August 09, 2003

20 Worst Americans

John Hawkins at Right-Wing News emailed me and several other left-of-center bloggers and asked for a list of who we think are the 20 worst figures in American history.

Last week he posted a list compiled by conservative bloggers. Franklin Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter, and the Clintons were on that list. And since Franklin Roosevelt is (ahem) my favorite president, you can imagine I'm not too impressed.

Rather than put Ronald Reagan on my list just to get back at them, I made a list I take seriously. I'm sure I'm forgetting a critical scoundrel, so I only submitted 19 names. I left the 20th slot open for the one I'm forgetting.

So who did I forget? Use the comments section and help me out.

Here are the 19, in no particular order.

1. Jefferson Davis, because he was the president of the Confederacy
2. Joseph McCarthy, because he was a McCarthyist
3. John Walker Lindh, because he joined the Taliban
4. Timothy McVeigh, because he was our worst home-grown terrorist
5. Charles Coughlin, because he was the grandfather of hate radio and a supporter of Adolf Hitler
6. George Rockwell, because he founded the American Nazi Party
7. Pat Robertson, because he infected the Republican Party with theocracy
8. Henry Kissinger, because, among other things, he greenlighted the Indonesian invasion of and subsequent genocide in East Timor
9. Lee Harvey Oswald, because he assassinated John F. Kennedy
10. John Wilkes Booth, because he assassinated Abraham Lincoln
11. James Earl Ray, because he assassinated Martin Luther King, Jr.
12. Sirhan Sirhan, because he assassinated Robert Kennedy
13. Richard Nixon, because, as Hunter S. Thompson put it, he broke the heart of the American Dream
14. Nathan Forrest, because he founded the Ku Klux Klan
15. William Walker, because he tried to set up his own private slave state in Nicaragua
16. J Edgar Hoover, because he was a championship asshole
17. Benedict Arnold, because he was a traitor
18. Ramsey Clark, because, among other things, he was the co-chairman of the International Committee for the Defense of Slobodan Milosevic
19. Noam Chomsky, because he defended the Viet Cong, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot, and because he calls America the world’s greatest terrorist state after September 11

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August 08, 2003

Coulter, McCarthy, and Hitchens

Geoff Pynn found this charming photo on Ann Coulter's Web site.

coulter.jpg

Christopher Hitchens, in a debate with her on Hardball, sums up in a single sentence what's wrong with her.

I’m appalled to see what kind of model citizen you’d make in a banana republic, Ms. Coulter.

Posted by Michael at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

August 07, 2003

Annoying Arnold

James Lileks and Roger L. Simon are kinda sorta in the Arnold Schwarzenegger for Governor of California camp. Of which I have been suspicious.

Do we really need more goofball celebrities in charge? I love the Terminator movies. They're great action flicks which at certain moments transcend themselves. But I thought Ronald Reagan, Sonny Bono, and Jesse Ventura were enough.

Arnold is apparently a liberal Republican, one of those guys who could go either way but chose the GOP for whatever reason. Fine then, he's probably like my dad with bigger muscles.

I've been in the sorta anti-Arnold camp for a while, even though I don't live in California and mostly couldn't care less. But then I find out that Rush Limbaugh is bloviating hysterically that Arnold isn't conservative. God forbid he's a moderate. Maybe even a closet liberal!

So it turns out he's the type of guy who'll annoy Rush Limbaugh and the Europeans?

Well, shit then. Go Arnold!

Posted by Michael at 11:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (24) | TrackBack (2)

August 06, 2003

The View from the Center-Left

Joe Katzman writes about what he calls Mogadishu Democrats, Democrats who are trying to look serious about foreign policy but end up posturing instead.

Memo to Democrats: kindly get a grip. America was attacked. The public remembers that…As Bill Clinton might have put it: "it's the war, stupid!"

Blaster is quoted in Joe's comments section.
Note to Democrats

You are going to lose. Why? Because you think you need to have an effective message on national defense.

No. No "message." You need to defend our nation. You need to want to defend our nation. You have to feel like our nation deserves to be defended. That isn't a message. Its a belief. And if you don't believe those things, your message can't be credible, no matter how good you are at faking sincerity.


