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Monday, June 30, 2003

Still catching up on work. Damn these low interest rates and people flocking to refinance.

Well, actually, not damn them--it's good money while it lasts.

But nothing like working to CSPAN, especially their on location special running this week on Iraq. USAID head, Nazios (sp) moving and shaking over there.

No media spin, no commentary--the good, the bad and the ugly.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Well, looks like Blogger got a makeover. That might explain the post that disappeared from my blog recently.

So a whole day off from blogging. Didn't think it was possible. And now the pile of work on my desk is that much smaller. Hmm.

Might need to do that for a few more days. Hopefully there won't be any withdrawal symptoms...


Wednesday, June 25, 2003

For the bare naked...truth in news, try this.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Andrew Sullivan weighs in on Iran. Clips:
Some sophisticates argue that the U.S. should simply sit back and say nothing. If the opposition is identified as American proxies, U.S. intervention could play into the hands of the mullahs. The trouble with this is that the U.S. government has to say something; and many of the students are looking for American support. President Bush's careful phrases - describing the protests as "the beginnings of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran" and urging the mullahs to treat the dissidents with respect - struck a balance between moral support and avoidance of a direct call to rise up, when such a rising might be prematurely put down by the government.

And:
Perhaps the most effective weapon the West can now wield is grass-roots. The impact of Iranian-exile satellite television on the current situation has been profound. By broadcasting the brutality of the clamp-down, these new stations helped force the government into something of a climbdown last week. The Internet has been a critical tool as well. Denied real access to media, many Iranians, especially students, are online. Websites connect them to the outside world, to exiles, and to each other. The blogosphere is exploding in Iran, helping spread information and providing a virtual model for free speech that the mullahs will never be able to excise from the collective memory. If Western governments can help finance some of this, support it and encourage it, the consequences could be enormous.



And on Conservatives on gay marriage:
Two right-of-center columnists, Stephen Chapman and Cathy Young, both back marriage for all. I have to say that the best discussion right now is being held in conservative venues - where real diversity of opinion is actually present. Stanley Kurtz's opposition to all marriage rights to gays is now tempered at National Review, for example, by more moderate voices, which is encouraging.


Take that, Hillary Clinton. And Howard Dean. Just keep your fingers to the wind. Eventually you may correctly predict that this debate is blowing in a different direction. Then maybe you will feel politically safe enought to come out. So to speak.
.


...And From the Iranian Right...


From Iranian.com, the same site that provides a choice of letters to send about what our Iran policy could be (by the way, nice return (form) emails from Pres. Bush, Chaney and others), an article called "Are We Worthy" about having a referendum in Iran:
And it never dawned on these Liberal Lefties that the issue is neither Monarchy nor Republic, as both operate democratically in the West and both are repressive in the East. The issue is the value system that accepts popular sovereignty (and liberal democracy), which we would be nearer today if the people Miss Amini so admires had not incited the population for revolution in 1979 and opted for the free election with UN supervision.

Even today, despite 1979, we could be in a better political situation if instead of all this jabbing at Reza Pahlavi and the institution of Shahanshahi, the focus was a secular consensus focusing on a national referendum under international observation to determine who's who and what's what.


So according to Amir-Khosrow Sheibany, and although he is not ruling out the possiblity of a Monarchy, it's not the exact type of government that ultmately matters in Iran. What does matter is the "value system that accepts popular sovereignty" embodied in a "secular consensus focusing on a national referendum."

And maybe what also matters is that protestors are reportedly being raped, tortured and killed. July 9th might be shaping up to be a test of wills. Meanwhile, some of us are preoccupied with debating the finer points of who has the right to discuss with whom about which policy, group or individual ought or ought not have the right to debate the finer points of who ought or ought not be able to discuss policy with or about the protesting Iranians themselves. We may be navel-gazing and fiddling while Tehran burns.

So anyway, Amir makes a good point; uses the term "Liberal Lefties"; and takes a shot at the U.N. He even emailed me back, asking if I watched NITV.

What's not to like?




Monday, June 23, 2003




Buy One, Get One Free


Hillary Clinton's campaign slogan for 2008?

No, it's Thomas Friedman's latest column, this one on Iran. He seems to express the sentiments of many Iranian bloggers: for America to "do no harm.":
Students in Iran are rebelling against the Ayatollahs. Is there anything we can do to help? The truth is we have very few tools to influence events in Iran, and even if we had more it's not clear we'd know how to use them. But there is one huge tool we do control that will certainly have an impact on Iran: It's called Iraq.

And how is Iraq going?:
A friend in Tehran sent me an e-mail message Thursday, saying, "The Iranian state-run TV is just reporting how Americans have failed in Iraq. [But] average people, like my grocer, actually think Iraq and Afghanistan have become heaven. It seems that they come up with the opposite version of what the government is trying to tell them. My grocer keeps on saying, `When are the Americans coming here? They fixed Afghanistan and Iraq and we are still miserable. . . .' "

And always the foreboding Friedman foreshadowing:
Bottom line: We need to get Iraq right before we raise expectations about Iran, and getting Iraq right will be hard. But the key to getting Iraq right is getting the Shiites on our side — if not openly, at least tacitly — while helping them nurture a progressive political system. Do that, and it will encourage Iranians to do the same. Fail to do that, and we will lose in both Iraq and Iran.


Jeff Jarvis's "History Lesson" links to persionblogger, who, in a feisty defense of his own country, disagrees with Friedman's assertion that Iraq may positively influence Iran.

Could it be that most everybody is a Nationalist at heart? By that meaning love of and pride in one's own country, regardless of the deficiencies, be they in Iran, Iraq or America.

But it's a little confusing, this whole Iran development. And the more you learn from reading some of these Iranian blogs, the harder it becomes to know how to feel or even whom to believe anymore. On the one hand you hear the stories of Iranian rooftops during the Iraqi war with signs saying, "Come here next" and the apparent repression by the mullahs, their non-reforming president, and the government thug enforcers. But on the other hand, you have many bloggers expressing at least a vehement disdain for our system of government and repeating the talking points heard in your typical ANSWER coalition anti-war rally.

Maybe some Iranians don't think the US, Iraq, or most anyone else has much else to offer them besides moral support and links on websites. And maybe we ought to simply get out of their way, like the running of the bulls in Pamplona--they're pissed off and just need to be left to themselves. And maybe what's called for is a little restraint when insults and obscenities are directed at our system of government, our culture, our elections, Pres. Bush, etc.

Go figure, trying to be compassionate and supportive and coming directly up against the much-heralded anti-Americanism. *sigh*



Thomas Friedman also gets mentioned via andrewsullivan's "Emerson and Bloggers" links to Chris Lydon. Don't know much about Ralph W. Emerson, but this piece of Lydon's seems to reveal his wishing for more of a Left tilt in the NYT op-ed department. This ought to be good:
The nastier inside crisis at the Times is the unprecedented and truly lethal civil war among the Op-Ed stars: Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman against Tom Friedman and William Safire. Friedman says that bait-and-switch war propaganda from the White House is, in effect, good enough for government work. Paul Krugman says it is "arguably the worst scandal in American political history — worse than Watergate, worse than Iran-contra." Dowd names Safire among the neo-con war groupies. Safire says there was no intelligence failure on the missing Weapons of Mass Destruction. These are not reasoned differences; this is editorial and moral chaos.


Lydon did have a talk show for NPR in Boston. But making the case for a more homogenous op-ed page at the NYT?

Well, never thought I'd say this, but....GO TOM FRIEDMAN!! GIVE 'EM HELL!!




