April 05, 2003

Montreal Gazette: Compassing the Zeitgeist

Mike Boone of the Montreal Gazette captures a bit of the zeitgeist in "I haven't left the Left (have I?), which also mentions Snoofmadrune (and deftly captures a bit of the snoof philosophy). He seized on the chance I offered to take his own political pulse and see if he had gone over to the Dark Side.

I was particularly keen because I'm going through an unsettling political metamorphosis. My support for the invasion of Iraq makes me a pariah among my left-wing friends, some of whom do not own country houses.

It's difficult, over lattés, to make the case for pre-emptive war. But armed intervention might have saved European Jewry. And Rwandan Tutsis. And Bosnian Muslims. Not to mention Iraqi Kurds and Shiites.

Untroubled by being out of step with French foreign policy, I still feel I'm somehow dishonouring the memory of my grandparents, who repose not far from Fred Rose, the only communist ever elected to the House of Commons.

As I find myself uncomfortably "embedded" with the likes of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, those unrepentant Marxists are spinning in their graves. It's like a political werewolf movie: I'm agreeing with neo-con Charles Krauthammer (another former Dailyite) and waiting for tufts of hair to spring out of my ears.
[...]

Are you a commie rat? A fascist pig? A fence-sitting capon? Take The Political Compass test at www.politicalcompass.org

Because of the survey I am running with my Kameraden, I must defer publishing my results.

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April 04, 2003

All About George

George, at allaboutgeorge.com sent me a response to today's Lazy Quote:

A difference is that the industrious, more often than not, find ways to go 'round in circles — compounding any effects added by the earth's rotation.

Great observation. I am in awe and bow to fine intellect.

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Lazy Quote II

The lazy manage to keep up with the earth's rotation just as well as the industrious.

—Mason Cooley

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April 03, 2003

Draft Jessica Lynch 2020

Just wanted to start the ball rolling a little early. She'll be 20 soon, which makes her eligible to run in 2020.

Larger image available.

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Montréal and Politics: Full Contact Blood Sport

What can I say?

This is shameful to me as a born-Canadian and patriot to both my birth country and the US, where I am now a citizen and have spent most of my life.

Canadians hurl abuse at U.S. hockey peewees

MONTREAL -- A peewee hockey tournament in Montreal became a trip into hostile territory for a busload of Americans who say they encountered such fierce anti-Americanism that they will think twice before returning.

During a four-day visit, boys travelling with their Massachusetts hockey team witnessed the burning of the Stars and Stripes and the booing of the U.S. national anthem. When travelling in their bus emblazoned with a red-white-and-blue "Coach USA" logo, they saw people on the street who extended their middle fingers or made other angry gestures.
...
The children watched as several demonstrators made obscene gestures toward the bus. A U.S. flag was dragged through the street.
...
Mr. Carpenter came across a knot of demonstrators surrounding a protester who, with an Iraqi flag and a U.S. flag, had climbed atop a traffic light.

The crowd cheered when the man waved the Iraqi flag, and booed the U.S. flag, Mr. Carpenter said. Then the protester doused the U.S. flag in kerosene.

By a strange coincidence, we were in Montreal at the time of these events, taking the eldest and his friends on a college tour of our alma mater, McGill.

I'm not surprised this happened. It was actually quite a raucous time in the city, with all these loud hockey players roaming around. Our friends were staying in the Holiday Inn with seeming endless streams of boisterous kids humping huge hockey bags and sticks around.

My wife and I didn't feel these tensions. Of course, we weren't in a truly foreign country or city. But I will say I felt a little apprehensive about leaving my car overnight on the street with the New York plates. But I felt the McGill sticker in the back window would act like a little totem of protection. Yes, I'm guilty of denying my country. "See, I'm not really one of them."

Yet I still wore my American Flag pin proudly in downtown Montreal. Maybe a little apprehension. But 200 pounds and a red belt in Tae Kwon Do give one a certain confidence if not arrogance.

Some observations, not to excuse but maybe to cast light:

— Hockey is a rough sport, with rough people. I personally don't watch it much (Formula One is more my style). Some of that always spills on the ice when there is tension between teams, cities, countries. What happens at hockey games should never be taken as characteristic of a people.