This election and its aftermath very well may end my relationship with the Democratic Party.

I've been unhappy with the Democrats for various reasons for almost ten years now. As time passes I have fewer and fewer reasons to stick with them.

I still have some reasons. I'm an environmentalist and a big fan of New Urbanism. I want some sort of universal health insurance, the less statist the better. I think taxes should favor the poor and the middle class before the wealthy. I hate abortion, but I don't want it banned. I'm a social liberal/libertarian, which clearly puts me with the Democrats and not the Republicans.

At the same time, the peaceniks and the politically correct are pushing me out. The radical/anarchist "Bush=Hitler" crowd has little to do with the Democratic Party, but their attitude is having a corrosive effect on mainstream left-wing opinion.

Every day I find myself thinking less like a left-liberal and more like a centrist. It's not because I suddenly have conservative opinions. I've been a foreign policy hawk for ten years, throughout the Clinton era when Republicans wallowed in right-wing isolationism on the Balkan question and the liberals pushed vigorously for intervention. My role models here are Roosevelt and Truman, not Kissinger and Reagan. And I was repulsed by political correctness the first time I encountered it, along with most people of my generation. (PC is primarily a Baby Boomer thing.) My views on nearly everything are the same as they were throughout the 90s.

It's the left that changed. Or, perhaps, the issues changed and caused the left to shift its priorities. Maybe it's been a little bit of both.

From where I sit it looks like the entire country shifted to the left while I sat still. Noam Chomsky has more influence than ever, while the two sinister Pats (Robertson and Buchanan) have been marginalized. The neoconservatives use the language of Amnesty International, and the Republican Party has discovered the virtues of nation-building. Andrew Sullivan calls Bush a closet liberal, and any non-partisan person can see that he has a point.

The Democrats seem to think it's 1968 (or 1972) all over again. And it isn't. They are decades out of date, and they're almost certain to lose the election.

It is the war, stupid, and the problem isn't "the message."

The primary election, the general election, and the recriminating aftermath will surely shake up the party. I won't know until it's over if I'll stick with the party or walk.

I'm not a conservative and I’m not about to become one. I won’t exchange left-wing baggage for a suitcase-full from the right.

But the Democrats might lose me, as they've already lost so many others.

I have no fear of declaring myself an independent centrist. Most of the people I read and admire are independent themselves. The center is chock-full of utterly reasonable people, while the left and right wing-nuts shriek like moonbats.

So the Democrats better watch out. There is more than one way to declare oneself “Not a Republican.” There are more than two binary views of the world and this country.


UPDATE: Matt Yglesias accuses me of having a schtick. He reminds me that my views are pretty consistently liberal, and that several of the Democratic candidates are mostly in agreement with me.

All true.

And so I understand why Matt is confused at my discontent and is groping for some off-the-wall explanation. He even makes me reconsider to some extent.

The bottom line, though, is that I care more about national security and human rights than any of the other stuff. And, as Joe Katzman put it in his Mogadishu Democrats post, which inspired my post in the first place, much of the Democratic hawk stuff is more message than substance. That is what really bothers me.

Lieberman is the only one I trust with this on a gut level, but I also think he's a boring and uninspiring conservative. I worry about the others, even when they make the right noises and even though I agree with them more often.

My reaction to the party is as visceral as it is intellectual right now.

I worry, too, that I don't share the same values as Democratic activists. Partisan politics is venal and corrupting, and it turns otherwise smart people into idiots. This isn't a left-wing thing or a right-wing thing, it's just a political thing. I'm tired of it, and so are a lot of other people.


UPDATE: Meanwhile, Kombiz has some criticism here. I don't think I agree with him, but at least he makes me say hmmm.


UPDATE: Wow, please read the comments section. Find the 47th comment by a guy named Joe Schmoe. (Maybe you could use a real name, Joe...) It is brilliant and perfect. He gets right to the heart of this matter, and says it better than I did.

Posted by Michael at 10:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (81) | TrackBack (8)

What Dreams May Come

Sean LaFreniere had a compelling and oddly relevant dream last night.

I tried to argue with the villain but he only laughed. I turned the other cheek and he hit it too. Nothing that I did made things better. And throughout the ordeal I kept reminding myself that I was doing The Right Thing, that I was following The Rules, and that I should be prevailing. But I just kept getting beat to the floor.

