Thursday, March 29

That Is The 'A' Material

• Dennis Miller, on Tuesdays' Daily Show, opens with the Duke rape case, on the grounds that he'd been checking his notes and it was what they'd talked about last time. (Maybe he was missing a page: the last time he was on they gave him two segments, and he spent the second ridiculing the significance of a 1º rise in average global temperatures.) This gave him the opportunity to call the alleged victim "the Louvre of DNA". Yuck yuck. This was followed by his humorous takes on Nancy Pelosi (she blinks a lot), Harry Reid (walking cadaver), and Robert Byrd (very old). A rocket, I tells ya! The man's a rocket to the moon! I guess last year's rebranding operation ("I'm a Libertarian! I just support the war!") is officially retired.

• Note to the President and what's left of his defenders: the teeth-gnashing about "defunding the troops" might ring a little less hollow if you hadn't done it yourselves in 2004 by tabling further Budget Supplements until after the November elections, causing the Pentagon to scramble for funding (and technically run out by September).

• And if the administration hadn't intended to hide the cost of the I Doubt Six Months excursion, Newt Gingrich might not be claiming that defunding the war would be "unprecedented", though we imagine the Professor would simply move on to some other illiteracy (the fact that Congress isn't proposing to defund the war doesn't seem to have slowed him down). I caught him only briefly--maybe he was arguing that every act is unprecedented. Maybe it was Epistemology Day on Charlie Rose (or is that Metaphysics?). At any rate, we need travel back no further than June, 1973, and the Church-Case Amendment. Stop by and give Newt's regards to the repeal of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (1971) and the 1973 War Powers Act while you're in the neighborhood.

• A legal errand had me out driving around 3:30 yesterday, which caused me to listen to some NPR new-esque program I almost never hear. And they'd sent some guy around New York to ask people who Alberto Gonzales is, and nobody could do so, including a guy who took the multiple choice answer "St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman" and a woman who admitted to having heard something about it but knowing much more about the death of Anna Nicole Smith. (And why shouldn't she? I can answer "chloral hydrate", despite having actively retreated any time I saw her or heard her name. You too, probably.)

A big deal was being made of "only 19% of the population following the story". So what else is new? One in five actually sounds pretty significant to me, especially at a time when it's difficult for a news junkie to keep all the Bush scandals straight. But as they let the guy run on and on and on about Gonzales' prospects for MVP this season I snapped the thing off. Issues aren't made less important just because lots of people pay little or no attention to them. That's nothing new. Maybe NPR just needs to try a little harder.

Tuesday, March 27

Some People

You may have already guessed but watching 60 Minutes is not something I'm likely to do. Watching 60 Minutes cover another political-couple story made necessary by the sorts of questions the sorts of people who are "stars" of 60 Minutes are asking is slightly less likely than my drinking unfiltered water from a backcountry stream twenty yards downstream from a half-decayed bull moose. Now add in Katie Couric; I would have had to have fallen off the couch facing the set which was tuned to CBS--which would mean not only that they were broadcasting sports, but that I couldn't get the game on the radio and so avoid their stable of annoying announcers--shattering both hips in the process and somehow immobilizing both arms so I couldn't claw my own eyes out, and even then I would try to chew my way across the carpet in hopes of battering the television off its stand or gnawing my way through the power cord.

So, no, I didn't see Katie's interview with the Edwardseses, And I still have water in the basement, new seed on the lawn, and business with the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (Motto: "Get The Sort of Service You'd Expect From a Republican Businessman, If That's Not Redundant".) It wasn't until last night I heard Olbermann mention the "Some People Say" routine that I gave it any thought. And I don't really have time now to really sort this out, but off the top of my head:

• I do not believe America, whatever her faults, deserves Anna Nicole Dead or Alive as an object of fascination, however slight and however mildly retarded.

• I do not believe America deserves Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General, and not because he lied like a philandering husband when he knew the truth would be out within a day. He's a Bush official. Lying is how they take in oxygen. I've lived through petty criminals and leg-breakers in that office a third of my life: John Mitchell, William French Smith, Ed Meese, but they, at least, gave the impression of having law degrees, even if they were questionable.

• I know I'm not the first person to make this argument, but Fuck fuckin' Katie Couric.

