November 30, 2004

A Photo Tour of Libya

Like I said in my last post, you'll have to wait for my LA Weekly story before you can read about my experience in Libya. But here's a visual tour. Enjoy. There aren't many pictures of Libya in the world, at least not compared to the number of pictures of other places. I'm happy to contribute a few more.

Tripoli_from_the_Air.jpg

Tripoli from the air.


Tripoli_Hotel_Urban_Wasteland.jpg

We were stuck in this hotel amid an urban wasteland. Can you guess what that object is in the foreground? I’ve no idea. It could be the world's ugliest fountain, but I saw no pipes.


Tripoli_Me_Hotel_Lobby.jpg

Me in the hotel lobby. That’s everyone’s pal there on the wall. The people love him so much they put up his portait everywhere. They just can’t help themselves. He is the sun of Africa. At least that’s what he says.


Tripoli_Agoraphobia.jpg

I got agorophobia walking around Tripoli’s vast empty spaces.


Tripoli_Defunct_Regime_Compound.jpg

Here is one of the regime’s many defunct compounds strewn around Tripoli like so much junk.


Tripoli_Empty_Street.jpg

Tripoli is a safe city, but the sound of machine-gun fire in the background wouldn’t have seemed out of place.



Tripoli_Ghaddafi_Apartment.jpg

How would you like to live in this apartment building? Ghaddafi can’t even leave people alone when they’re at home.


Tripoli_Ghaddafi_Poster.jpg

The bastard is everywhere.


Tripoli_Harsh_Neighborhood.jpg

Can you see now why I said spending two days in Paris on the way home was a sight for sore eyes? Tripoli is awful. There are no soft edges.


Tripoli_Modern_Squalor.jpg

Tripoli was in the orbit of the Soviet Union, and it sure looks the part.


Tripoli_Waterfront.jpg

This is how Ghaddafi “decorated” his waterfront. Tripoli doesn’t feel at all like a Mediterranean city. It is totally walled off from its neighbors and its environment.


Tripoli_Tiny_Mosque.jpg

Here is the smallest mosque I’ve ever seen. It surely provides a nice little respite from the urban hell that surrounds it.


Tripoli_Green_Square.jpg

Green Square is famous, but it shouldn’t be. This is no Italian piazza we’re talking about. It’s a parking lot ringed by a six-lane urban speedway.


Tripoli_Italian_Quarter.jpg

The Italian quarter of the city, built by Mussolini in Italy’s fascist-imperialist days.


Tripoli_Old_City_Skyline.jpg

The skyline of Tripoli’s old city, the only interesting place in the capital.


Tripoli_Old_City_Charming.jpg

Some streets of the old city, while somewhat decrepit, still have their charms.


Tripoli_Old_City_Crone.jpg

An old woman walks the streets of the old city. Women were a rare sight, even in Libya’s largest metropolis. More than 99 percent of the people I saw were men.


Tripoli_Old_City_Havana.jpg

Tripoli’s old city made me think of Havana, not the details but the decay.


Tripoli_Old_City_Squalor.jpg

The old cities in Tunisia are exotic, but the old city of Tripoli is a little too slummy to have that cool Eastern vibe. It’s too run-down and sullen.


Tripoli_Modern_Hotel.jpg

There aren’t many nice modern buildings in Tripoli, but there are a handful. This one is a brand-new hotel that charges 250 dollars a night. I hope the hot water works. It didn’t in my hotel.


Tripoli_Modern_Mosque.jpg

The mosques are always nice to look at. They’re almost the only nice buildings in the entire country.


Sahara_Plain.jpg

Much of the Sahara is a vast arid plain.


Sahara_Mountain.jpg

A range of mountains crosses East to West just south of Tripoli.


Sahara_Old_House.jpg

An old house (I think) on the side of the road in the desert.


Sahara_al_Fatah_Forever.jpg

You can’t even drive in the countryside without running into the regime’s propaganda. Etched into the side of the mountain is “Al Fatah Forever.”


Sahara_Roadside_Propaganda.jpg

More of Ghaddafi’s bullshit hassles drivers on the way up to the city of Nalut.


Nalut_Old_Mosque.jpg

An ancient mosque in the old city of Nalut.


Nalut_Ksar.jpg

Human honeycomb. You might recognize this Berber architecture. You’ve seen it in the Star Wars movies. George Lucas used similar sites in next-door Tunisia as film sets.


Sahara_Driving.jpg

Driving in the desert toward the city of Ghadames, the fabled “jewel of the Sahara.”


Ghadames_Old_City_Cemetary_and_Sahara.jpg

A cemetary at the edge of Ghadames, and the vast empty Sahara beyond.


Ghadames_New_City_Mosque.jpg

Enormous minarets rise above the new city of Ghadames.


Ghamames_Old_City_Entering.jpg

Here is the entrance to the old city of Ghadames. It is beautiful and intoxicating, but people are forbidden to live there. Ghaddafi evacuated the city at gunpoint and forced everyone into modern concrete block housing.


Ghadames_Old_City_Passageway.jpg

The city isn’t underground. It was built with a roof on it to keep the summer heat out and the winter warmth in.


Ghadames_Old_City_Skylight.jpg

The city is lit by skylights. Some passages are pitch black even at midday. The inhabitants memorized the walls.


Ghadames_Old_City_Door.jpg

If Libya were a normal country and Ghadames were a normal city this place would be packed with hotels, coffeeshops, restaurants, internet cafes, and desert adventure tour offices. But Libya is not a normal country and the old city of Ghadames is an unwilling ghost town. At least I was free to walk around in it.


Ghadames_Old_City_Open_Air.jpg

Not all of the city is “underground.” Paths connect the houses and main streets to outdoor gardens.


Ghadames_Old_City_Traditional_Decoration.jpg

It isn’t quite right to call this decorative style “Berber.” It is unique to the city of Ghadames.


Ghadames_Inside_Traditional_House.jpg

This is what the inside of a traditional Ghadames house looks like. A family still owns and keeps up this house as a showpiece, but they are no longer allowed to live in it. Imagine being forced out of your own house by the state and shepherded into a concrete compound.


Ghadames_Cafe.jpg

Somehow Ghaddafi was persuaded to allow one single café to set up shop in the old city .This is what Ghadames would look like if it were allowed to live, if the indigenous Berber culture were not being erased by the regime.


Sahara_Empty.jpg

I walked to the edge of the city to snap this picture. Imagine setting off for someplace else in the old days before roads and cars were invented. Then imagine doing it in August when the Sahara is the hottest place on the Earth. (It is quite nice in November, a comfy 70 degrees Fahrenheit.)


Sahara_Algerian_Border.jpg

That line of trees is the Algerian border. The mountain of sand is inside Algeria. You can walk into Algeria from Ghadames, but no one I talked to had ever been there. It still isn’t safe. Just a week before I arrived some German tourists were found dead right across the border, presumably killed by Salafis.


Sahara_Big_Dune.jpg

The biggest dunes I saw in Tunisia were six feet tall. The dunes in Libya rise more than 300 feet.


Sahara_Dune_in_Sunlight.jpg

I climbed to the top of the dunes to watch the sun set. It took a long time.


Sahara_Silver_Dune.jpg

The dunes turn silver at twilight. Look to the horizon, past the wide distant mesas. You see what looks like a mountain range? That’s the Grand Erg Oriental, an enormous sea of sand that stretches hundreds of miles into Algeria and Tunisia.


Ruins_Leptis_Magna_Arch.jpg

The spectacular Roman ruins at Leptis Magna are better than anything I’ve seen in Italy. There were no tourists there - only me, Shelly, our guide, and some goats.


Ruins_Sabratha_Theater.jpg

The fabulous Roman theater at Sabratha.


Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:50 PM

Home From Libya

Well, it’s a police state. You knew that already, I know, but it’s obviously a police state when you’re walking around in it. I saw more pictures of Ghaddafi during a week than in all the rest of my life put together. The colonel says he can’t help it if his people love him so much they put up his portrait all over the country. What a card that guy is.

Some of you will appreciate the fact that Ghaddafi’s picture wasn’t the only one plastered all over Tripoli. I saw at least 100 posters of Jacques Chirac (he was in town with much fanfare for Lord only knows what kind of business) and also Comrade Hugo Chavez who came by to pick up his “human rights” prize. Chavez professed solidarity between Venezuela and Libya because, as he put it in Spanish, “our roads go in the same direction.” God help the people of Venezuela. (And Libya, too.)

I have a lot to say about the country, but you’ll have to wait a while for the whole story. The LA Weekly paid me to go, so they get the scoop. You will, of course, get a link to the piece when it is published.

In the meantime, I have to find the dealie that connects my digital camera to the computer so I can upload my pictures. I will post a photo tour and some commentary, hopefully later today. Libya has some eerily beautiful scenery, but the Soviet-style urban planning is ghastly. You’ll see.

I'd also like to publicly thank Jeremy for filling in for me while I was out. It's nice to know my blog is still kicking when I'm in a place where blogging is either reckless or impossible. Good work, bro. Thanks a bunch.

UPDATE: Here's the photo gallery.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:24 AM

Michael is Back in Town

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Those footsteps you hear echoing in the hall mean that, yes indeed, Michael is in the building. He might not be posting immediately, what with the jet lag and all, but the man is back and so this is my last guest post.

I have truly enjoyed guest blogging here for the past ten days. So thanks, Michael! And thanks so much to those of you who stuck around, especially to those who commented; you all made me feel welcome and I'm grateful to you for that and for some lively conversation and debate.

Ah, but this need not be a final farewell. All you have to do is come by my own blog, Who Knew? where the party will continue…

And like the rest of you I'm eagerly awaiting Michael's news from Libya…

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:31 AM

Two Things Dubious Yet Hopeful

Posted by Jeremy Brown

File these under things we'd like to believe but are reluctant to, though it is nevertheless a hopeful sign that the words are even being spoken (you'll have to write small to fit this on the file tab):

The first dubious yet refreshing thing:

The UN should be reformed to make intervention in failing states easier, a commission is set to recommend.

[…]

A year ago, in the wake of the international divisions over Iraq, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan warned the UN was at a “fork in the road”.