Finally the dream bully reached towards me with a burning cigar… and I caught it in my hand. However, my dream self had no special powers. I was not wearing gloves, nor was I pumped full of painkillers. Oddly, terribly, I actually felt the stab of pain and smelled the roasting flesh, but I did not let go. Holding the bully’s hand I climbed to my feet and stood up. His implement of torture burned away and his look of evil joy grew more ghoulish, but I did not care.

Then I saw the image of a school’s front doors, decorated in crayon pictures of the Stars and Stripes, as they burst open and children rushed out. I saw people going about their daily lives, shopping and cutting each other off in traffic. I even saw a scene from this evening’s news, where a village elder in the Sunni area of Iraq argued with a young man over their response to the killing of a relative by American solders. The young man wanted revenge; it was what his father had taught him. But the old man wanted an investigation and justice “like in America”. This was a desire for something new, something better; it was what his son’s fate had taught him. And my dream self understood.


What does this mean? Why is it relevant?

Read the rest.

Posted by Michael at 09:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

History of the Ba'ath Party

Hovig John Heghinian in the Comments section pointed to this article about Michel Aflaq, founder of the Ba'ath Party. It's not a new article, but it is worth reading anyway since it explains the ideological foundations of Syria, the old Iraq, and the Iraqi "resistance."

MICHEL AFLAQ was born in Damascus in 1910, a Greek Orthodox Christian. He won a scholarship to study philosophy at the Sorbonne sometime between 1928 and 1930 (biographies differ), and there he studied Marx, Nietzsche, Lenin, Mazzini, and a range of German nationalists and proto-Nazis. Aflaq became active in Arab student politics with his countryman Salah Bitar, a Sunni Muslim. Together, they were thrilled by the rise of Hitler and the Nazi party, but they also came to admire the organizational structure Lenin had created within the Russian Communist party.

Paul Berman describes the Terror War as a continuation of the awful thing that got started in Europe more than 80 years ago and has never come to an end. This is one of the reasons why.

Posted by Michael at 08:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (12) | TrackBack (1)

Additions to the Blogroll

Norman Geras, Oliver Kamm, and Randy Paul's Beautiful Horizons have been added to the blog roll.

Posted by Michael at 08:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

August 04, 2003

Polyamory and the State

Anti-gay marriage activist Stanley Kurtz says of Andrew Sullivan:

In my recent piece, I also noted Sullivan's failure to take up the real challenge of the slippery slope argument as it relates to polyamory. In fact, I don't think the word polyamory has ever been formed on Sullivan's keyboard.

The word “polyamory” has never been formed on my keyboard either, until now.

I’d like to ask Dr. Kurtz, and anyone else, why I’m supposed to worry about this in the first place.

I understand the slippery-slope argument. Gay marriage may lead to legalized polyamory. This argument is intended to freak me out, but it doesn’t.

Let me be clear here. I think people who get involved in polyamorous relationships are making a terrible mistake. I went to college in Eugene, Oregon, and I saw quite a bit of that there. It always ended in disaster; otherwise strong relationships disintegrated with the addition of a third person. Kathe Koja wrote a truly harrowing novel about this called Kink, which reads almost like a horror story. That book all by itself would have been enough to scare me away from polyamory if I hadn’t known better already.

But why is this the state’s business?

The best argument is that a three-parent household is a poor environment for raising children. But what about childless three-way relationships? For whose benefit are they banned?

Besides, I can think of plenty of destructive behavior the state doesn’t regulate, even when it severely affects children. Drinking and smoking, for example, or letting the television babysit the kids all day. You can raise your kids in a wacko cult, or teach them that Jews are Satanic demons that control the Congress. You can deny your children vaccinations and medical treatment for religious or other kooky reasons. It’s best that divorced parents live near each other for the sake of their children, but no one thinks to enforce it.

I think children should be kept far away from television and given books to read instead. I think American children should learn a foreign language when they are pre-school age. And I think they should be kept out of churches until they are old enough to understand what’s going on in there. I don’t think anyone under the age of 20 should have a baby. But I would not dream of legislating any of this stuff, even though I think it would make children better off.

