Posts from August 23, 2004

From the front(s)

From the front(s)

: Salam Pax puts up lots of pictures from his sojourns into Najaf and Sadr City.

War is sad

War is sad

: Jay Rosen says the essence of the Swiftie story is sadness: It’s sad that we’re still fighting (over) Vietnam.

The way I said it this weekend: “The real lesson of the whole Swift Board brouhaha is this: America isn’t over Vietnam — not by a long shot.”

Glenn Reynolds quotes Dale Franks today with a proposal for a truce — the same one I have been proposing since the beginning of this:

In order to move the presidential campaign away from what happened or didn’t happen in Vietnam 35 years ago, I offer a suggestion. Since the Kerry camp wishes to argue that official Navy records are conclusive proof that Kerry served honorably and with distinction, I suggest that those of us opposed to Kerry offer to accept that argument, as long as the Kerry people accept the logical corollary: the official Air Force records indicating George W. Bush was honorably discharged from his service is conclusive proof that he properly met his obligations as well.


But now, sadly, we’ve moved from fighting over Vietnam again to fighting over who started fighting over Vietnam again. Reynolds says Kerry violated a truce on Vietnam in American politics.

Can you say “quagmire”? Vietnam was invoked by Iraq-war opponents and they would probably say it was Bush’s fault for creating another Vietnam. (Readers of this site will know I am not a quagmirist and wouldn’t take the position.)

Well, my fellow Americans, it seems we need to go back on the couch to deal with this Vietnam thing.

But in the meantime, we have a President to elect. Don’t we all just want to move on?



: Om Malik gets the scoop on Technorati‘s new financing, reportedly $6.5 million. Good. And congrats! (Now buy some servers or a new architecture that’s reliable! That’s because we depend on you.)

: MORE: Ross Mayfield also announces that he closed a round of financing, adding Pierre Omidyar to his list of illustrious investors. Congrats here, too!

: Omidyar (founder of eBay, in case you’ve just left the cave) also announces on his blog that he has expanded past a foundation to a fund to invest in and support for-profit ventures. I like the philosophy, of course:

To understand why we decided to expand, you have to understand how I look at things like eBay and Meetup.

In talking about eBay over the past few years, I’ve emphasized the way eBay has helped people pursue their individual passions and discover their own power to make good things happen; how they’ve become empowered by participating in an open and honest marketplace, in a level playing field, meeting and working/trading with people who share their interests.

When I first learned about Meetup, I saw much of the same thing at work, though quite different on the surface: people discovering their own power, and connecting with others to realize that power to make good things happen.

Ever since eBay, I’ve been inspired by people discovering their own power, and believed that every individual can make a difference….

Yo, anarchists!

Yo, anarchists!

: I do hope that the anarchists coming to New York for the Republican convention aren’t stupid enough to bring violence to this city. New Yorkers will not tolerate it. More violence — violence from smelly, obnoxious Americans — is the last thing this city needs. I swear if these bozos try any of their tricks, New Yorkers will as one descend upon them without mercy.

Last week, the Times wrote about anarchists as, well, unpredictable.

Then, last night, a commenter below pointed to the twits at Indymedia putting up the names, addresses, phone numbers, and hotels for RNC delegates — and there’s only one reason to do that: to spook or assault these people. I won’t link to it so as not to be an accessory to this would-be crime.

Is character really an issue?

Is character really an issue?

: It’s accepted wisdom that character is an issue in elections, especially Presidential elections. Let’s examine that assumption.

Sure, if you know with good evidence that a candidate is a lying, thieving, stealing, sliming, philadering, cheating, insane idiot and louse — well, then, yes, character is an issue.

But when is any human being really so one-dimensionally flawed (and when — since 1933 — are every one of his backers so hypnotized or stupid or corrupt to allow him to get this far in life)?

Now I know what some of you are going to say: Aha! You have a problem with character because Kerry’s character is being attacked and you’re likely to vote for him; how friggin’ convenient for you! Think what you will; you will anyway. I had the exact same problem with Michael Moore going after Bush’s character and even went on CNN to defend Bush against Moore. I am equal-opportunity on this topic: I hate both sides’ muck. So try to rise up out of the primordial ooze of political mud and mire for a moment and consider the question of the real value of debate over a candidate’s — any candidate’s — character.

I find that I have many problems with character as a campaign issue:

1. Character is not a measure of competence. And what I really want in a President is competence. Jimmy Carter had character; he was a terrible President. Jerry Ford was his Republican counterpart: good guy, nothing President. Bill Clinton ended up with a cracked character but I say he was a good President. Richard Nixon had the character of a cockroach, yet he was, in many ways, quite competent.

2. Character is used mostly as an excuse for good old-fashioned political mudslinging: Dig and sling some dirt at a candidate and then hide behind the oh-so-noble notion that you’re just trying to reveal the candidate’s character when all you’re really doing is running a dirty campaign.

3. Character is the argument that will never end. If you don’t like the candidate, you’ll say he has crappy character. If you like the candidate, you’ll defend his character and say that the other side is just a bunch of character assassins. Wheels spin, mud spurts, and we don’t get anywhere. It’s mean-spirited. It’s unproductive.

4. Character cannot truly be measured until it is tested. You won’t know whether someone has the character to face the Presidency until he or she faces it. You won’t likely know whether they’ll step up to the plate or steal it until you watch them faced with the choice.

5. Character is a distraction from the issues that really matter, the issues a President can influence that, in turn, affect our lives. Look at this campaign in many blogs and certainly on TV: We’re not arguing the important issues that supposedly divide us; we’re sniping instead. Once again, it’s unproductive. Worse, it’s divisive and destructive.

6. Character is a proxy for morality and morality is a proxy for religion and religion mixed with government always scares me. We hear candidates attacked because of their character and values and what that too often really means is that the snipers disagree with the candidate’s stand on abortion or gay marriage or school voucher or even the environment and development. Slippery, that slope.

None of this is to say that we will not or should not vote on character. At the end of the day, unless a candidate has a stand or stands we simply abhor, each of us will inevitably end up judging whether to vote for candidates based on whether we trust or admire or like them. That’s as it should be.

But when we start arguing over such intangible and personal criteria — when we start yelling at other people that they should or should not trust or admire or like someone the way we do — then the argument reaches often absurd and usually useless depths.

This election, its issues, and its choices are too important to let that happen.

Is character an issue or a distraction? Is character and issue or a weapon?