We mean it, man...
The Corner has, for some reason (probably having to do with Joe Strummer's recent death), deemed it necessary to coin a term for conservatives who like 70s-era punk rock: The Punky Cons! (Start here and search down for "punk" through several posts, if you're interested in the official NRO list of punk's greatest hits: maybe they should put out a comp.)
Most people who think of themselves as "punk" these days are oriented Left (usually in a mushy, sludgy, Chomsky-i-fied, generally retarded way-- they're essentially indistinguishable from the anti-globo crowd, though it may be that they relish their conspiracy theories a bit more passionately.) It's been that way for some time. How all the punks became hippies is one of the pop-counter-culture mysteries of our time. But politics in pop culture is always little more than window-dressing anyway, even for a rock group like the Clash, who were pretty good at making the pretense work. Most "political" punk rock was as vapid as the other kind, without the saving grace of the up-front acknowledgment that Vapidity was the point. (Unintentional vapidity is a kind of aesthetic worst-case scenario.) Sometimes it was good, even great, rock and roll, but that usually wasn't because of the protest-song pretensions but rather in spite of them.
If you're serious about returning to the basics of rock and roll, there are really only two legitimate topics: cars and girls. To indulge in other subject matter is to run the risk of Art Rock, which, like unintentional vapidity, is treacherous territory. The Clash aside, most "political" punk is chiefly notable for how easily-parodied it is: anti-Reagan and stuff man, yeah.
As to aesthetics, in music, "music," and just about everything else, Back to Basics can be radical, and the people who join such movements are aesthetic radicals. Punk rock is no exception. Nevertheless, punk rock has always been a deeply conservative genre, as anyone who has ever tried to record two successive albums with different guitar sounds can attest. "Punks" never liked any of the Clash's ballyhooed experimentation, eclecticism, etc. (London Calling was "total crap," according to Maximum Rock and Roll Mastermind Tim Yohannon, with the token exception of "Brand New Cadillac," which had street cred as a rockabilly cover. Punks may not know much about art, but they know what they like: and it ain't experimentation, eclecticism, etc.)
The spectacle of the staff of the National Review weighing in on their favorite punk rock songs, joining the "what is punk?" debate, is one of those marvels that could only happen in a free, and weird, society. Tim's rolling in his grave. But the Punky Cons are nothing new: the tradition stretches at least as far back as Day One, i.e., The Ramones.
presented with real "racial insensitivity" -- as in Trent Lott's case -- they don't even recognize it until someone else points it out. That's because they're too used to it as an invented item to even think about the real thing.
They don't have Christmas trees in the 51st state. They have Holiday Trees.
That might work in Canada, but this is a lost cause. England in December is like one giant Dickens-esque Christmas theme park.
There is no escape. Christmas is coming. The goose is getting fat.
No surprises here, I'm sure, but I think the skeptics have the stronger case. It's not a matter of whose predictions will end up coming to pass, or whose predictions will be closer to what comes to pass. I don't care who wins that contest. I've got no predictions of my own. But I don't see how anyone, looking over the events of this past year, can truly believe that the US has had a single, sound, cohesive, morally coherent, well-conceived policy all along. To the "rope-a-dopers," every blunder, every instance of apparent backtracking, inconsistency, or appeasement, every creative new attempt to redefine the goal as something short of victory, every incident embodying what looks like failure of nerve or lack of seriousness about the war is supposed to be some kind of feint or deliberate diversion. The crazier our behavior, the more brilliant the hidden, underlying plan is supposed to be. Being smart, subtle, deliberate, flexible, cagey, prudent-- I'm all for it, and I'm sure that's part of what's going on. But is it the entire explanation? It seems unlikely.
Reading the newspaper these days, it sometimes seems as though practically every other item ought to be subtitled "this is no way to run a war." The administration seems to have been trying a little of everything, playing for time, undecided as to what should be done. Despite periodic outbursts of bellicose faux-Churchillian "we shall not falter" rhetoric, the President has been shying away from risk, hedging his bets by trying to please everyone just a little, and stalling, putting off the decision to act. Faltering. I don't see how this conclusion can be avoided. In this, it must be allowed, GWB is little different than the previous two occupants of the White House. But we need something better than that.
It's a complicated matter, and the decisions are tough ones. I don't envy those who have to make them. They can't be put off forever. I'm sure Stephen Green is right that they won't be, and that when the US finally does act it will be overwhelming and effective. Yet Bill Quick is right that all this pussy-footing around has not been without its costs. Remember all the ballyhoo about "moral clarity?" Even Michael Kelly doesn't write Moral Clarity columns anymore.
Maybe "moral clarity" was always a fatuous conceit, as the Europeans always claimed. Or maybe it is a luxury we can no longer afford. Maybe we're better off with "realism," with prudence (qua prudence) as our guiding light, stability as our goal. Yet, even in utterly practical terms, when "regime change" became disarmament, when casus belli gave way to "trust but verify," I'd say that was a small but substantive win for the axis of evil. Perhaps all that is just a rhetorical smokescreen for the consumption of those who enjoy or require such a smokescreen, not to be taken literally or seriously. Perhaps muddying the waters a bit is the only way of securing the approval of the "international community," and perhaps this approval really is vital to the success of the eventual campaign and must be courted at all costs. Perhaps. But we shouldn't kid ourselves: delay serves the interests of only one of the principal parties, and it ain't us.
Saddam will get his comeuppance one way or another, I'm sure, but I believe he sees US sabre-rattling, troop movements, UN resolutions, etc., as little more than a complex of empty gestures and idle threats. He thinks he can ride this one out, as he has in the past. Ultimately, I don't think he's right, but he may be. How many more "last chances" he will get, how many more "final stages" there will be, remains to be seen. As it stands, though, US aims, interests, and security are severely hampered by the fact that its enemies do not take its threats very seriously. There is only one way to change that. And if you think I'm talking about securing a grudging acquiescence from the French to an arms control exercise, you're mistaken.
Warning: this post makes what is arguably the most trivial observation possible about the Iraq WMD declaration.
I've noticed something strange about the pronunciation of the word "declaration." When it refers to something ordinary or unremarkable, as in a custom's declaration, it is pronounced exactly as you'd expect a word derived from "declare" to sound. Deh-clair-ation, rhyming with "narration" or "serration." Yet when the thing declared is unusually important or momentous, such as the Declaration of Independence, people tend to say deh-clor-ation, rhyming with "exploration." Say it aloud, and let me know if you get different results than I do. It seems like a difference in pronunciation that has a consistent semantic significance: a declaration is nothing special, while a decloration is a big deal.
Until this weekend, I had thought that the Declaration of Independence was the only case where declaration is pronounced decloration. Now, it turns out, the Iraqi government's recent scanty list of its WMD programs is a decloration as well. At least, that's how everyone is saying it on TV.
Testing it out on myself, I, like almost everyone else I've ever heard, say the Decloration of Independence. Reading it aloud, my eyes see the word "declaration," but "decloration" comes out of my mouth. I suppose my internal semantic-phonological calibrator is out of synch with that of all the TV people, though, because my inclination is to call the Iraqi WMD document a declaration. Rightly or wrongly, it doesn't seem to rise to the exalted level of a decloration. Maybe I instinctively understand something about this document that they don't; or maybe it's the other way around. Or maybe the whole thing is just a big insignificant coincidence or lack thereof. I'm not sure, and my brain is beginning to hurt.
Told you it would be trivial.
Now don't fall out of your chair in astonishment or anything, but the author of this piece in the Economist prefers Adam Smith to Karl Marx. Communism is all but dead as a system of government, but Marxism lives on as a religion. It's obvious and often stated, but no less true for all that, and this is as engaging restatement as you'll find, with many witty and well-turned phrases. For example:
What goes for ethics also goes for history, literature, the rest of the humanities and the social sciences. The “late Marxist” sees them all, as traditionally understood, not as subjects for disinterested intellectual inquiry but as forms of social control. Never ask what a painter, playwright, architect or philosopher thought he was doing. You know before you even glance at his work what he was really doing: shoring up the ruling class. This mindset has made deep inroads—most notoriously in literary studies, but not just there—in university departments and on campuses across Western Europe and especially in the United States. The result is a withering away not of the state but of opportunities for intelligent conversation and of confidence that young people might receive a decent liberal education.
Lott Steps Down!
Well, how about that. He did the right thing after all. And it looks like Bill Frist is in.
These wise words from Peggy Noonan on Republicans and race are no less relevant and valuable:
Maybe it isn't fair, but think of it this way: The history of the Republican Party on race is mixed. Yes, that's true of the Democrats too, but Democrats are perceived today as sympathetic to the movements for freedom that have marked the past century, and Republicans are not. This has some implications. It means Republicans have to go out of our way to show that our hearts are in the right place. But there's another thing that is even more important. If we are tougher on ourselves, maybe that's good. Why shouldn't we be tougher on ourselves?
If the Democrats all too often treat race as if it were a card to be played in a game, and if the Republicans in contrast attempt to struggle through the issue and be serious and go out of their way to expunge the last vestiges of the old racial ways, isn't that something we should be proud of? History is watching. It will know what we did. What will history think if it sees a new seriousness on race from the Republican Party? I think it will say: Good. And I think that matters.