To me it’s obvious that a healthy two-parent household is the best place for a child. But I wouldn’t ban divorce in order to enforce it. Nor would I require single parents to get married. Most people agree with that.

So why is polyamory the state’s business?

I’m not convinced that it isn’t the state’s business. I honestly don’t know. I’m open to persuasion either way. But I really think the burden is on the state to tell us why it should be allowed to micromanage our personal lives in this (and any other) way.

It’s a free country, folks, and not every bad thing is or should be an illegal thing. Even when kids are involved.

Stanley Kurtz wants Andrew Sullivan to address the slippery slope to polyamory. And I want conservatives to tell me why I’m supposed to be afraid of it. And don’t tell me polyamory is not a good idea. I know that well-enough already.

Posted by Michael at 11:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (40) | TrackBack (0)

Another Reason to Oppose the UN

The United Nations is not Star Trek's "Federation of Planets." Okay?

The Ba'ath Party was founded by Nazis in Damascus during World War II. And for the month of August the Ba'ath Party is in charge of the UN Security Council.

Eventually, not this minute, but eventually, the UN needs to be reformed or evicted from the United States.

Posted by Michael at 11:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

August 03, 2003

Idiocy Watch

It [having kids] is the reason for marriage. It's not to affirm the love of two people. I mean, that's not what marriage is about.

Rick Santorum, Republican senator from Pennsylvania


I wanted a reminder of that day when we visited the mares and had lunch with Saddam Aziz. A piece not so much of the old Iraq, but of the peaceful Iraq, something living and good and beautiful, not garish and ugly, or scared, or tortured, or dead.

Patrick Graham in The Observer, longing for the day when Saddam Hussein was still in power


For America, Korea has always been understood as a part of China or a part of Japan.

Mun Yol Yi, The New York Times


Hillary [Clinton] has a history of human rights abuses...She voted against the fillibuster, watched as anti-war leafletters were arrested outside her office and voted for the war in Iraq as well. Her unanimous support of this illegal war and her support of child labor and prison labor should be acknowledged. Nowhere in her whitehouse biography does she aknowledge her support of human rights abuses.

Wage Slave, Portland Indymedia


For the people of Iraq, the next stage in their long suffering is under way.

Robert (my name is now a verb) Fisk, The New Zealand Herald


As for you, the American people, you must start to worry that the performance of your military does not start to give ideas to your southern neighbors. If they continue to perform like they are doing in Iraq , then I for one believe the Mexican Army is a serious threat to your national integrity.

Saudi Prince Amr Muhammad Al-Faysal, Arab News


Manifestly, there is no civil-liberties crisis in this country. Consequently, people who claim there is must have a different goal in mind. What else can you say of such people but that they are traitors?

Ann Coulter, AnnCoulter.com


FRANCE WAS RIGHT!

Anti-war activist at a protest

Posted by Michael at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (1)

August 01, 2003

Enemies of the Future

It looks like the Republican Congress is seriously considering a constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage forever.

I'm in favor of gay marriage for all the usual reasons.

I understand that when societies redefine "normal" there will be initial conservative opposition, and there will be reactionary opponents to the bitter (for them) end.

I don't expect Republicans to like it. But this ammendment business is indefensible.

Conservatives are going to lose this fight, and they know it. Opposition to gay marriage, which was recently overwhelming, is cratering. If gay marriage isn't stopped soon it will never be stopped. And so they want to freeze the debate right now while they still have a slim majority on their side.

That's cheating. It's like calling off a baseball game in the fourth inning, when your team happens to be ahead, and going home and calling it a victory.

Huh uh. Doesn't work that way, folks.

If the American majority later decides gay marriage is okay, it needs to be enacted into law. If it takes ten years, it takes ten years.

And if the majority of Americans want gay marriage in the year 2013, by what possible logic should it be prohibited because people thought it was a bad idea back in 2003?

Societies change. Norms shift. Cultures evolve. You can slow the process down, but you can't stop it.

A constitutional ammendment to ban gay marriage is a declaration of war against the future.

