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Annoying Arnold

James Lileks and Roger L. Simon are kinda sorta in the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor of California camp. Of which I have been suspicious.

Do we really need more goofball celebrities in charge? I love the Terminator movies. They’re great action flicks which at certain moments transcend themselves. But I thought Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, and Jesse Ventura were enough.

Arnold is apparently a liberal Republican, one of those guys who could go either way but chose the GOP for whatever reason. Fine then, he’s probably like my dad with bigger muscles.

I’ve been in the sorta anti-Arnold camp for a while, even though I don’t live in California and mostly couldn’t care less. But then I find out that Rush Limbaugh is bloviating hysterically that Arnold isn’t conservative. God forbid he’s a moderate. Maybe even a closet liberal!

So it turns out he’s the type of guy who’ll annoy Rush Limbaugh and the Europeans?

Well, shit then. Go Arnold!

History of the Ba’ath Party

Hovig John Heghinian in the Comments section pointed to this article about Michel Aflaq, founder of the Ba’ath Party. It’s not a new article, but it is worth reading anyway since it explains the ideological foundations of Syria, the old Iraq, and the Iraqi “resistance.”

MICHEL AFLAQ was born in Damascus in 1910, a Greek Orthodox Christian. He won a scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne sometime between 1928 and 1930 (biographies differ), and there he studied Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Mazzini, and a range of German nationalists and proto-Nazis. Aflaq became active in Arab student politics with his countryman Salah Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. Together, they were thrilled by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, but they also came to admire the organizational structure Lenin had created within the Russian Communist party.

Paul Berman describes the Terror War as a continuation of the awful thing that got started in Europe more than 80 years ago and has never come to an end. This is one of the reasons why.

What Dreams May Come

Sean LaFreniere had a compelling and oddly relevant dream last night.

I tried to argue with the villain but he only laughed. I turned the other cheek and he hit it too. Nothing that I did made things better. And throughout the ordeal I kept reminding myself that I was doing The Right Thing, that I was following The Rules, and that I should be prevailing. But I just kept getting beat to the floor.

Finally the dream bully reached towards me with a burning cigar… and I caught it in my hand. However, my dream self had no special powers. I was not wearing gloves, nor was I pumped full of painkillers. Oddly, terribly, I actually felt the stab of pain and smelled the roasting flesh, but I did not let go. Holding the bully’s hand I climbed to my feet and stood up. His implement of torture burned away and his look of evil joy grew more ghoulish, but I did not care.

Then I saw the image of a school’s front doors, decorated in crayon pictures of the Stars and Stripes, as they burst open and children rushed out. I saw people going about their daily lives, shopping and cutting each other off in traffic. I even saw a scene from this evening’s news, where a village elder in the Sunni area of Iraq argued with a young man over their response to the killing of a relative by American solders. The young man wanted revenge; it was what his father had taught him. But the old man wanted an investigation and justice “like in America”. This was a desire for something new, something better; it was what his son’s fate had taught him. And my dream self understood.

What does this mean? Why is it relevant?

Read the rest.

Additions to the Blogroll

Norman Geras, Oliver Kamm, and Randy Paul’s Beautiful Horizons have been added to the blog roll.

The View from the Center-Left

Joe Katzman writes about what he calls Mogadishu Democrats, Democrats who are trying to look serious about foreign policy but end up posturing instead.

Memo to Democrats: kindly get a grip. America was attacked. The public remembers that…As Bill Clinton might have put it: “it’s the war, stupid!”

Blaster is quoted in Joe’s comments section.

Note to Democrats

You are going to lose. Why? Because you think you need to have an effective message on national defense.

No. No “message.” You need to defend our nation. You need to want to defend our nation. You have to feel like our nation deserves to be defended. That isn’t a message. Its a belief. And if you don’t believe those things, your message can’t be credible, no matter how good you are at faking sincerity.

This election and its aftermath very well may end my relationship with the Democratic Party.

I’ve been unhappy with the Democrats for various reasons for almost ten years now. As time passes I have fewer and fewer reasons to stick with them.

