Sunday, April 30, 2006

How Much Does That Cur Make, Anyway?

I remember a funny time -- and this is a true story -- when I was back visiting my alma mater after having been free for several months. I was high on some poker winnings, or something, and I remembered how I'd always really wondered as a student what was the matter with the school's president. He was clearly a go-go business type, a totally unlikeable stuffed shirt with dollar signs in his eyes, who always talked a big game about making the school a high-powered cash-generating research institution but never seemed much interested in the occasionally illegal shenanigans of the College Republicans. Anyway, long story short, I was visiting Stephanie on campus and we were walking out of her work building to get lunch, and I started ranting about this guy for reasons that even now I couldn't really coherently offer. Once I picked up a full head of steam, I said something like "I don't mind if he knows everyone thinks he's a corporate whore" -- mind you, I was sort of riffing at this point, but the sentiment was real. Anyway, we were headed right out the door and this woman walked past us and juuuust as she strides by she says "Hello, Mr. [blank]." And that's when we both knew it: Mr. Blank was literally walking right behind me.

The funny thing is that I wasn't embarrassed. Maybe I should have been. But I guarantee he doesn't remember the incident, and that sort of makes my point for me. Criticism of his ham-handed business policies comes with the territory, that sort of thing. He doesn't care what the students believe.

Point being that you can now look up the salary of any university administrator or non-profit organization in the country. Just read the little story that goes with the link, because it makes the whole thing that much juicier.

Sweet Jesus, I Hate Bill O'Reilly

I don't do much promotion of other peoples' goods here, but this book -- the title of which is known to anyone who can read the header on this post -- just has to be shared. People are saying they wet themselves with laughter when they read it. For the record, I don't even have a copy, but it couldn't hurt to spread the love around a little. In other words, I don't endorse it, but I do strongly encourage you to read it.

I Admit That Words Fail Me Here

How in the name of a fu**ing goat can the president get away with being against the singing of the national anthem in a foreign language?? He's against it? What does he care? It's the sort of brave stand that's so cartoonishly silly that it makes nuking Germany on a whim sensible in comparison. "We have to save America from the sound of the national anthem in Spanish" -- it has a sort of anti-poetry, hearkening to a promised land of yokels tilling soil with their bare hands and dirty, bare-footed kids begging in the streets, that only Bush could foist on the media without eliciting hoots of derision. Because, you see, people really expect no better of him. He is now, finally, officially, a drooling child napping in the middle of the day while America goes to shyte around him. A grateful nation hands him his nightcap and bids him godspeed to dreamland.

What makes it so funny -- and this is verbatim -- is Bush's rationale:

"I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," Bush said.
He thinks the whole point is that people are refusing to learn the English version. Never mind that Wyclef Jean, whom Bush has obviously never heard of, sells millions of records writing extremely intelligent lyrics that remain a sort of gold standard for hip hop -- this whole fricasee fiasco could be solved if these damn singers would just pick up an Espanol-Ingles dictionary and start learnin' a speck of American.

At Least It Helps You Forget About Politics

What could ever take your mind off the fact that the government is run by dissembling ferrets and throat-murdering bastard-men? How about figgering out your Star Wars name? Don't exercise yourself too much wondering how I found this -- trust me, it had nothing to do with searching for more information about Luke Skywalker or, God help us, Linkin Park.

By the way, for those who naturally wonder, I cannot reveal my Star Wars name because it would give too much away. If you are dying of curiosity, leave something in comments about how I can contact you and I will send it privately. It is the only way. Many Bothan spies will die bringing you this information. (And if you don't get the joke, boo on you. It's good on several levels.)

Saturday, April 29, 2006

For Those Who Mocked Me

And you said an online English-Finnish dictionary was sheer folly. A fig for your humbuggery! The truth -- in two languages -- can now be told!