On the other hand, it is a virtual certainty that Democratic Party spokesmodels will, in the coming months, go way overboard trying to continue to exploit this now-neutralized issue. The smart ones will leave it alone, recognizing that this is a loser for them as well as for everyone, and will seek to avoid the inevitable appearance of demagoguery and opportunism that would result: very few will be able to resist, however. The ones who do resist will find themselves in the position of continually having to defend scurrilous and ridiculous attempts to characterize the Republican Party as a party of racism. It won't work, because it isn't true. Had Lott remained in power, Republicans would have had more explaining to do than they could have managed, though it still wouldn't have been true. But it would have worked.
A Corner correspondent, reflecting on Trent Lott, Cardinal Law, and the possibility that Lott may manage to get enough support from fellow Republican Senators to allow him to hang on, poses some pointed questions:
If Trent remains, what does the world look like come January 7th? More pointedly, do you envision a time when the President can again appear in the same room with the Senate majority leader? (I can't.)
Can you then justify electing a leader who subsequently becomes for the president his party's own Yasser Arafat, with whom he will never meet nor shake hands? Will you put the President in that horrible position?
Forget about the passing of a conservative agenda -- can the party or the conservative movement themselves hold together and withstand that strain?
So, in the end, if Lott is incapable of doing the right thing, who will?
And if the answer is, not nearly enough to make him go, then what?
My sense is: GOP despair, dividedness, destruction, self-inflicted death. Of course, I may be overstating things. But what if I'm not?"
Jonah Goldberg complains:
[Krauthammer] relies on the overused dichotomy between "neocons," "traditional cons," and "paleocons."
The Incredible Mr. Limpet
India launches the world's first organic Navy, planning to deploy dolphins to blow up enemy warships and submarines. Early trials have succeeded in training dolphins to plant the "Maindeka" limpet mine onto enemy ships. O.P. Yadav, a general manager of India's Kirkee ammunition plant, which supplies the mines, told Indian reporters that the 15 lb limpet mines, magnetically fixed to enemy hulls, can sink ships of any size.
Steven Chapman gives Brendan O'Neill a good dressing down over this more or less risible foray into criticism of military tactics and strategy. Chapman is quite right. Eminent Journalist O'Neill doesn't seem to have much of a clue. Chapman does, and his discussion of these issues is stimulating and well worthwhile in its own right. That said, though, wars are not won by assassinations. The idea that we can win this war by picking off the bad guys one by one has about as much merit as the idea that al Qaeda could be vanquished by means of some kind of cavalry charge on the "open battlefield."
Krauthammer, once again, on Trent Lott:
A man who has no use--let alone no feel--for colorblindness has no business being a leader of the conservative party. True, if Lott is ousted, he might resign from the Senate and allow his seat to go Democratic, thus jeopardizing Republican control of the Senate and undoing the great Republican electoral triumph of 2002.
So be it. There is a principle at stake here. Better to lose the Senate than to lose your soul. New elections come around every two years. Souls are scarcer.
The great Angelo Codevilla has another terrific essay on our wayward foreign policy and incoherent "war" aims posted at the Claremont Institute website. As always, it is elegantly written and, by my lights, quite persuasive. Are you uneasy about the administration's handling of the war, but not always able to put your finger on why? Me, too. Codevilla can help:
Terrorism is not a militarily serious matter. All the world's terrorists combined cannot do as much damage as one modern infantry battalion, one Navy ship or fighter squadron. Nor is terrorism such a bedeviling challenge to intelligence. It is potent only insofar as terrorism's targets decide to deny the obvious and pretend that the terrorists are acting on their own and not on behalf of causes embodied by regimes. Terrorism is potent only against governments that deserve contempt. The U.S. government earned the Arabs' contempt the hard way, by decades of responses to terrorism that combined impotent threats, solicitude for the terrorists' causes, outright payments to Egypt and the PLO, courting Syria, a "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia, and a pretense that Islam was as compatible with American life as Episcopalianism. Killing individuals who do not count engenders hatred, while sparing those who do count guarantees contempt.
Victory against terrorists requires precisely the opposite approach: expend little or no energy chasing the trigger pullers and bombers. Rather, make sure that any life devoted to terror will be a wasted life. This means leaving no hope whatever for any of the causes from which the Arab tyrannies draw such legitimacy as they have: people who give their lives for lost causes exist more in novels than in reality. It means discrediting and insofar as possible impoverishing (rather than paying for) Arab regimes that foster opposition to America. It means using military force to kill the regimesï¿½the ruling classesï¿½of countries that are in any way associated with terrorism.
Such regimes cannot be other than matrices of terrorism; they are riding tigers. Should the people who run them try to change, they would perish at the hands of internal enemies. America cannot possibly reform them. The choice is to suffer them, their causes, and their terrorist methods ï¿½ or to kill them.
Every so often I'll receive a petulant email demanding: "whose side are you on?" (Or more often, "who's side are you on?") The latest trend in this venerable tradition (if venerable is the word I want) is to include the admonition that I ought not to "pile on" this or that public figure or policy; or that "piling on" x without also "piling on" y reflects a contemptible hypocrisy that ill-disguises my true sinister motives.
These people have clearly misunderstood my motivation in maintaining this little weblog. I have no interest in supporting any particular person, group, party, or position. I'm not interested in "piling on" particular people and refraining from "piling on" others in order to support any particular theory as to whom people ought to vote for or blame or impeach or attack or applaud worshipfully; nor do I imagine, nor even hope, that my admittedly inconsistent piling on will win me brownie points from others who have "piled on" and refrained from "piling on" the same people I have "piled on" and "on" whom I have refrained from "piling." Any "piling on" I do stems purely from a self-gratifying mean-spiritedness. It is "piling on" for the pure sake of "piling on," and (usually) for no other reason. I reserve the right to "pile on" anyone I feel like. If I haven't "piled on" someone you think ought to be "piled on," that's tough. "Pile on" 'em yourself if it means that much to you.
That's my pile on policy. Please make a note of it for future reference.
Tired of all the familiar positions from which to jump on Trent Lott? Here's a new one from Christopher Hitchens:
Concerning Sen. Lott, I can't hope to improve on the admirable flurry of columns from hard-line conservatives calling for his departure. But I confess that I am amazed by the narrowness of their attack. Every one of them concentrates exclusively on the civil rights question. Of course black citizens ought to be outraged by any sick nostalgia for the years (and years and years) of Southern apartheid. Yet this is to make the point into one of "sensitivity." The Confederacy, under the leadership of Jefferson Davis, schemed to destroy the Union. It openly solicited the military support of foreign powers in order to do so. It attempted to assassinate a Republican president and may eventually have succeeded. It issued arrogant and disgusting orders for the execution of prisoners of war, without discrimination as to shade or color. It instated censorship, and it instated mandatory (if sectarian) religion. There isn't a "white" person in the country who should not spit upon its treasonous and hateful memory. There would be no such place as "America" if the bloody stars and bars had carried the day.
See you in the fourth dimension
Josh Marshall noticed this on Hardball a couple of nights ago:
Oh man! There's a quote from Frank Luntz tonight on Hardball that's so choice it's almost beyond belief. We're going to be waiting with bated breath for the transcript to pop up on Nexis.
Basically, Luntz said that the "problems" Lott was talking about, which voting for Strom Thurmond would have avoided, were Bill Clinton's moral and sexual lapses. If ever there was a statement so ridiculous that the speaker deserved to be laughed out of three dimensional space, buddy, this is it.
I have no doubt that Trent Lott is as culpable as everyone says he is of failing to repudiate convincingly his past involvement in the theory and praxis of segregation; the post-gaffe investigation and feeding frenzy revealed mountains of evidence and further examples demonstrating this. His subsequent apologies and attempts to exculpate himself have convinced no one. He is one giant, shameful embarrassment. I agree that, in view of this, he is unfit for a national leadership position, damaging to his own party and no less damaging to the country. He is plainly also an extremely stupid man. Still, I can't believe he really meant the civil rights act, integration and anti-lynching laws when he said "all these problems." I can't imagine anyone, even someone of such staggeringly deficient morality and intellect to hold such a view, being stupid enough to articulate it publicly. Even Lott.
Unfortunately for him, and for everyone, the "way it sounded" turned out to be a more or less accurate reflection of his true state of mind. But that doesn't mean he intended it to. Saying that things would be better if a colleague hadn't been defeated is a fairly conventional formulation when it comes to political speechifying intended to honor a politician who has lost big in the past. I imagine Dan Quayle and Jimmy Carter have heard it once or twice in their post-defeat careers. But there's something inherently problematic when you have one man with a segregationist past honoring another man with a segregationist past. Everything, even conventional toast-master fodder, stands a pretty good chance of sounding "fishy." A smart speaker might have been able to navigate these treacherous waters, to avoid using a phrase that was so damagingly revealing. But Lott is no smart speaker.
Imagine if Mona Baker were to give a speech honoring David Irving. Because of the context, there is not a single word or phrase she could utter which wouldn't have sinister import, including "the" and "and," to adapt a phrase. That this is the case is in no way exculpatory with regard to Baker or Irving, and it is no more exculpatory with regard to Lott. It is true, though. I don't like Lott, practically everything about him rubs me the wrong way, and I find his remarks about Thurmond, whether the implications were intended or not, to be as offensive as everybody else does. But, for what it's worth, I don't think he meant it that way.
