Barry Eisler

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gaza, the Inauguration, Etc.

Thanks for all the mail, everyone, and I miss you too. As I mentioned in my first post-election post, I've been trying to blog less so I can focus more on the next novel. The election was hugely distracting and now I'm trying to make up for lost time.

Some of you have written to me to ask why I had nothing to say on Gaza. Part of the answer can be found in this paragraph from a leader in the January 17th Economist:

"Israel’s ruthless offensive has already cost it dear in world opinion. The remorseless demolition of wretched homes and lives by a mighty high-tech war machine cannot but cause grief and outrage in any decent onlooker. Israel asks how else it was supposed to respond to the rocket fire directed for years into its farms and cities, but such questions do absolutely nothing to blunt the emotional impact of this sort of war, whose heart-wrenching images are going to widen an already fearful chasm between the Jewish state and the peoples of the region in which it has yet to win acceptance. For its own sake as well as for the sake of the people of Gaza, it must stop."


That paragraph could have been written (and probably was written) about any Israeli/Arab clash of the last quarter century. I'm sure it'll be written again in the next one. I wrote about some of this in September 2006, and though my view has evolved on a few items I think those earlier posts have held up well. If you're curious, you can read more here, here, and here. Two years from now, I'll probably be linking to them again.

The inauguration: yes, I got up at 1:30 am Tokyo time to watch it. Despite how galactically stage-managed these things are, I found it moving. Former president Bush managed to include a last, characteristic parting shot, saying, "Good speech, Mr. President," following President Obama's speech. I'm sure in Bush's conscious mind, he was being gracious by calling the Obama Mr. President. In fact, he was indulging himself by implying that he was qualified to opine on the merits of the speech he'd just listened to. In Japan, it's considered rudely presumptuous for a student to complement a professor on the quality of a lecture. Instead, one merely says, "Thank you, I learned a lot." "Godspeed, Mr. President" would have been the equivalent for a man given to mangling English as ruthlessly as the former president. Regardless, Bush's last self-indulgence was redeemed by the sight of his helicopter, mercifully extracting him from the capital of the nation he's done so much to damage.

Off politics for a moment: on Friday, I got to see a screening of the Rain Fall movie, out on April 25 in Japan. It was a lot of fun; more thoughts and information here. And if you'd like to say hello in person while I'm on the road promoting Fault Line, out on March 10, here's the tour schedule, which includes Phoenix, Los Angeles (Pasadena, Thousand Oaks, LA), San Diego, Sacramento, San Francisco Bay Area (Menlo Park and San Mateo), Houston, Indianapolis (Carmel), Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Washington DC (Bethesda and Baileys Crossroads), New York City. Hope to see you at one of the events.

Finally, in case you missed it, here's your Jon Stewart fix. Without Fox news, comedy would be much the poorer.

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11 Comments:

Blogger GeekAlpha said...

"I'm sure in Bush's conscious mind, he was being gracious by calling the Obama Mr. President. In fact, he was indulging himself by implying that he was qualified to opine on the merits of the speech he'd just listened to."

I laughed and laughed and laughed. Excellent observation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Melissa Bradley said...

You've got to come to Chicago, Barry. Why are you always skipping over my town when you go on tour? Milwaukee is way too far away and besides as a Chicagoan and a Bears fan, Milwaukee is enemy territory. lol

Sunday, January 25, 2009 10:37:00 AM  
OpenID Rob in Denver said...

He did a similar thing to Pope Benedict: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/04/16/bush-to-pope-benedict-tha_n_96969.html

Sunday, January 25, 2009 1:10:00 PM  
Blogger Joshua James said...

Welcome back ... I'll try and catch you in New York ...

Sunday, January 25, 2009 4:13:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Good speech, Mr President" somehow should be thought of as a "parting shot"? Ridiculous, Barry. I am constantly amazed at myself for being able to sit next to you at breakfast without throwing up. Hopefully you will be as critical of President Obama as you were/are (and apparently can't stop) of President Bush.

In all my years of playing sports, from little league to university, at the end of every game, win or lose (no matter how bitter), the players would line up and shake hands. Since time for actual conversation during those exchanges was always limited, players would simply say "good game".

What makes you conclude, in spite of your infinite wisdom, that such a simple comment between peers was an insult? You are REALLY reaching there.

SG

Sunday, January 25, 2009 6:30:00 PM  
Blogger Barry said...

Scott, why would you hope I'll be as critical of President Obama as I have been of President Bush? Certainly if Obama's performance warrants criticism, I'll criticize him, as I have before. But if you're implying that my failure to criticize Obama as I've criticized Bush will constitute evidence of bias, your own biases might be blinding you to a more obvious possibility: that the current president will be better than the former. Of course, five days into Obama's administration is a bit early to tell, but given that I think Bush was the worst president we've ever had, I expect Obama won't have too hard a time doing a bit better. In which case, naturally enough, I would have fewer grounds on which to criticize him.

