October 30, 2003

The Left Self-Destructs

Democratic Senator Zell Miller has endorsed George W. Bush for president.

Life-long left-liberal Roger L. Simon has endorsed George W. Bush for president.

Life-long left-liberal Cara Remal has endorsed George W. Bush for president.

All in the last three days.

Fred Barnes responds:

[Zell Miller's] endorsement is important for several reasons. With Miller on board, Bush will have a head start on forming a Democrats for Bush group in 2004. Such a group would woo crossover votes from conservative or otherwise disgruntled Democrats next year. In 2000, an effort by the Bush campaign to form a Democrats for Bush organization fizzled.
It probably won't fizzle this time.

Democrats: You had better snap out of denial and get your act together fast. You are in so much trouble and you have no idea.

I'm sure conservatives feel like the cat that ate the canary. But if you're like me, even if you know where Zell and Roger and Cara are coming from, this is a major drag. So click on over to Andrew Northrup's place and at least get a good laugh out of it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:36 PM

The Left Veers Right

Roger L. Simon captures my disillusionment with the left in two sentences.

I remember the day, and it wasn't so long ago, that liberals like me were attacking our government for supporting dictators. Now these new "liberals," or whatever they want to call themselves, attack our government for taking down dictators.
Yep. I suppose they could plead “isolationism” as an excuse for the inconsistency. But the left has never been isolationist. Never. That’s the position of the old right. The tragedy of the liberals is that a whole swath has run off the farm to join Pat Buchanan in Palookaville. And I used to say that if Buchanan were elected president I’d have to move to Canada.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:02 AM

Pacifism and Human Rights

Johann Hari writes in London’s Independent:

I want one person to dare to write to this newspaper and say with a straight face and a clear conscience that the Iraqi people would be better off now if we had left Saddam Hussein in power. Just one.
Read the whole thing. Please.

And I’d like to second Johann’s request. I dare one person to leave a comment on this site saying Iraq would be better off with Saddam. Just one. Anyone?

UPDATE: Okay then. One blogger really does think Iraqis would be better off with Saddam.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:00 AM

October 29, 2003

A Snake that Eats its Own Tail

Zeyad, an Iraqi dentist blogging from Baghdad, on the recent suicide bombings:

Suicide attacks are carried out by you-know-who. This is Bin Ladens gift to his fellow Iraqi Muslims. Didn't he say it himself a while ago? I demand that all Iraqi diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia and Syria cease immediately. I demand that we expel all foreign Arabs from Iraq until further notice. A little firmness is necessary. We can't just sit and wait for the next attacks. Iraq should resign from the Arab League which is just a symposium for dictators. Who the hell needs it anymore? They didn't even officially show sympathy for Iraqis after the attacks. They should be considered the enemy unless they act promptly to secure their borders and ensure that no Mujahedeen sneak through to Iraq daily. They are the ones to blame. We all know they have an interest in keeping up the attacks and the chaos. They are aware of the fact that they are next on the list after Saddam. They will pursue every possible effort to make the Iraqi example fail. When attacks are carried out in other Arab countries they consider it terrorism, but in Iraq it is resistance against the occupying Americans.
From an earlier post last week:
Someone has been writing graffiti all over Baghdad threatening to kill children who accept the new schoolbags that are to be gifted to them by UNESCO for the new school season. Also warning that any hand waving to the infidel Americans will be cut.

Are these people sane? I mean what are they thinking? Is this our latest form of 'resistance'? Threatening our own children for getting some shiny new schoolbags. I am trying very hard to understand. This so called resistance is getting hated more and more by Iraqis everywhere. I'm sure this will only add to that scorn exponentially. They are losing any sympathy they may have had earlier. The terrorists have turned out to be MUCH dumber than I thought.

I am not a religious person. I don't believe in any tangible thing called Evil, at least not in the Satanic or Biblical sense.

That aside, there is no better word to describe the thugs who are wreaking destruction in Baghdad. They are evil. I'm also with Zeyad on this. They're dumb. They're made blindingly stupid by their own evil. Utterly incapable of winning popular support, they thrash about violently consuming themselves and others around them. It is no way to win a popularity contest. If we faced a genuinely popular insurgency in Iraq, we'd have one hell of a serious problem. But this crowd is the absolute scum of the earth, and most Iraqis know it. If we don't run away, they are not going to win.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:15 AM

October 27, 2003

Why They Hate Us

Even after the terrorist massacre at the International Red Cross center in Baghdad, Red Cross spokeswoman Nada Doumani still doesn’t understand the world she is living in.

Maybe it was an illusion to think people would understand after 23 years [working in Iraq] that we are unbiased. I can't understand why we've been targeted.
Mrs. Doumani. You are not unbiased. You are trying to help the Iraqi people. You are not on the side of the Baathists or the Islamists. You represent civilization and the West. And you work for the Red Cross, not the Red Crescent.

We don’t yet know who committed this atrocity. But it isn’t too hard to narrow it down. You’re the enemy of whoever turns out to be responsible.

The Baathists want to drive out the internationals and then kill their way back into power. They want their old jobs back so they can steal, torture, imprison, rape, and enslave.

More than two years have passed since Al Qaeda attacked New York and Washington. For more than two years the world has known, and should have been able to grasp, that the “infidel” is their enemy. You, Mrs. Doumani, are an “infidel.” You are not an Islamic fascist. So you’d better watch your back and quit pretending you are a neutral. You will never please them. You can never appease them. You will never earn their trust, their thanks, or their respect. Never. Get used to it. When they say they want to kill you, for your own sake, for all our sakes, take them at their word.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:01 PM

October 26, 2003

New Tech Central Station Column

I have a new Tech Central Station column up: The Crucial Alliance.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:32 PM

The New Skinheads (Updated)

I thought the organizers of anti-war demonstrations had reached the nadir of their depravity. But I was wrong. The downward slide continues.

We already knew that the organizing activists are Stalinists. The Workers World Party and its "anti-war" front International ANSWER make no secret of it.