Sunday, June 22, 2003



Don't forget to vote



For US-Iran policy to be hands-on, hands-off, or otherwise at Iranian.com via Jeff Jarvis's coverage of Iranian blogs.

No registering, waiting in lines or party-line voting necessary. Nice.



Hillary Clinton Argues for Abortion to be a State Issue, Overturn Roe v. Wade



Link via andrewsullivan to his piece, "Another Profile in Courage":
Clinton: Well, obviously in our system it is unlikely ever to be a national decision. It is a state-by-state decision because of the way our federal system operates, where states define what the conditions for marriage, or domestic partnership, or civil union might be, so I don't think that we will ever face it.


Oh, whoops. She wants gay marriage, domestic partnership or civil unions to be a state issue; I must have inserted abortion in there.

Scratch that misleading headline. How about this:

Hillary believes that there are more voters who support Choice for Abortions than voters who support Choice for gay marriage. So Abortion? No state choice, it's federal. Gay Marriage? State choice, no votes in pushing for federal.



Not as catchy a headline, but maybe a little more accurate.

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Hoder Exposes Himself to the Media


Well, his blog, anyway.

After leaving a post with Hoder saying I would link these articles, andrewsullivan got there first. But here are the SanFranChronicle and the CBC articles. Lots of good exposure.

From the CBC:
Hossein Derakshan started the website a little more than two years ago - starting the current blog craze for Iranians.

This week, George Bush described the Iranian protests as "positive" and "the beginning of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran".

Derakhshan didn't agree. He posted this opinion: Could you please shut up and let us deal with our problems ourselves? You better first take care of what you've done in Iraq, Mr. Bush.

We had some of the responses he received.


Looks like the CBC just couldn't help themselves. Then again, it may be a Bush-bashing quote, but it could have been worse. I believe it originally read: "Could you please shut [the f**k] up and let us..." As well as "...take care of [the sh*t] you've done in Iraq.."


IranianGirl, on the other hand, posts a tough quote from Condi Rice. Not clear her feelings on President Bush or Iraq.

Quite a wide range of ideas, politics, strategies and emotions. Indeed.

Interestingly enough, now it becomes clear to me that Hoder is Hossein Derakshan. Hmmm. Having just made that connection, I feel a little torn between my unreserved praise for him in a post to his comments and his...feelings...about Iraq and Bush's seemingly harmless words.

Well...this might just call for a follow-up, amended post on his site. Or maybe he purposefully made those comments to increase traffic to his blog and get his name in the papers? Sure seems to have worked. Hmm... that sly bastard.





Friday, June 20, 2003

CONTACT



I'd almost forgotten that a month ago I emailed the Lebanese-based Dar Al Hayat and vented. Granted, it was my first response to an Arab publication, so maybe I might be forgiven for my rookie indignation. And for its title, Lebanon Baloney.

Who would have thought that a month later Dar Al Hayat's web editor, Ghaleb Solh, would bother responding. Hey, that's even more response than from my arch nemesis at the NYTimes, Thomas Friedman.

Here's the historic first contact:
dear sir,

thank you for your feedback
your mail has been forwarded to the parties concerned

Best Regards

Ghaleb Solh
English Web Editor
Dar Al Hayat
Dar Al Hayat Bldg; Maarad St; Riad Solh Sq.
PO Box: 11-1242
Beirut; Lebanon
Tel: +961 1 987990/1/2/3/4 ext. 257
Fax: +961 1 983921
email: gsolh@alhayat.com
web: http://english.darlalhayat.com

> ----- Original Message -----
> From:
> To:
> Sent: Thursday, May 22, 2003 4:54 PM
> Subject: Re: "Killing the Resistance" and "An American Perestroika"



Some embarrassing highlights:

The warm up:

> Al Hayat--
>
> I was impressed with your website after my first visit. Your articles are
> much more intelligent than the (government edited?) stiff writing in
> Arabnews.com.


The premature name-calling:

> But, good Lord, Zuheirk Seibati and Abdulwahab Badrakhan are pessimistic,
> doomsday chicken little types. "The sky is falling!" It's all Israel's
> fault! It's all the U.S.'s fault!


Made sure to insult their country:
> For crying out loud, what has Lebanon or any other Middle Eastern country
> done for the Palestinians? Besides use them as a pawn in a third party war
> with the West? I remember Lebanon giving Arafat and his Palestinians a kick
> in the ass and an ejection from Lebanon the last time, right?


Made sure to insult their fellow Arab countries:
> Let's face it--NOBODY seems to care about the Palestinians, besides a lot of
> useless rhetoric. Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia--lots of big
> countries and NONE of them wants to accomodate the Palestinians with some
> land of their own. What do they do? Force them to live in "refugee camps."
> REFUGEE? Refugee from what? The 1967 war? That's bullshit. Why not
> spread these poor people out in your OWN countries, instead of filling them
> with hatred, lies and empty promises of the right to return....


Made sure to insult their hubris:

> And Zuheirk Seibati's talk of truce=surrender, surrender=suicide is a load
> of CRAP! Does he think that Egypt committed "suicide" by ending hostilites
> with Israel? Did Jordan commit suicide by doing the same?...


A gratuitous Arafat insult:

>...Arafat? Why is he one of the richest
> men in the world, whose wife lives in the lap of luxury in someplace like
> France? Why hasn't Arafat been "transparent" with his money and maybe
> freaking SPENT SOME ON THE SUFFERING PALESTINIANS!


Another swing at their own country:

>... What about Lebanon? When will you people throw off the yoke of
> Syrian occupation? Why don't you have "resistance" or an "intifada" against
> the Syrians?


Some shameless American bravado:

> The "Arab Street" may have been too preoccupied with itself lately. In case
> you missed it--the "American Street" is pissed off and not in the mood to
> take much petty bickering.


And so on. Wow. That's kind of embarrassing, looking back.

Of course, posting comments at sites like little green footballs just seems to bring that emotion out all over again. And so does taking the bait from some international bloggers who happen to vent at our beloved US of A, like here.

Must be part of the maturing process. I expect to see Bush-bashing from the Left, but was surprised to see it coming from an Iranian blogger. Oh, well, that's the beauty of these things--direct contact.

Debating Bush and US foreign policy from within Iran with a blogger in the US. Like Yogi Berra, I think, put it--only in America.





Has the Iraqi Reconstruction Reached the "Tipping Point?"



Instapundit links to Victor Hanson's good column on Iraq. Good stuff:
So the problem is with their hypocritical and vocal leadership, not us — specifically their ambiguous relationship with the West and their creepy desire for Western material comforts, but not the underlying foundations of secularism, gender equity, consensual government, freedom, capitalism, and transparency that alone produce such prosperity. The best way to get America and the West out of millions of Islamic lives is not to burn effigies of George Bush in the Arab Street, but would be for Arab governments to prohibit immigration to the West, to stop importing Western material goods, and to bar decadent Westerners from entering Arab countries.

Any takers?


And the true feelings of the Arab Street?:
The bitter truth is that the Middle East wants the West far more than the West the Middle East.

Third, we must not necessarily confuse the activities of the Taliban, the Baathists, Hezbollah, and other Dark-Age cadres with the majority wishes of the Arab people. Privately, most folks of the region desperately want Western freedom, medicine, entertainment, education, transportation, and consumer goods. If given ample respect and consideration, they will confess that their own theocracies and autocracies, not Western colonialists, are culpable for failing to provide the security and prosperity necessary to accommodate their exploding populations.