Okay, so the culture is not her doing, specifically. The fact that a couple like John and Elizabeth Edwards, who presumably rank somewhere between About As Ethical As You Can Expect In An American and Possibly Somewhat More Noble Than We Deserve Or Is Good For Them must go on teevee like some Largely Unfunny Comedian Trying To Salvage His Career After Shouting 'Nigger' is not Katie's fault, but she feeds on the carcass. It's obvious that Katie could not risk being seen as aiding a possible Edwards Nobility Ploy. Fair enough. But remember that.

Remember that we are at the point in our public discourse where even if Katie Couric could find "gravitas" in the dictionary after being spotted the G, R, and A, there was no way she could conduct that interview without probing the Edwardeses for some sign of Unseemly Ego or Shameless Self-Promotion. Which, of course, is coming from someone who's had more image consultants than your or I have had coffee mugs, and who used her husband's death to promote colorectal cancer awareness without anybody asking what was in it for her. Remember we got the breathless results of overnight polling on whether American thought this was the Right Decision, like it's America's fucking business, or like "Why don't you find something important to ask about?" was one of the choices. That didn't come from Edwards. It's like polling the block about your neighbor's new haircut.

If it's fair it's fair, but this still begs a couple of questions: can't you ask about the decision the way, say, a normal human being would, instead of in a way designed to prove your journalistic credentials to people who hate John Edwards because he's a) a Democrat; b) a Democrat and a lawyer; or c) a Democrat, a lawyer, and a Presidential candidate? I mean, what the hell did John and Elizabeth Edwards ever do besides being hated by Coulter and Limbaugh, which is about as difficult, and as meaningful, as making a sock smell bad? The Edwardeses were treated with less civility than a Largely Unfunny Comedian Who'd Grabbed Her Crotch and Spit While Shrieking The National Anthem In Public. Because, presumably, someone who has a career to salvage after a bout of televised boorishness will be totally honest with the public, whereas people with cancer are always lyin' just to get sympathy. If it's fair it's fair. Just shaddup about fuckin' Bush Hatred, and Civility, and let's start treating everybody this way and not just the undeserving.

Monday, March 26

Or Maybe I Dreamed It

What with the Spring plowing and the Spring planting and the Spring vacuuming up several hundred gallons of water in the basement--twice--I'm not quite sure whether I lost interest in or consciousness of the UCLA-Kansas game first, but I fell asleep sometime around when it stopped being competitive. When I woke up and figured out where I was CBS' 48 Hours was just starting and I decided to watch, or I decided to remain inert, or both.

I'm not an expert, but I seem to recall that CBS' 48 Hours started life as a news program. It is now Yet Another True Crime show, a sort of Forensics Files with that special CBS News Rather and Post-Rather touch that makes even the most serious story sound like it was put together by the Mall of America Promotional Kiosk Video Team with lead weights in their saddlebags. This might properly be termed the Lesley Stahl Effect. Stahl's had one prominent spot or other at the Tiffany Network for thirty years now, and if you can name something memorable she's done kindly leave it in comments and include at least two citations. She came along just as the brass at CBS News was doing a lot of soul-searching over complaints from the Right about Liberal bias. I kid, I kid. They were worried about the rags-to-riches ratings-grabbers at ABC, whose Atlas-Rocket-esque rise had been fueled in equal measure by Ur-FAUX News reportage and hiring a Million-Dollar Anchor who spoke like she had a mouthful of Slushee™. Stahl was White House reporter during the Carter and Reagan administrations, and she reported every last motherfucking decision of the former as though she was absolutely convinced Carter was a Dirty Commie double-agent but she didn't have quite enough evidence to go on air with the story. (I've come to realize only in the past few years that her sources must have included, perhaps even been limited to, Chris Matthews and Pat Caudell. In fact, she reported every story as if Caudell's polling ran the joint.)

She spent the Reagan years crowded onto his lap with the rest of the Press, cooing about how surprisingly dark his hair remained for a man his age. I swear I'm only exaggerating this a little. I wish they'd bring it all out on DVD.

Anyway, CBS' 48 Hours covered the 1969 murder of Jane Mixer. (It was a repeat of a show first aired in November 2005.) Mixer was a first-year law student at Michigan who was headed home to Muskegon for Spring Break. Instead she was found the next morning shot twice in the head and left in a remote cemetery. She'd apparently scored a ride via a campus ride board, but the young man, who was appearing in a play that night, didn't know anything about it or her. I say "apparently" because this is one of those areas where either CBS wasn't interested in the whole story or I fell back asleep for a minute because a piece of evidence--perhaps the only non-DNA evidence--which ultimately helped convict someone just sorta got left out of the story.

