I find that in my own discussion with friends and family among the thirty percent that the non-sequiturs are becoming much more violent and much more, uh, non-sequiturish. Much like that heavily you-tubed thing
of Ann Coulter responding to a question about how well equipped U.S. troops in Iraq are by saying, over and over again and with growing shrillness, that John Murtha was an unindicted conspirator in the Abscam scandal. And the process seems to be accelerating.
On the day that the Green Zone falls, I expect to get at least a dozen emails about Hillary Clinton being rude to her drycleaner or Al Gore buying a yacht or Cindy Sheehan not sharing her sandwich.
except for the daily bombings
Leaving aside the tone of voice and the tilt of the head, which keep making me wonder when she's going to turn to Mr. Hand for confirmation, this
fascinating little moment of insane fantasy is just, like, wow
And Larry King's reaction! Arrrgghhhhh! I know the man isn't a journalist, but watch his face! Watch the way he calmly transitions to the next question! Is there even a human being behind that mask? Does he notice the things being said on the other side of the table, or does he just register it all as sound?
And so begins another night of drinking at Team Cherkis-Bray World Headquarters.ADDED LATER:
With a little googling, I was able to find these two earlier Larry King interviews with first ladies:
"Now, people keep talking about this grassy field at Gettysburg. But they don't say anything at all about the rest
of Pennsylvania. And I don't need to tell you, Larry, that Pennsylvania is a very large state. And in most of Pennsylvania yesterday, no one was shooting at our soldiers." -- Varina Davis, July 4, 1863
"I grant that this Pearl Harbor affair was distasteful, Larry, certainly. But what about the rest of Hawaii? And what about all of the other
places the Japanese didn't
attack? The Japanese navy dropped not one bomb
on Maine or Florida yesterday, Larry. So why isn't the news media talking about those other places that were perfectly stable and secure? What kind of game are they playing on the American people, here?" -- Eleanor Roosevelt, Dec. 8, 1941
on Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: Now, Senate Democrats say that they want to modify the authorizing of the U.S. combat role within a year. If that goes through, would the president feel bound by such a measure?
RICE: Well, I think the president is going to, as commander in chief, need to do what the country needs done.
So the legislature may continue to meet and pass their adorable little laws and things, but the wholly independent executive branch
is going to do whatever it wishes to do. If you don't formally dissolve the Reichstag, but just decide to declare its actions irrelevant to the administration of government, then haven't you in fact tiptoed up on the edges of a coup d'etat?
ADDED LATER:Worth reading.
cooking with the government
All right, I'm Vice-President Dick Cheney, and this is "Cooking With the Government." Today I'm gonna be making, uh... (looks at recipe) "Seven-Layer Chocolate Cake." Now, we had a, whadyacall, professional chef type who came up with a recipe thing, but -- see, all right, this thing is crap, now, see, it calls for (looks at recipe) fifteen or sixteen different steps, and all this, all this, you know, complicated hoo-hah screwing around stuff. So I have some guys in my office, all right, and, now, they've never made a cake themselves, but they've come up with a quicker, easier way to do this thing. And I know my guys are right, so we're not gonna do it the way these professional chef people tell us it's gotta be done, all right? We're just gonna get it done. So, uh... All right, it says here (looks at recipe) to use six cups of flour, but the guys in my office say the thing only takes two cups. So that's what we're gonna use. So let's get started.
(He takes flour, baking powder, cocoa, butter, sugar, and whole eggs, and quickly tosses them all in a bowl. Then he mashes at it all for a few seconds with a wooden spoon.)
All right, there we go.
(Holds up the bowl for the camera: A random mess of ingredients, mostly unmixed and littered with egg shells.)
Doesn't that look delicious!
All right, so it says here (looks at recipe) to cook the thing for, uh -- to cook it at 375 degrees for an hour. Well, I'll tell you what. We're not gonna lollygag around and play grabass waiting for a cake to come out of the oven. I watched Norm Schwarzkopf bake a cake
, once, and I just about wanted to kill him. Took forever. Worst cook I ever saw. So the guys in my office tell me I can crank up the heat and save some time, all right, so we're gonna cook this thing at 2000 degrees for two minutes and get it done. So, all right, here we go...