As for how he did mean it, I don't think it's all that far-fetched to imagine that he might have been talking about Clinton, to the extent that he had anything specific in his muddled mind. Most likely, he didn't know exactly what he was referring to, but rather was just mouthing a contentless platitude that was, because of the circumstances, unintentionally revealing of a dark reality. When a guest "from the right" on any of the Crossfire-type TV screamathons says the word "problems," they usually mean "Clinton." Why should Lott be any different? I'm not saying it makes sense. I'm just saying it's as likely as anything. Go ahead and laugh me out of three-dimensional space if you want...
So Mote it Be
I've noticed what seems to be a new fashion trend for female TV news talking heads (Greta, Paula, Ann, Connie, Judy, et al.): black turtleneck with large silver chain and pendant.
It makes them look like they're all in the same coven.
A theatre producer is to face a retrial after a jury today failed to decide whether he had a "lawful excuse" for decapitating a £150,000 statue of Baroness Thatcher.
These excuses don't sound particularly "lawful" to me. If I were to allow my own satirical humor free rein in such a manner, there would not be a statue, monument, government building, street sign, traffic light or community center left standing. I would vandalize all pieces of abstract public art by descending upon them and making them representational. Then I would decapitate the vandalized statues for good measure. I would save the heads and throw them at anyone who dared to look at me cross-eyed. I hate people who do that. They're the worst. Such is the awesome power of my sense of satirical humor.
I guess Thatcher is held in such low regard that it was impossible to gather twelve people who could find it within themselves to disapprove of such a decapitation. I imagine that several of them had a strong sense of satirical humor also. The British love their satirical humor, as we all know. And men dressing as ladies. They love that, too.
Steven Pollard has further detail:
I've just watched the BBC's London news programme and can barely believe my eyes. As the accused left the court, he was asked some inane 'how do you feel' type question. "I can't really say anything until the case is over" was his perfectly proper response. "But I need a job, so if anyone watching has one for me can they get in touch with me via the editor of the Guardian".
Now I have no idea whether or not Alan Rusbridger is acting as this hooligan's employment broker, but why did the BBC feel it appropriate to broadcast such an advert for a man on trial for criminal damage (the report was pre-recorded)?
And why - this is where it gets surreal - did Emily Maitlis, the anchor, then say immediately after the report: "If you know of a job for him, you know what to do".
Real Change Requires the Preservation of the Status Quo
The attempt to redefine "regime change" as "lack of regime change" is perhaps the most irritating of all the phony spinning and blustering that has come from this administration on the subject of Iraq. I had saved this article on Colin Powell's latest version of this brazen and embarrassing crime against language and policy coherence, intending to compose some suitably scathing comment; but Bill Quick already has the subject covered, and much more clearly and succinctly than I could manage, so I'm just going to quote him:
Here it is, in official language from the Secretary of State of the United States: "We surrender."
"Regime change" was a bluff all along. Its failure will do just as much damage as the elder Bush's admission that his Gulf War threat to use nukes was also a bluff.
And the most loathesome, indigestible chunk of this craven statement? Trying to blame GWB's spinelessness on Bill Clinton. The second most loathesome? This statement was made to "pacify" a pack of savage feudal tyrannies that hate us anyway. And the third? That maybe GWB was wagging the dog for the 2002 elections all along.
It's time to start shopping for George W. Bush's replacement.
Quote of the day:
Because of the technology and the heightened desperation of the world today, I think it's very possible that we are facing the first century that will complete itself without mankind--and that's not the future that I want for my children, or for their children.
Mona Baker, the British academic who couldn't tell the difference between "boycott" and "purge," has surfaced once again. Professor Baker, the Times reveals, is engaged in a lively email correspondence with celebrity holocaust denier David Irving. Very little of the contents of the correspondence has come to light, but from what I can gather, the two anti-Zionists have been brainstorming and bouncing ideas off each other, pooling their resources in search of innovative ways to extend her trail-blazing anti-Israel "boycott" to new and more fruitful territory. Here's the latest plan for keeping the dream alive, a letter from Irving quoted by the Times's Giles Coren:
“Dear Amazon, I have been shocked to get an e-mail from Prof. Mona Baker of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology which indicated that your company advertises itself in the Israeli press via a logo which reads: ‘Buy Amazon.Com and Support Israel’ and which displays an Israeli flag.”
I think, on balance, that anti-Zionists have a reasonable gripe with Amazon in this instance, and letters are a harmless way of expressing that. But why is Mona Baker sending e-mails to David Irving about it? Is the potty Holocaust denier the sort of chap she sees as a possible political collaborator? One is so often implored to remember that not all anti-Zionists are anti-Semites. But not all of them aren’t. And Irving is one who is. His aversion to Israel is based not on political but racial revulsion...
Now, Professor Baker, in choosing to boycott people on the ground of their nationality rather than their personal politics, treads a fine line herself between legitimate opposition to state brutality and fascistic denial of free speech on the ground of race. Anti-Zionists and Nazis do share a common cause, in a way, in so far as their enemy is Jewish, and sometimes the two end up doing each other’s dirty work — it is no coincidence that the French lawyer Jacques Verges represented both Klaus Barbie and Carlos the Jackal — but only the anti-Zionists can claim political validity for their occasional apparent racism.
It is not impossible that Mona Baker is a rational woman who thinks that her boycott is the best way to liberate the disfranchised Palestinians. And it is also not impossible that she is a misguided nutter. It is not for a miserable clown like me to judge. But if she does not want her attempts to legislate against a group of people who just happen to be Jewish to come up smelling of Hitler, then she should avoid soliciting the support of his most prominent modern disciple.
I'm anti-something, I know that...
If you've read much of his weblog, you're probably aware that Brendan O'Neill feels he's too good for the anti-war movement.
He's written several versions of this column over the past year. Allow me to summarize: Brendan is opposed to imperialism, by which he means any country interfering in the affairs of any other country for any reason (hey-- a lost cause is better than no cause!); he opposes this war; he opposes War; but he thinks the contemporary "anti-war movement" is frivolous and ineffectual. If the frivolity and ineffectualness continue, Brendan wants the anti-war movement to count him out. He can't work under these conditions.
I can't argue with him on the point about the frivolity and solipsism embodied in the slogan "not in our name." What I can never figure out, though, is what he thinks the alternative is. Does he really imagine that any kind of anti-war movement, even one that he himself were allowed to design, organize and call all the shots for, would be any more effective at Stopping War than the one he's stuck with and finds so deficient? Could an anti-war movement, purged of tastelessness, pomposity, and silly slogans, so aesthetically unobjectionable that it could get the Brendan O'Neill seal of approval-- could such an anti-war movement ever have any real prospect of "stop[ping] America's and Europe's warmongers in their tracks," or to "get Bush and Blair quaking in their boots"?
Not likely. Another way of asking the question is: could any type of gesture or demonstration of opposition, even one flawlessly conceived or phrased, solve any of the problems that the prospective war is supposed to attempt to address, the problems that many believe make a war necessary and probably inevitable? I suppose Brendan thinks that there are no problems of this kind. That's the case that the Brendan O'Neill Anti-War Movement would have to make. I'm sure he believes he can make this case, and more power to him. Yet it seems to me that No Interference by Any Country in Any other Country's Affairs is no more realistic than No War, and it would be a lot harder to fit into the "hey hey ho ho" pattern. Or maybe NIBACINAOCA is even less realistic, since fostering or contriving the absence of war is itself a kind of interference. So is merely opting out of the conflict, leaving it for a future administration, for example. That, at least, happens sometimes. You can make an argument against this war without declaring that it is immoral and illegitimate for any state to have a foreign policy at all. It's a much more difficult standard. I can't see non-interference at all costs becoming a mass movement, at any rate. For one thing, how would you make a puppet of it?
Brendan O'Neill may have to get used to standing alone. Elegantly.
Here's the real original Blogs of War, coming to you pretty much live from a Carlsbad Motel 6.
We've always been a Motel 6 band. There are Super 8 bands. There are Red Roof Inn bands. There are La Quinta bands (they're the special ones with non-maxed-out credit cards or day jobs.) Who knows how these traditions get started? When you're on the road, predictability is more important than quality. That's one reason why McDonalds is so wildly successful. When you know in advance where you're going to stay, how you're going to get there, and what you're going to eat on the way, well, there are three big things you don't have to worry about anymore. Predictability is freedom.
The practical reason we stick to Motel 6 is because they're nationwide and their book is extremely well-organized with good directions. But the real reason is: we're a Motel 6 band, so that's what we do.
I've probably stayed in around 600 Motel 6 rooms in my Motel 6 career. You know the bedspreads? They're kind of blue-ish with red, purple and turquoise squares? I think they're trying to achieve a stained glass effect, but it's not the traditional stained glass of a cathedral. No lambs, halos, guys with beards. It's an abstract stained glass, like you find in a hippie church built in the 60s. You also see this kind of interior decorating at places like Denny's, for some reason. I blame Vatican II.
Anyway, about these bedspreads: they are just about the ugliest thing ever created. But, because of my extensive experience with them, I get a warm, safe, contented feeling when I look at one. I can't help it. It's not what it is, it's what it represents. It's the flag of the frazzled, wrecked, marginally-viable would-be entertainer who has, for one more day, managed to avoid disaster sufficiently to make it to 4 am. So it has a kind of hideous beauty.
When you see one in the wrong context it can really throw you for a loop. They often turn up in "amateur" porn videos, for obvious reasons. Or so I've heard. That adds an extra creepy feel (no pun intended) to the presentation, like it was taped in your house when you weren't there. Or so I've heard from other people in bands who stay in Motel 6s a lot and who know about such things. Who can fathom the mysteries of the human nesting impulse and the effects of extra-ordinary household objects on the human libido? Not me.
