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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Who killed Voltaire?
The Mohammed cartoon crisis shows that the West is at a crossroads. One of it's making. One of utter stupidity.

The issue, we are told, is that Islam bans the rendering of any image of Mohammed on the basis that such would encourage idolatry. If you visit a mosque you will find it extremely spare when compared to European churches, synagogues or east Asian temples. The idea is simple - one worships god and not things. (I will note that the Shi'ia tradition is a bit different - their mosques are more ornate and can contain icons. Sunnis often declare that Shi'ia are "idol worshipers" - an accusation they also levy at Christians. Jews are simply called pigs and monkeys.)

As European newspapers are now trying to demonstrate, such bans don't fly in western society. While those rules may apply in Muslim countries, certainly they can't be expected to be followed elsewhere. The West has a firm secular tradition which allows satire and criticism of religious belief. One has a right to blasphemy, heresy and apostatism.

So Le Figaro asked today "where are you, Voltaire?" Well, France, you killed Voltaire. And Descartes. And Spinoza. And Rousseau. The assailant? Jacques Derrida.

Jacques Derrida was born as a French Jew in Algeria. His youth sucked - he neither fit in with the Algerians or the French - after all, he was a Jew. Rather than developing outright resentments, Derrida chose a path in life to undermine prejudice. Deconstruction is Derrida's major contribution to western linguistics and culture. It has had a significant impact and serves as a cornerstone to post-modernism (in as much as the thought of a "cornerstone" could be tolerated by post-modernists).

Derrida's deconstruction had the effect of disassembling text to reduce it to meaningless scribblings. Fundamental to deconstruction is the idea that every idea expressed in virtuous terms has behind it unarticulated pre-suppositions. When one draws out those pre-suppositions, one can find biases and contradiction inherent to cultural supremacism. The assertion of a virtue is shown to be an oppressive act. In short, deconstruction invalidates any cultural supremacism. "Truth" is only a by product of cultural bias rather than being the product of rational discourse and analysis.

If one accepts deconstruction as a valid form of linguistic analysis, then one accepts its repeatable results as valid. In that you have the fundamental idea that has fueled the Western Cultural Revolution of the last 30 odd years - one in which Universities and cultural institutions have been largely purged of cultural reactionaries who oppress others by asserting cultural truths as universal truths. All this has been done in order to have the most tolerant and free society possible - or so it was intended.

Religious text, one must note, was exempted by Derrida from deconstruction - "you can't deconstruct love or justice" Derrida wrote later in life. One's relationship with God had been spared from being "reduced to nothingness."

Islam (often labeled the "Religion Of Peace") is not just a religion. It is an economic, political and behavioral system as well. The Koran does not only tell one what to believe - it tells him how to act and how affairs of the state and market should be run. Being the word of God conveyed through his last messenger, what was written in the 7th century is the truth for all people in all times - those that disagree are subject to subjugation, punishment or death. These have been the rules since the 7th century, these rules served as the basis for expansion of an empire for the 200 years after Mohammed's death, and were the rules when Derrida was growing up in Algeria (and when Algerians and French were very busy killing each other in the successful effort to expel the French and reverse French annexation of the country).

So now we have our western cultural revolutionaries in a conundrum. They have finally been forced to confront a source of cultural supremacism from a quarter that they had previously defended at all times as "oppressed." Since all cultural systems are supposedly equal, and each has "its truths" it would seem to be a simple matter - "you tolerate us and we tolerate you" - a sort of cultural apartheid. But the problem can't be settled that way, can it? One of the parties gets "extra points" on two scores - first, it is the culture traditionally oppressed by the West and second, it is a religion. Furthermore, it is a religion that states explicitly that its laws are meant to apply to all people in all times - after all, these are the words of God.

Asserting that Islam must accept the West and its secular values is to modify Islam. To a psot-modernist, such an assertion is an oppressive act - it asserts a Western truth value takes precedence over an Islamic one. Voltaire would have solved the problem easily - he'd have told Islam to fuck off, but in much more clever terms. He'd have placed secularization above tolerance of intolerance so that tolerance could be preserved.

So rather than disarming both sides and reducing their assertions to nothingness, Derrida's legacy forces the unimaginable - the West must adopt the stricture of "the other" in order to show tolerance of "the other." And not just any other - no other religion is also an economic, behavioral and political system (and inseparably so because it all stems from the same "text").

Some years back, another post-modernist named Richard Rorty declared "the end of Philosophy" (though he didn't see any need to relinquish his chair in the Philosophy Department at the University of Virginia). He made that assertion on the basis that all "truths" are culturally confined. While he has since modified the assertion, it stands as a milestone nonetheless. In my opinion, he was probably dead on the mark - the West has already committed intellectual suicide. It lays prostrate at the feet of "the other" begging for mercy because it has an inability to argue for its existence. It will get no mercy.

Tolerance of intolerance is the dagger that killed Voltaire.


Firstly, I must say I find your blog most thought-provoking and visit it regularly to see what you have to say.

I wanted to ask you about what you wrote about Derrida:

'Religious text, one must note, was exempted by Derrida from deconstruction - "you can't deconstruct love or justice" Derrida wrote later in life. One's relationship with God had been spared from being "reduced to nothingness."'

Could you please explain why you think Derrida exempted religious text from deconstruction? I'd be interested to know what you think because Derrida, as you know, wrote extensively on religion and I'm trying to get a grip on your assertion.

Many thanks and keep up the good work.

Mike Laker

Anonymous Anonymous : 12 February, 2006 19:38  


President 'Just Fine' With Cheney Explanation,2933,185062,00.html

Blogger Luther : 16 February, 2006 21:23  


Just surfed in from Classical Values. Great essay and I'd like to think you're right about Voltaire.

