Reading and Writing – What I’m Reading and What’s Next Here

So, as noted, we were away and offline for a week, skiing at Mammoth Mountain here in California. All three boys joined TG and I, and it’s interesting – for those who have older children – to go through the dynamics of changing roles as children come visit and become guests.

All in all, a wonderful time, and I got to read a bunch of books, some of which will be the basis for posts over the next week or so. I also got to think a bit about what I want to do – what direction I want to take – with my blogging. Note that these plans last about long enough for events or new information to push me in new directions…

Here’s the reading list and then some ideas:
Two fiction books: “The Secret Society of Demolition Writers,” a short story collection, and “Two Trains Running,” a modern take on Dashiell Hammet’s great “Red Harvest” by Andy Vachss.

A couple of other books: “Run the Other Way,” by Wellstone/ Ventura/ Nader adman Bill Hillsman; “The Creation of the Media,” by Paul Starr; “From Oslo to Iraq,” by Edward Said, and “Critical Mass,” by Philip Ball.

I rescanned “Fourth Turning” as well.

They were all interesting and worth reading. As time permits, I’ll blog about them over the next little while.

I also thought a lot about what I wanted to do here for the next little while, inspired in part by the juxtaposition of Vachss’ picture of a corrupt, declining Midwestern city being fought over by rival gangs, and Hillsman’s sniping at what he calls “Elections Inc.” in his (admittedly self-serving) book on campaigns and advertising.

I think and have frequently said that the Democratic Party is as interested in maintaining the status quo as is the GOP; a status quo that simultaneously involves greater power for the state increasingly exercised on behalf of the powerful. The sociology of our political system is a part of the explanation of it; Schumpeter explains much of the rest.

This is not the only thing one could say about it, but it is, I believe a core truth. If it is true, the chorus of partisan hype raised by folks like Atrios, Yglesias, Armstrong and Kos is arguably as much about getting a seat at the table – becoming part of the well-paid machine – as it is about changing outcomes.

I think there is an audience for a different story, and a different future for the Democratic Party (the GOP, too, but that opportunity for change will have to wait until they are out of power for a while). I’d like to noodle a bit about what that future might look like and how we might get there.

One of the issues we will have to address head-on is the rise of virulent anti-Western action and belief, both within the West and outside it.

Part of it involves addressing the arguments that are launched by the Saids and Juan Coles of the world, and presenting counter arguments that are solid enough to survive and thrive in the ecology of ideas. I think I (and others) have presented glosses on those arguments, but haven’t yet drilled deep enough into history and ideas and brought the arguments up to the light of day.

So that’s the plan…I’m interested in folks’ thoughts and comment, as always.


Our bad.

It happened that we ran out of bandwidth (in large part because of the popularity of Bill Roggio and Marvin Hutchin’s Flash presentation on Al Queida’s attacks) in a week when both Joe and I were offline.

Sorry about that.

Skiing was great, by the way. It will be a few days before my quads are working again…six straight days of skiing with no crowds until the last day. I need to get into better shape.

I’m Outtie For The Year

Tomorrow at 0-dark-30 we’re out to celebrate polluting the world by taking a family road trip to the mountains and skiing (and in one case, boarding); I’m spending some of my Pajamas gelt on a week in Mammoth with Tenacious G and all three of the boys. I’ll miss all you folks, but I’d miss it even more if my sons grew up without me and my wife met me at the door and asked who I was.

Have a wonderful holiday – whether Chanukah, Christmas, Eid or Kwaanza (or any other I may have left out, including feed-Cthulu-day and the Pastafarian Holiday). Enjoy your family and friends, and remember that while all the stuff in the world is damn serious, so is your daily life. It’s just plain hard to save the world if your own life is in the toilet.

See you in the New Year, and best to all of you – especially the men and women sleeping on cots in far away lands.

The Voting In Iraq

It’s a bit premature to draw any conclusions about the results of the elections in Iraq, but I’m obviously following the news from there as closely as I can.