He said the organisation had to review its fundamental policies in order to address the increasing threats of global terrorism, weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation.

He asked a panel of 16 veteran diplomats and politicians, chaired by former Thai Prime Minister Anand Panyarachun, to examine ways the UN should be reformed.

The route the panel is set to advocate is much more interventionist, moving away from the UN's traditional emphasis that it cannot meddle in the internal affairs of a member state.

[…]

The panel wants member states to accept a new obligation - a “responsibility to protect” their own citizens.

If they failed to do so, then intervention by the Security Council would be much more likely than under current UN procedures.

The second item, which I would like to think is more reflective of reality (via Harry's Place):

The Palestinian Authority leadership has ordered PA-controlled media to stop all incitement against Israel and Jews, the London-based Arabic daily A-Shark Al-Awsat reported Monday.

The order also pertains to video clips, songs and music videos which call for the continuation of the armed intifada, the paper reported.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:05 AM

November 29, 2004

A Laudable Use of Scare Quotes

Posted by Jeremy Brown

It's good to see this self-effacing tactic — in which a headline declares something while gently shaking its head lest you allow yourself to believe it — being used defensibly. Tell me what you think, but for me the truth of this story is well served, for a change, by the scare quotes in the CNN headline:

Iran confirms 'final' uranium deal

TEHRAN, Iran (CNN) — Avoiding a date with the U.N. Security Council, Iran has reached an agreement with three European powers to fully suspend its uranium enrichment activities, Tehran's chief nuclear negotiatior said.

“We have reached a final agreement with the three European powers,” Hussein Moussavian told Iranian state-run television, referring to the 11th-hour understanding with Britain, France and Germany in Vienna on Sunday evening.

The deal enables Iran to avoid possible U.N. sanctions over its nuclear program.

But this time it's double secret extra final. Sounds good to me.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:18 AM

November 28, 2004

Bush's South America Security Detail

Posted by Jeremy Brown

There is a report today that would seem to vindicate the unapologetic emphasis on keeping presidential security in the hands of the Secret Service during Bush's trip to South America (despite some friction and accusations of arrogance). In Colombia for instance:

Security was extraordinarily heavy in Cartagena as Mr. Bush arrived, prompting one prominent Colombian columnist to remark on what he called American paranoia. Military helicopters bristling with armaments flew over the old walled city, which is nearly 500 years old. The bay was used only by naval and other military boats, including rubber crafts used by American commandos. Mr. Bush used an armored S.U.V., instead of a limousine.

…which seems pretty over the top, considered outside of the contextual framework of this:

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, Nov. 27 - Marxist rebels had planned to assassinate President Bush last Monday during his four-hour stopover in Colombia to meet President Álvaro Uribe, Defense Minister Jorge Alberto Uribe said Saturday, without offering details or proof. “According to informants and various sources, we had information indicating that various members of FARC had been instructed by their leaders to make an attempt against President Bush,” the minister told reporters, referring to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia rebel group by its Spanish acronym.

The White House and the Secret Service declined to comment. Jonathan Cherry, a Secret Service spokesman, said, “We do not discuss any alleged threats to our protectees.”
Posted by Jeremy Brown at 11:27 AM

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Via Alan E. Brain I have come to appreciate the work of Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell, and a grand tradition in which the roots of his vision can be seen.

Here's a cartoon by Steve Bell on the liberation of Iraq, that seems to owe something to this great precedent on the liberation of France.

Alan Brain shows a different example. Here's Bell and here is some Nazi propoganda. Have fun.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 8:14 AM

Out of Libya

I made it. I'm out of Libya and have moved on to a much more dangerous country - France. Think I'm kidding? It's statisically possible I'll be mugged here. And I spent much of the day looking at paintings and artifacts inside France's largest terrorist target. Say what you will about Libya - it isn't dangerous as long as you keep your mouth shut and only engage in note-taking behavior behind closed hotel room doors.

I'm in France because of a booking error. So I'm “stranded” in Paris for two days. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. Hell no. I just spent a week in a physically and culturally arid totalitarian police state. Boy, is this place a sight for sore eyes. I can't tell you what a soothing balm the St-Germain des Pres neighborhood is after wandering around a spiritually pulverizing Soviet-syle metropolis imposed on the good people of Libya by North Africa's Caligula. Yeesh, what a place Tripoli is. No hopping resort town, that. You'll “love” my photos when I can post 'em.

I'll be home shortly. Enjoy the guest-blogging in the meantime. (Thanks, Jeremy, for keeping the blog warm.) Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. I didn't get any turkey, myself. I had camel instead. (Yes, really.)

Cheers.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:20 AM

November 26, 2004

The Four Wars for Iraq

Posted by Jeremy Brown

I'm blogging via Web TV or I'd iclude a proper permalnk, but I would urge you to read a post today by Norm Geras titled “The Four Wars for Iraq.” If I have linked to Norm more than once in my brief tenure at this blog and you want to know why, read that post.

I wish I were more able to read and conribute to comments here, but I'm looking forward to being able to do so again starting Saturday night.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:29 AM

November 25, 2004

Our Turkey Day

Posted by Jeremy Brown

We are staying in a lovely undisclosed hotel in Manhattan very near the Empire State Building which is lit up in red and green. It used to be lovely browns and oranges this time of year, but Christmas comes increasingly early these days.

Anyway, we can see that majestic but lonely skyscraper right from our hotel window and, though I have now been living in rural Massachusetts as long as Ilived in the Big Apple, it makes me teary with pride in this Gotham of my youth (must end this sentence because I have run out of nicknames for NYC).

We had a wonderful feast with the family and my parents courageously ate the sugar-free cheesecake I made for them thought it tasted like drywall joint compound (granted a smooth, high grade brand. For the sugar eaters, Cara's gorgeous apple pie was a smashing success. She couldn't have done it without moral support from me, of course.

I am blogging this from the hotel using the TV internet and I haven't figured out how to copy and paste text, so I'll give you my take on a couple of stories of the day off the top of my head (hey, it's a holiday post; they can't all be gems).

I see that one of the brand new floats in the Macy's Thanksgiving parade was SpongeBob Squarepants. I like that very much. I thought America would lke to know that.

Looks like a hold has been put on the Ukranian election results. While knockng on wood, I think we can stop rocking anxiously in our cushy, faux Queen Anne rocker/recliners now. Maybe.

And Colin Powell's source for the Iranian nuke report has been called into question in some capacity I can't qute recall. A lot of folks enjoy pointing out that he has been in this sort of situation before. But from where I sit, it seems to me that the world pretty much recognized that, while Iraq probably had some sort of chemical or bio weapons way back when (though no one really expected as little as was found) it was pretty widely understood that the Bush Admin was milking that angle to an extreme. It gave people like Kerry something to hide behind so he could vote thumbs up on the war authorization.

When it comes to Iran, no one who has been paying attention has any doubt that the Mullahs have an active nuclear weapons program. So, while the precise details may or may not be as Powell reports, no serious person can say that this is a tale wagging a dog. It's fairly clear, when it comes to resolving an accurate picture of what has really been going on with Iran's nuclear program, the world is playing catch-up.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:55 PM

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

Posted by Jeremy Brown

The best Thanksgiving sentiment I've seen so far today can be found on this blog of this Englishman. Suddenly I find myself in the holiday spirit.

Happy Thanksgiving then to all Americans: Atheist, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Pagan…all those who don't consider themselves under the thrall of a fatwa to the contrary.

But I must load the car and drive now.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 8:56 AM

November 24, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope you all have a good one, even if you don't celebrate this American holiday.

Cara and I are heading down to Manhattan tomorrow to see my family.

UPDATE: If you were a little confused by the next sentence, it's because I meant to post that over at my own blog. I've got to watch out our it will all come crumbling down. What I meant to say is that I will be blogging here every, but at my own blog, maybe.

I'll keep blogging here, as best I can, and will certainly be blogging at Michael Totten's.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:23 PM

Ukraine Links

Posted by Jeremy Brown

I admit I don't know much about what's going on in Ukraine. As I read up on it I'll post some links that seem useful. Here are a few to start with:

A fistful of Euros has numerous links for more information.

Pora, a student pro-democracy organization in Ukraine has a website with frequently updated information (via Harry's Place who also have a number of posts to scroll through)

Instapundit is a good place to scroll through in search of links to people blogging this story.

If you have any links to suggest please add them in the comments.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:15 PM

Two Filmmakers With Eyes Open

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Readers of this blog are probably aware that blogger, novelist, and filmmaker Roger Simon has not failed to understand the message stabbed to the freshly slaughtered body of Theo Van Gogh. Aside from Hollywood's collective lack of shock and outrage over the violent act itself, why has there been so little (read none) evidence of American filmmakers recognizing that war has been declared on the free expression of ideas through film (that being just for starters)?

And we're not talking about a need to grudgingly tolerate the freedom of people to make films bearing reprehensible ideological messages, we're talking about a man being brutally murdered because he made a film exposing the oppression of women. You'd think this would merit even the most token expression of solidarity against the silencing of artistic and political speech from 'progressives' in the Hollywood film industry.

Well Roger, as far as I'm concerned, is Hollywood now. By moral default. And so is a screenwriter named Bridget Johnson. Here's Johnson from a WSJ article that Roger links to today:

Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh's short film “Submission,” about the treatment of women in Islam, written by female Dutch parliamentarian and former Muslim Aayan Hirsi Ali, had aired in August on Dutch TV. Van Gogh was riding his bike near his home when a Muslim terrorist shot him, slashed his throat, and pinned to his body a note threatening Ms. Ali. This appears to be an organized effort, not the act of a lone nut; Dutch authorities are holding 13 suspects in the case.

After the slaying, I watched “Submission” (available online at ifilm.com) and my mind is still boggled that 11 minutes decrying violence against women incites such violence. There've been many films over the years that have taken potshots at Catholics, but I don't remember any of us slaughtering filmmakers over the offense. You didn't see the National Rifle Association order a hit on Michael Moore over “Bowling for Columbine.”

One would think that in the name of artistic freedom, the creative community would take a stand against filmmakers being sent into hiding à la Salman Rushdie, or left bleeding in the street. Yet we've heard nary a peep from Hollywood about the van Gogh slaying.

