June 30, 2004

To the Sahara

Weíre off.

We leave for Rome in a few hours. Tonight will be the third night in five where I spend the night on an airplane. The day after we get to Rome we fly to Tunisia. Thank God thatís a short one. By the time we get there I will have spent almost 50 percent of a week having my every move micromanaged in part by a state and in part by a corporation. But hey, within the space of six days Iím seeing three foreign capitals on three continents for the first time, so itís worth it.

When Libya was on the itinerary I was not planning to blog from there. But Tunisia is run by a relatively enlightened benign dictatorship, a bit like Jordan or Morocco with a president instead of a king. So stay tuned! Iím not afraid to blog from there, so I will when I can.

Hereís a piece in The Atlantic Monthly called Roman Africa by Robert D. Kaplan that triggered my interest in visiting Tunisia in the first place. If you donít know much about Tunisia, you might be surprised by what itís like. Itís the Costa Rica of Arab North Africa, profoundly influenced to this day by the civilizing influence of the Roman Empire. Tunisians are bilingual (speaking both Arabic and French), their culture is fairly liberal, and they get a proper education. Radical Islam is pretty thin on that ground. Should be good times.

Donít be strangers. This blog is still live.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at June 30, 2004 08:52 AM

I'd wish you bon voyage if I weren't so intensely jealous.

Posted by: double-plus-ungood at June 30, 2004 09:05 AM

Have a great trip!

On my blog, at http://tomgrey.motime.com/1088546909#301296
I've put letters between Anne C. (pro-Kerry, mostly anti-Bush) and myself, pretty pro-Bush.

The last comment (at the top) is based on the Left's unwillingness to specify standards, like slightly bad, bad, very bad and quantify them. Anne hasn't come up to that plate either -- care to take a crack at the Abu situation? Or Iraq? Or the economy?

Kaplan's article makes me think Powell should stop in at Tunisia -- I'm jealous of your visit, too.

Posted by: Tom Grey at June 30, 2004 09:19 AM

So you're flying to Rome as a stopover to Carthage?

Posted by: Independent George at June 30, 2004 09:48 AM


I've always had this problem with the left, going back as far as I can remember. There is a complete unwillingness to quantify, or to admit that quantity has any moral significance at all. A typical response to me if I raised the question of political prisoners in communist countries would be: "Well, there are political prisoners in the west too, one is no better than the other." So, perhaps there were some political prisoners in the west (debatable), but a few here was precisely equivalent to millions there, no moral distinctions. It is impossible to argue with people holding such a view, because every society has a few imperfections. It is also deeply irresponsible, for it excuses any "mistakes", such as Stalins crimes.

Posted by: chuck at June 30, 2004 11:27 AM

Good luck, good flight, Have fun! Don't forget to stop worrying about the real world for a few days while on vacation. A vacation filled with the everyday, mundane cares will not be nearly as restful.

If you are looking for something to read while in airports and hotels, give the The Principia Discordia a read. You'l laugh and shake your head and look confused, all in about the space of two sentences. Nonsense is good sense on vacation.

Posted by: Ratatosk at June 30, 2004 12:55 PM

Remember - Tatooine Homestead! Pictures! Beggar's Canyon, Sandpeople, all that ;)

Posted by: Barry at June 30, 2004 02:08 PM

Have a good trip, Mr. Totten.

Posted by: RoguePlanet at June 30, 2004 02:41 PM

Congrats on setting up your trip! the Kaplan article was fascinating, I hope you take masses of photos and post them, no?

Posted by: John Cunningham at June 30, 2004 10:14 PM

So the war-mongering Arab hater wants to go to Tunisia? Doesn't make sense.

Why not Israel instead? His nose is already up their anus big time, so why not go all the way? Maybe he'll be offered to kill a Palestinian child, for free. Just as the Jews themselves do.

May the flies of thousand camels visit your armpits MJT.

Posted by: Anti-MJT at July 1, 2004 05:10 AM

"May the flies of thousand camels visit your armpits MJT."

