No More Stolen Elections!

I know you’re all tired of hearing about this, but it’s crunch time and slacking off would be fatal.

That little beady red rat eyed punk Patterico pulled ahead of me in the Wizbang blog awards. He’s bribing people for votes, spreading rumors about me and women’s underpants, and is almost certainly otherwise rigging the system.

Meryl Yourish is in third place. She emailed me and said she would form an alliance with him to gang up on me, then betray him in the end. Well, Meryl, that betrayal had better come fast.

Thousands of people cruise by this site everyday. If every one of you takes just a few seconds to go on over there and vote for me I’ll whoop ‘em both by a fat whopping margin.

So come on, dearly beloved fans and antagonists. Help me out here. My gigantic ego depends on it. Vote for me. Early, late, and frequently.

Cheers. And cheers to you, too, Patterico and Meryl. You’re alright – as long as you lose!

Worlds Can’t Meet Worlds. But People Can Meet People.

I forget who first said that (the headline, that is) but I like it and I thought about it as I was walking around inside Libya, hanging out, and chatting with regular folks.

One of the most striking things, really, about meeting people in far away lands inside other civilizations isn’t how different they are, but how very much like me they are. It shouldn’t be odd, but somehow it is. Nothing busts up stereotypes better than travel. Common sense and mere mental effort can never compete with it.

It goes both ways, I’m sure. What must it be like for someone who spent their entire life inside a country (like, say, Iraq) where Americans were constantly demonized to come to the United States and hang out with regular people. It’s probably a bit like my experience in Libya.

Granted, Libyans as people were hardly formally demonized in America. But almost every one of my friends and family members thought I was crazy to go there. The unspoken fear was that the people might kill me.

Well, no. Nobody killed me. Nobody even looked at me funny. I knew that’s how it would be from everything I read in advance, but it’s nice to actually experience that and have the old adage “people are people” proven out through experience.

This is a long intro for something I want to point out.

Omar and Mohamed, the two Iraqi bloggers who write at Iraq the Model, are travelling around the United States with Jim Hake from Spirit of America. Jeff Jarvis was lucky enough to meet them. And oh, how I wish I had been there.

It occurred to me it had been a while since I’ve look at their site, so I hopped on over and found this entry from Omar.

I wanted to say that I only knew about the left side of the blogosphere months after we started. I thought that the right side was the whole thing, as in the beginning I thought we were just posting our thoughts ‘into the darkness’ and get lots of visitors without having any idea were they come from except Iraqi blogs. Later we found about the major blogs such as Instapundit, Andrew Sullivan, Buzz Machine, LGF, Tim Blair, Roger Simon, Right Wing news…Etc and for long months I thought these were the only major bloggers! I didn’t know because these were the sites linking to us and from were we get lots of visitors and when I used to go to their sites I would find a somewhat similar list. It turned out to be that the other side top bloggers rarely if ever mentioned us or other Iraqi blogs except for the very anti-American ones. I realized lately that the blogosphere was divided into two major parts with very few bridges.

I think that’s sad for all kinds of reasons. But here’s his next sentence:

When I started looking at the ‘enemy’ I found out that most of them were not that horrible!

Exactly. Exactly.

Most people just aren’t that horrible. Whether they’re red-staters, Libyans, Iraqis, liberals, whatever, people are people.

Everyone knows this already, I know. But sometimes I get the impression when reading political blogs (and the comment section on my own blog) that liberals think neoconservatives have horns, and that heartland Republicans think Bay Area hippies have two heads, both of ‘em tattooed and pierced.

When I peruse the Guardian it sometimes seems like left-wing Europeans actually believe Americans have scuff marks on their knuckles and permanent drool stains on their shirts. Reading right-wing American magazines I sometimes wonder what on Earth some conservatives would think if they hopped on a plane to Paris and discovered that French people don’t have little beady red rat eyes.

Nothing distorts reality like politics and war. Those of us who spend our time on this stuff should try to keep that in mind once in a while. If you’re in a cocoon, try to get out more. It’s good for you. And it feels good, too.

PS – Don’t forget to vote for me in the Wizbang awards. Patterico is running neck and neck with me, and I hear he really does have little beady red rat eyes. We can’t let a guy like that win this thing, people.

