Monday, November 29, 2004

Tale of Two Books

Two books now out are touted on the American left as insightful and fair-minded explanations for why most voters seem to reject the world-view of the American left. They are, "What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America," by Thomas Frank, and "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate--The Essential Guide for Progressives," by George Lakoff.

The trouble with both, it seems to me, is that such an analysis can't be done unless you can step outside the intellectual framework of the discourse on the left. And neither writer seems to be able to do this. Indeed, both seem to share the irritating habit of assuming that the left is simply correct in all it sees and does, and the right, or the non-left, is simply insufficiently educated.

I'm sure these books are easier to take as gospel if you share the authors' presumption that capitalism is "borderline criminality" [Frank] or prefer to precede the word "values" with the qualifier "so-called." For the rest of us, trying hard to understand the left as it makes a show of understanding the right, it helps to adopt, at least for as long as it takes to read the books, the authors' beliefs, such as:

  • Republican leadership is deliberately destructive of the lives and health of working class Americans and cares only about big business.

  • The average Red State American has no idea what's good for him. The appropriate image for him is "lemming." Any American who makes less than $200,000 a year and votes Republican does so because he or she has been brainwashed.

  • You resent the liberals and academics who know what's good for you only because of poison pen campaigns by conservatives. (In other words, it's just not true that you resent bossy meddlers; you only feel that way because you're a dupe and a fool. And you don't resent them even more for telling you you're a dupe and a fool, no matter what your heart says.)

Now you're fit to read this stuff.

The gist of Frank's book is this argument:

The conservative establishment has tricked Kansans, playing up the emotional touchstones of conservatism and perpetuating a sense of a vast liberal empire out to crush traditional values while barely ever discussing the Republicans' actual economic policies and what they mean to the working class. Thus the pro-life Kansas factory worker who listens to Rush Limbaugh will repeatedly vote for the party that is less likely to protect his safety, less likely to protect his job, and less likely to benefit him economically.

That people vote against their own economic interest is not a result of some evil modern brain-wave machine invented by Shrubbie McChimpler, KKKarl Rove, et al. In fact, the entire political history of America disproves over and over the Marxist historian's shibboleth that class awareness drives voters.

Workers in Pennsylvania textile factories in the 1850s ardently backed the Republican party even though all their economic interests diametrically opposed it. The matter for them was a simple one of the "moral value" of anti-slavery (a highly Christianized abolitionism), coupled with resentment of Southern "slave power" that held them in contempt and sought to dominate the social fabric of the nation.

The same sort of values, with different terms, led the hardscrabble farmers in the Piedmont counties of Georgia and South Carolina to back the party run by Southern aristocrats in the same years.

Frank and Lakoff make much of the "unnatural alliances" that underlay the modern Republican party. But, again, history teaches that such unnatural alliances are the basis of all two-party politics in America, especially in a party that wants to attain an electoral majority. For example, take the urban Irish laborers and the Southern aristocrats in the ante-bellum Democratic party, or FDR's Democratic Party, with its coalition that included unionized industrial workers and Southern segregationists.

Frank's being raised in Kansas only seems to have put an edge on the general leftist contempt for Red Staters: evangelicals are "aggressively pious" zealots who "bark and howl and rebuke the world for its sins." For much of the book, he seems to use his soapbox to wreak personal vengance on people who were mean to him when he was young and vulnerable. As one (sympathetic) reviewer puts it, "journalistic objectivity is definitely not a hallmark of Frank's writing style."

Although not terribly successful at explaining the cultural divide, the book manages to exemplify it perfectly in its condescension toward people who don't vote as Frank thinks they should. The political universe is black-and-white to Frank and the bad-guy conservatives are further divided between the fools and the knaves. The fools are the Kansans, the average folks who have been driven into right-wing politics by what they see as the tyranny of the blasphemous, "blue state" power mongers. The knaves are the opportunists, the professionals who see the great right-wing groundswell as a means toward realizing their own personal ambitions.

To answer the question, "whatever happened to middle-American progressivism?" Frank turns to Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Roger Ailes -- the usual suspects. While he has few kind words for the feckless, compromising leadership of the modern Democrats, he fails to see how uninformed America-bashing by Hollywood and academic voices on the left, as well as race-baiting clowns like Al Sharpton, utterly undermine the ability of Kansas to cast its lot with the party that tolerates and encourages such antics.

He would have done better to answer that question by considering what the left has done to alienate a swath of the nation that proudly called itself "progressive" in the days of William Jennings Bryant and Tom Watson. In fact, he might even start by having a look at his own prose style.

Lakoff's argument has been framed like this:

Republicans follow the strict father model, which assumes that the world is a dangerous place and always will continue to be because there is evil out there in the world. The world is also difficult because it is competitive. There will always be winners and losers. There is an absolute right and an absolute wrong. What is needed in this kind of world is a strong, strict father who can protect the family in a dangerous world, no matter the cost.

Democrats, on the other hand, see both parents are equally responsible for raising the children. The assumption is that children are born good and can be made better. The world can be made a better place, and our job is to work on that. The parents' job is to nurture their children and to raise their children to be nurturers of others.

The Republican skill in manipulating the angry dad image, via homeland security concerns in the wake of 9-11, is supposed to explain why so many former independents like me have pulled the voting booth levers for GOP candidates lately.

Sigh. The idea here is that, to everyone, the government is a sort of parent, and the insight is seeing that people have two views of parents. Can't anyone on the left take a step back and see that a lot of people don't think of the government as any kind of parent. It's an unruly servant of the people, a creation of, and a function of, the civil society, the voters as a whole, the community. That would be the view of the old radicals, like Jefferson and Paine.

But to the new ones, we are 260 million children fretting about mommy and daddy issues. I can't help seeing in that thinking a relic of the '60s generation which defined itself by ambivalence to authority figures and ultimately to their own parents. Those '50s parents created the suburban homes that turned out the spoiled children who hurled themselves to crush and overthrow the old religious and political hierarchies symbolized by their parents.

Earth Day = Good Mommy. Military Industrial Compex = Bad Daddy. Am I the only one who can't wait for this generation to get out of the way? We're not all children of the '60s. Yet the generation that raised open-mindedness to the level of a cult seems to fail again and again to open their own minds wide enough to comprehend people who don't see the world in the same large terms they do.

Lakoff also argues that the Republican Party's recent success in part springs from the GOP's ability to control the language of key issues. But Lakoff, a professor of linguistics, seems to overrate the power of words. "Pro-choice" seems to me as appealing a label as "pro-life." I don't recall anyone making a decision on abortion issues by anguishing over whether he wants to be called "pro-life" or "pro-choice." Lakoff also recommended countering the conservative rallying cry of "Strong Defense" with a call for a "Stronger America." In fact, Kerry did just that in the last election, and it didn't really work.

OK, now try it again. Try to talk to me about why we disagree, without insulting me. I'll wait.

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Israel and the U.N.

Israpundit marks today as the anniversary of the UN resolution that partitioned western Palestine into a predominately Jewish state and a predominately Arab one. In today's international political climate of 189 countries that wish the other 2 never existed, it's difficult to remember that Israel was created with the approval of the U.N., in a vote dominated by European nations.

The resolution passed 33 to 13, with 10 abstentions.

The countries that cast “yes” votes were: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Byelorussia, Canada, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Iceland, Liberia, Luxembourg, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Sweden, Ukraine, Union of South Africa, USSR, USA, Uruguay, and Venezuela.

The countries that voted “no” were: Afghanistan, Cuba, Egypt, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey, and Yemen.

The countries that abstained were: Argentina, Chile, China, Colombia, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Honduras, Mexico, United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia.

Bad Prose Badly Defended

The indispensible Mark Bauerlein takes a look at the teapot tempest over bad academic writing, in a review of "Just Being Difficult? Academic Writing in the Public Arena". Part of what's amusing is that the gang tackle on wretched academic prose took place in 1999, and it took until 2003 for the ego-wounded professors to make their defense.

As it turns out, the defense doesn't seem to amount to much, but it does reveal the mindset behind people who, while acknowledging that their prose is turgid and difficult, insist that that's because their thoughts are good for you, and you should swallow them, and adore the authors, even as they parade around like a naked emperor.

Bauerlein, after suggesting ways the academic theorists could have really spoken to their critics, or to the public at large who resents their tenured pomposity, then explains why the book they published suggests this isn't going to happen:

That would require theorists to thicken their skins and behave with modesty and balance, a tough act for people who in their own small universe run seminars, departments, and lecture series with the surety and vanity of pop culture icons. The evidence of this collection indicates that nothing has changed within the theorists' ranks, except for an increased sense of defensiveness. The basic charges (hokey jargon, bad grammar, airy radicalism) have been assimilated to existing lines of cultural critique (against common sense, bourgeois publics, conservative taste-making), and theorists still refuse to grant public commentators any valid and fundamental criticisms of the field. The appearance of Just Being Difficult? so long after the fact proves that the Bad Writing episode hit home, damaging the theorists' self-image as a prized vanguard of social critics. But it also confirmed a parallel self-image, the conceit of a gadfly band braving public scorn to dismantle settled notions and foul practices. What the theorists lost in public prestige was balanced by their enhanced adversarial conscience. Like the theories they embrace, theorists absorbed hostile responses as signs of their own righteousness, and while the world moves on they now make the same arguments, cite the same texts and master theorists (de Man's "Resistance to Theory" surfaces several times), and trust that their interrogations are sure to make a difference beyond the classroom and the department.

