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Schroeder is Out

Anti-American blowhard Gerhard Schroeder is stepping down in Germany. Buh-bye!

Take a look at this photo. Check out his feet…

UPDATE: Just to clarify, Schroeder is stepping down as the leader of his party. He’s still in charge of Germany…for now.

The Race

Pakistan’s military dictator Pervez Musharraf pardoned Abdel Qadeer Khan for selling nuclear weapons secrets to North Korea, Libya, and Iran. The Beeb says there is tremendous public opposition to putting this guy on trial. In Pakistan he is a hero.

If Saddam Hussein still lorded it over Iraq, does anyone think Mr. Khan would have balked at helping him, too?

The Terror War is a race. On the one side we have a veritable axis of hard-line dictatorships trafficking in anti-Western terrorism and genocide weapons. On the other we have the guilt-ridden self-doubting West that slowly and in fits tries to civilize and democratize the unfree corners of the world.

The nuclear genie is out of its bottle. It cannot be put back in. Francis Fukuyama convincingly argues that the expansion of democracy is inevitable, but not on any particular schedule.

Which will spread the farthest and fastest? Liberalism or terror? Democracy or nuclear-armed jihadist regimes?

No one knows. Our intelligence agencies are broken and discredited. And most in the West want to think of sunnier things.

Worst Toy Ever

I agree with Bo Cowgill. This is the worst toy ever.

Dissing the Homeless

Jonah Goldberg isn’t too impressed with political independents.

Their shtick goes something like this:

There’s that word again. It’s the shtick shtick.

“I’m an independent-minded guy (or gal), I don’t let the parties do my thinking for me. I choose each individual candidate based on his or her individual merits. I am a very discerning and thoughtful person.” If you’ve ever listened to C-SPAN, you’ve heard from these people. They sound like midlevel college administrators with chips on their shoulders. They don’t want to be pigeon-holed, cookie-cut, “defined” by “mere labels” that don’t take into account their discerning eye for the odd policy detail. “Did you know that candidate so-and-so doesn’t have a policy on saving the manatees? Or didn’t you do your homework?” They brag about how they look at every issue without ideological blinders on, and how they’ll be damned if they are going to vote for a candidate merely because of “partisanship.” They want to hear about issues and experience.

Lee Harris answers him in Tech Central Station.

Someone has to change his mind. Someone has to say, now and then, My heavens, I voted for the wrong man; I am sorry that I did.

The team player cannot change his mind, because his mind is the collective mind of the team, and he obeys it. He obeys it the way a good football player obeys his coach — because this is what he must do in order to be a member in good standing of his team. You cannot remain on the team, and cheer for your team’s opponents.

This is a good answer, but it isn’t the whole story. Both writers seem to forget something that ought to be obvious. Some people are independent not because they changed their mind, not because they’re uninformed, and not because they’re looking for a shtick. Some people really are just, well, independent.

For me it’s real simple. In some ways I like the Democrats. And in other ways I like the Republicans. If that makes me weird, then I guess I’m just weird.

The 21st Century is the most complicated time in the known history of the world. We have the same eternal problems, plus a host of brand new ones. Globalization and technology are making the world one place. Riyadh is in New York’s backyard. And vice versa. New technologies present new dilemmas unthinkable in the past. Revolutions in media and publishing encourage more diversity of information and opinion than was ever possible before. Our binary political system can’t possibly accommodate every view of the world. A third party could hardly do any better. Even our two major parties are riven by factions.

The Democrats are a testy coalition of greens, labor unions, welfare statists, neoliberals, academics, secular humanists, racial and ethnic minority advocates, technocrats, and left-libertarians. The Republicans try to staple together right-libertarians, traditionalists, religious fundamentalists, neoconservative interventionists, and paleoconservative isolationists. Party-mindedness is often awkward or even fraudulent because each party can be split into several. If the US had a parliamentary system, that’s exactly what would happen. Many independents could then find a home.

On some days I think of myself as a right-wing liberal. On other days I’m a left-wing neoconservative. That’s not a contradiction. I like Hillary Clinton and John McCain in equal measure for different reasons.

If Jonah Goldberg thinks that’s a shtick, I’d just like to ask him which party I’m supposed to belong to. I suppose I could re-learn to take one for the team. But for which one?

UPDATE: Jason Holliston, an independent of a different sort, agrees.

How can I be a Republican if I’m for gay marriage? How can I be a Democrat if I’m for the tax cuts that recently went through? How can I be a Libertarian if I understand that public funding for schools and police is the moral and right thing to do?

I can’t — at least, I can’t if I don’t want to be a liar.

Road Trip Photo Gallery

Last weekend I went on a whirlwind road trip through the American West with my friend and Portland blogger Sean LaFreniere. Here are some photos from Sean’s digital camera.

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A mountain lodge at the foot of the Cascades just as it’s starting to snow

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The open road in Eastern Oregon

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Me in the Old West (which actually begins east of Portland)

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A lone tree in the high desert

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Sierra Nevada mountain range

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Sean behind a Joshua Tree

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Death Valley sand dunes

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Death Valley floor

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James Lileks recently pointed out that America has 1.5 Empire State Buildings. Here’s the .5 in Las Vegas. (On the left.)

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San Francisco from a hilltop

All photos copyright Michael J. Totten and Sean LaFreniere

UPDATE: Sean posted some pictures, too. They are all different from mine.

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.)

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