June 23, 2005

Third Wave Gentrification

My new Tech Central Station column is up. I departed a bit from my usual material and dabbled a bit in futurism instead, inspired – ironically – by a trip to one of the more backward places in the country.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

June 22, 2005

Reactionaries

The House of Representatives – again – voted to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawing the burning of American flags.

You know what, guys? A vote on an anti-flag-burning amendment is not a poll asking whether or not you approve of people who burn the American flag. Some of us use it as a test to gauge how much respect and understanding you have for the First Amendment – not to mention the Constitution. Conservatives like to point out – correctly, I might add – that the U.S. Constitution is great in part because it limits the power of the state rather than the freedom of the people who live in this country. Is it really too much to ask that we keep it that way?

Unpatriotic self-loathing reactionaries have every right to burn their own property as long as they are not committing arson. I have yet to hear a compelling reason why we should take that right from them. So what if burning the flag is offensive? The U.S. Constitution is no place for Political Correctness, whether it’s left-wing or right-wing.

Some of these House Republicans are just unclear on the concept. Others, I have no doubt, are dirty political hacks. Ooh, let's see how many Democrats vote against this amendment so we can hang "unpatriotic" around their necks. If you ever wonder why “patriotism” and “flag-waver” are sneer words in some quarters, well, this is part of the reason. Some people make patriotism embarrassing.

Democrats who vote for amendments like this are gutless cowards. But if they wouldn’t promote people to party leadership positions who compare U.S. soldiers to Nazis, Stalinists, and Khmer Rouge thugs they might have a wee bit less to be defensive about. They might want to think about that sort of thing when votes like this one come up.

UPDATE: Sigh. Some people in the comments are sticking up for Dick Durbin and his comparison of Gitmo to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. I don’t particularly feel like getting into an argument about this, which is the reason I never even mentioned the flap until now. But I will make one point since it fell right into my lap.

Someone who goes by the name of Scrapiron left the following comment, after which he was summarily banned from ever posting here again:

The amendment should include an automatic death penalty. Of course I also think that the educated idiots should receive the death penalty just for wasting oxygen when they breathe. [Emphasis added.]
Now that, my friends, makes me think of Pol Pot.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:18 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Poll Results

Here are the results of my two wildly unscientific polls where I asked if you could vote in the Democratic and Republican primaries for 2008 today, who would you vote for?

Dem Poll.JPG

GOP Poll.JPG

I did this out of simple curiosity and it would be a mistake to draw any firm conclusions from the results. The Democratic poll responses don’t surprise me at all. Barack Obama did well because he’s popular and he’s a good guy. Nancy Pelosi didn’t do well at all, but that’s mostly because this blog isn’t exactly a magnet for her fan club. Evan Bayh beat the others because he's a moderate - and moderates are the audience I try to write for here in this space.

I will say, though, that it would be a mistake to dismiss Condoleeza Rice as unable to win a primary. The conservatives who read this blog are surely more moderate than conservatives at large, but still, she is only two percentage points away from winning an absolute majority here. Right-wing Republicans very well may sink her in a real live actual primary - just as the Democrats would probably nix Evan Bayh - but you never know. She did do a lot better than Bayh did, for whatever that's worth.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:30 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Blogging Iraq

It's true that much of blogging is something other than journalism, but those who say "blogging isn't journalism" as if the two are mutually exclusive haven't seen what Michael Yon is up to in Iraq. He is posting some of the best reporting I've read in a long time out of that country, and I strongly recommend you bookmark him.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

June 21, 2005

“Freedom Fries” and a Timetable

Christopher Hitchens unfavorably compares the so-called "Downing Street Memo" to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code. I have not read The Da Vinci Code, but I did try to read Angels and Demons by the same author and found it so shot through with conspiracy-mongering to make it unreadable even while I was on vacation looking for an escape novel - and I'm not at all one of those people who demand stories be realistic, per se. The next book in line on my nightstand is a vampire novel by Todd Grimson (who often posts in the comments section below) named Stainless.

Anyway, Hitchens' conclusion is the best part of the piece.

The outrage about the nondisclosures in the Downing Street memos has led Congressman Walter Jones of North Carolina to demand that we tell the al-Qaida forces in Iraq exactly when we intend to give up. Jones is the right-wing bigmouth who once wanted to rename French fries "freedom fries." He was a moral and political cretin when he did that and, not to my surprise, he has been unable to stop being a moral and political cretin since. He and his new friends are welcome to each other.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:39 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

Yet Another Syrian Assasination in Lebanon

Lebanon's regularly scheduled political assassination has been completed.