To which I reacted as any non-academic knuckle-dragger would: "Oh, I can't believe one of the heroes of these wanna-be social iconoclasts really is named 'de Man.'"

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Silent Heroine

The New York Times sidebar tomorrow about the revolt of the media in Ukraine begins with this wonderful anecdote:

KIEV, Ukraine — The most striking, and potentially significant, public rebellion against President Leonid D. Kuchma and his chosen successor in Nov. 21's contested election began silently.

On the morning of Nov. 25, Natalia Dimitruk, an interpreter for the deaf on the Ukraine's official state UT-1 television, disregarded a report on Prime Minister Viktor F. Yanukovich's "victory" and, in her inset on the screen, began to sign something else.

"The results announced by the Central Electoral Commission are rigged," she said in sign language. "Do not believe them."

She declared that Viktor A. Yushchenko, the opposition leader, was president. "I am very disappointed by the fact that I had to interpret lies," she added. "I will not do it any more. I do not know if you will see me again."

Wonderful! Reminds me of an online comic, sent to me years ago by my deaf girlfriend, about a woman who works in closed captioning for a TV soap opera. The dialogue is so dull she starts changing the words; soon she's rewriting the whole plot, underneath the actual broadcast. Deaf people catch on and soon their hearing friends are hooked, too. It becomes the most popular show on the air, but only with the sound turned down.

Scott Ott, meanwhile, has this reaction: Ukraine Journalists Drop Bias, CBS to Study Idea


"Fifty-one percent of the American people lacked information (in this election), and we want to educate and enlighten them. They weren't told the truth."

Michael Moore, 2004, on why America needs his planned sequal to "Fahrenheit 9/11."

"We do not wish to win this small group to our world view by force or pressure. Rather, where ever and whenever it is possible, and without force or pressure, we want to use the means of education and public pressure on the foes of renewal."

Hugo Ringler, 1934, on "The Work of Propagandists in the National Socialist State" (translated from the original German).

The German Propaganda Archive is a fascinating site, an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the workings of the tremendously successful Nazi information machine. Besides examples of its work, the site reproduces writings and speeches by German propagandists about their process.

In these, the "openness" of the Nazi government gets a lot of emphasis. Yes, if course, you can be open in your deliberations if you trust that your news media are ideologically aligned with your agenda. And this allows the totalitarian government to boast of its transparency, while damning the democracies for shutting out, in crucial situations, their own contrarian media.

For an example, consider this 1939 essay, "The Political Work of the Radio Announcer."

But decisive political events [in Nazi Germany] do not take place “behind the scenes,” rather they are intended to gain the participation of the whole population. Dr. Goebbels opens the doors, the conference rooms, the meeting halls, the four walls of diplomatic negotiations, and lets the people and the world participate. The broadest public participates in important events through pictures, news reports, the accounts of capable announcers, or though direct broadcasts of political events.

The principle of National Socialist foreign policy is to mobilize the whole popular will for certain international goals. There is therefore no secret diplomacy in Wilson’s sense, no backroom negotiations like those Roosevelt, the English, and the cabinets of nearly all the European capitals have attempted to use against us this year.

Finally, this political cartoon, from September 1944:

Roosevelt, with a cane, and Eleanor look over a field of crosses. The caption reads, "Not to worry, Eleanor, many voters I promised I would never lead into the war can no longer vote against me ...." Which could nicely be reduced to, "Roosevelt lied, they died."


What's the Matter with Us?

Back in October, Ace of Spades asked, "What's the Deal With Texas Democrats?" His answer, I think, could plausibly explain the embittered local Democrats who chatter around me all day. As I've written before, this county is so Republican that if, on the eve of the next election, space aliens kidnapped two of every three GOP voters, the Republicans still would win.

The result of that is the kind of ugly mediocrity in politics that bedevils any one-party state; infighting in party caucuses determines every outcome, issues never come up for serious public debate, and while lip service is paid to conservatism and religion, the real agenda is inertia.

But it also means the local Democrats are such a minority that, outside the city, which functions as a sort of anti-county, they have no real prospect of winning, and thus no experience of governing. Nor do they want any, in most cases. Where they gather, as in my newsroom, the talk is relentlessly negative, impractical, fatalistic, and full of pinings for the freedom of Canada. Texas, it seems, has that type, too.

Liberals from the coastal cities aren't quite as nasty, or flat-out lunatic, as Texas Democrats seem to be. And maybe that's because coastal liberals are more smug and self-satisfied with their liberalism -- living as they do in a reassuring liberal bubble-- while Texas liberals, on the other hand, are not protected by any such bubble. Unlike their San Fransisco correligionists, they feel threatened and marginalized, and are determined to lash out -- thuggishly, if necessary -- against their perceived oppressors.

One of those Texas liberals, of course, is Molly Ivins, who is, not surprisingly, regarded as a goddess in my newsroom. Good thing they'll never read Protein Wisdom's dead-on skewer of her style:

Well howdy, this here’s Molly Ivins, nationally syndicated pain-in-the-ass, Official State Hemorrhoid of Texas, warning track liberal, & all-around hoot & a holler. In case you’re wondering why I sound like Minnie Pearl, that’s my schtick, okay? I been flogging it for 50 years, I cain’t think of anything new, so piss on a midget if you don’t like it.

* * *

Consciously or not, Ace of Spades' post title echoes the recent book, "What's the Matter With Kansas? which I plan to comment on soon. In looking up the data on its publication, I found a perfect example of the kind of madness that affects a liberal mind trapped too long in a Red State county. Among the reviews posted of the book was this doozie, written from my current home city:

What's the matter with 1-star reviewers? Oh, they're Kansan.

Let me see . . . Kansas has the 24th highest divorce rate by state in the country and Massachussettes has the lowest. That's right. The gay marriage state has the lowest divorce rate per marriage in the country! Blue states pay the most in taxes and receive the least. Red states pay the least in taxes and receive the most. Murder rates are higher in red states than blue states . . . Wait, wait . . . I'm confused by all the 1 star reviews asking "what's the matter with Massachussettes?" The answer: nothing. Blue states are where family values, compassion in the form of collective help for the poor (in red states), and traditional (i.e., the "faith of our founding fathers") values all reside. Somehow, bushwhacked folks in Kansas and like states seem to believe that they can catch up to the immaculate values of liberal states by legislating morality. How about y'all deal with the moral troubles in your own backyards and stop feeding at the federal trough, first!

By the way, blue states are the states most likely to get attacked by terrorists, and people in them DON'T SUPPORT BUSH'S APPROACH TO THE WAR ON TERROR (just look at the returns from NYC and DC, the two cities actually affected on 9-11)! Which just goes to show, I guess, that Kansas, et al. hate us enough that they're willing to watch their huge federal handouts disappear in the event of another, blue-state crippling attack. Thanks, folks. How `bout a new rule. If you haven't been a state for over 150 years, quit pretending you know what the liberals who won the revolutionary war against the theocrats meant by democracy. Support the theocrats in your own states if you want, but we've already fought these wars (one was revolutionary and the other "civil") and, frankly, I don't feel like fighting them all over again so we can finally get God and state separate again, like our deistic, non-Bible believing founding fathers wanted.

Look it up in the dictionary, folks. Deist. That's D - E - I -S - T. As in, pyramids were on dollar bills long before the McCarthy Era's revisionistic "in God we trust" was printed there. Maybe some of you states aren't old enough to remember, but the original pledge of allegiance didn't even mention God. This was another 50s addition to fool the new, pro-slavary, Jim Crowe states into believing that we were a nation founded on Jesus.

Oh, and finally, the author who wrote this book, to answer some one-star review questions, IS Kansan. So now ya know.

Whew. A textbook case of Red State Liberal Syndrome. The symptoms:

1. Not even addressing the relevant issue (you don't learn anything about the book from this "review"), just heaping abuse on people on the other side.

2. Spouting every shibboleth, rapid fire, to make a rant stew without regard for argument or logic.

3. Extremely shoddy history: just one example, mixing up the timeline of the "In God We Trust" motto on the coinage (it began to appear during the Civil War and became universal in 1938, it had nothing to do with McCarthy). For another, reducing the extremely complex religious views of the founders to a one-word answer (even the deists among the founders seemed to regard a civic Christianity as a good thing for the masses).

4. Simplistic fatalism: "Kansas, et al. hate us."

5. Getting it obviously, verifiably, factually, fundamentally wrong, and not caring. Of the 21 people who gave the book one star in the Amazon reviews, only five are from Kansas. The rest come from 14 other states, including California, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

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Our Good Neighbor Iran

Iran backs down on exemption for nuclear cycle freeze; Europeans propose resolution.

