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.


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.


(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.

Extraordinary Rendition

Extraordinary Rendition. That’s a euphemism for torture.

House Speaker Dennis Hastert wants to legalize it — sort of. He proposed a bill that would allow the United States to ship people off to totalitarian dungeons like Syria where torture is “legal” since we can’t do it ourselves on our own soil.

It’s a disgrace. Abu Ghraib sullied our reputation enough, as if it weren’t already dangerously bad to begin with. I was impressed by the fact that the vast majority of Americans choked when they found out what happened in the now-notorious Iraqi prison. And Dennis Hastert wants to crank this up even further?

The media is mostly ignoring this story, which is odd. I would think they would plaster this one all over the papers if they’re as liberal and partisan as they often appear. But we’re hardly hearing much about this. We should be, not because the story makes Dennis Hastert look bad in an election season but because Dennis Hastert is being bad period.

Please see Hilzoy and Katherine at Obsidian Wings for more.

Did Kerry Cheat?

Drudge is accusing John Kerry of cheating in his first debate against George W. Bush.

He has video showing that Kerry took something out of his jacket pocket and placed it on the podium.

Why is this a problem?

Section 5, pages 4-5 of the binding “Memorandum of Understanding” that was negotiated and agreed upon by both political campaigns states:

“No props, notes, charts, diagrams, or other writings or other tangible things may be brought into the debate by either candidate…. Each candidate must submit to the staff of the Commission prior to the debate all such paper and any pens or pencils with which a candidate may wish to take notes during the debate, and the staff or commission will place such paper, pens and pencils on the podium…”

Hmm. I dunno. It’s so…high school. If Kerry were to actually be busted cheating in the debates he would be in far worse trouble than if he had lost the debate. And why should he worry about losing a debate in the first place? Bush is awful in public and he always has been. Kerry is well-known as one of Yale’s top debaters.

This looks bad for him, though.

A top Kerry campaign source explained to the DRUDGE REPORT late Sunday how Bush supporters were once again trying to distract.

“Kerry did not cheat,” said the Kerry insider. “This is more lies from Republicans, who are hoping for a quick change of subject away from the president’s performance, and the new polls.”

When pressed on the fact that even brandishing a pen from his jacket would have violated debate rules, the Kerry staffer laughed, adding, “See you at the inauguration, Drudge”.

That’s it? The Kerry campaign doesn’t have anything to say except this is a Republican lie? Look at the video. It’s not a lie. He may not have pulled a hidden note card out of his pocket, but he pulled something out of his pocket. I watched him do it, and I watched in slow motion.

That lame defense only makes Kerry look guilty. And I’m inclined to think he isn’t guilty, not because I’m a fan but because it would be just too damn stupid. Maybe he pulled a piece of gum out of his pocket. I’ve no idea, but his campaign is going to have to come up with something more convincing than “that TV camera is a lying GOP operative.”

UPDATE: Bush cheated, too! Well, no. Actually, he probably didn’t. And like I said, Kerry probably didn’t cheat, either. The odds that one of them cheated are miniscule enough. The odds that both of them cheated are vanishingly close to zero.

Nevermind, They Do Both Suck

I’ve revised my opinion of the debates.

On style and delivery, John Kerry buffed the floor with George W. Bush’s ass. He just did. I know a lot of you out there really like George W., but come on. I can argue with Kerry better than he can, and I’m just a guy in his jammies. You think this only matters to intellectuals? Wrong. Most of the world doesn’t think Bush is a cowboy, they think he’s an oil-rustler. Who’s the enemy in the Terror War? Islamofascists. What percentage of the world do you think understands this? One percent? Two?

George W. Bush gets an F-, that’s an F minus, on clarity. When we’re three and a half years into World War IV and the president of the most powerful country on earth, the 900 pound gorilla on the good guy side, has never been able, not once, to explain who the enemy is and what on earth we’re doing, well, let me just quote Joe Katzman.

It’s an important part of the war, a critical part. You can’t outsource this to the damn blogosphere.

Amen, my Canadian brother. I am not the president’s spokesman. Nor is Joe or Glenn Reynolds or Charles Johnson or Roger L. Simon. It is not our job to do his job – especially since none of the people I just listed, including myself, even voted for George W. Bush in 2000.

But. But.

That doesn’t mean John Kerry has it together. Oh my, no. He may have been more articulate than usual at Thursday’s debate (thank you, Allah) but that can only take him so far. Now I want you to click this link. It will take you over to James Lileks’ latest Bleat. (And, boy, is this one a bleat.) He’ll tell you exactly, precisely, why when I think about voting for Kerry (and I have been trying to talk myself into it) I flinch.