At the time Jane Mixer's murder got lumped in with the murders of several other young women, two in the two years previous, four more in the next four months, which came to be known in TIME-ese as "The Rainy Day Murders". A suspect was caught and convicted of the seventh. The murders stopped. So did the active investigation of the other six.

Jump forward to the Oughts, and someone--CBS "apparently" credits Detective Eric Schroeder--starts looking into the case again. Mixer's murder did not really fit the MO of the later crimes. They send out for testing non-specific DNA from her pantyhose, a towel that had been placed under her head, and a stocking that had been knotted around her neck. They also have a blood sample taken from the back of her hand. When the results came back they were in for a shock, and we'll have that story right after these messages.

Sorry. The non-specific DNA matches a 62-year-old former nurse and Navy vet named Gary Leiterman. Leiterman was in the system because he'd been caught forging a prescription for painkillers he'd gotten hooked on when he had kidney stones. Leiterman had a wife and family, and had never been in trouble otherwise. In 1969 he'd been living about twenty miles from Ann Arbor. He said he never knew Jane Mixer and didn't kill her. He was charged with first-degree murder.

The blood was another story. It came back as a match for a convicted murderer named John Ruelas. We don't know whether Ruelas has an alibi for the night of the murder; nobody seems to have asked him, since he was four-and-a-half years old at the time. The Leiterman and Ruelas cases were processed at that lab at the same time.

And yet prosecutors and the lab manager insisted there was absolutely no possibility of contamination. The prosecutor, Steven Hiller, actually told CBS on camera that the blood results meant that it was four-year-old John Ruelas' blood on Jane Mixer's hand that ugly morning.

And a jury of twelve of his peers convicted Gary Leiterman of murder. Life, no parole.

Okay, the jury heard a lot more evidence than 48 Hours' viewers were ever going to, including--if the information I found elsewhere can be believed--that there was a note found regarding the ride arrangements which was identified as being in Gary Leiterman's handwriting. I haven't gotten around to tracking this down yet. There was no information about where the note was found, or when, or its provenance. But I do know that handwriting analysis belongs somewhere between Aromatherapy and the reading of bird entrails in a court of law, and probably much closer to the latter. Remember the note novella in the JónBénét Rámséy case? Three goddam pages, and an army of handwriting analysts with access to every scrap of paper Patséy Ramsey ever scribbled on, and the most they could do was not rule her in or out. For cryin' out loud. If you happen to live in a state where these patent medicines can be sold at the Bar and on the record, and you find yourself an innocent man in the dock, just smuggle in a gun and start blasting. It's your best chance.

I have no idea whether Gary Leiterman is innocent or guilty, but I do know that any reasonable juror should have discounted the lab work and any reasonable legal system would have tossed it out before it reached that point. And that's assuming the 35-year chain of evidence had every link intact, and it's assuming we believe that 35-year-old evidence was, in four instances, still identifiable, however bizarrely. There's no reasonable doubt about this?

And Gary Leiterman has already lost one appeal.

I think we come full circle here. Juries have always been capable of questionable decisions, and there's generally a built-in bias toward law enforcement and a credulity toward the charismatic panoply of modern professional power*. And that's in much the same way that CBS decided, several decades ago now, that truth was best defined according to what a sizable portion of the population would like it to be, so long as such blandishments adopted the form of professional news reporting.

*Jonathan Miller

Saturday, March 24

Today in Comedy History

1953: Birth of funnyman Louie Anderson

2004: Classic George W. Bush "Where's the WMDs?" routine at Radio and Television News Correspondents Association Dinner leaves 'em rolling. No, really.

Friday, March 23

Jesus Wept

Peggy Noonan, "They Saved Reagan's Brain" " A Cure for Political Depression." OJ, March 23

You had to know that Time cover would set Peggers off like a cheap car alarm. They didn't have a cover of FDR weeping over Kennedy's tax cuts! she wails, to which we can only reply, "Yes, Peggy. Because back then somehow people seemed, I dunno, sane may be the right word."

I grant you, I was still in kneepants when he was shot, more interested in baseball than marginal tax rates--not that that's changed any--and almost all of my recollections of Kennedy in the media revolve around Mad Magazine, which my older cousins had introduced me to in the Spring of '62. Still, Peg, I have to say that, then or since, this is the first time I've ever heard someone trying to make the case that the long-lamented Camelot was some sort of betrayal of the New Deal. If I didn't know better I might suspect it was the first thing that popped into your head in response to that Weepy Ronnie cover.