Against PC Left and Right

Bridgett Johnson is a conservative screenwriter in Hollywood who isn’t happy with the Politically Correct orthodoxy that rules over the film industry. She wrote a guest column about it a few weeks ago for the Wall Street Journal’s Opinion Journal where she makes the following point:

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we’ve heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying. Indeed Hollywood has long walked on eggshells regarding the topic of Islamic fundamentalism. The film version of Tom Clancy’s “The Sum of All Fears” changed Palestinian terrorists to neo-Nazis out of a desire to avoid offending Arabs or Muslims. The war on terror is a Tinsel Town taboo, even though a Hollywood Reporter poll showed that roughly two-thirds of filmgoers surveyed would pay to see a film on the topic.

In a recent conversation with a struggling liberal screenwriter, I brought up the Clancy film as an example of Hollywood shying away from what really affects filmgoers–namely, the al Qaeda threat vs. the neo-Nazi threat. He vehemently defended the script switch. “It’s an easy target,” he said of Arab terrorism, repeating this like a parrot, then adding, “It’s a cheap shot.” How many American moviegoers would think that scripting Arab terrorists as the enemy in a fiction film is a “cheap shot”? In fact, it’s realism; it’s what touches lives world-wide. It’s this disconnect with filmgoers that has left the Hollywood box office bleeding by the side of the road.

I don’t know about the Hollywood box office “bleeding by the side of the road.” If there’s any evidence for it, she doesn’t cite any. And if she’s right I imagine (although I admit I’m only guessing) that political correctness has precious little to do with it.

She’s on solid ground, though, about movies themselves. Plenty of movies were made with Communist villains during the Cold War. I don’t recall any hand-wringing about how Hollywood hurt the self-esteem of the Russians.

If fictional Muslim terrorists offend certain people, the real ones on the news must give them a heart attack. But that’s not CNN’s fault.

Johnson hopes to see movies in Hollywood made by conservatives.

A liberal friend asked me what conservative filmmaking was, envisioning staid, G-rated pictures. The movement is better described as rebellion from the Hollywood status quo, the dream of being able to make a feature film whose political content won’t be altered to make the Republicans evil, in which politically incorrect yet pertinent material won’t end up on the cutting-room floor. It’s about having faith in filmgoers that they’ll eagerly support pictures to which they can relate.

Sounds great. But I’m not holding my breath. This article appeared yesterday at the BBC:

The director and screenwriter of the film adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is to remove references to God and the church in the movie.

Chris Weitz, director of About a Boy, said the changes were being made after film studio New Line expressed concern.

The books tell of a battle against the church and a fight to overthrow God.

“They have expressed worry about the possibility of perceived anti-religiosity,” Weitz told a His Dark Materials fans’ website.

How on Earth can you make a movie about a revolt against God without mentioning God? (Okay, Blade Runner told that story in an extremely roundabout way, but that’s, well, another story.) Replacing Palestinian terrorists with neo-Nazis was silly enough, but this is even more gutless.

Here is the author’s agent from the same article:

Of course New Line want to make money, but Mr Weitz is a wonderful director and Philip is very supportive…You have to recognise that it is a challenge in the climate of Bush’s America.

This is not Bush’s America. This is everybody’s America.

Boo hoo, some movies offend people. And those very same movies are often box office smashes. Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s Team America: World Police is only the latest example. The very fact that Team America was as raucously anti-PC as it was hilarious was a major part of the draw.

If you’re afraid of the content of the script in your hands that’s a pretty good indication that you need to be making a different movie. Find someone who isn’t a coward and who won’t take a meat-axe to the plot and let them shoot it instead.

Political Correctness is juvenile and asinine. It irritates more people than the number whose precious feelings it saves. I applaud Bridgett Johnson’s stance against left-wing PC. But let’s not forget about the right-wing variety (which is really quite rich if you think about it) at the same time.

PS – Don’t forget to vote often for me in the Wizbang blog awards. I’m losing my margin here because Patterico posts a “vote for me!” at the bottom of every single one of his posts. At this moment I’m only ahead of him by 0.1 percent, so you need to go here and make it all better for me. Thanks!

