation of the current conflict will be difficult. It almost seems to be what Iran wants, and it will require
intense diplomatic effort, not necessarily with Iran, but with all the surrounding nations. The right PM in Israel will help,
but Israel can't resolve this peacefully themselves given the statements of Ahmadinejad.
Topic 2: If you could bring back any single TV series for one more season, which would it be and why?
The pat answer here, of course, is Star Trek, but in reality Star Trek has been back many times - as The Next Generation, Deep
Space Nine, Voyager, Enterprise, and with a host of full-length movies. So Star Trek is out.
I'd have to go with Mission Impossible. This stylish show was filled with suspense, intrigue, technological 'wows' and it made
a great package for an hour-long drama. Each episode was one mission, and missing an episode did not mean that you'd be
clueless on the plot the following week. And the opening grabbed your attention: "Good morning, Mr. Phelps."
A lot of shows on TV now require you to become invested in the season, not just that weeks episode. Miss an episode, and
you've got homework to do to figure out what's going on next week. As busy as my life is, there's no way to know I'll be
planted in front of the TV at the same time each week.
And now we have Will Franklin, founder of WILLisms.com. Will, what's the word?
Whenever I think about the situation in Iran, I get sick to my stomach. Especially thinking about my experience(s)
investigating the Iranian "elections" in Houston several months ago. These people are fanatical, and they have goals bigger
than Iran and nuclear weapons. They seek the elimination of not only the state of Israel, but of Jews. They seek the
destruction of the United States. They seek global Islamic revolution not entirely unlike the way the Soviets sought global
Communist revolution. Our national strategy in Iran has been to hope the demographic iceberg of people born after 1979 collides
with the regime. But that may not be good enough. I tend to believe that Iran is closer to "going nuclear" than we realize. And
there's no simple airstrike solution, as many of the facilities are underground and spread out deep within the country. I am an
optimist, but without a miracle, I have trouble seeing any kind of clean, simple, positive outcome in Iran. In a generation or
two, the greater Middle East will be a dramatically different place-- for the better. But the path from here to there will be
occasionally very painful.
Topic 2: The Wonder Years. But I would want to apply the extra season retroactively to 1987 instead of after the series ended (1993).
The series finale (finding out that Kevin's dad died shortly thereafter and that Kevin never ends up with Winnie Cooper) would
preclude a 1994 season. Plus, the kids were just getting too old by the end of the series. I would pick The Wonder Years for a
1. Reality television, generally, has jumped the shark. Television needs more shows like The Wonder Years .
2. The music on the show was great.
3. The situations on the show were always surprisingly applicable to my life growing up, even though it was about a kid growing
up in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before my time.
4. The show never tried too hard to get ratings. It was always subtle and believable. The characters never became caricatures
If and when this show comes out on DVD (not the low-quality bootleg types you can buy right now), I am definitely getting it.
The Host's Last Word: Call me a hopeless optimist, but the big development in the Middle East over the next year, five years, ten years and beyond is going to be democracy.
Iranians are decent people at heart, as are all people everywhere, and they will not tolerate the indecent regime that rules there forever, now that President Ahmedinejad is being exposed for the dangerous psychopath he really is. Iranians with any real pride in their culture, history and mainstream Islam will reject this dangerous freak.
Hamas is great at bellowing anti-semitic hate, but can they get the garbage picked up? Can they root out corruption? Can they hold hearings to let the people air their grievances? Democracy will either slap Hamas upside the head with the cold, wet fish of reality, or expose them for the brainless, useless haters that they are.
Bashar 'Fredo' Assad had better watch his rear end, democracy is out to bite him as well.
Democratic ideals are inexorable. They may not conquer overnight, but they are in the air, lingering over Cairo, Riyadh, Tehran, Damascus . . . and day by day it becomes clearer to the average guy on the arab street that Israel and the U.S. are not the problem, to the contrary, they point the way to a better way of life.
As for TV, I wish that there could be one more season of what I think is the best TV show ever made: Monty Python!
Come back next week for another power-packed presentation of PUNDIT ROUNDTABLE!
Posted by Ken McCracken · 15 January 2006 02:37 PM
Sharon: a man of war
Unlike Zionists (and their American friends) who gleefully proclaimed
after the mysterious death of Yasser Arafat that the world will be a
better place, the Palestine Solidarity Committee will not express glee
at the death - or impending death - of any human being. However,
with all the recent platitudes about how Ariel Sharon was 'a man of
peace' and how his death (physical or political) will negatively
affect 'the peace process', we believe it necessary to set the
record straight: far from being a man of peace, Sharon was a man of
violence and a war criminal!
For Palestinians and justice-loving people around the world, Sharon
will be remembered in the same way that we remember Hendrik Verwoerd,
General Franco, Mobutu Sese Seko and Saddam Hussain. Sharon's
military and political career has been marked by numerous acts of
terrorism and various atrocities. He believed in the language of
bloodshed, racism and the practice of brutal oppression and ethnic
cleansing, not in peace and justice. Throughout his military and
political career, Sharon distinguished himself as a brute and a bully.
The fact that he is gravely ill does not absolve him from the numerous
war crimes he is responsible for. Nor should it cause us to rewrite
history to make him look other than what he was.
We regard Sharon as a war criminal because his crimes against humanity
- as determined by the Geneva Conventions and by international law
1953: he was the leader of the Israeli army's Unit 101 that herded 69
civilians into their houses during a raid against the Palestinian
village Qibya - before dynamiting all the houses. There were no
1971: he promoted a policy of bulldozing and demolishing Palestinian
houses in the Gaza under the pretext of security. Destroying the houses
of an occupied population is a war crime under Geneva Conventions.