Johnson identifies as a conservative and speaks of a growing conservative culture within Hollywood. I applaud Johnson for speaking out on this issue. But I don't want liberal filmmakers to evade this. This is an issue that should not fall prey to the division between Left and Right.

I consider myself a liberal (though I'm still scratching my head over what the hell has happened to my liberal friends, where they have gone) and I'm still outraged that Roger Simon is the only liberal in Hollywood whose voice has been audible on the Van Gogh murder and what it portends. In light of this sort of failing on the part of liberals, I am much more comfortable in the company of conservatives like Johnson who are willing to pick up some of the core principles my comrades have left to rot. But I'm not fully content with that. It's time for my fellow liberals to wake the hell up.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:25 PM

November 23, 2004

Michael's Latest on Tech Central

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Check out Michael's latest column on Tech Central Station. It's an important subject that is not all over the blogs at the moment. This one's about Belgium's banning of the popular right wing political party, Vlaams Blok. Michael ties this in to the larger picture of a Europe at an uncertain crossroads, the unpopularity of discussing the growth of Islamist fundamentalism in Europe, and the dangers of a liberal society unwilling to think its way out of the false dichotomy “between left-wing fantasy and right-wing lunacy.”

Or read it and tell me how my teaser is missing the real crux of the piece. But read it.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 8:31 PM

Zeroing in on Zarqawi?

Posted by Jeremy Brown

If this is true and leads to a capture it would certainly help to set an optimistic tone for the January 30th elections:

Kirkuk - Security forces were on Tuesday focussing their hunt for Iraq's most wanted man, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, on an area in north-central Iraq after receiving a tip-off, an Iraqi national guard officer said.

“We received concrete information from very reliable sources that Zarqawi was transferred today (Tuesday) to Tuz Khormatu and is heading to Baquba,” staff brigadier general Anwar Hamad Ameed, the national guard chief in the northern city of Kirkuk, told AFP.

He gave no further details.

I don't know whether he's a myth or a composite, but if so he is a myth and a composite responsible for some of the most horrific acts of murder it is possible to conceive of. (Hat Tip: Roger)

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 4:44 PM

Autorantic Virtual Moonbat

Posted by Jeremy Brown

At Harry's Place I found an oracle of wisdom you simply must visit: a moonbat robot. You can ask it any question about any subject. Read the FAQ's below, but then go ask some questions:

QUESTIONS ANSWERED

Is the AVM a “he” or a “she”?
It thinks gender is a social construct, and will be extremely offended if you assign it a sex. So, go ahead and do it.

Does it matter what I type?
Not much. Other than occasionally sneering at some word or phrase it doesn't like, the AVM largely ignores all inputs, and rants about topics at random, just like a real moonbat.

I'd have posted it here, but I don't want to turn Michael's blog into a whimsical funhouse, or rather, I don't think that was my mandate.

UPDATE: Actually, what am I saying? Michael's the one who posted a picture of Rudy Giuliani in drag just before flying off to Libya for Turkey Day. But one feels a pull to be over-formal when guesting on someone else's blog; I think I have a small sense of how Michael felt guest blogging on Instapundit.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:00 AM

November 22, 2004

Thesis Question for PHD Candidates in English Lit.

Posted by Jeremy Brown

This one is chiefly for those specializing in 19th century English writers, but anyone can play:

If you can call someone a little Dickens and expect blushing and giggles, then why do things turn so ugly when you call someone a little Trollope?

Ok, that was just to prove that Michael is on vacation this week. I will now return to serious blogging. I invite your comments though.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 1:13 PM

An Assassination Would Have Been Embarrassing Too

The pride of the Chilean police and its power elite might have been chafed a tad had Bush been assassinated while visiting, so I'm pleased on their behalf that such a faux pas did not occur:

U.S. officials said Chilean police had been chafing for a week about a demand by Secret Service agents that they control the president's space, even when he was on sovereign turf. Now, it was payback time.

In the fracas that ensued, amid a flurry of half nelsons, one Secret Service agent wound up jammed against a wall. “You're not stopping me! You're not stopping me! I'm with the president!” an unidentified agent can be heard yelling on videotape of the mayhem.

The president, who is rarely alone, even in his own house, turned and walked back to the front door unaccompanied, facing the backs of a sea of dark suits. Bush, with his right hand, reached over the suits and pointed insistently at [Secret Service shadow, Nick] Trotta. At first the officials, with their backs to him and their heads in the rumble, did not realize it was the president intervening. Bush then braced himself against someone and lunged to retrieve the agent, who was still arguing with the Chileans. The shocked Chilean officials then released Trotta.

[…]

Marcelo Romero, a reporter with Santiago's newspaper La Cuarta, said: “All of us journalists agree that President Bush looked like a cowboy. It was total breach of protocol. I've seen a lot of John Wayne movies, and President Bush was definitely acting like a cowboy.”

Also:

By Saturday night - though it had not been announced - Chile had already begun calling the guests to the dinner planned for Sunday at La Moneda, the presidential palace that was the site of the coup that overthrew Salvador Allende on Sept. 11, 1973. The dispute over the dinner on Sunday centered on the question of whether the Chilean guests would be required to go through metal detectors before dining with Mr. Bush, a standard practice for the Secret Service. The Chileans told Mr. Bush's delegation that the practice was humiliating. “Can you imagine someone like the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court having to submit to an inspection by gringo security agents in order to get into our own seat of government?” asked one of the disinvited Chileans, who spoke on condition that he not be identified. “That's an affront no Chilean was going to tolerate, and Lagos had no choice but to act the way he did.”

So, no U.S. sponsored coups, no Chilean facilitated U.S. presidential assassinations, but a few bruised egos. All in all I don't know what anyone is complaining about.

Plus, they had fried fish which I also had for dinner last night. And if the Crackerbarrel had seen fit to screen me through security, I'd have taken it in stride I think.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 5:41 AM

Intercontinental Fact Check

Posted by Jeremy Brown

You're too nice to say it so I'll say it to myself: 'lighten up, Brown.” Well I will. I will try to contain my peculiar brand of gloomy optimism. But by way of transition, let me share the following tidbit. Ali, who blogs at Iraq the Model, has done a little fact check on a post by Juan Cole:

I was surfing the net as usual to find out what’s happening in the world, as I rely mainly on the net instead of TV now When I came across this article by Dr Juan Cole that made me feel ashamed of myself. This man who doesn’t live in Iraq seems to know more about the history of Iraq than I do.

[…]

He also provide a link to another article by a professor of Arab studies in the university of Colombia and use it as a reference to back up his theory. What Dr. Cole was trying to tell us, as you can see in his article, is that Fallujah is celebrated in Iraq’s history as a symbol for the large rebellion/revolution against the British back in 1920. His source, Dr. Rasheedi goes as far as considering Fallujah the start point of that event and says in his article:
“To restore Iraq to their control, the British used massive air power, bombing indiscriminately. That city is now called Fallujah.”

Finally Ali remembers that yes, indeed this was the version of events he'd learned…in a film funded by Saddam Hussein:

So anyway everything looked ok and my mind regained its peace, as everything the two well-informed professors said seemed to match perfectly with what Saddam’s hired director sowed us in his movie!

So what is the version of events that is commonly understood among Iraqis of Ali's community, and in a historical text (by a sociologist/historian named Dr. Ali Al Wardi)?

No revolution inside Fallujah, no bombing at all and not even the leading role they described for the tribes near Fallujah in the revolution that magically turned to be inside Fallujah in their posts.

Anyway, I don’t know which is worse; that the two experts in Arb world didn’t know about Dr. Al Wardi and his writings or that they knew but chose Sadam’s version of Iraq’s history!?

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 1:54 AM

Learning Their Names

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Israel's Yad Vashem Holocaust museum has launched a website offering online access to their recently completed database of over 3 million names of Jewish victims of the Nazi holocaust (via The New York Times).

It would not have been possible, of course, to gather the names of all six million Jewish victims:

The half-century effort could not identify all the six million, Mr. Shalev said. In large parts of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, no documentation was kept by the squads who shot to death entire Jewish populations of some towns or by Nazi troops who dispatched ghetto inhabitants to death camps, where they were gassed upon arrival. In Hungary, most of the lists of the 437,000 Jews rounded up by the Hungarian police and sent to Auschwitz in a period of 56 days in 1944 were never located, Mr. Shalev said.

But the opportunity to truly understand the sea of humanity that was removed from the earth but, more importantly, to be reminded that these were people, not just victims, is an incredible thing:

Mr. Roth spoke about his grandfather, Shimon Rosenwasser, who was killed at Auschwitz. Mr. Roth remembered him “as an observant Jew but also an outdoorsy type who owned a lumber business and could pick up a hatchet and cut a tree down.” He hopes his own grandchildren will learn about his grandfather from the Web site. “These were human beings,” he said, “who lived, laughed, cursed, fought, who did the things human beings do.”

I have no specific knowledge of having lost family members to the holocaust, and I knew that my tenuous searches for people named 'Bron' or 'Brunn' or 'Braun' wouldn't enlighten me, nor would searching for Levines for any trace of my mother's side of the family. Probably no distant relatives are there waiting for me. But the exercise has been very affecting. Even if you're not Jewish, try entering the names of Jewish people you've known or admired. It's a way of reaching into this awful history and rescuing its victims from anonymity.

And it occurs to me that one way to honor the lives of the people in that database might be to learn about the lives of people still living in Darfur and see what we might be able to do. This is a good place to start.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:52 AM

November 20, 2004

Zeyad's Frightening Report

Posted by Jeremy Brown

Zeyad, the Iraqi dentist who blogs from Baghdad at Healing Iraq, reports that fighting has moved into Baghdad. Zeyad finds himself at the heart of a very frightening situation and he blogs a first hand report that will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up:

Fierce fighting has been going on in several areas of Baghdad for the last 4 hours. I was supposed to leave for Basrah this morning, as soon as I walked out of the front door I was face to face with ten or so hooded men dressed in black carrying Ak-47's and RPG's. They had set up a checkpoint right in front of our door.