Looks like they have already visited the blog comments.

Posted by: chuck at July 1, 2004 07:26 AM

I wish you fair winds and a flowing sheet, Michael.

Enjoy and learn. I'm happily anticipating your reports from the road.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 1, 2004 10:12 AM

anti --

That comment is completely lacking in class. Aren't people allowed to disagree with you? Are all your opponents "evil"?

Grow up.

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2004 10:40 AM

Have a good trip, Michael. I envy your ability to "get away."

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2004 10:42 AM

Michael, enjoy your trip.

Meanwhile, here's a little story that failed to make much of a splash:

U.S. expels 2 guards at Iran's UN mission for filming

The United States has expelled two security guards at Iran's United Nations mission after they were observed filming New York landmark buildings and parts of the city's transportation system, American officials said Tuesday.

"They were asked to leave because we were very concerned about their activities, which weren't compatible with their stated duties," said Richard Grenell, the spokesman for the U.S. mission.

The language is common diplomatic- speak for espionage cases.

The two men were ordered out this last weekend after Iranian guards were seen for the third time in two years videotaping bridges, tunnels, the Statue of Liberty and other landmark buildings, according to an American diplomat who asked not to be named.

He said the pair were not the same two men who had been seen in earlier incidents in June 2002 and November 2003. The men, who were not identified, left Saturday night, the official said.

Ah, those scenic tunnels....

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 1, 2004 12:24 PM

Those senic tunnels are pretty cool. My wife tried to take a picture as we entered the Holland Tunnel. I freaked and grabbed her camera. Glad we weren't expelled! Also took pictures of "New York landmark buildings and parts of the city's transportation system". Didn't know we were spying!

Tunisia is apparently pretty liberal. I know of a Mormon girl who was an exchange student to Tunisia, spent most of her time at the beach and at night clubs. She felt these 'muslims' were much more liberal than she.

Hope you get to Lybia!

Posted by: Mark Hamm at July 1, 2004 01:45 PM


»That comment is completely lacking in class.

This is hardly a "classy" joint. Applauding invasions of foreign countries, expressing the wish to hang members of foreign royal houses,
urging nuclear bombing of foreign countries. What's next? Propagating rhe advantages of genocide?

»Aren't people allowed to disagree with you?

Address that to MJT. He bannes everyone that disagrees with his extremist views.

»Are all your opponents "evil"?

I know that MJT is. And I have it straight from that horse's blabbermouth, right here.

»Grow up.

So that I too can finally see the beauty of nuclear war? I think not.

Posted by: Anti-MJT at July 1, 2004 01:47 PM

Michael, congratulations! You've spawned a hate industry!

Hey Mark Hamm, those were employees of the Iranian Government, and guests in our country. We asked Iran to make their people knock off the filming because we found it kinda creepy. They didn't. We asked the Iranian pseudo-Michael Moores to leave. Is that hard to understand?

OTOH, I do understand your feelings about normal tourists (and natives) getting harrassed for taking pictures of New York landmarks. Hell, on another site I went off on the stupidity of stopping people from photographing the Brooklyn Bridge. Of all the structures in North America, that one has got to be the best-documented of the lot. Want to look for weak points? Go to Barnes & Noble and drop a few hundred bucks on some books. It'll be cheaper than buying a good digital camera, and you won't have to do as much walking.

So yeah, I've got no problem with you and your wife taking whatever pictures you want. Unless of course you take a few hundred shots of the ventilation superstructure for the Holland Tunnel and sell them to the Iranians. Then I'd send you both to Guantanamo.

But maybe that's just me.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 1, 2004 02:03 PM

Anti --

Your response reinforces my point.

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2004 02:20 PM

I feel insulted. I'm certain I've made the case here before that we haven't killed nearly enough individuals and that our dance card has at LEAST two more countries pencilled in for regime change; MJT is just the owner of the place.

He's got no monopoly on politically incorrect observations by any stretch of the imagination.