The Fat Man Couldn't Just Walk

Note, please, in the caption to this damning photo of Dennis Hastert just how far he drove that gas-guzzler.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Maybe He Shouldn't Have Insulted the Captain's Attempts on the Fiddle

Apparently a man literally washed up between Norway and Sweden on a raft and refuses to answer any questions other than to say he is a "stateless American" and that he was -- get this -- thrown from a ship several days ago. You have to think there's a bad novel waiting to be written in here somewhere.

Daily Show Clip: "Cheney Shot a 78-Year-Old Man in The Face"

I don't normally head over to YouTube -- the web site that lets you watch pretty much anything that's ever been on television -- because it's easy to waste hours there, but I think we should all be thankful someone archived the Daily Show episode right after Cheney's hunting accident. Jon Stewart's impression of Cheney visiting the guy in the hospital is priceless.

Update: The reason I gave several hours ago for not heading over to YouTube -- the fear that it would suck me into its neon vortex and stop me from dressing or making breakfast or lunch -- has... come to pass. Luckily while I was there -- and I really am getting out of bed now -- I found this smashing clip, even better than the first. You really must watch it, because in it Bush explains how Osama became Saddam became the War on Terror without knowing the Daily Show set it to music.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

For F**k's Sake

I'm trying to read, and my roommate comes home and starts watching today's episode of Dawson's Creek -- that she TiVo'd, mind you -- as if there is NOTHING else to do. Television has its days, but sometimes I think it should just be switched off and let the chips fall where they may. Think of how there wouldn't be televised wrestling.

What is a Daughter of Eve

I just finished watching "The Chronicles of Narnia" a few hours ago and am glad I don't have to write film criticism for a living, because I wouldn't know how to review the movie without mostly talking about myself and reading the books when I was young. When I was a little older than the usual audience -- I think 14 -- I read them all straight through in what I now only recall as a hypnotized state that lasted about two months. It took me about that long to read all seven, and even though I was a pretty omnivorous reader even back then these books were a special case because I could tell they were having a lasting effect on me. In retrospect, I realize the conditions were just right, so much so that I'd venture to say I had all the ingredients of an ideal reader: I was ignorant of most of the Christian symbolism, and so was able to ignore the figurative overtones in favor of taking the whole thing literally; I had a very idealistic but un-Christian temperament, and so took all the heroism and mysticism to heart without watering it down into the debased Scripture some like to see in it; I was an avid reader and didn't let myself lose the fairly complicated thread of the series' plot, which hopscotches hither and yon like non-readers probably wouldn't believe; and I was hungry for something to believe in, which it helped furnish even if only by accident and likely not what the author intended. The movie reminded me of all the things I liked about the books rather than really enacting them on the screen, but even for this I'm grateful.

On a purely technical level it doesn't make a hash of the job and promises that future movies with the same team will be better. The animated animals are real enough to suspend disbelief, as you'd expect, and there's just enough money in the special effects generally to keep things going without showing the strings attached to the puppetry. The youngest of the four children, Lucy, is the best actor of the bunch, which is a bit disorienting since it seems like she's about five and still hasn't got all her teeth in. The guy playing Peter has one trick -- looking boyishly into the sun at a 45-degree angle from the camera -- and pulls it off just enough for the shot to switch every time, although you can see some dangerous wavering here and there, as if he were thinking about basketball or whether he left the stove on.

If you haven't read the books and are wondering whether to see it just as a standalone movie, as a piece of entertainment, you might be misled into wondering what the big deal is about the books. And that's a shame, because even at an extended length the movie feels rushed and doesn't capture much of what made the books so great and interesting, which is the very persuasive way C. S. Lewis patiently makes you believe everything he's writing is perfectly natural and true. Most writers of fantasy, and most writers of children's books, don't have that knack. He seems to not even have to try. In fact, although I didn't have the vocabulary for it at the time, I felt something like what others feel when they read the Bible: that it is an authorless masterpiece. You can put quotes around authorless or not, and I don't because I think it cheapens the feeling, which is very real. I don't mean that even at the time I thought these things had literally happened, but that the story they described was, or should be, essentially a true one: that of good people unready to fight becoming heroes in the face of oppression, of people making fantastic journeys that last years and have deep resonant meanings, of people and the natural world doing impossible things and restoring balance and a sort of primal vigor to the fabric of life where it had been absent. These are notions that sink into you permanently if you encounter them at the right time and in the right way, and I would venture to say that in my case they did so. There are other books and other influences that had equally strong effects on me, although not necessarily in the same manner or producing the same response, but they either won't make movies out of those or should never have bothered with the messes that have been offered over the years. (You'll have to keep guessing for now -- I'm not in full soul-baring dudgeon this evening.)

