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Jerks (Updated)

Sigh.

ATLANTA – Hundreds of people pushed past Secret Service barricades Thursday to protest President Bush’s visit to the tomb of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been the civil rights leader’s 75th birthday.

“When I heard Bush was coming here I couldn’t believe it. I was outraged and disgusted, and I just think it’s a photo op. It’s so transparent,” said Kathy Nicholas, a flight attendant from Atlanta.

Look.

The left won this argument. Martin Luther King Jr. won this argument.

A white Republican from Texas paid his respects on Dr. King’s birthday. Okay?

It’s progress. Got it? Comprende?

It’s not that hard.

UPDATE: Perhaps it’s a mistake to assume that because something is obvious to me that it’s also obvious to most other people. After reading the comments, I can see that some people don’t understand my point here.

So. To clarify: It would not be an improvement if only Democrats paid respects to Martin Luther King Jr. I don’t want to live in a country where that’s how it is, and I’m glad I don’t.

UPDATE: If those of you reading the comments section wonder what’s up with today’s mob, they came from Troll Headquarters.

Troll Headquarters doesn’t have a comments section, and I can see why. It does, however, have this self-description:

This blog is for bad thoughts, cruel putdowns, and nasty hit-and-run attacks…

I’d say that’s about right.

The Wrong Stuff

I made a mistake.

Several months ago I signed a Draft Wesley Clark petition on the Internet. When asked to submit a comment along with my signature, I wrote “Please help save the Democratic Party from itself.” I really thought he could do it.

I’m still on the mailing list, but I can no longer bring myself to open the emails.

Chris Suellentrop at Slate compiled some oddball quotes from the general’s campaign in New Hampshire. I must say he misrepresents the first, and the second is no big deal. But here are the rest.

The president was not and has not been held accountable yet for misleading the American people. He is continuing to associate Saddam, Iraq, and the problem of terrorism. Yet the only terrorists that are in Iraq are the people that have come there to attack us.

As if the only reason Iraqi Baathists are in their own country is to attack us. As if Abu Nidal only moved to Baghdad for the rent and the cheap eats. As if Saddam’s brazen financial support to Hamas and Islamic Jihad didn’t qualify him as a state supporter of international terrorists.

Now, there’s one party in America that’s made the United Nations the enemy. And I don’t know how many of you have ever read that series of books that’s published by the Christian right that’s called the “Left Behind” series? Probably nobody’s read it up here. But don’t feel bad, I’m not recommending it to you. I’m just telling you that according to the book cover that I saw in the airport, 55 million copies have been printed. And in it, the Antichrist is the United Nations. And so there’s this huge, ill-informed body of sentiment out there that’s just grinding away against the United Nations.

As if the Christian Right even has 55 million members in the first place. As if the only criticism of the United Nations is that it’s Satanic. As if I and plenty of other people didn’t learn all about the perfidy of the United Nations from liberals in the 1990s when the UN sat back and watched Bosnians and Kosovars get massacred by Slobo. Surely the general knows something about that.

Young men in an Islamic culture cannot get married until they can support a family. No job, no marriage. No marriage, unhappy young men. They get real angry, they feel real frustrated, they feel real powerless. And a certain number of them are being exploited in the mosques by this recruiting network.

Actually, it’s the well-educated people who are most likely to join terror networks. Not the unemployed who can’t get a date. But don’t take my word for it. Read all about it yourself in The Guardian.

Newsweek magazine says he’s [Osama bin Laden] in the mountains of western Pakistan. And I guess if Newsweek could find him there, we could, too, if we wanted to.

Ah, my favorite. Bush doesn’t want to catch Osama bin Laden. It’s just like in Jim Treacher’s Moveon fantasy ad:

And instead of a rubber duck in the hot tub, he has an Osama Bin Laden doll which he hugs and kisses like a little girl hugging a baby doll.

“I wuv woo, ‘Sahmmy!”

The Osama Doll is dressed like Mrs. Beasley.

