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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.

Sadr Cries Uncle?

A shaky truce has been called between the U.S. and al-Sadr’s insurgency.

NAJAF, Iraq – Iraqi officials and aides to a radical Shiite cleric negotiated Friday to end fighting that has raged in Najaf for nine days, after American forces suspended an offensive against Muqtada al-Sadr’s militia. Al-Sadr’s aides said he was wounded by shrapnel, but Iraqi officials said the cleric was involved in the talks.

I have no idea what they’re talking about, obviously. None of us do. It’s possible that al-Sadr is giving it up because he is afraid and knows he’ll be destroyed if he doesn’t. (Especially if he really is wounded.) That might not be what’s happening. I really don’t know. But one thing I do know is that the U.S. military isn’t afraid of any defeat. Sadr and his boys aren’t that tough. Their only choices were to fight to the death or cry uncle. Looks to me like they chose the latter.

The potential problem here is that Sadr and his gang are calling a hudna, a truce in a moment of weakness, in order to regroup and fight again later. If that’s the case this truce has no value from our point of view. A pause in fighting is not an end to fighting, and there’s no point deluding ourselves that this is over unless Moqtada al Sadr is negotiating the terms of his surrender.

Kick Chavez in the Ass. Please.

Tomorrow (Sunday) Venezuelans will vote whether or not to recall their brute-in-chief Hugo Chavez. For a brief period of time (long since lapsed) I thought Chavez might be the right guy for Venezuela. Somebody had to come along and challenge the oligarchy that insults the nation’s children first by ripping them off and second by teaching them they live in a rich country even when they live in Dickensian shantytowns.

Boy did I goof that one. Chavez can’t even pull a good imitation of his comrade Fidel let alone reform Venezuela in a way that is even remotely defensible. Venezuela is now the closest thing Latin America has to a dictatorship outside Cuba. And this in a country that managed to skate through the Cold War without one.

A lot people got the guy wrong and they know it. Plenty of them live in Venezuela. Here’s hoping they can free themselves from the bastard and that he doesn’t kill anyone on his way out the door.

See also Marc Cooper, who smacks Chavez and his idiotic apologists hard from the left.

The Game Plan

We’ve launched a full-blown offensive against Moqtada al-Sadr’s milita in Najaf. No doubt many will think we’re doomed for no other reason than because this is happening, without regard to what it might look like when it’s over.

Stephen Green (aka Vodkapundit) published his first Tech Central Station piece today and it goes rather nicely when the rest of today’s headlines.

If you think war has become complicated, peace is messier still.

Nobody ever knows what the peace will look like. At Fort Sumter, who could have predicted the KKK, Jim Crow, or Radical Reconstruction? Who knew in August, 1914 that the European War would result in 20 million deaths, Russian Communism, or Nazi Germany? If you can find me the words of some prophet detailing, in 1940, the UN, the Cold War, or even the complete assimilation of western Germany into Western Europe. . . then I’ll print this essay on some very heavy paper, and eat it. With aluminum foil as a garnish.

It simply isn’t possible to plan for the peace. “No peace plan survives the last battle” is Green’s Corollary to von Moltke’s dictum that no battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.

So then — how do we win this Terror War, and what will the peace look like?

I don’t agree with everything he says, but I think he’s basically right and I suggest you read it.

New Column

Here’s my new Tech Central Station column about my experience with the legendary Arab hospitality, which I’m happy to report is alive, well, and understated: An American in Tunisia.

Kill Moqtada Al Sadr – Part Two

As expected, I’m being taken to task in the comments section in my previous post for saying it’s time to take out Moqtada al Sadr. For whatever it’s worth, at least some people in Iraq are with me on this. Obviously, some Iraqis like al-Sadr and sympathize with this goals, but they are part of the problem. I, for one, don’t wish to let them run roughshod over those who want a secular democratic Iraq. If Pat Roberton or some other right-wing nut raised an American militia to overthrow the government and impose a theocracy, I’d want him and them taken out, too, not negotiated with or appeased. Call me crazy.

Here is Omar over at Iraq the Model. This is a long excerpt, but I want to make sure everyone sees this, not just those who choose to follow my links.

It seems that it’s time at last! I hope they get Muqtada this time and also all his deputies. People here are not only disgusted and upset with this gang but also most of them showed extreme anger and some of them went as far as condemning Islam and even the Mahdi himself!! I don’t agree of course with that, as Muqtada has nothing to do with Islam.

A She’at taxi driver told me, “ Why are we doing this!? Why among all religions we commit such horrible crimes?? If this is Islam then s**t on it and on Mahdi himself, we don’t want this! They went as far as attacking peaceful churches and I really don’t understand why! This is not the Islam we were raised to believe in, the Islam of peace and tolerance. I wish I could see this idiot dead.”

