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Yard Signs and Vandalism

My wife asked if it would be okay with me if she put up a John Kerry For President sign in front of our house. Of course, I said. Why should I have a problem with that? She lives here and she’s voting for Kerry.

I told her we ought to put up two yard signs, one for Bush and one for Kerry. It would have been the only way to reflect my position on the presidential race, let alone hers. (This was when I was still undecided.) It’s still kinda sorta true even now that I’ve settled on Bush. I plan to vote a split ticket this year. The Republicans get my White House vote and the Democrats get the rest.

Then she said something that didn’t surprise me one bit: “Whatever we do, we should not put a Bush/Cheney sign out there by itself.”

I didn’t have to ask her why she thought that. We both live in the same neighborhood and we both have eyes. There are no Bush/Cheney signs on anyone’s lawn. Every single last sign is for Kerry. And there is plenty of vandalism and graffitti around. Our corner grocery store had an American flag spray-painted on it. The 50 stars were replaced with a Nazi swastika. The New York Times newspaper box on the corner has “Lies” spray-painted across the front of it. Handbills from the neo-Stalinist International ANSWER have been stapled to telephone polls for years. I saw a poster a few hours ago accusing the United States of genocide. Someone set up an “Impeach Bush” headquarters just down the street. They hung a poster in the window that declares the president is a terrorist. Someone threw a molotov cocktail at a Starbucks.

Don’t get the wrong idea. There is only one neighborhood in the entire city where I would rather live. (That would be NW 23rd, for those of you who know Portland.) My own neighborhood is great. It has everything I want: new and used bookstores, coffeehouses, nice restaurants, microbrew pubs, movie theaters, corner groceries, the whole urban works. Our neighbors are friendly decent people. The staff at the local hangouts know my name and what my “usual” is. But there are just enough jerks around (anarchists, mostly) who think this is Berkeley.

We made the right call when we decided putting a Bush/Cheney sign in the yard would only be asking for trouble. Just now I turned on the local news and saw that the more-conservative neighborhood next to mine (we’re talking a distance of six blocks away) was vandalized last night. Those who put a Bush/Cheney sign in their yard woke up and saw “Fuck Bush” spray-painted in huge white letters on the sides of their cars.

Portland isn’t the only place where this sort of thing is happening. Someone in Madison, Wisconsin had an 8-foot by 8-foot swastika burned into his lawn next to his Bush/Cheney sign. Someone fired shots at a Bush campaign office in Tennessee.

Roger L. Simon has been writing recently about “secret” Bush supporters. Moxie wrote about her experience coming out of the conservative “closet” in Los Angeles.

What a contemptible election season this is. People who live in a democracy aren’t supposed to be afraid of announcing who they will vote for. Radical leftists aren’t the only jerks in the country. Maybe the same sort of thing happens to liberals in conservative cities like Dallas. I don’t know. If so, I haven’t heard about it.

UPDATE: I figured this was going on somewhere. A Democratic Party office in Louisiana was vandalized and torched – twice. Also, an anti-Bush protestor was kicked by a delegate at the Republican National Convention. Nice election we got here.

John Kerry’s Conservatism

I’m not the only one who thinks George W. Bush is the real liberal in this election and that John Kerry is the real conservative. And when I say Kerry is a conservative I do not mean that as a compliment. Neither does Roger L. Simon.

Where I Stand

I’d like to clarify something for regular readers since there has been a bit of a misunderstanding.

I have decided to vote for Bush (and a Democratic Congress) in the election. A few days ago I said I’m 51 percent for Bush and 49 percent for Kerry. I didn’t mean to suggest I’m still undecided. What I meant was that I slightly prefer Bush to Kerry. It’s not a slam dunk. My hawkish case for Kerry wasn’t enough to convince me to vote for him, but it was enough to convince me that a Kerry presidency, though ultimately not what I prefer, will be okay and have real advantages. There will be other advantages that I didn’t mention in the article, but that’s because the scope of the piece was limited only to foreign policy.