1982: he was the architect of Israel's invasion of Lebanon which
became known in Israel as 'Sharon's war'. His invasion resulted
in the deaths of more than 15 000 Lebanese civilians and he earned the
epithet 'the Butcher of Beirut'.
1982: during the invasion, Sharon cooperated with and provided
protection to the armed militias of the extreme right wing Phalange
fascist group when they massacred over 3 000 unarmed refugees (largely
women and children) in the Sabra and Shatilla refugee camps. An Israeli
Commission of Enquiry found him "personally responsible" for the
massacres and ruled that he was not fit to be the Israeli minister of
1990-92: he served as Israel's housing minister. This period saw the
rapid and deliberate expansion of Israeli colonies (or settlements) on
Palestinian land. The building of settlements / colonies on occupied
land is illegal under the Geneva Conventions.
2000: Sharon triggered the second intifada by deliberately and
provocatively swaggering into the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem,
supported by thousands of Israeli security personnel.
2003: he was responsible for initiating the building of the apartheid
wall, a grotesque 8-metre high wall which, on completion, will be 750
km long, imprisoning thousands of Palestinians and stealing large
tracts of Palestinian land. The International Court of Justice ruled
that the wall was illegal; Sharon refused to accept the ruling.
Through his prime ministership, he championed extra-judicial
assassination of Palestinian leaders and the wanton bombings of
Palestinian residential areas - both of which are illegal under
When he was taken ill, Sharon led the world's fourth largest army and
sat atop more than 200 nuclear warheads, continuing to refuse the
International Atomic Energy Agency any access to nuclear facilities.
Some observers are now referring to Sharon's Gaza redeployment to
argue their contention of him as a man of peace. Clearly, his decision
to remove the Israeli settlers from Gaza (whose presence there was, in
any event, illegal under international law) was calculated to
strengthen the occupation of the West Bank (including Jerusalem) and
was certainly not a move towards peace. The redeployment was
precipitated more by the Gaza resistance than by any concern for peace
on Sharon's part. There is also talk about how the "Road Map" will
suffer with Sharon's death. Does no one remember that Sharon refused
to accept the Road Map?
Finally, it is necessary for us to note that if Sharon's "peace plan"
sees the light of day on the ground, Palestinians will end up with 13
percent of their land! Quite a testimony for a man concerned with
peace. The only solution for a durable peace in which Jews and
Palestinians can live peacefully, with the security of both being
guaranteed, is one where all Palestinians and Israelis are able to live
together in a single democratic state which ensures human rights and
equality for all its citizens.
scegliamo con curi i nostri testimoni di pace
Posted by: guerrillaradio (italian b.) at January 15, 2006 04:34 PM
Posted by: Hoodlumman at January 15, 2006 06:09 PM
I am not as optimistic as you are Ken!... That entire Mid East region is full of fanatical extremists ready to kill us all. The President of Iran is not to be trusted! The Palestinians are full of hate and destroy sacred places of the Israelis. They built their Mosque on top of where Solomon had the Temple Mount!... If not for anything else the Historic value is enough to make anyone sick! The Jewish people have suffered great losses from those idiots! Arafat was Egyption born! He was nothing more than a terrorist! Thank goodness he is not around!...But I am sure the Mid East is not lacking for terrorists!!!...
The Twilight Zone had a marathon not long ago and I was thinking how cool it would be to have more of those episodes...
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 15, 2006 06:15 PM
guerrillaradio (italian b.): Arafat and his death are really no big mystery! (AIDS) ... and as far as being gleeful for his death? Well, Arafat was nothing more than a TERRORIST dirt bag! The Nobel Peace Prize is one of those things that is unexplainable! The Nobel Peace Prize should have been taken back just to show it's validity! BUT it wasn't and now the Nobel no longer holds respect for many!...Honestly, I am sorry he had to die as such a scumbag, swine of the earth! BUT that is how it goes sometimes!... Sorry!
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 15, 2006 06:52 PM
No ideas on the middle east. In exchange, I give you two T.V. Shows that not only died before their times, but deserve to be continued.
1) Max Headroom. Dirty sets. Sleazy camera work. Basically, cheaper to make than reality T.V.! The trouble of course would be to get the actors to go back and do it... most have moved upwards and onwards. Blipverts rule...
2) Sportsnight. Aaron Sorkin without the Politics... some of the best T.V. put to screen. Also, it would keep him from making "West Wing" anymore, and therefor help so many of the Democratic Faithful by not confusing them into wondering which American President is real. ;)
Posted by: Mr. Michael at January 15, 2006 07:27 PM
Well I would never say that Ariel Sharon was squeaky clean or innocent - but the idea that Sharon's career - one mostly of an honorable defense of Israel - is anything close to being the blood-spattered travesty that was the wasted life of Yasser Arafat, is quite laughable.
Sharon is considered to be a good faith promoter of peace in the region, even among a great many arabs.
Arafat never lifted a finger to do ONE SINGLE THING to promote peace - he was a constant obstructor of real peace, when he wasn't busy lining his pockets with money that could have helped impoverished Palestinians.
Sorry 'italian b.', but Sharon is going to be remembered as a peacemaker.
Arafat will be remembered as a monster.
Posted by: Ken McCracken at January 15, 2006 09:51 PM
Posted by: Gaijin Biker at January 15, 2006 10:35 PM
Those old Dragnet reruns are great too! Dan Akroid did a great Sargent Friday in the movie but it wouldn't be the same series today as in the past!...
I really liked Mr. Ed too! ... He was such a smart aleck!...
Posted by: Zsa Zsa at January 16, 2006 09:06 AM