A veteran Lebanese politician has been killed in a bomb blast in Beirut.

George Hawi - former Communist Party leader and an opponent of Syria - died when his car blew up as he drove through the Wata Musaitbi district.

The attack follows the anti-Syrian bloc's victory in elections, the first since Syria ended a 29-year occupation.

It increasingly looks like Lebanon may not be able to become a normal democratic country until the Baath Party is out of power in Syria.

UPDATE: I did not know George Hawi. But I did meet his friend (at the same time I met Samir Kassir, who also was killed by the Syrians) while I was in Beirut. His friend is pictured below, grieving at the site of the bomb blast.

21cnd-hawi.2.450.jpg

I don't remember his friend's name, the one I did meet, the one in the picture. He doesn't speak English. I do remember him telling me - in Arabic with the help of a translator - that one of the reasons he left the Communist Party is because the party was too cozy with the Syrian Baath. So he left and joined the Movement of the Democratic Left. They are clearly at the top of the Syrian hit list right now. Samir was a member of the Democratic Left also.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

Totally Unscientific Polls

I'm curious where you all stand. Help me out.

If you could vote right now in the Democratic primary for 2008, who would you vote for?
Barack Obama
John Edwards
Nancy Pelosi
Hillary Clinton
Evan Bayh

  

Free polls from Pollhost.com

If you could vote right now in the Republican primary for 2008, who would you vote for?
Rudy Giuliani
Condoleeza Rice
John McCain
Bill Frist
Jeb Bush

  

Free polls from Pollhost.com

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:15 AM | Permalink | Comments Off

June 20, 2005

Raising the Level of Discourse

“The Commenter” says, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, that his blog is “feverishly committed to lowering the level of discourse.” So many blogs actually do this that’s nice to find one that doesn’t. His new post on religion and ethics is your latest required reading assignment.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:30 PM | Permalink | Comments Off

June 19, 2005

Predatory Coffeeshop Capitalists!

David Adesnik fisks a perfectly silly front-page article in the Washington Post about how Starbucks supposedly ruins college students forever – yes, even into retirement – with their high-priced fancy-pants lattes.

That article is only about Starbucks on the surface. The complaints therein could apply to absolutely any coffeeshop, anywhere, owned by anyone – corporate, independent, or co-op. (No newspaper in the Pacific Northwest would dare publish such a ridiculous piece. That would be like bitching about wine and cheese in France or burritos in Mexico.)

I am not a starving college student who has to count his pennies, but I’m not rich either. I make my living writing and editing and I don’t have a day job. You figure out how much money I probably make. It ain’t six figures yet, let’s put it that way.

I don’t “waste” three dollars a day on gourmet coffee. I spend, on average, six dollars a day. That’s twice as much as college students who are supposedly wrecking their future are spending. So I’m being financially raped twice as badly by Starbucks and every other tin pot coffeehouse exploiter in Portland. Woe is me! Where do I sign up for the class-action lawsuit?

If coffeeshops left Portland I would have to leave Portland along with them. I can’t live anywhere that doesn’t have coffeeshops and, no, I’m not kidding. When I was in college I did my homework in coffeeshops and, yes, I’m still paying off my student loan that partially funded those lattes. Today – every day – I get at least half my work done in coffeeshops. I don’t have an office to report to. But I have to get out of the house and go somewhere during the day. Coffeeshops are my “office.” I’m not going to take my laptop and hang out at McDonald’s for four hours in the middle of the afternoon. Six dollars a day for “office space” rental that comes with lattes instead of cheap drip coffee is a pretty good deal, I have to say.

What this silly anti-Starbucks screed fails to take into account is that coffeeshops create a pleasant “third space” environment (meaning it’s neither work nor home) for people to spend quality time in. That’s something worth paying good money for. Feeding a caffeine habit at home can never replace that.

Complaining that Starbucks rips off college students and ruins their future financial livelihood, as though it were some nefarious predatory capitalist plot, strikes me as a product of the same reactionary impulse that drives fundamentalism: the fear that someone, somewhere, might be having fun.

If you think three bucks for a latte is a rip-off, fine, don’t buy lattes. But don’t think you can get some hard-hitting investigative journalism out of that little opinion of yours without being scoffed at.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:52 PM | Permalink | Comments Off
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Winner, The 2008 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

Winner, The 2007 Weblog Awards, Best Middle East or Africa Blog

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