(Puts the cake in the oven.)
All right, let's take a break, and when we return, we'll have some damn cake.
All right, you're back with me, Vice-President Dick Cheney, and this is "Cooking With the Government." Now our cake is ready to come out of the oven, and this should be delicious and perfect and ready to eat...
(Opens oven. Dark smoke pours out. He reaches in, heavy protective gloves on his hands, pulls out the cake. Flames and smoke pour off the blackened crust.)
Magnificent! Now that's a perfect damn cake!
(A stagehand leans in from outside the frame and sprays the cake down with a fire extinguisher. The fire dies out.)
All right, let's eat!
Now, those of you who watch "Cooking With the Government" know that we have a different guest on from the legislature every week to taste what we cook. Joining us this week is Senator...uh... (Looks at piece of paper) Babrack Saddam Hussein Osama. So come on out and eat some cake, Saddam Osama.
(Barack Obama enters.)Actually, Mr. Vice-President, my name is Barack Obama.
All right, Babrack Osama, welcome. So go ahead, grab some cake.
(Close up on the cake, a burnt and still-smoldering hunk of unmixed dough.)
Well, what are you waiting for?I'm sorry, Mr. Vice-President, I'm not going to eat that cake.
You're not gonna eat the cake?No.
You're anti-cake? You're a cake hater? That's pretty typical, being against cake. Probably hate cookies, too. No candy for children. Against candy for children!No, Mr. Vice-President, I'm not "anti-cake." I'm not making an argument against cake itself. The problem isn't about the principle of cake -- the problem is that you've failed with this cake. You did a poor job in the kitchen. This cake is a failed cake.
You're criticizing my cake?Yes, Mr. Vice-President. Your cake is a failure. I'm criticizing your cake.
Well, see, that's the problem! You ruined it with your doubt! If you hadn't criticized my cake, my cake would be fresh and delicious! It's all your fault!
(Music; end credits.)
this is the gulag
, all of it. And then, if you already haven't, read this book
by the conservative historian Robert Conquest.
We need to bring some people to trial.
leading chef decries the act of cooking
In Australia this week, Dick Cheney criticized
China for its "continued fast-paced military buildup."
Because if there's one thing we in the United States can't abide, it's the development of a large and expensive
For context, see this
(credible but barely literate) description of military spending in FY '06:
#The US military spending was almost 7 times larger than the Chinese budget, the second largest spender.
# The US military budget was almost 29 times as large as the combined spending of the six “rogue” states (Cuba, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) who spent $14.65 billion....
# The six potential “enemies,” Russia, and China together spent $139 billion, 30% of the U.S. military budget.
Of course, all of that was before the administration submitted a $739 billion defense budget
Also note that the CIA puts
China's defense spending at about four percent of GDP (based on its most recent estimate, from FY '05), which is precisely what prominent American hawks think
is an appropriate amount for the U.S. to spend on defense as a peacetime norm.
So here we have willfully obtuse American exceptionalism at its zenith: The Chinese are irresponsible and dangerous because they spend a lot of money on their military.
I assume that people outside the U.S. just openly laugh at the man whenever he flaps his mouth.
I'm assuming that the string of "0 Comments" tags means that I've bored our last few readers away with a series of posts on 1) Iraq is depressing, 2) Iraq is depressing, 3) Iraq is depressing, 4) Iraq is depressing, 5) Neko Case effing rawks, and 6) Iraq is depressing. So apparently I'm now mostly just talking to myself, drunk in my bathrobe, wandering around the house looking for string. Hello? Is this thing on? Big Nurse?
But let me just assure you that Iraq is depressing, and Neko Case effing rawks. So there. Had you gone to see Neko Case at the Henry Fonda Theater last Saturday, you would have seen Billy Bob Thornton in a rhinestone jacket. And you could have watched me order beer from the bar in sets of two, because of the line. I drank alternately, left hand / right hand, like that. Ann likes Neko Case significantly more than she liked Sleater-Kinney or Shannon Wright, and so didn't make that "I am in excruciating pain" face this time. Something to remember when browsing Ticketmaster.