There wasn't any cover of JFK shedding hot tears over pot-smoking hippies wearing McGovern buttons! Now, this one I do remember. You're absolutely right. No one ever mentioned Hippieds, the defeat of George McGovern, and a possible link to falling Democratic prospects. Not until now. Not until you.
Could I be correct that they only front-page weeping Republicans, and only laud conservatives when they're dead?

Could I be correct in imagining that "front-page" is not a verb? And fer cryin' out loud--Time never lauded Reagan before he died? Are you crazy?
Actually it was a good piece in that it suggested a simple truth: The portion of the Republican Party that is based in and lives off the American capital has lost its way.

Which is why you spent the first 10% of your column complaining about the cover.
They used to stand for conservative principles and now they stand for--well, whatever it is they stand for. I've written the past few years that the modern Democratic Party has been undone in part by its successes, that it achieved what it worked for in terms of Social Security, the safety net and civil rights, and that a great coalition has now devolved into a mere conglomeration of interest groups. I don't see why Time shouldn't similarly indict the Republicans.

I think many of us would agree both parties seem like exhausted little volcanoes, and that they are driven more by hunger than belief.

Let us try to behave like experienced woodsmen and not lost and homesick Boy Scouts stumbling through the pines. Let's calmly back out of here the way we came in and see if we can figure out where we went wrong. Roosevelt as a tax-raising automaton? These are the sort of Sunday School tales where Reagan's one-man-against-the-mob heroism resides. FDR was elected in the teeth of the Great Depression. 1932 was the nadir. GNP fell 13.4%. Unemployment was over 22%. Farm prices had fallen by 52% since the crash. We can actually go on like this for the next couple of days. Hoover, belatedly, has raised the top tax bracket from 25% to 63%. He's soundly defeated. What is Roosevelt expected to do? GNP is down almost one-third since 1929. Tax rates have already been increased, and he's just been elected to cure the nation's ills.

Wait. Before we answer, let's consider Reagan, who is elected in 1980 after campaigning for sixteen years. Reagan's bête noir in all that time was the National Debt, deficit spending, and the growth of government. That he in fact left office having seen all three increase drastically is well enough known that hagiographers like Nooner must actively ignore it. But here's a little matter she may not know:

Despite the fact that he took office with a GNP in near-freefall, while Reagan assumed office (as a budget cutter) just as we came out of a recession, the only time Franklin Roosevelt ran greater deficits (as a percentage of GNP) than Reagan was during WWII.

Yet somehow in Peggy's world FDR is supposed to grace Time's cover weeping over a totally unrelated tax decrease in the 1960s. What then of Tax Cuttin' Two-Gun Ronnie, who in fact raised taxes in 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 (and presided over the largest state tax increase in history)? Maybe he should be on the cover gouging his own eyes out.

Oh, I almost forgot:
He increased our security by increasing our strength and removing from the historical stage an evil ideology that had become an evil empire. "The Soviet Union fell." It didn't fall, somebody pushed it.

Yes, single-handedly, Ronald Reagan's batshit insane spending* bankrupted the Soviet Union. The same Soviet Union that US analysts had realized in the early 70s was on the verge of it. This is the tune people like Noonan whistle while marching past those record deficits. It's a wonder you can find anywhere to walk anymore without stepping in batshit. I really imagined that after that Colbert smackdown ("Who really won the Cold War: Reagan or John-Paul II?") Peggy might put this one away for good, or at least start watching where she was plodding.

Of course Reagan-fluffing has been such a commonplace of the modern junk culture for so long that it, like weekend Elvis Movie Marathons and breathless obsessions with mouth-breathing (now or formerly) blonde "celebrities", mostly serves to remind the middle-class curmudgeon that "Hermit" was once a viable career path. It is now nearly impossible for the old to convince the young that we could have avoided this rank garden altogether, that it is not some well-sited organic plot long on sun and carefully measured of manure.

And Noonan, as you already know, has tilled that soil for thirty years and harvested nothing but turds:
Reagan should be an inspiration for every person in politics who stands for something at a cost and because it is right.

But he should inspire, he shouldn't demoralize. Republicans should stop allowing the media to spook them with his memory. Democrats should stop resenting him and dreaming up new reasons behind his success.

