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Hitch on Moore

Wow. I sure hope Christopher Hitchens never guns for me in print. I’ll need an icepack and a vacation if it happens.

Today in Slate he gives Michael Moore one hell of a thrashing for his new “documentary” Fahrenheit 911.

Into the Neoconservative Lair

Roger L. Simon risked life, limb, and reputation to descend into the neocon lair in Washington where he caught Dr. Michael Ledeen — on camera! — translating The Communist Manifesto from its original Straussian into corporate jargon for the purpose of duping yuppies at malls. Spooky.

Ralph Nader Jumps the Shark

I enjoy reading Marc Cooper’s blog. I never know if I’ll go over there to argue or applaud, and I like that. Unpredictable is good and besides, he’s one of the most pleasant people to disagree with you’ll find. (Well, unless you’re far right, in which case you probably won’t enjoy it so much.) Anyway, today I’m not arguing.

We both liked Ralph Nader the last time around. I liked him because he was honest and because he reminded me of the old school Democrats, the kind they don’t make any more. After 9/11 he doesn’t make me think of FDR so much as a kookier and more rumpled George McGovern. That’s really not what I’m looking for at the moment.

Nader is up to his armpits in all sorts of other problems I wasn’t aware of until now, and Cooper’s on it.

Good Riddance to the Intifada

Shortly after Ariel Sharon was elected in Israel he cynically demanded a full week of quiet before he would agree to negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. I say “cynically” because most people, not least himself, knew a week of quiet was not going to happen. Hamas and Islamic Jihad were murderously opposed to negotiations. Yasser Arafat was in their pocket. (Or were they in his pocket? Does it make any difference?) So Sharon could come across as a reasonable man willing to talk when we all knew full well he had no intention or desire to talk about the intifada. What was there to talk about? It wasn’t going to stop until it was crushed or Jews fled Israel in boats.

Well, goodbye to all that. Charles Krauthammer notes in The Washington Post:

At the height of the intifada, there were nine suicide attacks in Israel killing 85 Israelis in just one month (March 2002). In the past three months there have been none.

It’s a good idea to teach children that violence does not solve problems. It almost always is true. It certainly hasn’t done much for the Palestinians.

The sad fact of the matter, though, is that violence does sometimes solve problems. It worked for Israelis. Smashing terrorist nests, assasinating terrorist leaders, and implementing the Israeli left’s (non-violent) demand for a separation fence paid off handsomely.

Now it’s time to talk peace. Now it’s time for a “road map” that might actually work.

It’s theoretically possible that Yasser Arafat is tired of living in his bombed out compound in Ramallah (he’s been trapped there by tanks for over two years) and would like to sign a treaty. He can’t be a cheerleader for an intifada that no longer exists.

But I don’t see much point in including the man in any talks. Most likely he’ll drag out the process as long as he’s sucking oxygen. If he does decide to cut a deal and stick to it, the Palestinians will have to suffer with him as their dictatorial overlord until he finally keels over or someone speeds up the process and feeds him a bullet.

Better, I think, to keep Arafat marginalized. Start a new “road map.” Have an election in the West Bank and Gaza where Palestinians elect someone to negotiate on their behalf. If they choose a new leader wisely, Israelis will send Ariel Sharon back to his farm and give them their state.

If they prefer to drag this out for several more years, it’s their choice and their loss.

The Latest

Here are photos of what Al Qaeda did yesterday in Saudi Arabia. If CNN will air photos of abuse in Abu Ghraib they need to publish these.

I’m tired of issuing warnings along with my links to graphic photos. Most of us do need to see this. I’ll be in the Middle East myself in two weeks, and unless you’re my mother this is no time for a whitewash.

To Hell with the Republican Party

Dear Andrew Sullivan,

I see you’ve decided not to support the re-election of the president. Well, good for you then.

For a while there I was a v-e-r-y reluctant Bush supporter because the Democrats refused to take the Terror War seriously and picked a worm in the primary. Now I’m back in the undecided swing-voter camp for most of the same reasons you are. I don’t know who I’ll vote for. But I’m sure I’ll hate myself in the morning no matter which way I go.

I see there’s an Andrew Sullivan hate-fest going on over at Lucianne Goldberg’s Web site. I read the first half of the comments in that thread and didn’t see a single person sticking up for you. It’s nothing but accusations of “fag,” “traitor,” liberal,” “anti-American,” and so on ad nauseum.

Look. I went through the same thing on the other side. For a while I thought I was a dissident hawkish liberal. But there are only so many times a person can be told he or she is a heretic before walking out of the ever-shrinking “big” tent with their sleeping bag and gear to set up camp somewhere else.