I've always thought the best refutation of Derrida is Derrida himself. If he truly believed what he said, he wouldn't have bothered saying it. If I'm wrong, please don't correct me. I like the thought.

Blogger tim maguire : 07 February, 2007 17:00  


Mike -

Sorry for the very late reply. Haven't been to the blog in almost 2 years, and they canceled my account. Looks like this was the last post for K.I.

Derrida shifted about a bit on religion and faith, but he would have blamed the words themselves. Religion as an institution is fair game. Faith and God (in their virtuous and abstract senses) moved toward in-deconstructability as Derrida approached death.

The Gift Of Death is where the whole idea that you "cannot deconstruct love and justice" and you can look into Caputo as a critic who draws out Derrida's sympathies towards faith.

I am by no means expert in deconstruction or Derrida. But I am very interested in him and his impact on western thinking (or not-thinking, which may be the more accurate semioglyph).

Blogger adam : 09 November, 2007 19:47  

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Friday, January 20, 2006

Yeah, yeah, yeah ...
Alright - the holidays knocked me flat on my butt again. I can roll off the excuses for why I haven't posted, but they are just excuses. Just the same, I post when desire and opportunity coincide. That is rare coincidence in November and December.

If that excuse doesn't cut it, then why not try "Locusts!!!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

OBL's Terms Of Surrender
OBL's terms of surrender for the United States have been fully translated and compiled, and you can have a peek at them over at the UK's Telegraph -

His terms for America's surrender appeared after the September 2001 suicide attacks and include demands that amount to the abandonment of much of western life.

Alcohol and gambling would be barred and there would be an end to women's photos in newspapers or advertising.

Any woman serving "passengers, visitors and strangers", presumably anyone from air stewardesses to waitresses, would also be out of a job.

The West must "stop your oppression, lies, immorality and debauchery that has spread among you" and has become the "worst civilisation witnessed in the history of mankind".

Do that and the war on terror will be over and we can go back to our lives.

Let's all remember - Peace Is Patriotic.

Surrender. Now. For peace. Anything less is western warmongering.

Close Your Ears and Eyes ...
... but by no means close your mouths, my anti-war friends.

Even when those stubborn facts just won't go away. Ignore them.

Like "Boogie To Baghdad" (via Instapundit)

In case you don't remember, "Boogie to Baghdad" is the phrase that Richard Clarke [the same Richard Clarke who then disclaimed his assessments in front of congress so that he could sell books - ed], when he was the top White House counterterrorism official during the Clinton administration, used to express his fear that if American forces pushed Osama bin Laden too hard at his hideout in Afghanistan, bin Laden might move to Iraq, where he could stay in the protection of Saddam Hussein [Not that Abu Nidal and Al Zarquawi didn't enjoy such protection already - ed].

Clarke's opinion was based on intelligence indicating a number of contacts between al Qaeda and Iraq, including word that Saddam had offered bin Laden safe haven.

It's all laid out in the Sept. 11 commission report. "Boogie to Baghdad" is on Page 134.

Oh - I forgot. Bush lied and mocked up an elaborate intelligence distortion scheme (which coincidentally represented a standing consensus of CIA analysts, France, Germany and the UK as well as Democrats like Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton) in order to go invade Iraq. This was all done while there was no - NONE - NADA - ZILCH - association between Saddam and OBL - OR - international terror.

Also, Saddam was contained and sanctions were working (and by no means corrupted to the tune of $10 billion - that is a big lie because George Galloway said so). Oh - and while this massive and clever conspiracy was orchestrated by Bush, and targeted against an innocent and benign Saddam (the "legitimate" ruler of Iraq) Hussein, Bush is still dumb as a post and looks like a monkey.

Oh - and if we had followed the French course and simply allowed sanctions to run out and let Saddam keep the region stable while rebuilding, we would not in any way, shape or form have Saddam competing with Iran in a nuclear arms race. After all, that has never happened between 3rd world antagonist neighbors. Don't you know? The non-proliferation treaty forbids it!!!! And the IAEA has everything under control (they are part of the UN!), and has a Nobel prize to prove it!!!! India and Pakistan? They don't really exist - they are just cleverly invented places used to justify our war on terror, prior funding of Al Qaeda (which is an overblown threat used to create the Patriot Act -- BTW: WHEN IS BUSH GOING TO CAPTURE OSAMA, DAMNIT!?!?!?) or used as a means to outsource US jobs by uncaring megacorporations.

Eyes closed. Ears shut. Dance around and keep chanting "Bush lied, people died" while making up more history. When stubborn facts get it the way, JUST YELL LOUDER!!!!

Now you are doing the Baghdad Boogie!!!!


I recall this during the run up to war and shortly thereafter. So a few relatively fleeting contacts existed that stopped in 1999, several years before the Gulf War II began. As Kevin Drum said in a post a week or so ago, the pattern and practice of the Bushies was to push its "product of war" (Andy Card story inserted here) through the manipulation of such fleeting evidence, ignoring doubts of CIA and even DIA analysts, and misleading the public about the worth of much of the information (how many more sources do we have to hear who the Bushies were told were unreliable?).

We should also recall that OBL, in 2002, had publicly applauded Saddam deserving to be overthrown. Back in the days 1990-1991, OBL also wanted to invade Iraq for Saddam's invasion of Kuwait--OBL volunteered to the US and Saudis.

And using the logic of the link, considering the "contacts" the US had with OBL in the 1980s and early 1990s, I guess we should invade Kennebunkport, ME and seize GHWB (Pres 41).