And yes, it does look like the secular parties haven’t done as well as some folks (me) might have hoped. But to be honest, I’m not panicked. The issue isn’t whether people we like get elected; the issue is – broadly – whether the government of Iraq will behave within – again, broadly – acceptable boundaries in its foreign and domestic policies. And vastly more important, whether the people of Iraq will be able to review the government in a few years’ time and change it if they choose to.

If what results is a true mullahocracy as in Iran, where candidates must be approved by the ruling religious figures before they can run, then the Juan Coles of the world can stick their chests out and crow a bit.

I said in the past that it was unlikely that Baghdad would approximate Irvine any time soon, or that the Rotarians would be likely to wind up running things in the next decade (note that I don’t see having Rotarians running things as a bad thing). One step at a time, and in this case, the step is simple – governments get established – and changed, if the people so choose – freely at the ballot box. We’ll work on the other stuff later.

A famous U.S. politician once said “The people have spoken, damn them.” Here’s hoping that Iraqi politicians are saying the same thing in the next few years. Meanwhile, let’s watch and wait, let the process work, and spend less time on the Isle of Conclusion.

Intel and “Boots on The ground”

Commenter Ron Wright got shut out of the comment thread on the NSA below (what happened to you folks, anyway? One person pisses in the punchbowl and suddenly everyone lowers their standards…sheesh!) with a long comment he’s posted up at HSPIG where he opens with:

Moderator’s Note: This is a work in progress. I’m posting it here to generate discussion on this topic. If we are to be the “boots on the ground here,” we must know the rules by which to play.

It’s worth going over and discussing.

“The Dream Deferred” Essay Contest: I Get Email…

Win $2000 for 2000 words

…and some of it is good news.

Here’s an announcement of an essay contest run by the American Islamic Congress:

The American Islamic Congress (AIC) has announced its newest project: the “Dream Deferred Essay Contest” on civil rights in the Middle East. The contest, which offers prizes up to $2,000 for top essays on the importance of promoting civil rights, is open to Americans and Middle Easterners under the age of 26.

The AIC is a non-profit dedicated to promoting interfaith understanding and human rights. The essay contest is part of its new program, HAMSA – Hands Across the Mideast Support Alliance. Regional partners in launching the contest include the Cairo-based Ibn Khaldoun Center and the Tharwa Project, a minority rights initiative founded in Damascus.

The essay contest, which takes its name from a poem by Langston Hughes, is the idea of Tharwa Project co-founder Ammar Abdulhamid. He officially announced the contest during a presentation at Harvard University.

They explain it better than I could.


“We need to mobilize a new generation of thinkers and leaders in the Middle East,” Abdulhamid said. “This essay contest is a way to provide incentive for youth to share their ideas for promoting individual liberty and tolerance. We are asking young people to share their frustrations and their dreams, and to stand up for individual rights.”
The contest was formally launched to Middle Eastern audiences by AIC executive director Zainab Al-Suwaij at a conference of female human rights activists in Jordan. Al-Suwaij told conference participants from across the Arab world that effective partnership is key to advancing civil rights.

“Middle Eastern reformers need support from American activists,” Al-Suwaij noted. “We are encouraging young Americans to think about how they can use their freedom to help people their own age in the Middle East. We need to extend our hands in support – and young Americans can play an important role.”

The official website for the contest is Essays must address one of several questions posted on the site and can be submitted in English, Arabic, French, or Farsi. The deadline is February 28, 2006. A diverse panel of celebrity judges – including Gloria Steinem and civil rights veteran Normal Hill – will select the winning essays. See the website for a complete list of judges.

A few of our commenters may be young enough to enter, and I’d encourage them to do it. I’d like to read what they have to say.

Snooping and Spying Oh My

There’s a huge rumpus about the disclosure that the NSA intercepted various communications within the US. Other people more knowledgeable than I have discussed the legality; I want to add one small point to the discussion.