Putting some poll numbers on those thoughts: Poll shows only 17% of Iraqis want the US to leave Iraq. Heard it on AM630, ABC's John Batchelor/Paul Alexander last night. NYTimes and WashPost must have missed it...But Instapundit links to a mention of the poll.

Pretty good poll numbers, although 17% of 25 million can start to add up. On the other hand, not all of them are taking up arms. And if you think about it, there probably are at least 17% of the Left here in America that want the US out of the US.

So could it be that the reconstruction of Iraq may be "tipping" the right way now? Heck, even Thomas Friedman was sounding hopeful in his recent column. He won't last at the NYTimes if he keeps that subversive stuff up.

So hopefully, if the blogosphere keeps pressing the point, the print and tv media powers that be will eventually feel compelled to give up the "Vietnam quagmire" spin. And eat crow.




Thursday, June 19, 2003




MORE IRANIAN LINKS

Link via buzzmachine to hoder's list of Iranian blogs:

Almost the most complete list
I guess here is the biggest list of Iranians who blog in English. Some of them might be discontinued. Roll over to see more infor about them:
Persian Students in the United Kingdom, Geek Style, the eyeranian, Pejmanesque, Me and Sassan, Webgard, BlogIran, Persian Blogger Chronicles, Lady Sun, /var/log/blog, Hooman\'s Scribbles, astigma, Against The Wind, SF Days, How I learned to stop worrying and write the blog, My Iran, Iran Testimony, Steppenwolf, Letters From London, Rozane, Relic, Take One, Notes of an Iranian girl, random opinions, observations of Tehran life, The Upper Echelon of Happiness, Cyber Architect, Derision, Mr Ad, zane irani, Rostam, Get High By A Persian-American, The Days Of My Life!, Ve Ri Tas, Nostalgic Notes, Shayan, Not Exactly, ZiZi Daily, MonkeyX - Hairy Thoughts, Neema journal, Mamad's Diary, I am an Iranian doughter, Persian Garden, Iransara in English, Iranian; Or Canadian?, Society & Economy, Blue Bird Escape, Persian Magic, Braindroppings, My Cute Son, Problems of Moments, Braindroppings, IRAN e Ashofteh, Daily Thoughts, H. Aghvami's Weblog, Think Global - Act Local, diary notes, The Lonely Rave, A glimpse at Persian Insights, zharf, My Travel To Belgium, Pondoria, notes of an iranian, I'm just a teacher, International Weblog, Yesterday I Cried!, , I believe, Well ....Me, where's MY elephant?, Musing over the ontological status of a boiled egg, armenians are hot, The 3rd world view, online time, cfarivar.org, PersianWeblog, Loom, ehsany, Way To Our Business, International Weblog, MayKadeh, Plate (from Shiraz), In My Head, Iran Zamin, Persian Note, Iranians' Lobby, Kaveh, observations of Tehran life, The Tehran Chronicle, Kalantar Weblogestan, The Lonely Rave, Love School, Junior Engineer, Tech Guru, Persian Girl, Way To Our Business



In a post called "Iranian English Blogs" Neema comments on the list:
This list might provide a peek into what the Iranian youth are blogging about. But most likely the English blogs are quite different from the Persian ones. The English blogs are mostly ex-pats and immigrants who don't really know what the feelings are on the streets of Tehran. There are probably very few first hand accounts - but there are some: Iraniangirl, kaveh, and another blogspotter.

Silent Running even claims that the ratio of female to men among Iranian bloggers seemed to be "3 to 1". Also he says that Iranian bloggers are a rather self-contained blogosphere that link to each other and rarely venture out from other Farsi websites.

I keep my feelings about the politics of Iran restricted to my private blog.


Appears to be a distinction between Iranian bloggers within Iran versus outside Iran. That's right--we want first hand accounts, the real deal.



The same post has some statistics:

Micah at June 19, 2003 11:27 AM:
Some stat from one of Hossein's presentation's

Weblogs, an Iranian Perspective
http://hoder.com/weblog/archives/007227.html

Lack of blogrolls (for social reasons as much as technical)
12,000 Persian weblogs
76% male
2-3 million Iranians in diaspora, blogging plays a role connecting with each other and with the people living in-country
Average number of posts and comments: 48, 126
top 5 categories (except sex, which dominates 6 of the top 10 Persian blogs)
27% general
16% personal
9% social/life
9% literature
7% politics

http://dijest.com/bc/old/2003_05_23_bc#200331493


Go figure. Here I thought every single Iranian blogger was consumed with the protests and "revolution." According to this, politics amounts to only 7% of the blogs; and that is far behind sex, the apparent leader.

Oh, well. What did they say in Iraq? Sexi, Whiskey, Freedom? Why not. Maybe it's like the 60's over here were for us. Political, cultural, religious, economic, technological and sexual revolution.

Well bring it on. Hold on to your skirts, Mullahs! Maybe simple political reform is the very least of what's coming to you.

Wow. That would make John Lennon proud. *sigh*



Wednesday, June 18, 2003



JASON BLAIR...HOWARD RAINES...NOW THOMAS FRIEDMAN?

Op-eds like Too Soon To Tell might just be the tipping point for bringing Thomas Friedman down at the NYTimes.

Bad reporting or looking the other way at bad reporting? No. For telling it like it is..

On Iraq:
On the positive side, street life is coming back all over, restaurants and shops are reopening, Baghdad is getting about 18 hours of electricity now, and gasoline lines, a mile long four weeks ago when I was last in Iraq, are now virtually gone. Security has improved, but it still has a long way to go. Schools have been operating. Newspapers are exploding and political parties forming.


On the neighborhood:
The regional news is also net positive. The student uprising in Iran, the stutter-step movement toward an Israeli-Palestinian peace, the ferment within Saudi Arabia, yesterday's elections in Jordan, are all trends that were enhanced by the downfall of Saddam's regime.


On the much-heralded and feared "Arab Street":
Far from the Arab street, or press, rising against the U.S., the Arab media are replete with introspection and even self-criticism of how the Arab world mishandled Saddam.


Wow. So maybe the question now is not "Why do they hate us," but "Why do they hate themselves."

Of course, Friedman also points out:
On the negative side are two huge unresolved issues. Contrary to the blather of the Bush team, we have not finished the war and we have yet to establish an interim Iraqi political authority that can eventually work together to govern Iraq — instead of Saddam's iron fist or ours.


But he doesn't even bash L. Paul Bremer:
"who's off to a good start...The plan is for Mr. Bremer, by July, to form a "political council" of Iraqis that will serve as a shadow cabinet, appoint Iraqi interim ministers, and oversee the writing of a new constitution, educational reform, legal reform and privatization.


By July. Maybe by July 9th, the day called for by the protestors in Iran calling for mass demonstrations? That'll be something to watch for.

So all in all, Thomas Friedman is surprisingly positive on events in the Middle East--which ought to raise some eyebrows with his editors. He's no Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman, that's for sure.

He did, however, throw the Blame Bush First crowd a bone by concluding his column with:
If I were President Bush, though, and my political life depended on Iraq being a success, I would already be worrying. I would have double the number of U.S. troops there and be throwing so much food and investment into Iraq that people there would think they've won the jackpot. Why the president is not doing that beats me, and it could end up beating him.
.

Whew. Close one. Maybe he managed to save his job this time. Careful, Thomas Friedman.











LEBANESE EDITORIAL USES THE "R" WORD: REVOLUTION IN IRAN.

Dar al Hayat's Hazem Saghieh has an editorial entitled Iranian Revolution?