I went undecided for a while. Probably for too long, but I did it on purpose. I wanted to make really sure I wasn’t overreacting to John Kerry and conflating him with Dennis Kucinich. So I tried to talk myself into voting for him as best I could. And I tried to talk myself into it on my terms and my terms only. This is the first election where I have done this. If I’m going to declare myself Independent, I need to think like one instead of just hopping onto a different bandwagon because I no longer care for my old one.

Because I am only a moderate Bush-supporter, I can understand very well why someone who isn’t me might prefer John Kerry instead. I can argue with myself about this, so I’m perfectly comfortable disagreeing with others and understanding how they might see things differently. It also helps that more than half my friends are voting for Kerry, and so is my wife. It is not possible for me to believe that a vote for Kerry is a vote for terrorism. None of my friends or family are voting for terrorism.

This leads me to something else, something I really wish I did not have to address.

Yesterday I got into an argument with some people on a blog (which shall remain unnamed) that is centrist on the surface but has a monolithically right-wing readership in the comments. I used to contribute to that comments section regularly, but I now mostly abstain. Anyone with opinions contrary to the pack has been driven out, not by the gracious blog host but by the readers. I am too “left-wing” for them to handle. My own wife was insulted in lurid terms. (No one will ever get away with that here.)

The reason I mention this is because I want to say right now that I will not permit my comments section to degenerate that way. Contrary opinions are both welcome and encouraged here. Just because I’ve come “out” for Bush does not mean I am uninterested in conversation and dialogue or that I’m willing to let my comments section become an intolerant right-wing echo chamber. I will shut down the comments if it happens because I can’t take it.

UPDATE: Please, no one ask me to identify the blog I mentioned above. I am not going to do it. It makes no difference at all. I’m sorry I was even as “specific” as I was. This phenomenon affects the entire blogosphere and has been an ongoing problem for some time now. I am not going to pick on anyone in particular because of an anecdote, especially since it is not in any way whatsoever the fault of the person who owns the blog. Babysitting the comments isn’t easy, and it becomes exponentially more difficult as the readership grows and the threads get longer. That’s just the way it is. It is no one’s fault.

The Second Debate

I only watched part of the debate tonight. I taped the whole thing and may sit down to absorb it this weekend. (Then again, I may not.) I found this one far more irritating than the first.

I did see a few small pieces. And instead of reacting to the debate as a whole (I can’t, sorry) let me react to two things I did see.

George W. Bush still can’t explain who we are fighting and why even after all this time. Yes, weapons of mass destruction are a problem. But, you know what? England has weapons of mass destruction and we aren’t worried about those. I don’t lose any sleep over the French Force de Frappe. Bush continues to reduce our enemies in the Terror War down to abstract nouns; terrorism and weapons. Wrong answer. Paul Berman, an anti-Bush leftist, knows who and what the enemy is better than the president does. Berman more or less agrees with the neoconservatives here. Yet not one of those in his administration is willing to talk about this or explain it to anybody who doesn’t read the same geeky magazines I read. That needs to change. And it probably never will.

As for John Kerry, I am tired of his alternate universe where Bush “pushed our allies away.” I can’t stand to listen to it anymore. One of two things is happening here. He is unseriously playing “politics” and hoping to fool everyone to score points. (If so, he is not fooling me and I don’t care to have my intelligence insulted on a regular basis.) Or he desperately needs to catch up — fast – on what has changed in the trans-Atlantic alliance since the end of the Cold War. Robert Kagan, one of the smartest thinkers around, can fill him in on the details. This ought to be old news by now, senator. Do your homework. If you are elected president, there will be a test.

Kerry-Haters for Kerry

These guys need a link.

Are you going to vote for John Kerry even though you find him unpleasant, annoying, arrogant, waffling, misguided, or just generally unappealing in some profound way? Then you’ve come to the right place! We’re Kerry Haters for Kerry — perhaps his largest constituency! No need to hide in the Kerryhating closet anymore while you pretend to everyone that he’ll be a great president. Here you are among friends.

I’m almost a Kerry-hater for Kerry. I tried talking myself into being a Kerry-hater for Kerry. But I couldn’t quite do it.