Pre-Debate Reality Check

Tonight’s presidential “debate” is really just a joint press interview. John Kerry and George W. Bush will never actually debate anything. I expect the whole ordeal will be an hour-and-a-half long cringe-fest beamed into my living room. I imagine I’ll feel worse about this upcoming election than I do right now.

I can’t count myself a fan of either one of these mooks. Neither are particularly intelligent. And they’re both painfully inarticulate in different ways. (I am looking forward to the VP “debate.” John Edwards and Dick Cheney clearly are intelligent and articulate.)

John Kerry’s supporters are going to say he won the debate no matter what. George W. Bush’s supporters will say he won the debate no matter what. (Isn’t that a brilliant prediction?)

If I “declare” one of them a winner it will be whoever gets a boost in the polls. That, I’d say, is the only kind of announcement that makes any sense. If Kerry polls better tomorrow than he has lately, there is no way anyone can convince me that Bush will have outperformed him. The reverse is true, too.

So, calling all partisans: Please spare us the predictable “my guy clearly won” essays and blog posts. You won’t convince anybody no matter how much fun your cheerleading may be. Just something to think about. Now spin away, my commentariat comrades…

A Draw? (Updated)

As far as the first presidential debate goes, I’m sure most of the blogosphere is on the fisking and fact-checking details right now. The left side will go after George W. and the right side will take on John Kerry. I’ll let them handle it.

I had something else in mind.

The most annoying thing about the 2000 debates between Bush and Gore is that both candidates dodged so many questions. They almost acted as if the “moderator” didn’t exist except to prompt them to spit out their own pre-rehearsed mini-speeches. So this time I decided to keep score. I wanted to know who answers and who dodges the most questions. I gave 2 points for answering, 1 point for half answering, and I subtracted a point for a dodge.

I hate to say this because I know it isn’t exciting but…it was a draw. (You should have tried another angle going into this — ed. Yeah, yeah.) Both of them did pretty well, actually. Each candidate only dodged one question, and each answered most of them completely. I didn’t give them points for the quality of their answers. I just didn’t want anyone getting away with blowing off the moderator Jim Lehrer as if he didn’t exist.

Bush’s answers were better than Kerry’s, I think. But I also tend to agree with Bush’s foreign policy more than Kerry’s.

Still, I thought Kerry did the best he could with what he had to work with. I thought he handled himself very well, about as good as he possibly could have. I scoffed and rolled my eyes a few times, and I’m sure Kerry’s supporters did the same thing to Bush. (Actually, I’ll bet there was plenty of screaming in people’s living rooms tonight.)

Anyway, I have to say that both candidates performed a lot better than I expected – which isn’t saying much, but there you go. I can’t get excited about either of them, but I find it impossible to hate them.

The questions, though. Come on, Lehrer. Ask something tough once in a while.

Here’s what I wanted to hear:

Mr. President, why do you insist Saudi Arabia is an ally in the war on terror when the government spends billions of dollars building mosques and madrassas all over the world in order to export their fanatical Wahhabi ideology?

Senator Kerry, what do you think about Michael Moore’s film Fahrenheit 911?

Mr. President, why did the commanders in Afghanistan rely on local warlords instead of the United States military in the battle of Tora Bora?

Senator Kerry, what do you think of the fact that only a few days ago the governments of France and Germany announced they will not send troops to Iraq even if you are elected president?

Mr. President, what do you think is the biggest mistake you have made while in office?

Mr. Kerry, why did you dismiss allies like Britain, Australia, and Poland as parts of “trumped-up, so-called coalition of the bribed, the coerced, the bought and the extorted”?

UPDATE: Dean Esmay says in my comments section:

I will say that in all honesty I’m LESS frightened of a Kerry Presidency than I was 24 hours ago. He managed to convince me that he probably won’t completely screw up. Although I still find his record troublingly inconsistent, I must grant that the life of a Senator is full of such things.

Yeah, I agree with that. But I’ve already tried to talk myself into voting for Kerry in my last Tech Central Station article. I can’t say I was able to turn myself into a Kerry supporter, but I did manage to convince myself that if he wins it will be okay. If Bush wins we’ll be okay, too. Neither of them are any great shakes, but we just didn’t have the option of voting for John McCain or Harold Ford or Rudy Giuliani or Barak Obama this time around. One of these guys will hafta do. And one of ‘em will.

UPDATE: Joe Katzman says both candidates suck and the world will suffer for it.

Fahrenhype 911

Check out the trailer for the new documentary Fahrenhype 911. It looks good. Somebody needed to make a cinematic counterpoint to Michael Moore’s crackhouse propaganda.

I can already see one problem with it, though. It was a mistake to put Ann Coulter in this movie. It isn’t smart to trot out one extremist to counter another. No one who isn’t already a certain kind of right-winger wants to listen to her. There are plenty of people on the right and the left who are interested in seeing Fahrenheit 911 debunked. Most of my friends are liberals and also are former fans of the man from Flint. Those on the left who want to see it debunked need to hear arguments from people they trust.