The WWP claims on their Web site:

We don't jump on the bandwagon when Third World leaders are demonized.
That’s an understatement.

Here is an article they recently published praising Kim Jong Il’s repulsive prison-and-barracks state in North Korea. The writer Tom Scahill swoons over the totalitarian state's “accomplishments” and can’t find a single thing to admonish.

Meanwhile, International ANSWER throws in its lot with the fascists.

The anti-war movement here and abroad must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance.

Its unconditional support.

Well. I’m glad they cleared that up.

The so-called “resistance” is made up of three primary groups. Saddam’s Baathist remnants, local theocratic Islamists, and foreign foot soldiers for Al Qaeda.

I can forgive those on the old left who once had a romance with Communism. As Leszek Kolakowski wrote, Communism is the degenerate bastard child of the Enlightenment. Vicious as it was, at least some of the ideas sounded nice. The results were horrific; engineered famines, mass graves, prison camps, and bone piles. But equality and solidarity were the rallying cries. It was an irresistible siren song for some well-meaning fools.

Fascism, though, is another matter. It isn’t a bastard child of the liberal Enlightenment. It is deliberately anti-Enlightenment. Freedom, equality, and global solidarity are hardly the talking points. It is explicitly belligerent and genocidal. Look at the Baath Party and its racist ethnic cleansing campaign against Jews and Shiites and Kurds. Look at the Islamists and their brutal persecution of secularists and “infidels,” their perverse dream of a global Islamic Inquisition. They would put the Jews to the sword. They promise to turn the United States into a sea of deadly radiation. They throw acid in the faces of unveiled women. The Baathists massacred ethnic minorities with chemical weapons. They fed dissidents into tree shredders.

These are the people for whom the anti-war organizers express their "unconditional support."

This isn’t Marxism. It’s not a “good cause” gone bad. It’s fascism all over again with Islamic characteristics.

The hindsight of history gave old Communists some slack, so long as they didn’t commit atrocities themselves. Supporters of European fascism didn’t get off so easy. They are unsparingly damned by history.

Supporters of Middle Eastern fascism may find a similar terrible judgement awaiting them in the future. Those in the West are the 21st Century's skinheads.

POSTSCRIPT: Let me clear up any potential misunderstanding in advance. I am referring specifically to the rally organizers at ANSWER, not to every person who shows up to protest or who opposes the war.

UPDATE: Yesterday the "resistance" carried out a terrorist massacre against aid workers in Baghdad. An ambulance was loaded up with a car bomb and then detonated in front of the International Red Cross. This is what International ANSWER supports unconditionally.

UPDATE: Some peace activists agree with me.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:30 PM

October 23, 2003

South America Photo Album

Four weeks from today Shelly and I begin our annual trip out of the country. This time we leave for fifteen days in Central America. One week in Antigua, Guatemala, and another on an island off the coast of Belize.

There is nowhere I would rather visit than Latin America. The culture is so…seductive. It is poorer, but friendlier. Both familiar and exotic. Full of heat and passion, warmth and light. I miss it when I am away.

Last December we went to Chile and drove 2,000 miles along the length of its spine. For those who like road trips, it is the perfect country. Smooth open roads, well mapped and signed. Beautiful cities, exotic landscapes, delectable food (the best outside France), and the sweetest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world. Their friendliness is embarassing.

Tonight I browsed through our photo album and I remembered what we said to each other on our way home to the cold and rainswept north. We promised that we have to go back.


Lush farmland in the valley between the mountains and the sea.


Me on horseback in the Andes.


The lovely hilltop seaside city of Valparaiso.


Modern Santiago.


Skyscrapering Santiago.


Museo de Bellas Artes.


Old Santiago.


Plaza de Armas.


Barrio Brasil, inner-city Santiago.


The road north through the Atacama Desert, the driest place on the Earth.


A roadside shrine.


Salt. It is everywhere in the north.


Church in San Pedro de Atacama.


Volcan Licanabur, Cordillera de los Andes. The base of the mountain is two miles above sea level. We gasped for breath gazing upward.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:19 PM

October 22, 2003


What do you feel like reading?

If you're in the mood for guilty pleasure, read this.

If you're in the mood to laugh, read this.

If you're in the mood for an emotional punch in the stomach, read this.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:36 PM

October 21, 2003

An Inquiry into Neoconservatism (Updated)

James Atlas in the New York Times compares today's liberal hawks to yesterdays neoconservatives - liberals and leftists who became Republicans after the rise of the New Left in the 1960s and 70s.

He surveys some of the most prominent among us; Michael Ignatieff, Michael Walzer, Paul Berman, and Christopher Hitchens. He ends with a summary and a question:

In the early stages of their ideological development, neoconservatives saw themselves more as reformed liberals than as true conservatives. Mr. Bell, who predicted "the end of ideology," identified himself as a socialist; Mr. Kristol identified himself — in a famous formulation — as a liberal who has been "mugged by reality."

Yet in the end, all were liberals who, by the 1970's and the midpoint in their careers, were proud to identify themselves as neoconservatives, who were not the heirs of classical conservatism but rather had discovered the limitations of liberalism. A neoconservative, it might be postulated, is one who read and repudiated Marx; a conservative, one who read and embraced Hume, Locke and Hobbes.

This generation of liberal intellectuals, like its precursors, prefers to see itself less as a political coalition than as an assemblage of writers with diverse views — which of course it is. Ideological labels are always provisional. Yet however much their attitudes toward the war in Iraq differ from those of such contemporary neoconservatives as William Kristol and Robert Kagan, they are heirs of the same intellectual tradition. Given this, can they still be classified as liberals? Or could it be that they've become . . . neoconservatives?

My answer is, no. We are not neoconservatives. At least I am not. Michael Walzer, who edits the leftist Dissent magazine, definitely is not, nor will he likely ever be. Hitchens is independent. Berman is still very much a Bush-hating leftist, though he is at least as hawkish as I am, if not even more so.