Pfffft. Ronald Reagan didn't pay a cost, and he did damn precious little standing for anything. He is precisely that point where American politics stopped paying attention to either principles or results and started Braking for Unicorns. He was a hired pitchman for Western real estate interests (it was William French Smith and Ed Meese, not Hollywood, which made Reagan wealthy enough to mount that permanent presidential campaign). He was a rallying point for people who felt aggrieved by Dirty Hippies and Free Negroes, and he happened to reach the Presidency just as America was trying to wish away the cold and ugly facts about itself the Sixties had brought to light and to insist it would continue playing Post-War King of the Hill forever. He's the dysfunctional Family Values man, the liberator of concentration camps in Beverly Hills, the genial benefactor of genocidal "freedom fighters". If the old fraud had the opportunity to shed a tear over what the Republican party has accomplished in his wake it would be in self-recognition, the avoidance of which is, like, the Republican Twelfth Commandment.

A victim of success? Where, dear Peggy, is the Reagan "conservative" legacy outside the Soviet heroic-realist statuary in your head? In disastrous federal deficits? In the ability of a next generation of charlatans to get elected promising smaller government without bothering to mention they'd make it so by looting whatever wasn't bolted to the floor? In the idea that "Tear Down This Wall" was some sort of magic incantation which would transform the Middle East? Reagan's a hero because you say he is. Let us remember you were saying the same thing about George W. Bush just eighteen months ago. Jesus wept then, too.

* I sure don't mean in any of this to suggest that Reagan did not have help, including some overt aid and a lot of mere cowardly retreating from a nominally Democratic Congress.

Wednesday, March 21

How Many Different Ways Is It Possible To Be Wrong With The Same Idea?

Via Roy, where my comment seems to have disappeared, we bump into Dr. Mrs. Ole Perfesser again:
Bumper Stickers--Personality Warning Signals?

Do you ever wonder at the bumper stickers people have on their cars and feel thankful that you have been warned about their thinking processes in advance? Yesterday, at the bank, the car in front of me had the tired old 60's bumper sticker slogan, "It will be a great day when our schools get all the money they need and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy a bomber." This bumper sticker owner looked exactly like you would expect a guy like that should look, long hair, young (of course, older boomers love these slogans also) and idealistic.

I wondered if he had ever thought through the gist of the bumper sticker or had ever read Jay Greene's book, Education Myths: What Special-Interest Groups Want You to Believe About Our Schools and Why it Isn't So. Greene points out that "despite nonstop whining to the contrary, the truth is that public schools receive a fairly large amount of money for each child. And that amount has been rising steadily for the last few decades, easily exceeding the dollars spent on defense." But idealistic guy probably doesn't give a damn about this fact and drives around feeling superior that he is an educated twit whose freedom is preserved by the very Air Force he belittles on his bumper sticker.

Like the recalcitrant mule the man was cursing at a crossroads, that bumper sticker is never going to learn your language, so if you want to argue you need to learn his. That defenseless, if strongly adhesive, little fellow has two factual claims to make: one, that schools do not have all the money they need, and two, that the Air Force acquires bombers without resorting to neighborhood fundraisers. There is, further, the expression that, were both situations reversed (presumably by taking money from the one and giving it to the latter, though this is not made explicit) it would be a great day. We quickly note--we do not intend to teach reading comprehension--that our braying bumper buddy is expressing a hope that bombers would, in the shiny future, be unnecessary, since the alternative explanation, a 100% Democratic Congress which unilaterally disarms the US, is probably just a pipe dream.

So what can we say about this? I'm willing to risk the suggestion of near-unanimous agreement that US Air Force procurement procedures do not involve bartering or baked goods, though with this crowd you can never be too sure. I suppose it is hopeless to expect that the expressed opinion, how great that day would be if it were to dawn, would meet with a possible rebuttal rising above "educated twit." Which leaves us with the question of schools getting all the money they need. This could be answered by inviting all concerned parties to the cafeteria for a 20-minute lunch of hot dogs, tater tots, and raisin surprise--plus loads of body-building GOP Brand ketchup--but frankly, my stomach isn't in it.

And in fact we are willing to admit a scintilla of doubt that the anti-union propagandist for a right-wing think tank (who speaks of his opponents as "special-interest groups"!) and the founder and President of the Tennessee Valley Facile Libertarian Blogads Travel Club have much interest in competing facts, so we offer a simple thought experiment: let's see them run their children's schools for ten years on the smallest budgets in the nation. Just that. They don't even have to admit all comers, or non-English speakers, or provide for every special-needs child born in the district. Then I'll believe they really think money doesn't matter to education.