[…]

We watched them from behind the door with my mother frantically trying to get us inside. There was an exchange of fire and someone was bellowing “Where are the National traitors? (referring to the National Guards) Let them come and taste this.” More shooting followed.

First, I think I can speak for all readers of this blog in saying I hope Zeyad and his family stay safe during this turmoil.

My next reaction, now that the wave of sympathetic fear has made its journey through my gut, is to zero in on the single phrase, among so many jarring phrases, that I am convinced characterizes what is going on now: 'hooded men'.

Here in the U.S. even White northerners like myself don't need to be reminded to be put off by the image of hooded militia running through residential neighborhoods looking for people to slaughter and terrorize.

Here is a look back at the 'race riot' in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921:

This happened in the racially and politically tense atmosphere of northeastern Oklahoma. The area was a hotbed of Ku Klux Klan activity at that time. By June 1, white mobs had invaded the segregated black part of town and destroyed the Greenwood district, known nationally as the “Black Wall Street” for its economic success. Hundreds of people were killed; dozens of businesses, 1,256 homes, many churches and a hospital were destroyed, in an area covering 35 blocks. Estimates of the dead range up to 300. After the governor declared martial law, black people were rounded up by the National Guard and put into the baseball stadium. Several black families, such as Ada Lois Sipuel Fisher's, fled for more peaceful cities.

Contrast the target of U.S. military operations then with the targets now. Again, Zeyad:

A jet fighter was now screeching over our heads and it let off some flares apparently in an attempt to scare away the 'Mujahideen'. They left their positions for a while and slowly people started to come out. Parents nervously dragging schoolchildren behind them and youngsters who were undecided whether to move on or return home.

And Strategy Page offers some important context on what is now going on in Iraq (via Instapundit):

American troops now control all of Fallujah and have found extensive evidence of terrorist and criminal gangs using the city as a headquarters. Evidence was found of torture chambers, and video sets used for filming the execution of kidnap victims. Moreover, the body of a woman, thought to be foreign aid executive (Care International) Margaret Hassan, was also found in Fallujah. A video of her murder was recently released by her killers, and it appears that the killing was done in Fallujah. Without Fallujah as a “safe area” for keeping hostages, killing them, and getting away with it, the terrorists have to do their dirty work in cities where there is a strong police presence, and nearby American troops. That’s what’s happening in Baghdad, Mosul and other cities right now. The gangs are trying to control neighborhoods in these cities, and are not succeeding.

There's no denying that the current flareup in the fighting is disturbing to read about and is a horror for the people involved in it. But I don't see how anyone can deny that this is a struggle for the advancement of Iraq's future as a free, potentially democratic state. This is a struggle that we have every reason to hope will succeed and, I think, much justification for being cautiously optimistic about.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 9:20 AM

November 19, 2004

Nazis are from Mars, Fascist Jihadists are from Venus

Posted by Jeremy Brown

This is my first guest post on Michael's blog so I don't mind explaining myself a little before I tell you what the title of this post means. The first thing is that I am very much in favor of a two state Israel/Palestine solution. But to me this means two independent, democratic states, each intolerant of terrorism.

I'm no knee jerk supporter or opposer of Israel and I'm wary of Arial Sharon's motives, but I think the security wall was a necessary measure. There is a lot that's right with an ugly wall that helps save innocent people from being brutally murdered. What I dislike about the wall is that it has violated the 1967 borders it should have stayed within.

And I shouldn't have to state this for the record, but I oppose fascism, terrorism, and anti-Semitism regardless of context. This gets back to the title of the post.

But first, here's an example of anti-Semitism in one of its oldest formal manifestations: the 'blood libel' (an all-purpose method of demonizing an entire race or religion by spreading the idea that they sacrifice babies to drink their blood for religious rites. So this too makes context irrelevant, though blood libel seems to have endured as a form of anti-Semitism almost exclusively).

If anti-Semitic blood libel was good enough for 1st century Greece then why shouldn't it still be happening in 21st century Westchester, NY (via Solomonia):

This Saturday (Nov. 20), a fundraiser will be held at the Westchester County Center in White Plains, New York, raising money to bring a Palestinian art exhibit to the New York metro area. Here's one of the paintings from the proposed exhibit (previously shown in Houston, TX), portraying Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon collecting and boiling a young Palestinian's blood:

sharoncooking2.jpg

Also included in the exhibit would be art and text that glorifies terrorist murder:

[t]o several of the artists, the subject of the martyrs is an all-important topic. A true martyr is anyone who gives his life in service of his people, including…suicide bombers that attack Israeli civilians.

I can anticipate the objections some people will have to my characterization of this, so let me say that I have little patience for those who denigrate the Palestinian populace as a whole. But I can think of no greater insult to a nation, race, or creed than to purport to represent the soul of its culture through the words and images of its most sociopathic element. Let's see Palestinian art that tells ugly truths, that challenges comfortable assumptions, by all means. But — does this really have to be said? — let's please not make apologies for the murdering fascistic militants who are just as poisonous to the future of a free Palestine as they are to the future of Israel.

To continue with this notion that there is no socially redeeming form of fascist terror, no kinder gentler terrorism, I was going to share a few thoughts about the murder of Margaret Hassan and the strange things a few people are saying about her killers, but I've taken up a lot of real estate here already. I'll just say that Robert Fisk is deluded to the point of dementia if he is truly trying to parse out the relative levels of compassion between one group of terrorist kidnappers and another.

Other abducted women were freed when their captors recognised their innocence.

But not Margaret Hassan, even though she spoke fluent Arabic and could explain her work to her captors in their own language.

If anyone doubted the murderous nature of the insurgents, what better way to prove their viciousness than to produce evidence of Margaret Hassan's murder?

What more ruthless way could there be of demonstrating to the world that the US and Interim Prime Minister Iyad Alawi's tinpot army were fighting “evil” in Fallujah and the other Iraqi cities?

At best this is a case of confusing survival strategy with journalism (in the same way that you might want to know which guard at Auschwitz was less likely to summarily shoot you than some of the others but you'd be wrong to impute compassion or human decency to such a person) and at worst it's…well it's classic Robert Fisk. Here's a bit more from Norm Geras.

Posted by Jeremy Brown at 12:31 PM

November 18, 2004

Travel Writing

My worst kept secret is that I would rather write about travel than politics – although I enjoy political writing, too, or I wouldn’t bother with it. This year I finally got to do a little travel writing. And if things go my way, next year I’ll write even more.

After I returned from Tunisia a few months ago I wrote two essays about my experience. The first was about the people. The second is about the country.

That second essay was put into deep freeze because the election overshadowed practically everything else. Now that the election is over it’s finally time to publish it. So here it is: Crossing the Fossa Regia. Please read this one. I worked hard on it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:16 PM

Programming Note

After talking about it for six months it is finally time. I’m going to Libya. And I’m leaving first thing in the morning.

Keep checking in on the blog, though. Jeremy Brown will be guest-blogging for me while I’m away. He’s one of the few people in the world whose opinions comprehensively overlap mine. He writes well. And he’s funny. So there will be plenty of fresh content here until I get back after the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Be nice to Jeremy while I’m out. Be nice to each other. And if anyone in the White House is reading this, please, if you plan to bomb Tripoli, wait until I get back. K? Thanks kindly.

UPDATE: Guest-blogger Jeremy has this to say on his site:
Well it's Thanksgiving, a time when tens of millions of American tourists will be shlepping over to Libya with their families for yet another cookie cutter holiday festival.
See. I told you he's funny.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:15 PM

November 17, 2004

Rudy in Ď08

Okay, so a poll four years in advance isn’t worth a whole lot. But it isn’t worth nothing, so let’s look at it. Turns out Rudy Giuliani is the GOP favorite for president in 2008.

So much for the Republicans being the party of fundamentalist whackjobs. Giuliani is a blue-stater. He was a member of New York's Republican Party and New York's Liberal Party, but not a member of New York's Conservative Party. When he campaigned for mayor of New York City he campaigned in drag, saying he was a Republican pretending to be a Democrat pretending to be a Republican. (Rent Victor Victoria if you don't get the gag.)

giuliani_in_drag.jpg

(Above: Mayor Rudy Giuliani in drag.)

I'd vote for him with pleasure, without hesitation, without apology, without feeling conflicted, and without holding my nose. He’d win, too, in a landslide. He’s a Republican (of the RINO variety) who was elected and re-elected in one of the staunchest bastions of left-wing politics in the country. Talk about your cross-over appeal. Joe Lieberman is only a bat boy in Rudy’s league.

James Dobson, Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, and Jerry Fallwell would finally, at long last, get the political nightmare they've deserved for a long time - a cosmopolitan socially liberal Republican president. I’d love to see them form their own party where they can talk to themselves about how godless, decadent, and depraved everyone else is.

Giuliani is neither red nor blue. He’s purple, like most of America. I can’t think of anyone (except perhaps for Barack Obama or John McCain) who would be better able to rally the country. Unlike George W. Bush he really is a uniter.

If he runs I will register as a Republican for the first time ever - I am still a registered Democrat - so I can vote for him in the primary. Then I’ll vote for him as president if he wins. What better way to relegate both reactionary leftists and religious right fundamentalists to the political oblivion they deserve.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:56 PM

November 16, 2004

Hitchens on Kissinger

Vanity Fair has finally decided to publish at least one of Christopher Hitchens’ essays online. It’s a rip-roaring barn-burner about Henry Kissinger’s complicity in Latin American fascism. (I do not use the word lightly. If the shoe fits, and in this case it does, the swaggering generals will wear it. Read the whole article if you think I'm off-base.)