It may be a bit much to hope a movie captures you many years later the same way the book did when you were young. You could always cross your fingers. But I feel like it hardly makes a difference how the movies turn out. I mean, there are "fans" of the series, who want to see the story told with as much cinematic splendor as their wildest, greediest dreams will allow. And then, I like to think, there are those who got what the books really are, which isn't a tightly plotted narrative that works well in CGI. It's a message to the heart and the conscience, written in a way that is least conducive to demonstration in film. I'll probably end up seeing as many movie versions as they come out with, out of curiosity, but I won't mistake their quality for that of the books and neither should you. In fact, you should go read them. They're good for you.

Immigration and The Kids

Bill O'Reilly, immigration reform, high school Republicans, a Hispanic woman speaking her mind, police intervention. . . One story with all your favorite ingredients? Pinch me, Lord, for I have dared to dream the impossible dream!

Here's my favorite part of the story, not to be confused with the most politically important:

The [school] district has spent considerable time explaining that students were not driven to the rallies — only back to campus to keep them safe, Pfeuffer said.

That strategy emerged "after we saw the scale of the walkouts, the temperature that day and requests from the Tucson Police Department to remove students from the Downtown area," Pfeuffer said in his letter to Paton. TUSD decided not to provide transportation on April 10, when some 11,000 students were absent from school.
The temperature? The fu**ing temperature?? That's the school district's stretegy, then: deploy the buses to save these poor teenagers from the sun before they get heat stroke and riot.

The rest of the story, although a bit of a mishmash of lots of elements, including some I didn't even mention above, is something you might want to take a look at. It's the sort of tempest-in-a-teapot misunderstanding that I remember always made me roll my eyes at authority when I was still in school. A lot of people are working on the assumption that students are into this immigration walkout craze as much for the feeling of petty rebellion as for the love of justice. Well, duh. Students -- the smart ones, anyway -- should be raising hell for no other reason than to learn what it's like to stand up to people. The rest either sit in class wishing they were out there or tape segments for Bill O'Reilly. And I wish that was a joke.

I don't have a lot to add to the immigration conversation -- a lot of other bloggers and news outlets have that pretty much well in hand, although you mustn't believe everything you read in the Washington Times because as I learned long ago it's owned by the Moonie Church and man, they are crazy. Long story short, most countries of origin have maximum numbers of people we allow in each year and unless you're granted a magical golden ticket of political asylum or you know someone important, you're pretty much going to have to wait a while. Meanwhile people file in here like so many illegal ducks in a row because their countries are a mess and they're desperate for a place where they can make some money, speak their native language (the Southwest is good for South and Central Americans, the East Coast is relatively good for Africans) and generally live in peace and quiet. The problem is that they undercut our labor laws by giving employers a permanent bargaining chip they use to skirt them.

I've always thought immigration as an "issue" would be better addressed through economic development in these countries that are so unbearable, rather than building some Terminator robot laser wall. (Pay special attention to the phrase "the northern border we could start next" at that link.) As far as multiculturalism goes obviously I say the more the merrier, but our current system doesn't seem to be working so we're going to have to a) give some sort of earned asylum to the ones who deserve it -- probably based on English proficiency at least as much as time in the country -- and b) start figuring out how to make these backwaters livable again. If you throw up obstacles for people fleeing a terrible situation, that doesn't mean they'll stop trying to get here. Evenly spaced archer turrets all along your vulnerable perimeter may be a good strategy for Warcraft II, but it's not a real plan for making America a freer society.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