Now let's look at the opposite side of the slug. Although this was not what the car bumper was saying, is it germane to the argument that school spending "easily exceed[s] the dollars spent on defense"? And before the swifter among you reply, "Bite me," let's add one small but juicy tidbit:

It ain't true.

At least, it hasn't been true since ignorance and gullibility teamed up to build a golden skyway to Baghdad. Let's take FY 2006, the most recent year for which anything approaching As Much As We'll Ever Know is known. The Department of Education estimate for public education spending, K-12, is $536 B. To say--as the DoEd also does, by the way--that this "exceeds spending on national defense" is pure bullshit. The official Defense Department budget is $450 B. That doesn't include the cost of our minor skirmishes in Iraq and Afghanistan ($120 B). Bingo! We already have a winner, and it ain't Dr. Helen's research technique. But, of course, that is hardly the sum total of our "defense spending", even if we could guess at the black ops portion: there's military aid to foreign countries, nuclear weapons (in the Energy budget), Homeland Security ($41 B), Veterans benefits, and another $250 B plus in payments on debt for previous military expenditures.

To be fair, the Greene quote is from early 2003. He could still be seen workin' that damned bumper sticker last summer, but the claim seems to have disappeared. Not so with Doc Helen, or the Bush DoEd, though.

So how exactly do you get a post-graduate degree in psychology without the ability to read critically? "You should read x" is not an argument accepted in a high school debate program. Forget the predisposition to agreement--how does the good Doctor permit herself to be seen as so sloppy?

Finally--like the fat woman of the late, great Robin Harris' acquaintance, we're not full, it's just that our arms are giving out--there is that Air Force which "preserves our freedom". It's the low-manpower, Big Ticket branch (the latter in competition with the Navy). Its current posterboy, the B-2 "Stealth", was a $44.3 B program which produced planes at a cost overrun of nearly five times, required ten years to do so, and produced 21 aircraft instead of the originally planned 133 (for $58.2 B). This leaves aside the list of operational problems as long as your arm, assuming you're an orangutan, and the fact that its vaunted radar-invisibility has never really been established. Its predecessor, the B-1, came in at over three times the original estimate, as was so dumbed-down in the development process it couldn't carry enough fuel to fly at supersonic speeds with a bomb load. These are the folks who spent a billion of our 1950s dollars in a futile attempt to develop an atomic airplane, because intelligence sources claimed the Soviets had already done so, and who stockpiled half-million-dollar artillery shells in the 1960s before realizing that they couldn't protect them overseas or use them without starting a nuclear war. When public education starts getting away with those sorts of shenanigans, I'm sure you and Mr. Greene will let us know.

In the meantime, the present-day Air Force serves very little in the way of a "defensive" function, apart from transport; it's the offensive threat wing, and as we've seen clearly in our struggles against tenth-rate military forces with no air components whatever, it's not much of that. The enormous cost-efficiency ratio of air power has been well-known since the Second World War, but political leaders like it since it produces few friendly casualties and almost no body bags. It's just damned curious that the same people who insist that extra money doesn't affect education think unlimited military spending makes us safer.

Tuesday, March 20

Happy Birthday

Jonathan Myrick Daniels
March 20, 1939--August 20, 1965

Another Double (Down)

Christopher Hitchens, "So, Mr. Hitchens, Weren't You Wrong About Iraq?" Slate March 19

I started off with every intention of writing about this thing, subtitled "Hard Questions, Four Years Later", though in fact "Hitchens Acts As His Own Straight Man" would have been more like it. Before the first Hard Question he's already morphed the thing into a re-examination of his and his neocon buddies' justifications for war. Guess whether he still finds them justified. (Has the tiresome refrain about "Even the French and Germans Believed There Were WMDs" now, in March of Oh Seven, suddenly grown a point? Are spy agencies always truthful? Always correct? In the habit of understating threats?) By question four "Inspected" turns up in scare quotes. Hard Questions? You're taking the same damn exam you took four years ago.

Still, I intended to rebut a couple of points. That was before I came to this:
The Bush administration never claimed that Iraq had any hand in the events of Sept. 11, 2001.