Oh, and will all the killing before us end terrorism? No - but by removing those individuals, groups, and governments that have reduced the populations of the mideast to hostage status and then investing in democratization in the aftermath, maybe, just maybe, we can midwife a wave of citizen-sovereign governments that won't breed Islamikazis, mullahocracies, and al Qaeda.

Maybe. One thing is absolutely for certain: if draining the swamp doesn't work (either because we give up in the face of partisan sabotage, or because the cultural inertia is just too great to be swayed by mere aid and education), history has provided ample examples of how the problem before us was addressed before. The problem isn't going to go away, and the electorate isn't going to tolerate any more 9/11's.

I wish there were some way to impress upon the peoples of the muslim world what kind of fire they are playing with. I really do.

Posted by: TmjUtah at July 1, 2004 02:20 PM

TmjUtah --

You are absolutely right. If we are unable to affect change in the Middle East by "draining the swamp," the attacks on us are likely to continue. None of the solutions tried in the past have worked, and I haven't heard any better ideas proposed. The Islamofascists are not going to stop attacking us, and when (not if) they cause another 9/11, they will learn the meaning of Total War.

I, for one, would prefer to avoid this. I cannot for the life of me understand why the Left seems to disagree.

Posted by: Ben at July 1, 2004 03:47 PM

Troll bait gets taken! especially without more pearls from MJT (doesn't it sort of seem like a coffee brand?)

Anti- the "beauty" of a nuclear war comes:
1) after Iran (Saudi Arabia? Syria?) get nukes and
2) they support terrorists getting nukes and
3) demonstrate they got'em.

I still fear first for Tel Aviv, despite the higher security that city has; though the yacht into a NY / DC / LA / SF harbor is also pretty frightening.

If you're not afraid of this possible future, you should be. Whether Bush or Kerry is more likely to reduce the probability of it happening is what the debate should be mostly about.

Posted by: Tom Grey at July 1, 2004 11:48 PM
@Tom Grey:

Let me quote from your letters:

The reality on the ground in Iraq won't change with 1000 more Frog or Kraut troops

I don't think I have to tell you what is wrong with that statement.

Posted by: Senator Bozo at July 2, 2004 02:34 AM

Tom Grey:

»Anti- the "beauty" of a nuclear war comes:
»1) after Iran (Saudi Arabia? Syria?) get nukes
»2) they support terrorists getting nukes and
»3) demonstrate they got'em.

The only state in the world that has this far used nuclear weapons is the good old US of A.
Your credibility in lecturing other countries in "peace, love and understanding" is nil.

According to US law, it is forbidden to cooperate with and aid countries that posess nuclear weapons, that is, countries who have solemly promised they don't have'em.

Israel is one such country. Everyone knows about their nuclear arsenal, which btw could wipe out the entire Mediterranean. But that is obviously no problem for the US. Against its own regulations and laws, one administration after another hands out those billions of dollars to Israel, year by year. Somehow I have the feeling no one will ever get prosecuted for this.

»I still fear first for Tel Aviv, despite the
»higher security that city has; though the yacht
»into a NY / DC / LA / SF harbor is also pretty

You watch too many silly movies.
But, just for the debate's sake, put yourself in these people's shoes. What would you do in their stead?

And bear in mind that they, although being culturally retarded, technology challenged, and generally disordered, harbor the same human reactions as any other person in the world.

So imagine that some tribe of people after 2000 years come to your country, steal it, drive you out, kill several members of your family and then introduce apartheid, where you'd be on the short end of it. What would you do? How would it feel?

»If you're not afraid of this possible future,
»you should be.

I am most afraid of you Americans. Youy are a nation that has lost both it's mind and it's decency. You, with your unmotivated invasions, are the greatest threat to world peace.

Don't be surprised if we europeans turn on you too in the future. Most of us already despise you.

Posted by: Anti-MJT at July 2, 2004 04:31 AM


I am most afraid of you Americans. Youy are a nation that has lost both it's mind and it's decency. You, with your unmotivated invasions, are the greatest threat to world peace.

Thank you for bringing a smile to my face so early in the morning.

