Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Thanks for the memories

Regular readers of this site may have caught on by now that I'm not a big fan of suburbia, and few things symbolize suburbia better than shopping malls. I hate malls. But there is one that holds a cherished place in my heart: Greengate Mall, which, before it was demolished, used to sit along Route 30 west of Greensburg in Westmoreland County.

When I was little, my grandparents used to take me out to lunch and shopping at Greengate, where they would invariably spoil me, as grandparents are supposed to do, by buying me toys. For years after my grandfather died, my grandmother and I continued to shop there together, taking a bus from her house on Madison Avenue in Greensburg. (She never learned how to drive.) Like the mall, Grandma, too, is now gone.

Those of you who shopped at Greengate I'm sure will recall that one of its largest stores was a G.C. Murphy. That store seemed to have everything. I would wander up and down its aisles--paying particular attention, of course, to the toys--amazed at the sheer amount of, well, stuff. Every trip to Greengate with Grandma included a trip to Murphy's. Compared to today's behomeths like Wal-Mart (which will soon rise from the rubble of Greengate, I'm sad to say) that particular Murphy's was lilliputian. But to a 5-year-old, it seemed like one of the biggest places on Earth. The G.C. Murphy chain is long gone, but not forgetten, and if you have your own memories of the store, you can share them here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

JP, when you get back from your Xmas shopping, please read www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20041213&s=beinart121304. It's by Beinart and it might be the best exegesis of what needs to be done by the Democratic Party to revive itself.

I agree completely.

3:24 PM

Blogger djhlights said...

I would recommend reading this response by Kevin Drum over at the Washington Monthly to the piece in the New Republic when your done.

10:07 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

What's with my readers giving me homework? Will there be a quiz?

Just kidding. I'll try to read both today on the bus on the way home.

8:44 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

Although Bienart does believe--and passionately so--that Islamic terror is as grave a threat as communist totalitarianism once was, his argument is based in political expediency. He's saying that the Democrats won't regain power until they neutralize the GOP's advantage on this issue, and thus they won't be able to implement their domestic agenda. I'm not sure how you can disagree with that.

Certainly, reasonable people can disagree over how great the threat of Islamic fundamentalism really is, as Drum demonstrates, as well as whether Iraq was the right place to make a stand. But he does not counter the Bush administration's premise that we can no longer wait until a threat manifests itself to act against it. Is Drum saying that the United States was right to ignore what was happening in Europe and Asia in the 1930s? I don't agree with how the Bush administration has applied the lessons of history, but that doesn't mean there aren't lessons there to be learned.

6:37 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The one thing both historical analogies miss, of course, is the advent of Globalism. I don't mean the Tom Friedman sort of good Globalism. I mean the bad sort, the kind that allows transnational terrorist groups, abetted by unfriendly state sponsors, to move seamlessly through the various immigration, transportation or capitalistic avenues to murder great numbers of people and sow fear.

The same devices that allow easy communication also give terrorists the ability to plan operations. The thoroughfares of money we designed to allow the free flow of capital also provide a handy series of ATMs for Jihadists. The markets for surplus armaments provide small arms and big for small nations, security firms, mercenaries, warlords and terrorists.

Al Qaeda is the shadowy partner of Jihadism, it's "war as another means for foreign policy" tool of a disparate movement, spread over many countries and cultures, but with its aim the eradication of the west and the west's Islamic secular allies.

This is as ideologically dangerous, ultimately, as communism or facism for the occident. A nice discussion of our less than stellar options can be found in this month's Policy Review www.policyreview.org/dec04/schall.html.

Lieberman, Clinton, Gephardt and Edwards (before being seduced by Kerry) tried to warn us about this, but the party lost out to the Michael Moores and MoveOns of the popular culture. Beinart is absolutely right to remind readers that Moore, MoveOn, etc., were AGAINST wars in Kosovo AND Afghanistan.

That's dangerous. When our NATO allies call on us to help them fight an air war over the skies of Serbia they can't win alone, it's our job to be there. When we are attacked by Jihadist thugs and more than 3,000 of our citizens are murdered by terrorists shepherded in Afghanistan, it is our obligation to burn the bastards out of their rat holes.

After 9/11, we do need another foreign policy, one that's tougher, one that seeks to bring democracy and a respect for human rights to the Middle East, Asia and Africa, the places that currently create the most terroristic turmoil.

Kerry, as the headliner on the previous ticket, couldn't deliver the goods, either rhetorically or substantively. If I, a longtime liberal, can't rally around John Kerry on this essential question about national security, then how can Reagan Democrats?

As Democrats, we need to get serious about national security. If it means dumping Michael Moore and his fellow travelers, then so be it. We're not answering the fundamental question about how to respond to global, transnational terror.

Above, I mentioned the realities of Globalism and how they afford safe harbor for the ships of transnational terror. The GOP brain trust has been unable to shut them down or tweek them, largely because the party itself is beholden to the very corporate forces that benefit so much from them.

