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Road Trip Advice

If you want to drive from Portland to Las Vegas on back roads through the hinterlands in January, don’t go thinking you can get there in one day. You can do it — on paper. But the icy roads in the high desert have agendas of their own.

If you’re going to get your jeep stuck in a ditch on the side of the road, don’t do it on the top of Blizzard Pass (elevation 7,000 feet) on the Oregon/Nevada border as a winter storm rolls in. Traffic, such as it is, consists of a car every three hours. The nearest sign of human civilization is a telephone pole fifty miles down the road. Punching 911 into the cell phone is as likely to get you rescued as jumping up and down and waving your arms at passenger jets. If a truck driver comes along in a semi and can pull your sorry vehicle out of the ditch with a tow chain, consider yourself one lucky bastard.

If you expect to get a decent hotel in Las Vegas without a reservation on Superbowl Sunday while an auto convention is in town, don’t be surprised when you end up “downtown” in a creepy motel with signs on the bathroom mirror saying you’ll be charged if you stain the sheets or the bath towels.

If you make a detour into Los Angles to visit a friend (in my case, Roger L. Simon) and you get driving directions to the house, don’t get cute and cut across town looking for “shortcuts” with your low-resolution gas station map. Follow directions!

If you’re driving from San Francisco to Portland in one shot, try really hard to leave the Bay Area before it gets dark. It’s traffic hell all the way to Sacramento.

Oh, and if you like deserts and you’re anywhere near Death Valley in January, go. And take a long walk through the sand dunes at sunset. It is glorious.

I’m Back (Sort of)

Sorry for the unannounced hiatus. I’m back from a brief road trip, and blogging will resume shortly…

Ideology and Denial

Philosophy Professor Keith Burgess-Jackson has a smart piece in Tech Central Station about his escape from ideology.

His was an ideology of the left, and there are, of course, ideologies of the right. The pitfalls are the same.

I’ve said before that partisan politics is intellectually corrupting. Here’s why.

Retiring Deanophobia (Updated)

A few days ago I said Howard Dean is probably toast. Then I felt foolish. Who says? Me? The heck do I know? I don’t think anyone predicted the primary race so far. The silent majority of the Democratic Party gave the media and the blogosphere the middle finger in Iowa.

However. If there’s anyone in America who worried more about Howard Dean than Jonathan Chait, I don’t know who it is. Today he shut down his Diary of a Dean-o-phobe blog at The New Republic. That should tell us something.

My work here is done.

And good work it was.

UPDATE: William Swann at the Centrist Coalition reports that some of Dean’s biggest supporters in the blogosphere are done with him, too.

Traitors

Paul Berman is a thoughtful left-wing intellectual who isn’t known for his rants. At least not in print.

But he’s ranting now in Dissent Magazine. Ranting about those who are traitors to the left. And no, he’s not talking about hawks like me.

This “traitor” business gets old really fast, and I don’t have any patience for it. But Berman here is talking about people who betray left-wing principles rather than those like me who, because of those same principles, would rather walk away than accept the new party line. Take a look.

(Via Roger L. Simon.)

My Guy in Third

I’m disappointed in New Hampshire. John Kerry and Howard Dean over John Edwards? Sigh.

I suppose it’s better than Wesley Clark and Al Sharpton clobbering Howard Dean.

I still have a little bit of hope that Edwards will do well in the South and at least take Dean off the board. But maybe I’m the guy Gerard Van der Leun is talking about.

Watching these sad captains who were sane enough a few months back to say “goodbye to all that” warming to this, that, or the other Bozo bobbing to the surface of the tank is depressing. It’s like watching a drunk who has finally wised up to the dangers of drink; who’s gone on the wagon, gone to the meeting, suddenly start sniffing damp wine corks in the Boom-Boom Room while clutching a club soda.

I do think Edwards is better than that. A Bozo bobbing to the surface of the tank? Then again, he isn’t up at the surface. The cream isn’t rising.

A nationwide showdown between Kerry and Dean will be a disaster. Roger L. Simon says why.

[A] two-man race of this sort will push the Democratic Party to the left, particularly on the war. With Dean surging like this, and pushing on Kerry, the contest will become about which candidate more despises the War in Iraq. Intelligent discussion of the most important subject of our day will be minimized.