Posted by Michael at 12:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (42) | TrackBack (3)

Workshop Drama

Fantasy writer Gene Wolfe taught a writer's workshop and some of his students complained that he was mean. (This means he didn't pat them on the head and treat them like grade-schoolers, but actually tried to teach them something about writing.)

So Gene up and left the workshop, and Harlan Ellison is furious.

[T]his brouhaha with Gene is unconscionable. Jeanne should not have let him leave, should not have let the little gargoyles take command of the asylum. That Gene opted to do so, to spare Jeanne any embarrassment or hard choices, is further testament to his chivalry and decency. I would have dragged the little fuckers out of their mosquito-infested nests at midnight and browbeaten them into a gelatinous gestalt that understood a GOOD workshop is not one that lets you indulge your delicate amateur umbrages, but one that slaps you around, treats you like an adult, honors what potential you have, gives you your money's worth, does not play to your country-hick paranoias and uneducated ruminations/mythology about what it takes to be a professional, gives you a sense of what true (and truly talented) professionals think of your self-aggrandizing amateur efforts.

This is infamous. I'm calling Gene posthaste. Spread the word; get the straight stuff out there, on website, on Odyssey site, to the newszines.


Consider it done, Harlan.

I've been to lots of workshops, in and out of college. Most university workshops are worse than useless, and I learned just about everything I know about writing from teachers who crucified me when I deserved it, which, when I was first starting out, was every time I wrote anything.

The walls needed to be hosed off when they were through with me. And I love them for it.

Now that I have a Comments section on my blog it will probably start happening again...

Posted by Michael at 12:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

Off the Deep End

What the hell?

She knew her new name might finally stick when she got a phone message recently: "Hi, GoVeg.com. This is your mother. Please call me."

It might sound more than a little odd — but it's true. A young animal rights activist from Indiana once known as Karin Robertson has legally changed her name to that of a Web site run by her employer, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.


That's the craziest thing I've read about since Montana's Libertarian Party candidate for senate turned himself blue.

Some things you just can't make up.

Posted by Michael at 12:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (6) | TrackBack (0)

July 31, 2003

Bad Drinking Scene

Sometimes the little things are the most telling.

Here's a just-discovered interview with Michael Kelly just before he was killed on assignment in Iraq.

Give me a sense of Baghdad as a tourist. Is it different from Amman or is it similar?

Well, it's grimmer. A lot of the Arab world is pretty grim. That whole sort of city of jollity and light and magic tends to be lacking in despotic regimes. When you have the feeling that if you get an eensy bit too drunk the Mukhabarat are going to come and remove your fingernails for making a little Saddam joke at the bar, it puts a stifling effect on an evening out with the boys. Iraqis are big bar-goers. There's a lot of drinking in Iraq. But it's the grimmest drinking environment you could ever imagine. They could give lessons to the Scots on grimness in drinking.

Grim how?

When you go into bar, and let's say it's even a packed bar.... This is a true story. About three days before the war started, I went to a belly-dancing place. There was this woman there belly dancing, or her belly was dancing, whatever. There were forty or so guys there. Everybody's got their bottles of this horrible, horrible Iraqi-produced knock-off Scotch that's fake Johnnie Walker red. They've got fake labels that say "Johnnie Walker rouge." Just awful grim stuff to be drinking in the first place. There were like four guys to a table and they were all smoking—swfft, swfft, swfft—and drinking.

Do they smoke cigarettes that they roll themselves?

No, they smoke knock-off cigarettes like Marbrills or Camroll. Terrible existence. It's like some kind of Orwellian hell. It's just grim drinking to relieve the misery of life there. They drink until they've had enough, which is when they slip silently under the table and have to be carted out by the Mukhabarat.


So, what's the bar scene like now?

I imagine it's cheerier, though still a bit glum, but I don't know. Someone should find out.

Sounds like a job for Christopher Hitchens.

Posted by Michael at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

Barbarism

So many women in Bangladesh are attacked with acid that an Acid Survivor's Foundation is necessary.

From their Web site:


Acid attacks have traumatic consequences - physically, psychologically, and socially. Nitric and sulphuric acid causes skin tissue to melt; in some cases leaving the bones underneath exposed and dissolving bone. Most seriously, acid striking the eyes permanently damages them, and many survivors lose one or both eyes.

...