They’ll Never Have Paris

I don’t usually link to reviews of books I haven’t read. And I’ve never linked to a rebuttal to a review of a book I haven’t read. But sometimes these things are entertaining all by themeselves.

Like now, for instance.

John J. Miller and Mark Molesky wrote a book called Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France.

Is the book good? I dunno. Maybe. Our relationship with France isn’t all that hot at the moment, so it could be interesting and informative. On the other hand, with an overwrought title like that it’s not hard to imagine a wee bit of hyperventilating.

I was in France last weekend after my grand tour of Libya. I was well aware of the strained relationship between our two countries while I was there. But the French even in Paris were absolute sweethearts to me. (Where they get the reputation for being rude, I have no idea. My experience does not bear it out.) I certainly didn’t feel like I was behind enemy lines. After Libya, I felt like I was home.

Anyway, one of France’s most famous intellectuals, Bernard-Henri Levy, wrote a nasty review for the New York Times. (Try to get over the shock.) Miller and Molesky strike back at NRO. Maybe everyone involved is full of crap. I don’t know, but the fight is fun either way.

In his one-page critique, Levy hurls just about every hysterical epithet he can find in our direction. He accuses us of “racism” and “Francophobia.” He calls our book “nauseating,” “fantastical,” “grotesque,” and in competition for the “grand prize in stupidity.” He even compares what we’ve written to “the fascist French literature of the 1930s.”

Now that’s a curious putdown, comparing us to the French.

The only thing more curious may be the fact that before Levy goes diving off the deep end, he concedes so much of our argument. He readily admits that French anti-Americanism is “lodged in the heart of my country’s culture.” He even calls our historical account of Franco-American diplomatic relations — which is to say, the vast majority of our book — “a more or less fair re-evaluation.”

What really seems to irritate him is that we have the audacity to examine how French anti-Americanism has shaped Franco-American relations throughout history. At its core, our book seeks to overturn the pervasive, deep-seated, and dearly beloved myth that France and the United States are traditional allies whose age-old friendship only hit the rocks when America’s yahoo president decided to embark on an imperialist adventure in Iraq.

Levy’s central complaint, however, is that we have committed the unforgivable sin of “essentialism” — i.e. that we reduce France and the French to a simplistic, noxious caricature. His evidence that we are dyed-in-the-wool essentialists comes from the second-to-last line of our conclusion, where we offer some parting thoughts on the future of Franco-American relations: “Will the French, in short, continue to be the French?” we ask. For Levy, this mortifying question is hard evidence of “a temptation to which it is surprising to see apparently respectable minds succumb: racism.” In other words, we are racists for even wondering it. Yet Levy completely overlooks something that is, ahem, essential to understanding our question, which is that our question is actually an allusion. It harks back to the opening lines of the conclusion, where we quote a prominent American politician who had just been asked whether he considered the French friends or enemies. “The French are the French,” he responded. “And I think most people know exactly what I mean.”

And who was this politician? Here’s a hint: He spoke these words during a Democratic primary debate last year.

Still not sure? Some have said he looks French.

The odds remain slim, however, that the New York Times and Bernard-Henri Levy, now duly alerted, will soon condemn the junior senator from Massachusetts as a thoroughgoing essentialist, not to mention a fascist, a racist, and a Francophobe.

You can read Levy’s review here. And you can buy the book that kicked all this off over here.

I should add, for the benefit of those who don’t follow the link, that Levy ends his piece this way:

”Our Oldest Enemy,” an American version of what I used to call ”French ideology,” reinforces my conviction that there is one matter of great urgency, and only one: to reunite our broken link and to go beyond the two chauvinisms to resume rational dialogue.

I think that would be nice.

Thanks for Voting Early. Now Please Vote Often.

This cannot stand.

Patterico is asking his readers to vote for him again in the Wizbang blog awards. So now he’s gaining on me. How can I compete with him if he pulls a stunt like that and I don’t?

He runs a pretty good blog, so there’s no hard feelings here. But I don’t see him running off to places like Libya and posting extensive photo galleries of places almost no one has ever seen. My blog is better!

Vote for me again. Please. Thanks in advance.

