Sunday, September 24, 2006

Bill O'Reilly -- If You Didn't Already Hate The Guy...

He calls Iraqis "a prehistoric people," Howard Dean "the biggest coward in the country," Europeans in general "soft and afraid," Paul Krugman "just to the right of Fidel Castro" and says Stalin would be in charge of UNICEF if he were still alive. A radio montage to savor.

Bill Clinton Embarrasses Fox News Host

I look back on the Clinton presidency as a pretty good time for most Americans, although we saw the Gingrich Revolution and the impeachment and all the rest. That was tawdry and truly harmed our democracy, but it was nothing compared to lying and torture and invasions and huge catastrophes that shake our convictions to the core. I would eagerly go back to partisan witch-hunting and abuses of power on the 1990s scale, because sex scandals are preferable to war profiteering and a conspiratorial lack of oversight.

I don't think, in retrospect, Clinton did a ton of great things as president. From 1992 to 1994 he had a Democratic Congress to pass more or less whatever legislation he wanted and the chance fizzled. He's a very good speaker, and I believe he's sincere in his convictions, but he made a huge hash of the response to the Cole bombing -- attacking a Sudanese pharmacy? -- and seemed to be too interested in tinkering at the margins rather than taking on Republicans full force on big policy issues.

That having been said, watching him run circles around Chris Wallace on Fox Sunday Morning just made me think a lot more of him.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Senate Report on Saddam and al-Qaeda

It's out, and man is it damning. Republicans are spinning their wheels. A brief rundown of the highlights:

- Iraq "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates.

- Saddam did not have any chemical weapons when we invaded, per this language: "Postwar findings do not support the 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) assessments that Iraq 'has chemical weapons' or 'is expanding its chemical industry to support chemical weapons (CW) production.' The ISG uncovered no evidence indicating that Iraq maintained a stockpile of chemical weapons or had been producing chemical weapons. The ISG found that Iraq likely destroyed its chemical weapons stockpiles after the Gulf War due to invasive UN investigations. Iraq declared the destruction of these materials to the UN shortly thereafter.

- Bush's claim that Iraqi unmanned aerial vehicles were going to deliver WMDs to fearful civilian populations was utter bullshit. The Senate report says postwar findings show conclusively that, just as the Air Force, Defense Intelligence Agency and the Army already concluded in 2003, the UAVs were "primarily intended for reconnaissance.

- The administration pushed analysts to show a link where none could be established. As one of several examples, the report quotes the former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence as asking them to "lean far forward and do a speculative piece," querying, "if you were going to stretch to the maximum the evidence you had, what would you come up with?

- There is simply no evidence Saddam had ties with al-Qaeda, whether public or secret, large or small. There is nothing in this report that supports Bush's position. Without really even needing to, the report lays on the pain by quoting the CIA inspector general report from December 2005: "The data reveal few indications of an established relationship between al-Qa'ida and Saddam Hussein's regime before September 11, 2001."

The report, along with an eye-opening look at how Cheney continues to pretend not to know what the Senate found, is at

Oh, and Senate Intelligence Committe chairman Pat Roberts, who is a gigantic friend of the Bush administration, is now calling pre-war preparations "a tragic intelligence failure." That story ran at,00.html -- that's, not exactly a bastion of leftist anti-military sentiment.

By the way, if you're in the DC area, the National Book Festival is Sept. 30 and you are a sucker if you don't go.

We Must Not Allow a Witticism Gap

I've always thought the London Review of Books has hilarious personals ads. (This is how you get it done.) We Americans just don't understand -- they are a chance to be funny, not just furtive and depressed. Here is a sample of three, in order, taken more or less at random.

This brief statement of yearning for a woman to 35 who is both beautiful and remarkably intelligent weighs exactly three metric tons but, once all the meaning has been extracted, it is no heavier than an egg. Box no. 18/06

Stare at the back of your hand for 30 seconds. Now stare at this advert for 15 seconds while squinting your eyes. Now fully open your eyes and stare at the back of your hand for another 30 seconds. And again at your hand. Now stare at your mother. Back of your hand. Advert. Hand. Advert. Mother. Mother. Hand. Mother. Wall. Feet. Now wipe the tears away. Back at the hand. Advert. Hand. Mother. Man, 43. Hand. Advert. Mother. Hand. Hand. Hand. Box no. 18/07. Mother.