One time I saw one being sold in a thrift shop. It was 50 cents. I was going to get it, but even I realized that would be too weird. That way lies madness. It's good to try to keep your home life and your motel life as separate as possible.
The show was good. I had a massive right eye headache during the set. Maybe that lent some verisimilitude to the songs about suffering and human frailty, in that I probably winced rather convincingly at certain key lines.
I've got a couple of shows this weekend. I'll be in transit today, and, with luck, rockin' tonight. Tomorrow it will once again be: transit by day, rock by night, transit in the small hours. I may post something "from the road," or I may not. I kind of depends on how "wild" or "heavy" everything gets.
For anyone in southern California who has nothing better to do and who's interesting in seeing a dumb little punk rock band, the shows are: Saturday 12/14 at Soma in San Diego (with Guttermouth) and Sunday 12/15 in Anaheim. Check local theaters for listings and and showtimes.
Ken Masugi of the Claremont Institute has this interesting perspective on the Trent Lott affair:
The Founders' purpose in establishing the United States Senate was to elevate the characters of its members so that, following deliberation, it could act on behalf of the whole nation. This is the real, constitutional issue in the furor concerning would-be Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott. At a celebration for his centenarian colleague Strom Thurmond, he stupidly praised his segregationist Dixiecrat party presidential run in 1948. Besides being hectored by the expected liberal chorus, many conservatives, some of whom have regarded Lott as a timid leader for conservative principles, have berated him. His demotion to the backbenches would not only shore up conservative policies but affirm constitutional principles as well.
Lott, as stupid as he was, at least didn't sound hateful; you can't say that about the holier-than-thou folks who are still piling on him.
On the subject of liabilities, Democratic Party boosters imagine that this whole situation is an unequivocal plus for the Democrats, and some have even gone so far as to say, half-seriously, that they'd prefer that Lott stay on as a permanent punching bag. They're kidding themselves. The TV talking heads on the "Democratic side" haven't exactly covered themselves with glory on this, and I believe it may set a precedent for future race issues-based character assassination-- no matter how warranted in this case-- that will come back haunt them. Steve Sailer makes this point about "every Republican with a blogger account":
Let me try to make this clear to everybody on the right: You aren't winning any Anti-Racist Brownie Points for leading this witch burning. You are just making it easier for them to come after you the next time you slip up in some utterly frivolous social occasion.
As for Trent, I doubt he's going to stay on. And pace Sailer, the most likely immediate outcome is a net gain in prestige and credibility for the Republicans on a difficult issue: all Bush has to do is keep talking this way, all the Republicans have to do is select a new leader, and they easily claim the high ground in this sorry affair. They lose their least appealing, most damaging national leader and get credit for doing the right thing at the same time. If he remains, everybody loses. So off he goes.
I can't remember what I was looking for, but shuffling through some of the myriad untidy stacks of papers that I have on every available surface that the wife hasn't complained about yet, I came across this letter. I found it around two years ago near the corner of Telegraph and 37th in Oakland, but it hasn't "surfaced" in awhile.
It's written in pencil on a piece of standard note paper, in a tiny, childish hand, and it is unsigned.
Leonard What's up? What cha been up to? Me? Nothin much. Who have you been doin it to lately? And I Want to know how many people have you done it to in your whole life? I might have already asked you these questions on the phone. But if I haven't I want to know. But look if I don't be doin to nobody, its all yours and I never let nobody else touch it the least you can do is. Cut down on how much you doin it. Cause if you don't you might catch somethin and I won't let you do it to me. You probably don't care, but hey I do, so don't. Seriously. I mean there's plenty of guy's I could be fucken but I'm not cause I don't want to be the type that "gets around" I just want to be the one that only does it to one person. Sometimes can get me to the point where I say yes but instead I say no. How come boys can't do that, huh?
The Telegraph has published a version of Harold Pinter's notorious honorary degree acceptance speech at the University of Turin in November. Steven Den Beste really goes to town on it here and here. He sees Pinter's "paranoid anti-American rant" (and that it is) as an example of an extremism that is beyond the pale, that ventures well outside the limits of garden variety anti-Americanism. I don't know about that. Pinter is pretty well-stocked with loopy political views (he was the leading light of the Free Slobodan movement-- enough said?) But, in a crackpot face-off, Gore Vidal would win hands down. Strip away some of the hyperbole-- e.g. "the US administration is a blood-thirsty wild animal," a characterization hardly borne out by the facts at this stage of the game-- and it's fairly run-of-the-mill anti-American blather, European-style. It's the sort of thing that seems to play well to the educated elite in Britain, and the domestic edition will be familiar to anyone who has ever overheard conversations at a Berkeley Starbucks or visited znet.
The usual version boils down to these points: (a) America and Americans have been responsible for so much evil in the world that the US has no legitimate standing to take any action in the international arena; (b) since we created many of the world's problems (despite the simplisme, true enough) anything we could do about them can only make matters worse at the price of tremendous suffering and compounded culpability; (c) George W. Bush is a uniquely dangerous moron who relishes the prospect of killing innocent people just for the fun of it (though he also likes to do it for oil and to distract attention from domestic problems and for personal reasons having to do with "his daddy"); (d) the American public, outside of a few courageous movie stars, support a military challenge to Iraq either because they are as stupid as their foolish leader, or because they have been duped by an unaccountably effective propaganda campaign that only teenagers, people with tenured academic positions, and those in the entertainment industry can see through. These dissenting voices are "silenced" by severe criticism, which renders the administration's complaints about the predations of foreign dictators laughably invalid; (e) given the evil that America has wrought, the attacks on 9/11 were predictable, inevitable, perhaps justified if not exactly praiseworthy, and Americans have only themselves to blame for them (in effect, they say "I'm not a terrorist, and I wouldn't have done these things, but if I were a terrorist and I had done them, I would have done them for these reasons.") Therefore, it follows that if the Americans would adopt my positions on x, y, z, and Fred and Ethel, they would find that terrorism would cease to be a problem for them because no one would have any grievances anymore. The fact that they continually refuse to do so is yet more proof of their perfidy; (f) the validity of this analysis is proven beyond question by a list of anecdotes, quotations and statistics illustrating American hypocrisy when it comes to freedom, democracy, weapons, law, human rights, and power, and anyone who disagrees cannot possibly be motivated by anything other than a secret jubilation in the prospect of the death and destruction of people of other races and cultures.
Not all of these points are covered in the Pinter address, but I think that's the paradigm. I admit, I've constructed a bit of a straw man here; but then, so has he, and with evident earnestness. I hasten to add, in addition, that not all arguments against the war follow the paradigm-- but the anti-American ones generally do. And I believe that for those who produce such rhetorical presentations, it's often the anti-Americanism that generates the enthusiasm and passion, rather than the opposition to the war as such.
Even when valid points are made in such a discourse, they are unlikely to carry much weight with those who don't already share those assumptions. There is certainly much to criticize about US policies, past and present, but it's difficult to imagine a useful discussion of them arising from such a wasteland. That's because it's not an argument, though it can masquerade as one; it's more a series of non sequiturs held together by the conviction that ones own feelings of resentment and alienation must have universal significance, that they must be a "root cause" of all the grief and trouble in the world. This conviction is a kind of faith, and like the more creditable kind of faith, it can arise from a true desire to understand that which defies understanding, a sincere and honorable distress at the horror and suffering in this sad world of ours. But that's the best thing that can be said about it. Sermons like this are unlikely to persuade anyone who is not himself in the throes of the solipsistic delusion. As for the choir, they've heard it before, and each member has his own version of it at the ready for the next time he finds himself sitting across the table from someone who, he knows in advance, already agrees with him on every point. So why bother? Well, you have to say something when they give you an honorary degree from the University of Turin.
I also agree with Den Beste that the vacuousness of the anti-war "arguments" generally heard today is by no means a good thing, even for those who believe that a military challenge to Iraq is warranted. Especially for us, in fact. Den Beste:
Pinter's article was virtually a catalog of all the wounds the anti-war Left has inflicted on itself and all the ways in which its own rhetoric has served to make people like me seem far more reasonable and persuasive to the undecided middle. Pinter is the paradigm of all the ways in which the anti-war Left has been its own worst enemy.
Where is Where is Raed?
This is disturbing. And the image of the blanked out page, empty except for the word "sorry," is as poignant as poignant gets.
Jim Henley says the brave Iraqi blogger got scared by the high visibility resulting from this Reuters article. That's probably right: if he had been arrested, they probably wouldn't have said "sorry." You'd expect the page to be deleted, or filled with some kind of pro-regime propaganda.
I can't put it any better than Henley: Totalitarianism Sucks.
Bill Quick asks his readers "how long are you willing to wait" for the administration to put its money where its mouth is on Iraq. Seven comments so far, no predictions yet.
"Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong," Bush said to loud and long applause in a speech about his faith-based agenda.
"Recent comments by Sen. Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country."
"He (Lott) has apologized and rightly so. Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals," Bush said. "And the founding ideals of our nation and in fact the founding ideals of the political party I represent was and remains today the equal dignity and equal rights of every American."
