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Postcards from the Road

Today my friend Sean and I drove 750 miles from Portland to middle-of-nowhere Idaho just shy of the border near Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Here’s what we saw.

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Mt. Hood looms above Trillium Lake.

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The forest around Trillium Lake.

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After crossing the Cascade Mountains we entered Oregon’s Outback. Most people don’t know it, but half of Oregon really is desert. This photo was taken in the middle of the state just after the forest vanished.

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Malheur County, Oregon, the most remote and least densely populated place in the lower 48 states. Outback, indeed.

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Somewhere in Southern Idaho.

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Somewhere else in Southern Idaho, near Pocatello, as the last rays of sunlight splashed on the mountains.

Tomorrow, eastward!

Will I post more photos? Or will I have enough time for the regularly-scheduled opinionated blather? Stay tuned to find out.

Linking Johann

It has been too long since I’ve linked to anything by Johann Hari, one of the best journalists around. So today I am linking him twice.

I haven’t been paying a lot of attention to Iraq’s Ayatollah Sistani, but he has and what he reports is pretty encouraging.

Before the war, some of us argued that, in a Saddam-free Iraq, democratic strains of Islamic thought would begin to emerge. We were right – but the violence has been so terrible that nobody noticed. Reuel Marc Gerecht, an expert in Shia political thought, says that Sistani’s philosophical arguments for democracy are “almost unprecedented in their scope. He speaks the language of inalienable rights: one man, one vote, and a constitution written by elected representatives and approved by popular referendum. Sistani has managed to launch a project that Muslim progressives have only ever dreamed of: establishing a democratic political order sanctioned and even protected by the clergy.” Here are the slow, tentative roots of the Islamic Reformation so badly needed in the Middle East.

Read the rest. There’s plenty more where that came from.

The arguments between the left and the right don’t interest me as much as the arguments within the left and within the right. Especially since the latest across-the-aisle mudslinging-fest is about Vietnam – not my fight. (Is it really too much to ask to have a presidential campaign about the current war in the current century? I guess with these two idiot candidates the answer is yes.) Even if Vietnam were my fight, there’s nothing quite like grabbing a bowl of popcorn and watching the neoconservatives flail the paleocons.

Likewise, I prefer to read about a face-off between a brilliant leftist like Johann Hari and a nutcase leftist like the former terrorist Antonio Negri, co-author of “Empire,” the new Communist Manifesto.

In the late 1980s, the Italian President Francesco Cossiga described Antonio Negri as “a psychopath” who “poisoned the minds of an entire generation of Italy’s youth”. Negri has been accused of murdering Italy’s former Prime Minister, Aldo Moro, and of being il grande vecchio – the grand old man – behind the Red Brigades, one of the most notorious terror groups to attack post-war Europe until al-Qa’ida. In prison he co-wrote an anti-globalisation bible, Empire. Now he’s out, and he’s heading to London. I am waiting patiently at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, to have my mind poisoned.

Don’t just read the teaser, read the whole thing.

Swift Boat Psychodrama

I haven’t written about the Swift Boat Veterans controversy for a number of reasons. One, I hate the Vietnam War. Two, that war ended when I was three years old and we are in a different historical era twice removed. Three, I can’t stand mudslinging politics on this level. Four, I don’t have the patience to sift through the Andes of accumulated hack pieces to figure out who is and who isn’t a liar. Five, although undecided voters make up the target audience, participating in the game is for partisans.

I also have a reason number Six. I am neither a veteran, nor a Baby Boomer. I don’t feel the need to argue about the 1960s until I’m “eating” through a feeding tube in a nursing home. I have no right to harrumph that George W. Bush, like me, never saw combat. Nor is it my place to say John Kerry’s wounds weren’t bloody enough, as Bob Dole said today. (Bob? Was that really necessary?)

For one reason after another, this is just not my fight. But it’s everywhere now, and it gets harder and harder for me to stay away from it.