Ah, great news. So they really are just another decent, but misunderstood, nation in the international order, amenable to reason and essentially diplomatic.


The 300 men filling out forms in the offices of an Iranian aid group were offered three choices: Train for suicide attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq, for suicide attacks against Israelis or to assassinate British author Salman Rushdie.

It looked at first glance like a gathering on the fringes of a society divided between moderates who want better relations with the world and hard-line Muslim militants hostile toward the United States and Israel.

But the presence of two key figures - a prominent Iranian lawmaker and a member of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards - lent the meeting more legitimacy and was a clear indication of at least tacit support from some within Iran's government.

Since that inaugural June meeting in a room decorated with photos of Israeli soldiers' funerals, the registration forms for volunteer suicide commandos have appeared on Tehran's streets and university campuses, with no sign Iran's government is trying to stop the shadowy movement.

Top Demo Pol: Iraq Good News Under-Reported

The locally based 1185th Transportation Terminal Brigade of the Army Reserve shipped out this weekend, bound for Kuwait. They'll be there for at least a year, running port operations and loading and unloading equipment and supplies. Godspeed to them.

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor Ed Rendell came to town Saturday to send them off. Fast Eddie is the kind of Democrat who makes friends even in a GOP bastion like Lancaster County. But it's interesting to hear a Democrat of national stature talk like this:
To cheer the more than 110 soldiers and their family members, Rendell told the group that he hears a uniform message from reservists returning from the Gulf region.

“We’re making tremendous progress over there. Much of it you don’t see on TV because these aren’t the good photo ops,” he said.
Indeed. Don't you suppose a certain other Democratic politician who was in the news lately might have got a lot more votes on Nov. 2 if he hadn't been afraid to acknowledge things like that?

Saturday, November 27, 2004

A helpful selection ...

Friday, November 26, 2004

Ukraine's Orange and Blue

There are a number of telling maps up at various sites showing the electoral split in the Ukraine. My favorite is here. The accompanying commentary and links are also worth the time. This split was predicted years ago by, among others, Samuel Huntington in "The Clash of Civilizations." He touched on it briefly in the magazine article, but expanded and expounded it in the book version, which, as I recall, has its own version of today's orange and blue map along with ruminations about civil war.

Things Are Different Now

Some of you probably know that my job is as a newspaper copy editor. I won't say exactly where -- because my company forbids me to do that -- but it's somewhere in a Blue State.

I often work from the "wire desk," which is where the stories from the wire services -- Associated Press, et al -- get routed into the newspaper. It's my job to recommend a dozen or so of them for the front page of the next edition (the news editor makes the ultimate call on that) and to fill up the inside A section pages with the best of the rest.

There are usually far more good news stories than there is space to run them. So, on inside pages, I usually trim off the byline of the story and just run the dateline with the AP credit. In other words, at the top of the article, instead of:

Associated Press Writer

KIEV, Ukraine —

I'd just run this:

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) —

Bylines are nice, but I used to think of them as just a reporter's vanity plate. My thinking was that most people are interested in a story about Ukraine (or wherever), and didn't give a hoot who wrote it. So if it was a choice between getting in three more lines of the Ukraine story or getting in the reporter's name, I went for the "more story" option.

The exception was reporters whose bylines had special information, along the lines of "AP Political Reporter" or "AP Business Reporter," which seemed to convey something that a reader might want to know. The other exception was AP's Nedra Pickler or NYT's Gina Colata, but that's just because I get a kick out of their names.

That was then. Now, I'm aware that people are reading the media more closely than ever. They are beginning to know the names of the writers for the big outlets and to sense the difference in their coverage. So, now, especially when printing an Iraq story or a political story, I always make an effort to leave the byline on. For those who read and pay attention.


And I realize the importance of reading in this manner when I read the suggested headlines on stories like the one today about the decision of Marwan Barghouti to not seek the Palestinian Authority presidency.

Even the sympathetic BBC acknowledges that "The al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade possibly sealed his fate when it issued a statement in 2002 claiming him as their leader." In fact, Barghouti described himself as the organizer of the al-Aqsa movement in a 2001 interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat.

On May 20, 2004, the Tel Aviv District Court convicted Barghouti of three terror attacks in which five Israelis were murdered, and also of attempted murder, membership in a terror organization and conspiring to commit a crime. He was acquitted of 33 other murders with which he was charged, because of a lack of evidence. On June 6, 2004, Barghouti was sentenced to five consecutive life terms and 40 years.

So, he's a terrorist, convicted in a civilian court in a democratic country. He has his chance to appeal and overturn the verdict. So far, he hasn't done so. So he's a convicted terrorists, like it or not, just like Mumia Abu-Jamal is a convicted cop-killer, whether you like it or not, and Jonathan Pollard is a convicted spy, whether you like it or not.

The job of a newspaper is to tell you what is, not what the editors think it ought to be. But gods forbid the news organizations should stray anywhere near the "T" word.


Knight Ridder: Jailed leader says he won't seek Palestinian Authority presidency

Washington Post: Jailed Palestinian Leader Opts Out

And, my favorite...

Associated Press: Uprising leader will not run in Palestinian election, giving support to Abbas

Which is sort of like a headline identifying Hermann Goering as a fighter pilot or Hitler as a landscape painter and part-time author. Wouldn't you feel just a bit deceived by that? "Lee Harvey Oswald, textbook warehouse worker."

While Old Europe Snores

New Europeans rise up in the name of freedom and the integrity of democracy. Johann Norbeg, from Sweden, wonders where the solidarity protesters are.

Right now in the freezing cold, almost 100,000 Ukranians are protesting against the stolen election in central Kiev, and a huge demonstration has also started in the city of Lviv. The municipal councils in both cities have said they only take orders from the liberal presidential candidate Yushchenko, the real winner of the election. At the same time, security forces have said that they are ready to put down the protests "quickly and firmly."

Where are the concerned European politicians who should condemn the fraud, and who could be with these crowds to show their support? And where are the "human shields?" A lot of young westerners were willing to risk their lives to stop the war on Iraq. Aren’t they willing to risk some discomfort to stop one of Europe’s biggest countries from slipping back to dictatorship?

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Courtesy of Hubris, where there is much more.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"The Revolution Will be Blogged"

"I am just a little Ukrainian. But the whole pyramid of Ukraine is built on top of little people like me. I should be home working in the soil, but instead I'm here in the (Independence) Square. And I'm not leaving until we have real democracy."

Liveblogging from the revolution in Kiev.

Here's another nugget:

During my time in Ukraine, the single most pro-American group I've known has been my circle of Iranian student friends. They love the United States, and they see her as a natural ally in their struggle for freedom. I've now found a second such group -- the pro-democracy protesters. Everyone has glowing things to say about the US, and they're counting on us to support them in their fight. Russia has ruined itself with these people, and America has a chance to be a hero. We should take it.

Choke on that, Mr. Moore, Mr. Chomsky.

Also, lots of links here.

Monday, November 22, 2004

The Other Half of the Message

Blackfive, a military man to the core, has a message similar to one I've been preaching, about the need to show some American helping-hand power in Iraq that's as firm and sure as the hard power we've used.

If I Could Talk To The President Tomorrow

... I'd tell him that Fallujah's reconstruction needs to be perfect - THE example - and that we need to get it right.

We've got an opportunity to hire a ton of Iraqis and spend the $90,000,000 set aside for reconstruction on job creation as well (and not just construction jobs, either). This needs to be the focus - not spending it on contractors to rebuild a city that we'll have to destroy all over again because the populace is angry about the "occupation".

That implied criticism of the administration effort so far is probably about as much as he will make. 'Nuff said.

History on the Fly

More history on the fly, written in the first person, from Battlefield Fallujah. History writers: Save it, mark it, and someday, for once, the real war just might get into the books.

3/5 began the actual attack on the city by taking an apartment complex on the northwest corner of the city. It was key terrain as the elevated positions allowed the command to look down into the attack lanes. The Marines took the apartments quickly and moved to the rooftops and began engaging enemy that were trying to move into their fighting positions. The scene on the rooftop was surreal. Machine gun teams were running boxes of ammo up 8 flights of stairs in full body armor and carrying up machine guns while snipers engaged enemy shooters. The whole time the enemy was firing mortars and rockets at the apartments.


We came up behind 3/5 one day as the lead squads were working down the Byzantine streets of the Jolan area. An assault team of two Marines ran out from behind cover and put a rocket into a wall of an enemy strongpoint. Before the smoke cleared the squad behind them was up and moving through the hole and clearing the house. Just down the block another squad was doing the same thing. The house was cleared quickly and the Marines were running down the street to the next contact.