Desperately Seeking a Clue
I was going to try to make this a Lott-free day, but Krauthammer's Lott Must Go column is too good to pass up:
This is not just the kind of eruption of moronic bias or racial insensitivity that cost baseball executive Al Campanis and sports commentator Jimmy the Greek Snyder their careers. This is something far more important. This is about getting wrong the most important political phenomenon in the past half-century of American history: the civil rights movement. Getting wrong its importance is not an issue of political correctness. It is evidence of a historical blindness that is utterly disqualifying for national office
Favorite line: 'the point is not just what King and his followers did for African Americans, but what they did -- by validating America's original promise of freedom and legal equality -- for the rest of America. How can Lott, speaking of "all these problems over all these years," not see this?'
Exactly. That's why the attempts to exculpate Lott by pointing to this or that gaffe by this or that other political figure are so weak. All the errant comments by all the Byrds, Jacksons, Clintons in the world wouldn't mitigate this colossal failure of understanding, this absence of moral sense.
One of my readers, who has in the past challenged me on my tendency to over-react to Leftist idiocy, wrote the following terse email today: "who's more unamerican, Lott or Chomsky?" The answer is that we're talking about two different things. Chomsky is anti-American, not un-American. In fact, though I don't approve of it, there is a sense in which Chomsky's kind of anti-Americanism is the opposite of "un-American": convoluted, asinine, unconvincing, disingenuous, ill-conceived and -willed it may be, but it rests, remotely, on a kind of idealism, a vision, however warped, of a better America and a better world. I believe this worldview is wrong in practically every respect. But it's not wrong in the same way that Lott's (apparent) worldview is. I never thought of it in these terms before, but I have to say that Lott is indeed "more un-American," in that he has failed to grasp the essence of what makes America great. And, as appallingly, he seems unable to fathom why so many people, conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, "of color" and otherwise, find this kind of un-Americanism unacceptable and shocking.
Congratulations, Trent: it takes some doing to come off worse than Noam Chomsky.
Judging from the transcript of his radio interview with Sean Hannity (via Andrew Sullivan) Lott thinks he's going to be able to ride this out. I still doubt it. And for the sake of everybody, including the GOP, I still very much hope he doesn't.
Letter from America
This Timothy Garton Ash column appears in the New York Times, but its intended audience is Europe, particularly those who can't fathom the American enthusiasm for the idea of toppling Saddam:
What strikes me most, however, is how much people in Washington really do regard the likely war with Iraq as part of an ongoing war against terrorism...
But Washington is not just sitting around feeling scared. It's not just preparing to prosecute the Iraq war. Amply conscious of being the imperial capital of the most powerful country in the history of the world, it is also beginning to think big about the path to a peace that is supposed to end both wars. An administration that came into office ideologically opposed to American involvement in nation-building in foreign countries is now plainly committed to the long haul of nation-building in postwar Iraq.
A new, democratic and prosperous Iraq is to be a model for its neighbors, as West Germany was for its unfree neighbors during the cold war. Some in Washington now talk of encouraging a velvet revolution to democratize Iran. Then there's the United States' rich and friendly but oppressive ally, Saudi Arabia, with its Wahhabi hate wells beside those oil wells. No one in the administration yet says this publicly, but there is a logic that leads from the democratization of Iraq to that of Saudi Arabia.
And so people are talking quietly here about a Wilsonian project for reshaping the whole Middle East, a plan comparable in its ambition to those for Europe in 1919 and 1949. World-weary Europeans, and people in the Middle East, may doubt the feasibility of this idea and the United States' capacity to sustain it. We Europeans would better spend our time thinking how to complement and improve it.
I'm a bit late to Welcome Back party, but I just noticed that Ted Barlow is back. Right on!
It seems to me that president Bush now has his Sister Souljah opportunity. Just as Clinton secured centrist backing when he repudiated the anti-white racism of Sister Souljah, so Bush needs to repudiate the anti-black racism of Lott publicly, clearly and irrevocably. If he doesn't, then I'm afraid he will lose any black support indefinitely and the respect of many decent voters who aren't black as well. Lott's remarks are, in fact, a direct insult to black members of the administration and the Republican Party. Mr. President, we're waiting for you to say something.
Link of the Day
Obviously. Oliver Willis's brilliant mock-up of what a Lott-Bush attack ad might look like. As one of the commenters says, it's not even slightly unfair. A first.
(via Instantman, so you've probably already been there. That's me: affably redundant.)
Apology dos and don'ts
Wise words about how not to apologize, with illustrations drawn from life and current events, by Fritz Schrank. Saddam, Trent, take note.
You know, as I've said before, I have no idea whether Trent Lott is actually an out and out racist, but I have such a low opinion of the man that I wouldn't be surprised. Maybe so, maybe not. I do believe that his statement must have been a mistake, an attempt to be funny, or gracious (or something) that went horribly awry. He cannot possibly have intended to align himself and his party to the "dark side," a dark side that even the man he was attempting to honor had long since repudiated, a dark side that close to 100% of us regard as a horrifying relic of a distant past. Like the Spanish Inquisition, the Black Death, fascism cum anti-Semitism, smallpox. (Hey wait a minute, those last two are having a comeback, too...) He had to have known that it would be a kind of political suicide, a generous gift to his opponents, an embarrassment to his allies (if there still are any), red meat to the usual political correctness suspects, anathema to his own party, and an offense to the sensibilities of good and decent folks everywhere. He can't have done that on purpose.
I really don't know what to make of his non-apology (I'm very sorry that some of you people didn't realize how wrong you were to be offended...) or his wan reference to Jim Crow as "discarded policies." Now it turns out that, in fact, he has said the same thing before. Was this ever really such an applause line in his constituency? And even if it was, can't he find some new material? God help 'em, if so, God help him if not. God help the Republicans if they allow this mediocre idiot to remain as the number two man to represent their party in the national arena. And God help us all if this sets a precedent for a new wave of politically correct language-scrutiny. There is not a single constituency, interest group, ideology, party, faction or individual who benefits from this situation. Everybody loses. (I think Lott should go, but I'm not too impressed with the Democratic Party's approach to this: I heard Nancy Pelosi on TV last night say something like "we accept his apology, but he can't change the words that came out of his mouth." Wrong angle. "The words" aren't the problem.)
As for Lott, something's going on here that I can't see. There must be. It just boggles the mind that a man could be this stupid. All he would need to do is to include some kind of statement affirming the goals of the civil rights movement, and a mostly unequivocal, only marginally mealy-mouthed repudiation of Jim Crow. The brouhaha would still be a liability, but defenders would step up, Sean Hannity would say "Byrd" whenever Alan Combs said "Lott," and it would all blow over, vapidity as usual. He has to know it. Why won't he do it? Why won't he even try? I don't get it. As it is, he has given his party a choice: hound me out of office or say goodbye to your dreams of an Emergent Republican Majority.
As it happens, I think it's too late: all the damage control in the world probably won't save Lott now. I'm pretty sure the Republicans will do the right thing, if only because they have no other choice. I have to say, though, that Bush's silence isn't encouraging. And they were foolish enough to back him before, knowing full well that he was a liability. He has been the least-noticed prominent mediocrity in America for a long, long time. But no longer.
What kind of insane country are we living in?
37 months in prison for saying the words "burning Bush?" I saw this item on the new Reason blog. (Which is great, by the way. Note to Tim Cavanaugh: gabba gabba, we accept you, one of us.) I thought there had to be more to it than that.
But apparently not much more, though. The guy (Richard Humphreys, a.k.a. "prophet Israel Humphreys") is clearly a kook. "I said God might speak to the world through a burning Bush," he said. "I had said that before and I thought it was funny." I don't find it funny, but it's a free country. They say.
It looks like Prophet Israel Humphreys told his joke to the wrong bartender, who reported the nut to the authorities. I don't have all the facts that the jury had when they reached the verdict, but it sure doesn't sound like a real plot to kill the president. They're really going to put this guy in prison?
I'm pretty sure my local bartender is good people. But you might want to check yours out. Or maybe just stick to the weather and your health when you don't know who's listening.
The war on terrorism may be many things (if not much of a war these days.) Perhaps it's merely a clever pretext for decreasing public arts funding. Diabolical.
(via Tim Blair.)
As U.S. experts began to copy and comb through Iraq's 12,000-page declaration of its weapons of mass destruction program, the Bush administration moved yesterday to assure skittish allies that it does not intend to use the document as a trigger to begin military operations against Iraq, U.S. and foreign officials said.
"We're now on common ground with the administration" in a position of "measured skepticism" but no "crazed or precipitative reactions" about Iraq's contentions that it has no chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons programs, said a senior diplomat from one of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council.
Why on earth would Saddam consider giving up his weapons when it's so absolutely crystal clear that the consequences of failing to do so will be practically nil? He just has to hide them for awhile; then the sanctions will be lifted. Then on to greater "glory." That's the deal, right?
(via Daily Pundit.)
I hope they teach this guy some history at Oxford
"We have a different name for the war we're fighting now — now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism," Mr. Boudin said.
"My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world [by murdering as many innocent people as they could at home --ed..] I'm dedicated to the same thing."
"I don't know that much about my parents' tactics [terrorism, murder, bombing public buildings, armed robbery--ed.] I'll talk about my tactics," he added. "The historical moment we find ourselves in determines what is most appropriate for social change."