Andrew Ferguson in The Weekly Standard has written what I think is the very best piece on this subject. He psychoanalyzes the partisans on both sides of the controversy. The Democrats (according to Feguson) are trying to convince themselves they aren’t wimps. And the Republicans are trying to talk themselves into voting against a war hero in favor of a war dodger instead.

I don’t need to convince myself I’m not a wimp. Nor do I care a rat’s ass that George W. Bush (or Bill Clinton or anyone else) doesn’t have a war record. So I guess I’m the right gut to approve of Ferguson’s theory. I suggest you read it, especially if maybe – just maybe – you think a reality check might do you some good.

(Also, please read the whole thing before sounding off in the comments. Thanks!)

(Hat tip: SoCalJustice)

Howard Dean: Arrogant Cowboy?

I took serious issue with Howard Dean’s stance on the Iraq war, as anyone who has read this blog knows. Nevertheless, I have a lot more respect for him than I have for John Kerry. The man is not, as the JibJab cartoon says about Kerry, a “liberal weiner.” He just thought the Iraq war was dumb. And he said a lot of dumb things about it.

He never did strike me as the kind of guy to back down from a fight. He can be both scrappy and ruthless, necessary traits in the confrontation with Islamofascism.

Did you know he is a columnist at Cagle Cartoons? Yes, he really is. (Hat tip: Armed Liberal.)

In his latest piece he pours a bit of ice-cold realism on the idea that John Kerry (or anyone else) will have an easy time knitting the trans-Atlantic alliance back together again.

Europeans cannot criticize the United States for waging war in Iraq if they are unwilling to exhibit the moral fiber to stop genocide by acting collectively and with decisiveness. President Bush was wrong to go into Iraq unilaterally when Iraq posed no danger to the United States, but we were right to demand accountability from Saddam. We are also right to demand accountability in Sudan. Every day that goes by without meaningful sanctions and even military intervention in Sudan by African, European and if necessary U.N. forces is a day where hundreds of innocent civilians die and thousands are displaced from their land. Every day that goes by without action to stop the Sudan genocide is a day that the anti-Iraq war position so widely held in the rest of the world appears to be based less on principle and more on politics. And every day that goes by is a day in which George Bush’s contempt for the international community, which I have denounced every day for two years, becomes more difficult to criticize.

Bush can still be criticized, of course. But that criticism is meaningless if the behavior of European leaders isn’t taken into account. The trans-Atlantic alliance is cracking up. Some of it is Bush’s fault, some of it is the fault of European leaders, and some of it isn’t anybody’s fault.

Before the onset of the Cold War there was no such thing as any trans-Atlantic alliance. Western Europeans allied themselves with the U.S. through NATO specifically to counter the threat from the post-war Soviet Union. The NATO slogan at the time was “America in, Russia out, and Germany down.” When West Germany mellowed out and the Soviet threat evaporated, the raison d’etre of the alliance no longer existed.

Europeans today tend to feel less threatened than they have in a very long time. That’s because they are less threatened. There is no totalitarian army interested in, let alone capable of, launching a ground invasion.

We Americans, on the other hand, tend to feel more threatened than we have in a very long time. The oceans did not protect us from Al Qaeda as they once protected us from Hitler and Soviet ground forces.

So the fact that today Americans and Europeans tend to have different ideas about the use of military force isn’t surprising or anyone’s fault. It is a natural shift based on changed historical circumstances.

It’s nice to see that Howard Dean, for one, is aware that something bigger is going on here than merely George Bush’s arrogant cowboy style. John Kerry, or whoever else replaces the current president, will have to deal with it. I wouldn’t expect an end to American “unilateralism” just because Bush goes back to Crawford. It started, after all, when Bill Clinton stomped Slobo in Belgrade without consulting the UN at all.

That Wacky Ken Layne

This is hilarious, especially if you have a Web site of any kind.