They have some great bumper stickers over there for those of you who understand where I’m coming from but plan to vote for him anyway.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Documents: Saddam Bribed France, Russia, and China

John Kerry rather undiplomatically described the allies of the United States as a “coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought, and the extorted.”

As it turns out there really was a coalition of the bribed and the bought. And lo and behold, Britain, Australia, and Poland aren’t it.

SADDAM HUSSEIN believed he could avoid the Iraq war with a bribery strategy targeting Jacques Chirac, the President of France, according to devastating documents released last night.

Memos from Iraqi intelligence officials, recovered by American and British inspectors, show the dictator was told as early as May 2002 that France – having been granted oil contracts – would veto any American plans for war.

But the Iraq Survey Group (ISG), which returned its full report last night, said Saddam was telling the truth when he denied on the eve of war that he had any weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He had not built any since 1992.

The ISG, who confirmed last autumn that they had found no WMD, last night presented detailed findings from interviews with Iraqi officials and documents laying out his plans to bribe foreign businessmen and politicians.

Although they found no evidence that Saddam had made any WMD since 1992, they found documents which showed the “guiding theme” of his regime was to be able to start making them again with as short a lead time as possible.”

Saddam was convinced that the UN sanctions – which stopped him acquiring weapons – were on the brink of collapse and he bankrolled several foreign activists who were campaigning for their abolition. He personally approved every one.

To keep America at bay, he focusing on Russia, France and China – three of the five UN Security Council members with the power to veto war. Politicians, journalists and diplomats were all given lavish gifts and oil-for-food vouchers.

Tariq Aziz, the former Iraqi deputy prime minister, told the ISG that the “primary motive for French co-operation” was to secure lucrative oil deals when UN sanctions were lifted. Total, the French oil giant, had been promised exploration rights.

John Kerry should have taken this into account a long time ago. I doubt a single person in the Bush camp is surprised by this. A lot of us have been wondering all along what on earth Kerry is talking about when he complains about Bush’s supposed lack of diplomacy. If Kerry were president he would have to deal with the exact same international shenanigans.

How would he handle it? I’d like to know, but he will never tell us because he would have to yank one of his planks before he could do so.

(Hat tip: David Batlle via email.)

The Liberal Case for Bush

Here it is, the piece I promised a long time ago, published at Tech Central Station: The Liberal Case for Bush.

Republican Celebrities

For those interested in mixing gossip and politics (generally a bad idea, I’d say) here’s a list of conservative celebrities I found via Roger L. Simon’s comments section. I don’t know how accurate this is, but it’s on Wikipedia which I’ve generally found pretty reliable.

Among those listed:

Stephen Baldwin – One of ‘em was bound to join the Dark Side. Suck it up, Alec.

Bo Derek – This surprises me for some reason.

Dr. Phil – This doesn’t surprise me a bit.

Gary Sinise – But he seems so sensitive. (Well, he is just acting. -Ed.)

Yaphet Kotto – Cool, in a stereotype-busting sort of way. (He’s black.)

Denzel Washington. – Cool again. (See above.)

Leslie Nielson – He’s not supposed to be a Republican. He’s from Canada!

Alice Cooper – Guys like him seriously freaked out the Christian Right back in the day. Now he’s the man. Heh.

Shirley Temple – She’s still alive?

David Lynch – Proving that Republicans can be weird too. And I mean that in a good way. His movies rock. Except for Eraserhead. What the hell was that all about, anyway?

Yeah, I know. This is trivial and irrelevant. But it’s fun to bust up stereotypes once in a while.

A Liberal Muslim Manifesto

“We are of Muslim culture. We oppose misogyny, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and the political use of Islam. We reassert a living secularism.”

That’s from A Muslim Manifesto From France published in this summer’s issue of Dissent Magazine.

It was written by Tewfik Allal, a French Muslim who showed up at a demonstration in Paris to protest the banning of headscarves. He was shocked by what he saw at that rally. So he went home and wrote his manifesto with help from his feminist wife. Good on ‘em. More where this came from, please.

