As always, you match generosity with wit:

“Pledge Week?” Is it possible that you want to subliminally associate yourself with NPR? Why not post a picture of Daniel Schorr or Loren Jenkins? Call it anything but Pledge Week. Money Week, Payment Week, Shakedown Week, Gimme Week, Gotcha Week, Greed Week, Goodies Week, Dollar Week, Howell Raines Week, Pain In The Ass Week, Party Week, Orgy Week, Eagles Week….

Fair enough. And you’re right about my misplaced use of the term “begging.” I’m not begging. I’m asking to get paid. As to the results, we’re a little in the dark, since we don’t know what’s in the mail; and some of the Amex reporting has yet to come in. But Robert’s rough estimate puts the current tally – as of this posting – at payments from around 1,800 people. Thanks so much. I’m really grateful for your support. But, alas, we’re not there yet. Our goal was to have a core supporting readership of around 5,000 or more. If we get that, we can make this a professional enterprise, pay our expenses, hire an intern, and pay me a real salary. After a mere 14 hours, we’re close to the halfway point, which is real encouraging. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who’ve given so far. But if you’re one of the 98 percent of our weekly readers who hasn’t chipped in yet, we’re relying on you. It’s only $20 a year. And you’ll keep this site alive. If you enjoy it, or visit it regularly, please realize that it takes time, effort and money to keep going. We need your support. Click here to contribute. We’ve got four more days to reach the target. Help us get there.

WHAT IS FRIEDMAN TALKING ABOUT? What loopiness masquerading as hard truths in Tom Friedman’s column today. How on earth does rescinding future tax cuts help us win the war against Islamism, Saddam and al Qaeda? How on earth does firing Karl Rove help that either? Or cutting farm subsidies? Friedman has largely managed to absorb the idea that we are at war and that we need to win. good for him. But because there’s not a Democratic president, he’s conflicted. So he’s telling Bush to adopt Democratic policies at home in order to win abroad. Run that by me again, would you? It’s not that I disagree with Friedman on everything – although any columnist who resorts to that lame old crutch of calling for a Manhattan Project on anything needs to take a vacation. I just don’t see the connections he draws. We face a perilous economic situation with deflationary pressures – so let’s suck demand out of the economy by raising taxes! We need to defang the appeal of Islamism – so lets import Pakistani grain! Puhlease. The most important thing you have to do in a war is simply win it. Yes, let’s do our best to rebuild Iraq as effectively as we can afterwards. Yes, let’s spread the tax cut more evenly. But spare us the grandiose appeal for a Republican president to become a big government liberal if he wants support for the war on terror. It may help persuade Howell Raines that Friedman’s not an evil neocon. It may help some sane pro-war liberals to get over their disdain for a sucessful Republican president. But to the rest of us, it sounds desperate and silly.

THOSE DOUBTING MUSLIMS: If you have a few moments, do yourself a favor and read David Warren’s transcript of a lecture he recently gave at Toronto’s St. Michael’s College Alumni Hall. It’s a meditation on the fate of Islam and the Islamic world from someone who cares deeply about it and knows much. It tackles some of the myths of Western liberals and conservatives about Islam and yet seems, to my mind, even more urgent in its concern about what awaits us than some of the most pessimistic conservatives. I was struck by many insights, but this one in particular:

It is a commonplace today that Christians in the West have lost their faith, whereas Muslims in the East are still believers; that what we now have is a confrontation between decadent post-Christian secularists, and sincere if possibly misguided Muslims. The first part of this proposition often seems true enough, especially of contemporary Europe. But I really think the second proposition is false. I think one of the reasons Islamism has erupted with such gale force in the Muslim world is indeed the very loss of faith, and the fear that comes from this.
They are, again to speak very crudely, in a position a little like that of our own ancestors of the later Victorian and Edwardian era, those many who had lost their faith, but continued to observe the outward forms of religion. It is exactly this kind of mind that creates the biggest welcome for the devil. I have often thought that the violent combustion of Europe in the 20th century was, at the deepest level, the fallout from the loss of faith; of the transformation of spiritual into political energy. Communism and Nazism were themselves pseudo-religions; and indeed all ideological systems, including political Islamism, are pseudo-religions — replacements for the real thing. They take infinite longings and turn them towards finite ends, and seek a new redemption not in heaven but on earth.

The relationship of doubt to fundamentalism is a deep and fertile one. But I’ve never seen it so eloquently explored with respect to Islam.

THOSE DISCARDED POLICIES: So now we have Gore, Sharpton and Jesse Jackson piling on. For once, I think they’re right. Meanwhile, Lott gives a weird non-apology apology: “A poor choice of words conveyed to some the impression that I embrace the discarded policies of the past. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I apologize to anyone who was offended by my statement.” Let’s unpack this. Everyone deserves a break for a “poor choice of words” but it wasn’t the words that really offended. It was the plain meaning of the words. What other words would have sufficed? Notice also the adjective Lott now uses to refer to segregation: “discarded policies.” Not immoral. Not wrong. Not abhorrent. Merely “discarded.” And notice too the weasel politician way of not apologizing: only “some” were offended; and it’s only those to whom Lott feels obliged to apologize. And of course, his position as the Republican spokesman in the Senate remains unchallenged by his fellow partisans. It’s at times like this that I realize why I’m not a Republican. I could never be in a party that included someone like Trent Lott.

CAPE FISHERMEN ISSUE STATEMENT ON IRAQ: Actually, I’d care a lot more about what they think than this bunch of self-regarding, brainless wonders.

SONTAG AWARD NOMINEE: “The atrocity in New York was predictable and inevitable. It was an act of retaliation against constant and systematic manifestations of state terrorism on the part of the United States over many years, in all parts of the world.” – playwright Harold Pinter, in a speech to the University of Turin. In the speech, he also remarked that the plight of the Palestinian people is “the central factor in world unrest.” The central factor in world unrest?

EURO-ANTI-SEMITISM WATCH: Greta Duisenburg, the wife of the chairman of the European Central Bank, became famous earlier this year for joking about the Holocaust and orgnaizing boycotts of Israel. She’s now being honored with the the 2002 Prize for Human Rights from the Flemish League for Human Rights.

THE TIMES’ BLINDERS: I vowed I wouldn’t go there for a while, but I just can’t help it. Reading the New York Times’ sympathetic account of the new Rhodes scholar, Chesa Boudin, I was reminded again of the double-standards of the left. Of course, Boudin deserves praise for winning a Rhodes (although Rhodes scholars are among the most irritating mediocrities on earth) and of course he shouldn’t be held responsible for the terrorist crimes committed by his parents. But all this sympathy for a young man who grew up with incarcerated parents should surely have been balanced by some reference to the nine other childern left fatherless by his parents’ murders. Emily Yoffe has the goods at Slate. It’s a devastating little piece.

UH OH: Isn’t it a mite bit embarrassing that the new candidate for Treasury secretary ran a company, CSX, that didn’t pay a dime in federal taxes for the last four years, despite making profits? I think I just wrote Paul Krugman’s next column.