North Korea

As Joe mentioned, we were all having dinner when I got a call telling me that the Norks had set off a bomb.

I bumped an Examiner piece I’d done called “What’s a Hawk To Do?” (which I’ll extend and put up here soon), and did a quick piece on my response instead. It’s up at the Examiner site right now, go check it out and let me know what you think here.Let me take a moment and expand on my comments, which are really twofold. One is aimed at the political crowd:

I’m tired of hearing whose fault it is, was, or will be.

I’m tired of reading everything written by people close to the seats of power and seeing nothing but spin generated in a quest for partisan advantage.

I want to see some serious effort to address the very real and deadly issues we’re facing, and I don’t care where it comes from. I threw over my party loyalty of thirty-plus years because I felt that one candidate had more to say than the other, and I’ll gladly continue to be fickle in my search for someone who has some serious thoughts about what to do about the situation we’re in.

So step to the plate folks, and let’s see what you’ve got.

The other comment is aimed at the core foreign policy question – which is why does it matter? So what if the Norks have nukes?

Well, go back to one of my first blog posts, back in 2002:

One nice afternoon, I’m sitting here in my home office near the Palos Verdes peninsula when I notice a brilliant flash of light and some of my windows break.

The power goes out, the telephones, cell phones, and computers don’t work. My backup AM/SW/SSB radio in the garage doesn’t work, and I step onto my driveway and look toward San Pedro and see a dark mushroom cloud.

We’ll skip over the fact that all the electronics in the area are kaput because of EMP, and hypothesize a working TV or radio, which informs me that it appears that a small…5KT…nuke has just exploded on a container ship in San Pedro harbor, along with another one in Red Hook, just across from Manhattan, and another one at the container yard in Seattle.

The problem is that it is very likely that there won’t be a clear return address on those nukes. A Russian or Chinese ICBM is a clear statement – their government is culpable. But a mystery nuke? One where we don’t have assays of the fissile materials that would let us point to a source?

How do we respond in a world where courtroom standards are the only acceptable ones?

Forward Into Print

Adam Bellow has been telling me for a year that he wants to bring back pamphleteering – not just the style of it, which has pretty well extended itself into blogging (“Blogging as modern-day pamphleteering” being a pretty well-accepted trope), but in the fact of it – little paper booklets you can buy in odd places like coffee shops, train stations, news racks. Booklets about serious things, because he believes as I do that the average American can take attention away from Survivor and Paris Hilton’s coochie to read, think, and talk about things that matter if they are presented in an accessible way.

Well damn if he hasn’t actually pulled it off.

He’s publishing a 3-part series by Michael Totten on Hiz’bollah. And it will be the first, I hope, of a long series of works he will put out under his own imprimatur: The New Pamphleteer. Their website is at, check it out. I just bought the first set, and suggest that you take a look and consider doing it as well.

The Human Condition Is A Comic One

I think a lot about the contingency of history, about the essentially random events that wind up turning our lives one way or another.

My strongest reaction to the news of “The Foley Scandal” was a kind of amusement that the course of future events might wind up depending on one self-righteous pervert’s lack of sexual self-control. I mean think about it – while I don’t think these elections will irreversably impact the intermediate future we all face, they’ll be important – and the results may well turn on some dumbass Congressman’s inability to keep it zipped when teenage boys are around. How can you say that the human condition isn’t a comedy?There’s a serious point as well, and it’s my long-standing one about the increasing isolation of the elites from the rest of us, a characteristic that is best called into sharp relief by an article on Ray Ozzie in this month’s Wired:

“When I find a hairy bug,” he wrote in a 2003 blog posting, “I love having the developer come in and debug it face to face. It gives me a chance not only to understand more about the product’s internals, but also, you have no idea what I learn chitchatting while waiting for debug files to copy, etc. Design and implementation issues, stuff that people have been building off to the side, things about the organization, rumors, etc.” He continued: “I suppose this is just classic ‘walking the halls,’ but I feel as though without this sort of direct nonhierarchical contact I would lose touch with my organization, and people throughout would know I was disconnected and would have no respect for me.”
[emphasis added]

The strongest feature of our society is that everyone is called to account. Power and wealth shield you from it – somewhat. But what is happening that frightens me far more than a randy Congressman and abused teenagers is the increasing ability of many elites to keep themselves from being held to account – a trend that is (slightly) pushed back by the increasing transparency of society and the fact that so damn many of us are watching. Foley felt free to indulge his (immoral, illegal) sexual obsessions because he felt protected by his position. The GOP leadership looked away because he was inside the walls, and so entitled to the protection of his position.