What you demonstrate is a basic lack of imagination. If we were the beasts you describe, you'd be ending all your sentences with "Sir yes sir!" when addressing any given American. That's because we would have selectively destroyed any european cities where we didn't get full cooperation of the citizens in supressing dissent. You'd be a continent of Vichy governments, and you'd be comfortable with it because you always have been.

So imagine that some tribe of people after 2000 years come to your country, steal it, drive you out, kill several members of your family and then introduce apartheid, where you'd be on the short end of it. What would you do? How would it feel?

The dirty little nugget in the center of this is the assumption that "tribe" trumps all. (Nietzsche, anyone?) We ignorant Americans are a culture built on the idea that tribe does NOT trump all. We do in fact hold certain truths to be self-evident. That lets this redneck from West Virginia get along fine with his Latina girlfriend from the Bronx. And if you don't think those are two different tribes, you don't know Jack about America.

My greatest fear for world peace is that the folks promoting global jihad will get a Bomb and get their wish. My second greatest fear, to turn more serious for a moment, is that Europe's unassimilated Islamic populations will push hard enough to light a fire under the xenophobia that so charmingly rears it's head in your sainted lands on a pretty regular basis. When the race riots start in Paris, and the Sarin is released in the Paris metro,all bets are off regarding what happens with the force de frappe.

Of course, it's easier to bite at the ankles of something that you know deep-down isn't going to retalliate than to face up to a real threat, isn't it? Grow up little dog.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 2, 2004 06:54 AM

Actually, writing that felt far too good in a very bad way.

I realize Europe is no more monolithic than America. I know many people there love liberty, hate intolerance, and will stand or die for justice.

Anti on the other hand really does think he represents a monolithic Europe, and I think he does represent a significant chunk of Western Europe's chattering classes.

That's the chunk of Europe my previous post addressed. The Chamberlains, the Vichys, the Honecker's. I happily include Chirac in that honor role. Those who saw a greater good (or a tactical advantage) in appeasing evil. That Europe is dispicable. Eventually, the rest of Europe will have to decide if those are the kinds of people who should be calling the shots for their countries.

Posted by: Mark Poling at July 2, 2004 07:04 AM
Sheesh. Race riots and Muslim takeover in Europe, democracy turning into martial law and neo-imperialism in the USA!

I'm off to Hong Kong! Enjoy your declining Western civilization while it lasts, suckers!

Posted by: Senator Bozo at July 2, 2004 07:07 AM

Well, since the board is rather quite, I'll post a poem I wrote not long ago for everyones reading pleasure. Maybe Micheal will get a laugh out of it to reduce the stress of the travel:

A Chaosmas Carol
For your chaotic edification:

"Alas, I am lost!" quoth Omar one day.
"I can't find the road and I can't find my way."
"Of course you cannot," spoke a voice from behind,
"You seek and you seek, but you cannot find."

Omar turned quick, like a Fleet Footed Freeb,
and Fleet Footed Freebs turn quite quickly indeed!

And what do you think that poor Omar found?
'Twas a Great Golden Apple sitting there on the ground.
"An Apple?" he said "Why apples can't talk!"
"For an apple is quiet, like a tree or a rock."

He then heard a giggle, from near his right ear,
but turning around he saw no one near.
"This cannot be real! This cannot be right!"
"I must be asleep in my bed in the night."

"You know what is real?" the voice asked in surprise.
"But what if what's real is more than you realize?"
Omar sat down, right there in the road,
and who should he see but Great Old St. Toad!

"No,no!" said old Omar. "That isn't O.K."
"Toads should not walk or dress in that way."
"Why not?" asked St Toad, with a St. Toady smile.
"Come walk with me, Omar, and talk for awhile."

So Omar got up and walked with St Toad.
And they walked and they walked, they walked right off the road!
They walked for awhile to some stairs under ground,
then they went down, down, down, down and then down.

To a place where a wizened old gentleman sat.
He looked like he should live somewhere in Tibet!
"Come Hither, Come Hither" said the wizened old man.
"I'm the Great Dealy Lama, please come shake my hand."