Acid violence is a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first documented acid violence case occurring in 1967. Victims are attacked for many reasons, such as for spurning the sexual advances of predatory males or rejecting marriage proposals. Recently, however, children, older women and sometimes men have been attacked in the course of family or land disputes, vengeance, and dowry demands.


Andrew Apostolou found a BBC article (with photos) about an acid attack victim in Pakistan. Do not click this link unless you are fully prepared to be horrified.

Posted by Michael at 01:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (16) | TrackBack (0)

July 30, 2003

Discrediting the ICC

I'm a big fan of bringing dictators to justice. And so in principle I should wholeheartedly endorse the new International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Some of the conservative arguments against it don't wash, as Randy Paul ably demonstrates. But nothing will discredit it faster than politically motivated accusations like this one.

Tony Blair was accused yesterday of "crimes against humanity" in a lawsuit lodged at the International Criminal Court in The Hague by Greek lawyers.

Say what you will about the Iraq war. Say it wasn't worth it if you must. Gripe about proceduralism if that's what you care about most.

But liberating an enslaved people from a genocidal monster is not a crime against humanity. It put an end to crimes against humanity.

Placing bleeding-heart liberals like Tony Blair in the same moral category as Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot won't garner a whit of sympathy from the United States for any court that might take such arguments seriously.

I think it's a shame that General Pinochet is still living in his mansion in Chile after he was thrown in the slammer in Britain. And it's worse that no one got Idi Amin extradited from Saudi Arabia before he died an old man in Jidda. France should be ashamed of itself for letting "Baby Doc" Duvalier move on in.

So, seriously, what kind of moral idiot scans the international scene for the worst criminal elements and zeroes in on Tony Blair after passing over Kim Jong Il, Robert Mugabe, and the rest of them?

I'd love to see an international criminal court that does what it says it will do. But maybe we aren't grown-up enough yet to make it happen.

Posted by Michael at 08:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (43) | TrackBack (2)

Another Left Hawk

Norman Geras has already been linked by Andrew Sullivan so he hardly needs any help from me. But in case you missed the plug, I'll second it.

Norman is on the right side in the terror war, and I don't mean "right" as in "conservative." He isn't a liberal, either. He's a leftist.

(I still promise that one of these days I'll write a nice long essay explaining what I see as the differences between "liberal" and "leftist." Suffice it to say for now that Norman seems to be part of the Old Left, not the New Left.)

See especially his essay titled The War in Iraq.

Posted by Michael at 01:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (18) | TrackBack (0)

July 29, 2003

The City in Mind

Tonight is date night with Shelly so you won't get a new essay on my shiny new Web site just yet.

But here's a great interview with James Howard Kunstler for you. He writes novels and also the best books about American cities I've read by anyone. (The Geography of Nowhere and The City in Mind.)

Here's what you'll get if you click through the link.

Q - In your recent book "The City in Mind," you write about the architectural monstrosity that is Boston City Hall. You said that it "looks like the back office of Darth Vader's Death Star, a brutalist trapezoidal heap of stained beige concrete on a despotic brick podium... windswept, cold, vacant, cruel, petty, bland... a nightmare." How could a design that's so obviously *bad* actually get approved and built?

And in answering a different question he gets right to the root of it.
[W]e Americans have a weakness for the idea of the cutting edge, and we're easily led into mystification. It comes from our hysterical Protestant Puritan national experience, which breaks out every 60 or 70 years, like the Great Awakening in the 1740s, Mormons in 1830s, hippies on 1960s. Americans like to by mystified, and they're easily impressed by obscurantists, wizards of Oz, people coming from Europe with their funny accents.

In Europe, architecture had social and political content, but when it came to the US it became just a matter of fashion. So you have all the practitioners in the post-war era doing this brutal architecture in which history has been eliminated, and the forms are brutal, and you have an additional problem: our cities are being tyrannized by automobiles. You're getting a wholesale degradation of public space. In one sense, Americans' public space is being systematically degraded, and on the other hand, the architecture being used to occupy it is becoming more and more degraded.

This was a main component of the Marxist hoodoo that attached itself to architecture after 1945: in order to be good, it had to shock and appall the bourgeoisie. That's us, normal educated people. When you say that normal people know that this is bad, they're reacting appropriately to buildings designed to shock them and injure their sensibilities.