It's an interesting question, though. Am I becoming a neoconservative? It’s not the sort of question, given the neocon history, that I can't bat away with a wave of my hand.

It helps to understand what neoconservatism actually is. Irving Kristol, supposedly its godfather, is a good person to check with. He wrote a rather lengthy piece about it a few months ago for The Weekly Standard.

[O]ne can say that the historical task and political purpose of neoconservatism would seem to be this: to convert the Republican party, and American conservatism in general, against their respective wills, into a new kind of conservative politics suitable to governing a modern democracy.
I have to say this makes me chuckle. Neocons aren’t reactionaries, and they know the right-wingers are.
Neoconservatism is the first variant of American conservatism in the past century that is in the "American grain." It is hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic. Its 20th-century heroes tend to be TR, FDR, and Ronald Reagan.
So far, so good, except for the Ronald Reagan bit. The Roosevelts were liberals, after all, so far be it from me to complain when Republicans decide they like liberals.

About Reagan: Look. I don’t hate Reagan, and I understand why others like him. His famous words at Brandenburg Gate, “Open this gate” and “Tear down this wall,” give me a lump in my throat to this day. But for every good thing there was a very bad thing, such as his support and praise of the genocidal Guatemalan dictator Efraín Rios Montt.

Such Republican and conservative worthies as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked.
I’ve no time for any of those figures either. And I’ll overlook Coolidge and Hoover a little less politely.
One of these policies, most visible and controversial, is cutting tax rates in order to stimulate steady economic growth.
Now I do have a problem with this. I also have a problem with people who only want to raise taxes. So it’s not that I’m against cutting taxes, per se. But how long are we going to keep banging away at this? No one likes paying taxes. I hate it. But we need to be realistic. Sometimes taxes should be increased, and sometimes taxes should be decreased. I don’t like writing or arguing about this, but suffice it to say that I can only be convinced cutting taxes is wise 50 percent of the time. We can’t cut taxes down to zero, and at some point Republicans are going to have to acknowledge that taxes have been cut as much as they can be cut and find something else to do.
Neocons do not like the concentration of services in the welfare state and are happy to study alternative ways of delivering these services. But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on "the road to serfdom."
In other words, neocons are moderates on this question. Fine. So am I. I have tremendous respect for the New Deal, and I also appreciate small-l libertarianism. If “libertarian socialist” were not a contradiction in terms, that’s what I’d be.
The steady decline in our democratic culture, sinking to new levels of vulgarity, does unite neocons with traditional conservatives--though not with those libertarian conservatives who are conservative in economics but unmindful of the culture.
I definitely part ways with the neocons here. I’m a left-libertarian and have been my entire adult life. It’s a personality thing more than an intellectual thing. I love Amsterdam and similarly liberal places. I find conservative towns, like Salem Oregon where I grew up, to be suffocating and culturally comatose. Give me the dope legalizers over the morality police. Please.
The upshot is a quite unexpected alliance between neocons, who include a fair proportion of secular intellectuals, and religious traditionalists. They are united on issues concerning the quality of education, the relations of church and state, the regulation of pornography, and the like, all of which they regard as proper candidates for the government's attention.
I am not religious at all. I am a completely secular ex-Christian agnostic, raised by a liberal Christian mother and a conservative atheist father. Traditional Christianity has no place in my life, and it never has. I don’t mind at all that other people are religious, but I will not have my personal life regulated by scipture or by people who would impose holy writ on me. I’ve no beef with pornography, and I want an extra layer of mortar on that wall between the church and the state.
AND THEN, of course, there is foreign policy, the area of American politics where neoconservatism has recently been the focus of media attention… First, patriotism is a natural and healthy sentiment and should be encouraged by both private and public institutions. Precisely because we are a nation of immigrants, this is a powerful American sentiment.
Second, world government is a terrible idea since it can lead to world tyranny. International institutions that point to an ultimate world government should be regarded with the deepest suspicion.
I am opposed to a single world government, but I am not oposed to loose and provisional world governance, so long as dictatorships have absolutely zero influence within it. An International Criminal Court, if it is administered responsibly by democracies, has the same merits going for it as regime-change in Iraq.
Third, statesmen should, above all, have the ability to distinguish friends from enemies. This is not as easy as it sounds, as the history of the Cold War revealed. The number of intelligent men who could not count the Soviet Union as an enemy, even though this was its own self-definition, was absolutely astonishing.
I agree with that completely.
Barring extraordinary events, the United States will always feel obliged to defend, if possible, a democratic nation under attack from nondemocratic forces, external or internal. That is why it was in our national interest to come to the defense of France and Britain in World War II. That is why we feel it necessary to defend Israel today, when its survival is threatened. No complicated geopolitical calculations of national interest are necessary.
Here, too, I agree.

So it seems that when it comes to foreign policy, I do agree with most aspects of neoconservatism, which, to my mind, is hardly different from 1990s neoliberalism. And I appreciate that the neocons are moderates on many other questions. They can keep the rest of it, though. And no one should expect me to sign on. There is no reason I should suddenly have warm feelings for Jerry Falwell and Phyllis Schlafly just because I want democracy to replace fascism in Iraq. One thing has nothing to do with the other.

So when James Atlas at the New York Times says we liberal hawks are turning into conservatives, I have to say sorry, but no. Foreign policy is one subject among many. I may have a neocon wrench in my toolbox, but my liberal and libertarian tools are awfully useful, too. Neoconservatism may have its virtues, but Independence is better.

UPDATE: British lefty Oliver Kamm has more on the exact same question.

UPDATE: Josh Cherniss also has more.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:40 AM

October 19, 2003

Not Pacifists

It looks like the majority of likely Democratic voters in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are looking for a presidential candidate who backed regime-change in Iraq.

I've said it before. Liberals and Democrats are not pacifists. Pacifism may make intellectuals and activists swoon. But not the rank and file.