In other news, I left a pile of midterms on the couch tonight, and a cat fell asleep on them.
Perhaps in another life I will be an interesting person.
. See the problem?
I'm neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and have never been especially impressed with the choice between brands of paternalism offered by the two parties. But I've never seen a political party embarrass itself as much as the Republican party did last week during the debate in the House over the Iraq war. Responding to Democratic complaints about a failed strategy and the packaging of a fourth "surge" as a new approach, petulant Republicans charged Democrats with appeasement, pacificism, and cowardice: We're at war, and they don't want to fight. A hard argument to make with a straight face, given that the September 2001 vote to authorize the use of military force
against the people who actually attacked us drew precisely one
Democratic "no" vote in both houses of Congress
. We're now well beyond the point at which you have to wonder how stupid the Republican leadership
thinks we are.
But the funnier thing in the debate is the rhetorical shift that has taken place since the 2004 presidential campaign. Back then, the (much more reasonable) Republican position was that it was hard for Democrats to criticize the Bush administration over the war in Iraq, given that the Democratic leadership had been just as aggressively belligerent toward Saddam Hussein's regime.
So Democrats are pacifistic, pro-appeasement Neville Chamberlain types who won't fight. And, anyway, you can't blame Bush for the war, because Clinton also bombed Baghdad, and the Democrats wanted to attack Iraq just as much.
Maybe pick one
of those arguments and stick with it, yeah? It's kind of a problem to assert with equal force two arguments that are mutually exclusive.
pimping and pandering
Ending the Iraq war debate in the House of Representatives, Rep. Sam Johnson (a Republican from Texas) concluded his comments by "snapping off a salute."
Johnson is a former servicemember and a Vietnam war POW, and his own military service was far more significant than mine. But my god
does that salute rankle, and in precisely the same way that John Kerry made my skin crawl by saluting -- well, by sort of saluting
-- and "reporting for duty" at the Democratic convention. Am I alone in this?
The salute has a particular context and meaning; it's a particular gesture of respect, and in its place communicates an exceptional message. If you've ever served in the military, and have saluted a superior who didn't bother to return the gesture, you probably still remember the distaste it made you feel. A salute between servicemembers conveys mutual respect and obligation; it begins with the subordinate, but is returned by the person of superior rank, in a gesture that acknowledges reciprocal duties. People who might literally be called upon to give their lives for one another are showing with a concrete gesture, many times a day, that they accept their position and its burdens.
Politicians saluting during political events? Blech. I can guess what Johnson might say he intended, but the gesture strikes me as an untenable appropriation, an attempt to use a symbol out of its context in order to sacralize partisan politics. It seems to be about a half-step away from Buy Zippy brand peanut butter -- for our brave troops who died! (Now ten percent off at leading grocery stores!)
Military ritual belongs in the military. Political arguments should turn on fact and reasoning, not on facile symbolism.
And yeah, I know. But still.
When the Republican party faces a Democratic president who lays claim to the expanded executive powers that have been argued into existence by the current administration, they'll have only themselves to blame. And that shoe very much fits both feet
Somehow we've lost our ability to make choices
. How does this trip end?
eugene ionesco, call your office
captures so absolutely perfectly what the Army felt like from day to day, complete with the pitch-perfect response from the Frank Burns character. Thanks to Ahistoricality for pointing it out. It's a classic of the form -- you sort of read it with your hands over your eyes, laughing and groaning. Yeah.
And then there's this
, which is also classic in its own amazing way.
follow the arrows
1.) "The enemy in Iraq has been able to deploy twice as many improvised explosive devices, or IEDs -- the weapon that kills the most U.S. troops -- now versus a year ago, the nation's senior military officer told
a Senate committee yesterday."
2.) "In 1983, the US began to smuggle large numbers of the Stinger surface-to-air missiles into Afghanistan, in order to provide the mujaheddin a way to tackle the USSR's Hind-D helicopter. The result was spectacular. The Soviets lost 333 Hinds. News that a fifth US helicopter [in recent weeks] was shot down today (the count includes a mix of models including the Blackhawk, a Boeing little bird, a Marine Sea Knight, and an Apache) may indicate
a similar line has been crossed."