Gene over at Harry’s Place says:
I expect Hitchens's rightwing cheering section will be more subdued about this piece than they have been about his attacks on the antiwar Left. If they acknowledge it at all, that is.
Since I am not exactly a member of Hitchens’ newfound right-wing cheering section (I’ve been a fan of his for almost a decade, back when both of us were lefties) the fact that I both acknowledge and endorse his latest piece probably doesn’t mean a whole lot. But for whatever it is worth, count me as one person who is not on the left who strongly suggests you read it. To whet your appetite, here’s a powerful preview.
Sometimes, in spite of its stolid, boring commitment to lying, a despotic regime will actually tell you all you need to know. It invents a titanic system of slave-labor camps, for example, and it gives this network of arid, landlocked isolation centers the beautiful anagram of gulag. (Adding the word “archipelago” to that piece of bureaucratic compression was the work of an aesthetic and moral genius.) The stone-faced morons who run the military junta in Burma used to call themselves slorc (State Law and Order Restoration Council), which was hardly less revealing. The Brezhnev occupation regime, imposed on the romantic city of Prague after the invasion of 1968, proclaimed its aim as “normalization”: a word eloquent enough in itself to send every writer and artist either hastening across the border or entering “internal exile.” The British colonial official who thought up the term “concentration camp” (because, after all, the discontented Boer families of South Africa needed to be “concentrated” somewhere, if only for their own good) was an innocent pioneer of this lethal and revealing euphemism. In the end, the mask will grow to fit the monstrous face that lies underneath.

A possible exception to this is the word desaparecido, which was the special new expression that was added to the bulging, ugly lexicon of terror and dictatorship in the 1970s. In English, it simply means “the one who has disappeared.” But when pronounced in Spanish it possesses, at least to my ear, a much more plaintive and musical tone. It's as if you could hear the lost ones crying out, still. It has an awful, lingering attractiveness to it, which becomes chilly and almost pornographic when you reflect how long and how loudly they were made to scream before they were dispatched, and buried like offal or garbage.

Read the whole thing, please.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:23 PM

November 15, 2004

Faultline on the Right

The Democratic Party is in shambles. John Kerry was, in all likelihood, unelectable this year. If he managed to make the center happy he could easily have handed a fatal number of peacenik votes to Ralph Nader.

The Republican Party, too, is on a collision course with itself. It may face a similar dilemma in 2008. Michael Crowley writes about the right’s new kingmaker, Focus on the Family founder James Dobson.
He's already leveraging his new power. When a thank-you call came from the White House, Dobson issued the staffer a blunt warning that Bush “needs to be more aggressive” about pressing the religious right's pro-life, anti-gay rights agenda, or it would “pay a price in four years.” And when the pro-choice Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter made conciliatory noises about appointing moderates to the Supreme Court, Dobson launched a fevered campaign to prevent him from assuming the chairmanship of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which until then he had been expected to inherit. Dobson is now a Republican kingmaker.

Surprisingly, though, this isn't a role he's traditionally sought or relished. An absolutist disgusted by the compromises of politics, he sneers at those who place “self-preservation and power ahead of moral principle.” He has always kept his distance from Washington. Unlike Reed, a canny strategist above all, Dobson has talked about bringing down the GOP if it fails him. Yet as the gay-marriage movement surged this year, Dobson's moral outrage over the direction of American culture went supernova, asserting in his recent book Marriage Under Fire that Western civilization hangs in the balance. But now Dobson faces a difficult trial. He must decide which he hates more, Washington politics or cultural apocalypse.

Dobson is gearing himself up to play one of two roles in four years. He’ll be the right’s Michael Moore. Or he’ll be its Ralph Nader. If the Bush Administration surrenders to his agenda he will disgust and alienate a solid two thirds of the country. And if the Bush Administration blows off the religious right, as Republican presidents usually do, he’ll take his ball, go home, and lead a sizeable chunk of the GOP into the wilderness.

If he decides to stay in politics I hope he creates yet another “third” party to act as a nut magnet. The GOP could use the enema.

James Dobson is Pat Robertson without the anti-Americanism. He’s a loathsome individual who has zero appeal on the moderate right and even less on the left – assuming that’s possible.

He threw his political muscle behind Randall Terry and tried to get him a seat in Congress. (Terry’s most infamous quote: “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you. I want to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good! We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country!”)

He thinks gays are hell-bent on destroying Western Civilization.
Barring a miracle, the family as it has been known for more than five millennia will crumble, presaging the fall of Western civilization itself. This is a time for concerted prayer, divine wisdom and greater courage than we have ever been called upon to exercise. For more than 40 years, the homosexual activist movement has sought to implement a master plan that has had as its centerpiece the utter destruction of the family. The institution of marriage, along with an often weakened and impotent Church, is all that stands in the way of its achievement of every coveted aspiration.
It’s fitting, then, that he compares legal steps toward gay marriage to Pearl Harbor. He thinks doctors who perform abortions ought to be executed.

I could go on, but why bother? You get the idea. James Dobson isn’t Mr. Popularity in the political center. And the political center decides who will be president. Wall Street conservatives, cosmopolitan neocons, right-libertarians, and right-leaning Independents are not going to stand for his nonsense.

If Dobson is happy with the next four years he’ll go out of his mind during the following four when the Democrats retake the White House. Or the Republican Party will tell him to shut up or pack. I think today would be a good time to tell him to shut up or pack, but of course I would say that. In any case, Bush doesn’t need the man’s pull anymore. It’s his job to lead the whole country, not the absolutist nuts on the fringes.

UPDATE: James Dobson doesn't want doctors who perform abortions executed. It was his pal Randall Terry who said that. Sorry for the mix up.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:35 PM

November 14, 2004

The Politics of the Superhero

I haven’t seen The Incredibles yet, but after watching the trailer online I intend to. Even without seeing the movie I find some of the commentary about it a bit strange.

Suzy Hansen and Sheelah Kolhatkar wrote a piece about who’s saying what for the New York Observer.
The first hit of the Bush II years, The Incredibles pulled in $70.5 million in its first few days. The movie is about a family of superheroes forced by the government to go into a superhero-relocation program, suppress their awesome powers and hide out in the beaten-down, charmless miseries of suburbia—among tract homes, leftovers, cubicles, commutes, and dreary elementary-school commencement ceremonies in which every kid is celebrated for being “special.”

Eventually, of course, the superheroes—up against it in a dangerous world—release their superpowers, break free of Anytown, U.S.A., and explode with enough personal initiative to make The Fountainhead look like a bedtime story. They’re superheroes! The film is inspirational, a hopeful jolt for anyone feeling like they’ve buried their own superpowers, like they’re losing in this big, crushing society. But the funny thing is that even though the film’s primary target seems to be suppressed America and its credo pure libertarian, among the joyful recipients of its message are New Yorkers—and all blue staters—who, God knows, feel like losers these days.

But it’s hard not to be suspicious of the winners. Any winners, for that matter, and that includes The Incredibles. While The Incredibles’ battle against conformity and mediocrity screams anti-oppression to some, it’s obviously Randian to others. In that sense, the film is being touted as the latest proof that, on top of everything else , the right wing has even wit and creativity on its side these days: This is a world turned upside-down!
Whoa. Superheroes are right-wing? Anytown USA, conformity, and charmless suburbia are left-wing? Really? When did that shit start? The sixties really are over if that’s how it is.

The article quotes everyone’s favorite bitch-slap boy Ted Rall.

It’s kind of ironic that superheroes now have these fascist, right-wing connotations.
Now I really can’t wait to see the movie. I’m dying to see how Mr. Incredible and the supercool black dude (he makes instant ice) make knee-jerk leftists think of Hitler. I’m gonna need a large popcorn for this one.

But there's this:

Is it simply that, after four years of being beaten up with good-versus-evil rhetoric and post-9/11 fear, somehow all superheroes seem vaguely Republican to us?
I have never, ever, not once in my life, thought of superheroes as Republicans. Although I guess I can sort of see it now. John Kerry wanted to do many things in office, but saving the world wasn’t one of them. I always thought it was liberals who wanted to save the world, not Texas Republicans, but alas and alack it’s a bizarro world as they say.

I’m not making fun of the article. It’s really quite interesting. The authors note how Superman was a liberal in the Roosevelt mold, how Batman could be construed as a centrist, how a liberal superhero would never be chased into Canada by a Republican president. The whole thing is worth reading.

And check out what The Nation had to say about it.
Bird's biggest achievement in The Incredibles is to have inflated family stereotypes to parade-balloon size. His failing is that, in so doing, he also confirmed these stereotypes, and worse. Helen mouths one or two semi-feminist wisecracks but readily gives up her career for a house and kids; women are like that. Bob's buddy Frozone, the main nonwhite character in the movie, can instantly create ice; black people are cool. The superheroes are in hiding because greedy trial lawyers sued them into retirement; and, while concealed, they chafe at their confinement, like Ayn Rand railing against enforced mediocrity. The family is the foundation of our society. Freedom is on the march.
I can see the point (assuming it holds up in the actual movie) about the stereotypes. But what, exactly, is the problem with showing the family as a foundation of society? It is at least one of the foundations, whether that family is nuclear (2.5 kids and all that), single-parent, double-lesbian, or whatever. What’s the complaint?

And what, pray tell, is wrong with freedom being “on the march”? Movies about superheroes who don't rise above mediocrity and who take freedom away would make lame audience-pleasers. Here comes Super Nanny! She snatches smokes, censors cable, bleeps out bad words, and turns down the volume on stereos! No. Americans don’t pay money for that kind of superhero. If that makes us “right-wing” then, well, whatever.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:02 PM

November 13, 2004

They Ainít Studying War No More

The 1960s New Left thought “Ain’t gonna study war no more” was a good idea and a clever slogan. It was neither. It was a way of admitting in public that they were entering a phase of willful ignorance.

Bill Clinton won the 1992 election in part with a slogan that said “It’s the economy, stupid.” If he and his party said “Ain’t gonna study the economy no more” they would have gone nowhere.

I haven’t heard that silly 60s slogan in a while, but I see the effects of it constantly. Some intellectuals on the left (both pro- and anti-war) do take national security seriously. You’ll find them writing for publications like Dissent and The New Republic, but you won’t find them many other places.

So I’m happy to see that at least some people on the soft left understand this. Here is Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly.
If Democrats are going to engage in navel gazing, our gaze really ought to be directed toward the one topic we continue to avoid like the plague: becoming more credible on national security. That's where Kerry and the Dems lost the election. Like it or not — and I can almost hear the outrage brewing already in the comment section over the mere fact that I'm mentioning this — fighting terrorism is the major swing issue of the day, and perceived Democratic weakness toward terrorism is likely to remain our biggest electoral albatross for quite a while.
He then pointed to this article, published two years ago, by Heather Hurlburt. How refreshing it is to read an article like this from a member of the anti-war left.
Democrats are in this position precisely because we respond to matters of war politically, tactically. We worry about how to position ourselves so as not to look weak, rather than thinking through realistic, sensible Democratic principles on how and when to employ military force, and arguing particular cases, such as Iraq, from those principles. There are a lot of reasons for this failure, including the long-time split within the party between hawks and doves. But we will never resolve that split, nor regain credibility with voters on national security, until we learn to think straight about war. And we will never learn to think straight about war until this generation of professional Democrats overcomes its ignorance of and indifference to military affairs.