Saddam and Zarqawi

This is supposedly news, but it actually doesn’t say much of anything.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A CIA report has found no conclusive evidence that former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which the Bush administration asserted before the invasion of Iraq.

“There’s no conclusive evidence the Saddam Hussein regime had harbored Zarqawi,” a U.S. official said on Tuesday about the CIA findings.

But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, stressed that the report, which was a mix of new information and a look at some older information, did not make any final judgments or come to any definitive conclusions.

[...]

The CIA report concludes Zarqawi was in and out of Baghdad, but cast doubt on reports that Zarqawi had been given official approval for medical treatment there as President Bush said this summer, ABC said.

I don’t know what the report actually says. It isn’t available. In any case, it supposedly doesn’t arrive at any conclusions one way or another about Zarqawi’s alleged alliance with Saddam Hussein. But let’s take out Occam’s Razor.

As Christopher Hitchens once put it, Baghdad under Saddam Hussein was a place that was as difficult to enter as it was to leave. You couldn’t exactly waltz in there as a foreigner and check yourself into a hospital as if you were showing up to buy smokes at a corner grocery in Brooklyn.

And if Zarqawi wasn’t welcome in Iraq, why did he choose Baghdad as a place to see a doctor? There are plenty of Arab countries that were not under sanctions that deprived them of medical supplies. There were plenty of Arab countries that are not totalitarian police states (Morocco, Tunisia, Jordan, Kuwait,) that he could have chosen instead. So, why Iraq?

If Zarqawi really was connected to Saddam Hussein, these sentences near the article’s conclusion should follow logically.

Before last year’s invasion to topple Saddam, the Bush administration portrayed Zarqawi as al Qaeda’s link to Baghdad.

Following Saddam’s capture in December and waves of suicide attacks on U.S. and Iraqi security forces which followed, Zarqawi quickly became America’s top enemy in Iraq.

None of this makes a lot of difference in any case. We did not invade Iraq because of Zarqawi. We invaded Iraq to kick off a slum-clearance program in Araby.

John Kerry is No Tony Blair

Joe Katzman, in a roundabout sort of way, argues with my “hawkish case for John Kerry” approach. He makes good points, as always. In a nutshell: John Kerry is no Tony Blair.

Is he right? To an extent, absolutely. But ultimately, I don’t know. We have to guess at what a John Kerry foreign policy would actually look like. His campaign has been all over the place, so it isn’t a good predictor. His record is a poor predictor, too. Presidents can’t act like senators. They are leaders. They can’t just say yay or nay to someone else’s proposals.

And let’s be honest. We have to guess at what a second round of George W. Bush’s foreign policy would look like, too. Will Bush fix Iraq? I wish I knew. I wish I knew a lot of things that I don’t actually know.

If I had a crystal ball and could take a good hard look at two alternate futures I would know without a doubt which of our two candidates I would vote for.

Today I’m leaning 51 percent Bush and 49 percent Kerry. When I wrote my hawkish endorsement for Kerry I was leaning slightly his way. Now that I’ve written my “liberal case for Bush” (forthcoming at Tech Central Station.) I’m leaning a bit toward Bush again. Partly this is because I found my own endorsement for Bush slightly more persuasive than my own endorsement for Kerry. But it’s also, in part, because of what Joe Katzman says at Winds of Change.

The Edwards And Cheney Debate

Let me begin with a caveat. I only watched the first half of the vice presidential debate, the portion that focused on foreign policy.

I have no idea who “won” or who will be perceived to have won. And I don’t really care.

Both were confident, articulate, knowledgeable, and presidential. Both had some command of the facts, and both were sometimes right. When they were wrong they weren’t offensively or freakishly wrong. There were no Howard Dean moments, in other words. (Although I’m liking Dean more these days. He’s out of his radical phase now.)