Europe's Gamble

Robert Kagan -- always worth the read -- ponders The Crisis of Legitimacy: America and the World. Some highlights:

Contrary to much mythologizing on both sides of the Atlantic these days, the foundations of U.S. legitimacy during the Cold War had little to do with the fact that the United States helped create the UN or faithfully abided by the precepts of international law laid out in the organization's charter. Rather, U.S. legitimacy among Europeans rested on three pillars, all based on the existence of the Soviet communist empire. The sturdiest pillar was Europe 's perception that the Soviet Union posed a strategic threat to the West -- a reality made manifest by hundreds of thousands of Soviet troops parked in the center of Europe -- and its understanding that only Washington possessed the power to deter Moscow . Europeans also perceived the Soviet Union as a common ideological threat. The United States prided itself on being the "leader of the free world," and most Europeans agreed. Finally, Cold War bipolarity conferred what might be called "structural legitimacy" on the United States . The two superpowers' roughly equal strength meant that U.S. might, although vast, was kept in check. This is not to say that Europeans welcomed Soviet military power on the continent, but many implicitly understood that the existence of Soviet conventional and nuclear power acted as a restraint on Washington . Charles de Gaulle's France , Willy Brandt's Germany , and other states relished the small measure of independence from U.S. dominance that the superpower balance gave them.

When the Cold War ended, the pillars of U.S. legitimacy collapsed along with the Berlin Wall and Lenin's statues. There has been little to replace them with since. Radical, militant Islamism, however potent when manifested as terrorism, has not replaced communism as an ideological threat to Western liberal democracy. Nor have the more diffuse and opaque threats of the post-Cold War era replaced the massive Soviet threat as a source of legitimacy for U.S. power. Most Europeans never fully shared Washington 's concerns about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq , Iran , and North Korea -- not during the Clinton administration, and not since. Nor do they share its post-September 11 alarm over the possible nexus between WMD and international terrorism. Rightly or wrongly, Europeans do not believe that those weapons will be aimed at them. To the extent that they do worry, moreover, most Europeans do not look to the United States to protect them anymore. They live in their geopolitical paradise, without fear of the jungles beyond. They no longer welcome those who guard the gates. Instead, they ask, Who will guard the guards?


In the end, however, Europeans have not sought to counter U.S. hegemony in the usual, power-oriented fashion, because they do not find U.S. hegemony threatening in the traditional power-oriented way. Not all global hegemons are equally frightening. U.S. power, as Europeans well know, does not imperil Europe 's security or even its autonomy. Europeans do not fear that the United States will seek to control them; they fear that they have lost control over the United States and, by extension, over the direction of world affairs.

If the United States is suffering a crisis of legitimacy, then, it is in large part because Europe wants to regain some measure of control over Washington 's behavior. The vast majority of Europeans objected to the U.S. invasion of Iraq not simply because they opposed the war. They objected also because U.S. willingness to go to war without the Security Council's approval -- that is, without Europe 's approval -- challenged both Europe 's world view and its ability to exercise even a modicum of influence in the new unipolar system.


To address today's global dangers, Americans will need the legitimacy that Europe can provide, but Europeans may well fail to grant it. In their effort to constrain the superpower, they might lose sight of the mounting dangers in the world, which are far greater than those posed by the United States . Out of nervousness about unipolarity, they might underestimate the dangers of a multipolar system in which nonliberal and nondemocratic powers would come to outweigh Europe . Out of passion for the international legal order, they might forget the other liberal principles that have made postmodern Europe what it is today. Europeans might succeed in debilitating the United States this way. But since they have no intention of supplementing its power with their own, in doing so they would only succeed in weakening the overall power that the liberal democratic world can wield in its defense -- and in defense of liberalism itself.

Right now, many Europeans are betting that the risks posed by the "axis of evil," from terrorism to tyrants, will never be as great as the risk posed by the American leviathan unbound. Perhaps it is in the nature of a postmodern Europe to make such a judgment. But now may be the time for the wisest heads in Europe , including those living in the birthplace of Pascal, to ask themselves what will result if that wager proves wrong.

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Two Views

Two of the daily newspapers I scan every day had staff-generated front-page stories on the Theo van Gogh murder. As you can tell by the headlines, each put a different spin on the slaughter:

At The Wall Street Journal, the headline was "Killing Opens Dutch Eyes to Terror Threat." The Philadelphia Inquirer article, meanwhile, was titled, "Death highlights segregation of Dutch Muslims."

Actually, the bulk of the articles cover the same ground: the Netherlands as a case study of Europe's policy over the past 30 years of welcoming or recruiting a workforce from nearby Third World countries and its failure to help those immigrant assimilate, once it became obvious they were not going to go home again. The dilemma now facing a liberal, secularized Europe with a large and partially radicalized Islamic population in its midst, and the grappling of political leaders in various stages of realization and denial.

But the other third of each story, the stage-setting and local color, couldn't be more different. The Journal focused on the native Dutch; the Inquirer on the Dutch Muslims. Was Theo van Gogh a crude insult-merchant or a filmmaker? Was he asking for it? Are most of the Muslims in the Netherlands little different from the Europeans they live among in their beliefs and aspirations? Are the Dutch trying to balance their traditional openness against the cold reality of Islamist terrorism, or are they rapidly becoming a bunch of closed-minded Muslim-bashers? The answer depends which newspaper you read.

Consider the lede of the Inquirer article:

Theo van Gogh was a kind of high-brow Howard Stern, a clown-provocateur who called one Muslim activist "Mohammed's pimp," and routinely dismissed others as devotees of sex with goats.

Quite a different entrée into the story from the one the WSJ writer chose:
AMSTERDAM -- On Friday a group of left-wing aldermen from this city's heavily Muslim western district met to discuss an issue previously left to the police: how to root out Islamic terrorists in their neighborhood.

"We have to fight terrorism," says Hans Luiten, a 39-year-old socialist alderman who sends his young son to school with mostly Muslim pupils and decorates his office with pictures of mosques. "The war on this small group of terrorists has to be very severe."

The Inquirer is at pains to state that, "Although some Muslims have said publicly that van Gogh got what he deserved, the majority appear to deplore the killing." No statistics, or a methodology for determining "the majority" are offered, however.

The anonymous but well-informed newspaper columnist Spengler (who will irritate everyone who reads him often enough) seems to have compiled some good evidence that condemnation of the van Gogh murder was the exception, not the rule, at least among Muslim organizations in Western Europe.

As a matter of record, most European Muslim organizations declined to disavow the murder of van Gogh. During a November 19 radio interview, for example, Zahid Mukhtar, head of the Islamic Council of Norway, refused to condemn van Gogh's murder, creating a scandal out of proportion to Norway's small Muslim population. A Moroccan-born member of the Belgian Senate, Mimount Bousakla, received death threats after remonstrating with the umbrella organization of Belgian Muslims for its refusal to denounce the van Gogh murder. She since has gone into hiding.

In Germany, most of the country's Muslim groups refused to take part in this past Sunday's Muslim demonstration in Cologne against terrorism and violence. In fact, the Turkish government organized the 20,000-person demonstration without support from local Muslim organizations. Its sole sponsor was DITIB, the Turkish government's Muslim association headed by an appointee from Ankara. DITIB "already had tried in vain to organize a common declaration by all German Muslims against Islamist terrorism", noted Der Spiegel Online on November 19.

The Inquirer article quotes a Dutch Muslim man-in-the street, a 35-year-old Moroccan-born taxi driver who approved punishment for van Gogh's killers and said the deed was "not Islam."

But, he said, van Gogh's antics had long made Muslims wonder: "How far can you go in insulting someone?"

"You can't murder someone for what he says," Kacem said, "but I think there should be a law against insulting religion."

Ah, and won't that go down well on the Continent where every country's second national passtime is ridiculing American Christianity?

In fact, Spengler notes, the Duth justice minister has dusted off a 1932 law against blasphemy and proposes enforcing it to prevent future insults to Islam.

The proposal is astounding, for no Christian country has penalized blasphemy of the most extreme variety in two generations. Would the anti-blasphemy rule apply to scholarly demonstrations that alternative variants exist of the Koran, or to linguistic arguments that the Koran has been mistranslated (eg, Professor Christoph Luxenberg's claim that the "seventy-two virgins" awaiting martyrs in Paradise really are white raisins)?


The Rice Card

Condoleezza Rice arguably is about to become the most powerful black woman in the history of the world. Yet the left continues to smear her with images of ignorant black house-servants in the slavery days:

That's ironic, because one of the knocks against Rice in my (liberal) newsroom is that she's "not really black." And if you ask, "What did the black people in the newsroom think about that?" you obviously don't know much about journalism, because there are none. My boss hired one a few years back. He was frankly a bad hire, given a job far more difficult than his previous experience and little training to do it. I made friends with him, based on some common background, and I liked him. But the way he was mocked and derided by my co-workers was really chilling. They're still telling jokes about him, and he's been gone for five years now. They continue to laugh at his way of talking, his food, his hygeine, his poverty -- the caricature of him was not recognizable Stepin Fetchit stuff, but it was just as artificial.