— Canadians can get pretty pissed off at Americans. They will often comment on how Americans joke around at ball games during the Canadian national anthem. A bit of getting back at the Yanks might have been in play. Government officials stepped in almost immediately to denounce this behavior. If it had happened to adults, it would have been annoying. That it happened to young kids is just horrid.

— Montreal is a highly charged, politicized environment. I know it is hard for Americans to realize that they are not the primum mobile around which all action revolves, but the politics has almost nothing to do with the US. It is in Montreal's very nature.

Politics is apocalyptic.

There is the French-English tension on a citywide level.
That is also a class tension, as a large chunk of the French population is working class, and traditionally the ruling class in the city was English. That has changed in recent decades as, frankly, the English have fled, but it's bred in the bone. There is literally a street running down the middle of the town: to the East, predominantly French-speaking; to the West, English.

There is a language tension. Laws restricting English have been a source of strife and high feelings.
There is a city agglomeration tension, as traditional independent communities have been forced to join a larger urban entity.
There is economic tension. Things just aren't that rosy in Montreal and haven't been for 30 years. At one point in the 60s and 70s (when I lived there), gun battles and bus burnings broke out between rival gangs of taxi drivers. I kid you not.
There is nationalist tension. Strained relations with the rest of Canada stretch back to 1760. In 1970, that led to bombings, kidnappings, assassination and the imposition of martial law.
The license plates say "I remember" but that might be better expressed as "we never forget".
There have been repeated attempts by up to 50% of the province to redraw the map of Canada. These campaigns are brutal, vicious affairs that leave everyone bruised and bleeding (often literally).

There are ethnic tensions that often explode. I hate to characterize people too broadly, but there is a strain of xenophobia in the Quebec populace. During a recent electoral failure, a senior government official actually referred darkly and threateningly to the "new" Quebecers who had defeated the separatist referendum. The implication was that they would be dealt with.

These things pop up like "whack-a-mole" periodically and need to be beaten down. Usually with a royal commission.

Italian immigration in the 60s led to French-Italian conflict in the 70s. Traditional anti-semitism can run up against a substantial Hasidic community and a more ordinary Jewish presence. Large numbers of Africans and Caribbeans have moved to the city, adding a racial tension.

And in recent years (a surprise to me on this trip), large numbers of Muslims have moved there from the French-speaking North African countries. Concordia U (the other English university) has ongoing, often physically violent struggles between traditional ethnic rivals. I am told that the nickname for the college is Al Qaeda U.

In addition, the Gallic intellectual does tend to the Marxist, adding a soupçon of the romantic revolutionary to the mix. Your average French college student (not in business school) tends to fancy himself or herself a dashing mix of Che and Communard. The one-finger salute and the rude comment are their way of demonstrating their street cred. Hey, it's better than a molotov cocktail or a brick.

In other words, politics in Montreal is a full contact blood sport.

By contrast, Americans are used to way more gentility and bipartisanship than you find on a good day up there.

So never fear. Last month Montrealers were throwing the finger at Americans.
The likelihood is that tomorrow they'll go back to giving each other the finger. Like God intended.

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April 02, 2003

Lazy Quote of the Day

Ambition is a poor excuse for not having enough sense to be lazy.

Attributed to Milan Kundera

Posted by campbell at 05:07 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Cheese-Eating Tyrant Worshippers

I have been told repeatedly that "People who are Anti-war are not Anti-American." To which, I can now safely say au contraire.

Ordinarily, I would be quoting the French paper on this, but Le Monde has a poor interface for finding anything. So here's the scoop from The Times of London:

Jean-Pierre Raffarin, the [French] Prime Minister, said: "The Americans are not the enemy; just because we are against this war, it does not mean that we want the victory of dictatorship over democracy."

Excusez-moi, J-P! Check out these numbers from a survey by Le Monde:

only a third of the French felt that they were on the same side as the Americans and British, and that another third desired outright Iraqi victory over "les anglo-saxons".

One Third want the victory of dictatorship over democracy!

Well, I guess that's vastly more support for Saddam in France than in Iraq, from the look of things. I have a nomination for that new Axis of Evil once Iraq is finished.