[…]

The reasons for this apathy aren't hard to discern. Many Democrats who came of age during the Vietnam War retain a gut-level distrust of the military. Younger staffers, who may not carry the same psychological baggage, have few mentors urging them toward military or security issues. I speak from experience: My main qualification for my first Washington job—covering European security for Congress—was that I could locate the Warsaw Pact countries on a map and correctly identify the acronyms of the relevant international organizations.

But lack of expertise is only a symptom. The malady is an irresponsible lack of interest. The issues that drive most contemporary Democrats into politics are reproductive rights, health care, fiscal policy, or poverty, not national security. Even those young Democrats who are interested in foreign affairs tend to be drawn to “soft” subjects such as debt relief and human rights. Aspiring foreign policy wonks will often get pulled into military affairs by way of, say, their work on demining. But when these young people visualize exciting jobs in the next Democratic administration, they think State Department, not Pentagon.

[…]

After Vietnam, the old Cold War liberalism no longer seemed credible to the party's core and to many of its leaders. Many Democratic officeholders and operatives responded by focusing on those foreign policy issues that they and their base were comfortable with, such as human rights and arms control, while others shied away from international policy altogether and focused on domestic issues. At the same time, most Democrats understood that a reputation for being “soft” on defense issues was a serious political liability. But instead of grappling with the substance of war and national security, Democrats began to approach their vulnerability as a problem of tactics and political positioning.

[…]

Without the White House, the Democrats had no institutional or organized way to think through national security issues. The Georgetown salons—like those Madeleine Albright held to nurture Democratic foreign policy in the dark days of the 1980s—had dissolved. And although plenty of Democrats populate foreign policy think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Brookings Institution, such above-the-fray outfits are no match for aggressively conservative institutions like the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. The latter two are known today as the places where the current Bush hawks, formerly members of the Reagan and Bush I administrations, sharpened their critical knives during the 1990s. Unlike their mainstream equivalents, the national security programs at Heritage and AEI exist not so much to contribute ideas to the public square as to influence very specific policies and legislation on defense. Democrats have no equivalent. As Evelyn Farkas, a Democratic staffer for the Senate Armed Services Committee, puts it, “Part of the reason we don't have a clear message on defense is that we don't have a place where people argue and create one for us.”

[…]

Getting Democrats to take defense issues seriously will not be easy; it means changing the party's basic mode of thinking. But it can be done. After all, it took less than a decade for Democrats to go from being the party of deficits to being the party more trusted for fiscal responsibility. This transformation happened because enough Democrats got tired of losing elections and did the hard work of crafting innovative and effective ideas in areas like crime and economic stewardship that the party had previously ceded to Republicans. National defense is perhaps the last big area where Democrats have not really done this. And in a time of war, it's the one area where they can't afford not to.
This is exactly right. It is possible to be some kind of anti-Bush lefty and write thoughtful books and articles about national security without being a backseat heckler who opposes but offers no alternate vision. Paul Berman has managed to do it. But he labors away in an inhospitable left-wing environment that hardly has any room for him. For someone like me who doesn’t have a lifetime’s worth of street cred in the lefty press, I’m all but forced to play in the right’s sandbox whether I like it or not. (But I don’t dislike it as much as I did, and that’s bad news for the Democrats. An entire genre of intellectuals like me exists and has a name – neoconservatives - because mine is all-too common a storyline.)

These kinds of problems are self-reinforcing. The fewer intellectuals there are on the left who study military history and strategy, the less likely any otherwise left-minded person who is interested in such things will want or be able to work with or for liberals and Democrats. What has been happening is a nation-wide brain-drain from the left to the right – at least in certain areas.

I have a sinking feeling things will remain this way in the future to the horizon. Come on, Dems. Prove me wrong, would you please?

UPDATE: Texan Thucydides weighs in:
Listening to neo-conservative voices is important for Democrats, because contrary to popular belief, these people used to be liberals. This constituency should be a natural member of the Democratic coalition. They believe in a moral foreign policy that is driven by values instead of cold, hard, Realism.These are the intellectual heirs to the Scoop Jackson Democrats. The reason they left the Democratic Party is because we lost credibility on foreign policy issues when we decided to embrace the Marxist worldview as our primary ordering principle in the late 1960's. Should we bring them back into the fold, we'll be a majority party once more.

And Totten is right, we can't fake this. It can't just be an electoral ploy, we need a whole new series of serious democratic think tanks, focused on influencing policy. We can start in the Senate, where we have serious Democratic politicians who will be receptive to serious ways of thinking on foreign policy. They just need to be willing to take a leadership role and stand up to the liberal establishment. After a thorough defeat at the polls, now's the time.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:42 PM

More Advice

I'm sure most Democrats are sick to death already of the unasked-for post-election advice. They've had to put up with a lot of it. No doubt the tables would have been turned had the Republicans lost.

Still, conservatives could use a little post-election advice as well. I suggest starting here.
Voting coalitions are ruled by the least commited members. So the question to the cultural conservatives is: do you want 2004 to be the Republican high water mark or would you like to extend the string.
If the right-wing culture warriors get cocky (and some of them already have) they'll rue the day. It's real simple. Here's why.
Did any of you remember Bush asking for the RINO vote in the last days of the campaign (“you may not agree with all my positions but I want your vote”)? So you going to throw them off the bus now that you have won? That is not nice. People remember.
Yep.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:32 AM

November 12, 2004

News from the Rift

London's Telegraph reports that the Spanish media are blasting Prime Minster José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero as the anti-American asshat that he is.

The Spanish Socialist prime minister, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, yesterday faced a barrage of derision over his government's anti-Americanism following a snub by President George W Bush.

Mr Zapatero was one of the first premiers to send a congratulatory telegram to Mr Bush after his election victory last week.

But, in what was a stinging confirmation of the poor state of relations between Washington and Madrid, he has yet to receive a reply.

Mr Zapatero had also telephoned Mr Bush before the election result was made official but was not put through to the president.

Spain's newspaper columnists, the opposition People's Party and satirists have made much of the silence between Washington and Madrid.

Mr Zapatero wrote himself firmly into the White House's black books by accusing Mr Bush and Tony Blair of lying over the reasons for going to war with Iraq.

In the summer he immediately honoured an election pledge to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq.

He then backed John Kerry in the presidential election and cancelled a standing invitation for US forces to participate in Spain's annual military parade.

Anti-war policies may be popular with the public, but even supportive sections of the media have said that the prime minister's anti-American stance had gone too far.

Most sectors of the Spanish press concluded that the telephone spat was “infantile” but that Mr Zapatero needed to act fast to recover Spain's loss of face abroad.
Zapatero's political opponents in the next election can make a plausible case that he “pushed our allies away.”

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:31 AM

November 11, 2004

Holland Snaps

It keeps getting uglier in the Netherlands since the murder of filmmaker Theo Van Gogh.

Volkskrant reports (see Slate for details in English) that 5 Christian sites and 10 Muslim sites have been attacked in the past week.

More worryingly, the Turkish Press notes:
a recent poll showed that a staggering 40 percent of Dutch people “hope” that the 900,000 Dutch Muslims in a total population of 16 million “no longer feel at home here” after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a suspected Islamic radical.

40 percent of Dutch people have it exactly backwards. I understand their frustration. But they should hope Muslims learn to feel more at home in the Netherlands, not less. Dutch society is perhaps the most liberal on Earth. It’s not surprising that immigrants from a vastly more conservative culture feel alienated there. If Dutch Muslims ever become as liberal as Dutch Christians the country will not be at war with itself. If Dutch Muslims continue to be shunted off to the side they will continue constructing an anti-Dutch (and hence anti-liberal) counterculture.

So here’s some free advice: Isolate, imprison, deport, or kill (if it comes to that) the extremists. Liberalize those who remain. Otherwise, brace for hell.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:35 PM

The GOP Purge

Hugh Hewitt is still defending dissident Republican Senator Arlen Specter, this time in The Weekly Standard. And he thinks Zell Miller’s tirade against the Democratic Party, A National Party No More, should be required reading for Republicans drunk on power. What will happen if the GOP burns its heretics? The same thing that happened to the Democrats.

Fast forward four years. The Democrats have convened in late summer in Cleveland to nominate former Virginia governor Mark Warner and Senator Barack Obama. It is the third night of the convention, and the Democrats have chosen as their keynote speaker … Arlen Specter. Or Olympia Snowe. Or Chuck Hagel. Or some other GOP big who has grown disgusted with his or her inability to have any influence on Republican deliberations. So they have bolted, bringing a message that their party breached its pledge to govern with the interests of the entire country in mind.

This may be a nightmare scenario for most people who read The Weekly Standard. But if liberal-moderate Republicans bolt the GOP for the Democrats, hey, that’s fine with me. It will make the Democrats both larger and saner. Everyone wins…except the Republicans. It's up to them. Do I think they'll do the right thing? Naah. Jane’s Law is still on the books.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 7:06 PM

New Column

My new Tech Central Station column is up: Bomb My House…Please. It's about Fallujah.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:52 AM

November 10, 2004

Heh

Daily Kos has arrived. He made The Onion.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:22 PM

Arafat Officially Dead

It looks like Yasser Arafat is finally - officially - dead.

RAMALLAH, West Bank - Yasser Arafat, who triumphantly forced his people's plight into the world spotlight but failed to achieve his lifelong quest for Palestinian statehood, died Thursday at age 75. He was to the end a man of many mysteries and paradoxes — terrorist, statesman, autocrat and peacemaker. Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat confirmed to The Associated Press that Arafat had died. The Palestinian leader spent his final days in a coma at a French military hospital outside Paris.
May the Palestinians find a leader who loves his people more than he hates his enemies.