I’m of the opinion that Osama bin Laden is DNA on rocks. But who knows? I could be wrong.

What I’m not wrong about is that Wesley Clark is nuts if he thinks Bush can’t see the upshot of nabbing bin Laden in an election year.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon reminds me of the reasons I liked Clark in the first place, and shows that Clark’s current campaign has all the integrity of lime jello.

ABC Smear Piece

Andrew Sullivan links to an article at ABC News that he calls a vile little smear story about Howard Dean.

A state trooper named Dennis Madore is apparently a domestic abuse case. He was also in charge of Howard Dean’s security.

I read the entire piece very carefully. And I can’t for the life of me find any evidence that Dean did a single thing wrong.

Just below the headline, in typical Watergate fashion:

What Did He Know About Abuse Allegations; When Did He Know It?

According the article, Dean didn’t know anything. It’s guilt by association.

Vile little smear piece indeed.

Quote of the Day

Dennis Miller:

I’ve always been a pragmatist. If two gay guys want to get married, it’s none of my business. I could care less. More power to them. I’m happy when people fall in love. But if some idiot foreign terrorist wants to blow up their wedding to make a political statement, I would rather kill him before he can do it, or have my country kill him before he can do it, instead of having him do it and punishing him after the fact. If that makes me a right-wing fanatic, I will bask in that assignation.

Via Glenn Reynolds.

Why We Went to Iraq

Some say we went to Iraq to get Saddam Hussein’s weapons. Others say we’re there to establish a foothold of democracy in the Middle East. A smaller number say it was our exit strategy from Saudi Arabia.

All those reasons are valid. A good decision is rarely right for one reason alone. Good decisions can be justified on all manner of different grounds.

Still, there is one over-riding reason we went to war in Iraq, and it’s the one reason hardly anyone wants to talk about. It isn’t even remotely politically correct or nice or diplomatic. But that’s just too bad. Life isn’t a game of Model UN.

The real reason can be explained in two ways. First, here is Banagor (via Winds of Change).

The reason we are fighting this war is not because nineteen hijackers crashed into a burning building and a handful of others cheered, but because the entire Muslim world not only cheered, but then turned around, pointed at “The Jews” and said that it was their fault, denied they ever did it, denied that it ever could be them, screamed that they hated us anyway, danced in the streets, printed up posters about the heroes who did the deed all while denying they ever really did, and then increased their threats to tell us that if they didn’t get more capitulations that it would happen yet again.

And here is Thomas Friedman in Slate.

The real reason for this war—which was never stated—was to burst what I would call the “terrorism bubble,” which had built up during the 1990s.

This bubble was a dangerous fantasy, believed by way too many people in the Middle East. This bubble said that it was OK to plow airplanes into the World Trade Center, commit suicide in Israeli pizza parlors, praise people who do these things as “martyrs,” and donate money to them through religious charities. This bubble had to be burst, and the only way to do it was to go right into the heart of the Arab world and smash something—to let everyone know that we, too, are ready to fight and die to preserve our open society. Yes, I know, it’s not very diplomatic—it’s not in the rule book—but everyone in the neighborhood got the message: Henceforth, you will be held accountable. Why Iraq, not Saudi Arabia or Pakistan? Because we could—period. Sorry to be so blunt, but, as I also wrote before the war: Some things are true even if George Bush believes them.

Yeah, I know. This is dangerous bloodthirsty warmonger stuff penned by everyone’s favorite New York Times punching bag. That doesn’t make it not so. Some things are true even if Thomas Friedman believes them.

We have Gaddafi capitulating over weapons of mass destruction. The Iranian mullahs and the nutcase in North Korea are backing down (at least in public) on their own weapons procurement. And now via Roger L. Simon we learn that Syria’s Bashar Assad splits with Hezbollah and offers to negotiate with Israel without preconditions.

It isn’t at all likely that Boy Assad would suddenly cave if Saddam Hussein had successfully stood down America.