It might still be too early to talk about an Iranian revolution. So far, it seems that the revolution has not yet found its own coalition, considering that its leadership, which goes beyond a simple students' rebellion, has not improved either.

Still: Iran is going though a historical period, which could pave the way for a revolution in one or two years. Accusing Khomeini of betrayal, disobeying Khatami, 'taking hold' of the university, conservative students joining reformists, police supporting them and the geographic expansion of the opposition, are all indubitable signs of a great Iranian upheaval, showing that Tehran is the first capital to be affected by Saddam's downfall and the first to have been encouraged by the fall of Saddam’s statue.


This may be the beginning of the end of denial.



Tuesday, June 17, 2003




IRANIAN LINKS

Andrew Sullivan provides links to Iranian bloggers in support of their movement.

Following a link to Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder) via Buzzmachine:


Mind your own business Mr. Bush
BBC NEWS:

US President George W Bush has meanwhile described the Iranian protests as "positive" and "the beginning of people expressing themselves toward a free Iran".


Could you please shut the f-- up and let us deal with our problems ourselves? You better first take care of the shit you've done in Iraq Mr. Bush.


Mayby Bush might get the message.

Instapundit has more.

For news updates in Farsi but with written English text there's RadioFarda. Cool Iranian/English music piped directly to Iran and surrounding countries.

Monday, June 16, 2003




TROUBLE IN TEHRAN

Michael Ledeen appeared to describe a revolution underway in in an interview with Brit Hume in his Special Edition. Andrew Sullivan's "A Real Jam" links to Michael Ledeen's summary of events.

Meanwhile, the "Tehran Times" makes first mention (that I saw) of the events:
TEHRAN (Mehr News Agency) -– Foreign Ministry Spokesman Hamid-Reza Assefi said here Monday that Iran will reserve the right to sue the U.S. in international courts for "blatant interference" in its internal affairs....He was referring to the Sunday remarks by U.S. President George W. Bush in which he called the recent anti-government protests in Iran "positive", calling them "the beginnings" of a push for broader freedom in the Islamic Republic.


The denial deepens:
Bush's remarks follow intensified rhetoric by U.S. officials against the Islamic Republic over the last few days in the wake of the students' protests against the privatization of universities, which have been abused by certain hooligans.


According to reports, between 85 and 90% are average Iranians and families; about 10% are students. "Protest" may be a bit mild for a nascent revolution. "Privatization of Universities" was the excuse to fill the streets; now it's against the regime itself. And "hooligans"? I've seen footage of drunken, rowdy Irish soccer fans rampaging after a soccer match. But I doubt the Irish hooligans had Molotov cocktails and weapons and took the police on by the thousands.

CNN's Anderson (something) interviewed an Iranian who predicted that the regime would be "finished" by the year's end.






Thomas Friedman finally weighs in on Hamas

After a hiatus to dabble in domestic partisan politics and possibly as the result of my gentle prodding (yeah, sure), Thomas Friedman finally weighs in on Hamas.

In his latest column, The Reality Principle, Friedman refuses to engage in knee-jerk, emotional responses to the violence:

The smart thing for Israel to do — and it's not easy when your civilians are being murdered — is not to play into Hamas's hands. The smart thing is to say to Mr. Abbas: "How can we help you crack down on Hamas? We don't want Israel to own Hamas's demise. Palestinians have to root out this cancer within their own society.


But then this:
It may be that Mr. Abbas can't step up to this. It may be that the Palestinians are capable only of self-destructive revenge, rather than constructive restraint and reconciliation.


In support of that pessimism, a poll cited on Wolf Blitzer's Sunday show on CNN showed that a majority of Palestinians support Hamas, not Abbas.

But Friedman rejects the analogy of Israel fighting Hamas to the U.S. going after Al Qaeda:
Of course Israel is entitled to pursue its mortal enemies, just as America does, but it cannot do it with reckless abandon, notes Mr. Ezrahi, for one reason: America will never have to live with Mr. bin Laden's children. They are far away and always will be. Israel will have to live with the Palestinians, after the war. They are right next door and always will be.


Maybe a better analogy would then be the US occupation of Iraq. As with Israel, security is first and foremost. We are disarming, arresting or killing the "dead-enders"--Fedeyiin, foreign fighters, etc, just as Israel ought to deal with Hamas. And we are working towards providing security until an Iraqi police force can do it themselves, just as Abbas and his reconstituted Palestinian Authority will ultimately need to do in the West Bank and Gaza. But since this will take months if not years, the countries involved in the Roadmap ought not get squeemish at a constant level of violence.

And secondly, the US is working on winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqi people, the majority of whom may be reserving judgment on the occupation for the time being. They most likely won't support the "resistance" if they can see first hand that the American occupation is improving their daily lives. Specifically, a means to feed their families, like a job and a stable currency; basic infrastructure like water and power; functioning schools for their children; and basic security, with an Iraqi face.

This "dual track" approach seems to be working in the Kurdish north and the Shiite south of Iraq. Why couldn't it work with the Palestinians? In fact, the same approach apparently is part of the Roadmap. The WashPost reports:
In parallel talks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have been discussing possible Israeli troop pullbacks from the northern Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Bethlehem in return for a Palestinian pledge to curb militants in those areas.


So, in the end, maybe Israel will take Thomas Friedman's suggestion to exercise restraint. But as long as Sharon and Abbas keep moving down the road in the Roadmap, even a steady level of violence ought not stop the progress. In fact, from Saul Singer's "The Secret Plan" for NRO:
Sharon's real objective is to get to the middle phase of the roadmap and park there until the Arab world is ready for peace, which may or may not ever happen. It is a reasonably comfortable place for a gradualist to be. Palestine may choose to be belligerent, but Israel will have a provisional border to defend and a state to hold accountable.


No surprise that Sharon, the ex-general, might follow such good strategy.





Thursday, June 12, 2003




THE MCCAIN BROTHERS WEIGH IN ON THE WMD CONTROVERSY.


Joe McCain weighs in on the controversy in an email going around. I saw if first courtesy of Bigwig before finding it in my email. Good stuff.

Recently, his brother, Senator John McCain, expressed confidence that WMD would be found in Iraq.

And while brother John may fly fighter jets better (except for one fateful shootdown in Vietnam), Joe might just have him beat in the writing department. This kid may have a future...

"THE SCABROUS SEARCH"

So now the political hounds are after the 'Great Mass Weapons Scam', eh?
Going to hold hearings. Going to find out if the poor old American people
have been tricked, fooled, misled.

What is the matter with them?

Here's what SHOULD matter to them:

A man has been removed from power who murdered millions and made many more
millions terrified.

A man has been removed that had, and used, weapons of mass murder on many
occasions, on the Kurds, on the Iranians, on the Shiites -- in short, on the
weak.

What happened to those weapons is not clear. We know he had them. We know,
because we saw the piles of bodies over the years. And we should be very
worried about what happened to them, where they are now! Not whether we
have been tricked by the President of the United States?

A man has been removed whose friends and kin raped women, tortured athletes,
grabbed property and possessions at whim, destroyed whatever and whomever
they wished.

Have these political defects not seen the photos of the mass graves, seen
the trophy photos of torture, not heard the stories from the victims, not
heard even our own troops and rescued Prisoners-of-War?!

At least this one man and his pals will never murder and terrify and torture
and maim and waste and destroy again.

And perhaps the other strange and dangerous thugs of the word, especially
this terribly dangerous Kim Jung-Il will hesitate before starting up their
killing machines.