The Democratic Party is an unstable coalition of mutually hostile factions. The left-wing is in total denial. Implosion (at least in the short run) is a real possibility.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:17 PM

A Brief History Lesson


So sayeth Life Magazine in January 1945.

We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease.
Blah blah blah.

Read more at Jessica's Well.

(Via Oxblog.)

UPDATE: Oops. Make that January 1946, not 1945.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:01 PM

21st Century Liberalism?

Disaffected Democrat Gerard Van der Leun wants to export the American Revolution to the entire human race.

Arrogant? Perhaps. But it sure beats "Bush=Hiter."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 PM

A Losing and Immoral Strategy

Because the Democrats want to relegate Iraqis to what Patrick Lasswell calls "indentured servitude" by saddling them with loans, he has decided to change his party affiliation from Independent to Republican.

I do not think all that much of many of the Republicans in control of the local constituency, but on the whole, that is more of a challenge than a matter for despair...The Democrats have embraced isolationism instead of opposing the next holocaust and they are as damned for that position as the Republicans were in 1941.
Way to go, Democrats. Selling your own values up the river is a losing strategy. It alienates the independent center and your life-long adherents.

You will not win respect or elections or power this way.

Liberal blogger Bill Herbert gets it right.

Support democracy in Iraq. And debt forgiveness.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:46 PM

October 17, 2003

Nothing to See Here?

Malayasian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Nazi-like rant is whitewashed by the media.

The EU prepared a text condemning his remarks. Can you guess which European president blocked the condemnation? This is apparently what the French mean by "sophisticated."

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:35 AM

Easterbrook Apologizes

Gregg Easterbrook has apologized for his Jews "who worship money above all else" post a few days ago.

No problem, Gregg. At least none from me.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:25 AM

October 16, 2003

We're Back

Charles Johnson says Hosting Matters was subject to a massive denial of service attack Thursday night that was targetted against a specific site. (Not his.) This blog was down for hours. Most of the blogs on my blogroll were down for hours.

Someone wants somebody to shut up. But no! We're back. Nice try, punk.

UPDATE: Well, well. Glenn Reynolds says the attacks on the blogosphere last night came from Al Qaeda-affiliated sites. The primary target was Aaron Weisburd’s Internet Haganah. His site is still down as of this posting, but you can read what he has to say about it here.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:25 PM

October 15, 2003

Schizophrenic Liberalism

Here's a new liberal hawk blog called One-Sided Wonder by Anne Cunningham.

I sure can relate to this.

I use the expression "the left" advisedly; I make a distinction between between being a liberal & being leftist, considering myself to be the former. I like the word "liberal" because it has two meanings, the current American definition of supporting New Deal/Great Society-type policies, and the more old-fashioned definition of favoring limited government. Since I vacillate between these two states of mind all the time, it feels appropriate to call myself this, even though the two definitions really contradict one another.

And this.

Some of my friends are concerned by how conservative I seem these days. I supported the war, whereas many of my friends did not, & the gap has only been widening as time goes on. I love Christopher Hitchens, & my friend Christine's theory is that I turned to the right when he did, as though riding in the sidecar of his ideological motorcycle. (Picture me in goggles, scarf flapping in the wind.)

I think, however, that one difference between the majority of my friends & me is that I was largely raised by my grandparents. (The American ones.) Although they were liberals, they were 30s liberals rather than 60s liberals. My grandfather fought in World War Two. Being raised by him seems to have resulted in a more old-fashioned patriotism on my part.

Of course, the thing about Hitchens is that he didn't really turn to the right. He has been aggressively anti-fascist for a long, long time. He didn't change much. His (and our) former comrades did. They broke their solidarity with Iraqi Kurdistan and dumped the old left slogan that says Fascism Means War.

Sometimes I wonder: Do they ever feel like they are missing an arm?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:29 PM

October 14, 2003

Racism at the New Republic?

What the heck is up with this in the New Republic by Gregg Easterbrook?

"Set aside what it says about Hollywood that today even Disney thinks what the public needs is ever-more-graphic depictions of killing the innocent as cool amusement. Disney's CEO, Michael Eisner, is Jewish; the chief of Miramax, Harvey Weinstein, is Jewish. Yes, there are plenty of Christian and other Hollywood executives who worship money above all else, promoting for profit the adulation of violence. Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence? Recent European history alone ought to cause Jewish executives to experience second thoughts about glorifying the killing of the helpless as a fun lifestyle choice."
Sigh. It's everywhere now, isn't it? It's really everywhere.

Of all the political magazines I read, the New Republic reflects my views the most. But not today. Not this time.

Martin Peretz, it's time to have a chat with your employee. But no one needs to tell you that.

Gregg Easterbrook: Apologize, and I mean really apologize, or get off my blogroll.

UPDATE: Some readers in the comments think Easterbrook is making a reasonable point badly and isn't actually anti-Semitic. That's possible, hence my question mark in the title of this post. He wrote this on his blog, and I know how easy it is to say something dumb while writing "live" without an editor. But he has quite a hole to dig himself out of. Any writer who "accidentally" writes this sentence should probably think again and hit the delete key: "Does that make it right for Jewish executives to worship money above all else, by promoting for profit the adulation of violence?"

See Roger L. Simon and Meryl Yourish for brutal dissections.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:45 PM

October 13, 2003

The Libertarian Temptation

When I first met my wife Shelly she said she had “libertarian curiosities.” Noooooooo, I thought to myself. I had been there. I had done that. And I said so.

Back in the early 1990s I joined the Libertarian Party. I didn’t know much about it at the time, but I did know they favored freedom more than anything else. It helped that they were different from the Democrats and Republicans. 1960s left-overs were unappealing then as now. And the 1992 Republican convention in Houston, where Pat Buchanan declared a “culture war” on America - with the nightmarish Pat Robertson by his side - was enough to keep me out of the GOP for a long long time.

I was put on the Libertarian mailing list. It turned me off pretty fast.