In Praise of Dale Peck; or, In Praise of Reading Critiques of Books I Never Read Myself

Before you decide not to read the rest of this post, ask yourself how much you care about books and why that is. If you love them, why is that? If you don't make time to read, well, why is that? I usually answer this question with a sort of shrug myself -- something along the lines of "why bother asking?" -- but I'd like to tackle the issue for a change. And I'd like to do it through the prism of Hatchet Jobs, Dale Peck's book of criticism, which as you may have noticed, if you read every post on this blog, I recently finished. In order to do this, ultimately I will have to spell out what I think about life and art, so if you're interested you should brew some coffee or something and get ready to hunker down.

Ultimately I like books for the good and obvious reason that they enrich my thinking. Good books, anyway. They tell you things you couldn't learn any other way. (If you think you can benefit just as much from the movie version of Beloved, you're in for a rude surprise.) If you find the right ones, they really can provide ideals, inspiration and a sense of enthusiasm for living that a typical workaday job cannot and will never provide. If they hit you at the right time -- and that can be any time in your life -- they can change the way you see yourself and the world around you. They can make you a different and hopefully better person. All art has this capacity, of course, at least in theory, and I don't mean or want to privilege books as a separate and better species of art. Movies can do this too. So can painting and music and being in nature. But these things are only successful to the extent that people create them in good faith and know what they're doing. If you sling paint at a canvas without even bothering to aim, you can't really speak to the masses. If you write incomprehensible gooble and claim you're pushing the boundaries of literature -- well, I would say, you're not trying very hard at the writing game. If you just hold down a B flat on your keyboard for an hour and a half, you could make millions of dollars but you're not really moving humanity forward. In short, good art is the opposite of art done strictly for profit, or strictly as a living, or strictly as a theoretical exercise. If you approach the writing of a book solely as a career move, then you can produce some sort of product that may sell -- may even be popular -- but without caring about what the result really means in a deeper sense, you're helping to cheapen your medium. It's the same in journalism: if you don't care about the stories you're writing, your apathy will show and your capacity to make a difference will diminish.

Which leads us to Dale Peck. I admit I haven't read his novels. I think he wouldn't mind, though, that I'm writing about his book of criticism anyway, because he sees criticism the same way I do: as a vehicle for arguing about what books should be, not simply as a recommendation on whether to read the specimen that happens to be offered that day. Literary criticism, as opposed to book reviews, takes the raw material of a novel under dicussion and uses it to fashion a point that is related to the character of that novel but also transcends or goes outside the boundaries of its plot. The same thing is done everywhere: you read articles in science magazines, for instance, about the meaning of some research team's findings without actually reading the entire study being discussed. The interpretations of those findings are usually controversial and important to clarify. The same holds for the novel: just as there is such a thing as "science," there's such a thing as "literature," a multifaceted and complicated edifice of history, opinion, fact, fiction, failure and triumph. And just as some people care deeply about "science" -- not just in their own small field, but as a whole system of seeing things -- there are those, like myself, who think "literature" is more than the sum of its parts, is actually a way of approaching the creative impulses of one's life. To that extent, when bad books become popular and make people want more of the same, it hurts me because I need literature to be vital and healthy. We all lose if the creationists win; so too, I would say, do we all lose if today's bad authors win. Bad thinking, a sort of anti-creativity, takes hold over peoples' minds and tastes. This is the argument Peck makes in his book, although in entirely different language and without the extended scientific metaphor, and it's one with which I am totally in sync. Even if you don't sit down to the novels of Proust, he's saying, you should care what passes for a good book. Because if intellectually lazy schysters such as Rick Moody and Jim Crace convince us that they're the best thing the novel can do, we're all going to stop reading and eventually just lay down and die. (Incidentally, he would be the first to say something like the following: if you don't know who I'm talking about, don't feel bad. Use a comparison you're familiar with. Music should be better than American Idol schlock. Films should be better than Failure to Launch. And I bet nobody here can name a living serious painter. Peck would have something to say about how all that went wrong too, I'm sure.)