As for your analogy, Bush didn't comment on the game; he commented on Obama's performance. I judge that to be self-stroking disguised as a compliment, but grant you that reasonable people might disagree on this point.

I regret that my criticism of our former president has caused you such discomfort. I can assure you, I don't feel any corresponding nausea in reaction to your post -- not because I agree with anything you've said or with the way you've chosen to say it, but because it's not in me to take political differences so personally.

Best,
Barry

Sunday, January 25, 2009 9:31:00 PM  
Blogger Natalie Hatch said...

Wow I didn't realise how polarised America's news coverage was. Just because he's of a differing party doesn't mean that the whole nation can't take on the challenge to pull itself up out of the slump it's in. I hope for everyone's sake that Obama has the fortitude and the backing to make the changes necessary to turn around your economy and redeem the country in the eyes of the world. Because the Bush administration certainly did do a lot of damage.
Congrats again on the movie and I'm patiently waiting for your next book.

Sunday, January 25, 2009 11:57:00 PM  
Blogger Indraneil said...

Dear Barry,
you must be getting this all the time.

Well, I am big fan of your books and i am really excited about the release of your film. All the very best!

I am sure it'll soon be releasing in India as well. Can't wait to watch it!

Best
Indranil

P.S.- Ever though of coming to India for your tour???

Monday, January 26, 2009 9:54:00 PM  
Anonymous Ben said...

Could Obama have not given Bush any credit, though? He did seem a tad condescending at times. Bush did do a few good things in office that aren't talked about that much, such as dramatically improving conditions in Africa with respect to the AIDS virus.

But i guess Obama can thank Bush in a way, because even if Obama isn't a great president, he will still probably look good by comparison.

Thursday, January 29, 2009 9:40:00 PM  
Blogger James Goetz said...

Former president Bush managed to include a last, characteristic parting shot, saying, "Good speech, Mr. President," following President Obama's speech. I'm sure in Bush's conscious mind, he was being gracious by calling the Obama Mr. President. In fact, he was indulging himself by implying that he was qualified to opine on the merits of the speech he'd just listened to. In Japan, it's considered rudely presumptuous for a student to complement a professor on the quality of a lecture. Instead, one merely says, "Thank you, I learned a lot."

Hi Barry,

I'm glad you already confessed, "grant you that reasonable people might disagree on this point." Anyway, I'll quickly give my reasons why I disagree on this point.

I appreciate that you entrenched yourself in Japanese culture, but you're misapplying the analogy while you're throwing in your parting shot. First, an Ex-President's comments about a President's speech is not close to a student opining the merits of professors speech. Second, this speech was given in the US, not Japan. Many US professors are open to constructive criticism from a student compared to Japanese professors.

Monday, February 02, 2009 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger Tia Hu said...

Hi Barry and All,

It's been a while since I posted here. Looking forward to reading the excerpt from, "Fault Line!" Still hoping the, "Rainfall," movie will make it eventually to the U.S. :D

My take on Bush saying, "Good speech, Mr. President." Yes, it was a parting shot to Obama because one of the primary opposing parties' shots at Obama all through his campaign was that he was all speeches and eloquence without any substance or experience. So to say, "Good speech," was yet another reference to that same continuing rhetoric.

Barry wrote: "In Japan, it's considered rudely presumptuous for a student to complement a professor on the quality of a lecture. Instead, one merely says, "Thank you, I learned a lot.""

That's great Barry, lol. And I agree that Mr. Bush would be much wiser to address Pres. Obama as he would a far more learned professor, ;). The very least of the qualifications for a U.S. President should be a true working knowledge and skills in using the English language. Clearly Bush didn't even have that going for him. Plus, Obama's knowledge of the cultures of the world and his diplomatic skills are all ready far and above anything we saw from Bush and his administration.

I'm not sure where your one respondent got the information that Bush somehow made great progress in dramatically improving the situation with the AIDS virus in Africa. Actually, very little progress has been made at all. And I'm sure even Oprah's contributions have exceeded anything the Bush administration offered.

But then the Bush administration let lies and misrepresentations roll off their tongues on a regular basis.

I just hope Obama's administration and the Congress can now truly be significantly more effective considering the mess our country is in at this point. If not, then we have some very dark days, possibly years ahead of us.

Down here in the lower strata of the U.S. socioeconomic human food chain, things are getting really desperate for many.

So here is a toast to hope until we see how it all plays out!

~Tia Hu

Friday, February 06, 2009 9:00:00 AM  

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