Comrade Chavez “Owns” Venezuela

Comrade Hugo Chavez and his gun-toting goons think if they win an election it’s okay to murder the opposition. Those comparing him to Chile’s Salvador Allende, stop. The number of people killed by Allende’s government reached a grand total of zero. (Not that such a statistic absolves Allende from any other criticism, but this difference is a rather critical one.)

When Comrade Chavez says he is running Venezuela on the Cuban model and not the Chilean, he’s serious.

Here is Thor L. Halvorssen in the WSJ’s Opinion Journal today.

CARACAS, Venezuela–On Monday afternoon, dozens of people assembled in the Altamira Plaza, a public square in a residential neighborhood here that has come to symbolize nonviolent dissent in Venezuela. The crowd was there to question the accuracy of the results that announced a triumph for President Hugo Chávez in Sunday’s recall referendum.

Within one hour of the gathering, just over 100 of Lt. Col. Chávez’s supporters, many of them brandishing his trademark army parachutist beret, began moving down the main avenue towards the crowd in the square. Encouraged by their leader’s victory, this bully-boy group had been marching through opposition neighborhoods all day. They were led by men on motorcycles with two-way radios. From afar they began to taunt the crowd in the square, chanting, “We own this country now,” and ordering the people in the opposition crowd to return to their homes. All of this was transmitted live by the local news station. The Chávez group threw bottles and rocks at the crowd. Moments later a young woman in the square screamed for the crowd to get down as three of the men with walkie-talkies, wearing red T-shirts with the insignia of the government-funded “Bolivarian Circle,” revealed their firearms. They began shooting indiscriminately into the multitude.

A 61-year-old grandmother was shot in the back as she ran for cover. The bullet ripped through her aorta, kidney and stomach. She later bled to death in the emergency room. An opposition congressman was shot in the shoulder and remains in critical care. Eight others suffered severe gunshot wounds. Hilda Mendoza Denham, a British subject visiting Caracas for her mother’s 80th birthday, was shot at close range with hollow-point bullets from a high-caliber pistol. She now lies sedated in a hospital bed after a long and complicated operation. She is my mother.

In a jarringly similar attack that took place three years ago, the killers were caught on tape and identified as government officials and employees. They were briefly detained–only to be released and later praised by Col. Chávez in his weekly radio show. Their identities are no secret and they walk the streets as free men, despite having shot unarmed civilian demonstrators in cold blood.

There’s plenty more where that came from. Follow the link. I don’t have much more to say about this because I’ve been saying it for the past week.

(Hat tip: Fellow Portland blogger Mellow-Drama.)

UPDATE: Another fellow Portland blogger Sean LaFreniere found some evidence of vote fraud in Venezuela, and the International Herald Tribune found plenty more, too. Please read and follow the links before saying “Jimmy Carter said everything was fine” and thinking that should be the end of the story.

Sadr Quits Najaf (Updated)

Moqtada al-Sadr has quit his Iraq insurgency (for the second time):

Aug. 18 (Bloomberg) — Iraqi Shiite Muslim cleric Moqtada al- Sadr agreed that his militia should lay down their arms and quit Najaf’s Imam Ali Mosque, acceding to demands from an Iraqi delegation to end an uprising in the city, Reuters reported.

A letter from the cleric’s office was read out to delegates at the government-backed Iraqi National Conference in Baghdad, saying that al-Sadr had agreed to their demands to join the country’s political process, Reuters said. A spokesman for al- Sadr, Sheikh Mahmoud al-Sudani confirmed the accord to Reuters.

This could be interpreted as a victory for both sides.

The U.S. and Iraqi governments were able to coax some kind of surrender out of him without having to storm the Imam Ali Mosque.

And Al-Sadr is alive, out of prison, and has a political career ahead of him if he wants it. (He should not expect a life-long career as an insurgent leader unless he expects a short life.)