"You mean Dali Lama," Omar said with a grin.
"But you are not he, I know you're not him."
"Of course I am not," said the man with a snort.
"I am not of Dali Lama's sort."

"Eris sent you to visit this place...
but I'm not sure why, from that look on your face."
"Eris?" said Omar, "I'm afraid I don't see
why a silly fake goddess would bother with me."

St.Toad gave a gulp, and a look of pure fear.
"Don't say she's a fake... just maybe she'll hear!
And if she hears you say you don't think she's real,
she might turn you into a Hagbardian Eel!"

"Oh yes," said the guru, "he is very right,
and Hagbardian Eels are a very strange sight.
They have fourteen legs and 3 extra eyes,
and I hear they have wings, but not one of them flies!"

Omar sat down, just sat on the floor.
He thought and he thought and he thought a bit more.
"I don't think its true, I don't think its right.
I think I'm asleep and dreaming this night."

He heard a giggle from somewhere close by,
and then he heard a sound, just like a soft sigh.
But the sigh was a wind that picked him right off the floor,
blew him up the stairs, and right out the door!

It blew him way up in the air and away,
it blew him through the air for most of the day.
And finally, he landed, with a soft gentle thump,
he landed right there, in the great city dump.

And down by his shoe, he heard softly "Ahem".
A very strange roach was staring at him.
"I say , do you mind?"the little roach said.
"Your silly windstorm woke me right out of bed!"

"Well it wasn't my storm," Omar said with a groan.
"If I could do that I'd just blow myself home!"
"Oh ho!" said the roach. "Then I know who you are!
I'm known as St. Gulick, and your named Omar!"

"That's right," Omar said, "but how could you know?"
"And I don't think they make saints as small as my toe."

"Oh Discordian saints, can be any size,
what matters is what you have on the insides."

"I'm confused", Omar sighed, "What's real and what's not?
Before this strange day, I'd not given it thought."

"Of course you did not, for your face was all grey,
and your brain was all hunched, because you never play!"
The little roach smiled and said "Follow me,
for I have some stuff that you'd love to see."

He followed St. Gulick, through a small Nissan trunk
and stood in surprise, for there in that junk...
Was a mansion so great with celings so high,
he couldn't believe it, but boy did he try!

Then a curious thing, the roach on the floor,
grew and he grew and he grew up some more.
And what do you think Omar saw with his eyes?
Why St. Gulick had grown up to full human size!

And he had human ears and eyes and a nose.
He had human arms and fingers and toes.
That roach had become an elderly man.
and this was as much as Omar could stand.

"Ok" said our friend, as he trembled with fright.
"This all must be real and Eris is right!"
St. Tibbs smiled and reached out his hand,
saying "I see that you've found your pineal gland!"

Omar was stunned as he felt something strange,
there was something just pulsing right there in his brain!
And suddenly there was that sweet laugh once more
And Eris Discordia appeared at the door.

"Oh no! Oh dear! Oh my!" Omar said.
"I'm sorry I didn't believe what they said!"
"It's ok," our dear goddess said with a laugh,
"I wouldn't believe most of this, only half."

"You see my dear Omar, the foolish and wise,
are not far apart in Discordian eyes."
She smiled and said, "But there is one thing yet.
Do you trust me Omar?" and he said "You Bet!"

She took him by the arm and said "Here we go!
and the very next stop will be my home in Limbo!"

So Omar and Eris, went to Limbo for tea.
and wonderous works of Chaos did he see.
Then Omar went home and the end of the day,
content with the thought that he'd found his way.

So someday if you find that you've lost your way,
and your brain is all hunched from Greyfaces that day.
Just shake yourself off with a smile and laugh.
But don't believe this, well maybe just half!