UPDATE: Jacques Chirac is sad.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:19 PM

It Was the Moderates, Stupid

I hope this is the last time I need to post about this. But as obvious as it should be, it hasn’t sunken in yet.

E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:
About 38 percent of those who thought abortion should be legal in most cases went to Bush. Bush got 22 percent from voters who favored gay marriage and 52 percent among those who favor civil unions. Bush even managed 16 percent among voters who thought the president paid more attention to the interests of large corporations than to those of “ordinary Americans.” A third of the voters who favored a government more active in solving problems went to Bush

[…]

These numbers do not lend themselves to a facile ideological analysis of what happened. The populist left can fairly ask why so many pro-government, anti-corporate voters backed Bush. The social liberals can ask why so many socially moderate and progressive voters stuck with the president. The centrist crowd can muse over the power of the terrorism issue. The exit polls found that perhaps 10 percent of Al Gore's 2000 voters switched to Bush. Of these, more than eight in 10 thought the war in Iraq was part of the war on terrorism.
Also, if you are a Democrat, please read Marc Cooper.

UPDATE: Bush did better in 2004 than he did in 2000 in all states except Maine, Vermont, and South Dakota. That's because the Democratic Party is less appealing now than it was. Deal with it. Then fix it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:39 AM

November 9, 2004

Submission, by Theo Van Gogh

Theo Van Gogh (who was related to the artist of the same name) was brutally murdered on the streets of Amsterdam by an Islamic fascist for daring to make an eleven-minute film about the oppression of women in Muslim society.

Click here to see that film. It is called Submission.

It begins in Arabic, but most of it is in English. It is eleven minutes long.

(Hat tip: Harry's Place.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:20 PM

The Triumph of Secularism

I wasn't going to link this article by Christopher Hitchens, as much as I love the man, because I think he paints with (a bit) too wide a brush this time around. But since some people in my comments section insist on lumping me in personally with Christian fundamentalists, despite the fact that I'm a socially liberal atheist, here goes.

So here is what I want to say on the absolutely crucial matter of secularism. Only one faction in American politics has found itself able to make excuses for the kind of religious fanaticism that immediately menaces us in the here and now. And that faction, I am sorry and furious to say, is the left. From the first day of the immolation of the World Trade Center, right down to the present moment, a gallery of pseudointellectuals has been willing to represent the worst face of Islam as the voice of the oppressed. How can these people bear to reread their own propaganda? Suicide murderers in Palestine—disowned and denounced by the new leader of the PLO—described as the victims of “despair.” The forces of al-Qaida and the Taliban represented as misguided spokespeople for antiglobalization. The blood-maddened thugs in Iraq, who would rather bring down the roof on a suffering people than allow them to vote, pictured prettily as “insurgents” or even, by Michael Moore, as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. If this is liberal secularism, I'll take a modest, God-fearing, deer-hunting Baptist from Kentucky every time, as long as he didn't want to impose his principles on me (which our Constitution forbids him to do).

[…]

George Bush may subjectively be a Christian, but he—and the U.S. armed forces—have objectively done more for secularism than the whole of the American agnostic community combined and doubled. The demolition of the Taliban, the huge damage inflicted on the al-Qaida network, and the confrontation with theocratic saboteurs in Iraq represent huge advances for the non-fundamentalist forces in many countries. The “antiwar” faction even recognizes this achievement, if only indirectly, by complaining about the way in which it has infuriated the Islamic religious extremists around the world. But does it accept the apparent corollary—that we should have been pursuing a policy to which the fanatics had no objection?
Hitchens seems to forget about the far-more reasonable secular liberals at his own Slate magazine (Jane Smiley's awful guest column excepted). But his basic point stands. The American right is a better champion for secularism where it is most urgently needed. And for that they have my (partial) support.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 2:09 PM

November 8, 2004

The Liberal Case for Bush, Yet Again

Norman Geras has a question for his friends on the left.

The victims of a terrible, murderous oppression in the Kurdish area of Iraq, and those now yearning for a democratic breakthrough against theocratic tyranny in Iran, do not look for solidarity and support to the massed ranks of the marching left, the 'peace' movement, as it flatters itself to be; no, they look to a right-wing Republican president.

By your own lights, friends and comrades, is that not a truly extraordinary state of affairs? If it doesn't cause you some troubling doubts, will anything ever?

I’m being a bit flip when I write these titles. My real intention here isn’t to get American liberals into the Republican tent. That is completely beside the point. What I’d like to see is a little international solidarity between the American left and the oppressed in the Middle East. When Middle Eastern liberals cheerlead Republicans instead of Democrats they know exactly what they are doing and why. The lefties in Paris don’t need your help, folks. Those in Iran and Iraq really do.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:27 PM

Some Advice

Virginia Postrel has some advice for political parties that lose elections.

I told you so. The party that hates America will lose. The party that imagines no positive future, offers no “vision thing,” will lose. The party that thinks it is better than the American people, that makes large segments of the voting public believe they are its enemy, that convinces people it wants the government to boss them around and destroy the things they love, will lose.
Guess when she wrote that? Yep. That’s right. She wrote it in 1998. When else (ahem) could such a paragraph have been written? She continues:
On November 3, that party was Republican. The GOP went down to humiliating defeat, losing close race after close race, plus many that weren't supposed to be close. The party lost its solid grip on the South and collapsed in California. It managed to lose seats in the House, an extraordinary result that even Democratic pundits failed to predict. And it deserved to lose.
No kidding. I might have voted for Republican candidates in an alternate universe, but I didn’t in this one. It may have been slightly unfair to think of Ken Starr as their guy the ballot, but only slightly. They ran against someone not on the ballot themselves.
Republicans sold out their economic base, invested all their hopes in scandals involving a president not on the ballot, and ran as the party of scolds, pork, and gloom. No wonder their voters stayed home.

This election was a test of the notion that Republicans can scorn anyone who talks about freedom, treat issues as matters of bribery rather than principle or vision, alternate between patronizing and ostracizing immigrants and women, regularly denounce American culture, and generally act obnoxiously toward the country they supposedly represent—and still win, because the Democrats are worse and Clinton is a sleaze.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:26 PM

November 7, 2004

Donít Get Cocky

Immoderate Republicans are having fits about Arlen Specter, a liberal Republican from Pennsylvania, who is slated to head the Senate's Committee on the Judiciary. Specter, you see, isn’t too jazzed about packing the Supreme Court with righties.

Hugh Hewitt issues a wise warning.
The opposition to Specter seems headquartered at The Corner. Many friends post at The Corner, so I paused, considered their arguments, and thought it through. On reflection, it seems to me a very bad idea to try and topple Senator Specter from what in the ordinary course of events would be his Chairmanship. I hope my colleagues on the center-right that embrace pro-life politics will reconsider.

I understand that Senator Specter voted against Robert Bork, and that Senator Specter is not a friend of the pro-life movement. But genuine progress in the fight to return American public opinion to an affirmation of life before birth cannot be made through strong-armed tactics and almost certainly will not be lasting if it is accomplished through a putsch.

Unlike Hugh and most of the folks at The Corner, I am not “pro-life.” Sorry. I’d like to be, just as I’d like to be anti-war. But I’m not. So, of course I’m biased in Arlen Specter’s favor. I’m counting on the likes of him to put the brakes on the Republican Party and get them to govern from the center. I may have voted for Bush this year, but sure as the stars come out at night I don’t support any right-wing social agenda. There’s no way my split-ticket vote can be construed as lending support to a mandate for either side. That’s the whole point of voting split-ticket. It is only half-hearted partial support. It is explicitly anti-mandate.

The swing-voting center put the Republican Party in power this year. 2006 isn’t very far away. The right had better look out. For we who giveth can also taketh away.

UPDATE: See also Andrew Sullivan.
Here's a fascinating piece of data. The percentage of people who said in 2004 that their vote was determined by the issue of “moral values” was 22 percent. In 1992, if you add the issues of abortion and family values together, that percentage was 27 percent. In 1996, it was 49 percent. In 2000, it was 49 percent. So the domestic moral focus halved in 2004. Obviously, the war took precedence, especially if you combine the categories of the Iraq war and the war on terrorism more generally. Again: the Republicans should be wary of over-playing their hand. If they believe the entire country is the religious right, the backlash could begin very soon.
Yeah. Like, real soon. Watch it. Last week's election wasn't the last one.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:29 PM

Eighth Grade Caricatures

Because I’m a purple state kind of guy, I’m rankled by all the hectoring and sneering at the “Jesusland” red states. I feel like one half of my social circle is finishing up a week-long bitch-fest about the other half. Yeah, we just had an election and the losers are entitled to carp about it. Fine. That’s normal and perfectly understandable. But if you’re going to decry bigotry on the right, see if you can not act like a bigoted jerk yourself.

That goes for you, too, righties. Want to broaden the base of your party? Pay close attention to Matt Welch. He’ll tell you exactly how not to go about it.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:26 PM

November 5, 2004

Purple America

This is what America looks like.

Purple-USA.jpg

(Hat tip: Karrie Higgins via email.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:20 PM

November 4, 2004

Zombie Hordes of Theo-cons

Andrew Coyne utterly demolishes the silly idea that Bush won his re-election campaign by unleashing an army of fundamentalist Christians across the red heartland. I mean, he really blows that theory to pieces. Read it.

Then he asks:
When a candidate draws increased numbers of votes from groups not traditionally identified with his party, we usually call that “broadening the base.” So why the fascination with zombie hordes of theo-cons?
That’s real easy. It’s emotionally satisfying. The crazies are taking over is a lot easier to swallow than we fucked up and lost.

The Republican Party has a nut-job wing. Pat Robertson is real. James Dobson is real. Michael Savage is real. These guys have fans, and they voted. There’s no denying it. But there’s also no denying that if John Kerry faced Pat Robertson in an election the Republican Party would have to dig itself out of a smouldering crater.