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Le Monde Seized By Aliens

There used to be a respectable newspaper in France called Le Monde. But an odious Saddam propaganda rag has succeeded in stealing the name and running articles headlined:

Les proches des 250 000 militaires envoyés dans le Golfe dénoncent "une sale guerre dont rien ne prouve la nécessité". "Nous n'avons pas épuisé toutes les solutions", précisent-ils.

Really, the families of all 250,000 soldiers think this is a dirty war? Who would have thought?

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Fantasy Lives at Washington Monthly

To those of them what wants to read this long piece by Joshua Micah Marshall:

Practice to Deceive
Chaos in the Middle East is not the Bush hawks' nightmare scenario—it's their plan.

To the rest: my gloss with hefty excising of blah blah blah. Not nearly as long, at least twice as entertaining, and non-fattening.

Well, it certainly was long. and dull. and ultimately pointless. Look, policy articles need to be descriptive and prescriptive.

The entire prescription this makes is:

For God's Sake, don't do anything. Let the Muslims run over the West. Give them whatever they want. Let them blow up our towers, nuke our cities. Institute Sharia in France. Whatever it takes.

Let's just lie back and hope we live until we die. Even if it's in a fireball.

The fact that many neocons were Jewish, and outraged by Moscow's increasingly visible persecution of Jews, also caused them to reject both the McGovernite and Kissingerian tendencies to ignore such abuses.

Those darn Jews. There's always in there somewhere.

Hawks like Perle and William Kristol pulled their hair out when Kissingerians like Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell left Saddam's regime in place after the first Gulf War. They watched with mounting fury as terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists claimed more and more American and Israeli lives. They considered the Oslo accords an obvious mistake (how can you negotiate with a man like Yasir Arafat?), and as the decade progressed they became increasingly convinced that there was a nexus linking burgeoning terrorism and mounting anti-Semitism with repressive but nominally "pro-American" regimes like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
When the Oslo process crumbled and Saudi Arabian terrorists killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11, the hawks felt, not without some justification, that they had seen this danger coming all along, while others had ignored it. The timing was propitious, because in September 2001 many already held jobs with a new conservative president willing to hear their pitch.

Those darn neocons. Being right and all. Shit!

The pitch was this: The Middle East today is like the Soviet Union 30 years ago. Politically warped fundamentalism is the contemporary equivalent of communism or fascism. Terrorists with potential access to weapons of mass destruction are like an arsenal pointed at the United States. The primary cause of all this danger is the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, poverty, and economic stagnation. Repressive regimes channel dissent into the mosques, where the hopeless and disenfranchised are taught a brand of Islam that combines anti-modernism, anti-Americanism, and a worship of violence that borders on nihilism. Unable to overthrow their own authoritarian rulers, the citizenry turns its fury against the foreign power that funds and supports these corrupt regimes to maintain stability and access to oil: the United States. As Johns Hopkins University professor Fouad Ajami recently wrote in Foreign Affairs, "The great indulgence granted to the ways and phobias of Arabs has reaped a terrible harvest"--terrorism.

I like how he actually gets at the truth here, also. It's refreshing in this otherwise fanciful article.

[... Much fantasy clipped out of here ... ]

Why do we imagine that our invasion and occupation of Iraq, or whatever countries come next, will turn out any differently?

Which occupation led to September 11? He can't mean the defense of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait after the brutal invasion by Iraq of that latter country in 1991. How is that the US's fault?

The Bush administration also insists that our right to act preemptively and unilaterally, with or without the international community's formal approval, rests on the need to protect American lives. But with the exception of al Qaeda, most terrorist organizations in the world, and certainly in the Middle East, do not target Americans. Hamas certainly doesn't. Hezbollah, the most fearsome of terrorist organizations beside al Qaeda, has killed American troops in the Middle East, but not for some years, and it has never targeted American civilians on American soil. Yet like Hamas, Hezbollah has an extensive fundraising cell operation in the States (as do many terrorist organizations, including the Irish Republican Army). If we target them in the Middle East, can't we reasonably assume they will respond by activating these cells and taking the war worldwide?