UPDATE: Slate's Emily Yoffe fills in the details the New York Times left out:
The Times, while having space to describe the origin of Chesa's unusual name—Swahili for "dancing feet"—apparently didn't have room for the names of the men murdered. They were Sgt. Edward O'Grady, police officer Waverly Brown, and Brinks guard Peter Paige. You can read more about them at www.ogradybrown.com. Nor does the Times mention the obvious point that the nine children left fatherless that day—the youngest was 6 months old—have also missed the pleasure of having their fathers see their accomplishments over the years...
Certainly, Chesa should be judged only by his own words and deeds, not those of his biological or adoptive parents. But both in today's Times article and a January 2001 article in Salon, he seems to share Ayers' obtuseness. In the Salon piece, he manages to describe the indignities of visiting his incarcerated father without giving the slightest nod to what got his father put away in the first place or to the suffering endured by the families of the murdered men. Chesa seems concerned only with the suffering of more worthy people. His application for the Rhodes scholarship, according to the Times, observed: "As a child, I relished my personal freedom and tried to compensate for my parents' imprisonment. Now, I see prisons around the world: urban misery in Bolivia, homelessness in Santiago and illiteracy in Guatemala." It's hard to fathom the connection between his privileged mother's imprisonment for murder (she is the daughter of a prominent lawyer and graduated from Bryn Mawr) and that of poor people in Latin America.
To make clear he has embraced the ideology of all his parents, he observes: "We have a different name for the war we're fighting now—now we call it the war on terrorism, then they called it the war on communism. My parents were all dedicated to fighting U.S. imperialism around the world. I'm dedicated to the same thing." Has no one ever told this young man that communism oppressed millions? Was he too busy reading the profile of his adoptive father—himself a terrorist —on Sept. 11 to understand the significance of that day?
Tapped has posted these snarky, satirical anti-war lyrics, to be sung to the tune of "If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands."
They say its original inspiration was this Tom Tomorrow cartoon, and it was elaborated and eventually distilled from the efforts of various blog contributors. (There may have been some discussion of this at the time-- around Sept.-- but if so I missed it because of my blogging hiatus.) The Atrios stanzas cited as an example of the blog-collaboration angle (and there are a great many) aren't particularly distinguished, but the finished product is actually quite clever. Despite the purported composition by committee, the first three verses bear the hallmark of a single, focused, pretty talented author; the remaining two aren't of the same quality.
(As an aside, I can't help wondering if this might not be one of those cases where an old standby has been revamped for contemporary use. Does anyone more knowledgeable about the folklore of protest songs know if this "clap your hands" parody has a remote original in some other source? Just curious.)
In response, Tapped says "yup." I don't say yup. I disagree with the sentiments root and branch-- though there may be a couple of twigs I wouldn't entirely dismiss. (Hey, wait a minute: I basically do think we should bomb Iraq. Confused... Oh, right, it's a parody of people who think we should bomb Iraq.) But it is notable for being just about the only example of its kind that actually scans and makes sense. That may not sound like much, but it's extremely rare. And I don't think it can be doubted that it's also one of those rare parodies that surpasses the original, though in the case of the "clap your hands" song that might not be saying much. Still, you take what you can get. Nicely done.
Something to keep in mind the next time you autograph somebody
Three weeks ago i saw you in Melbourne talking on your tour, your talk inspired me and has realy changed my idea about alot of issues you talked about that night you wrote your signature on my back and the next day i had it tattoo, you would not believe how much curiosity it has attracted and all of it is positive, but i do have one question why is it totally diferent to your signature we see on promotional products?
Look forward to seeing you on Febuary in Melbourne i will be in a diamond seat being inspired again
This New York Times magazine article about soul-searching among and inside American liberal hawks is worth a look. I guess I'd say I'm one, though I haven't felt at all "conflicted" about Iraq. (And I daresay many would want to kick me out of the liberal club-- which is fine: I don't much like clubs anyway.) I wish I felt more confident in the administration's will to act, is all.
That effecting regime change in Iraq is consonant with true liberal principles is difficult to deny. And to oppose it just because the guy in charge happens to belong to a party other than yours is the height of idiocy. That may be a bit of a caricature of "principled liberal opposition," but I doubt it's far wrong. Liberal intellectuals who equivocate about Iraq tend to give the impression of desperation, of grasping, for unacknowledged personal reasons, for a pretext (any pretext) upon which to oppose the president. This article captures this rather well:
On the eve of what looks like the next American war, the Bosnia consensus has fallen apart. The argument that has broken out among these liberal hawks over Iraq is as fierce in its way as anything since Vietnam. This time the argument is taking place not just between people but within them, where the dilemmas and conflicts are all the more tormenting. What makes the agony over Iraq particularly intense is the new role of conservatives. Members of the Bush administration who had nothing but contempt for human rights talk until the day before yesterday have grabbed the banner of democracy and are waving it on behalf of the long-suffering Iraqi people. For liberal hawks, this is painful to watch....
One chilly evening in late November, a panel discussion on Iraq was convened at New York University. The participants were liberal intellectuals, and one by one they framed reasonable arguments against a war in Iraq: inspections need time to work; the Bush doctrine has a dangerous agenda; the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East is not encouraging. The audience of 150 New Yorkers seemed persuaded.
Then the last panelist spoke. He was an Iraqi dissident named Kanan Makiya, and he said, ''I'm afraid I'm going to strike a discordant note.'' He pointed out that Iraqis, who will pay the highest price in the event of an invasion, ''overwhelmingly want this war.'' He outlined a vision of postwar Iraq as a secular democracy with equal rights for all of its citizens. This vision would be new to the Arab world. ''It can be encouraged, or it can be crushed just like that. But think about what you're doing if you crush it.'' Makiya's voice rose as he came to an end. ''I rest my moral case on the following: if there's a sliver of a chance of it happening, a 5 to 10 percent chance, you have a moral obligation, I say, to do it.''
The effect was electrifying. The room, which just minutes earlier had settled into a sober and comfortable rejection of war, exploded in applause. The other panelists looked startled, and their reasonable arguments suddenly lay deflated on the table before them.
Michael Walzer, who was on the panel, smiled wanly. ''It's very hard to respond,'' he said.
It was hard, I thought, because Makiya had spoken the language beloved by liberal hawks. He had met their hope of avoiding a war with an even greater hope. He had given the people in the room an image of their own ideals.
Invocations from the Monkey House
The Virginia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is suing the Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors for refusing to allow a Wiccan leader to give the invocation at the start of its meetings.I don't get it. I thought the ACLU's position was against invocations qua invocations.
(via Kathy Kinsley.)
On this whole Trent Lotto-gate thing...
If there's an American public figure I hold in lower esteem than Trent Lott, I can't think of who that might be. He is, as the saying goes, the worst his party has to offer. And that's even aside from the bizarre and obnoxious statement that "we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years" if Strom Thurmond had been elected President in 1948. Presumably, this evinces nostalgia for Jim Crow, segregation, lynching, the whole Dixiecrat agenda. It is indeed a disgrace. Lott is a disgrace. The Senate and the country would be better off without him. Senate Republicans ought to be embarrassed enough to replace him with someone decent, though that was the case all along; or he ought to be embarrassed enough to resign. Maybe this will be the occasion for either of those long-overdue events, and hurrah for that. You won't hear me complaining.
Yet, while I have no trouble believing that Lott is an idiot and a "foul racist robot" (Ken Layne's perfect term) I still can't believe he really intended to say, on the televised record, that segregation is beautiful and that the world would be a better place if states could determine their own lynching policies. No one is that much of an idiot.
It may indeed be how he really feels. Maybe, as Tim Noah's caption implies, it was a case of letting his guard down and accidentally blurting out his true convictions. But this kind of phrase is exactly the sort of thing politicians always say at ceremonies honoring other politicians. It's Thurmond's unsavory past as a former champion of evil that makes the statement obnoxious. Lott's just the hapless moron who couldn't figure out how to sidestep this unsavory past effectively like everyone else who has offered tributes to Thurmond's "colorful" career.
How would an appropriate tribute to this colorful career go?
"Mr. Thurmond, I would just like to say how relieved I am that you and your hideous, despicable ideas were soundly defeated in your insane campaign for the presidency so long ago. Fortunately for you, and for our party's tenuous grasp on legislative power, many people have forgotten all about this. But I haven't forgotten, and it would still make me sick even to be in the same room as you if I didn't depend on your unwavering support for my leadership position. Just speaking wing-nut to wing-nut, you give wing-nuts a bad name, and that's a fact. However, I would like to pay tribute to you anyway, because in your long, long, long years as a democratically-elected US Senator you have done far less damage than you might have been able to do if you had been in the White House." (Spits on podium.)
Find me the politician who would say that at a fellow Senator's birthday party, and he'd get my vote. It would make C-SPAN more interesting at any rate. But I won't hold my breath. Side-stepping the issue is the best you can expect. It doesn't reflect well on Lott that he couldn't even manage to live up to this low, low standard. At worst it is as bad as everyone says it is; at best it shows poor hypocrisy-management skills.
But his stupid speech is hardly any more outrageous than the fact that there was an occasion for giving it.
When Bush calls Arafat a "partner for peace," or when Clinton shakes hands with Gerry Adams-- same kind of thing, in a way. I don't much like it. I roll my eyes. I fume. But, in the midst of wincing, we shouldn't forget who the real villains are. And there were plenty to go around back in 1948, needless to say.
As for what Lott might have had specifically in his muddled mind when he mentioned "all these problems over the years," I submit that he may been referring to what Republican Party activists usually mean when they say stuff like that: Bill Clinton. I could be wrong, though. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but it sure wouldn't be the first time a politician failed to make sense. And I wouldn't put anything past Lott.