I still have some reasons. I’m an environmentalist and a big fan of New Urbanism. I want some sort of universal health insurance, the less statist the better. I think taxes should favor the poor and the middle class before the wealthy. I hate abortion, but I don’t want it banned. I’m a social liberal/libertarian, which clearly puts me with the Democrats and not the Republicans.

At the same time, the peaceniks and the politically correct are pushing me out. The radical/anarchist “Bush=Hitler” crowd has little to do with the Democratic Party, but their attitude is having a corrosive effect on mainstream left-wing opinion.

Every day I find myself thinking less like a left-liberal and more like a centrist. It’s not because I suddenly have conservative opinions. I’ve been a foreign policy hawk for ten years, throughout the Clinton era when Republicans wallowed in right-wing isolationism on the Balkan question and the liberals pushed vigorously for intervention. My role models here are Roosevelt and Truman, not Kissinger and Reagan. And I was repulsed by political correctness the first time I encountered it, along with most people of my generation. (PC is primarily a Baby Boomer thing.) My views on nearly everything are the same as they were throughout the 90s.

It’s the left that changed. Or, perhaps, the issues changed and caused the left to shift its priorities. Maybe it’s been a little bit of both.

From where I sit it looks like the entire country shifted to the left while I sat still. Noam Chomsky has more influence than ever, while the two sinister Pats (Robertson and Buchanan) have been marginalized. The neoconservatives use the language of Amnesty International, and the Republican Party has discovered the virtues of nation-building. Andrew Sullivan calls Bush a closet liberal, and any non-partisan person can see that he has a point.

The Democrats seem to think it’s 1968 (or 1972) all over again. And it isn’t. They are decades out of date, and they’re almost certain to lose the election.

It is the war, stupid, and the problem isn’t “the message.”

The primary election, the general election, and the recriminating aftermath will surely shake up the party. I won’t know until it’s over if I’ll stick with the party or walk.

I’m not a conservative and I’m not about to become one. I won’t exchange left-wing baggage for a suitcase-full from the right.

But the Democrats might lose me, as they’ve already lost so many others.

I have no fear of declaring myself an independent centrist. Most of the people I read and admire are independent themselves. The center is chock-full of utterly reasonable people, while the left and right wing-nuts shriek like moonbats.

So the Democrats better watch out. There is more than one way to declare oneself “Not a Republican.” There are more than two binary views of the world and this country.

UPDATE: Matt Yglesias accuses me of having a schtick. He reminds me that my views are pretty consistently liberal, and that several of the Democratic candidates are mostly in agreement with me.

All true.

And so I understand why Matt is confused at my discontent and is groping for some off-the-wall explanation. He even makes me reconsider to some extent.

The bottom line, though, is that I care more about national security and human rights than any of the other stuff. And, as Joe Katzman put it in his Mogadishu Democrats post, which inspired my post in the first place, much of the Democratic hawk stuff is more message than substance. That is what really bothers me.

Lieberman is the only one I trust with this on a gut level, but I also think he’s a boring and uninspiring conservative. I worry about the others, even when they make the right noises and even though I agree with them more often.

My reaction to the party is as visceral as it is intellectual right now.

I worry, too, that I don’t share the same values as Democratic activists. Partisan politics is venal and corrupting, and it turns otherwise smart people into idiots. This isn’t a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing, it’s just a political thing. I’m tired of it, and so are a lot of other people.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Kombiz has some criticism here. I don’t think I agree with him, but at least he makes me say hmmm.

UPDATE: Wow, please read the comments section. Find the 47th comment by a guy named Joe Schmoe. (Maybe you could use a real name, Joe…) It is brilliant and perfect. He gets right to the heart of this matter, and says it better than I did.

Polyamory and the State

Anti-gay marriage activist Stanley Kurtz says of Andrew Sullivan:

In my recent piece, I also noted Sullivan’s failure to take up the real challenge of the slippery slope argument as it relates to polyamory. In fact, I don’t think the word polyamory has ever been formed on Sullivan’s keyboard.