Political parties are cruel to people who think. The more partisan members are bigots. They hate people in the other political party, and they hate you if you don’t follow orders. If you’re going to talk about principles you might as well be writing in Martian for those who will jump at a moment’s notice to stay on the right side of the party line.

Quit. Just walk away from the Republican Party. They are not your comrades as you can plainly see. Don’t bother calling yourself a conservative anymore. Publicly declare yourself an Independent and a Centrist. Don’t let anyone call you anything else. Oh, but they’ll try. Ann Coulter will call you a traitor and a leftist. Michael Moore will say you’re an imperial neocon cabalist. Who cares what they think? They’re slapstick buffoons, not your peers.

Your conservative friends who are worth their body weight in water will still be there for you. Your subscription to The Weekly Standard will still arrive in the mail. Your boyfriend will still love you. Your neighbors will still wave hello. Your favorite bartender will still smile when he sees you pull up a stool. Your Web site will still be one of the most popular blogs in the world. Don’t be afraid to lose readers. Some of us have learned a lot from your work, and we are not going anywhere.

The Democrats will no longer have me. That’s fine because now I am free. If the Republicans no longer want you, we in the middle will welcome you. Come on in. The water’s fine. It’s only cold for a second.

Someone Will Be Fired

In general I’d rather write about the good news in Iraq than the bad since the media likes to pretend it’s all bad. I’m sorry to tell you I have no good news for today.

Iraqis are furious. The CPA’s approval rating is 11 percent. It’s going to get worse before it gets better, so I suggest you brace for it.

Here is Christopher Hitchens in Slate:

The graphic videos and photographs that have so far been shown only to Congress are, I have been persuaded by someone who has seen them, not likely to remain secret for very long. And, if you wonder why formerly gung-ho rightist congressmen like James Inhofe (“I’m outraged more by the outrage”) have gone so quiet, it is because they have seen the stuff and you have not. There will probably be a slight difficulty about showing these scenes in prime time, but they will emerge, never fear. We may have to start using blunt words like murder and rape to describe what we see.

Here are my gut-level predictions for which I admittedly have no evidence. Donald Rumsfeld will “resign” in order “to spend more time with his family” when this footage comes out.

Or:

Bush will be fired in November.

Al-Sadr Becomes Pat Robertson

The insurgency of Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s fundamentalist fanatic-in-chief, is toast.

NAJAF, Iraq (Reuters) – Radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr sent his fighters home on Wednesday in what may mark the end of a 10-week revolt against U.S.-led forces that once engulfed southern Iraq and Shi’ite Islam’s holiest shrines.

With the formal end of U.S.-led occupation just two weeks away, Sadr issued a statement from his base in Najaf calling on his Mehdi Army militiamen to go home.

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 suppose this development is fine and all, but there’s a danger here. It could have been al-Sadr’s plan all along to throw a gigantic fit to get in on the action. Other marginalized wingnuts might decide to follow his example and see if it works for them. I don’t expect they’ll be happy with the results if they try.

European Earthquake

Elections in both Britain and Germany all but annihilated the political status quo.

The British Labour party came in a humiliating third place, which according to Andrew Sullivan is the worst showing at the polls of the party in power in British history ever. The right-wing Tories came out ahead of both Labour and the Independence Party, but even so it’s their worst performance since 1832.

Germany’s small-s Socialists were badly beaten in the worst landslide against them in postwar history.

I don’t follow European politics closely enough to know what actually caused this. But I can see one thing that seemed to have nothing to do with it: Iraq. Blair favored the war and was creamed. Schroeder didn’t and was hammered. Perhaps there’s a wave of anti-incumbency sweeping Europe. Maybe Europe is swinging to the right. Then again, we’re only looking at two countries here. There may be no trend at all.

If this is a part of a trend, at this point I’d put my money on an anti-EU reaction. From the BBC:

Elsewhere in Europe governing parties in Germany, France and Poland are suffering big losses.

As in the UK, Eurosceptic groups are enjoying their best result at the polls.

[...]

Celebrating his victory, Mr Kilroy-Silk said: “Now we know why the British public are fed up with the old parties. They are fed up with being talked to in that simplistic manner.

“They want their country back from Brussels and we are going to get it back for them.”

I’ve been skeptical about the EU for a while. I love the idea, especially for the sake of Eastern Europeans who could really use a leg up. Integration with the rest of Europe seemed to do wonders for Ireland and Spain and could do the same again for those left behind in the east. But the EU is a ham-fisted overly-centralized anti-democratic behemoth. I wouldn’t design it that way if I were in charge, and even though a European union makes a great deal of sense considering Europe’s tendency to chew off its own leg, I might vote against the current drift of the thing if I lived there, too.