First, I’m not outraged that they listened in. I hope they got useful intel.

But second, the boneheaded legal and administrative wrapper around this infuriates me and more, it undercuts the prosecution of the war.From what I can tell, the law (FSIA) allows the instant interception of communications – as long as, within 72 hours, a judge approves it. the track record of the judges in approving these things is pretty clear – they approve them. Per Orin Kerr, over at Volokh, what they did probably doesn’t pass the FISA test, although there may be other legally sustainable arguments that defend the Administration’s position. That’s not good enough when there is a clear and clearly legal path to the same result.

Why the heck didn’t the Administration go get those approvals?

It bespeaks either an insane arrogance, or more likely a sense of beleaguered isolation.

Both of those are good explanations of why it is that Bush has done so little, so late to maintain support for the war, and here I have been and am prepared to continue to be critical.

What is inexcusable to me is that no one inside the White House thought for a moment about the impact of revelations like this one on support for the war. It is a truism that this war will be won or lost here, at home, in our willingness to patiently move forward toward success.

Whatever undercuts that patience – whether the mutterings of Michael Moore or the blind arrogance of Administration officials who don’t understand how bad this makes them and the war effort look – deserves to be pushed back.

I don’t think the Administration has been competent enough in key areas like this. Sadly (or gladly, if you’re a Republican) my party doesn’t seem prepared to do any better.

Singing Handel Slightly Off-Key

We spent the evening yesterday at Disney Hall, singing the Messiah with two thousand other people in the annual “Messiah Sing-Along.”

It was truly wonderful, as in full-of-wonder, and I can’t completely explain why except to point to the power of mass ritual and of music.

And when we joined those two things together – singing in one slightly off pitch voice – it was a concrete reminder to me that none of us are alone, that we are part of a bigger thing which is shared with other people.

And if you wonder why it is that I feel that we all owe for what we’ve received from it, think for a moment about the message of the holiday, and of the choir.

We’re none of us alone, and we are a part of something bigger, to which we have obligation as we can and should expect it to have debt to us. We exchange gifts – give and are given to. We make concrete gestures to the other people in our lives, as they make them toward each of us.

As noted, I’m not a deeply religious or spiritual man; I just try and lead a good life in my own way. But I am moved by things that remind me that I am a part of something bigger which has given me a lot. And when I look for direction in my own life, I look toward paying off that debt that I owe and leaving more behind than I was given.

That and annoying my children, breaking speed laws, and the occasional other grin-inducing activity.

I Missed It!

Sometime Friday, Winds had its 5,000,000th visit.

I’d been keeping an eye on the counter, wondering if it was going to happen this year. Does it mean anything? No, not really. We’re a very small fish in a very large sea of information.

But it’s an occasion to express my appreciation not only to Joe for opening the joint, but to my co-authors for making it consistently interesting to be here, and mostly to all of you – the community of folks who read and comment here.

I get asked why I’m doing this (occasionally by Tenacious G, who asks “Why are you doing that? Weren’t you going to clear the table?”) – and the reason is that I learn a lot by doing it. Writing things I’m thinking down sometimes makes me realize that sometimes they’re just lame – you should see the posts that never get put up – and even when I’m happy with them, folks who comment often make me sharpen my game or change my views.

So if you’re reading this – if you’re one of the 5 million visitors – step up and engage us, become part of the dialog. Because really, at the core, the only reason I’m writing these things down is to start a conversation.

We’re # 6!!

Wizbang’s Weblog Awards have closed, and WoC is the #6 Group Blog – that somehow seems a very Canadian result (sorry, Joe!…couldn’t help that).

So we’re 1/4 as good as Hit and Run.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us, thanks to Kevin at Wizbang for putting the whole thing on, and thanks to Diebold for the software that counted the votes.

And I want to remind you all that I am not a number. I’m a free man.