3.) "Three Army Reserve officers and a U.S. contractor were indicted
Wednesday as part of a bid-rigging scam that steered millions of dollars of Iraq reconstruction projects to a contractor in exchange for cash, luxury cars, jewelry and other pricey goods...
The indictment says the three officers — Col. Curtis G. Whiteford of Utah, Lt. Col. Debra M. Harrison of New Jersey and Lt. Col. Michael B. Wheeler of Wisconsin — directed at least $8 million to a construction and services company. In return, they allegedly demanded cash, a Nissan sports car, a Cadillac SUV, real estate, a Breitling watch, business-class plane tickets and other items."
shot and bombed until fully soothed
Favorite newspaper headline
ever, from today's Washington Times
:"U.S. Threatens Crushing Offensive To Calm Baghdad."
In other news, the Department of Education is implementing a new plan to improve standardized test scores in K-12 schools by stabbing children in the head.
Maybe I'm alone in this, but I have a curious feeling of being stuck between historical moments. I mean this in more than one sense, or I locate the interregnum in more than one place. Or whatever I mean to say, and if you can figure it out please do call or write to let me know. Two points:
First, I grew up on newspapers and magazines, and mostly no longer bother with them. Forget what the publishers say -- I've given up on print because the owners of print media have given up on print. The Los Angeles Times
that I read in the 1980s had a weekly "World Report" section full of long, detailed, and frequently quirky reporting from overseas, on topics that went beyond the quotidian news. It had a solid twice-weekly section on local government in the San Gabriel Valley, where I lived. The newspaper had active foreign bureaus, an active city bureau, a healthy representation in Sacramento, a columnist who travelled the Central Valley and wrote about the state's considerable farming community. It was solid, informed and informative, connected. It had a feeling of life.
Today there's a wind howling through the emptiness of the pages. Or I assume there is, since I haven't bothered to look at the thing in two or three years. I don't have the foggiest idea what's happening at city hall, in West Hollywood (where I live now) or in Los Angeles, and I have no faith that the Times
is equipped to tell me. They certainly weren't when I stopped reading. Facing declining circulations, newspapers cut back on reporting
to save money and prop up the bottom line.
It's like a deli saw a decline in the number of diners, so the owners started serving sandwiches without anything in them in order to save their business. Folks are gonna just love our new corned beef sandwich -- it's two pieces of bread with some mayo on it.
Meanwhile, the thin content that survives is getting thinner. Op-ed pages print the tiredest partisans, who spew the tiredest cliches and talking points, and please do shoot me if another Maureen Dowd column ever ends up in front of my eyes. And can anyone explain the decision at the Washington Post
to print Liz Cheney's recent little junior high school essay? Why do I want to pay for that? Why would anyone? What does it contribute? What does it even say
Meanwhile, I've saved all kinds of money on subscriptions as the magazines I used to love to read -- Esquire
, and others -- have all adopted a kind of uniform empty magazine voice, in the universal empty magazine format that now relies on little bursts of simple text. Like I want to spend an hour reading chirpy captions. The Outside
I loved once reported on a man who was so stricken by the coast of northern California, so helplessly heartbroken by the fact of the Pacific Ocean, that he kayaked himself to death -- he just literally to save his own life couldn't stop paddling out into the surf, and drowned in a storm that kicked up towering waves over his head. The magazine's admiration shone through every word of the story. And I shared it.
Much more recently, I knew I was done forever with Outside
when I read a little blurb on great places to "sip bubbly" in comfortable wilderness-like settings.
And of course, a replacement is being built, and go ahead and note my use of passive language, there. I love the emerging culture of blogs and YouTube, and I love (as I very recently noted) the cultural commerce of the "long tail." But let's not pretend. How many bloggers cover the federal bureaucracy? How many YouTube posters are systematically examining Pentagon spending? What website uses the public records laws to keep track of what my city government is doing? The replacements for our effectively dead print media are still in very early infancy, and I doubt there's a model that makes hard news about local government a profitable model for online journalists.
