IS NOKO COLLAPSING? Some <a href = http

//www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2089-1462207,00.html target = _blank>hopeful news from the worst remaining dictatorship on the planet: Kim Jong Il’s.

AIDS PLUMMETS IN SAN FRAN: More evidence that we are making amazing progress against AIDS in America. San Francisco just released its 2004 stats, showing a 47 percent drop in full-blown AIDS diagnoses from 2003, a pretty stunning collapse. There were a total of 182 deaths from AIDS in San Francisco last year – the lowest number since 1983. Michael Petrelis has the details. I cite this in part because of the reaction I received from the gay and AIDS establishment back in 1996, when I wrote, “When Plagues End,” for the NYT Magazine. In that piece, I argued that although global AIDS remained a horror, and that many would still regrettably die in the U.S., the new meds were a watershed – the beginning of a new, far less dire phase in the epidemic. My many critics have never acknowledged they were wrong. What amazes me about large parts of the left these days is their refusal to acknowledge good news – even when it means the saving of countless lives or the advance of democracy in a place like Afghanistan or Iraq. When did the left become so relentlessly hostile to good news? And doesn’t that have something to do with their waning appeal?

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AN EMAIL FROM A WAR CRITIC

Here’s a fair and encouraging email:

I’m pretty anti-Bush now, and I’m upset about why we went to war, and about the way we’ve prosecuted it since we’ve gone in. That imposes a certain bias on me, and I think that it’s led me to miss the boat on a fairly big aspect of what’s going on in iraq with respect to the election.
The majority of iraqis are pro-democracy, and this election is enormously important to them. You can hear it in the interviews, and you can see it in the television images of voters walking by, holding up their blue fingers.
Obviously, Iraq is a divided country, and obviously, there are a lot of people who are fighting against democracy. We haven’t been able to bring those people on board, and we haven’t been able to do enough to prevent them from terrorizing others into staying away from the process. There are some very serious problems, and there have been some very serious failures.
But in a sense, that just makes what’s going on among pro-democracy iraqis all the more remarkable and praiseworthy.
I don’t know who is going to win, or what their policies will be, or how the new government will respond to the anti-democratic insurgency. But I do know that a lot of people voted, that they were eager to vote, that they were proud to vote, and that the turn out in the pro-democracy sections of the country was very high.
Honestly, I think the failure of people on the left to see and appreciate what’s happening is akin to the failure of the people on the right to see the serious problems in the way we’ve administered the occupation.

I think the anti-war left’s failure to believe in democracy is a greater failing than the pro-war right’s failure to grapple with some of the serious failings of the endeavor. But I hope today that everyone, whatever their view of the war or occupation, can rejoice in the defeat of evil and terror. It’s truly inspiring.

AN IDEA

A reader suggests the following as a spontaneous people-power act of solidarity with the voters in Iraq:

You have a pretty decent megaphone, I’ve got an idea for you and the rest of the blogosphere. Why not ask people to wear blue marker on their index fingers this week, as a sign of solidarity and a tip of the hat to the courage of the Iraqis today?

Nice thought.

FROM A FRIEND IN BAGHDAD

Here’s an email worth treasuring:

Andrew, you should have been here today.
Today, the insurgents lost.
Regardless of what happens tomorrow or the next day, or the day after that, today, the insurgents lost.
Tonite, the bombs and the mortars, and the gunshots which still echo in the streets, sound different.
Men and women, whose children, whose mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, have been murdered by madmen, took a few simple, but very difficult steps, out of their homes and into polling stations.
There will be debates about turnout, and legitimacy, and occupation, and every other conceivable thing, but everyone who is here right now, knows something extraordinary happened today.
Today, the insurgents lost.

I don’t want to be excitable, but aren’t you feeling euphoric? It’s almost a classic tale of good defeating evil. We always needed the Iraqi people to seize freedom for themselves. Given the chance, they have. This is their victory, made possible by those amazing Western troops. This day eclipses – although, alas, it cannot undo – any errors we have made. Only freedom can defeat terror. Today, freedom won.

EVEN THE SUNNIS

Money quote from the NYT:

The [57 percent turnout] figure was based on national returns, Mr. Ayar said, and included the provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, which have large Sunni populations. The predicted low turnout in Anbar, a hotspot of Sunni resistance to the American occupation, was exceeded to such an extent that extra voting materials had to be rushed to outlying villages, where long lines were formed at polling stations, Mr. Ayar said.

Wow.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PARTICIPATION

The major revelation of the day, it seems to me is something that could have been predicted. And that is the impact of the actual experience of voting, of getting your finger dyed, or sharing in a new and communal rite of democracy. Regardless of the results, that is in itself a success. Once people taste democracy, they will never forget it. That memory itself is an insurance against its future eclipse. Consciousness matters. And we have just seen a change in consciousness.

“I’M FAKING IT”: Kaus again goes after me for positing varying standards for future success in Iraq’s elections. Ten days ago, I said I predicted success and defined it, when pressed, as 80 percent turnout in most regions, enthusiasm among the voters, and better than expected turnout among Sunnis. My general point for the past couple of months has been it is foolish to under-estimate the power of elections. After absorbing some of the more sober analysis coming from the region, I revised those standards down, asking for input from readers, and openly displayed all this on my blog. I think I over-estimated the kind of violence that the insurgents might unleash and was being too Pollyannish about turnout in some areas so I came up with some final pre-election yard-sticks to hold myself to. All of this was an attempt to quantify a subjective thing like “success.” I was trying to avoid just post-hoc rationalization, so I couldn’t be accused of spinnning whatever result emerged. Now Kaus jumps all over this, for what reason I’m not sure. Some standards I lowered (turnout); others I raised (violence). It was all open, clear, and honest. And for this exercise in transparency, Kaus accuses me of “faking it.” Faking what, exactly? Expertise? Hardly. Clairvoyance? But I openly revised my criteria and posted alternative predictions and arguments! And when you write every day or more than once a day, such revisions are inevitable. So what’s my crime exactly? I have no idea. By the way, Mickey: an actual event happened in Iraq today. Not some pundit’s take on another pundit. You were against the war (I think). You now regret being against it? Or are those simple questions for other bloggers to wrestle with?

BETTER THAN EXPECTED

Well, by my own pre-election measuring stick, the security has been far better than feared. Too soon to measure turn-out accurately, but anecdotal signs are good. All excellent and encouraging news – not to get too excitable or anything. Here’s my Sunday Times column for the day.