Andrew Sullivan says Bush is in trouble. And that is probably true. He’s earned every bit of that trouble. But the Democrats aren’t gearing up to replace him. They winding themselves up to flail.

I know two people who say they might vote for themselves as write-in candidates for president. They have my sympathy.

I am Tom Paine

I thought I might be Thomas Jefferson, but I guess I’m not!

Which Founding Father Are You?

(Thanks to Natham Hamm for the link.)

European Anti-Semitism Watch

The Guardian and Ha’aretz published polls which gauge the level of anti-Semitism in some European countries.

One in seven people in Britain think the scale of the Nazi Holocaust is overblown.

22 percent of Italians says Jews are “not real Italians,” and 17 percent say Israel has no right to exist.

A Threat

Iraq war opponents of the Bush lied! variety like to cite weapons detective David Kay to bolster their case. His post-invasion report doesn’t ratify what the Bush Administration said before the war.

Here he is in an interview with Tom Brokaw:

TB: Intelligence report says … “Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with range in excess of U.N. restrictions. If left unchecked it probably will have a nuclear weapon within this decade.”

DK: Well, I think it’s got elements that we have certainly seen are true. The area that it’s probably more seriously wrong in is in the nuclear area.

TB: But as you know, the vice president and, to a lesser degree, the president of the United States, raised the nuclear threat as a reason that the United States had to go to war against Iraq.

DK: I think the weight of the evidence — was not great.

But the anti-warriors might not want to make him their poster child just yet.

TB: David, as you know, a lot of the president’s political critics are going to say, “This is clear evidence that he lied to the American people.”

DK: Well, Tom, if we do that, I think we’re really hurting ourselves. Clearly, the intelligence that we went to war on was inaccurate, wrong. We need to understand why that was. I think if anyone was abused by the intelligence it was the president of the United States rather than the other way around.

TB: The president described Iraq as a gathering threat — a gathering danger. Was that an accurate description?

DK: I think that’s a very accurate description.

TB: But an imminent threat to the United States?

DK: Tom, an imminent threat is a political judgment. It’s not a technical judgment. I think Baghdad was actually becoming more dangerous in the last two years than even we realized. Saddam was not controlling the society any longer. In the marketplace of terrorism and of WMD, Iraq well could have been that supplier if the war had not intervened.

There’s more.

TB: But as you know, the administration and its supporters, not just suggest, but insist that there was a real connection between Saddam Hussein and terrorist organizations that would be a threat to the United States.

DK: Look, I found no real connection between WMD and terrorists. What we did find, and as others are investigating it, we found a lot of terrorist groups and individuals that passed through Iraq.

Jihad

Islamist thugs are murdering Buddhist monks in Thailand.

It’s not because Buddhist monks are “colonialist oppressors,” nor is it because Buddhists drive the engine of corporate globalization. And it’s not because Thailand is a superpower that deserves to be brought to heel. Thai Buddhists don’t need to ask “why do they hate us?” It’s because Buddhists are “infidels.” And that’s that.

As Omer Bartov put it this week in The New Republic:

[W]e still do not seem to have learned a simple crucial lesson that Hitler taught us more definitively than anyone else in history: some people, some regimes, some ideologies, some political programs, and, yes, some religious groups, must be taken at their word. Some people mean what they say, and say what they will do, and do what they said.

(Via Exit Zero.)

Martian Crater

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity sends photos from the inside of an impact crater at Meridiani Planum.

mars_hill

mars_slope

Edwards or Bush

All Democrats All the Time is the new nightly news fixation. (I’ll take it over All Michael Jackson any day.) I’ve spent more time watching Democratic candidates for president on television in the past few days than in the previous two months combined.

John Edwards impresses me. He’s Bill Clinton without the sleaze. (At one point Bill Clinton was also Bill Clinton without the sleaze, but I see no reason to believe Edwards will follow him down.) He’s smart, articulate, decent, and convincing. It helps that my own views line up with his rather nicely. But I also actually like him. I rarely like politicians as people even when I like what they say and do.

It’s also nice that Edwards is the only one, aside from Joe Lieberman, who doesn’t come across like a hectoring leftist. He doesn’t wallow in Bush-hatred, nor does he attack the other candidates. He is optimistic, cheery, and focused on the future instead of the past.