Such people arrogantly claim the right to define the black race, to delimit it to a certain set of qualities and behaviors and certain paths through life, and to exert the full measure of social pressure, including public humiliation, on blacks who don't know their place. Isn't that the pith of racism? It inverts, but exactly recreates, the old white supremacist notion of the "race traitor."

My reflexive response is to scorn the hypocrisy of people who claim the right to hector the rest of us about racism and diversity yet fall into the gutter at the first opportunity.

But I'm still enough of a liberal, or perhaps just curious about the human mind, that I want to get inside the heads of such people and see how this happens.

People like Rice are considered fair game for such insults because they're perceived to be playing the stereotype role, voluntarily. In the minds of the Rice-bashers, any black person who aligns him- or herself with the Republican party and rises to power in it is, de facto, an Uncle Tom, adapting to a power structure that represses blacks by favoring corporations, opposing welfare programs, courting the votes of Southern whites -- you name it.

Never mind that, within the living memory of both Bush and Rice, the Democrats were the party of segregation. During the bombing summer of 1963, Rice's father, a minister in Birmingham, Alabama, helped other neighborhood men guard the streets at night to keep white vigilantes at bay. Rice said that since those days she has been a staunch defender of gun rights, which hardly aligns her with the modern Democratic Party, even though her position has nothing of Uncle Tom about it.

In the minds of the Rice-bashers, though, their victim deserves these insulting stereotypes as punishment for her choices. When they pillory her with "Gone With the Wind" images, they probably believe they are simply using an available historical metaphor to describe a current situation that offends them. Yet the objection to racist caricature is not whether it is true or not, but whether it is degrading to the other race, or causes what tort law refers to as "the intentional infliction of emotional distress."

Then at some point the Rice-bashers have separated themselves from the mass of people, and come to think of themselves as the privileged few, who "get it," and who therefore have the right to bludgeon certain blacks with racist imagery. Whites who have proved their soundness by denouncing Trent Lott's praise of Strom Thurmond or marching with a "Free Mumia" sign (while surrendering none of the real privileges of whiteness) are privileged to cast stones at Condi Rice in the name of party politics.

At the same time they can feel assured that this does not put them on the level of the lower-middle-class factory worker, whose resentment of the quotas of affirmative action can only spring from ignorance, hatred, and right-wing propaganda.

All of this reminds me why I've learned to be more afraid of people with intense political agendas when those people are divorced from an inkling of absolute good and evil. George Orwell warned of this quality in the left of his day; some animals are more equal than others.

By what right do certain white Americans arrogate to themselves the privilege (for so they seem to feel it) of casting the imagery of racism at certain blacks? How does it advance the cause of diversity to say, "certain words and thoughts are off-limits to you, but not to me"?

An old man in my town, of dubious sanity and given to mumbling to himself in the streets, passes a black woman, and she hears the "N" word from his lips. She turns to confront him, then she hears it again. So she finds a police officer and has the old man arrested. Under the state's Ethnic Intimidation and Institutional Vandalism Act of 1982, a district justice sentences him to 30 days in jail, a $200 fine plus court costs. (In the same week, a local man who whacked his wife in the head with an electric mixer and threatened to kill her got a year's probation.)

While I was walking home, considering the consequences of that, I passed a house on my block, where a teen-ager stood on the porch in a dark blue sweat suit, dancing to rap music blaring through the open front door; the song repeated and repeated the phrase, "Whatcha gonna do, n---er?" And I thought, "We forbid ourselves to degrade you, but we will stand by and applaud as you degrade yourselves." And I thought, for about the millionth time since I started thinking about it, "which is the worse racism?"

Thursday, November 18, 2004

I was wondering

... why the Clinton library looked familiar. Now I remember:

I like Clinton, mind you. And I like Southern rednecks as well as Swamp Yankees and my local Pennsyltucky deerhunters. No offense intended, except maybe to the architects who built something that, in most lights, looks more like the contractor's trailer than the finished edifice. Then again, the "bridge to tomorrow" foolery is perhaps really just a monument to Yank- ... er, Rebel Ingenuity: want to build more house than you've got flat ground to cover? just jack the danged thing up with cinder blocks.

Now, after dissing his library, let me give Bill his props for what he said today:

"You know, am I the only person in the entire United States of America who likes both George W. Bush and John Kerry, who believes they're both good people, who believes they both love our country and they just see the world differently?"

Thoughts for Europe

Unsolicited advice is rude. But so much of it wafted across the pond in the months before the presidential election that a little tit for tat seems to be in order. Here's my tit.

Europeans need to think hard about military power. The lesson of 2003 was, when war debates begin, you tend to respond politically. You take a reflexive contrarian view to American power, rather than applying realistic, sensible principles on how and when to employ military force. But you would gain a lot more credibility with American presidents, and American voters, if you learn to think honestly about war as more than something to be avoided at any cost (except when the French venture into Africa).

Because, as the recent footage from Fallujah will show you, Americans do not avoid force at all costs.

Some Europeans hold the view that Europe should stand up and take some authority on itself in the world scene. I applaud that. But to do that, too, you need to have this internal discussion about power and military force.

We're trying it your way in Iran right now. Let's see how that goes. Internationalism and diplomacy are essential, but without muscle in the background they don't get much traction in this imperfect world. Hard power and soft power in alternation makes a dynamic. Soft power all the time makes mud. Personally, I like the idea that the Iranian mullahs start awake in the night and think, "was that a squirrel in the attic or are the SEALs are coming over the balcony?" You may not like that we scare them. But those nightmares probably make your conversations with them more productive.

The last U.S. military action most Europeans approve, as far as I can see, was the one that chased the Nazis off the map and out of power. So we know you're not entirely pacifists. You're willing to see our sons die in some causes. And by abdicating your own defense to the Americans in the Cold War, you involved yourselves in the ongoing expression of that theory: It's OK for American troops to die to defend Europe. But you want to make the work of our military as difficult as possible elsewhere. Oh, that's a simple drawing of a complicated picture, but I'm telling you: This is noticed, and noted, over here. Better deal with it.

Overcoming your reflexive dislike of American power won't be easy. Modern Europeans pride themselves on having broken with their militaristic past. Germany had a thousand-year heritage of fighting prowess, but in a generation that has evaporated. Congratulations, if that's what you want. But there's a price; once that tradition is broken, it's gone. Many current European leaders grew up during the Vietnam War, and they hold a deep distrust, expressed or not, of the military. Rising European politicians have few mentors to teach them to think clearly about war and security. Without experience, these matters are difficult to understand.

If Europeans wish to explore this without talking to the Red State Americans, they can get an instruction by watching the conflict in the modern Democratic Party in the U.S. As one Democratic analyst put it in 2002:

"After Vietnam, the old Cold War liberalism no longer seemed credible to the party's core and to many of its leaders. Many Democratic officeholders and operatives responded by focusing on those foreign policy issues that they and their base were comfortable with, such as human rights and arms control, while others shied away from international policy altogether and focused on domestic issues. At the same time, most Democrats understood that a reputation for being 'soft' on defense issues was a serious political liability. But instead of grappling with the substance of war and national security, Democrats began to approach their vulnerability as a problem of tactics and political positioning."

And so now the Democrats have a serious credibility gap with the American voters when it comes to security. It probably cost them the last election. It's gotten to the point that John Kerry wanted Republican John McCain as his Secretary of Defense, while Bill Clinton had moderate Republican William Cohen as his. That's not a good trend for a healthy two-party system.


Wolfie Speaks

Fascinating interview with that ol' devil Paul Wolfowitz in "Prospect" Magazine (in an issue they've curiously dated "December 2005"). Some highlights:

In fact, before 11th September, those of us who said that it was important to end the hypocrisy of saying "we want the liberation of Iraq but we won't do anything about it" were never advocates of invading Baghdad. There were some who said we shouldn't use US ground forces at all. I was a little more willing to say it might take US ground forces to create a sanctuary in northern or southern Iraq. We could have done it in Basra, which is the second largest city in the country and which did welcome us with open arms once the Fedayeen were cleared out. But 11th September and the anthrax attacks which came immediately after changed the calculation. Rather than leave Saddam alone forever to get more dangerous, you had to take him on and take him on quickly.


Export of democracy isn't really a good phrase. We're trying to remove the shackles on democracy. What you would hope is that governments can be encouraged on a path of gradual reform because that's the best way to avoid the sort of cataclysm that will come otherwise.


We're not trying to graft our system of government on to people who are different from us. We're trying to remove shackles that keep them from having what they want. And it's astonishing how many of them want something that's similar to what we in the west have. I was assistant secretary of state for east Asia when we first confronted Marcos under the Reagan administration. People said: "What are you doing? We'll end up with what Carter got in Iran." But we pressed Marcos very hard in the Philippines and I think the proof is in the outcome. The contradiction is to say that allowing people to choose their government freely is to impose our ideas on them. There was a wonderful moment at a conference here in Washington where someone said it's arrogant of us to impose our values on the Arab world, and an Arab got up and said it's arrogant of you to say these are your values because they are universal values.