The word “polyamory” has never been formed on my keyboard either, until now.

I’d like to ask Dr. Kurtz, and anyone else, why I’m supposed to worry about this in the first place.

I understand the slippery-slope argument. Gay marriage may lead to legalized polyamory. This argument is intended to freak me out, but it doesn’t.

Let me be clear here. I think people who get involved in polyamorous relationships are making a terrible mistake. I went to college in Eugene, Oregon, and I saw quite a bit of that there. It always ended in disaster; otherwise strong relationships disintegrated with the addition of a third person. Kathe Koja wrote a truly harrowing novel about this called Kink, which reads almost like a horror story. That book all by itself would have been enough to scare me away from polyamory if I hadn’t known better already.

But why is this the state’s business?

The best argument is that a three-parent household is a poor environment for raising children. But what about childless three-way relationships? For whose benefit are they banned?

Besides, I can think of plenty of destructive behavior the state doesn’t regulate, even when it severely affects children. Drinking and smoking, for example, or letting the television babysit the kids all day. You can raise your kids in a wacko cult, or teach them that Jews are Satanic demons that control the Congress. You can deny your children vaccinations and medical treatment for religious or other kooky reasons. It’s best that divorced parents live near each other for the sake of their children, but no one thinks to enforce it.

I think children should be kept far away from television and given books to read instead. I think American children should learn a foreign language when they are pre-school age. And I think they should be kept out of churches until they are old enough to understand what’s going on in there. I don’t think anyone under the age of 20 should have a baby. But I would not dream of legislating any of this stuff, even though I think it would make children better off.

To me it’s obvious that a healthy two-parent household is the best place for a child. But I wouldn’t ban divorce in order to enforce it. Nor would I require single parents to get married. Most people agree with that.

So why is polyamory the state’s business?

I’m not convinced that it isn’t the state’s business. I honestly don’t know. I’m open to persuasion either way. But I really think the burden is on the state to tell us why it should be allowed to micromanage our personal lives in this (and any other) way.

It’s a free country, folks, and not every bad thing is or should be an illegal thing. Even when kids are involved.

Stanley Kurtz wants Andrew Sullivan to address the slippery slope to polyamory. And I want conservatives to tell me why I’m supposed to be afraid of it. And don’t tell me polyamory is not a good idea. I know that well-enough already.

Another Reason to Oppose the UN

The United Nations is not Star Trek’s “Federation of Planets.” Okay?

The Ba’ath Party was founded by Nazis in Damascus during World War II. And for the month of August the Ba’ath Party is in charge of the UN Security Council.

Eventually, not this minute, but eventually, the UN needs to be reformed or evicted from the United States.

Idiocy Watch

It [having kids] is the reason for marriage. It’s not to affirm the love of two people. I mean, that’s not what marriage is about.

Rick Santorum, Republican senator from Pennsylvania

I wanted a reminder of that day when we visited the mares and had lunch with Saddam Aziz. A piece not so much of the old Iraq, but of the peaceful Iraq, something living and good and beautiful, not garish and ugly, or scared, or tortured, or dead.

Patrick Graham in The Observer, longing for the day when Saddam Hussein was still in power

For America, Korea has always been understood as a part of China or a part of Japan.

Mun Yol Yi, The New York Times

Hillary [Clinton] has a history of human rights abuses…She voted against the fillibuster, watched as anti-war leafletters were arrested outside her office and voted for the war in Iraq as well. Her unanimous support of this illegal war and her support of child labor and prison labor should be acknowledged. Nowhere in her whitehouse biography does she aknowledge her support of human rights abuses.

Wage Slave, Portland Indymedia

For the people of Iraq, the next stage in their long suffering is under way.

Robert (my name is now a verb) Fisk, The New Zealand Herald

As for you, the American people, you must start to worry that the performance of your military does not start to give ideas to your southern neighbors. If they continue to perform like they are doing in Iraq , then I for one believe the Mexican Army is a serious threat to your national integrity.