He got caught, and they got caught, and the fallout will be a price they have to pay. (note that Mickey Kaus has some numbers that suggest that Florida voters either expect this kind of thing or just don’t care.)

But, on a cosmic scale, or to an American soldier somewhere, it must seem funny as hell that this is the kind of thing that can turn elections.

Phone Call

He asks: “So can she call you, then?”

And you reply – because you’re polite – “Sure, go ahead and give her my number,” because you don’t really think she’ll call. And what would you say to the mother of the man who died riding the motorcycle that crossed the centerline and caused the head-on collision that almost killed one of your good friends? The entire mass of modern society – from the cell phone that dialed 911 through the computer network that dispatched the Life Flight helicopter to the emergency room and medical team that saved his life, rebuilt his bones with titanium plates and bolts, and then cared for him as he recovered from three major operations – saved my friend.

Now it’s time to deal with the losses.

Through the Internet, the other rider was identified, and the message came across that his survivors – his widow and parents – wished to talk to the injured rider, his girlfriend, and his parents.

I wound up as the message-bearer back and forth, and after a long discussion with my friend’s parents, eventually conveyed the message that they would be willing to talk with the bereaved parents. As I passed the message, my counterpart – a close friend of the deceased rider – asked if they could call me as well.

And I said yes, and didn’t think about it until today, when my cell phone rang and a strange, sad voice was there when I picked up.

She called me as I merged onto the 110 South and we spoke until I left the 110 for the 405 North…maybe twenty minutes. And as I spoke with her I suddenly wasn’t just a friend of one of the riders any more; I was a parent, imagining a call like this about one of my sons and how I know my heart would be tearing its way out of my chest with every word I spoke. And we talked as parents.

“He was so happy that morning when he left to go for a ride…” And then the phone rings and the Sheriff’s car, and a mountain of grief that – in the best of all world – becomes a hill of sadness you’ll climb every day from now on.

My friend is looking at a hard year to become what he was one corner before his accident – and knowing him, and watching his girlfriend lovingly sit holding his fingers – I know he’ll come out on the other side of it.

We all will. All of us except one…

We’ll come out of it but we will be changed.

The Horns Of A Dilemma

Leftist Muslim blogger Ali Eteraz has been beating the drum about the Pakistani divorce reform proposal, and feeling kind of lonely in doing so.

Today, he uses this history to talk about the interaction between domestic reformers with the Muslim world and Western progressives.

This might be part of the reason that so many Muslim ‘reformers’ like Irshad Manji, Hrsi Ali, Wafa Sultan, end up becoming a “chamcha” (joke for insiders) to the neo-imperial right. They become unhappy with the progressives for seeming so “distant” from activism and so flock to those who seem “all up in the bizness” (even if its the worst way to do bizness). It’s a sort of Reformist Dilemma I discussed earlier.

Reformists are activists; and that means they are impatient. They don’t want to sit around and explain why demanding equality in divorce rights is not cultural imperialism. The neo-right doesn’t bother to ask such questions, and therefore draws the Reformists to it. I see that Ziba Mir’s film was made and financed in 1998. Back then it was the progressives who were the vanguard of human rights advancement in the world and the conservatives preferred isolationism. I doubt that a left group in England today would fund her film. They would be more concerned with how such a film would advance the neo-con ambitions over Iran. While the concern is legitimate, I think it is overwrought. In the end, progressives need to usurp and re-assert their former dominance in the international human rights arena. At the time being, they have utterly and totally lost their status. So they have been supplanted.

The problem is that mainstream progressives are caught in a logical bind; they can’t promote that which further imposes perceived Western hegemony; and at the same time they can’t abandon their human values.

Ali is already a signer of the Euston Manifesto, and so he’s participating – more so because he’s working the hard seam of progressive values within the Muslim world.

For the conservatives here who are harrumphing about the uselessness of progressivism or human rights in the face of Islamist tyranny, let me suggest that liberating women in the Muslim world would do far more to solve Islamist tyranny and terrorism than any weapons system you can imagine.

Technorati = Useless?

Has anyone else noticed that the newest version of Technorati is basically useless? Does anyone at Technorati pay attention or care?

Go over and click on a search for

Look at the results – most of them are either a) posts within WoC itself (from the ‘read more’ links); or b) blogrolls of sites that have update recently that contain WoC.

I went and looked for Smythe’s World as a control…same thing.

Look, it would be ridiculously easy to eliminate results from within sites (or at minimum from ‘read more and other set links) and equally easy to eliminate results from blogrolls. If they can’t figure out how to do it, they can buy a day of my time and a plane ticket and I’ll go show them.

Or I could get off my butt and build a better one…