Reactionary Provincials

Marc Cooper points to a short, concise piece in The Nation by Michael Lind (an ex-conservative turned center-leftist who I’ve admired for years) that stands out in a sea of mediocrity.

In an era in which most U.S. population growth is occurring in the South, West and heartland, American liberalism is defined by people in the Northeast.

At a time when rising tuitions are pricing many working-class Americans out of a college education, the upscale campus is becoming the base of American progressivism.

In a country in which most working-class Americans drive cars and own homes in the suburbs, the left fetishizes urban apartments and mass transit and sneers at “sprawl.”

In an economy in which most workers are in the service sector, much of the left is obsessed with manufacturing jobs.

In a society in which Latinos have surpassed blacks as the largest minority and in which racial intermixture is increasing, the left continues to treat race as a matter of zero-sum multiculturalism and white-bashing.

In a culture in which the media industry makes money by pushing sex and violence, the left treats the normalization of profanity and obscenity as though it were somehow progressive, making culture heroes of Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt.

At a time when the religious right wants to shut down whole areas of scientific research, many on the left share a Luddite opposition to biotech.

In an age in which billions would starve if not for the use of artificial fertilizers in capital-intensive agriculture, the left blathers on about small-scale organic farming.

In a century in which the dire need for energy for poor people in the global South can only be realistically met by coal, oil and perhaps nuclear energy, liberals fantasize about wind farms and solar panels.

And in a world in which the greatest threat to civilization is the religious right of the Muslim countries, much of the left persists in treating the United States as an evil empire and American patriotism as a variant of fascism.

American progressivism, in its present form, is as obsolete in the twenty-first century as the agrarian populists were in the twentieth. If you can’t adapt to the times, good intentions will get you nowhere. Ask the shade of William Jennings Bryan.

I think he’s off base about Larry Flynt and Lenny Bruce. Hardly anyone cares a whit for nasty ol’ Larry, and Lenny is from another era. (Also, as an aside, anyone who doesn’t care for Lenny Bruce might consider watching Dustin Hoffman portray him in Lenny and see if you don’t change your mind.)

I also think he’s wrong about sprawl. Ask your average American what he or she thinks of sprawl, and you’re not likely to get an enthusiastic endorsement. It’s one thing to like your house in the suburbs, and another to be a booster for 2-hour commutes from the exurbs. New urbanism is rising, not falling, in popularity – and for a reason.

But Lind’s basic point stands. Progressivism, as he calls it, is both provincial and reactionary. What used to turn me off about the right now repels me from the left.

Not entirely, mind you. The Democrats have been the party of fiscal responsibility since at least the 1980s. (The Republicans create deficits so the Democrats can reduce them.) And the Republicans have plenty of provincial reactionaries of their own. (Jerry Falwell and James Dobson, anyone?) But that’s just another way of saying anyone who is literally progressive, rather than dogmatically so, has nowhere to go.

Andrew Sullivan = Starbucks

Right-Wing News published its warblogger poll results.

Funny how Andrew Sullivan won “Most Annoying Right-of-Center Blogger” and also took fourth place in the “Most Annoying Left-of-Center Blogger” category. People can’t agree whether he’s left or right (and that’s to his credit, I say), but they do seem to agree that he’s annoying.

I still like the guy, myself. And his traffic is up. Hating Andrew Sullivan is like hating Starbucks. All the cool kids do it, but the exact same people always hang out there anyway.

No, the Dungeons Aren’t Charming

Cliff May, founder of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote the following post for The Corner.


The New York Times Travel section this week features Libya, which it describes as “a once-forbidden fruit …a complicated and confounding land on the North African coast, opened in February after 23 years of a travel ban tighter than Cuba’s.”

There’s also this: “Despite American air strikes designed to kill its leaders, and a Bush administration that has enflamed Muslims around the world, I found the Libyans to be warm and self-deprecating. And despite being branded a rogue terrorist state by the international community, Libya felt perfectly safe in both urban and rural areas.”

No mention of Libyan dissidents being held incommunicado in prisons, such as the ailing Fathi Eljahmi.