They wanted to legalize dope. Fine, fine, I’m still fine with that. They also wanted to abolish the IRS. They wanted to privatize the roads and set up toll booths to pay for it. (Any idea how much the tolls would cost each time?) They wanted to quadruple my college tuition by yanking subsidies from universities. They would have ruined me.

So back to the Democrats I went, convinced that Libertarians were a crazy-ass cult of liberals seduced by right-wing loopiness.

Since then a lot more people have joined them. They haven’t joined the Party, necessarily, but they do call themselves libertarians. They are small-l libertarians, not the goofballs I knew.

Thank goodness for that saving small-l. It mellows them. And now their ideas are spreading.

Matt Welch has a new piece in Reason about a young libertarian leader in France.

Sabine Herold, to put it mildly, is not your typical Frog. Herold, the 22-year-old leader of Liberté, J’ecris Ton Nom (Freedom, I Write Your Name), has in the last few months emerged as the massively popular and highly photogenic leader of -- zut! -- a burgeoning pro-market, pro-American counterculture in France. Earning comparisons to Joan of Arc, Brigitte Bardot (!), and Margaret Thatcher in the panting British press, she represents something French politics hasn’t seen in years: a public figure eager to take on the country’s endlessly striking unions.
My mother’s second husband gets tremendous rewards from his union. I’ll never be able to hate them. I owe, we all owe, tremendous thanks to the labor movement for bringing us weekends (as well as lots of other goodies), even if we aren't in a union ourselves. French unions, though. Hmm. They are to ours what the French Revolution was to the American Revolution. In other words, they are not my step-father’s unions. Go for it, Sabine. Take them on.
It is startling to hear any Parisienne, let alone a college student, drop references to F. A. Hayek in casual conversation, describe Communists as "disgusting," or lead pro-war demonstrations in front of the American Embassy. Herold is fond of issuing heretical statements guaranteed to make any good fonctionnaire’s skin crawl.
I must say that I like this woman. She doesn't seem to be one of the doofuses who sent me crazy mailings in the 90s.
"It’s annoying," Herold says, "because in France, we start striking, and then we go to negotiate. It would be so much more interesting to go negotiate first, and then if nothing happens, just go on strike. I don’t know, maybe it’s an old love of the Revolution, or that people missed World War II and they want to be in another kind of Resistance."
In other words, French unions should be more like American unions. And not be such poseurs. The French resistance is dead, along with its spirit.
"I think one of the big problems in France is that we are anti-American without knowing why," she says. "It’s just kind of a natural thing. I mean so many people I meet are anti-war, and they’ll just say that Bush is stupid and the Americans are awful imperialists. It’s just their typical answer, and they never think of why. That’s crazy. I think it’s because we’re all being brought up like that, especially at school. It’s incredible how we’re taught about America -- they’re always explaining, for example in geography or history courses, how Americans are imperialistic."
Indeed. The French think that we are what they used to be. It’s axiomatic for them. If it takes a libertarian to make them come to their senses, then that’s fine by me.

It’s not news to everyone but it is news to me that there are different kinds of libertarians, just as there are different kinds of lefties and righties. Reason magazine is a lot more…reasonable than I would have thought. As Matt Welch told me, their libertarianism is not an ideology. Rather, it is a way of looking at the world. Social liberalism plus a healthy respect for the market economy.

I've never been totally comfortable with the Democrats, but my frustration with them right now is higher than ever. I've been tempted many times to declare myself libertarian again. The folks at Reason are some of the smartest around, certainly preferable to the fossilized anachronisms at The Nation. They're also more refreshing than the crusty old conservatives at National Review, though NR does save itself with Victor Davis Hanson's brilliance and Jonah Goldberg's humor.

I've received a great deal of email from moderate libertarians inviting me over to their side. Join us, they say. We’re the centrist alternative you’ve been looking for.

Well, maybe. Sometimes. But not always. They have an isolationist streak that doesn’t work for me at all. They fight my beloved New Urbanism. And I still can’t get out of my head the stateless utopia of toll-booths.

I’m weary of ideology. I’m not in the market to buy one. So I will have to pass. But I’m glad the French are getting a whiff of this stuff. They need it. And its influence in America, though it sometimes can be extremist, is welcome.

My wife’s curiosities were more worth having than I realized three years ago. Libertarians matured while I wasn’t watching. So I take back what I said about them back then.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:34 PM

Death Cult Chic

Andrew Apostolou has the scoop on Palestinian death cult "art" in Greece.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:56 PM

October 12, 2003

If the Shoe Fits…

An anonymous reader emails Glenn Reynolds, and Glenn responds approvingly.

Your link to the Ebadi story reminds me of what the WaPo, NYT and the AP did after the fall in the Soviet Union. All of a sudden the most hard-line communists became, miraculously, "conservatives." Now, in Iran, the WaPo uses "conservative" to refer to the mullahs, with the implication that "conservatives" are against freedom. Used out of an American context and left undefined this leaves the reader unaware that American conservatives were/are in the vanguard in supporting freedoms for people in the Soviet Union and in Iran.
Yes, and far too many "liberals" were astonishingly comfortable with the Soviet Union, just as too many seem to regard Fidel Castro as admirable even today.
Let’s unpack this.
All of a sudden the most hard-line communists became, miraculously, "conservatives."
There was nothing miraculous about it. The hard-line communists were conservatives. They were a part of the ancien régime, the old establishment, a throwback to the past. They were not liberals, and they were not progressives. They were profoundly retrograde and reactionary. You can call them conservative leftists if you want, but they’re still conservatives.
Now, in Iran, the WaPo uses "conservative" to refer to the mullahs, with the implication that "conservatives" are against freedom.
That’s because in Iran the mullahs are conservatives and they are against freedom. And unlike Russian conservatives, they aren’t leftists. The mullahs are right-wing no matter which way you slice it. You can’t call them liberals, you can’t call them progressives, and you can’t call them leftists. At least not honestly.
Used out of an American context and left undefined this leaves the reader unaware that American conservatives were/are in the vanguard in supporting freedoms for people in the Soviet Union and in Iran.
Of course these terms are out of an American context. We’re talking about Russia and Iran, not America. “Conservative” is a disposition, not an ideology, and so its meaning is always relative to the local context. Conservatives defend the existing political order against change. That is their function. The status quo in America is liberal and democratic, therefore American conservatives are liberal democrats. (Note the use of small-l “liberal” and small-d “democrats,” which refers to something more general and broad than the left-wing of the Democratic party.) In Russia the old status quo was Communist, and the revolutionaries and progressives were the liberal democrats. In Iran the status quo is Islamist, and so Iran’s ruling mullahs are right-wing in every meaning of that phrase.