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 20 November, 2005 08:22  


best site

Anonymous Anonymous : 11 October, 2006 01:34  

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And They Want To Own The Internet Too
China has decided to block the printing of foreign newspapers -

Beijing has halted plans to allow foreign newspapers to print in China because of concerns raised by recent “colour revolutions” against authoritarian governments in Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, according to a senior media regulator.

Shi Zongyuan, head of the General Administration of Press and Publication, said the role of the international media in such popular revolts had prompted the suspension of what had been an cautious, but significant easing of China’s curbs on foreign news publications.

“The ‘colour revolutions’ were a reminder not to let saboteurs into the house and that the door must be closed, so we have closed it temporarily,” Mr Shi said in an interview with the FT.

China (along with Iran and other repressive regimes) also wants the control of the Internet passed from the US to an "international body."

Those who consider democracy as inevitable ought to think again - technology gives states unprecedented leverage in monitoring their people. China employs 40,000 technicians to monitor chatrooms, emails, blog posts and news sites in China. They maintain a firewall to keep subversive information out of China, and they identify dissidents for punishment.

Our liberating technologies can be easily turned into the tools of repression. Hitler knew how to use the printing press, radio and motion pictures to launch the Third Reich. China and Iran know this, which is why they don't fear modernization or industrialization or even market economies - as long as they can monitor the herd, they are quite content. You and I shouldn't be.


China is the cheapest printing services provider all over the world. If china stopped printing the foreign newspaper then its really gonna cost those news agencies because no one is going to provide the printing service so cheap.

Anonymous Online Printing Comapny : 15 September, 2011 15:26  

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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Sarkozy More Popular - by 11 points
French Interior Minister Sarkozy has seen his already high approval ratings go even higher in light of his firm stance on the rioting in France.

Article here in French

Interestingly, Sarkozy has been savaged by French media for calling the rioters "scum", which supposedly provoked them into more rioting. Obviously, the average Frenchie disagrees with that sentiment. Most of the time, the French are willing to outsource their opinion making to their media. This issue is too close to home for such, and perhaps the French will become more circumspect regarding what the media feeds them as a result.

Stubborn Facts In The Way
Some stubborn facts just get in the way of a perfectly orchestrated effort to revise history.

Democrats face struggle to win support for Iraq war 'lie' claim

Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to Colin Powell, the secretary of state, could hardly be counted a friend of the White House. In a blistering address at a Washington think-tank last month he charged that a small "cabal" led by Vice-President Dick Cheney had hijacked US foreign policymaking and led the US to a disastrous war in Iraq.

But Col Wilkerson gave an unlikely defence of the administration in one area: its handling of the intelligence on Iraq's alleged efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. While Democrats in recent days have escalated charges that the administration manipulated intelligence to win public support for the war, Col Wilkerson said "the consensus of the intelligence community was overwhelming".

He said that Mr Powell's February 5 2003 address to the United Nations - which laid out the US intelligence case against Saddam Hussein - relied on conclusions that were widely shared. "I can't tell you why the French, the Germans, the Brits and [the US] thought that most of the material, if not all of it, that we presented at the UN. . . was the truth. I can't. I've wrestled with it."

Those conclusions underscore the difficulty Democratic critics face in persuading the American public that the war was launched on a lie. Since re-opening the issue earlier this month, the Democrats have grown ever more aggressive in insisting that the administration went far beyond even the flawed intelligence in making its public case for the war.

Anyone else notice that the black-budgeted CIA has gotten away clean from all of this? The Wilson-Plame attack squads hold the CIA up as some victimized, dispirited group of bureaucrats that were mauled by Bush acolytes. CIA screw-ups enabled 9/11 and got the WMD/ "Slam Dunk" narrative going (we'd all have been better off if that line of reasoning was never followed).

Suddenly, the CIA that used to be the center of every Doonesbury panel is now an MFA (Most Favored Agency) of the Democrats as they spin a tale about lies and distortions. Doesn't the CIA have a long history of being in the business of lies and distortions?


The CIA remains a "mistake" as Harry S. Truman admitted because of its skullduggery.

The CIA's record during the Iraq War buildup was a fight between lower level analysts and top political types, Wilkerson included (I'm only enjoying his savaging of the "cabal," but he's just pushing his friend and ex-boss' Powell's line).

The LA Times and Wash Post articles from 2002 through 2003 showed, at last graphs, that there was a strong disagreement between these analysts and the administration. That this occurred in British circles is also now known. Whether the French agreed or disagreed, I can't say.

Are you saying we ought to do as Moynihan tried to do--end the CIA because, even when it is effective, Presidents don't listen anyway, and when it is spying on dissenters who pose no threat to national security, it is a betrayal of our best values?

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 16 November, 2005 11:07  


Why not simply reform the agency and bring it to heel? Demanding effective intelligence is one way, and another is holding their honchos to account for their "leaks" that they regularly use against any administration (Republican or Democrat) which makes their lives less comfy.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 16 November, 2005 13:52  

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Lies About Leaks - The Case Against Libby Crumbles
Well the new Washington sport of criminalizing politics was just dealt a bit of a setback. Turns out the chronology at the center of Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby has some new holes in it - holes big enough for a public defender (let alone Libby's high priced defense team) to drive a Redskins team bus through.

It turns out that Bob Woodward (of Watergate fame) was the first reporter to have learned of "Wilson's wife." And he learned it from a yet named White House official who isn't Libby.

From WaPo:

Woodward's testimony appears to change key elements in the chronology Fitzgerald laid out in his investigation and announced when indicting Libby three weeks ago. It would make the unnamed official -- not Libby -- the first government employee to disclose Plame's CIA employment to a reporter. It would also make Woodward, who has been publicly critical of the investigation, the first reporter known to have learned about Plame from a government source.