I don’t want to pick on Cliff May. I have a great deal of respect for both him and his organization. (You’ll notice that I permanently linked to it on the right-hand sidebar of this Web site.) And a friend of mine, Andrew Apostolou, came over from Oxford to work for him — where he does some very good work, indeed.

That said, I want to address this post.

As regular readers know, I got home from Libya myself less than a week ago. And I’m working on a story about it for the LA Weekly.

My editor Marc Cooper explicitly told me he doesn’t want a newspaper-style travel piece like the one at the New York Times. And thank Heaven for that. I don’t want to write that kind of piece, which is one reason I pitched my story to the Weekly instead of many other places that might have been willing to send me. I don’t want to write a general article about tourism. I want to write an article that basically and honestly answers the following question: What the hell is it like to visit Libya? Hardly anyone knows. That’s the kind of story I’d like to read, so naturally it’s the kind of story I’d like to write.

I spoke to Marc on the phone last night and wondered out loud: How can anyone visit a place like that and not write about how weird and oppressive it is? He told me what I’m sure is the correct answer. That’s just not the kind of piece daily newspapers publish. Those kinds of articles are found in weeklies and magazines.

Cliff May’s point is to some extent a fair one. He points to an article about Libya that doesn’t mention dungeons or dissidents like Fathi Eljahmi. Okay. It’s a glaring omission. Sure. But in another sense this criticism isn’t fair. It wasn’t a political article. And it wasn’t trying to be. The writer didn’t have an agenda that included covering up or smoothing over the political crimes of the regime. The writer was simply working on a different kind of article. His editor almost surely said “no politics.” The editor would have said “no politics” no matter which country the reporter was visiting.

I spoke to Fathi Eljahmi’s brother on the phone a week before I left. (He lives in Boston, and told me stories about Libya that harrowed up my soul.) Andrew Apostolou, one of Cliff May’s colleagues, put me in touch with him. I wanted to speak to a Libyan national who really knew the country, who could explain to me what goes on there behind the scenes, and who could give me some advice about what to expect and how to behave. I’d like to thank him for this.

I should also say that I don’t intend to mention his brother in my piece. It’s not because I don’t care about his brother or the rest of the suffering people of that country. (Believe me, I do, especially now that I’ve been there.) It’s because my article is, and must be, about what it was like on my trip. It won’t be a policy piece or an explicitly anti-Ghaddafi piece, but a personal one.

So give the Times reporter a break. The kind of article he wrote serves a purpose and has an intended audience. It’s not the kind of thing I want to write, nor is it the kind of thing Cliff May wants to write. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean the New York Times wants to whitewash Ghaddafi as he implies.

UPDATE: Julie Carlson emails:

I agree with your point completely, but don’t forget that this is the same New York Times that found a way to criticize the Bush Administration in a restaurant review, for heaven’s sake. Many of their reporters certainly never miss a chance to take a shot at a Republican president (so to speak) in all kinds of stories where it is completely out of place. But I guess I’m glad to know that when it comes to dictatorial regimes, the NY Times has its journalistic practices well under control!

Sadr City Turns Around

I don’t have much to say about this AP story by Hamza Hendawi. It pretty much speaks for itself. Happy to pass it along, though.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – After spending much of the year as a battlefield between militiamen and U.S. forces, Baghdad’s Sadr City district is now embracing peace and reconstruction.

Anticipation is high for what the residents of the mainly Shiite district say is their overdue empowerment through elections Jan. 30.

The outdoor markets are busy again and the gridlocked traffic is back. The bands of excited children who walked behind local militiamen heading to battle in the fall now clamor around machinery laying down new water pipes.

Workers in orange jumpsuits are laying asphalt in dozens of potholes dug by the fighters to conceal roadside bombs meant to kill American soldiers. The clerics who replaced their turbans and robes with track suits to join the fight are back in mosques and seminaries.

The daily lives of Sadr City’s estimated 2.5 million people have not seen much improvement in the two months since fighting ended. But the large Baghdad neighborhood appears on such a euphoric high that the mounds of festering garbage, the constant seepage of sewage and shortage of clean water seem to matter little.