Some of the hostility among European publics comes from basic, deep-seated factual misrepresentations. Left-wing academics say that this is a war for oil or for Halliburton or other absurdities. Political leaders could take on some of this falsehood and demagoguery. If the US president talked as regularly and as critically about Europe as some European leaders talk about the US, there would probably be a lot more anti-European feeling in this country than there is.

[Or, as Victor Davis Hanson put it in other words, "Why does France get a pass in its postcolonial interventions? Simply because there are no French to criticize them."]


If we can find a way to produce the two-state solution that the president wants for Israel and Palestine, that's going to transform our relations. But if you want to make the kinds of changes that I think are necessary, you're not going to get them done if you are too deferential to the lowest common denominator. For example, a lot of bad things happened in the Balkans because, on both sides of the Atlantic, people were unwilling to make tough decisions for a number of years. And then when they finally did and it's a success - well, who now remembers that Europeans thought Americans in the Clinton administration were overbearing?


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Think, then Judge

From the San Jose Mercury New, Nov. 17.

Two men from region killed in Iraq

Marine Lance Cpl. Jeramy Ailes, 22, of Gilroy was killed Monday in Al-Fallujah by small arms fire.

"They had finished mopping up in Fallujah and they went back to double-check on some insurgents. From what we gathered, somebody playing possum jumped up and shot him," said his father, Joel Ailes, who learned of his death Monday evening. "It's extremely hard."


Joel Ailes' son joined the Marines two years ago. Al-Fallujah was his second tour. He had returned from An-Nasiriyah in April after several months only to be sent again in June to Al-Fallujah. He was due to come home at the end of January.

"Jeramy was the type of person who wanted to help other people. He didn't want to go in to kill people," said Joel Ailes.

His first time in Iraq, Jeramy Ailes gave $10 to each child he came across because he knew it would feed their families for 30 days. This time, he asked his family to mail as many soccer balls as they could. His family sent 300 balls, and Jeramy Ailes' platoon handed them out to children.

"He was a very caring person, everything about him was about the kids and helping people, he thought he could make a difference," his father said.

Joel Ailes warmly remembered the last conversation he had with his son last month, in which Jeramy Ailes recounted how he had come across a large man walking with a 12-year-old girl carrying a huge bale of straw on her back.

His son, who spoke and read Arabic, exchanged words with the man. And, for the next seven miles, his son carried the girl on his back and the man carried the bales of straw. "That was my son," Joel Ailes said.

Froggy Ruminations has further ruminations, from a former SEAL.

It’s a safety issue pure and simple. After assaulting through a target, put a security round in everybody’s head. Sorry al-Reuters, there’s no paddy wagon rolling around Fallujah picking up “prisoners” and offering them a hot cup a joe, falafel, and a blanket. There’s no time to dick around in the target, you clear the space, dump the chumps, and Are Corpsman expected to treat wounded terrorists? Negative. Hey libs, worried about the defense budget? Well, it would be waste, fraud, and abuse for a Corpsman to spend one man minute or a battle dressing on a terrorist, its much cheaper to just spend the $.02 on a 5.56mm FMJ.

By the way, terrorists who chop off civilian’s heads are not prisoners, they are carcasses.

... and further ...

I have also seen a lot in the way of explaining this Marine's actions by taking into account the fact that he was wounded the day before, that he was tired, he was caught up in the "fog of war", and similar excuses for his actions. He doesn't need any excuses in my book. While all of those factors were in play, they aren't germane to the subject at hand. Combatants generally fake death for a reason. The reason is not important. That there is a reason is important. If Kevin Sites wasn't there with his camera, those Marines probably would have double tapped everybody in the room. Site's presence clearly attenuated the natural response of the Marines in that situation. Which makes the shooting of the one tango all the more justifiable in my estimation. Marines know that they have to be on their best behavior when the press is around, because chances are they were explicitly warned by their unit commander. The fact of the matter is that this Marine acted with RESTRAINT and only shot the one hostile who was acting in a suspicious manner.

... and more ...

A young Marine and his fire team cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with AK-47's and RPG's. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insugent can be heard saying, "Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!" He is badly wounded. Suddenly, he pulls from under his bloody clothes a grenade, without the pin. The explosion rocks the room, killing one Marine, wounding the others. The young Marine catches shrapnel in the face.

The next day, same Marine, same type of situation, a different story. The young Marine and his cover man enter a room with two wounded insurgents. One lies on the floor in puddle of blood, another against the wall. A reporter and his camera survey the wreckage inside, and in the background can be heard the voice of a Marine, "He's moving, he's moving!"

The pop of a rifle is heard, and the insurgent against the wall is now dead. Minutes, hours later, the scene is aired on national television, and the Marine is being held for commiting a war crime. Unlawful killing.

And now, another Marine has the possibility of being burned at the stake for protecting the life of his brethren. His family now wrings their hands in grief, tears streaming down their face. Brother, should I have been in your boots, i too would have done the same.

Hooray for Globalization

The Guardian reports that "Developing countries will enjoy their best year of economic growth in 2004, producing a 'spectacular' drop in poverty around the world."

Releasing its annual report on global economic prospects, the World Bank said developing countries will register growth of 6.1% this year and just above 5% in 2005 and 2006. This compares with overall global growth of about 4% for this year.

Nor were these increases confined to the fast-growing economies of China and India but were widespread around the developing world with the notable exception of Africa, said Ari Dadush, director of development prospects at the Washington-based organisation.

"A lot of countries have grown a lot faster in the past couple of years than they did in the 90s. And growth is the single most important driver of poverty reduction. It is absolutely fundamental," he said.

The report was bullish on developing countries, saying they could double their growth rates to an average of 3.4%, up from less than 2% during the 90s. That would slash poverty rates in half by 2015 everywhere except sub-Saharan Africa.

The faster growth was possible because of a sustained improvement in their macro economic stability, greater flexibility in moving resources to competitive opportunities, a better investment climate and continued progress in reducing trade barriers.

Sub-Saharan Africa remained the global laggard because of its vulnerability to oil prices and more fundamental issues of ineffective economic structures and inefficient government spending, it said, which would only partly be offset by further aid flows and debt forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Nanny State Alert

Here's the kind of thing media used to do, and do well, but is now left to bloggers. Jeff Jarvis uses a simple FIA form and discovers that a record $1.2 million against Fox for a supposedly "sexually suggestive" episode of Married by America was a result of complaints by perhaps as few as 3 people.

Reuters reported on Oct. 15 that "The agency voted 5-0 in favor of fining the stations after receiving 159 complaints." The number was picked up and repeated in the media as part of the nut graph of the story.

The cover letter the FCC sent to Jarvis revealed that there weren't 159 complaints after all. "William H. Davenport, chief of the FCC's Investigations and Hearings Divison, admits in his letter that because the complaints were sent to multiple individuals at the FCC, it turns out there actually were only 90 complaints. It gets better: The FCC confesses that they come from only 23 individuals."

Then, when he looked through the complaints individually, "all but two of them were virtually identical. In other words, one person took the time to write a letter and 20 other people then photocopied or merely emailed it to the FCC many times."

So in the end, that means that a grand total of three citizens bothered to take the time to sit down and actually write a letter of complaint to the FCC. Millions of people watched the show. Three wrote letters of complaint.

And on the basis of that, the FCC decided to bring down the heavy hammer of government censorship and fine Fox an incredible $1.2 million for suggesting -- not depicting but merely suggesting -- sex on a show that had already been canceled because the marketplace didn't like it anyway.

This is the respect the FCC gives to the American people and our First Amendment.

Bravo, Jeff. And shame on you, FCC.

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Up In Lights

The time is 9:37. The temperature is 8 degrees C. The Jews are the new Nazis.

Helpful information from a town in Spain. [hat tip: Barcepundit]

More Echoes

Oliver Kamm introduces me to yet another set of splendid characters from modern British history. He cites the book "Semi-detached Idealists: The British Peace Movement and International Relations, 1854-1945," which I've added to my Amazon wish-list though it will be long before I can afford it.

John Middleton Murry, editor of the pacifist journal "Peace News" during WWII, wrote in that magazine on 9 August 1940:

Personally I don't believe that a Hitlerian Europe would be quite so terrible as most people believe it would be.

And he quote the Marquess of Tavistock, founder of the pro-Nazi and antisemitic British People's Party, who served on the national council of the PPU through 1943. "In Peace News, 30 October 1942, he invoked the following rationalisation for Nazi aggression in Europe:

... the very serious provocation which many Jews have given by their avarice and arrogance when exploiting Germany's financial difficulties, by their associations with commercialized vice, and by their monopolization of certain professions."

Then there's Vera Brittain. "In one of her regular letters to her fellow-campaigners, on 3 May 1945, Vera Brittain maintained that the gas chambers were being publicised by the allies:

... partly, at least, in order to divert attention from the havoc produced in German cities by allied obliteration bombing.

Thus an ethical objection to war - grossly misguided, but not inherently ignoble - became a position indifferent to tyranny and genocide, uncomprehending of the moral imperative of combating evil, and even complicit in support of that evil."