This is information that has come to light AFTER the indictments were handed down.

Fitzgerald interviewed Woodward about the previously undisclosed conversation after the official alerted the prosecutor to it on Nov. 3 -- one week after Vice President Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted in the investigation.

And if you were thinkin' that this now puts Rove back in the hot seat, think again.

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Rove, said that Rove is not the unnamed official who told Woodward about Plame and that he did not discuss Plame with Woodward.

If Libby got cute with a Grand Jury and lied to them, he needs to feel the force of the law. But the indictments handed down have nothing to do with the false premise that "Plame was outed and that endangered her and national security." Now we find that Fitzgerald didn't dot his i's and cross his t's in prepping his indictment - Libby has always claimed that Plame's job was known to reporters before it was known to him. The new timeline certainly gives that defense more credibility, creates reasonable doubt, and makes Fitzgerald's job much harder.

Libby played hardball using leaks as a weapon - something the CIA does regularly and with impunity - as if it were the 4th branch of government.

These are now lies about leaks, much like the Clinton witch hunt was boiled down to lies about sex. Woodward, it turns out, is on record as having a similar perspective:

"When the story comes out, I'm quite confident we're going to find out that it started kind of as gossip, as chatter," he told CNN's Larry King.

Woodward also said in interviews this summer and fall that the damage done by Plame's name being revealed in the media was "quite minimal."

"When I think all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great," he told National Public Radio this summer.

The criminalization of politics continues.


How does a "senior Administration official" telling their pet, Bob Woodward, help the administration here? It seems to further the conspiracy that may ultimately reach Cheney.

And count me as unimpressed as to how this is really going to help Libby.

Finally, while I've come around that the "agent identity act" is too narrowly drawn (and I'm not pushing for its expansion at this point) to have much use here, is it really a criminalization of politics by Fitzgerald (a Reep) and the Dems? Or is it more accurate to see this from the perspective of the sickness of the Busheviks in personally attacking a CIA agent and her husband and not caring whether it placed her at risk.

The fact that the bullets missed doesn't change the recklessness in firing the gun, if I may use an analogy here. That is much different than having sex, too...

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 16 November, 2005 11:23  


"Pet" or not, Woodward now lends credibility to the notion that other reporters knew.

As for criminalization of politics, leaks have been around forever. To those paying attention, the interesting thing in the indictment narrative is how it shows the mechanics of a leak - plant a bunch of "did you hears" in the right ears, get them corroborating the story, and then racing to print it.

It is an old game played for years - it is called politics. Now it is being criminalized.

As for Fitz vs. the Dems - that is a simple one. Fitz disclaimed that the indictments had NOTHING to do with the war and NOTHING to do with the illegal leaking of secret information. NOTHING. Yet the Democrats (admit this, please, to sustain your own cred) have capitalized on this as "the FIRST indictment of a Bush admin official related to the outing of a covert agent."

That. Is. Spin. And NPR, WaPo, NYT, LAT, and the rest are all repeating the mantra in the most dire of tones. GMAB.

I know - all is fair in love, war and politics. But let's not just be acolytes and reproduce the same garbage - We can read Mehlman's blog and Dean's blog for that kind off crap. Fact is this is bad news for the prosecution, ergo bad news for the Dems.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 16 November, 2005 14:04  


A leak about Abu Grahib is a public service for the nation. A leak to out a particular CIA agent is quite different and indefensible.

Are Democrats to be villified for being upset for that?

Finally, I guess we'll continue to disagreee as to whether the fact that other senior administration officials were outing Plame somehow hurts the Libby case--and his conduct.

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 17 November, 2005 00:14  


Interesting the leak you cite - it didn't come from the CIA (who we now have learned is runnig secret prisons elsewhere), but from a soldier. That should be clear.

As for Plame, the facts of the case in no way support your assertions. Sorry. Fitzgerald's indictment says as much. Indefensible? Surely you jest - it didn't even rise to the level of indictable.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 17 November, 2005 01:26  



The CIA is not an independent agency. It does what it is told to do. The Bush administration, not the CIA, is running the torture centers in Eastern Europe through the CIA. I am not defending the CIA. I am though interested in protecting individual CIA agents, especially those who are not engaging in such matters (Plame was not running one of those centers, for example).

What I'm saying about Libby is that his indictment will not fail because it turns out Cheney or someone else told Woodward before Libby told anyone.

I am struck, though, by the cavalier manner in which you and others have treated an outing of a particular CIA agent. I hope when some left-wing radical, like Phil Agee, or some anti-war activist outs a CIA agent the same as Libby, Rove, and probably Cheney did, that your voices are just as strong defending the right of someone to out a CIA agent.

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 17 November, 2005 09:28  


What I am cavalier about are pathological narcicists -- Joe Wilson is such a person and has told different and cconflicting stories (all with over the top hand waving and exagerations) to secure limelight and lucrative book deals.

Such is Washington.

Back when I actually thought that Plame was a covert agent (she wasn't at the time of her "outing" and hadn't been for several years - a fact stipulated by Fitzgerald) I was not cavalier. I saw the situation as one of infighting between the Vulcans, Foggy Bottom and Lagley. You can search my for my name in these comments over at Roger Simon's blog and see what I thought - not cavalier at all. Further, you will see that a self proclaimed spook logged in and commented that I had the best handle on the story in the bloggosphere (that was back when I had 5000 readers a day, and before I stopped blogging).

Point is that this affair is one of fighting between the CIA and the White House. Porter Goss was sent over to straighten thing out and bring the agency to heel.