When John Edwards said we lost more soldiers in September than in August, and more soldiers in August than in July, and more soldiers in July than in June, he proved he isn’t stuck in denial about the fact that Iraq has taken a turn for the worse. I worry about Bush and Cheney sometimes. Are they even aware that Iraq is on fire? I don’t know. Probably. But I don’t know. They talk about Iraq as though everything is rainbows and sunshine. You don’t have to buy into hysterical doom-mongering to see that Iraq is whacked. And you can’t solve a problem if you can’t even admit a problem exists.

But Edwards seemed to be in denial about something else. He said the United States is taking 90 percent of the casualties in Iraq. Well, senator, welcome to the unipolar world of the American superpower. Our European allies do not have the military capacity to project power as we do. They cannot match us on the battlefield no matter how much they might want to. (And let us not forget that they do not want to.) That’s because they deliberately reduced their military power down to token “me too” levels. They knew — rightly — that we would pick up the slack. So we will pick up the slack. You and John Kerry will never get Europe to pick up your slack. It isn’t politically possible. Nor is it physically possible.

Edwards and Cheney went back and forth like this. Sometimes Cheney was right. Other times Edwards was right. I can imagine that if these two men were working together they could cobble together a plan for success in Iraq that isn’t hampered by Republican chauvinism or left-wing defeatism.

I don’t trust Kerry and Edwards, mostly because of John Kerry. Kerry is the boss, not Edwards. And Kerry has ran a wobbly campaign following a shaky record where he has been consistently on the weak side of national security.

But I don’t trust Bush as much as I used to, in part because he really does appear to be in denial. Also because he has practically no political capital to carry out a foreign policy I basically agree with, and because he is such a polarizing figure he has become an enormous liability.

I would put more trust in a Cheney/Edwards or an Edwards/Cheney ticket than the two options we currently have. Too bad it’s not an option.

The Plot Against America

One of our best journalists, Paul Berman, reviews the new novel by one of our best fiction writers, Philip Roth.

Plot_Against_America.jpg

The Plot Against America is an alternate history. What if the United States joined the Fascist Axis in the 1930s? Berman insists this novel is not a cheap political allegory, that Roth is not in any way trying to compare the current political climate to the fictional one that takes place in his book. But he does say this:

Still, after you have had a chance to inhabit his landscape for a while and overhear the arguments about war and fascism and the Jews, ”The Plot Against America” begins to rock almost violently in your lap — as if a second novel, something from our own time, had been locked inside and was banging furiously on the walls, trying to get out.

Recommended.

(Post-script: I don’t want anyone to misunderstand why I posted this. I do not think the United States is on the road to fascism. Not in any way whatsoever.)

Heinz-Kerry: No Blood for Oil!

I can see why those on John Kerry’s campaign staff cringe when his wife Teresa pops off in public. She is no Hillary Clinton. And I don’t mean that as a compliment. (I like Hillary now more than I did before. She isn’t on my short list of top choices for president — that honor goes to John McCain, Harold Ford, Rudy Giuliani, and Barak Obama. But I would vote for her over either Kerry or Bush.)

Here are a few quotes from Teresa Heinz-Kerry today.

On 9/12 every single newspaper in the world said ‘We are all Americans.’ Today it is not the case.

She’s quoting Le Monde. The French daily said we are all Americans now. But Le Monde is not “every single newspaper in the world.”

I don’t have a copy or an image of a newspaper from Iraq on September 11, 2001. But I do have an image of one of Saddam’s newspapers commemorating the first anniversary of September 11, 2001.

The Arabic script does not say “We Are All Americans Now,” and it especially doesn’t say “We Are Still All Americans.”

The Taliban is back running Afghanistan

The Taliban does not run Afghanistan. I’m real sorry the Taliban aren’t yet discussed in the past tense, but today’s Afghan government – such as it is – is run by a guy named Hamid Karzai. An election is scheduled this coming Saturday.

No American boy or girl should lose their lives for oil.

Now that I can agree with. Good thing we aren’t fighting for oil.

John Kerry, Neoconservative

William Safire at the New York Times says John Kerry transformed himself into a “hard-line, right-wing, unilateral” neoconservative. I wouldn’t go that far, but he makes some good points. Whatever Kerry’s faults, he is not the second coming of George McGovern. Really, he isn’t.

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