It’s true that toward the end of the Cold War the American right more so than the American left was concerned with freedom in the Soviet Union. And nearly every American, left or right, is in favor of freedom in Iran right now, though it’s also true that the right is more passionate about it. But this isn’t exactly a news flash, and it certainly doesn’t justify calling the Iranian mullahs anything other than “conservative” unless you choose to cut to the chase and call them fascist. Both “fascist” and “conservative” are accurate descriptions and, in the Iranian context, are not mutually exclusive.

Yes, and far too many "liberals" were astonishingly comfortable with the Soviet Union, just as too many seem to regard Fidel Castro as admirable even today.
This is true, thanks to those saving quotes around “liberals.” The Soviet Union and Cuba were and are breathtakingly illiberal. A good friend of mine admires Fidel Castro and sincerely believes Bush is Hitler. But she is a radical leftist, not a liberal.

Political terms lose their meaning over time because their abuse isn’t corrected often enough. Complaints about calling the Iranian mullahs “conservatives” doesn’t help. The shoe fits, and so the mullahs will wear it.

There is no honest way for American conservatives to say or even imply that Iranian conservatives favor freedom. Iranian liberals favor freedom. If American conservatives feel funny about sympathizing with Iranian liberals, perhaps that’s because they’ve spent too much time turning “liberal” into a swear word.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:36 PM

October 9, 2003

California's De-Alignment

Christopher Hitchens once said the Washington Post is a great newspaper because you never know on which page you’ll find the front-page story.

Its opinion page is also unpredictable. Today a conservative columnist boos Arnold Schwarzenegger, but a liberal columnist likes him.

Here is George Will:

[T]his exercise in "direct democracy" -- precisely what America's Founders devised institutions to prevent -- has ended with voters full of self-pity and indignation….
Oh lighten up, Will. This is America. Sneering about democracy may be acceptable to a certain kind of conservative, but it’s also un-American. This ain’t the 18th Century, baby. So what if the Founding Fathers saw direct-democracy as “mob rule.” Brilliant and radical and visionary as they were, they didn’t allow us to elect our own senators, they refused the rights of women to vote at all, and they kept African slaves in their chains. They are not the final authorities on democracy. The word may make you itch, but we have progressed since then.
The odor [emphasis mine] of what some so-called conservatives were indispensable to producing will eventually arouse them from their swoons over Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In other words, citizen activism smells. It smells bad to George Will even when it defeats his crappy opponents. At least he is sincere in his loathing.
Then they can inventory the damage they have done by seizing an office that just 11 months ago they proved incapable of winning in a proper election under ideal conditions.
There is a reason conservatives can’t win a proper election in California. It’s an overwhelmingly liberal state, and the local Republican Party wallows in right-wing kookery. No moderate can win the primary, so no Republican is electable.

But enough with George Will. His liberal colleague Richard Cohen gets it. Same paper, same page, same day.

As with Ronald Reagan before him [Arnold], I may abhor some of his policies but I can't help liking the guy.

This is the most valuable quality a politician can have nowadays -- sheer likability -- and it is one that Gray Davis sorely lacks. The more Davis campaigned -- and the more he pandered to his liberal base -- the more he cemented antipathy. He would have done better just staying in bed. He looked dour, a scold -- no fun. Californians canceled his show.

Indeed they did, just as I cancelled my fisking of George Will. And for the exact same reason.

I like Arnold, too. It isn't a left versus right deal. Roughly half of California’s Republicans voted against him, and roughly half the Democrats voted for him. Left-wing and right-wing reactionaries are united in their disgust, and the moderates of both sides are united in their support.

Richard Cohen is right. This is about personality at least as much as it's about ideas. Maybe that’s shallow, but it’s also reality. The divide here is partly between those who know how to lighten up, and those who don’t. Between those who have a sense of humor and cool, and those who would rather heckle and scowl and complain. Between those who support what works, and those who would rather martyr themselves on the cross again.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:25 PM

Blogroll Addition

I don't always announce new additions to the blogroll, but I want to today.

Those who read the comments section already know Christopher Luebcke. For those of you who don't, he's a left-wing peace activist. And like Randy Paul, he knows how to keep me honest and on my toes.

It is possible to disagree with me even about the big stuff and get my attention and my respect. If you want to know how it's done, read Christopher. He's on the sidebar now.

(Though I should add that I agree with him more often than I don't.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:08 AM

October 8, 2003

No Terrorist Threat?

Jeff Jarvis reports:

Michael Moore says on the Today Show: "There is no terrorist threat."

Lester Holt, shocked, says is there not evidence of a terrorist threat just two miles away?

Moore says, "How many people died because of terrorisn last year? None."

Let's be charitable and assume Michael Moore meant that terrorists killed no Americans on American soil last year. (Americans were killed by suicide bombers in Israel and Indonesia.) Moore completely ignores UN aid workers, Australians, Indonesians, Pakistanis, Indians, Russians, Moroccans, Israelis, Filipinos, and Iraqis murdered by terrorists in the past twelve months.