America: Not So Polarized After All

The conventional wisdom – which isn’t half as wise as conventional wisdom thinks it is – says Americans are more politically polarized than ever, at least since the days of the Civil War. Left-wing Bush-haters compare the president to Adolf Hitler while the more obnoxious partisans on the right denounce the Democratic Party as a near-treasonous de-facto ally of Osama bin Laden. The leftovers of the 1960s culture war are warmed up again and again in the microwave, as if we hadn’t yet had enough of it all twelve years ago when Pat Buchanan railed against the liberal side at the 1992 Republican convention in Houston.

(And let me tell you something, folks. The vast majority of people in my generation think the culture war is idiotic. It’s just not relevant to people who are 30 years old. The whole “values” debate is an eye-rolling intra-Boomer squabble spawned from, apparently, Woodstock or something. I don’t know a single person my age, other than myself, who has ever used the phrase “culture war” in a sentence. And politics comes up a lot in my circle. The culture war is old. It’s older than we are. Knock if off, already.)

We keep hearing about the Red States versus the Blue States, as if it means something important. Oh sure, there’s something to it. No doubt California is a different place from Oklahoma. But it seems so overblown to me. My own state of Oregon was only declared “blue” after first being lumped in with the red. Al Gore squeaked past George W. Bush from behind in 2000 by a minuscule percentage only as the last votes were counted. I live in a seriously blue neighborhood in a heavily blue city. But my state is only half blue. It’s actually purple. Or checkered. Or striped. Or something.

Anyway, John Tierney in The New York Times cites the work of several political scientists and says the whole polarization concept is a load of fatuous nonsense. It’s the polical elites (who apparently include activists, intellectuals, pundits (ahem), and apparatchiks) in both parties who are polarized. Meanwhile, most Americans are in basic agreement about most things.

[D]o Americans really despise the beliefs of half of their fellow citizens?

[...]

To some scholars, the answer is no. They say that our basic differences have actually been shrinking over the past two decades, and that the polarized nation is largely a myth created by people inside the Beltway talking to each another or, more precisely, shouting at each other.

These academics say it’s not the voters but the political elite of both parties who have become more narrow-minded and polarized. As Norma Desmond might put it: We’re still big. It’s the parties that got smaller.

[...]

“If the two presidential candidates this year were John McCain and Joe Lieberman, you’d see a lot more crossover and less polarization,” said Professor Fiorina, mentioning the moderate Republican and Democratic senators. He is the co-author, along with Samuel J. Abrams of Harvard and Jeremy C. Pope of Stanford, of the forthcoming book, “Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America.”

“The bulk of the American citizenry is somewhat in the position of the unfortunate citizens of some third-world countries who try to stay out of the cross-fire while Maoist guerrillas and right-wing death squads shoot at each other,” the book concludes. “Reports of a culture war are mostly wishful thinking and useful fund-raising strategies on the part of culture-war guerrillas, abetted by a media driven by the need to make the dull and everyday appear exciting and unprecedented.” [Emphasis added.]

Maoist guerillas and right-wing death squads, eh? Odd metaphorical choices for writers who say we aren’t really even polarized in the first place. But I get (I think) what they’re saying. It gets easier every day to find political hacks who describe their opponents using just such language. If it’s true that we’re mostly centrists, whichever party knocks this off first could mop the floor with the other.

Tourism in Ottawa

So it looks like I may have to fly 3,000 miles to Ottawa, Canada two weeks from now to run a 20-minute errand. (Yes, I’m serious. Long story. Don’t ask. Just understand that the Libyan tourism-visa bureaucracy is something to behold. And thank goodness airfare to that city is cheap at the moment.)

Anyway, I’ll have two days while I’m in town. I’ve been to Victoria and Vancouver many times, Montreal and Quebec City once each, but never to Ottawa. Does anyone live there or know the city well enough for some recommendations? (Please use the comments.)

I’ll be staying downtown, of course. What I really want to know is…which part of town has the best eye-candy? I like old buildings and walking around the quaint pre-automobile parts of cities – when such places exist, that is. Also, anything with a French theme is good. I know my own Anglo culture pretty well already.

I’ll post pictures.

NYC Photo Ban

New York City is considering whether or not to ban photography in and around the subway for security reasons. The New York Times reports hundreds of photographers rode the subway all at the same time and started snapping away in protest.

At a protest by photographers, you see things like a guy taking pictures of a guy taking pictures of a few more guys taking pictures of one another.

There was such a protest yesterday, but it might take hundreds of pages to describe it, given all the pictures that were taken, each one worth at least a thousand words.

[...]

“The point is really to make everyday people wake up and realize that photographers are not terrorists,” said Joe Anastasio, who organized the event. “In the last few years, photographers near anything vaguely important have been getting harassed.”