This is a terribly malevolent world, where battalions of misled fanatics are
simply and violently anti-Western, Anti-Christian, Anti-Jewish. And they
will kill, just as the Kamikaze-driven troops of the Japanese Empire and the
Nazi-infected Wehrmacht killed -- until enough of them died, and the killing
finally stopped.

It is a horrible, cancerous world in which only radical surgery applies.

As long as we stay subtle and rational and philosophical, millions more will
die. Jews, Americans, Westerners, reasonable Arabs, peaceful Muslims. They
will die just as others kept dying while Neville Chamberlain temporized, and
Americans cried "America, First!". If the Japanese hadn't made the
incredible decision to raid Pear Harbor, when would we have joined that war?
And does anybody remember, it was German who declared war on the United
States? Else, when we have gone to Europe to help beat down these monsters
of holocaust and pillage?

Have we gone that insane, again? Despite so many terrible, bloody lessons
from history? Recent history? Ancient History? ANY history!!!

This is not new. The Crusades against the Moors? The American White Man
against his former slaves? Virtually any country against the Jew for 1500
years?

It is a bad time. But for the sake of history, there is one land strong
enough to deal with it. And deal with we must!

No amount of petulance against George Bush, and complaints about
misinformation, and elite sniffing distaste is going to change the fact that
there is a band of unthinking radicals that murder only to murder -- and the
more horrific the murder is, the more devastating it is, the more innocent
the victims are, the better. It brings them closer to Allah. Well, just as
we had to help millions of Japanese Imperial Troops get to their gods
faster, so must we enhance the celestial trip of these assassins of
humanity.

That's what matters.....REALITY matters!

Please, no matter what you think of George Bush -- and we McCain Republicans
have much vinegar to remember from South Carolina -- don't go down this
trashy, sleazy road!!

If you do, you will wreck a very problematic victory with which we must be
patient -- we were in Germany and Japan four and five years, remember -- but
more, you will absolutely cripple any chance of dealing with so many other
mastes of death and murder and mayhem.

No, you will absolutely take away the fear our terribly brave men and women
have put into them, and perhaps unleash them!

Joe McCain




Wednesday, June 11, 2003


TAX CUTS? NO, THEY'RE CALLED SERVICE CUTS.

Tom Daschle announced he would begin calling "tax cuts" "service cuts" today on CSPAN.

Relatedly, in Tom Friedman's editorial today, "Read My Lips, he proposes the following:
Democrats have been groping for a way to counter George Bush's maniacal tax cuts, which are designed to shrink government and shift as many things as possible to the market. May I make a suggestion? When you shrink government, what you do, over time, is shrink the services provided by federal, state and local governments to the vast American middle class. I would suggest that henceforth Democrats simply ask voters to substitute the word "services" for the word "taxes" every time they hear President Bush speak."

The NYTimes op-ed pages driving the Democratic strategery? Or vice versa?

We report, you decide.



WHERE IN THE WORLD IS THOMAS FRIEDMAN?

Meanwhile, 16 are dead and 60 were wounded after a bus bomb in Jerusalem. Abbas seems impotent in the face of Hamas' defiance of his polite request for them to cease and desist their attacks.

And WHERE IS TOM FRIEDMAN? AWOL! He's too busy providing Tom Daschle his daily soundbite--"service cuts," not "tax cuts."

That's it. I'M CALLING YOU OUT, TOM FRIEDMAN!

Check your email, will you?!:


From: pwshelton@speakeasy.net
[ add to contacts ]

To: letters@nytimes.com
Cc:
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 07:39 am
Subject: Thomas Friedman--Isn't it time to weigh in on Hamas& the Road Map?

Thomas Friedman--

Now that the photo-opps in the Middle East are past (and you may have found your voice again, now that the rush of good news for Bush is over), why don't you take the lead on Abbas's challenge from Hamas, etc?

For example, is it PR, or could a civil war be under way? Should we sit it out, should we covertly help Abbas or what? And if Abbas can't control Hamas, should we just wait through few more years of bloodshed? Or should the "Bush Doctrine" apply to Palestine as well?

Come on, Mr. Friedman, I'm sure there's something you can blame Bush for in your editorial, too. Take the lead on this, and you can wisely let Paul Krugman keep the lead on his foolish WMD drivel.

Besides, your "Do I Have Mail" was old material. How's about some new stuff so that I can rebut you on my website?

Paul W Shelton
talkradiodropout.blogspot.com



And no, I'm not obsessed with Friedman. I can quit bashing him anytime. I just choose not to.

And it's not necessarily that he's as bad on the editorial pages as Maureen Dowd or Paul Krugman. He seems to walk a finer line. And yet, he has more of a cumulative effect on me, like a toxin slowly building up with every seemingly harmless dose.

But lots of people are dying over there. So STOP SCREWING AROUND WITH DEMOCRATIC TALKING POINTS AND TAKE A STAND ON HAMAS, THOMAS FRIEDMAN!









HOW DO YOU LIKE SHIITE UNREST, BIATCH?

VOA News reports that thousands took to the streets in Tehran to protest the ruling clerics.

Gotta love this:
Crowds shouting for political prisoners to be freed clogged the square near Tehran University, the scene nearly four years ago of the biggest pro-reform unrest since the 1979 Islamic revolution.

This time, though, the protesters railed against both Iran's powerful Muslim clerics for limiting their freedoms and the reformist government for failing to rein them in.

Demonstrators smashed shop windows, set fire to motorcycles and damaged public telephones before baton-wielding riot police and members of the hard-line Islamist Basij volunteer militia broke up the throng.


Wow, sucks for the mullahs. Now who's in a quagmire, biiiaaatch?

Oddly enough, the Tehrah Times made no mention of the protest. In fact, their "Domestic" section of their website read:
No news for this category on June 11, 2003


In fact, a search of the word "protest" brings up the following:
Result of Search on Last Seven Issues:


IFJ Protests Arrest of Iranian TV Journalists in Iraq
Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 Category: Politics


Musharraf Says He'll Only Quit When Pakistan Stops Needing Him
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 Category: Politics


Zimbabwe Opposition Leader in Court on Treason Charges
Date: Tuesday, June 10, 2003 Category: International


Palestinian People Express Their Support for Intifada
Date: Monday, June 09, 2003 Category: Perspectives


Slaves' Descendants Fight to Preserve African Heritage in U.S.
Date: Monday, June 09, 2003 Category: Social




UP TO A DOZEN US MARINES OUTGUNNED AND DEFEATED BY IRAQIS.

Karbala, Iraq.
The Washington Post reports that "In holy city, things are going right."
In gestures large and small -- from reopening an amusement park with free admission to restoring electricity to twice its prewar level, from stopping looting with a rapidly reconstituted police force, to a conscious effort to respect religious sensitivities -- Karbala seems to have avoided the bitterness and disenchantment that has enveloped Baghdad and other cities.


And too bad this wasn't televised:
At a soccer game on Saturday, just before dusk subdued the summer heat, the Iraqi police team took on U.S. Marines in newly purchased uniforms of blue and red...Expletives poured from the American sidelines as the Marines rooted for an outgunned team that ended up losing to the Iraqis, 8-3. But it was all civility in the stands.


For all of the training, skill, patience and bravery that our troops have shown in combat and in peacekeeping, it's no surprise that up against the Iraqis in soccer, our US Marines got crushed. Hey, but at least our troops didn't get tortured for losing...

Tuesday, June 10, 2003




Struggling to find time to scan the news. As if 70+ hours a week work weren't enough, now I've got my sister's 2nd dog to babysit during the day.