Peck is not my favorite critic. That spot is still occupied by the relatively less pungent, more intellectual James Wood -- although there's an essay waiting to be written on how he's become less interesting, and somewhat less convincing, in the last year or so. (In the meantime, you can listen to his excellent interview with Terry Gross of NPR here.) But Peck is the one by whom I'm most excited these days, because he seems to not only care about the fate of literature but to be willing to dirty his hands for its sake. Wood cannot help his excessively well-read sorrowful headshaking tone when he doesn't like something. Peck, in comparison, leaves a mess on the floor but is more exhilarating for it. He rouses you up and asks you to do something about all the bad, boring and bitter books out there. He wants you to have standards but also to be a mensch about it. He wants writers to care more about what they write, readers to care more about what they read and everyone to start caring more about the culture. His tools aren't always the most elegant -- he likes one-liner putdowns and is very good at them -- but the spirit in which he's writing is unmistakeably one of hope for the future. When he writes about Kurt Vonnegut, for instance, he doesn't take the writer to task for failing to be a literary auteur -- something Vonnegut never wanted to be anyway -- so much as he takes his legion of slobbering fans to task for putting the man on a pedestal where he doesn't belong. In short, instead of the usual snobbery about how Vonnegut is pretty much a hack, he argues for enjoying his work on the terms those works demand, rather than worshiping them as evidence of some crazy genius, which the Cult of Vonnegut often does. (I have seen this in action, and it is terribly ugly. And unlike some authors, I feel safe discussing Vonnegut, as I've read two and a half of his books. I have a firmer grounding now for saying people take him way more seriously than is needed.) Peck doesn't want everyone to be a genius or a master of the novel, as Wood can sometimes seem to hope for -- he just wants writers to give a damn and write with a sense of purpose. It is a very compelling argument.

Leaving aside the question of how he writes, since he has an enjoyably conversational writing style that doesn't warrant much discussion here, it's important to note that the tone he employs in his reviews here is almost uniformly one of anger, and although it's leavened with a good dose of humor and linguistic skill it can start to make you wonder how much he really has to say. But then, as he so memorably writes about liking another writer's work for a few seconds, the moment fades. This whole book constitutes not so much a comprehensive statement on Art as a rousing cry for literary ambition, for a reading and writing environment not so removed from the public eye and reserved for post-postmodern fakers. He doesn't resort to blaming writers for literature's demise, as Tom Wolfe (for instance) has done -- he's young enough to know that there's a lot more to do these days than read books for fun. But he does make the important point that if writers want an audience to "get" their work rather than just buy it, they're going to have to produce something worth getting, something that stimulates peoples' interest in books in general, not just that writer's own personal career. It clearly pains him that writers (and we're speaking about contemporary American writers here) don't seem to take notions of literary achievement seriously except in economic terms any more.

For a more globo-panoptic-historical-GreatBooks perspective, you should probably turn elsewhere. (Again, James Wood comes to mind. And there's always plenty to do at the New York Review of Books, the London Review of Books and the Guardian Books Page.) For writing about literature that somehow manages to hit you in the gut and make it all seem like a worthwhile, important, life-altering topic, Peck's your man. Hatchet Jobs. You heard it from me. I'm sure you can find a copy at the nearest bookstore, or, heaven forbid, the library. And again: It's the critic's job to make you see what he or she sees that is of greater, more general significance in whatever is being "reviewed." No one should feel that criticism is off-limits to anyone except those who have already read the book. As Peck would say, if someone tells you that, they're trying to con you.

"Lost City" of Deep Sea Life Uncovered

If you've ever wondered what it would be like to be reincarnated as a tiny bioluminescent crab living about a mile under the ocean's surface, this might give you some idea. Totally unconcerned with the wily affairs of men, the world's weirdest creatures piddle about their lives every single day and night without so much as a curtsy for us.

P.S. - I know the article is a year old. It's not my fault that I didn't know about it at the time. You're welcome for introducing you to the fantastic resource that is LiveScience, is all I have to say about it.