Fighting a war in Iraq may very well prevent us from fighting other wars someplace else. Getting tough gets results.

And as Dennis Miller recently said on CNN:

I feel more politically engaged than I’ve ever felt in my life because I do think we live in dangerous times, and anybody who looks at the world and says this is the time to be a wuss—I can’t buy that anymore.

Tilting At Blandsville

When I was a teenager in sleepy Salem, Oregon my friends and I (who are still my friends today) stirred up trouble to break the ennui.

We rigged up complicated traps for cars in our residential neighborhood. They involving fishing line, beer cans, and a lawn sprinkler. (Don’t ask.) We dismantled street signs (I know, I know) and tore up the rival school’s football field with the parents’ Thunderbird.

I can’t do stuff like that anymore. Well, I can, but I’m married, have a professional job, and live in a house with a yard and two cats. So I try to act like an adult whenever that’s possible.

Sometimes I miss the days when I could get away with being a prankster. We were busted by cops for every above infraction and more, but not much ever happened to us. I wouldn’t go back, but still.

Christopher Hitchens likes to go back. In his own way.

Is Fun City turning into Blandsville? So says rumpled Vanity Fair scribe Christopher Hitchens, who laments the mayor’s quality-of-life initiatives as the product of “the tiny Bloombergian mind.”

Hitchens, a British-born gadfly and barfly who once penned a takedown biography of Mother Teresa, spent a recent afternoon trashing all sorts of city and state laws, an account of which appears in the issue available Wednesday.

Wearing a disheveled suit and shades, Hitchens squatted on a milk crate in the subway, rode a bike without his feet touching the pedals, fed Central Park pigeons and puffed his way across the city in wheezy protest of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s smoking ban.

For all this lawbreaking, he received nary a warning.

Bloomberg’s staff shot back that most of the laws Hitchens ridiculed were passed before the mayor took office in 2002.

“This current Niagara of pettiness and random victimization may well be Bloomberg’s attempt at a wannabe reputation as heroic crime-fighter and disciplinarian,” writes Hitchens. “One of the world’s most broad-minded and open cities is now in the hands of a picknose control freak.”

Some people will probably look at this and think Hitch is just getting attention. I think he does it because it’s fun.

UPDATE: Michele Catalano has more on the Bloombergian mind.

Mainstreaming the Fringe

Wesley Clark is supposed to be the alternative to Howard Dean. He’s the man with a military uniform who projects an image – an image – of credibility on national security.

Here is Jay Nordlinger:

In a recent column, I attributed the following comment to [Wesley Clark]: that President Bush “is more concerned about the success of Halliburton than having a success strategy in Iraq.” The Associated Press reported that Clark had said it; Reuters reported that his spokesman, Chris Lehane, had said it. It seems that it was Lehane.

Either way, the remark is in perfect harmony with current Clarkian rhetoric.

The general has told us, “I’m one of those people who doesn’t believe in occupying countries to extract their natural resources. I think you buy them on the world market.”

I agree with Wesley Clark. We should never occupy countries to extract their natural resources. I mean, for crying out loud, what kind of person could support such a policy? Thank goodness I’ve never heard a single person say they do, never read a single column by any writer supporting anything like it.

The problem, of course, is that Wesley Clark is obviously implying that some people do think we ought to invade other countries to steal their resources. And we all know who that is. Iraq was all about ooooooil. According to Wesley Clark.

But let’s not photoshop a tin-foil hat onto the general just yet.

I don’t believe for a minute that Wesley Clark has bought what he’s selling. This is a cynical Say-Anything-To-Get-Elected moment. He’s trying to siphon votes from Howard Dean.

That’s what politicians do. But he’s mainstreaming the fringe while he’s at it.

Try to imagine mainstream Republican candidates ranting about Satanic Darwinists on school boards and black helicopters in Montana. The moderate middle would scramble to the left as fast as you can say boo!