One of my colleagues; a She’at who used to sympathize greatly with Islamist whether She’at or Sunni, told me today that he is shocked with what the Mahdi army is doing, “ When he revolted the 1st time and they called him an outlaw we didn’t like it. How can they call a cleric who’s the son of Iraq’s most respectable Ayetullah, an outlaw. Now I cannot and I do not want to defend him. He’s a criminal and so are all his followers. They have killed civilians, policemen, destroyed a gas station in Sadr city, and are threatening to burn down the oil pipelines now! Why and for what!?”

None of the people I met today showed any sympathy with Sadr and all of them showed eagerness to end this situation in a decisive way, not by negotiation but through capturing or killing Sadr and disarming his militia… [Emphasis added.]

I do suggest you click over to his site. Lots of interesting stuff from a guy who actually lives there. He doesn’t have much patience for the “soft on fascism” line. He would have to live with the real-world results of that policy.

Kill Moqtada al-Sadr

It’s long past time to remove the gun from Iraqi politics. The irony is that you have to use guns to do it. If Iraqi liberals (ie, those who wish to replace bullets with ballots) are not willing to kill those who take up arms against them, Iraq will be ruled once again by the ruthless.

Moqtada al-Sadr cranked up his “revolution” and says he wants to fight to his “last drop of blood.” Fine, then. Give the man what he wants.

It’s one thing to let him throw a gigantic fit and then cut him a deal. It’s another thing altogether to let him get away with it twice. Once is excusable. Twice is a pattern. If he gets away with this every crank with a grievance will be encouraged to kill people, too. Hey, if it works it works. Civil society cannot be built if the law of the jungle prevails.

Moqtada al-Sadr is an enemy of the United States and an enemy of the Iraqi government. He and his goons make peace, stability, and democracy impossible. Today’s non-violent Iraqis will be a lot more encouraged to pick up guns of their own if al-Sadr and his Mahdi militia run rampant.

I say we go to the infinitely more reasonable Ayatollah Sistani and tell him what time it is. Either Sistani and the other Shi’ite clerics find a way to reign in the insurgency or Moqtada al-Sadr gets toe-tagged.

Catching Up Here

It’s amazing how quickly a guy can get behind on the news. I spent the weekend up in Seattle visiting some writer friends and being generally unplugged from whatever’s going on in the world. I’m not completely out of it like I was when I got home from North Africa, but there’s this vague sense of hmm that’s enough to keep from me from mouthing off at the moment. Your regularly scheduled programming will resume shortly.

Loyalty Oaths

This has to be one of the dumbest campaign strategies I’ve ever seen.

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — A Republican National Committee practice of having people sign a form endorsing President Bush or pledging to vote for him in November before being issued tickets for RNC-sponsored rallies is raising concern among voters.

When Vice President Dick Cheney spoke July 31 to a crowd of 2,000 in Rio Rancho, a city of 45,000 near Albuquerque, several people who showed up at the event complained about being asked to sign endorsement forms in order to receive a ticket to hear Cheney.

”Whose vice president is he?” said 72-year-old retiree John Wade of Albuquerque, who was asked to sign the form when he picked up his tickets. ”I just wanted to hear what my vice president had to say, and they make me sign a loyalty oath.”

So, what happens if you lie when you sign the “loyalty oath?” What happens if you change your mind? Since we have secret ballots in this country (at least for those of us who don’t blog) nothing really could happen to you if you pledge to vote Republican and then vote for Ralph Nader (or whoever else) instead. But still. The RNC can’t possibly win voters this way, and they could easily lose several. I guess they don’t want anyone booing the speeches. That would look bad on the TV. Or so they think. This looks a lot worse.

No one who considers voting for Bush is going to watch one of his speeches on the TV, hear some guy booing in the back, and suddenly think: the booer is right! I can’t vote for this guy. But these “loyalty oaths” could easily be a factor. It’s no way to win over this swing voter. I’m not signing a loyalty oath for any political party. Not now. Not ever. Candidates are supposed to woo swing voters, not tell them to take a hike.

35 Questions

Everything you never cared to know about me one way or the other:

1) WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR BEDROOM WALLS?

Purple. (My wife picked it.)

2) WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?

The Pillars of Hercules by Paul Theroux.

3) WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?

Eric Cartman.

4) FAVORITE BOARD GAME?

Chess. Otherwise you might as well just play one of those “games” on the back of the Froot Loops box.

5) FAVORITE MAGAZINE?

The Atlantic Monthly.

6) FAVORITE SMELL?

What?

7) FAVORITE COLOR?

Blue. I guess.

8) LEAST FAVORITE COLOR?

Brown.

9) HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOUR ANSWERING MACHINE PICKS UP?

Three. I should make it one instead.

10) MOST IMPORTANT MATERIAL THING IN MY LIFE?

My 110-year old house.

11) FAVORITE FLAVOR OF ICE CREAM?

Chocolate. Are there other flavors?

12) DO YOU BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT DAILY?

Yeah, and I get busted for it every six months.

13) DO YOU HAVE A STUFFED ANIMAL IN YOUR ROOM SOMEWHERE?

Hell no.

14) STORMS – COOL OR SCARY?

Cool. Awesome, even. Especially when they’re scary.

15) FAVORITE DRINK?

Red wine. Merlot or cab. Occasionally a nice Chianti. (Hold the fava beans.)

16) WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?

Just before the leaves turn orange.

17) FAVORITE VEGETABLES?

Vegetables are boring, but if I have to eat one I guess I’ll take a carrot.

18) IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Travel writer.

19) IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY COLOR HAIR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

If I could have any color hair I would just dye it, now wouldn’t I?

20) HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE?

I’m married so, yeah, I’d say so.

21) TOP THREE FAVORITE MOVIES (IN ORDER)?

Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Blade Runner, and Gattaca

22) DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS?

Yep.

23) WHAT’S UNDER YOUR BED?

Nothing. Not even air. My bed sits directly on the floor.

24) WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER?

i.

25) FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH ON TV & IN PERSON?

Baseball.

26) WHAT IS YOUR SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR?

Next question…

27) FAVORITE CD OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW?

I have no idea what my favorite CD of all time would be. But if I had to pick what my favorite CD is right now it would have to be something by Nick Cave, Dead Can Dance, or Sixteen Horsepower.

28) FAVORITE TV SHOW OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW?

Homicide: Life on the Street.

29) HAMBURGERS OR HOT DOGS?

Definitely not hot dogs except at baseball games and campgrounds.

30) THE COOLEST PLACES YOU’VE EVER BEEN?

Chile. The jungles of Central America. The Sahara.

31) WHAT WALLPAPER AND/OR SCREENSAVER IS ON YOUR COMPUTER RIGHT NOW?

SETI@home.

32) DOES MCDONALD’S SKIMP ON YOUR FRIES & DO YOU CARE?

I only like their breakfast sandwiches.

33) FAVORITE CHAIN RESTAURANT?

Does Starbucks count as a restaurant?

34) IF YOU HAVE A BOY (OR HAVE ANOTHER BOY) WHAT WOULD YOU NAME HIM?

N/A

35) IF YOU COULD LEARN TO PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT OVERNIGHT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

The kazoo!

All questions stolen from Mike Silverman.

Biden V. Kerry

It’s too bad someone like Sen. Joe Biden didn’t run in the Democratic primary. (It would have helped even more had he won it, but that’s another discussion.)

Peter Beinart, editor of The New Republic, compares and contrasts two foreign policy speeches in Boston, one by Joe Biden and the other by John Kerry.

Biden started by correctly naming America’s enemy. Unlike Kerry, who mentioned “terrorists,” “antiterrorist operations,” and “a global war on terror,” Biden never mentioned the “T” word. Instead, he spoke of the “death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism.” The difference is more than semantic. Terrorism, as commentators have pointed out, is a tactic. Sri Lankan suicide bombers who blow themselves up in the name of Tamil independence are terrorists–but we are not at war with them. If militants in Iraq shoot only at American soldiers and not at civilians, they are not technically terrorists–but they are our enemies nonetheless. Radical Islam is an ideology, and calling it the enemy implies that America is fighting a war not just of national interest, but of ideas. “Radical fundamentalism,” Biden said, “will fall to the terrible, swift power of our ideas as well as our swords.”

Kerry also lauded American values, saying, “I know the power of our ideals. We need to make America once again a beacon in the world. We need to be looked up to and not just feared.” But, because he hadn’t defined the enemy by reference to its ideas, his statement about American principles lacked context and force. A beacon is also a very different metaphor than a sword. Biden said the “death struggle between freedom and radical fundamentalism … breached our shores on September 11.” Notice the implication: The war against radical Islam began before September 11–in other corners of the globe. Thus, victory requires the United States to play an active role in conflicts within other societies, particularly Muslim ones. Kerry’s statement, by contrast, can be read as a call merely for the United States to live out its ideals at home, secure that the world is watching. Indeed, his speech said nothing about promoting democracy in Iraq or anywhere else.

There are people in the Democratic Party who understand what we’re up against here. Hopefully, if John Kerry wins, he will staff them.

No Blog for You

Looks like the CIA wants to shut down George W. Bush’s blog. Or maybe not. The Onion reports, you decide.

Hat tip: Layne.

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