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Being Instapundit

Cows have four stomachs. Glenn Reynolds has six brains.

One reads the Internet. (Yes, the entire Internet.) A second brain thinks about what the first brain reads. A third answers his email. (I have access to his inbox. It gives a whole new meaning to the word “Instalanche.”) A fourth brain composes posts on Instapundit. A fifth writes columns for Tech Central Station, MSNBC, and The Guardian. A sixth teaches law.

So when Glenn goes on vacation he has to enlist at least three people (who only have one brain apiece, I might add) to fill in for him.

You know how it is when you click on over to Instapundit. He’s got links to seemingly everything over there. You’ll get a decent idea what’s going on in the country, in the world, and in his six brains just by scanning his list of links. If you click on over today and see what Ann Althouse, Megan McArdle, and I have posted you won’t get that. Sorry. We can’t cover everything. We need three more brains to do that.

Before I became one-third of Instapundit I didn’t know how he does it. Now I really don’t know how he does it. I’m kidding about the six brains. He doesn’t really have that many — I don’t think. He’s just a very talented person. It’s a good thing he makes decent money from blogads. Instapundit is a job.

Ann Althouse wrote about what it’s like for her to be another third of Instapundit. You and me both, Ann!

Open Thread

I’ll be back shortly, probably later on in the day. In the meantime, feel free to discuss whatever you feel like talking about in the comments.

The Joy of Sailing

I was going to post photos from my sailing trip to Gig Harbor this weekend, but I can’t find the cable that connects my digital camera to the computer. It’s around somewhere.

The weather was beautiful, as it turned out — a nice surprise for the Puget Sound in late October.

I don’t know much about sailing. My friends Adam and Christina took me out on their boat. They have the sailing bug, big time. I can see why. It’s one of the best ways to travel. It’s slow, to be sure. Taking seven hours to go 25 miles isn’t exactly efficient. But you aren’t strapped in your seat like you are in an airplane, a bus, or a car. You can get up and move around like you can on a train. It’s better than train travel, too, though, because you’re in control. Assuming the boat isn’t tiny, you have more room to sprawl out in than even in a first class sleeper car.

Arriving by boat isn’t like arriving any other way. You get to skip the ugly suburban sprawl and pull up right in the heart of the city. The harbor closes around you like embracing, welcoming arms. And after spending all day on the water, lashed by freezing wind, a cheeseburger and beer tastes like manna from heaven.

We saw ducks, dolphins, and seals. A rainbow over the jagged snow-capped peaks of the Olympics. Fall foliage on the deciduous trees among the evergreens.

Recommended if you’re in the area.

Instapundit Posts

It sure feels weird posting on Instapundit. The number of readers over there is about 100 times the number here. Good thing for me Glenn doesn’t have a comments section!

But I don’t want to hide from y’all. If you feel the need to yell at me for my posts over there (see here and here) this would be the place to do it.

Don’t forget to be nice to each other while you’re at it.

New Column

My latest Tech Central Station column is up. It’s about Turkey’s dicey relationship with the European Union: Turkey and the Problem of History.

Once More Into the Breach

Christopher Hitchens returns to The Nation to write one last column.

One of the editors of this magazine asked me if I would also say something about my personal evolution. I took him to mean: How do you like your new right-wing friends? In the space I have, I can only return the question. I prefer them to Pat Buchanan and Vladimir Putin and the cretinized British Conservative Party, or to the degraded, mendacious populism of Michael Moore, who compares the psychopathic murderers of Iraqis to the Minutemen. I am glad to have seen the day when a British Tory leader is repudiated by the White House. An irony of history, in the positive sense, is when Republicans are willing to risk a dangerous confrontation with an untenable and indefensible status quo.

I can say, and have said, much the same thing.

There’s a flip side to this, too. I may not vote for John Kerry, but I would stand shoulder to shoulder with him against Pat Robertson, Trent Lott, Tom DeLay, James Dobson, Rick Santorum, Alan Keyes, and — gosh — I don’t know how many other Republicans. That’s why, despite the fact that I’ve been pushed toward to the right, I haven’t joined the right.

No one ever asks me, Hitchens, or anyone else who left the left what we think of our center-wing friends. You can’t ask that question sarcastically. So it doesn’t get asked. How do you like being independent and free? The question answers itself.

(Hat tip: Marc Cooper.)

Another Liberal for Bush

Marc Danziger, aka Armed Liberal, endorses the re-election of the president.