Humans Fuel Worst Extinction Since End of Dinosaurs

You know when the Associated Press is writing these sorts of headlines -- and believe me when I say I respect the AP even though they aren't exactly a bastion of incisive, detailed coverage -- something must be seriously amiss. An excerpt:
Changes to Earth's biodiversity have occurred more rapidly in the past 50 years than at any time in human history, creating a species loss greater than anything since a major asteroid impact wiped out the dinosaurs.

That's the conclusion of Global Biodiversity Outlook 2, a report released today by the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity.

"In effect, we are currently responsible for the sixth major extinction event in the history of the Earth, and the greatest since the dinosaurs disappeared, 65 million years ago," the report states.

Remember the Daschle/Gephardt Democratic Leadership Team? This One's Better

Although I'm occasionally prone to wondering why Nancy Pelosi was ever chosen House Minority Leader, I haven't been one of the Cool Kids piling on the scorn that everyone in Washington thinks is their right these days. "Oh, she's so terrible," I actually heard someone at work say the other day. If you know anything about the insiderish realms of the political left, you know it's fun and easy to beat up on the Democratic leaders. Harry Reid is boring. He lacks charisma. Pelosi shoots her mouth off. She comes across as mean. They should just say they're above the fray and let the Republicans self-destruct. Bla. Bla. Bla.

This article is an absolute must-read for anyone who thinks this way. If you think Bush accidentally got in such hot water over the Dubai ports deal, guess what? It was Charles Schumer all along. Think Bush's embarrassing news about intelligence failures just cropped up out of nowhere? It was Harry Reid all along. Trust me when I say this, because I speak from experience: reporters go where the story seems to exist, intact, without much needed digging on their part. It's not entirely our fault that we simply aren't paid, or told by our editors, to spend months digging through obscure records to find "the truth." We have deadlines. We can follow a story to see where it goes, but we need to put copy out there. It's not pretty, but it's the nature of the business. So if Democrats do something to make news, reporters are given an opportunity to cover it. Yes, the billion-footed-beast that is the White House is always pulling gaffes and giving the media something to cover, but Democrats don't enter into that coverage unless they either do their own proactive thing or at least respond creatively. Being available on the phone for a rent-a-quote at the end of a long article about Iraq isn't cutting it.

So, long story short, the conventional wisdom about how the Democrats are the same old dismally awkward party of squabbling and disarray is convincingly slain by this piece. They are seriously more united under the current leadership than they ever were under Clinton or in the first Bush term. Here's a quick sample:

Over in the Senate, Reid temporarily silenced his critics when he staged a showdown last fall, shutting down the Senate to compel Republicans to discuss pre-war intelligence. GOP promises to pursue inquiries into how the intelligence was gathered, interpreted, and used had gone nowhere, and Democrats had no institutional means to conduct their own investigation. So Reid forced the issue, invoking an obscure parliamentary procedure that sent the Senate into a closed session. Republicans were furious, but they were also backed into a corner. Reluctantly, the leadership agreed to restart the investigations, putting the issue of intelligence back in the national spotlight. The in-your-face move signaled that Reid had the inclination, and the electoral security, to push Republicans around in a way that his predecessor Tom Daschle never could.
From using Senate parlor tricks to standing firm on Social Security to staying on message about the "culture of corruption" to a dozen other things, these guys have finally figured out how running a fractious party really works. There's always room for improvement, but I say let's give some credit where it's due, shall we? Just think of it this way: after the Alito confirmation, which was already a done deal, can you think of a single Bush policy or political victory? At all? I can't.

Holy Freaking Crap

I don't mean to alarm you people, but if you follow this link you'll receive the biggest jolt of entertainment news possibly ever. And by that I mean that you can watch a preview for what the producers are calling The Simpsons Movie.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Orhan Speaks While Others Listen

From the rather hefty file marked "Writers I think I like, even though I haven't read any of their stuff yet" comes this interview with Orhan Pamuk. Other writers exist in Turkey, mind you, but he's become the de facto representative, and from what little I know of him it's deserved. You may have heard of his recent cause celebre trial in Turkey for violating the local anti-speech laws and "insulting" the country. (Lovers of freedom and pseudointellectual gadflies joined together to squash the proceedings, so don't you worry.) Well, I owned My Name is Red before that and only bought Snow afterwards because the timing wouldn't allow for anything else. And now that I've finished the highly recommended Hatchet Jobs by Dale Peck, I mean to get to them.