Ratatosk, Squirrel of Discord
Muncher of The ChaoAcorn
Chatterer of the Sacred Word of Eris

POEE of the Great Googlie-Moogile Cabal

Posted by: Ratatosk at July 2, 2004 10:01 AM

Anti --

I doubt it would do much good to get into an argument with you regarding the relative merits of free societies vs. fascist states and how that topic relates to moral justification. I shall simply note that if you believe that the USA is a greater threat to world peace that Islamofascism, you either need a crash course in morality or a long appointment with your shrink.

Posted by: Ben at July 2, 2004 01:48 PM

Islamofascists!!! Then you all are hristionofscists!!!

Posted by: Sabat at July 2, 2004 08:55 PM

I believe Sabat might have misunderstood. "Islamofascism" is a term meant to distinguish radical, crazy, oppressive strains of Islam, such as advocated by Osama bin Laden, from mainstream Islam.

Are there "Christianofascists?" I'm not certain, but perhaps there are. Certainly there are Christians with fascist leanings in their politics. They just happen not to be a major force in the world at the moment.

Posted by: Dean Esmay at July 4, 2004 03:47 AM


Happy Independence Day! And in the spirt of this great day I issue the following demand - US out of UN, UN out of US!!!!!! And even further, let’s impeach judges that cite foreign law in their opinions.

Our ancestors fought and died to gain and preserve our independence. And today, we are betraying their sacrifice by subordinating our sovereignty to the UN and allowing a handful of judges to usurp the power of the executive and legislative branches and impose their will over the will of the American people.

This must end if we wish to remain a free people.

Posted by: HA at July 4, 2004 06:41 AM

»Then you all are hristionofscists!!!

You're wrong. These people aren't even acting in their own interest. They're merely servants of the Jews.

Uncongratulations to all slaves in the land of the unfree! Congratulations to your jewish masters! Lies and deception will take you far.

You, gentile Americans, are the dumbest people in the history of mankind. You deserve to be trampled on.

When the Chinese invade your country in the future, just continue chanting the party line, like you are today. Tell them about your Latina girlfriends, that will surely impress them.

Posted by: Anti-MJT at July 4, 2004 08:20 AM

Goodness, we've become infected with a genuine antisemitic nut case. Wonder where it comes from? In any case, anti, how do you know that the Chinese aren't in on the plot? Maybe the Chinese are the secret power behind the Jews? Could it be?

Posted by: chuck at July 4, 2004 08:38 PM


Nice screed. Way to wait until I leave the country to post it.

You say it makes no sense that I wish to travel among the Arabs. Well, guess what Mr. Euro bigot. The Arabs are infinitely more decent and polite to me than your fellows from the continent. I would much rather spend time with people who smile and invite me to share tea than with rude snots like yourself who sneer at everything and everyone. You have a lot to learn from Arabs. I suggest you take your next holiday in Cairo or Tunis instead of in Paris and perhaps you can get a lesson in how to behave.

Maa salema.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2004 12:56 AM

Odd. I did not add those links in that post of mine above. The computer I am using is strange, and it alters my text when I click save...

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at July 5, 2004 12:59 AM

That's right, don't reply to the relevant questions at all. Just keep on reciting that moronic party mantra.

What makes you, MJT, feel that you're entitled to this pleasant acceptance from people you so obviously hate and mistrust?

Why not tell the Tunisians the same things you're propagating here?

How you think that muslim countries should be nuked. How you'd like to personally hang the members of the royal house of Saud. How your opinion is that Jews can do no wrong, even when they kill your own countrymen, even when they kill children in Israel.

Tell them.

That is, if you dare.

Posted by: Anti Michael Rotten at July 5, 2004 01:23 PM

Anti --

Shut up and go away. No response is required to the incoherent ramblings of a hatemonger like you.

Posted by: Ben at July 6, 2004 07:00 AM

watch out blogging from Tunisia, they have quite a few in jail, for 'subversive use' of the internet, as they call it over there.

Posted by: V-Man at July 8, 2004 09:30 AM

HA - along with the UN, do you also favor a US pullout from the WTO and the IMF? If not, why? Arguably, they are the international groups with the most power to infringe on our sovereignity.

Posted by: Markus Rose at July 8, 2004 03:58 PM
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