There is some
reporting on the blogs, and Josh Marshall seems to be the smartest example out there. But Talking Points Memo
, and its associated sites, cover national politics
. They don't cover the regulatory agencies; they don't have people walking the halls at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and asking where the money is going. That's
what newspapers were supposed to do, and sometimes did, and there's nobody lining up to take over the job. I don't see the path by which Eschaton
replaces the New York Times
. And, judging by the twenty minutes it took me to sigh and slump through last week's Sunday paper, we need
a replacement for the New York Times
Second -- longest post ever, yes -- it's blindingly, radiantly, painfully clear that the American project in the Middle East is a disaster. But the path of that disaster, and the boundaries
of that disaster, are far from clear, dear god help us, and will be far from clear for years. (For two years, at least, and probably for more than that.)
And it's also very much unclear how the domestic politics of that failure will shake out. The Republican party has gutshot the republic; the Democratic party helped to hold the gun and pull the trigger, and now hilariously postures as an opposition party. My own representative, Henry Waxman, is marketed as a crusader against the Bush agenda; he voted for the Patriot Act and the authorization to use military force against Iraq. Maybe I'm missing something.
So we can all see that something is ending. Bush is hopelessly lost at the grown-up table, and Cheney appears to have actually suffered a psychotic break with reality. Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz are gone, as are the people like Charles Swift and James Comey. The wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia -- and, yes, we're at war to some degree in all three -- are drifting toward the wall; the war in Iraq is irrecoverably lost. (The war in the Philippines, I don't know.) The war with Iran, when and if it comes, will be something pretty close to The End.
But then what? The new Democratic majority in Congress is all fired up to pass some really neat nonbinding resolutions. The punditocracy is the same old gang of awful nonentities, the same Jonah Goldbergs and Michael Ledeens and other empty minds who would, in a healthy society, work at a gas station. And where does that get us? Who leads where?
And so tonight I'm reading Gordon Wood's The Creation of the American Republic
, and I read this about the long muddle of the Confederation era, when the war was won but the victory wasn't working as advertised:
Many like John Jay found themselves uneasy, "more so than during the war." Then there had been a "fixed object," and although the means and timing were questionable few had had doubts of the ultimate victory. But with the coming of peace "the case is now altered." Men saw ahead of them "evils and calamities, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them." The evidence is overwhelming from every source -- newspapers, sermons, and correspondence -- that in the minds of many Americans the course of the Revolution had arrived at a crucial juncture.
And that's precisely where I'm left. I sense evils and calamities somewhere ahead, but without being able to guess at the instrument, nature, or measure of them. The means by which we can discuss and investigate our circumstances are inadequate; print is dead, online media are unformed, and television news is a menace to real information and meaning. And I think the course of the Revolution, the never-secured future of the republic, is nearing a crucial juncture.
If only that juncture would show itself, whatever it is. Because it sure feels like it's overdue.
iran is evil, (lacuna) is (silence)
We urgently need to stop playing politically correct games, tying our military's hands behind its back, and failing to take the fight to the real enemy. Outsiders are meddling in Iraq, and it's high time we started bombing their country
So I recently bought a used book online, and it just arrived in the mail today. The book, No Standing Armies: The Antiarmy Ideology in Seventeenth-Century England,
is a library discard, with the library card still tucked in the sleeve. It looks like Major Crawford read the book before Major Cracker -- real name! -- got to the thing. And this book about a major running debate over the potential dangers of standing armies was discarded by the library at...
The United States Military Academy. Yep.
The humor value is damaged somewhat by the presence of additional copies
still on their shelves, but still. I
laughed. And yes, it's all about me.
In other news about the world that's also about me, I now get two or three emails and phone calls a day from Army recruiters and career managers who just really, really, really
want to let me know about all the amazingly terrific opportunities available to me if I volunteer to return to active duty, where the pay and benefits totally rock like Bono. The desperation is, words fail me, sludgy thick.
My favorite? By far, the email letting reservists know that they could apply for drill sergeant slots as soon as they had their E-3.