The rescue organization called him a Boxer mix, but this guy probably has either some American Bulldog (hopefully not French) or most likely some Pit Bull in him, judging from his bulky back legs and his confidence. Good natured, though, even with my temperamental Boxer. I even relaxed enough to get some work done.

Bruno's a cool little guy, but the bad news is that he seems to have a thing for little creatures, including cats. Since he was found roaming around on his own, he probably had to fend for himself for a while. He's noticeably underweight. It's sad to think he had to hunt down food or rummage through trash, which may also explain the gash in his tongue.

So it was bad enough that he charged my cat the first chance he got, although she popped him in his muzzle and drew blood. The worst part is that I'm starting to think that he's still in hunt mode. Not only was he relentless in knocking down pet gates just to get a look at her outside, but he was actually drooling as he stared at her through the sliding glass door. Just like he drooled for that piece of lunchmeat, but not for the dog biscuit. Hmm.

So if he keeps doing this with my sister's cats too, poor Bruno may have to be placed in another home. Just about breaks my heart, even after just one day with him. I'm such a chump.

Might even donate to the rescue organization. Guess there's a bleeding heart Liberal in me, after all.

Monday, June 09, 2003

WHY DON'T THEY HATE US?

The Best of the Web has uncovered evidence that further debunks one of Thomas Friedman's favorite lame, navel-gazing foreign policy question: Why do they hate us?

"Many Arabs are reacting favorably to President Bush's Middle East peacemaking foray, expressing optimism about a US-backed peace plan intended to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict..."


And another:
"The general sense is that American foreign policy is being 'corrected' toward better accommodation of the opposition [to US policy] coming from the world community and better relations with Arab states," says Mohammed el-Sayed Said, a political scientist at the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo.




WHY DO THEY HATE US FOR THE WRONG REASONS? AND WHY WON'T THOMAS FRIEDMAN ADMIT IT?

In his latest editorial, "Have I Got Mail," Thomas Friedman asked readers to join him in stewing in his own guilt by emailing their comments to his question: "Why do they hate us."

What a nice change, actually, for Friedman to allow readers to make his points. Some soundbites:
"The world is saying USA has become a self-righteous, self-centered Master of the Universe."
This from a Chinese-American graduate student. But would he trust China as the sole super power to do better?

And this:
"For better or for worse the world is a bunch of petulant teenagers that now think of us (the U.S.) as the parent," wrote Roger. "They want our protection, our comfort (our financial support). They want us out of their rooms while keeping them tidy, freedom to mock us but come to us when they have problems. They want the keys to the car, allowance money . . . to spend on what they want, freedom to hang around with questionable friends, stay out late, steal from us, con us and always expect we will be there for them whenever things turn sour. Most of all, they want no responsibility for their own behavior. We should just understand them. 'Bout cover it? Only answer is for kids to grow up, realize parents don't have all the answers and are, at best, imperfect beings themselves."
Nice analogy.

But then maybe the question ought to be: "Why do they hate us (for so many of the wrong reasons)?" Thomas Friedman ought to make the "haters" think about that. Then, if he could get them feeling bad enough, he could join them in sitting and stewing in their own guilt.


Saturday, June 07, 2003

DOUBTS ABOUT PEACE PROCESS.

One of the most respectable pundits on the Middle East, in my book--Charles Krauthammer (yeah, that's right, Thomas Friedman!)--expresses doubts in the peace process. Since he doesn't have a political ax to grind (yeah, that's right, Thomas Friedman!), and although he is unabashedly a pro-Israel hawk, his words still carry a lot of weight.

In his May 30 article in the Washington Post, "No Phony 'Cease-Fires' With Terrorism", Krauthammer expresses his reservations before Bush's trip.

In his June 6 article in the Washington Post, Shades of Oslo, he fears his reservations were confirmed:
President Bush held two Middle East summits this week. The first, with the Arab states, was an abject failure. The second, with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, was merely a troubling echo of another abject failure, the Oslo handshake of 1993.


Krauthammer can't be blamed for publicly demanding much more from Abbas and the Palestinian terrorists in his editorial. But privately, he must be cheering the possible civil war beginning between Mahmoud Abbas on one hand and Arafat, Hamas and the other terrorists on the other hand. Israel and the US might only need sit back and watch.


"SELF-INTEREST" THE KEY TO EVERYTHING IN IRAQ, MIDDLE EAST.
Charles Krauthammer agrees with your humble correspondent.


From his Washington Post article on May 16, Iraq: A Moral Reckoning, Charles Krauthammer:
Upon the detritus of 30 years of indigenous misrule, we come to rebuild. This is not to say that we lack self-interest here. We are embarking on this reconstruction out of the same enlightened altruism that inspired the rebuilding of Germany and Japan -- trusting that economic and political success in Iraq will have a stabilizing and modernizing effect on the entire region. [italics added]


In my "The Key to Everything" from June 1, (and not having read Krauthammer's article until now, seriously), I suggested "enlightened self-interest" as one possible key to replace the many KEYS TO EVERYTHING that Thomas Friedman had previously trumpeted for the Middle East. Krauthammer chose to use two terms--"self-interest" and "enlightened altruism" (must look that up). Close enough. How cool is that?

Anyway, feels like validation after seemingly going out on a limb. Yeah, that's right, Thomas Friedman--TAKE THAT!


Friday, June 06, 2003

How does Rumsfeldt come up these?

Not being able to speak Arabic, all I understood was the Rumsfeldt soundbite in one of the Radio SAWA news segments broadcast to Iraq. The question was apparently about WMD.

Rumsfeldt:
"We haven't found Saddam Hussain, but you don't hear anybody running around saying he didn't exist."


Got to like the way his mind works.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Nice to see Thomas Friedman sticking to his guns about WMD in his latest column, "Because We Could". He is refusing to jump on the "We've been lied to" bandwagon.

According to Friedman, the Key to Everything is not WMD. It's the building of a progressive Arab regime in Iraq and solving the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

But, unsurprisingly, he also managed to Blame Bush First:
"But because the Bush team never dared to spell out the real reason for the war, and (wrongly) felt that it could never win public or world support for the right reasons and the moral reasons, it opted for the stated reason: the notion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that posed an immediate threat to America. I argued before the war that Saddam posed no such threat to America, and had no links with Al Qaeda, and that we couldn't take the nation to war "on the wings of a lie." I argued that Mr. Bush should fight this war for the right reasons and the moral reasons. But he stuck with this W.M.D. argument for P.R. reasons."


That's the irony, though. What was the one thing that the Democrats and the world argued that Bush had to do to justify war with Iraq? Convince the U.N.! And by a 15-0 vote, Colin Powell convinced the UN to enforce 16 or 17 previously passed resolutions, all dealing with WMD, not with the other "right" reasons. The U.N. then refused to pass the final resolution on WMD.

So if the UN couldn't pull the trigger after 17 times on WMD, does Friedman or anyone else seriously think that the U.N. would have passed a completely new resolution demanding regime change to free the Iraqi people? Just imagine DeVillepan and Chirac agreeing to give up the Oil for Palaces deal; Schroeder not having an anti-American issue during his close election--and losing; and the Russians giving up lucrative oil deals with Iraq; All to free the Iraqi people? Ha! That's hilarious.