One of George Tenets shots at the White House was what has turned out to be a bogus refferal of the "outing" to the US Attorney. The law was clear then, and Plame was never covered by the law. Tenet reffered it anyway, knowing full well Plame's status, which you and I were kept ignorant of (sorry - CIA secret) so that we might assume the law covered her.

It. Simply. Didn't.

The results speak for themselves - no indictments except for perjury. And on that score, they are weak and getting weaker - we know one journalist that didn't come forward to avoid getting the Judith Miller treatment by Fitzgerald - how many more are out there?

Just like the Lewinsky matter, it is a bunch of Federal money flushed down the toilet so some guys can play hardball politics and run a witch hunt.

Does that make me cavalier? No. Plame had a desk job and wasn't covert - her neighbors even knew where she worked (something Fitzgerald investigators confirmed again in the days leading up to the very weak indictment that came down).

One. Big. Joke.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 17 November, 2005 19:51  



One more time: She was covert. She was simply not covert in the very, very narrow definition of the term in the "outing of agents" act, which it's too late for me to pull out now. The definition there required one to be abroad or have been abroad no more than five years at the time one is "outed." That is not the usual definiton of covert. That appears the only reason Libby and perhaps Rove weren't indicted under that, again, very narrow statute (more narrow than I had thought when I first saw it).

Also, you may wish to check your sources on the "neighbors knew she was a CIA agent working in the WMD department." Fitzgerald checked out the neighbors and found none of the neighbors questioned knew about it before the story broke in the newspapers in the summer of '03.

I'll shut up now. Good night...and good luck. Gosh, I like that sign off!

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 18 November, 2005 02:11  

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Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Yet Another ...
Another Bush / Condi Rice foreign policy disaster.

GENEVA -- Saudi Arabia has agreed to end all economic boycotts of Israel, allowing the World Trade Organization (WTO) yesterday to admit the oil-rich kingdom as its 149th member, diplomats said.

Saudi Arabia has tried to get the US to push through membership for 12 years despite the boycott. Similar pressure on the Carter administration got it AWACS technology and offensive fighter aircraft. Glad to see neither Clinton nor Bush buckled.

Needed Context
The BBC has this story on the escalating crisis between Venezuela and Mexico

The Mexican President, Vicente Fox, has threatened to cut off all diplomatic ties with Venezuela.

He said he would take that action if Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez, kept on making comments about him or Mexico.

Earlier, both countries withdrew their ambassadors from each other's capitals after a row over free trade degenerated into bitter exchanges.

The story cites the basis of the row with this
The row began last week, after Mexico supported a failed US bid to relaunch the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) at the Summit of the Americas early in November.

On Sunday, Mr Chavez accused the Mexican leader of disrespecting him and warned: "Don't mess with me sir, because you'll come out pricked."

Such a veiled threat needs a little context. I have been to Venezuela several times on business and maintain friendships there. Americans and Europeans should know that Venezuela sees itself as a largely European society. Yes - the Spanish influence is obvious, but so is the Italian, German, Austrian and even Irish.

In 1958 the country had a per capita income at 76% of America's, placing it ahead of many European economies.

Venezuelans place themselves a few notches above "Latin America." When I was there it was common to hear put-down jokes directed at Columbians and Mexicans. I was told by my first host there to never ask for a burrito or any Mexican food of any kind in Venezuela - "You will be asked to leave the restaurant - we aren't Mexicans."

How is this relevant? Chavez has no time or respect for a Mexican, and his treatment of Fox plays well to most every Venezuelan - especially the ethnically and culturally European upper class which would otherwise hate Chavez.

Just think - a charismatic military man who has assumed power of an oil state, has disassembled its democratic institutions, has forced into law (no due process necessary) popular "reforms" involving state annexation of property, and whips his nation into a nationalist frenzy by picking fights with those viewed as cultural (and even racial) inferiors. Aside from working nationalist magic, the move raises Chavez's anti-yanqui stature among other leaders in the region while completely undermining Fox's credibility with the same people.

A little context delivers a different picture, and can explain why Chavez would want to get in a pissing contest with Mexico.

Racism® has becom a joke upon itself because the word has lost its meaning.

Jacques Derrida would tell us that such is the fate of all words while Herbert Marcuse would tell us that any political idea, sufficiently marketed for mass consumption, simply becomes a tool of repressive thinking.

Racism® is such a word.

For example, we have a non-controversy on the east coast as a black skinned Republican is called an "Uncle Tom" and "Oreo" simply because he is ... a Republican. Furthermore, his erstwhile and worthy opponents saw fit to run and publish his credit report - a throwback to the days of asking "niggers" to pay for their meals before ordering. Voters should know a black man's credit report, but not Howard Dean's.

It would seem that anyone who is black skinned is obliged to think a certain way and see certain public policy as practical and other public policy as wrong simply because one's skin color dictates such. Consideration, debate or advocacy of other ideas makes one a racial traitor - pure and simple. Dissent is not tolerated. Ever. Thinking independently earns ridicule and alienation from one's racial identity.

Is that not racism - predetermination of outcomes, ends, intent, and choices based on skin color? The idea that one's identity is racial? What it isn't is Racism®, which is part of a political franchise which allows the franchise owners to practice racism without being labeled Racist®.

Add to the mix that the most influential person in the current Republican administration (and probably the world) is a black skinned woman (and a Republican herself) and the irony thickens.