Zell Miller makes a few appearances in the trailer. It’s nice to seem him talking informally and at ease instead of worked up in a lather.

I’m glad the movie was made. I hope it’s a good one. I’d like to see it. But that obligates me to watch Moore’s movie first, which I have to say isn’t something I feel particularly jazzed about at the moment. I’ve seen his other movies and even read one of his books. I’m done.

The Dark Towers of Paris

I went to Europe for the first time on my honeymoon a little more than two years ago. Shelly and I started our trip in France, went south into Spain, and then north up to Amsterdam. She had been to Europe before. I had not, preferring instead to visit Latin America. (I still prefer Latin America. I fight boredom in Europe. It is too much like home.)

I remember looking out the airplane window at the vast expanse of farms over France. It was like magic. I would finally see the storybook land of city walls and bridges, ancient churches and castles. I wished, not for the first time, that I could live there.

And then I got out of the airplane and into a taxi.

The driver pulled onto the freeway and I saw Paris for the first time. It has a sprawling skyline of gigantic concrete block towers. Peering into the neighborhoods I saw a lot of trash and broken glass and little activity. There were no signs of life. Every vista repulsed me. And it went on like that for miles. It didn’t help much that the predominant color was gray and the weather was overcast.

This can’t be Paris, I thought. It looks like a Soviet Republic. Where were the church steeples? The amazing French architecture? The restaurant-lined boulevards?

I became physically depressed. Every last drop of excitement and anticipation drained out of me.

I have always hated American suburbs with their strip malls, fast food joints, big box stores, and inland seas of parking. They’re hideous and I’m glad I don’t live there. I always wanted to know: why can’t we build cities the way Europeans build cities?

That drive into Paris taught me what I should have known all along. Europeans don’t build cities like they used to any more than Americans do. Architectural modernism is a worldwide horror. Everyone who had a hand in building the lovely quarters of Paris died a long time ago.

I was shocked — truly shocked — to discover that suburban Paris is many times worse than Suburbia, USA. I had absolutely no idea. No one ever told me. (Now you can’t say no one ever told you.) No one publishes pictures in travel magazines of those god-awful swathes of modernist blight. Hardly anyone ever writes about what most of Paris is actually like.

The charming old city really is something. If you haven’t seen it I can tell you it is every bit as fantastic as most people say. But that part of the city takes up much less than 50 percent of the surface area. It’s an outdoor museum where some people are lucky to live. It took almost two days before I could shake my first impression of Paris and enjoy the old city the way I wanted to.

Needless to say, I spent no time at all in the outskirts. I had barely even a flicker of curiosity about what lay beyond the peripherique. Walking around in those neighborhoods would have been a deeply depressing experience. It was harsh enough just riding through them in a cab for half an hour.

In the current issue of City Journal Theodore Dalrymple describes what it’s actually like to live in some of those neighborhoods. After reading this I’m glad all over again I live here instead of over there.

Reported crime in France has risen from 600,000 annually in 1959 to 4 million today, while the population has grown by less than 20 percent… Where does the increase in crime come from? The geographical answer: from the public housing projects that encircle and increasingly besiege every French city or town of any size, Paris especially. In these housing projects lives an immigrant population numbering several million, from North and West Africa mostly, along with their French-born descendants…

A Habitation de Loyer Modéré — a House at Moderate Rent, or HLM — [is] for the workers, largely immigrant, whom the factories needed during France’s great industrial expansion from the 1950s to the 1970s, when the unemployment rate was 2 percent and cheap labor was much in demand. By the late eighties, however, the demand had evaporated, but the people whose labor had satisfied it had not; and together with their descendants and a constant influx of new hopefuls, they made the provision of cheap housing more necessary than ever…

The average visitor gives not a moment’s thought to these Cités of Darkness as he speeds from the airport to the City of Light. But they are huge and important—and what the visitor would find there, if he bothered to go, would terrify him.

A kind of anti-society has grown up in them—a population that derives the meaning of its life from the hatred it bears for the other, “official,” society in France. This alienation, this gulf of mistrust—greater than any I have encountered anywhere else in the world, including in the black townships of South Africa during the apartheid years—is written on the faces of the young men, most of them permanently unemployed, who hang out in the pocked and potholed open spaces between their logements. When you approach to speak to them, their immobile faces betray not a flicker of recognition of your shared humanity; they make no gesture to smooth social intercourse. If you are not one of them, you are against them.