This is my favorite passage: where he asks us to
1) Leave Hamas alone (after all they only kill Jews)
2) Allow Hezbollah to run terrorist cells in the US.

No question these are problem countries. Their governments buy our weapons and accept our foreign aid yet allow vicious anti-Semitism to spew from the state run airwaves and tolerate clerics who preach jihad against the West. But is it really in our interests to work for their overthrow?

In other words, why change? They are only anti-Semites. That's acceptable.

The tyrannies in these countries are home grown, and the U.S. government has supported them, rightly or wrongly, for decades, even as we've ignored (in the eyes of Arabs) the plight of the Palestinians.

Home grown tyrannies are terrific. Let them kill, maim, imprison, torture and rape.
Why? Because we've let them for years. Good thing the cops in New York didn't treat the crack house on my street the same way. After all, it was here for almost five years. That's got to be some kind of grandfather clause.

"We need to be more assertive," argues Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, "and stop letting all these two-bit dictators and rogue regimes push us around and stop being a patsy for our so-called allies, especially in Saudi Arabia."

It worked out so well so far, letting Saudi spew hate and provide support for terrorists had nothing to do with those 9/11 hijackers who grew up there.

  empire is our destiny and we might as well embrace it.

You say Unilateral Hegemon like it's a bad thing.

Such a strategy might keep the fundamentalists in power for years longer than they otherwise might have been.

Yeah. Better not encourage democracy in Iran either.

the assumption that we can turn it into a self-governing democracy--that the very presence of that example will transform politics in the Middle East. But what if we can't really create a democratic, self-governing Iraq, at least not very quickly?

God. You're right. Forget about encouraging democracy in Iraq.

And that's yet another reason why overthrowing the Middle East won't be the same as overthrowing communism. We did the latter, after all, within a tight formal alliance, NATO. Reagan's most effective military move against Moscow, for instance, placing Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, could never have happened, given widespread public protests, except that NATO itself voted to let the weapons in.

Here's where he really outdoes himself. Earlier, he told us that Communism collapsed from within, without the West's encouragement. Now it was NATO that did it.

Oh, and those wouldn't be the same Pershings that the people who are now demonstrating in Europe were so violently opposed to in the 80s. Nah. Got to be different. Those peace-loving folks would no more support the continuation of the Soviet gulag than they would argue to extend the regime of Saddam Hussein. Would they?

In the Middle East, however, we're largely alone. If things go badly, what allies we might have left are liable to say to us: You broke it, you fix it.

I see. So the French, who rely on Iraq's oil for a great part of their economy and the future growth of Europe will walk away at the end of the war. They'll be bellying up to the table demanding their cut soon enough. Already, in fact.

Franklin Roosevelt said he was trying to keep the United States out of World War II even as he--in some key ways--courted a confrontation with the Axis powers that he saw as both inevitable and necessary. History has judged him well for this.

But God forbid we should emulate him.

Far more brazenly, Lyndon Johnson's administration greatly exaggerated the Gulf of Tonkin incident to gin up support for full-throttle engagement in Vietnam. The war proved to be Johnson's undoing.

Ahh, the Great White Quagmire. Thar she blows!

When President Clinton used American troops to quell the fighting in Bosnia he said publicly that our troops would be there no longer than a year, even though it was widely under stood that they would be there far longer. But in the case of these deceptions, the public was at least told what the goals of the wars were and whom and where we would be fighting.

So some lies are OK, and some are not. Now who is showing moral cloudiness.

Today, however, the great majority of the American people have no concept of what kind of conflict the president is leading them into. The White House has presented this as a war to depose Saddam Hussein in order to keep him from acquiring weapons of mass destruction--a goal that the majority of Americans support.

Wait, wait. I thought you said the people have no concept what kind of conflict. Then you say its to depose Hussein.

I think they have pretty well signed on to this goal and will hold Bush's feet to the fire on this goal alone. I haven't seen any free passes handed out.

The author begs the question by assuming he has proved some case that we are on the road to this global US jihad. But you have to prove the case to the American people before you can claim that it is proven. Saying don't make it so. The beauty of democracy is the contention of ideas.

The problem for the antiwar fringe is not that Americans are not listening to their arguments. The problem is they've heard the antiwar argument (including all this stuff) and have rejected it.