* * *

Like a lot of people raised in my generation, I was mistrustful of U.S. military power, and selfish goals. Like a lot of people, I was endlessly reciting the litany of "stupid American" stories and jokes.

I used to regard America as almost God-like in its invulnerability. Thus I naturally had a root-for-the-underdog identification with any people or group I felt as a victim of U.S. power. Like you'd slap a bad kid for kicking a dog. The slap won't hurt the child, but the kick could kill the dog.

Then I saw the reeking ruins in New York city. 3,000 dead -- people just like me, who probably told the same jokes and held the same views. Why dead? Because they were Americans. The whole edifice of the country was shaken, and it made me realize, this place is mortal, like any nation. Like the moment you realize that, someday, your parents are going to die, it changes you.

When I looked at America, for all its flaws, against its enemies, and all their purposes, I knew which I preferred, which side I was going to give my whole support. And when I looked at the way the rest of the world reacted to us -- telling us we deserved it, still more frightened of us than of anything else, a world where a hot-selling book in France right now is called "50 Good Reasons to Hate Americans" -- I saw the fruits of unrestrained America-bashing as clearly as I saw them in the ruins in New York when my son and I went up there.

Several times I read the words from the rest of the world and heard in my head the response, paraphrased from Shakespeare, "When you cut us, do we not bleed?"

Killing the Americans didn't start on 9/11. It is at least as old as the Palestinian hijacking of the '80s, when the Americans were routinely singled out on international flights and beaten to death.

It's a result of resentment of American power, you say? Very well, the Germans in the 1930s started killing the Jews not because they felt the Jews were weak, but because they were terrified of the supposed power the Jews had in the world.

Dobson's Choice

Michael Totten says James Dobson has the potential to be "the right’s Michael Moore." True. Dobson has a base in an extreme wing of the party, and he can turn them out on election day. But he's poison to the center and the moderates. The next Republican presidential candidate ought to make a point of disowning him (but at the same time embracing some saner evangelical figure).

Kerry's failure to do the same with Moore and his ilk -- I won't say it cost him the election, but certainly it would have changed the map a bit in his favor.

In fact, his whole approach to that problem, whether you regard Moore as a font of political wisdom (as my co-workers do) or not, illustrates the real Kerry Problem. "Fahrenheit 9/11" was out there. Moore was more visible on the campaign trail that any Democrat but Kerry and Edwards. Yet Kerry made a point of not seeing the movie, and was at pains to inform the media of this. That prevented him from having to deal with it. And while he made no overture to Moore, neither embracing nor rejecting him, he allowed Jimmy Carter to bring him up to a catbird seat at the DNC.

He seemed to wish this problem would just go away. He thought that by ignoring it, he could reduce it to the level of a "nuisance." Instead, it just got worse and worse. In the end, Moore's attempt to rally the slackers and anti-war fetishists probably didn't cover the number of moderates who were alienated by his bid to be P.T. Barnum the kingmaker.


Sunday, November 14, 2004

Iraq for Iraqis

America's long-term goal in Iraq is to help the people there build a free, stable, democratic nation where the citizens rule; the law is fair, enforced, and respected; and the wealth of the land is for any Iraqis who want to work for it.

At least, that ought to be our goal.

The President usually talks about Iraq in such terms. But some supporters of the Bush administration's foreign policy, including some in positions of power, have at times suggested a more cynical explanation of what we're doing in Iraq, which boils down to, "better to fight Islamist terrorists there than here."

L. Paul Bremer, for instance, has stated that it is "better to fight it here [i.e. Iraq] than to fight it somewhere else, like the United States." Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez told reporters Iraq would become a "terrorist magnet," and "this is exactly where we want to fight them; we want to fight them here, we prepared for them. And this will prevent the American people from having to go through other attacks back in the United States."

Such talk may be pragmatic -- it will certainly appeal to cold-eyed realists among the voting public, who roll their eyes at the alleged neo-con fantasy of spreading democracy in the Middle East -- but these are not our better angels speaking. Such a policy would be hideously counter-productive to America's stated design of a free Iraq. Would we really want to go down in history as the nation that held out the promise of liberty to Iraqis while frankly intending to turn their country into a romper room for terrorists?

This isn't even a case where the noble motive and the cynical one can co-exist. The one directly undermines the other. If the government's goal is to make Iraq a permanent shooting gallery, why am I sending my money to aid organizations that are helping average Iraqis set up small businesses? Why is my friend Katrina and her company and thousands of other people like them at work up and down the Tigris rebuilding the infrastructure and risking their lives, if we'll smash up the place again fighting terrorists?

Take the fight to the Islamists, yes. But remember: Iraq is our baby now. It's an essential part of what our nation and our military are committed to protecting.

U.S. Lieut. Gen. David Petraeus, one of the men of vision to emerge from the battlefield in this war, has described the task of building a democratic Iraq while under attack as "like trying to repair an aircraft while it's in flight but also while it's being shot at." So why bother if you intend to just crash the thing in the end?


Greyhawk is back in Iraq, musing about the fog of war and the haze in general. He quotes a heart-rending post from a teen-age girl enduring the chaos in Mosul. And he quotes a letter from a U.S. battalion commander from earlier in the conflict, with words still timely, perhaps more now than then:

I believe that we are making progress in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Despite the ravings of pundits and uninformed ambulance chasers, this fight doesn't' hinge on oil or payback. It isn't about religion or race. And it damn sure is not about any innate desire to rule the world. These people will succeed or fail on their own merits. The task is daunting. You can release a person from bondage. You can remove a tyrant from power. You can create the conditions for liberty. But, you cannot simply grant or proclaim freedom. Freedom without honest action is a whisper in a storm just as change without vision and purpose is the illusion of progress. For ages these people were literally beaten to the point of submission by oppression, censure, murder, torture, and rape - regardless of age or gender. I have asked myself why they let it happen. The only answer I can fathom is that evil flourished because good people refused to pay the price required to oppose it.


This enemy has twisted and distorted things both sacred and profane to guideas well as justify its means and its stated end. Nothing is beyond the realm of the possible when it comes to the depths to which it will sink, the horror it is willing to commit, or the suffering it is willing to inflict. This enemy has no concept of mercy nor does it recognize combatants. Innocence is not a factor. You need only look at the headlines of the day to confirm that children, teachers, and doctors are murdered everyday by these villains. What makes them evil? I submit that it is not the act that earns them the epithet of evil - it is the intent to commit and the pride theydraw from the act. These animals revel in the post act announcements that they are responsible. They feel vindicated by the proclamations that they perpetrated these horrors in the name of God and that having committed the seacts some how elevates them. Make no mistake, this enemy is formidable but by no means invincible. To defeat this cancer requires the one thing that civilized people all over the world possess in absolute abundance - The will. The will to be free can only be surrendered by the person that has it - it cannot be murdered, raped, tortured, or stolen. It's not about being a martyr or a saint, it's about being a decent human being. And, the unvarnished truth is that the killing and the horror will continue until those with the will to endure prevail.

A Generation

Before it began, I said we wouldn't know if invading Iraq and toppling
Saddam was a good idea until 20 years had passed. According to Anne Applebaum,, I should double that time-frame:

The lesson of the East German transition after 15 years should, in other words, be phrased as a warning: Even if it is possible to get every political and economic element right, even if it is possible to avoid violence entirely, the psychological transition to liberal democracy from a regime ruled by fear is one that takes at least one generation, if not two. Few people are able to walk from a closed society into an open one without self-doubt and discomfort. Few people find it easy to readjust their thinking overnight, even if they want to. Few people are able to look at themselves in the mirror, tell themselves that the first few decades of their lives were all a bad mistake, and go out and start living new lives according to new rules. It was no accident, a wise teacher once told me, that God made the Israelites wander in the desert for 40 years before bringing them to the promised land: That was how long it would take them to unlearn the mental habits of Egyptian slavery.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Quotation Device

Name the source of the quote:

"How well do you sleep at night Mr. Bush? 160 million dollars? That is a great deal of money you have raised Mr. Bush! These soldiers you have murdered, how much of that money will you provide to their families? Know this Mr. Bush their deaths are on your hands."

Classical Values has the answer, and moore.

What Did Arafat Leave His Nation?

I haven't found it yet on the Net, but on the wire is this editorial from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

In Arthur Conan Doyle's short story "Silver Blaze," Sherlock Holmes — investigating the mysterious death of a race-horse trainer — calls his companions' attention to "the curious incident of the dog in the nighttime."

"The dog did nothing in the nighttime," someone replies.

"That was the curious incident," Holmes says.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is dead, and acknowledgments of prominent men traditionally focus on what they did rather than what they did not do. But sometimes the latter is also instructive.

In early 1948, when the state of Israel was a-borning and Arafat was a young man, an assassin gunned down a former lawyer who had helped free his fellow Indians from British colonialism. Only days before, Mohandas K. Gandhi — one of the 20th century's apostles of nonviolence — had ended a hunger strike aimed at curbing a wave of Hindu-Muslim violence.