Speaking of Euroweenies, the Democrats, except for Lieberman, weren't much better. "Freedom for the Iraqis" to justify regime change? Tom Daschle, Nancy Pelosi, the Democratice Presidential contenders, and the protesters were screaming bloody murder at that:
  • "Regime change in Iraq? What we need is a regime change here at home" (J. F. Kerry)
  • "Are we now going to go through the whole Middle East changing regimes?"
  • "Iraq is a sovereign country. The US can't just go around violating international law by deciding to change regimes"
  • "Saddam Hussain has won reelection with 99% of the popular vote. (CNN)"


Like
Rush said during the heated pre-war debate, "Is it any wonder we're having trouble persuading the world, when we can't even persuade the Left?"

Regardless, good job by Friedman for not taking a cheap WMD shot. And they said there was no integrity at the NYTimes.
It happened again. Somehow the "Key to Everything" post from Sunday got sent while I was still working on it. Why doesn't just the stuff in the current Blogger window get sent? I hate when that happens.

Oh, well. Hope not too many glaring glitches got through. Maybe that's the same problem they had over at the NYTimes.

Still, dammit.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

What a couple of days of good news. The stock market is now up around twenty-something percent for the year, the tax cut is getting fine-tuned, G8 photo opps looked good (counts for something), Bush's Middle East peace meetings under way. It really feels like a watershed moment in history.

Even the WMD controversy can't ruin that. The truth about them will probably lie somewhere in between the extremes, but it is still such chump change compared to global events.

And this whole time, I've been wrestling with what began as a simple idea that has now become a monstrous obsession of a project. It started so innocently. After watching Thomas Friedman on the Charlie Rose Show last week, I was driven to jot down some comments. Then they were expanded. After reading some of his recent columns, more scribbled ideas. Honestly, I don't understand how journalists or bloggers ever get their writing done on time. And revising drafts feels less like editing and more like torturing. Maybe it's no Baghdad prison, but it sucks anyway.

Anyway, hopefully only a day or two more...

Sunday, June 01, 2003

THE KEY TO EVERYTHING: BLAME BUSH FIRST.
Thomas Friedman has a new "Key to Everything" with every new column he writes; but his blame for Bush remains firm.

Thomas Friedman pulled off another crowd-pleasing performance Friday on the Charlie Rose Show on PBS. He served up yet another cocktail of part-clever Middle Eastern insight, part-Blame Bush First partisanship, and a relatively new ingredient, part-qualified praise for Bush.

Now that ought to be a refreshing mix. But as in his columns for the NYTimes, the Blame Bush First partisanship slowly kicks in until it dominates the other parts in the inevitable, triumphant conclusion: Blame Bush First. But while Friedman will always be insightful, his partisanship is losing its sting, and his appreciation for some of Bush's policies, internationally anyway, surprisingly seems to be growing.

The conclusion on the Charlie Rose show was that Friedman had, once again, uncovered the Key To Everything. And, once again, to Blame Bush First for botching it.

What is the Key to Everything this time? The reconstruction of Iraq. In his "Passion for Peace," he gives the effort a 5 out of 10, but sliding to a 4. He offers few specifics or suggestions to this Key to Everything other than this:
"We should be flooding Iraq with people and money right now."
He also threw in the tiresome admonission to "fill in the void" before the Shiite Islamists do. In Friedman's inimicable, animated way, he leaned over to Charlie Rose and in an exasperated voice said,
"I would just throw a hundred bucks at every front door!"
At another point in his interview, Friedman asked rhetorically:
"Like they have something more important to do [besides the reconstruction]?"


But this latest Key to Everything in "Tom's World," as he is fond of referring to the world, doesn't seem to agree with most of the rest of the world. (See Arab News from Jedah, Dar Al Hayat from Beirut, and Haaretz from Israel.)

So why might the reconstruction of Iraq be Friedman's latest Key to Everything?" Hard to know. But most likely, and most cynically, because it's an easy target. And it has been the latest challenge to this administration upon which Friedman's Blame Bush First partisanship can editorialize. It's been quite a cash cow, what with regular columns and plenty of face time on television.

And after all, the Bush administration clearly seems to be making good, if unsteady, progress in the Middle East. Good news can be found in Iraq if one looks for it (See Kausfiles for Mark Steyn's "Report from Iraq", Instapundit's link to Ken Johnson). By insisting for 2 1/2 years on new Palestinian leadership, Bush has largely succeeded in marginalizing Arafat; and Arab leaders apparently have not protested. Abu Mazen seems to show some promise. Israel appears to be cooperating. And the terrorist swamp in the Gulf region continues to be slowly drained. So possibly, in Tom's World, Bush is not screwing that up. Therefore, Friedman would understandably not give the Israeli-Palestinian peace process the distinction of being his Key to Everything.

It would be unseemly for Friedman not to offer some insight, however. A potential Key to Everything regarding the Road Map, he suggests in his "Passion for Peace" from May 28, is to want peace more than anybody else. And he doubts whether Bush is up to that. Bill Clinton wanted peace. (Saul Singer, NRO also comments) And not just wanted it, but wanted it more than anybody, at least so it seemed at the very end of his presidency. Still, that wasn't enough. For Clinton and the Democrats, draining the terrorist swamp wasn't even an option. For Bush and our armed services, it is a reality. That's the 800 lb gorilla in the room doing the heavy lifting. "Passion for peace?" Sounds like an emotional, Liberal thing. Maybe look less for passion from Bush and more for a strategy for peace. Or arm twisting for peace.

As recent as May 25, in
"Hummers Here, Hummers There," Friedman again highlighted his environmentalist side. Or anti-SUV, anyway. He concludes with: "President Bush won't tell Americans the Truth, so we won't tell the Saudis the Truth, so they won't tell the extremists the Truth, so they can go on pumping intolerance and we can go on guzzling gas." Anyone who reads or has seen Friedman's presentations ought to be familiar with his Redneck Texan Driving His Huge SUV schtick. So...last week, then, the Key to Everything was Bush's lies about...his contempt for...conservation? Wait a minute. The SUV is symbolic of the C.A.F.E. standards. Bush lies to us and the Saudis. That's why extremists got funding and flew our planes into the World Trade Center. And for that, we should...Blame Bush First! Yeah, I get it now.

But that doesn't do his article justice, since it actually began by laying the responsibility not on Bush, but on Saudi Arabia itself:
"I fear it [Saudi Arabia] is the Soviet Union. I fear it is unreformable."
But as most Friedman articles typically go (remember the cocktail?), it cleverly morphs from scholarly Middle Eastern insight into Blame Bush First partisanship.

Before going any further, however, I must admit something: Tom Friedman is engaging, insightful, entertaining and convincing. At least to a point.

Also, I am impressed with his theatrical presentation and scholarly Middle Eastern knowledge. I smile at the somewhat restrained and subtle development of his Blame Bush First undercurrents; and how they flow together at the conclusion to naturally form first a river, and then an ocean of blame for Bush. And I honestly appreciate his willingness to give credit to the Administration and its policies where credit is due. Especially lately, when Friedman has done so probably more often then he would have liked, as in this quote from "Passion for Peace":
"First a word about Mr. Bush. He deserves a tip of the hat for having his principles right. His conviction that getting rid of Saddam Hussein was necessary to build a different Iraq and a different Middle East — which are both critical for drying up terrorism — was right. And his convictions that the Palestinians had to move beyond Yasir Arafat to a responsible leadership and that the Israelis had to come to terms with the inevitability of a Palestinian state and an end to settlements, if there was to be any progress toward peace, are also right."

And then the inevitable:
But — you knew there was a "but" coming — the question I always have about members of the Bush team is, How good are they at translating principles into practice?"