Saudi Prince Amr Muhammad Al-Faysal, Arab News

Manifestly, there is no civil-liberties crisis in this country. Consequently, people who claim there is must have a different goal in mind. What else can you say of such people but that they are traitors?

Ann Coulter, AnnCoulter.com

FRANCE WAS RIGHT!

Anti-war activist at a protest

Enemies of the Future

It looks like the Republican Congress is seriously considering a constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage forever.

I’m in favor of gay marriage for all the usual reasons.

I understand that when societies redefine “normal” there will be initial conservative opposition, and there will be reactionary opponents to the bitter (for them) end.

I don’t expect Republicans to like it. But this ammendment business is indefensible.

Conservatives are going to lose this fight, and they know it. Opposition to gay marriage, which was recently overwhelming, is cratering. If gay marriage isn’t stopped soon it will never be stopped. And so they want to freeze the debate right now while they still have a slim majority on their side.

That’s cheating. It’s like calling off a baseball game in the fourth inning, when your team happens to be ahead, and going home and calling it a victory.

Huh uh. Doesn’t work that way, folks.

If the American majority later decides gay marriage is okay, it needs to be enacted into law. If it takes ten years, it takes ten years.

And if the majority of Americans want gay marriage in the year 2013, by what possible logic should it be prohibited because people thought it was a bad idea back in 2003?

Societies change. Norms shift. Cultures evolve. You can slow the process down, but you can’t stop it.

A constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage is a declaration of war against the future.

Off the Deep End

What the hell?

She knew her new name might finally stick when she got a phone message recently: “Hi, GoVeg.com. This is your mother. Please call me.”

It might sound more than a little odd — but it’s true. A young animal rights activist from Indiana once known as Karin Robertson has legally changed her name to that of a Web site run by her employer, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

That’s the craziest thing I’ve read about since Montana’s Libertarian Party candidate for senate turned himself blue.

Some things you just can’t make up.

Workshop Drama

Fantasy writer Gene Wolfe taught a writer’s workshop and some of his students complained that he was mean. (This means he didn’t pat them on the head and treat them like grade-schoolers, but actually tried to teach them something about writing.)

So Gene up and left the workshop, and Harlan Ellison is furious.

[T]his brouhaha with Gene is unconscionable. Jeanne should not have let him leave, should not have let the little gargoyles take command of the asylum. That Gene opted to do so, to spare Jeanne any embarrassment or hard choices, is further testament to his chivalry and decency. I would have dragged the little fuckers out of their mosquito-infested nests at midnight and browbeaten them into a gelatinous gestalt that understood a GOOD workshop is not one that lets you indulge your delicate amateur umbrages, but one that slaps you around, treats you like an adult, honors what potential you have, gives you your money’s worth, does not play to your country-hick paranoias and uneducated ruminations/mythology about what it takes to be a professional, gives you a sense of what true (and truly talented) professionals think of your self-aggrandizing amateur efforts.

This is infamous. I’m calling Gene posthaste. Spread the word; get the straight stuff out there, on website, on Odyssey site, to the newszines.

Consider it done, Harlan.

I’ve been to lots of workshops, in and out of college. Most university workshops are worse than useless, and I learned just about everything I know about writing from teachers who crucified me when I deserved it, which, when I was first starting out, was every time I wrote anything.

The walls needed to be hosed off when they were through with me. And I love them for it.

Now that I have a Comments section on my blog it will probably start happening again…

Barbarism

So many women in Bangladesh are attacked with acid that an Acid Survivor’s Foundation is necessary.

From their Web site:

Acid attacks have traumatic consequences – physically, psychologically, and socially. Nitric and sulphuric acid causes skin tissue to melt; in some cases leaving the bones underneath exposed and dissolving bone. Most seriously, acid striking the eyes permanently damages them, and many survivors lose one or both eyes.