In 1968, the year before Aafat became chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, an assassin killed a clergyman in Memphis, Tenn. With his dogged leadership, peaceful tactics and prophetic criticism of entrenched injustice, Martin Luther King Jr. helped lift much of the burden that had crushed African-Americans for decades.

In 1994, the year after the Oslo accords, a former lawyer became South Africa's first black president.

Not too long before, Nelson Mandela a longtime key figure in the African National Congress, a banned organization with a less-than-savory reputation — had been serving a life sentence on Robben Island. In the 1980s, he had been offered freedom if he disavowed violence in the fight against apartheid. He refused.

When South Africa's white minority finally let power slip from its fists, the world had reason to fear that the black majority would explode in long-suppressed vengeance. But it did not. Under Mandela's leadership, his nation became a startling insance of a velvet revolution.

Now, in 2004, Yasser Arafat is dead. What did he leave his Palestinian children?
Mohandas Gandhi left the Indians a state — often racked by poverty and bloodletting, but nevertheless the world's most populous democracy. MLK hardly solved the problems of U.S. racism, but he helped free American blacks from their legal shackles and lit a torch that still calls society to equality. Nelson Mandela retired from office ina nation of great troubles, but one that escaped the ruinous civil wars that have plagued much of Africa.

A proper judging of the sinners and the sinned-against on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide can be done elsewhere — if it can be done at all. But faced with the fact of an Israeli state and the desire of his people for a nation of their own, what did Arafat do?

He did not opt for the path of peace — at least, not for decades. Rather, he cultivated a movement responsible for such atrocities as the 1972 killings of Israeli atletes at the Munich Summer Olympics.

Even after the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, shared with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Arafat was hardly an icon of nonviolent resistance. One wonders what would have happened had he publicly and unequivocally repudiated terrorist elements and done his utmost to root them out.

Of course, it takes two sides to negotiate a settlement that both sides are willing to live with, and some might say that even anothe Gandhi could not have wrung a Palestinian state out of Israel.

Perhaps so. But at the end of Arafat's day — after decades of terrorism and political maneuvering and millions of dollars in foreign aid — what do the Palestinians have?

They have no state. They have no thriving economy. What they have at the moment is the image of a man in military garb and a keffiyeh, a man to whom they gave loyalty and blood for years who in turn left them with ... very little.

Perhaps Yasser Arafat did provide his people with a legacy of pride. But what he failed to leave them, and failed to do, will loom much larger in the long run.

Death enforces the common courtesy rule on me: "If you can't say something nice ...." This is probably the nicest thing said about Arafat that I could nod to.

Among world leaders, past and present, Australia's John Howard seems to have come closest to this truth: “I think history will judge him very harshly for not having seized the opportunity in the year 2000 to embrace the offer that was very courageously made by the then Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, which involved the Israelis agreeing to 90 per cent of what the Palestinians had wanted.”

If you want a less kind view of the recently deceased, however, I recommend Jeff Jacoby's.


Protein Wisdom channels Janeane Garofalo as she prepares for her post-election move to Canada:

Garofalo: “Um, what the hell are those things?”

Realtor: “What, you mean the moose?"*

Garofalo: “The mooses, yes. Have them removed, would you?”

Realtor: “Well, you can’t simply remove moose, Ms. Garofalo. I mean, this is Canada --”

Garofalo: “-- Just do it, okay? And where’s the friggin’ bagel shop in this town? I’ve been here two hours and haven’t seen a single place to stop for a poppy with whitefish. I mean Christ, where am I—Idaho?”

Thursday, November 11, 2004


Time to bring back the Fallujah map.


Your Jesusland Ain't Like Mine

Here's an interesting passage about Hillary R. Clinton, condensed from one of the columns of Michael Kelly, who died covering the Iraq invasion. He's a conservative, but I'd say a fair-minded one. I think the observation is valid:

"The politics of Hillary Rodham Clinton are indeed largely liberal (although, the post election evidence indicates, no more so than those of her husband), but they are of a liberalism derived from religiosity. They combine a generally 'progressive' social agenda with a strong dose of moralism ...

"They are, rather than primarily the politics of left or right, the politics of do-goodism, flowing directly from a powerful and continual stream that runs through American history, from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Jane Addams to Carry Nation to Dorothy Day, from the social gospel of the late 19th century to the temperance-minded Methodism of the early 20th century to the liberation theology of the 1960s and 1970s, to the pacifistic and multi-culturally correct religious left of today ...

"It is concerned not just with how government should behave, but with how people should. It is the message of the preacher, a role Hillary Rodham Clinton has filled many times delivering guest sermons from the pulpits of United Methodist churches."

This is not a friendly reading of her, like I said, but I think it is essentially accurate. New England Puritanism played an enormous role in American history, right through the early 20th century. It, as much as anything, was responsible for the Civil War, for instance. My friend Jose and I have been discussing in e-mails the role of religions, and how they seem to have life cycles of enthusiasm, decadence, and cold decay. New England's religion would seem to be in decrepitude. It has faded into a set of pale established churches (Unitarian/Congregational/UCC), but it also has transfused its blood into a political expression, in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which seems at times to be as fervent in its beliefs, and as rock-ribbed in its morality, as the old Massachusetts Bay churches were. In fact, if you look at the map of the last election, the "blue" counties seem to overlay a map of the current black church and the old Puritan churches and their offspring.

Glenn Reynolds, of Instapundit fame, invoked the Kelly quote in the process of pointing out some other qualities of old Puritans that play out in modern U.S. politics:

"Among them were a hostility to wealth - illustrated by sumptuary laws - a belief that the welfare of the community trumped the rights of individuals (Hillary combined both these aspects in her famous recent statement: 'We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good'). Puritans favoured dense settlement in towns over spread-out farmers - they were, in a sense, the first opponents of "sprawl."

So, after the vote, the blue staters are raging against "Jesusland," but perhaps they ought to discover, and perhaps even embrace, the religious roots of their own agendas.

Dutch Uncles

Fires were set at mosques and Islamic schools in the Netherlands. That is contemptible and inexcusable, I say, but then I've been told I'm a right-wing bonehead whose worldview is so simplistic that I actually pulled the lever for Shrubbie McChimpler. So before I officially weigh in on mosque-bombing, maybe I ought to try to see the world through the nuanced ethical lenses of the moral gods of my wise co-workers.

MOOKHAL MIRE: Why do we ask, 'why do the firebombers attack mosques?' What's wrong with asking the people in those mosques to just sit down for a minute and think about what they might have done to bring this on themselves.

CHOAM NOMSKY: I agree. The fire-bombers do not hate Muslims. That's just the kind of lie that the power-structure and its media lackeys want people to believe. The kind of lie that serves their corporate interest of keeping firebombers and head-choppers separated, fighting one another, instead of empowering themselves through their common interest.

MOOKHAL MIRE: The fire-bombers don't hate Muslims. Look at this footage of the mosques and schools in the Netherlands. They were standing for years. Nobody tried to burn them down. The Dutch fire-bombers loved them. So what made them change their minds?

CHOAM NOMSKY: Clearly it was specific policies of the people in the mosques. Names, the specific policy of sawing off the heads of unbelievers in the middle of the street in broad daylight.

MOOKHAL MIRE: And when you get right down to it, folks, it's all about natural resources. These people came to the Netherlands to exploit the country's rich welfare system, soaking it up like it was their birthright.

CHOAM NOMSKY: Driving up the crime rate, too. The true nature of the violence is revealed upon simple analysis. Only a tool of the mass media would fail to be surprised when the victims rise up and say, 'enough is enough!' While we must all deplore the unfortunate incident of mosque-burnings, it is our duty not to condemn them, but to look for the real crimes, the real criminals, and ask, 'What does Uncle Muhammad want?'

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Bad news for hawks: Madonna calls for US troops to leave Iraq [suggests invading California instead -- ed.]

LONDON (AFP) - US pop star Madonna made a rare foray into politics, calling for her home country to withdraw its troops from Iraq during an interview with British radio.

"I just don't want American troops to be in Iraq, period," she said on BBC Radio.

"My feelings are 'can we just all get out?'," said the 46-year-old star, who lives mainly in London with British film director husband Guy Ritchie, who said she believes the US-led war will not help in the fight against terrorism.

"Global terror is everywhere. Global terror is down the street, around the block," she said.

"Global terror is in California. There's global terror everywhere and it's absurd to think you can get it by going to one country and dropping tons of bombs on innocent people."

Madonna's best known belief is her adherence to the Kabbalah, a faith based on the study of Hebrew texts which has become increasingly popular in recent years, notably among music and film stars.

On other subjects, the singer said the recent US presidential election had illustrated how US society was "becoming very divided".

"People are becoming very polarized," she said. "We have people who don't want to think, and who just want to guard what is theirs, and they're selfish and limited in their thinking and they're very fearful in their choices."

Yeah, Madge, it's all that simple. The "limited" and un-thinking people are the ones who don't want to just pull up and abandon Iraq.