Mr. Anastasio went on to tell the story of a friend who took his wife’s picture near the Whitestone Bridge, only to be called in for questioning by the police. He told another of a man caught snapping pictures at a Metro-North station who was interrogated for nearly two hours by authorities at the scene.

“The paranoia,” he said, “has gone a little too far.”

You should expect these kinds of rules in places like Libya. Ghaddafi is the hated boss of a military police state, so he has plenty to be afraid of. So does New York City after 9/11 for different reasons, not the least of which is that Mayor “Nurse” Bloomberg needs to protect the city while Ghaddafi needs to protect his ass. But the salient difference is that New York is an open liberal city and Tripoli isn’t.

Rudy Giuliani found a mix of liberal Republicanism that most New Yorkers thought worked pretty well, but Bloomberg – even though he was a Democrat until he entered the mayoral race – can’t seem to figure out how it’s done.

Here’s a clue for Mr. Bloomberg: Popular tough leaders don’t act like hectoring school principals – especially not in a freewheeling place like New York – nor do they get nicknames like “Nurse.” (No offense intended to the fine nursing profession.) Try being more of a leader and less of a boss and see how that works for a while.

In fairness to the mayor, this is not his idea. It comes from the NYPD. But Bloomberg is in charge more than anyone, and he’s been “a picknose control freak,” as Christopher Hitchens put it, ever since he took office. He has more power to turn this around than anyone else.

UPDATE: Jason Holliston, a friend of mine who is a small-l libertarian, makes a good point that I didn’t expect to see from someone with his point of view.

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: The Berkeley Intifada?

My Up and Coming Internet Nirvana

One of my local alt-weeklies Willamette Week tells us why if you’re a tech geek (or a blogger who makes his living as a telecommuting writer who relies on constant Internet access) there are some serious bennies to living in a thirdwave-anarcho-libertarian-semipinko-antiestablishmentarian place like Portland: Free wi-fi for everyone, baby. And it doesn’t look to me like there’s jack the big corporate boys can do about it, though that won’t stop ‘em from trying.

And I don’t mean it’s going to be some “free” taxpayer-funded government-run deal, I mean it in the sense that it’s free to listen to the radio if you already own a radio. That kinda free.

Sign me up!

Actually, I don’t have to sign up, all I have to do is wait. Excellent.

Anti-Semitism Watch (Updated)

Here is a picture of a modern skinhead.

smash-the-jewish-state.jpg

Okay, maybe the guy isn’t technically a skinhead. He might have hair under that hat.

Why is it that when anti-war protests make the news, people like him are almost always edited out? This isn’t a photo from the media, it’s from an LGF reader who goes by the handle Zombie.

I’m selective about which photos I choose to publish, just as newspapers are. In a sense I do what they do, only the opposite. I don’t include photos of the nice church people who show up to protest.

The difference is I don’t pretend the nice church people don’t exist. Besides, this is an opinion site with no claim whatever to being comprehesive or objective. I’m not trying to keep a record of everything here. That’s more than a one-man job.

Also, I don’t feel the need to mention the nice people at protests because I don’t have that much to say to or about them except when I’m arguing about foreign policy generally. Plenty of nice people attend peace rallies, I know that very well. I think they’re a bit naïve, but they mean well. They’re decent people. And because they’re decent and well-meaning people I’d like to see them kick the guy in the picture out of their parade. I bet they would do just that if he put a sheet over his head, and he might as well.

PS – I don’t attend “pro-war” rallies. If I did and I saw a guy with a sign that said “Smash Muslim States,” I’d call him out on it. And if that guy wasn’t being challenged by the rest of those in attendance, that would be the last time I hung around that crowd. I’m not asking anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do myself.

UPDATE: Oberon in the comments points to a comment on this Indymedia post.

These are lies.

I am an anti-war leftist fed up with the anti-semitism in the anti-war movement. I had the sign “pro-israel, pro-palestine, pro-peace.” I marched with SF Voice for Israel (NOT with Protest Warriors, who I deplore).

I was there until 3pm. Nobody on our side started shit. There were people from the pro-palestinian side shoving us, coming into our space and shouting “I hope they push you fucking assholes into the sea!”

STOP LYING ABOUT THE PROTEST.

Smash The Jewish State IS RACIST.

I am AGAINST the occupation. But there WERE anti-semetic signs at the protest and that’s why SF Voice For Israel exists. MANY people on the SF Voice for Israel side were fellow leftists who feel alienated by the anti-war movement because nobody speaks out against the anti-semitism within.

STOP THE LIES.

That’s what I’m looking for. Too bad this person is in the minority among the activists, but I’m glad at least someone inside that group is getting fed up with this crap.

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