Their hatred of official France manifests itself in many ways that scar everything around them. Young men risk life and limb to adorn the most inaccessible surfaces of concrete with graffiti—BAISE LA POLICE, fuck the police, being the favorite theme. The iconography of the cités is that of uncompromising hatred and aggression: a burned-out and destroyed community-meeting place in the Les Tarterets project, for example, has a picture of a science-fiction humanoid, his fist clenched as if to spring at the person who looks at him, while to his right is an admiring portrait of a huge slavering pit bull, a dog by temperament and training capable of tearing out a man’s throat—the only breed of dog I saw in the cités, paraded with menacing swagger by their owners.

There are burned-out and eviscerated carcasses of cars everywhere. Fire is now fashionable in the cités: in Les Tarterets, residents had torched and looted every store—with the exceptions of one government-subsidized supermarket and a pharmacy. The underground parking lot, charred and blackened by smoke like a vault in an urban hell, is permanently closed…

When agents of official France come to the cités, the residents attack them…Benevolence inflames the anger of the young men of the cités as much as repression, because their rage is inseparable from their being. Ambulance men who take away a young man injured in an incident routinely find themselves surrounded by the man’s “friends,” and jostled, jeered at, and threatened: behavior that, according to one doctor I met, continues right into the hospital, even as the friends demand that their associate should be treated at once, before others.

But [state entitlements are] not a cause of gratitude — on the contrary: they feel it as an insult or a wound, even as they take it for granted as their due. But like all human beings, they want the respect and approval of others, even — or rather especially — of the people who carelessly toss them the crumbs of Western prosperity… The state, while concerning itself with the details of their housing, their education, their medical care, and the payment of subsidies for them to do nothing, abrogates its responsibility completely in the one area in which the state’s responsibility is absolutely inalienable: law and order.

No one should underestimate the danger that this failure poses, not only for France but also for the world. The inhabitants of the cités are exceptionally well armed. When the professional robbers among them raid a bank or an armored car delivering cash, they do so with bazookas and rocket launchers, and dress in paramilitary uniforms. From time to time, the police discover whole arsenals of Kalashnikovs in the cités. There is a vigorous informal trade between France and post-communist Eastern Europe: workshops in underground garages in the cités change the serial numbers of stolen luxury cars prior to export to the East, in exchange for sophisticated weaponry.

I’m as interested in the architecture of these places as much as the societies inside them. I believe that, on some level at least, the design of a city influences its culture. Some places make the heart soar. Others — like outer Paris — pulverize the human spirit. So I was not at all surprised to read this from the same essay:

Architecturally, the housing projects sprang from the ideas of Le Corbusier, the Swiss totalitarian architect—and still the untouchable hero of architectural education in France—who believed that a house was a machine for living in, that areas of cities should be entirely separated from one another by their function, and that the straight line and the right angle held the key to wisdom, virtue, beauty, and efficiency. The mulish opposition that met his scheme to pull down the whole of the center of Paris and rebuild it according to his “rational” and “advanced” ideas baffled and frustrated him.

The inhuman, unadorned, hard-edged geometry of these vast housing projects in their unearthly plazas brings to mind Le Corbusier’s chilling and tyrannical words: “The despot is not a man. It is the . . . correct, realistic, exact plan . . . that will provide your solution once the problem has been posed clearly. . . . This plan has been drawn up well away from . . . the cries of the electorate or the laments of society’s victims. It has been drawn up by serene and lucid minds.”

It makes me shudder, in part because I have actually seen the results of this inhuman architectural ideology.

France can worry all it wants about the problems of immigration. And they can start by asking what they themselves have done to contribute to such extreme feelings of alienation among their newest of citizens. I am not trying to blame all the problems on the native French themselves. But I have to wonder how often, if ever, they question the way they treat the non-white non-Western people in their midst. We will let anyone become an American. But can anyone become French?

Even if France is somehow able to resolve its ethnic and social problems, I can’t help but think the people who live totally cut off from the mainstream of society in hideous Stalinesque blocks are going to continue feeling mentally out of sorts. Suffering that landscape for 30 minutes drained me of hope. And I was on my honeymoon. Perhaps I over-reacted because of my own inflated expectations and the fact that I’m a big fan of architecture — the good stuff, anyway. Either way, I’ll never believe again that the people who live in France now are somehow superior in their cultural and aesthetic tastes than we are on this side of the ocean. They constructed themselves a physical Hell, and it doesn’t surprise me a bit that it turned into a social Hell, too.

Hat tip: Sean LaFreniere and Winds of Change.

UPDATE: I’m corrected in the comments. The City Journal article isn’t current – it’s two years old. Whoops. Sorry. Well, I just now saw it for the first time so it’s “current” for me…

UPDATE: Dan G., who has a brand-new blog called Sound and Fury, published an extremely well-written response to this post about New York City’s own tyrant of modernist planning – Robert Moses.


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