Worry not - Racism® is a safe brand with a great deal invested in the brand label. That brand identity returns huge amounts in terms of votes and money to its franchise owners. The brand is so strong that those franchise owners don't have to actually do any work to benefit those for whom (and upon whom) the brand was built. All they have to do is maintain racial identity, and remember to throw a few table scraps to the proles from time to time. Racism preserves Racism® and yields a soft-apartheid. No one is threatening to leave the plantation. Society is in a cul-de-sac.

To me, the sight of black families wandering the overpasses of New Orleans, with their packed flight-bags rolling behind them said a great deal. Those individuals did their part by packing some items and going where told in an orderly manner. They put unwarranted faith in their elected leaders - leaders who had consistently failed them. The evacuation planning (a local responsibility, paid for by the Federal government extraordinary exception made for the Democrat political machine that runs Louisiana) failed these people as public resources sat idle, except for those needed to convey the public officials and their households to higher ground. Public safety officers failed them by not keeping order, but rather participating in the disorder by either ditching their jobs or participating in the looting.

There, in a state that has been run by the Racism® franchise owners - where the Governor and the Mayor were both Democrats in good standing (as are both the state's Senators); There, where the Federal aid for security and intercity programs flowed heavily before the hurricanes; There, where the people's faith in government to provide a competent police force had been betrayed again and again well before Katrina - it was there where we saw the legacy of Racism®. The neglect and non-challant disregard for those whom the Racism® brand was erected errected to benefit.

While built with the best of intentions and with the consensus of all fair minded Americans, the Racism® brand has corrupted itself as proven by its obvious legacy of neglect and soft-apartheid. A car trip to you local ghetto will make this obvious.

Time for a new discussion around new ideas using new words - Racism® belongs in the trash. Neither Marcuse nor Derrida would be surprised - just disgusted. Elected Democrats should have the courage to face the legacy of Racism®, or they should announce that they aren't going to run for re-election for having utterly failed a core constituency.


Adam, welcome back, hope you're feeling better-- and thanks for the link. And by the way: You missed a fun backpack trip--less strenuous than I thought it would be.

Anyway, the Gov of LA and Mayor of New Orleans were not "Democrats in good standing." The Gov is to the right of most Dems, including Joe "Yuck" Lieberman. She often criticizes Dems in a way that even the Governator in CA doesn't do with Reeps. Worse, the millionaire cable owner Mayor of N.O. is a guy who backs Republicans more than Dems.

As for RACISM as a product, I get the point, but I do find it difficult to give the best and most pure motives to many African-Americans who are Republicans. Shouldn't most of us? I mean, really. It's like being a gay Republican. The Republican Party has a history these last several decades of pushing the envelope in terms of racist code talk in conflating crime and poverty with "black."

When Bennett made his infamous statement about killing all black babies, no sane person would believe he would support such a policy. However, what bothered me was that he could have just as easily said, "Kill all white babies" and crime rates, including mass murder rates, would go down too....But that would be terribly wrong too because using race as your definitive factor, instead of say, poverty, tells us much about the mindset of the elite Republican strategist and official intellectuals.

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 16 November, 2005 01:27  


Thanks. Feeling much better. I am bummed I missed the trip.

Your "Dems in good standing" scorecard seems to judge Dems on a left wing litmus test. Be that as it may, Joe Lieberman and Hillary Clinton are still sitting in the front of the bus while Babs Boxer et al get window seats in the back.

As for skepticism about motives - I agree. No one should get a racial pass. Are throwing Oreos, making Al Jolsen caricatures, and completely alienating anyone based on a point of view that contradicts their skin color anything but racist? Doesn't that sort of unseemly activity deserve some introspection and criticism, or does it get a pass because blacks are incapable of being racists?

Sorry - but the Democrats have so abused and whored the issue that they are incapable of taking a fresh look at it and engage new thinking. To protect the franchise, any new thinking (or even a thought experiment like Bennets - who is a former Democrat) gets labeled by rhetorical contortionists as racist.

Sad, because it prevents the issue from being resolved in our society. Perhaps that is by design - if Roe v. Wade were resolved then Emilys List fund raising would suffer a fatal yeast infection, and NARAL would have to become NULL-RAL. It isn't "keep hope alive" - it is "keep demagoguery alive so the bank account stays full".

Anyway - all this is insight as to why I left the Democrats. You'll be happy to know I have left the Republicans too - the Miers debacle convinced me that the Social Right is firmly in control and will be forever. I am an independent now and get locked out of the primaries. Oh well.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 16 November, 2005 14:17  


Come on, Adam. You are talking about a select few jerks who have no power who throw Oreos, etc. They speak for no one, but are best used as fodder to attack more responsible people, whether it is Babs Boxer or Joe Lieberman.

On your own alienation from the so-called "two" party system,, if it makes you feel less alone, I was in the wilderness from 1993 through 2002, first with Perot and then later with the Greens. Never completely comfortable and sometimes wincing and sighing very loudly.

I'm back to the Dems only because I gave up on third parties for the time being. I still feel largely alienated every time "Hillary Biden" open their collective mouths.

I must also say the following: Emily's List is about helping women candidates, which also includes "women of color." And NARAL is about abortion and includes the so-called "moderate" Republican. If you're disgusted with the "cultural left," though, we're in agreement. I plead as usual for that old time religion of New Deal politics--without the racism and sexism this time.

I like slogans like these: Damn the plutocrats! Up with labor! Waiting for Lefty...! I never liked "The personal is political" as it usually ended up only talking about the personal.

Ah, where is Harold Ickes Sr. and Frances Perkins when I need them? And Sir Ralph Yarborough and St. Michael Harrington!

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 17 November, 2005 01:06  


Mitchell, it isn't just a small group who speaks for no one. Blacks enforce a group political identity with cruel and racist efficiency.