He hardly utters a peep about foreign policy. And I think I know why. His authentic hawkishness is a liability in the primary. Maybe this will change if Joe Lieberman drops out and he can run as the only real liberal hawk in the bunch. But for now he sticks to other subjects. That is probably wise.

He’s not a cipher on foreign policy, though. In September 2002 he wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about the problem of Saddam Hussein. All hawks should read this and know where he stands. A year and a half later, he’ll still earn my vote for this as long as he doesn’t backpedal.

As for the rest of them:

I don’t particularly like Joe Lieberman. His sanctimonious moralizing is just too much. I’d take him over Bush even so. Not that it matters. He has little chance of winning the primary. He’s a protest vote.

John Kerry, for the most part, is a decent and reasonable man. I don’t loathe him and I doubt I ever could or will. He would be preferable to Bush in many ways. (The fact that he’s a so-called “Massachusetts liberal” is not a big deal for me.) Still, the only foreign policy ideas I’ve heard from his mouth can be boiled down to Bush lied and Bush was rude to France. I’m not getting behind anyone who thinks that’s a defense policy.

Kerry will earn credibility if he can address this problem seriously. But he needs to convince me in my gut that he can overthrow a tyrant while Europe screams. I don’t think he can do that, but he’s more than welcome to try.

Wesley Clark is just bizarre. He seems to be trying to prove he is a Democrat, but he comes across as a man who is conforming to a caricature because he doesn’t know how to be a real one.

Howard Dean is probably toast. I’ve moved on.

Dennis Kucinich is the Pat Buchanan of the Democrats. He doesn’t help the party’s image. But he’s out of the mainstream and can’t do any real damage. I do like the fact that a goofball like him can run for president.

Al Sharpton doesn’t deserve a response.

And so. While subject to change and revision, at this point in time I tentatively support John Edwards for president. Failing an Edwards win the primary, this blog in all likelihood will plug its nose and endorse George W. Bush – for reasons of national security.

Strong arguments for others will be considered. And I reserve the right to flip-flop as needed.

Why I Live in a Red State Now

Sean LaFreniere ably demonstrates just how out of touch George W. Bush is with Americans. He gets foreign policy right but on the rest of it, wow. His agenda is not popular. Yet he still slams every Democrat in the polls.

I think Dick Morris is right. Bush is Churchill. He’s ahead because of the war. (But unlike Churchill, Bush is not going to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.)

The Democrats should be able to defeat Bush. But they have to get their act together. They have to be credible. They need to be Tony Blair. They can’t be the British Labor Party in the 30s and 40s.

UPDATE: Roger L. Simon comments.

[N]one of the leading candidates had the slightest interest in dealing with the issue that confronts civilization on an adult level. They didn’t even exhibit the capability.

I Live in a Red State Now

Tim Blair found an interesting Web site that projects the 2004 election using the most up-to-date polls. Looks like a total blowout for Bush.

2004_map.jpg

Metropoliticals

Jeff Jarvis explains what’s up with me, Roger L. Simon, and himself becoming more politically independent.

It makes us all biparty.

It makes us all flexible.

We are metropolitical.

I’ll tell you what I like best about being unattached to either political party. Democracy has more value to me now than it did before. I don’t actually know who I am going to support for president in November. In every previous election, that was unthinkable. I was always against the Republicans, period.

Now I don’t know. In some ways I like the Democrats, and in other ways I like the Republicans. This time around I’ll actually get to decide. I’ll actually make a choice. It isn’t predetermined by anybody, not even myself. Democracy is all about choice, and those who are rigid party supporters don’t get to know what that feels like. I feel more powerful having a choice, like what I say and think actually counts. I can think for myself in ways I only thought I could before. No one feeds me opinions with a spoon. No one I care about insists that since I believe X I must also believe Y. It was lonely for a while, but now it’s nice. I like it. I’m free.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan writes:

Well, I’ve never tried to please everyone with this blog but the torrent of abuse and mockery yesterday because of my criticisms of the SOTU caused me a little grief. According to many Republicans, I’m selling out to the “hard left.” According to some Democrats, I’ve finally seen the light, ha, ha, ha. How about applying principles to changing events and circumstances? It says something about what has happened to the Republican party that supporting fiscal responsibility is now the position of the “hard left.” And it says something about some Democrats that you either have to hate this president or love him unconditionally. Why can’t a grown-up have a complicated position?

You can, Andrew. Grown-ups don’t give you a hard time for it.

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