UPDATE: Jeff in the comments asks if I can recommend the work of any conservatives who oppose Bush for the sake of balance. Absolutely. Read Andrew Sullivan. Read him every day. I have not, I repeat not, joined the “I hate Andrew” club.

On the right sidebar of this blog I have permanently linked an essay in the New York Observer by Ron Rosenbaum called The Men Who Would be Orwell. It’s about Andrew Sullivan and Christopher Hitchens. What Rosenbaum said about Sullivan a few years ago is more true today than it was when he wrote it. That’s why some on the right won’t read him anymore. It’s also why I continue to read.

Programming Note

This coming week starting Monday I will be guest blogging at Instapundit. Jane Galt and Ann Althouse will join me.

Glenn Reynolds will be out of the country for a while. Somebody has to hold down the fort during the runup to the election. Thanks for inviting me, Glenn. I’ll try real hard not to break yer blog.

I’ll probably post here, too, but the main event will be there.

In the meantime, I’m sailing to Gig Harbor first thing Saturday morning. The weather is going to be awful. It sure won’t be boring…

Have a great weekend. And see you on Instapundit.

Stolen Honor

I have not seen Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the controversial anti-Kerry documentary that Sinclair Broadcast Group wants to show all over the country. I’ve had no desire to see it. I’m a lot more interested in the war we’re engaged in now than the one that ended before I was old enough to read.

But my interest is piqued by the review it received in The New York Times.

“Stolen Honor: Wounds That Never Heal,” the highly contested anti-Kerry documentary, should not be shown by the Sinclair Broadcast Group. It should be shown in its entirety on all the networks, cable stations and on public television.

This histrionic, often specious and deeply sad film does not do much more damage to Senator John Kerry’s reputation than have the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s negative ads, which have flooded television markets in almost every swing state. But it does help viewers better understand the rage fueling the unhappy band of brothers who oppose Mr. Kerry’s candidacy and his claim to heroism.

Sinclair, the nation’s largest television station group, reaching about a quarter of United States television households, backed down this week and announced that it would use only excerpts from the 42-minute film as part of an hourlong news program about political use of the media, “A P.O.W. Story: Politics, Pressure and the Media.” That’s too bad: what is most enlightening about this film is not the depiction of Mr. Kerry as a traitor; it is the testimony of the former P.O.W.’s describing the torture they endured in captivity and the shock they felt when celebrities like Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden visited their prisons in North Vietnam and sided with the enemy.

I wish I didn’t take a person’s political leanings into account when I read stuff like this. The article ought to stand on its own. And to an extent, it does. But this review is a bit more credible (at least for me) because it looks like it was written by a liberal.

I had never heard of Alessandra Stanley, the reviewer, before. So I punched her name into Google. The first search engine hit is a page devoted to her at Timeswatch.org, a conservative Web site that monitors “liberal bias” at The New York Times.

It wasn’t at all predictable that she would find this movie important. At least it wouldn’t have been predicted by people who watch her career. She is not “the converted.” At least she wasn’t until after she watched it.

I don’t need “permission” from a liberal to watch an anti-Kerry movie. I’m not voting for him. And I’m not about to become defensive about his history or his record — at least not overly defensive. But this film has at least some bipartisan appeal. If it were nothing but election-year hack work the liberal reviewer at the Times would surely have said so.

Fidel Gets a Boo-boo

See this picture?

castro_falls.jpg

That’s Fidel Castro falling at a graduation ceremony yesterday in Havana. Broken knee. Fractured arm. Thought I’d share.

Moving Backwards

Brazilian journalist Nelson Ascher says the 911 attacks show history has been moving in the wrong direction.

I remember when a friend of mine came to visit me, maybe 15 years ago, with the newest issue of “Veja”, the Brazilian equivalent of Time magazine. He was outraged. That had to do with a teenage girl who lived in one of Sao Paulo’s most exclusive residential closed suburb had been gang-raped and killed. No, it wasn’t the crime that outraged my friend, but the fact that the magazine gave the story its cover-page. You see, he told me, had it been a poor black girl from the slums, she wouldn’t have made it even to the magazine’s most hidden page. I told him: of course not, but it’s not the slum-dwellers who subscribe to “Veja” and if such a thing can happen in the town’s wealthiest place, that’s a sign things are getting really bad and that’s news. I also told him: if you happen to find a roach at night in your kitchen, that means there’s at least one roach in your house. But if you find one at high noon in your living-room you can be sure your house’s roach-infested.