Yabba Dabba Doo
I'm sure there are thousands of men walking around on this earth named George Jones. But there's only one real George Jones.
That's why this headline and byline cracks me up:
All Governments are Economical with the Truth: this one Lies
by George Jones, Political Editor
The first part doesn't scan (or at least to make it scan, you'd have to give it a triplet-laden rhythm which would sound artificial and a bit too jaunty); so it would have to be a recitation, followed by a plaintively-sung "this one lies."
All governments are economical with the truth: this one lies All men are are bound to suffer from a vague sense of dissatisfaction: this one cries And all women lead you on: this one ends up gone before you realize All broken hearts live in hope: this one dies.The A part of the first two lines is recited, the B part sung. Lines 3 and 4 are sung, line 3 on the IV chord, ending on the V chord, line 4 on I-V-I (with a little IV-I tag at the end.) Or maybe "all broken hearts live in hope" could be recited, too. Probably should be.
That's verse two. After the bridge, the singer says "George Jones, Political Editor" to introduce the solo.
OK, that pretty much sucks. The best I could do in a hurry. I'm no more George Jones than George Jones is George Jones. That's the beauty of it.
(via Iain Murray.)
How 'bout that Neal Pollack?
I've seen a few links to this floating around, but I never got around to reading it till now. When was the last time you read an attempt at political humor that was actually funny? You know, as opposed to "telling," or arousing of a sense of grim satisfaction, or simply embarrassing? Me, too. Well, this one made me laugh out loud. No way!
Henry Kissinger has a secret castle and he often walks its parapets. The president trusts Dr. Kissinger, and has told him that he's the perfect candidate to rout the rebels in the Middle East. "I will do it," Dr. Kissinger says. But then a man appears to him in a dream and tells him his extraordinary power and ambition can only be used for evil. The torment in his soul is matched only by his love for his children.
Now I'm really worried...
Steven Den Beste has been the most articulate and persuasive champion of the view that the Bush administration's plans for mounting a challenge to Iraq would materialize before the end of the year. Nevertheless, in view of this, he has now reached the conclusion that in fact there will be no real action on Iraq before February.
I've had my suspicions all along that, intermittent neo-Churchillian rhetoric notwithstanding, this administration may not really be serious about this war. As I've said before, Den Beste has been so successful at presenting the flawless engineer's-eye-view of the supposed strategy behind the apparent incoherence, so persuasive that Bush's bobbing, weaving and backtracking only look crazy to the superficial observer, that he always had me at least half-convinced. His essays are brilliant. They can put you under a kind of spell of clarity and logic. While you're reading one of them, it all makes sense. When you're not, the doubts return. I'm sure I'm not alone in having had this experience. Maybe the Bush administration needs some engineers on the foreign policy staff. They sure don't seem to be following the Den Beste plan.
Unless you are among those who believe that Iraq's weapons programs and other Saddam-generated mischief are none of our concern, or that the danger is no more than a self-serving chimera concocted by an oil-mad administration, there is real cause for worry here. Die-hard Bush partisans (Den Beste isn't one, by the way) tend to place all the blame for "obstruction" of US aims on the UN, UNMOVIC, Hans Blix, the EU, et al. There's something in this, no doubt, but a less infatuated observer could be forgiven for wondering whether the "obstruction" might not be a US aim as well.
Contrary to the view of most of my fellow Bay Areans, Bush isn't an idiot (though that doesn't mean that all of his policies are automatically devoid of idiocy.) He had to have known beforehand that delaying or obstructing US military action would be the only possible result of handing the matter over to the UN, and that the intention of most members of the UNSC in backing the resolution, and the goal of the inspections regimen, was to hinder rather than enable Anglo-American action. Cooperating with the "international community" in this matter (or even merely cultivating the semblance of cooperation, for the machiavels among us) has much to recommend it, to be sure; but only if it's being done for a reason. The UNSC's goal, to this fairly jaundiced eye, appears to be to leave the impression of doing something while leaving the status quo intact. The US's goal, I regret to say, eludes me.
It's rather clear at this point that they're stalling, using the UN and "homeland security" as cover. What's still not clear is the reason. Or if there even is a reason.
Some advice to those who are crossing out "December 8th" and replacing it with "February" in their "moment of truth" columns: you might want to think ahead and get to work on a "Springtime for Saddam" prediction, just in case it's needed when February rolls around. Michael Kelly, doubtless, already has his ready.
A Year Closer to Death
Lot's of folks from the second wave of warbloggers have been noting, even celebrating, their "blog birthdays" recently. I'm not sure if mine counts, since I took a couple of months off. But for what it's worth, I believe my first post was on 6 December, 2001. (I'm pretty sure-- I'd check, but the archives are missing again. It's in the ballpark, anyway.) So, happy birthday to me, and all that.
(Jeez, if I'd had that many friends in school, maybe I wouldn't have ended up as such a bitter, prematurely-curmudgeonly, contrarian anti-social freak. Or even one...)
Trying not to freak out, here...
I had to opt out of the blogosphere yesterday-- it's amazing how much stuff you miss from just one day.
Yesterday, Bill Quick (from whom I shamelessly snagged many of the references in the post directly below, by the way--cheers, Bill!) posted one of the most disturbing things I've ever read.
It's about the story of the weaponized, vaccine-resistant smallpox that Iraq may have acquired from a Russian scientist. I'm not going to summarize it. Just read his post if you haven't already. (I haven't had a chance to check, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was heavily-linked yesterday.)
I've mused all along that it seemed to me that in our dealings with Iraq, there seemed to be some "x-factor" at work, something we couldn't see that would explain much of the craziness of our actions.
Let's Do More about Doing More to Do More
Readers of this blog know that I've been pretty skeptical about the Bush administration's resolve when it comes to living up to its own tough rhetoric on Iraq. It's not so much that I doubt Bush's sincerity. It's more a matter of the theory and praxis not matching up. Or so it seems.
You have to look good and hard to find someone who denies that a Saddam-less world would be a better place. They're out there, but they're on the fringe of the fringe's fringe. And virtually no one outside of crackpot circles seriously doubts that Saddam poses a threat to the US and US interests as well as to the rest of the world. Hardly anyone truly believes that the danger can be dispensed with through negotiation or appeasement without an eventual military confrontation. (Even among the crackpots, the danger tends to be acknowledged: the exquisitely loopy objection to removing Saddam from power is not that it wouldn't be desirable, but rather that the "tainted" US has no legitimate standing in the matter.) The Bush position on this universally-acknowledged danger has been very clear: it is serious, it is imminent, and it must be met without delay. Now it's possible to quibble about the "imminent" part; or rather, to wonder just how imminent is imminent. But given the administration's unequivocal position that imminent means "right now" or "yesterday" it's impossible to avoid the question: what's the delay? They seem to be stalling. Why?
You know the drill. Some say it's not stalling at all, and that everything's going according to plan. This "rope-a-dope" theory has been looking threadbare for quite some time. So has the one that goes "we need time to prepare"-- if we need over a year to organize our forces in order to meet a serious immediate threat, we're in far more trouble than anybody realizes. (At any rate, we probably should be about ready now. There's nothing wrong with the US military's capabilities; it's the decision to set it in motion that is, apparently, lacking.) More plausible, perhaps, is the idea that, behind the scenes, the still-lingering grand old men of a previous foreign policy establishment, who favor the status quo in the Middle East, have been partially successful in putting the brakes on GWB's "reckless adventurism." (e.g., Scowcroft, GHWB, Eagleburger, Baker, perhaps Kissinger and Powell, anyone who has ever been an ambassador to Saudi Arabia-- the only "anti-war movement" that matters. And ultimately doomed to failure like the other one. The status quo is going to break apart whether we elect to try to influence the new order or not.) Or perhaps it's exactly as it looks: the Bush administration is just making it up as they go along; they can't settle on a plan, and keep sending out mixed signals in order to preserve the option of backtracking, and really aren't in control of the situation. We had all better hope that's not the case. Even if you like to think of yourself as "anti-war," even if you'd prefer a less aggressive foreign policy posture, even if you're a dyed-in-the-wool multi-lateralist anti-interventionist pacifist person of conscience who wishes there was some way that Berkeley could join the EU, you've got to admit: an ineffective hawk is far worse than an ineffective dove.
Those trying to discern an orderly pattern amid the apparent policy chaos have set their hopes on the Dec. 8th UNSC deadline as the date when all will be revealed, and the dogs of war let slip. Michael Kelly thinks so, combing through Bush's statements and offering helpful tips like this: "note the word 'any.' It means: any -- at all." Yeah, that's what it means. But saying isn't the same as doing. (John Podhoretz didn't even bother to parse out the words; he declares that "the biggest hawk of all is in the oval office" on the basis of nothing more than his own intuition. Maybe that's as good a basis as any, at that. Who knows?)
Here's how it's supposed to go: Iraq files its report saying that they have no WMDs; the US produces evidence to the contrary, plus indisputable instances where Iraq has attempted to hinder the inspections and has failed to cooperate fully with the resolution; the UN says that that's not enough to qualify as a "material breach" of the resolution and refuses to authorize military force; the US says "sorry guys, but we already launched our invasion a couple of hours ago, just like we said we would. Enjoy."
I'm sorry, but I still can't for the life of me imagine it happening like that. We'll know soon enough.