Incidentally, look for some extended Peck commentary in an upcoming post. It's something I've been meaning to get to for a while.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

But Again, Trent Lott's Condo on The Beach WILL Be Getting Fixed, Right?

I'm linking to James Wolcott's blog for two reasons. One, this is a thought-provoking (and frankly a little scary) post about the scope of Bush's criminal negligence that you should read, since it goes beyond the sadly familiar stories of woe about Iraq and the economy to focus on the long-term impacts of less oil production and irreversible climate change -- the fact that Bush was elected to a two-term presidency at such a crucial point in the world's history may well go down as one of God's cruelest jokes.

Two, James Wolcott is a terrifically funny writer, and you should make a point of cruising his site more often. He typically writes for Vanity Fair these days but got his start at the Village Voice and likes to keep it real.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Bush Hasn't Had His Fill of Warmongering -- But This Time Democrats Have Options

Democrats need to figure out what to do about Iran, like, yesterday if they're going to keep all this political momentum going through to the election. Bush is probably planning at least some air strikes before November -- preceded, I predict, by an eery rehash of the non-conversation the country had about Iraq, with Bush talking about slam-dunk intelligence -- and whether or not he goes to Congress for permission... well, like the Washington Monthly says, if Dems aren't already thinking about how they'll respond, they're idiots.

What To Do In Iraq

I've been meaning to get around to this for some time now. On a recent work-related trip to Denver (for a great big military conference that mostly isn't worth recounting, with the exception of an anecdote I'll share later), I picked up the March and April issues of the Atlantic Monthly at the airport along with some dark socks to look professional. The March issue has a piece you really should try to get your hands on -- not available online except the first paragraph, alas -- but which I will soon make bold to excerpt from so you get the idea. It's based on the results of a long-term study of Iraq, especially as it compares to history's insurgencies, by military experts with no stake in making Bush look good. Their answers to the question "What do we do?" make for some very compelling reading, especially for people like me who have basically tuned out of the whole Iraq thing because we feel helpless and turned off. I'd include some nuggets here but temporarily can't find my copy, so, you know, bear with me.

Christian Symbolism Part Deux

In comments for the post on the crucifix (not far below), mikeswanson makes the eminently accurate point that the study doesn't really say anything about Christianity as a religion and is kind of pointless. I tried to respond briefly. I'd like to hear what other readers here think. Comment away. Maybe we can get a real discussion with several members going. Maybe not.

Forget Reading Maps: Bush Doesn't Even Know the Difference Between Iraq and Afghanistan

Let's not kid ourselves: we have the stupidest president in American history. Attempts to dance around the subject or try to be polite are way off the mark. He is a silly, foppish, dunderheaded nitwit of a lout who can't be bothered to think. You want proof? Watch this. Listen for the phrase "we thought we were secure because of oceans and previous diplomacy." Don't worry, it doesn't take long.

The best part, however, is around the 2 minute and 20 second mark. The venerable Helen Thomas, who grew a brass pair long before the rest of the media even fell out of bed in its underwear with stale Michelob Ultra on its breath, has asked Bush why he went to war in Iraq if all his stated reasons have turned out to be patently false. His answer, as you'll see, does not amuse her for the good reason that he starts ranting about the wrong country.

The Sorrow, The Pity and Southern California

Turns out cell phone use equals none other than brain cancer. I'd just like to take this opportunity to point out that I was roundly mocked for not getting one of these tumor machines until the last possible moment, when I became a very important journalist and had to be on call at the nation's capitol. Well, screw you people. Land lines get better reception.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Secrets of Conservative Publishing Houses

(courtesy of Kevin Drum and Washington Monthly).