Read it all. Kunstler is equal parts witty and wise.

Posted by Michael at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)

The New Digs

Welcome to the new site.

As you can see, I now have a Comments section so you can flail me in public instead of only by email.

The site is brand-new so let me know if you see any kinks that need to be ironed out.

I spent all evening building this sucker so I don't have time for any new postings just yet. But I transferred the past few days worth of posts from the old site in case you missed them.

I know it's annoying, but you'll need to reset your bookmarks and blog links. Sorry about that. But hey, the Web address is easier to remember now. It's just michaeltotten.com. (I did not include my middle initial. Just my first and last name.)

Regular posting will resume as soon as possible.

Thanks, everyone, for reading. Cheers.

(Who's going to be the first to leave a comment? Come on, folks. Don't start me off with a troll here...)

Posted by Michael at 01:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (30) | TrackBack (2)

The Globalization of Gaza

I have a new Tech Central Station article up today: The Globalization of Gaza.

Posted by Michael at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (9) | TrackBack (0)

Why the Hitch Beats the Rest

Here's a snip from an interview with Christopher Hitchens, just back from Iraq.

CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS, VANITY FAIR: Well, I had been there earlier this year in late March, in fact, on the southern border, briefly. And I remember then that the whole mind set of the press, you may remember it, was that it was a quagmire. It is a better story. Remember that week when Donald Rumsfeld seemed to have lost the plot? Most of my colleagues thought, “Well, that reads better.” And I remember that mentality when I was there recently. I was in north and south and central Iraq. The press is still investing itself, it seems to me, in a sort of cynicism. It comes out better for them if they can predict hard times, bogging down, sniping, attrition.

And so if no one is willing to take the gamble, as they see it, of saying actually that it's going a lot better than it is, but it is. It's quite extraordinary to see the way that American soldiers are welcomed. To see the work that they're doing and not just rolling up these filthy networks of Baathists and Jihaddists, but building schools, opening soccer stadiums, helping people connect to the Internet, there is a really intelligent political program as well as a very tough military one.

GIBSON: You know, Christopher, we never hear about that.

HITCHENS: No.

GIBSON: Are they really rebuilding the schools, and rebuilding hospitals and rebuilding soccer ...

HITCHENS: I'm serious. I don't consider myself to be that credulous. I'm very sales resistant, in fact. In Mosul where I was, I left too early. I left on Monday early. If I waited 12 hours, I could have been there [when Uday and Qusay were killed]. But they weren't just very confident about the amount of information they were being given and the number of informers and tips that were coming to them. They had more, they told me, than they could sift about that. But one of the palaces, for example, that Saddam built, he'd stolen the land for from Mosul University.

Mosul is the site of a very famous old Iraqi university. The American forces were refurbishing the place. They were going to tear down some of the outer walls, give this palace to the university. They'd also connected the university to the Internet and to the Web. Helped people contact scholars on the outside world. That was all the job of these very good- humored, very thoughtful officers who were really helping to rebuild the place.

GIBSON: You know, Christopher ...

HITCHENS: I felt a sense of annoyance that I had to go there myself to find any of that out.


Read the rest.

Posted by Michael at 12:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Egypt Loves Sharon?

I wonder what backroom pressure led to this.

CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Saturday Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was the only Israeli politician capable of forging peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"If he has the desire for a solution, I think he is the only one, and I don't think there is anybody else apparent on the Israeli political scene," said Mubarak, whose country has played a major role in Israeli-Palestinian peace making.


Maybe it's true, maybe it's not. I doubt it, but I don't know. It's not very likely that Hosni Mubarak believes it. But he said so to a group of Egyptian students in Alexandria.

Did somebody have a nice little chat about the 2 billion dollars in aid money we give Egypt every year?

Posted by Michael at 12:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Enemy Propaganda

During the Iraq war I raised the eyebrows of some of my friends when I bluntly described the Arabic language TV station Al Jazeera as "enemy propaganda."

Here's what Iraqi blogger Salam Pax says about Al Jazeera today.

I still have hopes for the day they catch Saddam. Maybe we will have our street party then.