As for me, I see no future for parties except as increasingly unstable coalitions.

The electoral college (not by design, but as an unintended consequence) forces a two party system which I wrote about here.

The internet and blogging will make those coalitions less stable. They already are. Add to that the power of 527s, and that blogs will soon spearhead 527 "issue advocacy" and there should be a free agency effect which waters down party power a bit.

Perhaps then they'll be compelled to rely on bona-fide differentiation rather than name calling.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 17 November, 2005 01:57  


I wish we could build a coalition to have proportional representation and abolish the Electoral College while we're at it. It will create at least four parties that will refocus priorities on party platforms as well.

As for the issue of so-called Republicans who are African-American. I simply feel that the current Republican sensiblity makes it tough to be both African-American and Republican because of Republican policies and rhetoric towards African-Americans. The codes are unmistakable and the fact that so many racist white Democrats from the South found their comfort zone in the Republican Party over the past 40 years is not an accident. Blaming some vocal blacks for "enforcing group identity" is to my view looking at the issue through the wrong lens of the telescope.

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 17 November, 2005 09:34  

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Much Better
Well - I am feeling much better and have a clearer head again. So those side moments can be squandered serving up the swill that is my opinion on many-things-political.

One observation from the tough flu that I just got over - When Bird Flu comes, all of the airlines will be able to purge their frequent flyer programs. All of their frequent flyers will be dead.

I caught this bug on a flight from DC on a Friday evening. The person in back of me was sick and the flight was full. 5 hours of knowing the fate that awaited me with no recourse and no escape.

This year's flu is a butt-kicker. I haven't been that sick in a long while. Take precautions my friends.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Sorry - out sick.
I have had the flu for the last few days (caught on a Friday night flight back from DC - when avian flu comes, airlines will be able to wipe their "frequent flyer" databases clean). My time at the keyboard has gone exclusively to client work and I have had little time for blogging.

Too bad too - the French Riots are fertile ground for delving into the "French Exception" and how that is not understood very well outside of France.

Patrick Belton of OxBlog has what I consider to be the best perspective on things there - primarily because he is on the ground, has a fresh perspective, and has a genuinely open mind. He is not trying to graft onto the situation either US or pan-European political biases. His observations are richly contrarian because the "wash and wear" narrative doesn't describe what he is seeing - Allez, Patrick!!!

I have done a decent amount of business in France, have friends there, and think the media coverage (including the French coverage) has been largely one-dimensional.

Anyway, when I am better I will explain myself and try to bring a perspective which will seem unconventional by the standards of what you are probably reading. In the meantime, observe De Villepin as he positions his power against Sarkozy - that is where things are very interesting. Especially when you triangulate that power struggle off of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who probably best represents "man in the street" opinion regarding these riots.

Also, we need a new definition of poverty for the industrialized west if we are to accept that poverty caused this. That isn't a cynical proposition - we need to look at what poverty is (a round term for economic suffering?) and think in those terms. There is a kind of suffering from being the last to receive the bounty of industrialized society, and that kind of suffering is alienation. From that point, the question of "assimilation" can be honestly examined. There is a Marcusian angle to this which is fascinating and offers a navigational thread by which French political culture can be explored and compared to multi-cultural notions in the rest of Europe and melting pot notions here in the US. As the world gets smaller and industrialization universal, this all has to be understood.

Back to work.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Let's Ban Summits.

Since killing terrorists only leads to more terror (at least that is what "experts" tell us), and since clamping down on Parisian rioters simply creates more riots (at least according to French newspapers), then we can all agree on something.

Let's ban summits.

They lead to 2 things the world can ill afford - violent protests and more summits.

Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Hitchens on "Mr. Stability"
Nice to see Hitchens weighing in on "stability," and specifically Brent "Mr. Stability" Scowcroft -

Scowcroft, sounding "realist" enough, announces to Goldberg that he is "a cynic about human nature." Well, so would I be, if I were a former partner in the firm of Kissinger Associates who now runs his own consultancy, introducing unpleasant regimes to the corporations that love them. But "cynicism" of this kind often masks a certain naivete. Those who elected to keep Saddam in power in 1991 (Scowcroft prominent among them) ?imagined that they would keep him in a "box." Instead, Saddam turned the sanctions regime into a racket that hugely augmented his own power and wealth, while the sanctions themselves killed innumerable people and created an immiserated underclass in Iraq that is the source of many of our present woes. And, perhaps more important, would have become the source of many woes. Like all of his co-thinkers, Scowcroft appears to imagine that the Saddam regime would just have continued, in its cynical way, providing some version of predictability and stability. Whereas it is as clear as day that the regime was crumbling and would have imploded with ghastly results that would have given many openings to "bad guys." You can say that this has happened anyway, as it has, but realist statecraft often involves the realization that there are no good options. That realization ought to prompt, surely, some reflection on the policy that led to an option-free outcome. That was exactly the mistake that the "realists" made with the Iran of the shah, whose implosion came to them as if out of a clear blue sky.

Interesting how the left's "stability" proponents represented by Juan Cole and the right's "stability" proponents represented by Mr. Stability are saying the very same things.

Hitchens, by way of stark contrast, offers this -

Realism of the Scowcroft sort presided over the Iran-Iraq war with its horrific casualties and watched indifferently as genocide was enacted in northern Iraq. It allowed despots free rein from Saudi Arabia to Pakistan, and then goggled when this gave birth to the Taliban and al-Qaida. If this was "fifty years of peace," then it really was time to give war a chance.



There are disagreements I have long had with Scowcroft. The first is that he was part of Bush Sr's failure to even try and protect the Kurds after the war when Saddam was pretty much down and out.

