[A deal is struck. Riley spends his day tearing out a wall in the basement, awaiting the Inspector on Thursday and Friday's promised installation of a new furnace and a/c. Riley opts for Trane™, and realizes that, had he shown some ambition one time in his life he might today be Marcos Moulitsas, and that single mention might have earned him a substantial discount.
[In retrospect, the sales process has been like so much of American commercial life: genial on the surface, faintly bubbling with odiousness underneath. The winning supplicant had mentioned, at the end of their hour, the Feel Good feeling of having upgraded one's fuel efficiency. "Have you seen An Inconvenient Truth?" he asks, and without waiting for an answer lubricates any potential frictions in the suggestion by continuing, "I'm not a big Al Gore fan, but..." Riley is even less likely to discuss politics, or even falsely politicized science, with complete strangers than he is to drive some place in order to see a movie while surrounded by louts. He applauds Al Gore. His Oscar™, along with Frances McDormand's and and George C. Scott's, are the only three which have ever cheered him. He certainly does not blame the winner of the 2000 presidential election for his (that is, Riley's) innate suspicion that American's are applauding themselves for seeing a movie, not signing on to reduce frivolous energy consumption. He does not blame the salesman for this, either. Truth be told he's touched, even while some back part of his brain is suggesting he offer the guy $500 to find him an older system that's not up to code somewhere, just to see what happens.
[Instead, it's smiles all around, and Riley comes up with the idea of spending twenty minutes typing up the scene by way of explaining why he doesn't have time to write anything until all this blows over.]
JAMES Fallows here, via Norb, ponders Rudy's answer on the war. As well ask about any of 'em, except the Straight Talkin' McCain and the delightful Ron Paul. You didn't craft that disaster, or stupidly link your fortunes to it like Honest John--why defend it? This is the problem, at least the most obvious, easily corrected one. We fucked up. Without any crapola about everybody believing there were WMDs. Everybody didn't, and the people who were supposed to be deliberating the matter couldn't be bothered reading the intel. The next President of the United States is takin' this in the shorts, or panties (I suspect at least one Democratic candidate of traveling Free and Easy), thanks to your man, your plan, your party. Might as well start in now explaining to the mouth breathers of the base that there's no more men to play Army with. Maybe it'll start sinking in in the next eighteen months. And any man who's afraid of Fred Dumbo Thompson isn't fit to be President. It's fucking over. Not because you've lost a debate, or lost public support, or failed to come up with another Gipper, and I swear I'm hunting down the next idiot pundit who runs that line. It's over because you finally ran into reality. And there's no appeal.
(By the way, Fred Dumbo Thompson, assuming he does enter the race, confounds the punditocracy by going nowhere after receiving a small bump from the publicity. Riley is nothing is not a fearless prognosticator, for the simple reason that he's never been right, once, so shoot the works, right? But Thompson, right now, has Newt's numbers from four months ago, probably largely from Newt's own people, and where did that get Newt? Plus he's utterly fucking gormless. He's gonna come in and play Mr. Conservative among the Republican Presidential field? Sure he is. He's gonna wear like the pants from one of those 2/$99 S&K suits. You heard it here first.)
Bob Somerby on the uh, suspiciously good news on the school testing front. (Let's ask, right now, how it is possible that the Washington Post has managed to make itself the Worst Paper in the Country in a field of All-Star contenders?) My Poor Wife and I were watching local news last night and heard the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001--automatically given "credit" for the Good News no one in that newsroom had bothered to think about, despite the fact that Indiana's cumulative scores went down--referred to as "Bush's No Child Left Behind Plan" three times. This despite the fact that what the headline writers know as NCLB is just an extension of the Dumb As A Toad Political Meddlesomeness In Public Education Act of 1995, and that assuming there is some nationwide improvement in test scores the connection to NCLB is more than likely rampant cheating to avoid consequences that might accrue despite teaching the test rather than imparting knowledge. The Education Beat is a permanent, and highly visible, part of local news. Any reporter halfway up on the issue should know the study was, at the very least, debatable. Instead it was presented as a clear-cut victory for George W. Bush's visionary leadership. Th' fuck?
At one point in the proceedings we got to hear somebody say something like this, without cracking up (I think it was someone from the Center on Education Policy, but it might have been an Indiana stooge): "One of the reasons for the improvement is that educators realize the benefits of the program and are enthusiastic about it."
Now, my Poor Wife has been with me for at least 98% of the last thirty years, so we have an remarkably broad and nuanced vocabulary of non-verbal signals. It's so well-developed at this point it may only require use of the pupils. I'll have to check. At any rate, we looked at each other the moment he said it. And it turns out that the sign for "How does he keep from choking on bullshit?" doesn't require much specialized knowledge at all.
[The Inspector comes and goes. Shown the thermostat he can't supress a chuckle at its Ford Administration charm. "Yeah," says Riley. "I get the same reaction when I take my Betamax in for service."]