Philanthropy is my middle name. It’s just a name though so don’t be expecting any free rides. You can call me Mr Wallace. My first name is none of your business. Applications to box no. 18/08

Charlie Chan, or Hilarity

Where else can you find the phrase "pointy-hatted little Chinese people and their faithful water buffalos" written without a hint of self-consciousness or p.c. fear? As it happens, I know this guy. We met the first day of kindergarten. And now, many years down the line, he teaches Engrish in China and I write about the gubbment.

Back in the Pink?

Not quite yet, but I'm getting there. I went sailing after work Friday with T's editor, a stand-up guy who shall remain nameless, and a friend of his -- they have time-share schedules for this thing -- and it was fabulous at night even though there were too many clouds for a moon. Night sailing is something I'm going to have to develop into more of a hobby. I don't know much about how to do it without a pro around (these guys have been sailing since they were kids) but I follow directions well and my nimble fingers seem to untie knots quickly enough to be useful.

I'm going to the D. C. United game tonight with a bunch of folks, for your information, and I expect us to win because the New York Red Bulls are fading like the popularity of balloon pants. That was such a stupid idea by Red Bull to actually name their latest investment after a sports drink. The Walla Walla Powerade Squad, I can see. Red Bull is just silly.

A small clarification is in order about my drinking habits: I have not recently become, nor shall I ever be, any kind of alcoholic. When I wrote that I drink beer and fall asleep on the couch, that referred to a single bottle, not a torrent of malted barley and hops that pickled my liver like so much screwtop wine. Beer makes me sleepy and I generally avoid it unless it's part of a larger-themed evening, like Thursday, when I went drinking with my law school friend and his third-wheel old flame "now just friends" tag-along nuisance girl who turned out to be more fun than he is. Ha! We went to, among other places, a classy joint called Citronelle that is waaaaaay out of a journalist's price range. Apparently when they put you in law school, they give you cushy part-time jobs that pay more than a dying man would give for a last breath of air. These are the wages of sin, if you think about it poetically.

I am hungry for lunch. Maybe I'll tell you all how the evening went. Later.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I Will Attack You From The North

I just got Season 2 of The Office and my weekend is already planned out. I'm going to drink a big bottle of beer I found at Trader Joe's -- I don't want to say exactly which because I don't do endorsements, but I will tell you it has a popping cork -- and maybe order some pizza or just make egg scramble, and hope it rains, and put my galoshes on like Little Bear and stay in and snuggle with myself and the TV all day so I can forget work ever happened. That's the plan. My sane roommate is already on board. The other one has a test at 8:30 Saturday morning. That gives you some idea what goes on around here.

So where have I been lately? Well, for one thing, it's been absolute hell getting straight answers out of the editors as to why I'm going to the Hill and doing triple duty for no more money (or slack come edit day), so that's led me down the dark path of drinking after clockout and falling asleep on the couch, which then means I wake up with a backache like someone hit me with a shovel. Wednesday around 6:30 I went to Ted's Montana Grill down the street from work -- they sell buffalo burgers, which I am not in favor of, but they have other stuff too -- and I got, in this order, an Irish Car Bomb, a Tom Collins (I didn't even know what would be in it), and a fancy margarita. By the time we left I'd buttoned a second napkin into my work shirt like a bib because I spilled hot onion ring on myself and started giggling. The waitress seemed to think it was funny and I left a big tip.

I honestly couldn't tell you what I've done with my last few weekends. You know that feeling when you get home that you just want to unwind? I have literally never felt that, the way most people describe it, until a few weeks ago. I was talking with my bosom friend T about it and we agreed that it comes on strong and very suddenly and that's when you know you're really part of the working world. Except it's such a poo feeling that I want it to go away -- I miss feeling vital and ready for action after work. So I'm slowly laying siege to the problem and I'll have my mojo back in no time. Long story short, I haven't been in any frame of mind to write anything more complicated than a joke treasure map. Those sort of write themselves.