Acid violence is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first documented acid violence case occurring in 1967. Victims are attacked for many reasons, such as for spurning the sexual advances of predatory males or rejecting marriage proposals. Recently, however, children, older women and sometimes men have been attacked in the course of family or land disputes, vengeance, and dowry demands.

Andrew Apostolou found a BBC article (with photos) about an acid attack victim in Pakistan. Do not click this link unless you are fully prepared to be horrified.

Bad Drinking Scene

Sometimes the little things are the most telling.

Here’s a just-discovered interview with Michael Kelly just before he was killed on assignment in Iraq.

Give me a sense of Baghdad as a tourist. Is it different from Amman or is it similar?

Well, it’s grimmer. A lot of the Arab world is pretty grim. That whole sort of city of jollity and light and magic tends to be lacking in despotic regimes. When you have the feeling that if you get an eensy bit too drunk the Mukhabarat are going to come and remove your fingernails for making a little Saddam joke at the bar, it puts a stifling effect on an evening out with the boys. Iraqis are big bar-goers. There’s a lot of drinking in Iraq. But it’s the grimmest drinking environment you could ever imagine. They could give lessons to the Scots on grimness in drinking.

Grim how?

When you go into bar, and let’s say it’s even a packed bar…. This is a true story. About three days before the war started, I went to a belly-dancing place. There was this woman there belly dancing, or her belly was dancing, whatever. There were forty or so guys there. Everybody’s got their bottles of this horrible, horrible Iraqi-produced knock-off Scotch that’s fake Johnnie Walker red. They’ve got fake labels that say “Johnnie Walker rouge.” Just awful grim stuff to be drinking in the first place. There were like four guys to a table and they were all smoking—swfft, swfft, swfft—and drinking.

Do they smoke cigarettes that they roll themselves?

No, they smoke knock-off cigarettes like Marbrills or Camroll. Terrible existence. It’s like some kind of Orwellian hell. It’s just grim drinking to relieve the misery of life there. They drink until they’ve had enough, which is when they slip silently under the table and have to be carted out by the Mukhabarat.

So, what’s the bar scene like now?

I imagine it’s cheerier, though still a bit glum, but I don’t know. Someone should find out.

Sounds like a job for Christopher Hitchens.

Discrediting the ICC

I’m a big fan of bringing dictators to justice. And so in principle I should wholeheartedly endorse the new International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Some of the conservative arguments against it don’t wash, as Randy Paul ably demonstrates. But nothing will discredit it faster than politically motivated accusations like this one.

Tony Blair was accused yesterday of “crimes against humanity” in a lawsuit lodged at the International Criminal Court in The Hague by Greek lawyers.

Say what you will about the Iraq war. Say it wasn’t worth it if you must. Gripe about proceduralism if that’s what you care about most.

But liberating an enslaved people from a genocidal monster is not a crime against humanity. It put an end to crimes against humanity.

Placing bleeding-heart liberals like Tony Blair in the same moral category as Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot won’t garner a whit of sympathy from the United States for any court that might take such arguments seriously.

I think it’s a shame that General Pinochet is still living in his mansion in Chile after he was thrown in the slammer in Britain. And it’s worse that no one got Idi Amin extradited from Saudi Arabia before he died an old man in Jidda. France should be ashamed of itself for letting “Baby Doc” Duvalier move on in.

So, seriously, what kind of moral idiot scans the international scene for the worst criminal elements and zeroes in on Tony Blair after passing over Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe, and the rest of them?

I’d love to see an international criminal court that does what it says it will do. But maybe we aren’t grown-up enough yet to make it happen.

Another Left Hawk

Norman Geras has already been linked by Andrew Sullivan so he hardly needs any help from me. But in case you missed the plug, I’ll second it.

Norman is on the right side in the terror war, and I don’t mean “right” as in “conservative.” He isn’t a liberal, either. He’s a leftist.

(I still promise that one of these days I’ll write a nice long essay explaining what I see as the differences between “liberal” and “leftist.” Suffice it to say for now that Norman seems to be part of the Old Left, not the New Left.)

See especially his essay titled The War in Iraq.

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