So either Hitchens is the hair shirt Slate has assigned itself to wear for its pro-war coverage or he's become for them what Germany and France are to WMDs, the "See, Even He Thought So!" guy. Either way, I couldn't care less. It's flotsam. The convenient re-writing of the unpleasant Past is a much bigger problem now; Hitch's memoirs can be safely assigned to the Nostalgia section.

Monday, March 19

Happy Anniversary

Seems to me that this is the perfect occasion to launch a new campaign. It's time to tell your Congressperson We Want Our Victory Parade!

The last Congress already allocated $20 Million, which seems laughably small when you compare it to the amount of currency we can just plain lose in the course of a few hours. I know, I know, some sticklers for detail will point out that we haven't actually achieved victory in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would answer that in these with these conflicts, and this administration, it seems particularly appropriate that the celebration of victory and the actual achievement of anything remotely resembling one be two separate, even wildly disparate, matters.

Need I remind everyone of the delicate psyche of the US service personnel? The thoughtless whisper of a Congressman 8000 miles away suggesting we reconsider military appropriations sends morale into a dangerous tailspin. Remember all those psycho Vietnam Vets on all those teevee shows in the 70s and 80s? They never got a parade!

We will, of course, need to make this an annual event, in order to make sure no one feels left out, so I think it's high time we appointed a Memorial Commission so there'll be some place to rally before the parade begins. And not one of your post-modern monstrosities like The Wall, which caused so much controversy before we all agreed it was just too depressing and refused to build it. No, something Classical, with columns and metopes and atlantes and caryatids and plinths. Lots of plinths. I'm a big fan.

The only problem I see is whittling down the hundreds of inscription-worthy administration statements: "Bring It On." "I Doubt Six Months." "A Few Dead Enders." "The Insurgency Is In Its Last Throes." "They’re In the Area Around Tikrit and Baghdad and East, West, South and North Somewhat." "A Slam-Dunk Case." "We Have Found the Weapons of Mass Distruction." "We Never Said 'Imminent Threat'." So many to choose from. And the friezes! The heroic filming of the staged rescue of Pvt. Jessica Lynch! The heroic framing of the crowd scene at the Saddam statue-toppling! Our brave defense of the Iraq Oil Ministry building while all around everything that could be picked up was being looted! The mess-hall battle for the bigger of the two drumsticks Bush was holding! The even bigger battle when they turned out to be plastic!

Yes, we're gonna need a really big monument to fully memorialize this one.

(Full disclosure: my family owns limestone quarries, but I'm sure they're willing to let Halliburton act as intermediary if that'll speed things along.)

Friday, March 16

That'll Learn 'Em

Thought I might share with you some highlights from the seven pages of recomendations (omitting the three for elementary and middle schools) for the new dress code school uniforms mandated attire for Indianapolis Public School students in grades 9-12, beginning next fall. By the way, the switch from "school uniform" to "mandated attire" as a descriptor is just one of the accomplishments of the Dress Code Task Force, and may give some insight as to why such a thing would require a quarter-pound of paper as opposed, say, to two paragraphs. This is the very reason why the committee system can't be improved upon when ass-kissing, rubber-stamping, and thinking muddled beyond the capabilities of most individuals acting alone are the order of the day.

First, a word about the provenance of the proposal, which will now go to the School Board for approval: the Superintendent appointed the Dress Code Task Force (you're forgiven for thinking I made the name up) then handed them two proposals for comment and totalitarian embellishment. The proposals were a) require school uniforms; or b) require school uniforms in a different color. You're forgiven for imagining that was me making a little joke. The actual distinction between the two was that the second, which held sway, allows high school students to wear their school colors. Wolverines!

This is a part of an ongoing process in American public education to raise public awareness and respect for school administrators to the level now occupied by celebrity chefs. IPS also hopes to gain national recognition as a leader among urban school districts in addressing the concerns about public schools raised by white suburban parents who are less likely to send their own children to one than be seen driving a subcompact car. That's the wind-up; here's the pitch:

Pants and/or shorts (males): solid navy, black, or khaki. Shorts must be limited to 2" above the knee. Fastened at the waist, with a belt set at or above the hip. No blue jeans or denim. Females get to add Capri pants and skirts.

Shirts and blouses: with collars, in school colors. No logos other than school logo. Tucked into pants at all times.

Sweaters, sweater vests: school colors. No hoods.

Shoes: white, black, or blue gym shoes. White, black, blue, or brown dress shoes. Females can wear heels. Heels may not have open backs. Shoelaces must match.