The 1992 Republican National Convention in Houston was really something. This was where Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan declared a fundamentalist Culture War on America. Blame Ross Perot on Bill Clinton’s ’92 victory if you want to. But that turkey show in Houston kept me and a lot of other people out of the GOP for a decade.

Wesley Clark and his rival Howard Dean are doing what the Republicans did twelve years ago – stirring up the fringe for votes and attention. They are letting loose forces that will not soon vanish, that cannot be accomodated, that will be their own undoing.

I know of so many people who have never supported Republicans who are shaken and disillusioned by what is happening to the Democrats. I don’t know of a single person, anywhere, who is moving the other direction.

The damage will last a long time.

UPDATE: Mithras says I took Clark’s quote out of context. Here is the full context. Okay, so Clark was referring to the occupation rather than the invasion. Still, saying we are occupying Iraq to extract resources is hardly less batty than saying we invaded Iraq to extract resources. Either way, I still don’t think Clark believes what he’s saying. He’s pandering. And he’s pandering to the fringe.

Oliver Willis thinks that because I found Clark’s quote from Jay Nordlinger my entire argument is invalid.

Michael Totten masters alchemy in the act of extracting the idea from stone that Democrats are becoming extremists – get this – from a National Review story…Newsmax says Tom Daschle eats baby’s brains. It must be true.

The same quote can be found at clark04.com. Oliver, you may not like National Review but they aren’t in the habit of making up quotes from scratch.

UPDATE: Nathan Hamm and Randal Robinson comment.

Unilateralism to the Rescue

Here is Victor Davis Hanson on the fruits of American unilateralism in 1973.

Thirty years ago, during the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, most of the Europeans of the NATO alliance refused over-flight rights to the United States. We had only hours in which to aid Israel from a multifaceted surprise attack and were desperately ferrying tons of supplies to save it from literal extinction. In contrast, many of these same allies allowed the Soviet Union — the supposed common enemy from which thousands of Americans were based in Europe to protect Europeans — to fly over NATO airspace to ensure the Syrians sufficient material to launch and sustain their surprise attack on the Golan.

American “unilateralism” in those days meant acting alone not to let Israel perish. Had we gone “multilateral” and listened to our NATO allies — Germany, France, Greece, and Turkey all prohibited American planes from flying supplies in their space in transit to Tel-Aviv — there would be no Israel today at all.

Whoops

Via Dr. Frank and Mary at Exit Zero comes this “story” in the Washington Post.

AP Kills Limbaugh Painkillers Story

The Associated Press

Saturday, January 3, 2004; 5:06 PM

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Please kill the story Limbaugh-Painkillers, V9991.

Rush Limbaugh has not been charged with doctor shopping.

A kill is mandatory.

Make certain the story is not used.

This is posted at the Washington Post as a news article. Who knows how long it will be there? But it’s there at the time of this posting.

Mistakes like this can happen even at the best newspapers. What’s really downright strange about this is that the “story” has a dateline, and a copy-editor actually put a headline on it.

History and Total War

When I was a teenager and first learned about the Holocaust, something precious and small, not hope but perhaps faith, slipped away and was lost to me forever.

I have read about it in books. I have seen it in movies by Polanski and Spielberg and Benigni. My maternal grandfather was shot (but not killed) by the Nazis. My mother went to grade school on an American base in Germany during de-Nazification. Still, almost everything I know is third-hand. I’ve never met a Holocaust survivor, at least not knowingly. It was not so long ago, but it was before my time. It feels remote, though it is not.

Our country is still embroiled in the moral arguments of war. For some of us, the Holocaust hangs around out back. The Islamofascist jihad has already killed millions (not thousands) in Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Algeria, and Sudan. Most of us didn’t notice so long as far-away foreigners were the ones doing the dying. But when it arrived with apocalyptic fury in the heart of our own cities, we had neither cause nor the right to remain neutral or passive.

We’re still arguing about Iraq after the fact. And sometimes this discussion seems so petty. Compared to other people and ourselves in other times, we are spoiled. The Holocaust informs my view, but what we have suffered is nothing – nothing – nearly as bad as that.