In marked contrast to the skeptical Sunni Arab community, Sadr City’s population is looking forward to the January ballot. Banners and posters exhort residents to vote, and booklets explaining the process are distributed house-to-house. Even the sight of U.S. military convoys darting through the district no longer draw resentful looks.

First, Sadr City. Next, Fallujah.

New Email Address

I changed my email address, updated it on the sidebar, and thought I’d mention it here, too. I no longer use Yahoo and have moved on to gmail instead. So the new address is michaeltotten001 at gmail dot com. Please send all future mail to that address. Thanks much.

How to Save Liberalism — and America

Peter Beinart’s latest article in The New Republic has already made the rounds in the blogosphere. I probably don’t need to link to it. I’m going to anyway, though, because there is one point he makes, his very first point, that isn’t getting enough attention.

First, however, a letter to Andrew Sullivan:

Beinart is almost completely right, and I do think part of the problem this election year was John Kerry personally, which is another way of saying that as de facto leader of the Democratic Party he was unwilling to use the words “Iraq” and “democracy” or “Arab” and “democracy” in the same sentence, and tell the peacenik wing of the party to sit down and shut up. But I’m just plain sick and tired of trying to convince other liberals that America is now engaged in a multi-decade struggle against Islamo-fascism, and that this struggle will be the central organizing principle in American politics for years to come. Sadly, the central post-election narrative that “values” rather national security cost Democrats this election, combined with ridiculous and childish allegations of massive voter fraud in Ohio, has allowed Democrats the luxury of avoiding and denying what ails them.

But whatever.

If liberals are determined to play the role of Taft Republicans during the 1930s and 1940s, denying the threat posed by European fascism and Japanese nationalism, obsessing about freedoms lost at home during wartime, and as such remaining in the political wilderness for most of the next three decades, who am I to stop them? In fact as far as I can tell Democrats would *rather* watch the New Deal and Great Society pissed down the drain, and a hard right Supreme Court roll back the 1960s, than stepping up to the plate and committing themselves to the realization of liberty and democracy in the Muslim world. The peaceniks were allowed to destroy the party once before in the late 60s and early 70s. Will they be allowed to do it again? So far it looks like the answer is yes.” [Emphasis added by me.]

Now let’s take a look at the Beinart column. Here’s his first paragraph:

On January 4, 1947, 130 men and women met at Washington’s Willard Hotel to save American liberalism. A few months earlier, in articles in The New Republic and elsewhere, the columnists Joseph and Stewart Alsop had warned that “the liberal movement is now engaged in sowing the seeds of its own destruction.” Liberals, they argued, “consistently avoided the great political reality of the present: the Soviet challenge to the West.” Unless that changed, “In the spasm of terror which will seize this country … it is the right–the very extreme right–which is most likely to gain victory.”

Exactly. The liberals pulled it together in 1947 and faced down Communism. If they had not McCarthyism would surely have ruled over the nation much more ferociously than it did. (Communists would have been dealt with harshly in any case.)

So here’s my advice to American liberals: If you want to win elections against the Republicans, strike the Islamists. Kill two birds with one proverbial stone. What could be easier? The Islamists are your real enemy anyway. They are far and away the most illiberal people on Earth.

But as long as the Terror War rages, if you keep lashing out at Republicans they will continue to beat you. In a time of war, your enemy is not the larger half of your country.

Do you want a liberal hawk in the White House? Or a conservative hawk? Decide.

Pentagon to Draft Robots

21st Century assymetrical warfare is hell, especially when it takes place in cities. Here’s one way to reduce (our side’s) casualties in these conflicts: draft robots.

From Wired:

ORLANDO, Florida — Hunting for guerillas, handling roadside bombs, crawling across the caves and crumbling towns of Afghanistan and Iraq — all of that was just a start. Now, the Army is prepping its squad of robotic vehicles for a new set of assignments. And this time, they’ll be carrying guns.

As early as March or April, 18 units of the Talon — a model armed with automatic weapons — are scheduled to report for duty in Iraq. Around the same time, the first prototypes of a new, unmanned ambulance should be ready for the Army to start testing. In a warren of hangar-sized hotel ballrooms in Orlando, military engineers this week showed off their next generation of robots, as they got the machines ready for the war zone.