It's easy to get swept up in his Alice in Wonderland-ish storytelling with colorful characters, similes, metaphors and interesting analogies. He makes it seem so simple, like drawing a conclusion with a Crayola crayon. For instance, on the same Charlie Rose show, the former head of the Iraq reconstruction, Jay Garner, metaphorically was transformed into Mister Magoo for the puposes of his story. And remember the "Friedman Cocktail" metaphor with which this piece began? That was my humble attempt to emulate his metaphorical style.

All of this is simply a testament to his skill at wrighting and speaking. Whatever issue he presents almost has to be the Key to Everything. One can almost forget that his columns and animated presentations are almost exclusively found in either the op-ed page of the NYT or on PBS and the like.

But ever since Bush took office, Friedman has accumulated quite an extensive list of these Key to Everythings:

From his "Passion for Peace"
Bush's:

  • abrogation of the ABM Treaty.

  • contempt for the Kyoto Accords.

  • opting out of the International Criminal Court.

  • botching the Afghanistan reconstruction.

  • early term "lack of involvement" in the Middle East.


Each one of these has, at one time or another, been Friedman's Key to Everything. Why? Again, most likely because they were there and presented the best opportunity for him to Blame Bush First. OK, so let's try one out, shall we?
If the U.S. doesn't join Kyoto, the terrorists win.

And another one:
If the US gets out of the ABM treaty, even if the Russians don't really care, the terrorists win.

Hey, this is fun. One more:
If the US stays out of the International Criminal Court, the Belgians can't sue Tommy Franks, Colin Powell and George Bush for war crimes; and the terrorists win.

Oh, I can't resist just one more:
If the US sheds blood on behalf of Muslims being subjected to genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo; and provides soldiers, money and reconstruction for over a decade; and provides security; and fills the vacuum so that radical Islamics don't fill it first; and supervises elections; THEN the terrorists will STOP their terrorism. They will finally understand.


Hey! What's that last one doing in the list? It doesn't fit. But if true, then it would dispel Friedman's latest claim that the Iraqi reconstruction is the Key to Everything, wouldn't it? Hmm.

Not to be too much of a cynic, but as soon as the Iraqi reconstruction turns the corner and can no longer be fashionably deemed a "quagmire," look for Friedman to abruptly focus like a laser beam on his next intense and entertaining Key to Everything.

Some ideas:

Iran:
Sure, Bush can scare the Mullahs till they soil their sheets. He's good at breaking things and scaring Mullahs. But can he empower the people, not with war, but with a war of words? In Tom's World, that's what I would do. That is the Key to Everything, and I doubt that Bush is up to it.

North Korea:
Sure, Bush can nuke-em back to the Stone Age and bring on Armaggeddon. He's good at breaking things and nuking people. But can he empower the starving North Koreans, not with war, but with a war of words? And food? In Tom's World, that's what I would do. That's the Key to Everything, and I doubt that Bush is up to it.

Syria:
ditto

Lebanon: :
ditto

WMD intelligence:
Sure, Bush, Colin Powell and the CIA can lie to us about WMD intelligence. They're good at breaking things and lying to us . But can he empower the American people and the rest of the world, not with lies, but with trust? How can Bush solve any future crises involving intelligence without trust from the rest of the world? In Tom's World, that's what I would do. That is the Key to Everything, and I doubt that Bush is up to it.


One day, a Friedman editorial or speech might not conclude with the latest media frenzy headline distilled into a brilliant soundbite. And he might not Blame Bush First. He might simply and elegantly suggest that September 11 and its aftermath inevitably set the world, not just the U.S., seeking a new equilibrium point. We now understand, however, that we were not at equilibrium on September 10th. As Friedman suggests in "A theory of Everything," LINK , the fall of the Soviet Union over a decade ago sent ripples throughout the world. So today, and in the forseeable future, the countries in the world are and will be stuggling to find a stable, fair and yet firm course of action to find a new point of equilibrium.

As in basic economics, every participating country would ideally operate with perfect knowledge to take decisions and plan a course of action driven by enlightened self-interest. Despite the anti-American or Euroweenie or 7th-century Arab backwardness rhetoric; and despite the reluctance of "Old Europe" and the almost complete aversion of the Arab or Muslim world to this principle, enlightened self-interest will likely drive all participants. It probably always has.

But the path to equilibrium is rarely direct. Without perfect knowledge, the players must necessarily go through a sometimes awkward, painful process of discovery. Marginal utility curves describing tradeoffs of choices to increase a country's wellbeing, and all that (it's been too long since Econ 101). So Bush might characterize the US's enlightened self-interest search for equilibrium as spreading freedom and Democracy, while the Europeans and Arabs might characterize it as imperialist globalization and militarism. Bush might seek a geopolitical equilibrium through the global war on terror, while the Europeans and Arabs might characterize it as a temper tantrum by Gulliver directed at the impotent Lilliputians. And so on.

So one day, just maybe, a Friedman editorial will end differently. The cocktail will likely still be insightful, Blame Bush First and praise Bush somewhat. But the conclusion might take a longer view. Enlightened self interest. A global quest for perfect knowledge not only looking back at history (why do they hate us?), but looking forward in all things technological, economic, military, political, social and cultural. And maybe patience.

Could these things and possibly others be the Keys to Everything? Most definitely...time will tell.


[Ed.'s note: after writing this behemoth, a Thomas Friedman article appeared on June 1st in the NYT entitled, "A Theory of Everything." Seriously. Any similarity is purely coincidental. Or is it?]


C-SPAN CHANGES TO "SHOCK" FORMAT?

In a nice change of pace from the usual Cspan low-key tone, Saturday's BookExpo America Interviews supplied some Shock&Awe with Fox News Networks's Bill O'Reilly.

Some of those annoying Cspan callers that usually get respectful and polite answers to their absurd comments got the back of O'Reilly's hand this time. Apparently he set up a no spin zone right there during his interview. I found myself laughing out loud. Yes, listening to Cspan.

And all of that before O'Reilly even took the stage with two other authors for the Saturday Book and Author Luncheon: Media Talks. They were, oddly enough, Al Franken, with his "Lies, ..." Republican-bashing book and Molly Ivins with some Bush-bashing book.

Oh, my. Tempers flared, insults were hurled; ugly looks, awkward silences, interruptions and even a plead by Franken to the moderator for some help.

My no-spin take on the winner? O'Reilly pretty much out-classed, out-gunned, and out-thought Frankin for most of the panel. Molly Ivins was marginally engaging, but more or less tried to avoid any conflicts with O'Reilly. Poor Frankin. He actually spent most of his time either trying to spar with O'Reilly, repeat the titles of his books ("In my book, 'Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot' ") or just stay relevant in the panel's discussion. And for him, just like for his SNL character, Stuart Smiley, that's O.K..

But what is up with the way Frankin laughs? That's got to be part of his gig. I've never heard anybody laugh like that, except for maybe some anti-establishment, Liberal, insecure, passive-aggressive stoner ex-roommates of mine.

And the standard Cspan group panel conclusion with the exchange of pleasantries and handshakes? No way. O'Reilly strode right offstage and began signing autographs for a circle of admirers. Once again, I found myself laughing out loud.

Yeah, sure, I'll admit it--talkradio, Fox and Msnbc have desensitized me (and many others, I would suspect), to the point of seeing that spectacle as fairly normal. But why shouldn't politics and news sometimes be a contact sport? Or entertainment? Still, admittedly it still was odd to have watched a "Book and Author Luncheon" that degenerated into a verbal jousting contest on Cspan. Absolutely classic stuff.

Hey, maybe it is a little immature, but...at least it's not sexual, like NakedNews.


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