Even if you opposed intervening in Iraq, surely you realize that some moral good has come out of it; a tyrant is gone. And we didn’t need to nuke Baghdad to get him out.

The perceived immorality of our action may weigh heavily on your soul. But it’s nothing compared to what we might have to face if our goal of limited war for democracy fails.

Do you want to know what a truly terrible moral dilemma looks like? Read this interview with left-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris in the liberal Israeli daily Ha’aretz. (Via Allison Kaplan Sommer and Roger L. Simon.)

“Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist.”

I don’t hear you condemning him.

“Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here.”

Benny Morris, for decades you have been researching the dark side of Zionism. You are an expert on the atrocities of 1948. In the end, do you in effect justify all this? Are you an advocate of the transfer of 1948?

“There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don’t think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands.”

We are talking about the killing of thousands of people, the destruction of an entire society.

“A society that aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it’s better to destroy.”

There is something chilling about the quiet way in which you say that.

“If you expected me to burst into tears, I’m sorry to disappoint you. I will not do that.”

So when the commanders of Operation Dani are standing there and observing the long and terrible column of the 50,000 people expelled from Lod walking eastward, you stand there with them? You justify them?

“I definitely understand them. I understand their motives. I don’t think they felt any pangs of conscience, and in their place I wouldn’t have felt pangs of conscience. Without that act, they would not have won the war and the state would not have come into being.”

You do not condemn them morally?

“No.”

They perpetrated ethnic cleansing.

“There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide – the annihilation of your people – I prefer ethnic cleansing.”

And that was the situation in 1948?

“That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced.”

That is what total war against a jihad looks like. That is the terrible moral equation we Americans might one day have to face if our morally attractive liberation strategy doesn’t work.

We in the West have not seen total war since the defeat of the Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. We have not had to explode nuclear weapons. We have not had to firebomb large urban centers to make a ferocious enemy capitulate.

But war is part of the world, and total war may be in our future again. Total war is being waged as we speak by Palestinians against the Israelis. Don’t be so sure we are finished with it forever.

Some Americans and many more Europeans have convinced themselves that total war is a thing of the past, that we in the modern world have moved beyond such nasty necessities. But human nature is eternal. History does not stop. As Robert Kaplan put it in the opening of a recent book: There is no modern world.

UPDATE: Benny Morris visited Berkeley recently to give a lecture. The Berkeley crowd has swooned over Morris in the past, but they were not very happy with him this time. Judith Weiss has the details.

Homage to Catalonia

In the next post down is a mention of George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia. You can read the entire book online here if you have that much patience.

Dean Hate

Over-the-top Bush-hatred is matched by over-the-top Dean-hatred.

In the new Club for Growth ad, a farmer says, “Howard Dean should take his tax-hiking, government-expanding, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading …,” as his wife finishes, “… Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show back to Vermont, where it belongs!”

Last year I voted (kicking and screaming) for a local tax increase for schools that lost money due to the recession. (Oregon got hit hardest of all 50 states.) I drink at least one latte a day. I eat sushi once in a while. I like Volvos and I read the New York Times. I also think Hollywood makes some of the best movies ever (along with some of the worst). I’ve never been to Vermont, but it is often compared to my own state of Oregon which I truly and dearly love.

So count the number of ways people just like me were screamed at in the new anti-Dean ad. Count the number of ways the right’s new bigoted ad disgusts me.

From the same article:

As to the shocking latte-drinking charge, it should be noted that Vermont has just two Starbucks stores. Iowa has eight. Texas, the home state of President Bush, has 395.

Downtown Portland alone has 395 Starbucks, which is not quite enough as far as I’m concerned. Free advice to GOP strategists: Don’t play that ad in my state.

(Via Jeff Jarvis, who just keeps getting linked around here.)

Martian Ground

One of the sharpest images ever taken on the surface of Mars, via the Washington Post.

Purging as Damage Control

Ideological lockdown is a symptom of a movement in decline.