And I would like to add that Jazeera is the worst ever. They should be banned under Mullah Bremer’s Fatwa banning all pro-saddam/pro-ba’ath propaganda. That political analyst they have, something al-ani, is a fucking saddamite.


Thank you.

Posted by Michael at 12:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Two Faces of American Liberalism

Bill Whittle:

Two of the most malignant and cruel mass murderers, rapists and torturers to ever walk the earth have departed the planet – and the left sneers. [I added this link. -MT]

There was a time – I can remember it clearly, though it seems a lifetime ago – when “liberals” were people who fought for humanity and human rights, people who despised murder and torture. Now, wherever we look, the people who call themselves the most “liberal” seem to be the sole remaining defenders of murder, rape and torture.


Joe Katzman:
The results of our contest to find liberals who were actually happy about Uday and Qusay Hussein's death are in, and I'm pleased to report that many self-identified liberals did indeed have worthy things to say.

They're both right. Some sneered, others cheered.

Joe has a list of links to those who know who the bad guys are, including yours truly.

Thanks, Joe. And thanks to the rest who know who and what to cheer for.


UPDATE: Some people are more defensive than necessary. Hesiod Theogony writes:

Hey Mike,

I'd appreciate it if you publicly apologizing for, essentially, calling me a "defender[] of murder, rape and torture."

If you had taken more than three seconds to read my blog [and many posts on it] you'd know that was absolutely untrue. Especially the particular post you link to.

I am assumming you are completely ignorant about what I posted, and what I stand for, so am just asking you politely to stop mischaracterizing that link to me you have on your blog, and to apologize for unfairly labelling me a "defender of murder, rape and torture."

Not only that, for the sake of your own credibility, it makes sense. When people click on that link, and read what I actually wrote, they will not think very highly of your powers of description or honesty.

So, if you don't want to do it out of common courtesy, do it out of your own self-interest.

Thanks.

--Hesiod


Hesiod: I added that link because you sneered, not because I think you defended murderers. (You did not defend Uday and Qusay.) The link text says "the left sneers," which is exactly what you did.

Posted by Michael at 12:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Quote of the Day

From Merde in France who blogs from, well, France of course.

Remember Americans, you are hated here. Hated more than the worst terrorists and murderers.

Posted by Michael at 12:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Poisoned Fruit of Anti-Americanism

No more do I want to hear that Europeans are more sophisticated than Americans.

Here's the latest.

BERLIN, July 23 (Reuters) - Almost one in three Germans below the age of 30 believes the U.S. government may have sponsored the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington, according to a poll published on Wednesday.

In Europe the lunatic fringe is going mainstream.

Maddening as this is, I really do worry for them. I'm beginning to think something terrible might happen over there.

I have an American friend who lives in Belgium, and he recently came by for a visit. I asked him why he thinks Europe is becoming such a dark place all of a sudden, and I must admit I wasn't prepared for his answer.

He said Europe has always been a dark place and it hasn't changed at all.


UPDATE: A couple of readers emailed and accused me of hyperbole. Fair enough. This German conspiracy theory isn't the mainstream.

Even so, I don't think it's right to compare German gullibility to American gullibility by pointing out, for example, that lots of Americans falsely believe Saddam Hussein was involved with the September 11 attacks.

There is a qualitative difference between believing Saddam was behind an attack on America and believing that the American government was behind an attack on America.

It is at least plausible that Saddam had something to do with it, even though he didn't. The idea that the US government committed that deed is insane.

Posted by Michael at 12:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
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Essays

Terror and Liberalism
Paul Berman, The American Prospect

The Men Who Would Be Orwell
Ron Rosenbaum, The New York Observer

Looking the World in the Eye
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

In the Eigth Circle of Thieves
E.L. Doctorow, The Nation

Against Rationalization
Christopher Hitchens, The Nation

The Wall
Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic

Jihad Versus McWorld
Benjamin Barber, The Atlantic Monthly

The Sunshine Warrior
Bill Keller, The New York Times Magazine

Power and Weakness
Robert Kagan, Policy Review

The Coming Anarchy
Robert D. Kaplan, The Atlantic Monthly

England Your England
George Orwell, The Lion and the Unicorn