But his big whopping idiocy is this "no terrorist threat" business. He should pay at least a wee bit of attention to what the Al Qaeda boys say they want to do to us.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:06 PM

Quoted in Chicago

I am quoted in this story by Maureen Ryan in the Chicago Tribune about bloggers who move into mainstream journalism. (Free registration is required, but you can log in as "laexaminer/laexaminer").

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:30 AM

October 7, 2003

Third Wave Politics

Roger L. Simon writes:

The media still do not get it. They are reacting to the size of Schwarzenegger victory like the Soviet nomenklatura did to the end of communism. They can hardly believe it is happening. Well I have news for them—something much bigger than they know, probably than Schwarzenegger himself knows, is going on here. We are not witnessing a Republican victory. The Republican Party in California remains a minority party. Most of the Republican true believers voted for McClintock.

What we are witnessing is the beginning—the early movement--in the death of the two-party system as we know it. This is a revolt of the pragmatic center.

I hope Roger is right. The pragmatic center is surely where I belong right now. And this is increasingly true for most of my 30-something friends, whether they started out as liberals (as is usually the case) or as conservatives.

The Democratic Party is now more unpopular than at any time since before the New Deal. And that was seventy years ago. Where I live, in Oregon, the most popular political “party” is Independent. Both the Republicans and Democrats are rightly considered wing-nuts or hacks. Roger may be right. It’s possible that the two-party system is a relic from another era. And by that I don’t mean the pre-911 era. I mean the time before the high-tech information revolution.

The two-party system worked nicely during what futurist Alvin Toffler calls “Second Wave” or Industrial civilization. But the “Third Wave” post-industrial high-tech information civilization is a world apart. Now is not the time of mass movements and conformity. This is an era of diversity and specialization, of individualism and niche groups. The world is becoming increasingly complex, and it is just not possible to reduce everything to an ideologically binary system.

Yesterday in the bookstore I leafed through Al Franken’s new book Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Now, I like Al Franken just fine. He’s a decent enough guy, and he can often be funny. I bought Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot when it came out, and I enjoyed his skewering of the GOP’s most prominent blowhard. And though he (rightly I’m sure) makes short work of Bill O’Reilly and Ann Coulter in his newest release, I just don’t have much interest in the partisan party line game anymore. It feels tinny and out of date, and in the final analysis, it’s boring. I can no longer learn anything useful from spending my time with this sort of thing. It’s politics reinvented as sports. Our team versus their team. Whatever.

The most interesting non-fiction “current events” books are not being written by the Frankens and Coulters of the world; they are written by people who are not easily ideologically categorized and who don’t reduce everything to bumper sticker slogans and talking points. Alvin Toffler’s The Third Wave comes to mind, as does Nonzero by Robert Wright and The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel. And for those interested in international issues, you can hardly do better than Step Across This Line by Salman Rushdie and Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman. Berman, Rushdie, and Wright are unconventional liberals, and Toffler and Postrel are centrists.

Excessive bipartisanship leads to a de-facto one-party state. But that is a very different thing from non-partisanship, which leads to a no-party state. I am more and more convinced that this is exactly what we need.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:12 PM

Losing His Virginity

Roger L. Simon says he is losing his virginity all over again. Today he is voting for a Republican for the first time ever.

Of course, he's talking about Arnold in California, a liberal Republican who is hated by the right-wing, but he still seems a bit rattled.

I did it once, Roger. It was for local office and the guy was a liberal Republican, too, and it was no big deal. You'll survive.

It made me feel good, actually, since it proved I could break out of my own box when necessary. Since then I've also voted both Libertarian and Green, which further weakened the chain the Democrats have on me. I'll probably cut that chain completely pretty soon. And, no, I won't replace it with another one.

UPDATE: On a slightly similar note, in a great piece Gerard Van der Leun says all American politicians must themselves be virgins.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:14 AM

October 5, 2003

Baathists Whine at the UN

Syria demands that the UN Security Council condemn Israel for defending itself by striking an Islamic Jihad training camp across the border. Israelis, naturally enough, think that's preposterous.

Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman, speaking after Mekdad, accused Syria of providing "safe harbor, training facilities, funding, logistical support" to terrorist organizations.

He said the strike was a "measured defensive response" and an act of self defense that did not violate international law.

He said it was ironic that Syria which Israel accuses of harboring terrorists, should call for a meeting to condemn the attack and compared it to Osama bin Laden demanding a Security Council meeting after the Sept. 11 attacks.

It will be interesting to see how the UN responds to this. Who will take the side of the Middle East's only liberal democracy? And who will take the side of the terror-sponsoring Baath Party regime in Damascus?

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:18 PM

Israel Attacks Syria

Israel has attacked a terror base deep within the borders of Syria.

JERUSALEM - Israeli warplanes bombed Syria on Sunday, striking what the military called an Islamic Jihad training base in retaliation for a suicide bombing at a Haifa restaurant. It was the first Israeli attack deep inside Syrian territory in three decades.


"Any country who harbors terrorism, who trains (terrorists), supports and encourages them will be responsible to answer for their actions," government spokesman Avi Pazner said.

A direct military response by Syria appeared unlikely. One parliament member, George Jabbour, said military action has not benefitted Syria in the past.

It's about time Israel did something about this. Syria has attacked Israel with impunity and without retaliation for far too long.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:49 AM

October 3, 2003

Normblog Profile

Professor Norman Geras has a new feature every Friday on his site where he profiles someone from the blogosphere. This week he profiles me. (Scroll down, blogspot archives are hosed.) There are some things you can learn about me over there that you haven't read over here.

Norm also has a great piece called An Unusual Voice. Be sure to read that while you're over there.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:54 AM

October 2, 2003

A Blog's Milestone

According to my Site Meter, after eight months of blogging I have received over a quarter of a million visitors.

Gosh. I'm really flattered. Honest.

Thanks to everyone who stops in to read what I have to say. Thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to link to my site. Thanks to all the reasonable people who post in the Comments section; you really do help me think things through.