That’s one of the meanings of 9/11. That you cannot be safe in Darfur or Beirut, in the Phillipines or Indonesia, that’s a problem. But if you can be murdered by Islamic terrorists while you’re on the top floor of the WTC, then that’s not a problem anymore. That’s much bigger. The progressive idea was to turn, for instance, Beirut into NY. If that’s not being accomplished, this is bad enough. But when people start turning NY into Beirut, we’re definitely moving backwards. And fast.

Indeed. We need to push the other way for a change. This is no time for a conservative holding-pattern.

America – Fuck Yeah!

My new Tech Central Station column is up. It’s my review of Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police.

For and Against Bush

Here is yet another endorsement of George W. Bush from a lifelong British lefty who now lives in New York: Sarah Baxter in the Times of London, a Democrat for Bush.

I don’t know if there are enough of us to become a movement, but I think we’re at least a stastistic.

Meanwhile, Chris Johnson at Mayflower Hill writes a cogent rebuttal of my own Liberal Case for Bush. He doesn’t quite convince me, but he makes a reasonable case that I understand. I’m glad some Kerry-supporters think as he does.

Talented Air Heads

When I was a young 20-something I wanted to spend the rest of my life in college towns. That way I would always be surrounded by smart people – like me!

Well. I guess when I was nine years old I thought I was pretty smart, too. I was certainly smarter than when I was eight. And I was a lot smarter at nine than I was at five.

Someday I hope to be old enough to think people my age (34) fell off the lettuce truck, like, yesterday. That, apparently, is just how life goes.

In the meantime, I’d just like to thank fate and (apparently) my own good sense for getting the heck out of the alternate-universe bubble city where I was schooled. Dr. Frank reminds me yet again why this is so by pointing to this silly piece by Traci E. Carpenter at MSNBC. She just won an essay contest for college journalists all across the country.

Can I make a humble suggestion to j-school deans? Please make your students study history or some other subject that teaches them something. No journalist should ever write something as empty-headed as this:

Sometimes I feel that no matter how I vote, there will still be war, crime and poverty.

Or this:

I don’t know the difference between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry because they don’t take time out from kissing babies and the behinds of corporate executives to tell me.

Um, did she watch the debates? Check out their Web sites? Look at the news, ever, over the past four years? She’s a journalism student, supposedly the best in the country, and she doesn’t read the paper?

I don’t mean to pick on the youngster. I wasn’t half as smart as I thought when I was her age. I’m still probably not.

But, come on. Is this really the best our j-schools can produce? Talented air heads? A freshman in History would laugh at the first sentence I quoted. And a freshman in Political Science would scoff at the second.

Look. Journalism isn’t that hard. I’ve never taken a single class in the subject. I’ve received no training, and only a little advice. Yet I get assignments. It can be done. You don’t need a certificate, and you don’t need to have your hand held for four years.

However. If you want to write about something, you first have to know something about it. Want to cover politics? Study Political Science. Want to cover foreign policy? Study Military History. Want to write about globalization? Study Economics. But for all our sakes, don’t study Journalism. At least don’t study Journalism alone. I see little evidence that it does much good. Dumb sentences, cleanly written, are still dumb sentences.

Overheard At the Coffeeshop

Yesterday I went to a coffeeshop in my neighborhood to do a little homework in Totalitarian Studies. I’ve traveled to unfree countries before, but never to a full-bore totalitarian police state. And since I’ll be doing just that in five weeks I’m reading about the experiences of other writers in these kinds of places to get an idea of what I should expect and how I ought to behave.

I ordered my coffee and sat in a chair at a small row of outdoor tables. There were four of us sitting there, all strangers. An older black man sat next to me reading a book about the Buddha. Another guy, about my age with long hair and a goatee, stared at nothing in particular while chain-smoking Camels. A rumpled-looking third fellow, a few years younger than me, quietly read the paper.

I brought with me The Pillars of Hercules: A Grand Tour of the Mediterranean by Paul Theroux, a travel book I’ve been reading on-and-off for a couple of months. I opened to the chapter on Syria. He’s at the Turkey/Syria border and chatting with a young Turk named Yusof who had been sitting next to him on the bus.

“Best thing, mister, is be very careful,” he said. And he pointed cautiously and became conspiratorial. “Over there is Syria. That is another country. You hear what I’m saying? Another country.”

The young man reading the paper decided to share the news. He mumbled something about the election. I ignored him because I was reading.