Something about all this seems strangely familiar. Oh yeah. That’s right. On June 16 of this year I wrote the following:

He’s damn lucky he’s breathing.

So it looks like he’s decided to become a “mainstream” Religious Right figure now. He’ll be Iraq’s Pat Robertson instead of Iraq’s Ayatollah Khomeini, unless he just can’t resist the temptation to bring the gun back into politics, in which case he won’t be just toast he’ll be burnt toast. If he’s smart he’ll get a TV show where he can rail against Godless heathens, raise money for kooky causes, and call it good.

I guess that still stands.

I have an idea. Let’s not make me post that again.

UPDATE: Okay, so that was a brief little “peace.” He’s fighting again. He cannot be reasoned with, bargained with, or trusted. Kill the bastard, and do it right now.

Life Imitates Spoof

For the three of you who don’t know this already, The Onion is a satirical newspaper. It is not “the paper.” The stories they publish are, you know, made up and stuff.

Sometimes they run bogus pieces that could just as easily be real. Area Man Confounded by Buffet Procedure, for example.

Same goes for this one from the last issue.

WICHITA, KS—Delivering the central speech of his 10-day “Solution For America” bus campaign tour Monday, Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry outlined his one-point plan for a better America: the removal of George W. Bush from the White House.

“If I am elected in November, no inner-city child will have to live in an America where George Bush is president,” Kerry said, addressing a packed Maize High School auditorium. “No senior citizen will lie awake at night, worrying about whether George Bush is still the chief executive of this country. And no American—regardless of gender, regardless of class, regardless of race—will be represented by George Bush in the world community.”

[...]

“This country has embraced a new and dangerously ineffective disregard for the world,” Kerry said. “In order to win the global war against terror, we must promote democracy, freedom, and opportunity around the world. My national-defense policy will be guided by one imperative: Don’t be George Bush. As will my plans to create a strong economy, protect civil rights, develop a better healthcare system, and improve homeland security.”

Heck, run it in Newsweek.

Hatred, Real and Imagined

Gary Farber and Bjorn Staerk are rightly concerned about anti-Muslim hate in the blogosphere.

This problem is overstated by fools. (And I don’t mean Gary and Bjorn.) I have been accused of hating Muslims and/or Arabs solely because I am anti-terrorist and anti-fascist. Pardon me for thinking that is almost explicitly racist right there. When did every Muslim or Arab become a terrorist, anyway? Not while I was looking. Only a bigot or an intellectual and moral idiot would equate terrorism and Muslims to such an extent that being anti-terrorist is the same as being anti-Muslim.

But now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, the other kind of bigotry, the hoary old-fashioned and straightforward kind, is alive, well, and kicking. It hasn’t received the attention it deserves. I’ve had to ban two people from posting in my comments section for racist remarks against Arabs – although I should note that I’ve had to ban more than twice that number for being explicitly anti-Semitic, and I had to boot one person from Germany who bragged about his Nazii grandfather and said both Muslims and Jews are “parasites” and the Children of Satan. I will never allow my own personal Web site to be used as a soap box for hatemongers, even though trolls like to say I “ban people just for disagreeing with me.” This an anti-hate site and will remain so. Thanks for understanding.

I don’t personally have a lot more to add on this subject because I steer clear of this stuff unless it comes my way uninvited. There’s some real ugliness out there, though, and it’s high time we hawks called out the bigots in the “ranks.” (That is not to say such jerks are on any “side” of mine. I refuse to accept them as comrades for or against anything.) Gary Farber and Bjorn Staerk waded into the swamp and get down to brass tacks. They deserve your attention.

Also, please see Marc Cooper for the flip side of the story where PC goons try to prevent any criticism of Islam with their “intellectual blackmail” tactics.

Nader Backs Palestinian State. Big Deal.

