Another Tragedy

Mike Hendrix’s wife Christiana was killed in a motorcycle accident last week.

Mike blogs at Cold Fury, and he’s a thoughtful and amusing guy while coming across tough as nails. I remember reading his blog when he talked about meeting and falling in love with her, and how funny it was to read such a hard-nosed guy being so sappy.

Any death in the blogging world twinges; I feel like I kind of know them all…AcidMan, Gilliard…and now Mike’s wife.

I can’t imagine the pain of losing your partner doing something you both love. Actually I can; TG rides, and has crashed hard right in front of me. My heart still pushes its way into my throat when I think about that – even when I think about it sitting with my feet in her lap.

My heart – and TG’s – goes out to Mike and to his and his wife’s family.

The American Dream…Kinda

The news reports that the billionaire founder of Broadcom is alleged to have built a secret underground suite on the grounds of his mansion which he is alleged to have stocked with prostitutes and drugs is a titillating rumor, and obviously bad news for the man himself and his family (I won’t add to the Google hits by naming him).

But riding home from dinner tonight, it occurred to me that true or not, it is actually great news for America.

Because today when that news broke, millions of teenage boys went “an underground lair stocked with hookers, Ecstasy and blow!! I’m gonna be a tech billionaire!!” and immediately drank a Coke, sat down and cracked their textbooks.

Twenty years from now, there will be whole industries founded by those kids, and all of us will benefit.

A Problem Like Iraq

A week or so ago, I closed an interesting comment thread because the comments were getting too personal and heated, with a promise to open a new one where we could talk about future actions in Iraq and the Middle East in general.

It seems like a good time to reopen that discussion, as Congress struggles with the issue, and as the press – which I’ll claim had pushed hard against the war since the immediate post-invasion (i.e. as soon as it became real, rather than theoretical) – itself begins to realize that “just quit and come home” may not be an answer without its own set of problems.

So let’s discuss. I’ve argued that Iraq is a strategic failure, because it demonstrated to the nation-states who I hoped to shock into better behavior that we’re actually not all that serious. But it remains a focus for jihadi activity, and more than that, a real country, populated by real people who both suffer because of the war today and are – according to pretty much all authoritative sources – at great risk if we end the war by just coming home.

For myself, I’m in a holding pattern. Part of me thinks that the best course is just to sit and push and prevail – to do what we’re doing now – smarter, hopefully, but to keep paying the price we’re paying – and can arguably afford to pay in reality – in an effort to essentially break the other side. Part of me thinks that there are better strategies – there must be – but, to be honest, I haven’t seen one or cooked one up yet.

So here’s the chance to do it. I’m way overworked, and stressy and cranky in general, so my tolerance for snark and personal slagging is incredibly low at the moment. make arguments. Make passionate, heated ones. But show some respect for the other folks here, or you’ll be shown the door.


Former BBC producer Anthony Jay has a pamphlet out about the culture of the Beeb; an excerpt appeared in the Telegraph.

It applies as well to things here in the states – both to the media groupthink and to the overall pattern of thought in the prog-blog community as well.

Jay says:

I think I am beginning to see the answer to a question that has puzzled me for the past 40 years. The question is simple – much simpler than the answer: what is behind the opinions and attitudes of what are called the chattering classes? They are that minority characterized (or caricatured) by sandals and macrobiotic diets, but in a less extreme form found in the Guardian, Channel 4, the Church of England, academia, show business and BBC News and Current Affairs, who constitute our metropolitan liberal media consensus – though the word “liberal” would have Adam Smith rotating at maximum velocity in his grave. Let’s call it “media liberalism”.

He goes on –

We belonged instead to a dispersed ”metropolitan-media-arts-graduate” tribe. We met over coffee, lunch, drinks and dinner to reinforce our views on the evils of apartheid, nuclear deterrence, capital punishment, the British Empire, big business, advertising, public relations, the Royal Family, the defense budget – it’s a wonder we ever got home. We so rarely encountered any coherent opposing arguments that we took our group-think as the views of all right-thinking people.

The second factor which shaped our media liberal attitudes was a sense of exclusion. We saw ourselves as part of the intellectual elite, full of ideas about how the country should be run, and yet with no involvement in the process or power to do anything about it. Being naive in the way institutions actually work, yet having good arts degrees from reputable universities, we were convinced that Britain’s problems were the result of the stupidity of the people in charge. We ignored the tedious practicalities of getting institutions to adopt and implement ideas.

This ignorance of the realities of government and management enabled us to occupy the moral high ground. We saw ourselves as clever people in a stupid world, upright people in a corrupt world, compassionate people in a brutal world, libertarian people in an authoritarian world. We were not Marxists but accepted a lot of Marxist social analysis. Some people called us arrogant; looking back, I am afraid I cannot dispute the epithet.

A while ago, I wrote my own take on it:

But when I read much of what comes from the left, I’m left with the feeling that they want to consume the benefits that come from living in the U.S. and more generally the West without either doing the messy work involved or, more seriously, taking on the moral responsibility for the life they enjoy.