Anyway, Kelly's textual analysis doesn't extend to stuff like this:
The Bush administration is set to declare Iraq in violation of the U.N. resolution requiring Baghdad to give up weapons of mass destruction, The Washington Times has learned.
"It is going to be 'material breach,' not as a casus belli [cause for war] but as a basis to begin hammering Unmovic to do more," said an administration official familiar with the internal debate.
Over the last couple of years I've noticed something: when people in this administration want to take a position without taking a position, they always fall back on telling someone to "do more." Here, for example. Or here:
MR. FLEISCHER: In fact, our assessment, as you well know, is that Saudi Arabia is a good partner in the war on terrorism, and they are a good partner who can do more. And we continue to work with them, so we can do more together.
On the other hand, Steven Den Beste is able to discern method in the apparent madness, order in the seeming chaos; he does it so brilliantly that he has me half-convinced. December 8th is three days away. Who knows what will happen?
I'm not saying the administration isn't doing all it can to deal with the threat posed by Saddam Hussein.
But maybe they could do more.
Steal this book/no blood for oil
Some poor soul just reached this site from a google search for
Probably not the same guy who arrived here searching for "fatwa selling plasma."
Michiel Visser has been trying to gather the threads in the current Dutch terrorist threat situation, which encompasses a great deal more than the IKEA bombs. It certainly seems as though an Islamist campaign can't be ruled out. He cites a specific threat by Omar Bakri Mohammed to the Dutch government on 11/29: that "the Netherlands would be targeted with a major terror campaign if it didn't stop 'arresting Muslims' immediately." Guys like Omar Bakri issue threats like this all the time, of course: it's part of the required daily routine of any self-respecting Evil Shiekh. Interesting, though... In view of all of this, the government's insistence that this is the work of "criminals" rather than Islamists isn't particularly reassuring. I'd be worried if I lived in Amsterdam.
Now the Swedes have a McDonalds of their own
Police in the Netherlands are searching all 10 outlets of the Ikea furniture chain in the country, after finding bombs in three stores.
The first two devices were discovered in Amsterdam and Sliedrecht, near the port city of Rotterdam, on Tuesday evening.
The bomb found at the Sliedrecht store later exploded at a police station, injuring two policemen.
The police found a third device at the Ikea store in the central town of Utrecht on Wednesday morning, which was detonated in the car park...
Ikea issued a statement saying there were strong indications that there might be more explosives in other outlets.
"We don't believe this is a terrorist-related action," said Amsterdam police spokesman Remco Gerretsen.
So what kind of "activists" do we have here? Anti-capitalist? Anti-Swede? Anti-corporate? Anti-UNMOVIC? Vegans? Supporters of the Rotterdam Four? A "Buy Nothing" protest gone horribly awry?
UPDATE: Here's another story with more detail on the unsavory history of IKEA founder Ingmar Kamprad, and allegations of child labor issues in the manufacturing process. Ray doesn't hold a candle to Ingmar. A filthy rich former Nazi alcoholic (i.e., a one-man Swedish microcosm.) Bad stuff. Still, I can't see how trying to murder a few random Dutch people helps any. But maybe that's just me...
Wrought in Hell
There's this old songwriter's joke that goes something like this:
Pat goes to see Mike at an open-mike night at some bar or other.
Pat: Hey, Mike, whatcha been doing?
Mike: Just writin' songs.
Pat: Yeah, that one was rotten all right, but the first one was pretty good.
OK, so I'm no good at rotten jokes. I spent today on rotten songs, though. Rotten songs is way harder than it ought to be. Songwriters write in hell.
Here's another one:
Q: What comes first, the words or the music?
A: The advance.
"Regular" blogging to resume when I hit rock bottom again.
Behold-- the anti-war movement!
The Flying Pickets stood in front of KSTP Channel 5 from 12 noon until around 12:45. Two men held signs for traffic passing by to see. One held a large "Say No War with Iraq" lawn sign, the other held a large homemade sign that read, "America Now a Dictatorship... brought to you by... the corporate mass media!"
Turn out was low, only three people showed up--which may have been due to the fact that it was at noon, when many folks are at work or at school, and because it was quite cold out.
But, several passersby stopped to talk with the protestors, and many of them agreed that the media has not offered fair coverage of the anti-war movement, instead favoring guests and experts from the Pentagon and other hawkish organizations. Additionally, dozens of people showed their support for the protest by honking horns and waving as they drove by on University Avenue. A few people gave the finger or thumbs down, and a few gave disapproving stares as they drove by, looking as if they had been forced to eat soap...
Organizers of the Flying Pickets have stated that there will be another action next week, but did not announce the time or place.
Are you worried about the "hegemonic position of the Shoah within American life?" Sick and tired of how the "'Holocaust Industry' influences national and international communities, discourses and debates?" Feel it's high time somebody displaced "the 'Holocaust Industry' from these discourses while centering the specifically national, and more generally genocidal histories which the Jewish Holocaust’s current hyper-visibility inherently stifles our understanding of?" Had it up to here with all those newspaper articles on the Holocaust and "the eternal need to 'make sure it never happens again'"?
If so, this call for papers is for you.
Now, I don't doubt for a minute that I may have been "conditioned by the surrealism and hypocrisy of regret." And I'm the last person who would knowingly "problematize resistance through language." But despite the fact that I find about 80% of the stuff in this proposal nearly incomprehensible, it still seems pretty creepy to me.
Maybe it's the scare quotes in that last quoted example that pushes it over the edge. Am I just imagining the implied derision here? Maybe. But it still creeps me out.
(via Andrew Sullivan.)
Bootless but Unbowed
Moira Breen, always a reliable guide when it comes to sorting through the apparently unsortable, has zeroed in on what separates the mockers of the "religion of peace" platitude from the mockers of the mockers of the "religion of peace" platitude.
I have nothing to add to her schema, with which I wholeheartedly agree (not surprisingly, perhaps, since my own position-- that of mocker cum mocker of mockers of mockers-- comes off rather well in it.) But if I were to be honest, I'd have to admit that I share something rather fundamental with those who are so freaked out (or who feign being freaked out for effect, which is probably the larger group) by the ironic use of "religion of peace": the tendency to have such a low opinion of those who disagree with me on certain weighty matters that I cannot help but assume that their disagreement stems solely from feeble intellect and the wickedest of motives. This also inhibits useful discourse, though I don't see any way around it. I truly believe that I manifest this dangerous trait far less frequently, and in a far less damaging way, than many, but then I would, wouldn't I?
Nevertheless, I reserve the right to agree with my own opinions. Somebody has to.
Head on over to SSDB for some pithy random stuff.
Read this terrific article by a Yale student on authoritarian assaults on free speech by tenured professors and the administrations that enable them.
Fatwa madness and the evil awareness deficit
Andrew Sullivan notes this item about Kola Boof, a Sudanese black feminist writer, now in hiding in California, who has been condemned to death by beheading by a Sharia court in London. (That's globalization for you.) The death sentence was announced by "Islamic Sudanese diplomat" Gamal Ibrahim, giving "diplomacy" a whole new meaning. She also claims to have received a call from Osama himself in 1998: "if I had the time to waste," he said, "I would slit your throat myself."
This is from her statement in response to the fatwa:
Sudan is ruled by fundamental extremism now. There is no Allah involved whatsoever. As a black African woman, I cannot and will not be silent as black men in Arab nations are chained up like dogs to the back doors of Muslim households and fed, literally, from doggie bowls.
I will not be silent as African women are raped, mutilated and mentally demeaned by sadistic human beings calling themselves children of Allah. I will not be silent as the number of little black boys who are sodomized by their Arab masters continues to soar, while even worse atrocities attend the lives of little black girls.
The more important reason, though, is that Sudan has been pretty much off the mainstream Depravity Radar. It's not just the slavery, which is vaguely associated with Sudan in the same way that Holland is associated with wooden shoes, France with cheese, etc. and is bad enough. Did you know that Khartoum's "civil war" against the people of the non-Muslim south has caused two million deaths? I didn't, till I read the cursory "background" sentence at the end of the article. The Sudanese government dismisses criticism of this and such-like on the grounds that it is motivated by "religious hatred." Look, if you can't hate slavery, torture and genocide, what are you allowed to hate these days?
I try, I really do, to keep track of as much contemporary evil as I can, but so much slips by.
Oy Vey, part deux
Caught this snippet on CNN yesterday, part of a why-do-they-hate-us in Mombasa segment presented by Ben Wedeman. ("They" meaning worshippers interviewed at a Mombasa mosque, not the folks shouting "We Love America" and "al Qaeda go away." Why don't they hate us?-- there's an idea for next week's segment.)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: America is 98 percent, all their top are Jews. In short, they are Jews, from Bush to the rest, to the all -- from origin Jews.
WEDEMAN (on camera): You think Bush is Jewish?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, the mother of Bush is Jewish.
WEDEMAN: You mean Barbara Bush?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry, I have (UNINTELLIGIBLE). It's true.
Mark Steyn's latest Telegraph column begins as a review of the new Quiet American film, but it's really just an excuse for some clever riffing on the "Bush is a moron" topos. Favorite line:
I happen to like moral clarity myself, but I can appreciate that for some tastes Bush's habit of dividing the world into "good" and "evil" and using these terms non-ironically might seem a little simplistic.
But it's nowhere near as simplistic as dividing the world into "I'm right" and "you're stupid".