More importantly, he kow-towed to the Saudi leadership, which is at the root of the Islamicist terror movement.

Hitchens' sloppy rhetoric can't hide the fact that most of what occurred during Saddam's reign in the 90s paled in comparison with his conduct during the 80s when "your" side was feasting with Saddam (remember this continued through April 1990 when Senators Simpson and Dole led a parade of Republicans to pal around with Saddam, with Simpson attacking Western media criticism of Saddam's war crimes as "unfair"). Saddam was essentially contained.

I wish would you and Hitch would at least acknowledge this fact: We can love democracy, but was it and is it in the US interest to give power to fundamentalist Shiite Islamicists in Iraq? We didn't have that situation in Iraq before the US invasion. Now, we are on the verge of it. And we know what those sorts of Islamicist leaders do and say when they want to whip up their supporters: They say what that yahoo in Iran just said last week about Israel--and they support anti-Westernn terrorists all over the place, including al Queda--which were the ones who attacked our nation on 9/11/01. Why anyone thinks this administration is committed to stopping those who attacked us is beyond me (Remember Condi's recent "we went for the bold!" statement?).

Final thought: Watch Hitch flip again when his new found friends go after Chavez and the new leaders in Ecuador and Boliva--not because Hitch's new-found friends want democracy, but because they like military dictatorships that agree with their political views.

It's not that you're wrong about "stability" being part of the argument, It's just that "stability" does not adequately define the debate. The debate, as usual, is more about larger right and left ideologies. That Scowcroft and I both opposed the Iraq War II is something, though, that does send shudders down the spines of the mendacious and incompetent White House occupants as they watch the Terrible President's polls sink.

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 04 November, 2005 11:19  


Well - there is a saying about people in the west not knowing the difference between Shiite and Shinola.

The more fundamentalist Shiites that exist mainly in Baghdad's Sadr City slum had only one thing that they ccould call their own under Saddam - their religion.

The fall of the iron curtain should be instructive - today we have the Panzer cardinal cum Pope complaining about the loss of religiousity in eastern europe after the fall of Communism. His predecessor states the same, focusing on his homeland of Poland for specific criticism. John Paul was particulary instrumental in organizing the churcch in Poland to be a safe haven for political resistance to totalitarianism, and it incubated the Solidarity movement.

The communists would never have snuffed out churches in Poland as it had in mother Russia (where they still existed unofficially, which I can attest to having visited one in Leningrad in 1976).

After consumerism took hold in the eastern block, the churches all saw a decline in attendance.

While we destroyed the Iraqi middle class with a failed (and corrupted) sanctions regime, we made the Shiites poorer, and many more inclined to an Iranian model of governance. Restore the middle class (which is very much happening, btw, esp in a relatively insurgent free south), and you have fewer willing to follow the Iranian model.

Add to that the fact that Iranians are Persian and the Iraqi shiites are Arab, and you have a very real obsacle to Iran running a proxy state. Bahrain, BTW, is Shiite majority and functions as a constitutional monarchy with bona-fide elections. Add further that Iran has made territorial claims on ALL of Bahrain, and you have a prosperous, westernized (you can get a Mai Tai there), shiite majority state that hates Iran.

Sorry - but the Juan Cole shiite fear mongering (which is endemic to his pro-Sunni household - look up who his wife is) just doesn't wash in reality. That fear mongering has been used by sunni governments in the region to guide our failed an unjust "stability" policy since FDRs administration. We have always lined up to screw the Shiites in favor of Sunnis "keeping a lid on things".

Not a single Shiite participated in 9/11.

And another thing -- Al Sistani should get the Nobel Peace Prize (were the prize not discredited by its recent recipients). He has hadd the opportunity to simply take over the country and kick us out with a waive of his hand. He doesn't trust us (he shouldn't, esp. with so many insisting that we leave and go back to pro-Sunni, Cole-esque stability politics in exchange for cheap oil). He has managed to look past the immediate to what is in his people's long term interests - democracy and authentic choice. He is the John Paul of Islam.

Blogger Adam Sullivan : 15 November, 2005 12:00  



I won't disagree with much of what you said other than to note the structure of your argument. It is a "liberal" or even "left" argument in trying to look at issues from the point of view of the oppressed: The Shi'ites in Iraq were certainly oppressed under the Sunni-favoring Saddam.

However, let's also recognize that Shi'ites in Iraq are largely supportive of Shi'ites in Iran who do support terrorist groups that hate the US and also hate Israel. Oh well. Another day...

Blogger Mitchell J. Freedman : 17 November, 2005 09:40  

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Look Who Chavez Was Hiding ...
Per Barcepundit, one of the fugitives from the Madrid Train Massacres has been caught.

In Pakistan via ... Venezuela.

Mubarak Throws Blogger In Jail
From Big Pharaoh -

Egyptian blogger Abdolkarim Nabil Seliman who runs the blog Kareem Amer was arrested on October 26h from his home. According to his family, his arrest might be a result of his writings. His brother said that Abdolkarim has a tense relation with Islamists in his hometown of Alexandria. He added that the Islamists might be the ones behind filing a complaint against his brother.

When you run a "secular state" in the Middle East (and help preserve "stability") you just have to throw those Islamists a bone from time to time. How else do you think "stability" can be maintained.

Nice Pics!!!
Here are some nice pics to look at over the weekend!!!


Many different types of stickers are used to create sticker art. Inexpensively-purchased and free stickers such as "hello my name is" name tags or the United States Postal Service's Label 228 are often used with hand-drawn art.

Anonymous Sticker printing : 09 March, 2011 14:39  

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The unexamined life is not worth living - Socrates

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