I haven’t seen much to change my mind…

Defensive Margaux

From Memeorandum – the Washington Post covers a story that, well – you just have to read:

A grand feast of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp was winding down, and a group of friends was sitting on the back patio of a Capitol Hill home, sipping red wine. Suddenly, a hooded man slid in through an open gate and put the barrel of a handgun to the head of a 14-year-old guest.

“Give me your money, or I’ll start shooting,” he demanded, according to D.C. police and witness accounts.

What happens next is the story. I’m dying to know who has optioned it for a Hollywood movie.

The five other guests, including the girls’ parents, froze — and then one spoke.

“We were just finishing dinner,” Cristina “Cha Cha” Rowan, 43, blurted out. “Why don’t you have a glass of wine with us?”

The intruder took a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupéry and said, “Damn, that’s good wine.”

The girl’s father, Michael Rabdau, 51, who described the harrowing evening in an interview, told the intruder, described as being in his 20s, to take the whole glass. Rowan offered him the bottle. The would-be robber, his hood now down, took another sip and had a bite of Camembert cheese that was on the table.

Then he tucked the gun into the pocket of his nylon sweatpants.

“I think I may have come to the wrong house,” he said, looking around the patio of the home in the 1300 block of Constitution Avenue NE.

“I’m sorry,” he told the group. “Can I get a hug?”

See! If you keep a good Margaux on you, you’ll never need a gun. So if you see nervous rich folks wandering around with fifty-dollar bottles of wine tucked under their jackets, they aren’t high-class drunks, they’re just sensible people planning on self-defense.

I can see a whole new school of thought on rapid presentation coming to the fore…of course Biggest Guy and I just finished a 3-day shooting school, so I may be slightly more jaded on this subject than usual.

A Personal Note

I’ve been less than honest with you folks for the last eight months or so.

It’s a difficult thing to write about, for a variety of reasons that’ll be obvious in a moment. But I’ve been increasingly uncomfortable at not disclosing something that seems pretty darn germane to many of the issues I think and read write about; and I’m finally uncomfortable enough that it’s time to say something.

My oldest son – Biggest Guy, Eric – will report to Ft. Benning Sept. 18 and join the Army. He chose last year to enlist on his graduation from UVA as an enlisted man, rather than an officer, and to enlist with a MOS of 18X. This places him on a track from Basic Training through Jump School directly to Q-School where he will try and directly qualify for Special Forces.As you can imagine, I’ve got a million different emotions about this. And I’ve been reluctant to post on it because the last thing I want from this is some kind of political point on a nonexistent scorecard.

Today, I want to post this as a parent, not a political blogger.

The thing I have tried hard to impress on my sons is their need to find something that will engage them and to grab onto it with both hands and see where it will take them in life. Too often, the media we see portray the ephemera of what we do – status, money – and ignore the actual soul-satisfying substance of the work that leads to it. I believe passionately in the truth of that pursuit as a plan for one’s life, and that to pursue engagement and challenge is the highest career that we can choose.

The risk of taking that kind of position with your children is that what you think they ought to or might find engagement in isn’t necessarily what they find engaging.

And in a way, I’m proudest of him for that – for picking his own path and following his own heart, and not the plans his mother(s) and I have made for him as we watched him grow.

I’m anxious for him, as well. I’m not delusional, and I believe strongly that we will as a country be in combat during his time in the service. I know that the odds are in his favor, and that realistically I’m probably more at risk riding my motorcycle on the 405 freeway. But it certainly doesn’t feel that way in my stomach when I think about it.

I’m anxious because of the difficulty of the path he has chosen; but at the same time, knowing some of the men who have walked it, I am confident that he can make it and that if he does, what he finds there – the ‘self’ he will find there – will suit him extraordinarily well.

He is choosing a path that will be challenging in ways I can only imagine, and by challenging himself in those and other ways he has the opportunity to grow and stretch the capabilities of adult he is becoming into someone amazing.

And, in reality, I am just facing the strange thing that all parents face with their children as they grow – the simple fact that they soon outgrow our ability to parent and protect them – sometimes by a really long way. So we just love them and work to understand them.

I’ve been doing a lot of reading in the last months about this. Three books stand out, and I’ll happily recommend them:

Chosen Soldier, a book that details the program that he will be going through.

Imperial Grunts, by Kaplan

On Combat, by Dave Grossman (author of ‘On Killing’). I was given this to review, and will in the next week or so. But suffice it to say that I’ve given my copy to my son to read and keep.

A final word, as a blogger.

My adult son’s independent decision about what he wants to do with his life has no bearing on me or on what I write. My views and words about the issues that have concerned me for five years or more are not one gram more significant nor my arguments one iota stronger or weaker because of the decision which he independently made. Judge me as a parent if you will, but please do not judge my positions as a writer based on this act by someone else.