“Putting something like this into the field, we’re about to start something that’s never been done before,” said Staff Sgt. Santiago Tordillos, waving to the black, 2-foot-six-inch robot rolling around the carpeted floor on twin treads, an M249 machine gun cradled in its mechanical grip.


Four cameras and a pair of night-vision binoculars allow the robot to operate at all times of the day. It has a range of about a half-mile in urban areas, more in the open desert. And with the ability to carry four 66-mm rockets or six 40-mm grenades, as well as an M240 or M249 machine gun, the robots can take on additional duties fast, said GlobalSecurity.org director John Pike.

“It’s a premonition of things to come,” Pike said. “It makes sense. These things have no family to write home to. They’re fearless. You can put them places you’d have a hard time putting a soldier in.”

If you think the Iraqi guerillas and terrorists are kicking our asses, ask yourself if you’d like to trade places with them and face us for a change.

Vote for Me

Wizbang is taking votes for this year’s blog awards. Mine is currently second place in the “Best of the Top 100-250 Blogs” category. If you think mine beats the others in this category, please click on over and vote for me. Show me the love. Thanks in advance.

Weirder Than Libya

When you visit another country you meet other people who are also visiting the country. Inevitably you’ll discuss other places you’ve been. If you go to Costa Rica you’ll meet people who’ve been to Guatemala and Bolivia. Go to Cancun and you’ll meet people who like the Virgin Islands and Hawaii. Go to France and you’ll run into lots of people who talk about London, Prague, and Vienna.

So what happens when you bump into others in Libya? I met a photographer who spends every summer in Darfur. And I met a British guy named Felix who told me the next place he wants to go is North Korea. Shelly said she wants to go to North Korea, too. Felix grinned ear to ear. “It’s great to meet people who are open-minded about nuttiness,” he said.

My nutty “tourism” package is only a few days old. (I say “tourism” because although I went as a journalist, no one in Libya knew that.) I figured North Korea might be the only place left for me to go after Ghaddafi-stan. Well, no, not exactly. There is at least one more “tourism” package weirder than Libya but less freaky than North Korea. But I can’t go on this one because I am not fat.

ZIMBABWE has come up with a bizarre proposal to solve the food crisis threatening half its population with starvation. It wants to bring in obese tourists from overseas so that they can shed pounds doing manual labour on land seized from white farmers.

The so-called Obesity Tourism Strategy was reported last week in The Herald, a government organ whose contents are approved by President Robert Mugabe’s powerful information minister, Jonathan Moyo.

Pointing out that more than 1.2 billion people worldwide are officially deemed to be overweight, the article exhorted Zimbabweans to “tap this potential”.

“Tourists can provide labour for farms in the hope of shedding weight while enjoying the tourism experience,” it said, adding that Americans spent $6 billion a year on “useless” dieting aids.

“Tour organisers may promote this programme internationally and bring in tourists, while agriculturalists can employ the tourists as free farm labour.

“The tourists can then top it all by flaunting their slim bodies on a sun-downer cruise on the Zambezi or surveying the majestic Great Zimbabwe ruins.”

The notion that oversized, overpaid Americans could be enticed into paying to spend their holidays working free for those who seized the country’s commercial farms illustrates how far the Mugabe regime has descended into a fantasy world.

In the age of globalization, all the normal countries of the world increasingly resemble each other. But the whacked countries are all whacked in their own way. I’d think this was funny, but after wandering around the jagged-edged landscape of Tripoli I just think it’s sad.

(Hat tip: Sheila O’Malley.)

Michael is Back in Town

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Those footsteps you hear echoing in the hall mean that, yes indeed, Michael is in the building. He might not be posting immediately, what with the jet lag and all, but the man is back and so this is my last guest post.

I have truly enjoyed guest blogging here for the past ten days. So thanks, Michael! And thanks so much to those of you who stuck around, especially to those who commented; you all made me feel welcome and I’m grateful to you for that and for some lively conversation and debate.

Ah, but this need not be a final farewell. All you have to do is come by my own blog, Who Knew? where the party will continue…

And like the rest of you I’m eagerly awaiting Michael’s news from Libya…


Subscribe to RSS - Michael J. Totten's blog