And, mostly, thanks to everyone who disagrees with me and is kind enough to hear me out anyway. I can be awfully opinionated, I know. Thanks for putting up with me.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:32 PM

The Eleventh Commandment

National Review still admires Reagan's 11th Commandment: Never speak ill of another Republican.

This is one of the dumbest political rules I know about. It's the reason both political parties get defined by their wing-nuts instead of by their moderates.

Thankfully, liberal Republican Adam Sullivan pitches the 11th Commandment over the side, and is still at war with right-wing lunatics.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:29 PM

Tweaking Allah's Nose

I knew it would happen eventually. I have finally brought the wrath of Allah down on my head:

Michael J. Totten: Even more far-fetched than [Roger L.] Simon. Professes to be a leftist who voted for Ralph Nader in the last election but who nevertheless does not like it very much when the mujahedeen kill Americans. If you had studied more before inventing your cover story, kufr, you would know that the proper leftist response to the murder of Americans by Muslims is delight at the fact that it makes Bush look bad.
All I can say, Allah, is that I'm still waiting for that first paycheck from Ariel Sharon.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:26 PM

Why the Power Goes Out in Iraq

American electrical engineers in Baghdad are not incompetent. They are not sitting around eating pizza by flashlight while Iraqis live in the dark.

The Iraqi "resistance" keeps knocking over the power lines.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:19 PM

October 1, 2003

Joe Wilson: Hysterical Moonbat (Updated)

I said I wasn't going to write about the Wilson/Plame scandal. Okay, so I'm breaking my promise already. The liberals need to be saved from themselves.

Kevin Drum says the Republicans have an odious attack plan to smear Joe Wilson as a radical leftist. Instead, Kevin says Wilson is just a regular ol' liberal.

No, Kevin. Hold back. You really don't want to go there.

Take a look at this piece Wilson wrote for The Nation.

Here is what he says about the liberation of Iraq:

The underlying objective of this war is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations...Nothing short of conquest, occupation and imposition of handpicked leaders on a vanquished population will suffice...Arabs who complain about American-supported antidemocratic regimes today will find us in even more direct control tomorrow.
What complete and utter hysterical nonsense. Surely, Kevin, you don't think this is the liberal point of view. Please say it ain't so.

UPDATE: In the comments some people are defending Wilson from the moonbat charge. I'm not calling him a moonbat because he's against the war in Iraq. I'm calling him that because he thinks we are a bunch of imperialists hell-bent on lording it over the vanquished. Will the left please put that meme to bed. It is a hysterical and defamatory conspiracy theory, not to mention exceptionally counter-productive.

I am not commenting on the other aspects of this scandal right now because I've barely paid attention to it. I don't know enough to have an informed opinion. At least not yet.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:39 PM

Reuters Watch

From Reuters: Police Open Fire to Break Up Iraqi Jobless Protest:

Police opened fire on Wednesday to break up crowds of angry jobless Iraqis -- including former soldiers -- demonstrating in Baghdad and Mosul as frustration at the country's economic woes boiled over. In another of the virtually daily attacks on occupying forces, a female U.S. soldier was killed and three of her colleagues were wounded by a bomb near a former palace of ousted leader Saddam Hussein used by the U.S. military as an army base.
You might think from those first two sentences that US troops did the shooting. But if you go here, it is clear that Iraqis did the shooting. That being the case, the first two sentences of the Reuters article have absolutely nothing to do with each other. The second sentence is completely unrelated to both the first sentence and to the headline.

Also, did the Iraqi police shoot at people or did they fire their guns in the air? Who knows? The reporter does, but he doesn't feel like telling us.

The Reuters piece doesn't lie. It's just sloppy and ambiguous. It misleadingly links unrelated facts, and it leaves the critical details fuzzy.

A high school student could report better than this.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, the second link in this post no longer points where it did when I posted it. The url at the other end is no longer related to this story.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:51 PM

Dead Tyrant’s Society

There is a terrific scene in the film Dead Poet's Society where prep school English teacher Mr. Keating (played by Robin Williams) has his students read aloud from a bloviating essay called “Understanding Poetry” by J. Evans Pritchard.

If the poem's score for perfection is plotted on the horizontal of a graph and its importance is plotted on the vertical, then calculating the total area of the poem yields the measure of its greatness."
Mr. Keating tells his bored and timid students what to do with it.
I want you to rip out that page. Go on. Rip out the entire page. You heard me. Rip it out. Rip it out! Go on. Rip it out! [...]

Keep ripping, gentlemen! This is a battle. A war. And the casualties could be your hearts and souls. Thank you, Dalton. Armies of academics going forward, measuring poetry. No! We'll not have that here. No more Mr. J. Evans Pritchard. Now, my class, you will learn to think for yourselves again. You will learn to savor words and language. No matter what anybody tells you, words and ideas can change the world.

Yes, indeed.

Little kids in Iraq will get the same sort of lesson this year, only on a much grander scale.

New Saddam-free textbooks are being printed, but they are not expected to be available until November. So students will open their books and face a variation of that old test question: identify the object that does not belong with the rest. The correct answers will require tearing out full-page pictures of Mr. Hussein and drawing lines through the paragraphs about the Baath Party's Great March.

"We want the exercise to teach students and teachers that the days of fear are finished," said Fuad Hussein, an adviser to the Ministry of Education, who has been supervising the de-Baathication of every textbook, from first-grade readers to high-school physics texts.

Rip them out, kiddos. I want to hear nothing but ripping!

(Via Who Knew?)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:11 PM

This Blog is not a Tabloid

I haven’t written anything about the Wilson/Plame scandal. And I may never write about it except for this post.

Hysterical conservatives spent years of emotional and intellectual energy consuming the details of Whitewater. And for what? Kenneth Starr’s report in the end showed the Clintons had done nothing wrong.

If this shapes up to be an impeachable offense, then I’ll sit up and pay attention. Until then, count me out. It fills me with extreme torpor just reading about it, let alone writing about it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:12 AM

Iraq is Not a Quagmire

Via Samizdata.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:21 AM