Marcus over at Harry’s Place posted this excerpt from Nicholas Wapshot in the Times of London:

While it is hard to distinguish much difference in their attitude towards Israel and Islam of either the President, who is strongly pro-Israel, or John Kerry, whose grandfather was Jewish, there is a ready alternative for Muslims in the third-party candidate Ralph Nader. Although not a Muslim, Mr Nader, who is of Lebanese-Christian descent, has backed three policies that Arab-Americans prefer: withdrawal from Iraq, the repeal of the Patriot Act and the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Is it really necessary for me to remind everybody that John Kerry and George W. Bush also support the establishment of a Palestinian state? Or is the American policy of promoting Palestinian democracy and opposing Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the dictatorship of Yasser Arafat really that distorted in Europe?

UPDATE: Whoa. Thanks to SoCalJustice in the comments section we find this Washington Post editorial from two days ago:

“The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced.”

“Bush also repeated the catch-phrase . . . ‘committed to the security of Israel as a Jewish state,’ which is repeated almost word-for-word again and again by Israel’s sycophants and Capitol Hill puppets.”

QUICK QUIZ: Which of the above quotations is lifted from the Web site of the white supremacist National Alliance and which was uttered this summer by independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader? It’s a tough one. After all, both play on the age-old anti-Semitic stereotype of powerful Jews dominating politics and manipulating hapless non-Jewish puppets for their own ends. Yet if Mr. Nader is at all disquieted by the company he is keeping by using such metaphors, he sure isn’t showing it. In a letter this week to the Anti-Defamation League, which had complained to him about his rhetoric, he responded with breezy indifference and more rhetoric that only compounds concerns.

[snip]

This is poisonous stuff. And if Mr. Nader doesn’t understand what such words actually mean, the less savory elements of American society certainly know how to read such code. But Mr. Nader, as always, is not backing down: “As for the metaphors — puppeteer and puppets — the Romans had a phrase for the obvious — res ipsa loquitor,” which means the thing speaks for itself. Indeed it does.

Quiz answer: The first quotation was Mr. Nader’s

Class Warfare – A Reality Check

The Democratic Party is frequently accused of waging “class warfare” inside the United States for bickering with the GOP about the tax code. Now is a good time to revisit what class warfare actually looks like.

From a blog I just discovered called The Fladen Experience:

A few years ago, I was traveling back from Mexico. In a mixture of Spanish and English, the guy next to me on my flight explained why he was not in Venezuela by telling me stories of how life had deteriorated under Chavez who preached open class warfare.

The worst story concerned a mother and her three year old child. Outside a shopping area, after dark, a robber accosted her. He demanded that she, at gunpoint, surrender her expensive earings. Scared for her life and holding her child closely, she did just that. The robber than gave her a look of scorn as he said “The President is right when he says that you rich people have so many possessions that you do not care if you lose one. Well, I am going to take something from you that you do care about it.” With that he put the gun to the three year old’s head, and blew his brains out.

UPDATE: Everyone in the comments thinks this is a bad example. Okay, fine. If I’m that outnumbered then it probably is a bad example. Of course I could have mentioned an old co-worker of mine whose entire family was liquidated by Maoists for being landlords, but I was trying to be current and topical…

SECOND UPDATE: Now someone comes in and defends my example. I give up!

Dewey Defeats Truman, Indeed

Well, it looks like I goofed my last post pretty severely. I wanted to write about Hugo Chavez before bed, and this is what I get.

He didn’t lose, he won. Damn.

By the way, Britain’s Independent was the newspaper that told me he lost. Couldn’t they have left their mistake out in the world and just corrected it like I did? Bah.

Defenders of Jackboots

Good riddance, buddy.

The Venezuelan President, Hugo Chavez, looked to be losing his grip on power last night as exit polls showed him to be trailing the opposition by almost a million votes.

The figures were early indications that, for the first time in the country’s history, the President may have his term in office cut short by a referendum.