45 percent of the people who voted for Bush are self-described liberals or moderates. (Earth to Democrats: That’s why he beat you.) Only 55 percent of the people who voted for Bush are conservatives. (See Andrew’s piece for the details.) And, as most of us know, there are many different kinds of conservatives. There are neocons and paleocons, Wall Street conservatives and religious conservatives. Not to mention plain old run-of-the-mill conservatives. It’s a fractious group of people who have little in common but, oddly enough, happen to wear the same useless label.

Zeroing in on only one of those factions and blowing it all out proportion will get the Democrats nowhere. It makes as much sense as Ann Coulter accusing every leftie in the land of being pro-terrorist. It’s not only dumb but exceptionally counterproductive.

If Kerry won the election I wouldn’t say it was because of Michael Moore and his stupid-ass movie. If it went that way it would have done so despite him.

(Hat tip: “American in Europe” in the comments.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 11:11 PM

The Liberal Case for Bush, Again

This time in Iran.

Millions of Iranians expressed their satisfaction on the outcome of the US Presidential elections and George W. Bush's victory by calling and congratulating each other. Many were seen walking in the streets and shaking each others hands or showing a discret V sign.

Many are speaking about the promises made by Mr. Bush to back the Iranian Nation in its quest for freedom and democracy.

As Iranians and especially the younger generations have become happy , those affiliated to the Islamic regime are seen deeply worried about their future.
(Hat tip: Roger L. Simon.)

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 5:40 PM

No Eulogy

I second Ken Wheaton's pledge:

I pledge to do my best to unseat any U.S. politician, regardless of party, who sings the praises of Yasser Arafat upon the death of said terrorist, thug and henchman, a scourge to Israelis, oppressor and thief to his own people, and murderer of both.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 4:20 PM

An Exodus of Women

I really hope the Democrats don't truly believe Bush won by riling up Bible-thumpers and beer-guzzling NASCAR fans. The political “right” is a bit more complicated than such a crude caricature. It looks like the biggest shift among the electorate from 2000 to 2004 was among women. Kellyanne Conway, president and CEO of The Polling Company, notes the following:

The Disappearing Gender Gap: Senator Kerry posted just a 3% advantage (51%-48%) over President Bush among women, a significant difference from the 11-point margin for Al Gore over Mr. Bush in 2000.

Security Moms (married women with children who cite the war in Iraq or terrorism as the most important issue in deciding their vote) supported the President over Kerry by 18 points (59%- 41%, respectively).

This fits with what I said yesterday. Lots of people who supported Gore last time switched to Bush this time because of the Terror War. It almost certainly cost John Kerry the election. The Democrats are free to pretend otherwise. They can go right ahead and pick another softie in the primary in 2008 and watch what happens. We'll go through this again and again if that's what they want.

I’m not buying the now-popular theory that says Bush won because he whipped up an evangelical frenzy against gay marriage. John Kerry also opposes gay marriage. Both Bush and Kerry are in favor of civil unions. Kerry bragged that his position on gay marriage is exactly the same as the president’s. (I think they’re both wrong, for whatever that’s worth. I’m to the left of both of them on this question.) Besides, my state of Oregon voted to ban gay marriage and also chose Kerry in a landslide. The gay marriage debate was barely whispered here. It didn't help Bush at all. Lots of people around here saw no contradiction voting against gay marriage and also for Kerry.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 1:40 PM

Terrorist Death Watch

So. Yasser Arafat might be dead. Finally. I refuse to say anything nice about the recently dead when the recently dead are enemies of the United States, civilization, and humanity. I'm with Jonah Goldberg.

He's a bad man who's been terrible for his people and if there's any justice, when he dies he will receive 72 virgins who look exactly like him.
Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:47 PM

November 3, 2004

Why Kerry Lost

It may be presumptuous to say John Kerry lost the election for the reasons I personally voted against him. But I’ve decided to say it anyway.

I didn’t vote for George W. Bush in 2000. I’ve never voted for any Republican president. This time was my first. And I did so because of the Terror War.

I know quite a few people who didn’t support Bush last time but did support him this time. And every single one of them did so for the same reasons I did. Because of the Terror War. Because Kerry could not be trusted.

I don’t know of anyone, anywhere, who swung from Al Gore to George W. Bush because of gay marriage, tax cuts, or for any other reason. I’m not saying they don’t exist. But if they do exist, I haven’t heard of ’em. They’re an invisible, miniscule minority.

There aren’t enough of us liberal hawks, disgruntled Democrats, neo-neoconservatives - or whatever else you might want to call us - to trigger a political realignment. But it does appear we can swing an election. At least we can help. And though I don’t think of myself as conservative (I did just vote for a Democratic Congress), my alienation from the liberal party is total. A political party that thinks crying Halliburton! is a grown-up response to anti-totalitarian war just isn’t serious.

I may vote for the Democratic candidate next time around. Then again, I might not. I’ll be watching what happens over the next four years, trying to decide if I’m part of the new wave of neoconservatives or if I’m just Independent. We shall see.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 8:52 PM

Repeal Jane's Law

My esteemed temporary Insta-colleague Megan McArdle goes by the handle “Jane Galt” on her blog. I first discovered her when she coined Jane’s Law.

Jane's Law: The devotees of the party in power are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the party out of power are insane.
Now that we have a fresh start, of sorts, can we try to prove her wrong? She’s been right for as long as I’ve been paying attention to politics. But all things must someday come to an end.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:38 PM

Left-wing Blogosphere Reactions

John Kerry’s side of the blogosphere offers a diverse range of views of Bush’s victory.

Marc Cooper: Could there possibly have been an incumbent more easy to knock-off than George W. Bush? A real-life opposition party would have been insulted to be matched with a such an unworthy and frail rival. The Democrats, by contrast, got their lights punched out.

Tbogg: I look at the big map and all of the red in flyover country and I feel like I've been locked in a room with the slow learners.

Andrew Northrup: The national Democratic Party needs to shift to the right, culturally, in order to compete nationally. No choice. Wah wah wah, I'm going to go vote for Nader, wah wah. You should have voted this time.

Jeff Jarvis: Good for you, Kerry, for conceding. Thank you.

Daily Kos: [I]t's clear the Democratic Party as currently constituted is on its deathbed. It needs reforms, and it needs them now. Quite frankly, the status quo simply won't cut it. Howard Dean for DNC Chair.

Oliver Willis: We're telling the world that we endorse the last four years, and give thumbs up to more evil. Sick.

Ezra Klein: I, like most of us, fell for the echo chamber. Daily Kos, MyDD, Steve Soto, Pandagon, and all the other blogs are run by good people with positive intentions, but if they're you're primary source for information, you're outlook is perverted by an overwhelming amount of good news and a general disdain for the factual accuracy of bad news. It perverts your perspective and, because the sample group is so totally different than most of America, it begins to twist your political predictions and assumptions of what works…

Kevin Drum: MOST IMPORTANT EVENT….RECONSIDERED… I'll plump for the Massachusett's Supreme Court's decision to legalize gay marriage. The result was nearly a dozen initiatives across the country to ban gay marriage and a perfect wedge issue for Republicans. For the second election in a row, it looks like the president was chosen by the courts.

Matthew Yglesias: With a majority of the popular vote and expanded margins in the House and Senate, we're going to see Bush Unleashed — something that will probably be much crazier than what we've seen over the past four years.

Andrew Sullivan: George W. Bush is our president. He deserves a fresh start, a chance to prove himself again, and the constructive criticism of those of us who decided to back his opponent.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:42 PM

Who and What I am Not

Michelle Catalano speaks for me.

If you don't mind, I'd like to address the throngs of Chicken Littles who seem to be out in full force on the net today. I just want to clear up a few things, as you all seem to be pretty misguided in more than one area today.

I voted for George Bush.
I am not a redneck.
I do not spend my days watching cars race around a track, drinking cheap beer and slapping my woman on the ass.
I am not a bible thumper. In fact, I am an atheist.
I am not a homophobe.
I am educated beyond the fifth grade. In fact, I am college educated.
I am not stupid. Not by any stretch of facts.
I do not bomb abortion clinics.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:56 AM

Exit Polls

So why were the exit polls wrong? Here’s a guess. Perhaps most of them were conducted in cities, not small towns and rural areas, skewing the results toward Kerry. Urban voters are more likely to be Democrats, after all. This is just a guess, though. As far as I know, media outlets haven't published their exit poll methodologies.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 9:53 AM

November 2, 2004

Call 'Em Yourself

Drudge links to the realtime vote tallies for Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 6:22 PM

For the Record

I voted last week by mail. (No lines. No waiting. No bullshit.) Here's who I picked.

President: George W. Bush - Republican
Senator: Ron Wyden - Democrat
Representative: Earl Blumenauer - Democrat

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:25 PM

Attacked

Jeff Jarvis says Instapundit, along with many other blogs, are suffering denial-of-service attacks today. I've noticed my own flickering in and out.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 3:02 PM

Election Day

Let’s get a couple of things out of the way before today’s votes are counted.

You have the right to vote. You do not have the right to see the man of your choice in the White House.

If George W. Bush wins the election, the world will still spin on its axis. Canada will not grant you asylum. If John Kerry wins the election, America will still be America. Australia will not grant you asylum.

People who vote for the other guy aren’t stupid, brainwashed, or evil. They are your friends and family. Someone you love will almost certainly cancel your vote. (My wife cancels out mine.)

If, by some chance, everyone you know votes for the loser it won’t mean the election was stolen, it will only show that you live in a bubble.

If this thing is close (the victor could easily win by 0.1 percent) try not to read too much into it. We’ll still be closely divided.

If the election doesn’t go your way, don’t pop off as though America were Guatemala under the generals. You’ll get lots of attention, but it won’t be the kind you want. People will laugh, not near you but at you.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:11 AM

November 1, 2004

Hitchens is for Bush

Last week Slate reported that Christopher Hitchens favored the election of John Kerry. Slate was wrong. I thought that might be the case. I could hardly believe he was going to vote for John Kerry after all he has written over the past two years. I can't vote for him either, for the same reasons.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 10:15 AM

The Boldest Prediction

Mark Steyn is a braver man than I. In three weeks I'm going to Libya, but he went to Fallujah after the fall of Saddam. And he went by himself decked out in a suit in a rental car.

Today he put his job, nay his career, on the line and said if Bush goes, he goes.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at 12:11 AM