Witness:

Jeff Jarvis mentions in passing that he is a Democrat, and out came the witch-hunters saying he isn’t actually a liberal at all.

Oliver Willis says in the comments

Seriously, stop presenting yourself as a “liberal” by any stretch of the imagination Jeff.

Jeff answers him further down.

Who the hell made you the holder of the definition of liberal?

And how dare you put yourself above to decree who and who isn’t liberal? That’s really quite haughty. Very unliberal, I’d say.

Want to hear what I say about health insurance… abortion… gun control… welfare… and, most importantly, human rights (even the rights of Iraqis).

Hell, I’ll bet on many scales I’m more liberal than Howard Dean.

You don’t know what you’re talking about because what you’re talking about is me. So don’t presume to label me, mister. I find that insulting and offensive.

Jeff’s detractors are annoyed that he isn’t a party-line team player. But you know, folks, politics isn’t a game of football, nor is it war. It is okay if you think the other side is right once in a while (most people do, after all), and it’s also okay for a writer, any writer, to focus on whichever topics he or she chooses. Just because Jeff would rather write about new media and foreign policy instead of conventional liberal domestic issues doesn’t mean he doesn’t hold liberal views on those questions he puts in second or third place.

Regular readers of this site know that I can relate to Jeff’s experience and frustration. And the end result of all this has been for me to finally agree and say to heck with it, I’m not one of you after all. I’m an Independent now. And despite the fact that I still hold several liberal opinions, I no longer feel any sense of loyalty or affection for the Democratic Party.

Purging non-conformists might make you feel good, but it doesn’t help your side an iota.

I can’t help but think the intended audience for public heretic-banishing isn’t the target him or herself. It’s the heretic-banisher’s comrades. People on the losing side of political arguments know their support is bleeding away, so dissidents are furiously denounced as an object lesson for anyone else who might waver. It’s a form of damage control, which is why they don’t care if the tactic doesn’t make them any new friends.

UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis has more here, and he’s not very happy about it.

UPDATE: Armed Liberal jumps in, too. He asks the heretic-banishers to read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia, one of the best books ever written about the left by a leftist. What does Orwell’s book have to do with this political scrap? (Hint: It’s about left-wing anti-fascists, the Spanish Civil War, and the purge of dissident leftists by Josef Stalin.)

UPDATE: Photodude (who takes and posts better pictures than I probably ever will) joins the fray as well. He once invited me to join his Fence Party, and I accepted because the people in the middle make the most sense to me. At least for now.

UPDATE: Jeff at Caerdroia also prefers the middle. Unlike me, he was driven to the center by the excesses of the right.

Editors Wanted

2003 was a great year for writing. I fired up my blog in the second week of January and it took off far beyond what I expected. One of my articles was published in the Wall Street Journal’s online Opinion Journal, and Nick Shulz was kind enough to let me write a series of pieces for him at Tech Central Station.

I am tremendously grateful to all the other bloggers who link to my site, to the editors who took a chance and published my work, and most of all to everyone who shows up to read what I have to say.

This year I’d like to ramp it up. I have plenty of time to write. Who says I need to clean the house? (Um, your wife — ed.) And I’d like more of my work to appear in print and in other online publications.

Make no mistake. I still plan to write for Tech Central Station as long as Nick Shulz will have me. He is a terrific editor and I’m not looking to replace my working relationship with him for one with somebody else. What I want to do is expand.

So if you’re an editor who is looking for new writing talent and think my work might be a nice fit, please, by all means, write me a letter and let’s talk. Most of what I write is political commentary from a centrist perspective, and like I said, I have plenty of time to write. After a great 2003, 2004 is no time to sit back and stagnate.

And to my readers (bless you all), I’m not shutting down the blog any time soon. There is nothing like push-button publishing with instant feedback. Besides, I’m having way too much fun to quit now.

(Sincere thanks to Glenn Reynolds, Roger L. Simon, and Jeff Jarvis for their advice and support.)

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