[ ... clip much other mandated pulling in of taxes, social benefit stuff to show
how evil Bush is .... ]

Ending Saddam Hussein's regime and replacing it with something stable and democratic was always going to be a difficult task, even with the most able leadership and the broadest coalition.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

Ridding the world of Islamic terrorism by rooting out its ultimate sources--Muslim fundamentalism and the Arab world's endemic despotism, corruption, and poverty--might work. But the costs will be immense.

But we wouldn't want to try that.

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Iraq War Diaries

In response to the chiding of a soft-headed loon, I roused from my CNN-induced stupor and added the link to Kanan Makiya's War Diary over at The New Republic Online.

Do not believe any commentator who says that a rising surge of "nationalism" is preventing Iraqis from greeting U.S. and British troops in the streets with open arms.

Read.

Posted by campbell at 12:17 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

White House Ends Drug Terror Ads

Ad Age:

The White House anti-drug office will end its controversial drugs-and-terror advertising campaign and, in a reversal, shift more of its $150 million budget toward children's media as it fights for Congress to extend the program another five years.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy will also cease a polarizing $8 million annual study that found the ads aimed at youth were not working and that pitted the drug office against the Partnership for a Drug-Free America.

Good riddance.

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April 01, 2003

Trapezoid

Okay. Okay. This whole war thing is getting way way too hot for me.

Deep Breath.

I really should be getting back to work, but I wanted to take 15 minutes to tell about my day. There is a point, so bear with me for a bit.

As I waited for the elevator this morning, a little head popped out down the hall. It was my newly-moved-in little 3 year old neighbor.

"I can't get back in my house." Standing by him was his 2 year-old sister, sucking her thumb. Apparently they had come out in the hall to play and the apartment door had closed and locked behind them. They were so adorable and worried and since they come up to the knees of my hulking babies, my heart started melting right away.

"Where's your mommy?" "She's asleep." "OK. Well I'll fix that!" And I did. A moment later a completely disoriented mom in her pyjamas was rescuing her ducklings.

Then I got on the subway. Sitting across from where I stood was a man, probably Haitian, sitting with his 3 year old son on his lap. As we rode down to Times Square, I caught snatches of their conversation. When we got to 50th street, the man was intoning "Cinquante", teaching his son something about numbers. Then as we approached the next station, he said "Circle" and just as the doors opened for me to leave: "Trapezoid".

That did it. God I love this city. I know that Dennis Hammill and Jimmy Breslin are lurking in the subway somewhere testing our mood and telling us how we live and travel in fear and anxiety.

But I see life and kids and teaching kids and our aspirations for them. And hope. In our subways ... and in Baghdad.

If you're going to fill your heart with something, it's way better to fill with it hope than dread.

Just thought you should know what I'm thinking on the first day of April in the greatest city on Earth.

"Trapezoid"

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Journalism's Dream Team: Sahhaferaldo

Iraqi's irrepresible information minister has been unemployed for almost a month now. But don't fear. Looks like a job is coming his way, according to this Arab News article.

DAMMAM, 30 April 2003 - The Al-Arabiya satellite channel has confirmed that it has offered employment to the former Iraqi Minister of Information Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf ... he could choose between presenting special programs or being a political analyst or both ... [...] In explaining the offer, the director said that Al-Sahaf had been part of the former Iraqi government and that because of that, he knew many things of interest to viewers. He also has wide knowledge and experience that could help in explaining Iraq's history and discussing the country's future. [...] Al-Sahaf is internationally known and many people, especially in the Arab world, would welcome him as a TV personality. Even President Bush admitted last week that he sometimes broke off his official meetings so that he could watch the Iraqi information minister on TV. His press conferences were eagerly awaited during the war when he was called the minister of misinformation.

Why stop there? I propose MSNBC's new dream team to replace Press and Buchanan: presenting Sahhaferaldo:

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March 31, 2003

France's Newest Action Figure

Although I personally prefer Astérix the Gaul (certainly one of my Breton ancestors) and the Belgian Tin-Tin, I can see the attraction of this new French comic book star.

To see the whole comic book cover, just cliquez ici.

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