Rand Beers has said much about this, but so have several of your friends in Pittsburgh. Prine on the national front and Hiel on the international come to mind at your former newspaper. I can think of several people at RAND and CMU who also have published key pieces on the morphing danger of Jihadist terror, but few in our party take them seriously.

If the Democrats can solve the riddle of reforming international institutions so that they can better police terror, they can win this argument. If the Democrats can proffer alternatives to the way we acquire, analyze and implement intelligence, they we can win the hearts and minds of Middle America. If we learn the value of the military, including the courtesies, customs and desires of the people who kill in our name, we can beat the GOP in 2008.

We don't have much time. The first step, however, is to kick out those who will hold us back. There's too much at stake. Most of America prefers our policies on trade, the economy, corporate responsibility, social service reform, agriculture, science and transportation (but not education, a key issue in Middle America, which is why I'm also in favor of booting the NEA).

There is a fight within our party between those who want to "build on" the "successes" of MoveOn and MooreOn. I agree wtih Beinart. They are our curses, not our strengths. Chop them off at the head.

Give me Lieberman, or give me death!

3:21 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

What's frightening to me as an American is that I don't think either party is well-equipped to deal with this.

4:42 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree. But we have four years to try to get this right. Beinart and his bunch at Dissent are starting the dialogue, or "conversation" in Pittsburgh blogging parlance. Actually, they've been talking about it since before Iraq.

What, exactly, was the Democratic response to Iraq, by the way? Clinton backed Bush on it, and he read the same crappy intelligence the Bushies did. Lieberman backed Bush. So did Edwards.

If your CIA says it's a "slam dunk" that Saddam Hussein has WMD, and you know Ansar Al Islam has been allowed to enter Iraq by the dictator and that Ansar is targeting your NATO allies for a chemical attack, and your Labour ally Tony Blair is pushing you to invade before Iraqi-armed terrorists strike, what do you do?

People forget that MoveOn and MooreOn were even against deploying troops to Kuwait, the one action that forced Hussein to allow the inspectors in. The UN consistently said they couldn't find anything, but they also said Hussein didn't seem to be telling the full truth about his nascent programs.

Traditional allies like Spain, Italy, Kuwait and Singapore support the war. So do new friends from Eastern Europe, such as Poland and the Czech Republic.

But other longtime friends, such as Germany and Turkey, don't want you to fight?

As a Democrat, what do you do? When is force to be used? At what point does a threat trigger a pre-emptive war? When the Syrians are massed to invade (as Israel faced when they launched their jets)? Or when your CIA and European spies tell you they fear there's an attack building from Iraqi-sponsored cells?

I remember a hell of a lot of criticizing from some Democrats, but I don't recall a large number of counter-solutions. We must get better at that, or why else do we exist?

Push MoveOn and MooreOn to the Greens. Let them try to build their own base around them. I have a feeling they won't get far because America, for two centuries, has used the two-party system (for all its faults) to arbitrate political grievances.

Even when we outspend the GOP, we still lose an election. Against one of the worst presidents in American history.

Why? Because we aren't as politically smart as W and because we haven't learned a damned thing about national security since Vietnam. Shame on us.

5:24 PM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I agree with your larger point, but at the risk of re-hashing an old argument that you and I will never resolve, there was much less consensus over whether Iraq had WMD than what the administration told us at the time, and let's also not forget that the U.S. had the opportunity to get at Zaquari (sp) before the war.

6:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Short of lobbing cruise missiles at Ansar Al Islam, there was no way to get at the Al Qaeda splinter group. Any movement to land the necessary forces to seal off the villages he controlled would be seen as an act of war by Iraq. If you're going to go to war, you might as well do it right (ditto, the occupation, Mr. W).

When George Tenet tells the president it's a "slam dunk" Saddam has WMD, that doesn't give ol' W too many options.

Let him keep playing with toys he's not allowed to have or that he can give to terrorists to use against us or our allies? When do you want to act, when the SCUD is hurtling toward Jerusalem or Kuwait City? When Ansar operatives filled the Rome water reservoir with ricin? When Saddam's henchmen try to murder another U.S. president?

The CIA dicked up the intelligence. So did the British. And the Russians. And the UN inspectors. And Saddam, who kept holding out as if he had something.

I'm not defending Bush. I'm asking for an alternative. Do you let 120,000 troops sit in the Kuwait sun, letting Saddam fortify positions so that more of your troops will die, while holding out on UN inspectors who may, or may not, find WMD.

What if they did find a storehouse of Sarin? Should we have invaded then? What's the tipping point for the invasion? The very existence of some, any, WMD?

Do we invade because he delays? Do we go home?

Again, I don't have the answers. But we better come up with some viable alternatives or, as a party, we don't have much hope winning national elections.

7:41 PM


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