The credit and honor for his choices and actions are his, and his alone. I fed him and paid his college tuition. He took those materials and made himself what he is. A son who I dearly love and would be proud of whatever passion he has found and followed.

I’m Shocked, Just Shocked…

Yeah, I’m shocked too that the NYT has called for surrender and genocide in Iraq.

There’s not much I can add to the able criticism from many quarters – Jules Crittendon, Dave Price at Dean’s World, Sean Hackbarth, or dozens of other “bitter dead-endeders” like the Iraqi Foreign Minister – so I’ll make some indirect comments.One of the main arguments supporting the claim that we should leave now is the obvious and real collapse of public support for the war – a collapse that is shocking, just shocking, given the years of media spin on the war – media spin that bloggers have been pointing out continually. There’s something to say about the media and antiwar left beating on public opinion for four years, and then using that collapse of public opinion as an argument for their position.

There’s a bigger argument here about the failure of the Bush Administration to make it strategic case – a failure I argued here in 2003 with Trent Telenko over this post on Statfor:

The Bush administration’s continued unwillingness to enunciate a coherent picture of the strategy behind the war against al Qaeda — which explains the war in Iraq — could produce a dangerous domino effect. Lurking in the shadows is the not fully articulated perception that the Iraq war not only began in deception but that planning for the Iraq war was incompetent — a perception driven by the realization that the United States is engaged in a long-term occupation and guerrilla war in Iraq, and the belief that the United States neither expected nor was prepared for this. Ultimately, this perception could erode Bush’s support base, cost him the presidency and, most seriously, lead to defeat in the war against al Qaeda.

On one hand, I’d like to say that Bush and the leadership should simply ignore this and push on. On the other, it’s obviously impossible for them to, and more seriously, it’s impossible for the troops to.

At least the Times has the courage to admit what will follow:

That conversation must be candid and focused. Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate.

They claim that we can mitigate the impacts by allying with the Kurds – which will enrage the Turks, BTW – and why in the world would the Kurds – or anyone else for that matter – accept us as a reliable ally in the face of this withdrawal?

We will have helped train a new generation of jihadis to believe that if they kill several thousand troops, we will surrender. The last time we taught them this lesson was in Somalia, which in Bin Laden’s words

But your most disgraceful case was in Somalia; where- after vigorous propaganda about the power of the USA and its post cold war leadership of the new world order- you moved tens of thousands of international force, including twenty eight thousands American solders into Somalia. However, when tens of your solders were killed in minor battles and one American Pilot was dragged in the streets of Mogadishu you left the area carrying disappointment, humiliation, defeat and your dead with you. Clinton appeared in front of the whole world threatening and promising revenge , but these threats were merely a preparation for withdrawal. You have been disgraced by Allah and you withdrew; the extent of your impotence and weaknesses became very clear. It was a pleasure for the “heart” of every Muslim and a remedy to the “chests” of believing nations to see you defeated in the three Islamic cities of Beirut , Aden and Mogadishu.

I can’t wait to see what he says – and more importantly, does – in response to our pullout from Iraq.

Fortunately, the leadership of the country – the leading candidates on both the Democratic and Republican sides – haven’t yet drunk this Kool-Aid.

It’s time to see what can be done about it.

What, Exactly, Does The World Owe Bloggers?

James Joyner writes the post I would love to have written about Suburban Guerilla Sue Madrak’s crie de coeur, titled “No More Dead Bloggers”.

In it, Sue leverages Jim Capozzola’s death – which like a lot of other significant things in the last few weeks, I didn’t blog about – into a plea for the liberal political establishment to hire and pay progressive bloggers.

James hammers her point into the ground pretty effectively.

It’s interesting that this seems to be a common theme in progressive blogging – see Chris Bowers and my response to him in the Examiner

Now it’s one I’m sympathetic to, but with a pretty substantial difference – I’d like to see bloggers of all stripes have a shot at making a living doing it. That was the notion behind my version of Pajamas Media; to create an infrastructure that would make it easier for bloggers to maximize the traffic they can generate, maximize their ad revenue, and maximize their opportunities to sell content up into the better-paying MSM.

If you believe that blogging and user-created content – as a general practice – can transform politics, there’s something that smells kinda bad about the notion of trying hard to build a one-sided ideologically pure blogosphere.

But that kind of fits into the general prog-blog practice of silencing opposition rather than engaging it. Another reason I’m happy to be standing somewhere else in the room.

Meet Me In Manhattan

So I’m in NYC with Tenacious G and will have some time; I was thinking of proposing a meetup Thursday night with NYC bloggers and any other folks who might be interested in downing a few drinks and interesting conversation.

I’m looking into where – it’ll be in Manhattan – but how does 6:30 – 7pm Thursday sound for folks? Who should I reach out to and invite?


How’s this?

35 W 20th St
New York, NY 10011
(212) 463-7890

TG and I’ll be there at 6:30 and we’ll figure it out from there…