Oh, and gossip: T and I and our friend A -- never mind if you don't know the names, they can be letters to you -- decided we'd have a guys night in last Saturday and got together at T's house, which I admit is a nicely appointed pad, for dinner, booze, championship college football and the dice game from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which all sounds like even less fun than it is. That game, which you can buy at Target if you really want to, is genius in its simplicity. It's a mix of bluffing and telling the truth and trying to cheat, which I got reaaally good at after a while. We decided to spice it up by playing for dares rather than just prestige, which led to, among other things, a prank call to Stephanie (not from me -- I never lost), T swinging his shirt over his head while he sang "I'm a Little Teapot," and A eating off-brand Play-Doh he was clever enough to fashion into a red-and-orange hot dog with bun. Again, not the sort of evening that leaves you in a mood to go home and blog. In fact it tragically ended with hurt feelings and recriminations and vows that someone would not be invited back. It was the booze talking and there are no hurt feelings. I wasn't involved. I played video game baseball and lost.

Also T and I go to the park to throw the ol' pigskin around occasionally, and we ran into a Marine fresh back from Iraq the other day. He threw harder than us and I didn't drop a single pass. I am a very good wide receiver but can't put the right zip on the ball to make everyone "believe" in the huddle. Sad waste of talent.

And I've been listening to a CD a friend got me back in college, which I have since verified she doesn't even remember, that helps me get to sleep again at five o'clock in the morning. It's very pretty, and an interesting factoid is that one of the songs on this album, which I guarantee you've never heard of, is something I heard when I was about 13 hiking on a mountaintop with my mom. We couldn't figure out where it was coming from until we came around a bend and saw two girls sitting in a clearing, facing each other with their eyes closed, singing at the same time. On a mountaintop. This same song. True story. That's kind of why I have funny ideas about things sometimes.

I like to walk home from work sometimes at night, because the area around my house is very quiet when it's late. The other night, when I bought The Office, I walked to the mall near my place, for work and gymnasium reasons, around 8:30 in a light misty rain and ended up passing the big construction sites I see sometimes when I ride my bike in a certain direction. I walked behind them, to the side of the exposed, incomplete apartment buildings that no one can see from the street -- that no one can see period unless they walk along this back dirt road -- and in the rainy dark, because the lights were on in each of the unfinished units for some reason, they looked like these hulking, lit-up motherships just sitting there. It was the eeriest sight. I couldn't hear the traffic or see another living person; it was completely dark and a little wet and there were puddles in the muddy dirt road I had to avoid, and all along my way to the mall, which is weirdly accessible by this out-of-the-way route from work, I kept staring into these buildings where nobody was working. And to top it off, I had the song "Black Boys on Mopeds" by Sinead O'Connor stuck in my head, so I sang it out loud while I stared into these huge, half-lit, half-built buildings while this strange mist fell on my head. My ultimate destination turned out to be The Protector, playing at the mall movie theater, starring Tony Jaa of Ong Bak fame. If you haven't seen these movies, they are destined to become classics of the martial arts film genre and you have no reason to wait. The plot of The Protector is too silly for me to even explain -- a man spends almost two hours looking for his elephants -- but the fight scenes are so long and well done and well choreographed that it's a piece of genius nonetheless.

What else? When I'm not walking past this construction site I walk along the river, where there are often the loud cries of crickets and frogs at night, especially when it's rained during the day. I love it around here at night.

My sane roommate is moving out at the end of the month. We already had a process I won't detail -- it ended well, and that's all I'll say, although we didn't go with anyone's personal first choice for a replacement -- and things are settled with the new guy now, or will be soon enough. He's an army medic back from Iraq who has penetrating eyeballs and wants to be a policeman. Nice guy, though. Surprisingly laid back, considering. We turned down a few whoppers.

Most importantly I vacationed in Arizona a few weekends ago and was able to drink in the sun like the rare honey wine that it is. Stephanie and I spent a night at a very fancy resort of her choosing, well out of our normal situation price range, and generally carried on like schoolgirls for four days. Even with the tittering. We went to the zoo and saw the giraffes and the giant Burmese python and even the bald eagle, and I stole a small amount of sage because here you have to pay money for it which is, dare I say it, retarded. The monkey exhibit was closed but we watched this drama unfold as a turtle that lives in the monkey exhibit tried, like Hamlet, to decide whether he'd get out from under the water lilies and onto a nice warm rock or whether he wasn't just safer under there. Poor little guy was so confused.

Maybe an issues post when I'm up for it. Time to hit the bottle of cherry juice.