The mid-morning results showed that the opposition, already boasting an enormous 1,758,000 votes to Chavez’s 798,000, is well on its way to reaching the target of 3.76 million votes it needs to oust the authoritarian, left-wing President.

This is what happens when you’re elected by an overwhelming majority and you think that means you can grab as much power as you can fit in your fist and use it to smash people. Guess what, boss. The people hit back. So now you’re out on your ass, and it looks like you’ll have to pull off a successful military coup to get your old job back.

Two days ago I wrote about how for a while there (until the facts came in) I thought Hugo Chavez was the right guy for Venezuela. Sure enough, someone in the comments section had to come along and prove John Derbyshire’s point.

Wherever there is a jackboot stepping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled Western liberal there to assure us that the face enjoys free health care and a high degree of literacy.

It’s embarrassing to watch it, and I’d like to think it’s even more embarrassing to be the one doing it. Sadly, no, apparently that is not the case.

I’m slightly annoyed that I have to quote John Derbyshire here. (I suppose I could quote someone else, but he nailed it best.) The reason I wish someone else said this is because even though Mr. Derbyshire is absolutely correct, he makes the same mistake in a different way. Grant McEntire in the comments wasted no time adding McEntire’s Corollary, also correct:

Whenever there’s a right-wing authoritarian jackboot stepping on a human face, there will be a well-heeled American conservative there to assure us that the face enjoys a high level of stability and order and that it’s in our national interests.

That pretty much covers the bases. All I have left to say is good riddance to another wannabe jackbooted bastard. I say “wannabe” because Hugo Chavez never had what it takes to join the big leagues, though it never did stop him from trying. That, or Venezuela was just a little more resilient and a little harder to break than he bargained for.

Notes on Hugo Chavez

Several people in the comments can’t understand why I’ve been thrashing on Hugo Chavez. I suggest reading about his rather unimpressive record documented by Human Rights Watch. That’s a good place to start.

As far as helping out the poor, the LA Times notes:

Economic and social conditions have deteriorated dramatically. The number of Venezuelans living in extreme poverty doubled between 1999 and 2003, Chavez’s first five years as president…

It’s also worth noting that the Bush Administration and the oil companies dropped their antagonism to Chavez before the recall vote and tacitly endorsed “stabilty” instead. How inspiring.

Compare and Contrast (Updated)

My seventh grade “social studies” class watched videos of the Holocaust.

Cara Remal and Jeremy Brown went to a children’s play at their local school and saw the crimes of Saddam Hussein equated with children throwing snowballs. They were then told (as were the kiddies) to “put your fear and anger into loathing Bush.”

UPDATE: Jeremy added a lengthy update to his original post answering a bit of controversy in my comments section. (My commenters get results! Way to go, folks.) So let me just clarify a few things on this end for those of you who choose not to follow the link.

The play was not performed at a school (that was my faulty assumption), but it was explicitly advertised and geared toward children. The snowball-throwing incident in question didn’t represent the crimes of Saddam Hussein so much as the September 11 attacks on America (which is even worse) and the threat from Saddam more generally. No one actually said the words “put your fear and anger into loathing Bush.” That was Jeremy’s thematic paraphrase of something was supposed to be (ahem) subtle. As it turns out, after reading Jeremy’s update the play was even more obnoxious than I had first thought.

Why even bring this up in the first place? It puts me in mind of something Marc Cooper wrote recently on his blog.

[T]he one change I know a Kerry administration would bring, a change that I lust for, will be an end to the incessant whining, doom-saying, fear-mongering and general apocalyptic paranoia that has come to permeate “progressive” politics. For that reason alone, I will be up at the crack of down on election day eagerly voting for Mr. A.B.B.

I don’t know if I’m willing to go there as he is, but I do understand where he’s coming from. A Kerry Administration would not soothe the angst of the radical left; nothing much can. But it would give the mainstream Democrats something besides George W. Bush to worry about for a change. Something like, oh I don’t know, terrorism perhaps.

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