A small number of people jostled for attention at a desk, where a bored and rather indifferent soldier ignored them. I thrust my passport over their heads and, as though amused by my insolence, he snatched it and said, “American!” and laughed. I did not see my passport again for over an hour.

The chain-smoker piped up. Something about the Patriot Act. I kept reading.

In the meantime, I found Yusof lurking. He said he wanted to buy me a drink. We had coffee, while he held a chattering conversation with some Syrians. I noticed that there were large portraits of President Assad all over the frontier. He was a man with an odd profile — beaky nose, big chin, surmounted by the squarest head I had ever seen. His portrait at its most accurate was like a cartoon parody: misshapen and villainous, his combed-over hairdo varied from portrait to portrait. His suit was too tight, his neck too thin, his tie ridiculous, his smile insipid. As for his politics (to quote 1 Kings 11), “He was an adversary to Israel…and he abhorred Israel, and reigned over Syria.”

I took a sip of my coffee, which was beginning to cool down. So far this was the most interesting part of the book. I’ve already been to Spain, France, and Italy, so reading about those places is less educational. I won’t be going to Syria soon – at least not in the immediate future – but I’ll be going someplace a lot like it.

But there was another portrait — a younger man, with a slim stubbly face and sunglasses and army fatigues.

“Who’s that, Yusof?”

“No,” he said, meaning, Don’t ask. He paddled with one hand in a cautioning gesture.

The delay at the border today was caused by a group of Syrians smuggling shirts and pants in large suitcases. The absurdity of it was that while these smugglers opened their cases, revealing stacks of shirts in plastic bags, huge trucks rumbled past. They were German, and they were loaded with crates of German machinery, from a firm called Mannesmann. The crates were stamped For the Ministry of Technology, Baghdad, Iraq. Six of these vast flatbed trucks. They were headed toward Iraq, though Syria — and they were waved through by Syrian soldiers. It seemed to make little difference to anyone that Iraq was subject to U.N. sanctions and such a shipment of German machine parts was illegal. In the meantime the shirt smugglers were bullied and denounced.

Yusof took me aside. He put his hand over his mouth and muttered, “That is Assad’s son. He died. Don’t talk.”

We were summoned to the office and handed our passports. And then we were on our way. Those men wearing dark glasses and sipping tea, Yusof said. They were not travelers. They were members of the mukhabarat — Syria’s secret police. All this in a whisper, Yusof’s hand over his mouth.

“Here I like,” Yusof said. We were in a rocky landscape, with wide strips of green. “Aleppo is good. I drink. I eat. I disco. I fuck. But – ” He leaned over. “I don’t talk.”

“It’s a police state,” the young man with the newspaper said. He had my attention now. And he had the attention of others. “Ashcroft and Bush have turned it into a police state.”

“Man, this is a real scary time,” said the old Buddhist.

“Hey,” said the chain-smoker. (None of these guys seemed to know each other.) “Do you think America has too many freedoms? Think the government should take all our rights away? Then vote for George W. Bush!”

I sighed and considered telling them who I am voting for and what I am reading. Why not? I wouldn’t be intruding on a private conversation. This one was public, among strangers who assumed everyone in the neighborhood agreed with them. And why wouldn’t they? There are no Bush/Cheney lawn signs around. Right across the street was the local Impeach Bush headquarters. A poster hung in the window that showed a portrait of the president. Underneath his photo, in big blocky letters, the word “Terrorist.”

But I didn’t want to get into it. I would rather read about Syria than argue with people who know nothing of places like Syria, Libya, Iraq, and North Korea. They wouldn’t listen to me anyway.

I had been anxious about my trip to the coast until I walked to the railway station — a funny little Frenchified station with the usual Assad hagiography in any number of ridiculous murals — and saw that there were three trains a day to Latakia. At the station I engaged three young men — medical students — in a conversation about the murals. They immediately clammed up and made eye signals and hand gestures and all sorts of nonverbal suggestions to change the subject. This was what Albania had been like under “Friend” Hoxha.

It was not fidgeting caution but real fear — of, I supposed, the mukhabarat.

“Criticize the government and you get silenced,” said the kid with the newspaper as he folded it in disgust. And he said it quite loudly. “It’s only gonna get worse.”

You guys are lucky, I thought. You’re so lucky this isn’t Syria. You’re lucky there is no Portland mukhabarat. Because I could be a member for all you would know.

I leave for Libya in five weeks. I doubt I’ll have this experience there.

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