Belts: solid black, blue, or brown. No logos.

Socks or tights: solid white, blue, black, or brown.

T-shirts worn under school attire must be solid white.

Girls' undergarments must be solid white.

Quote: Handbags, purses, pocketbooks, and similar items must be no larger than 8.5 x 11 inches (size of a regular sheet of notebook paper), 3 to 4 inches thick and must not be large enough to contain a regular size textbook.

Had enough? Because after all that there's a full page (8.5 x 11, size of a regular sheet of notebook paper) listing restricted attire, as though the three previous pages of Hitler Youth fashion hints weren't specific enough. (Samples: no hats, no over-sized pants or shirts, no cargo-style pants, no sweats, nylon, spandex, tight fits, ruffles, tank tops, tube tops, shiny materials, leggings, sandals, hair rollers, combs, picks, pouches, scarves, do-rags, bandanas, sweatbands, sleeve garters, spats, bustles, or mustache wax. I made the last four up, but I'm considering writing in to demand their inclusion. I once failed an alegebra quiz when a Barbershop Quartet turned up in the hall during the expansion of a particularly tricky binomial.)

There's a note at the end of that list, which says that "approval for certain religious customs are permitted by approval of the school administration, i.e. Muslim female head coverings, Jewish male head covering." Which suggests, first of all, that either Mennonites, e.g., aren't welcome at IPS, or they are welcome but their religious customs aren't, or somebody there doesn't know the difference between "i.e." and "e.g." And the whole thing suggests just what level this martinet self-promotion scheme has reached--go ahead, try kicking a kid out of school because his religious attire wasn't pre-approved.

And that matter actually gets funnier (both "ha-ha" funny and "gee this milk tastes" funny) after a quick page-long explanation of what disciplinary action will be taken, or at least considered, for the first five offenses. That's where we run into the outline of the procedure for a parent or guardian to request a waver of the "IPS Student Uniform Dress Policy" (the section was obviously prepared before the Task Force finalized its Resolution of Committee Thoughts on Nominalization). A waver may be requested on religious, philosophical, or medical grounds. Philosophical grounds. I love that. Who's excused, do you suppose? Sceptics? Nihilists, sophists, existentialists? Nudists? They are required--this really tells you all you need to know--to contact the school to request an Application for Exemption from Uniform Dress Policy form.

Is there some point to this exercise? Getting on the front page and looking like you're Doing Something about amorphous complaints against public schools spring immediately to mind, but the value to students and/or the educational process escapes me. Of course all the supposed benefits of a draconian dress code have been trotted out: an end to fashion competition, indecent or disruptive clothing, the positive effects of randomly-applied discipline, the fact that school is work, the important role soul-crushing conformity will play in our children's economic future. The benefit to the district's administration of injecting a little private religious-school-esque close-order drill into the headlines generally gets left out.

So let me briefly introduce you to the Super, Dr. Eugene White, a rumbling baritone of a man with a church Elder mien and a reputation for being tough on African-Americans. He returned to IPS a couple years ago after several years at the helm of the wealthiest district in the county--my own district, as it happens--where he was noted for a yearly yanking of every high school-aged African American male into an assembly for the purpose of reading them the riot act. This did not always sit well with some parents, but garnered lots of praise in the headlines and among that subset of the white population which thinks that subset of the colored population that actually interacts with whites is the font of all societal ills.

So, Dr. White, you can consider this my philosophical application for a philosophical exemption. Schools ought to foster creativity and individuality the same as responsibility and respect. You can't trumpet diversity one minute and the importance of trivial conformity the next. You can't warn homeschoolers that their children will suffer from lack of socialization, and then tell your own students what color underwear they're permitted. It can't possibly take seven single-spaced pages, rubber-stamp Task Forces, and two #10 cans of flummery to keep midriffs covered and asses inside of pants. You've been a educator for four decades, sir. If school uniforms were the answer why didn't you just decree them two years ago and move on to education?

Thursday, March 15

Dry Your Eyes, My Little Friend

Monday I'm driving home with Sparky in the truck bed and the CD ends and I'm just a couple miles from home so I hit the button for the radio and catch the last five minutes of Fresh Air, and it's the guy who wrote the cover story about Neurolaw in the Sunday Times Magazine, and he pisses me off in about forty-five seconds. He's talking about taking part in these studies pinpointing where certain activities are located in the brain, and he's a bit too gung-ho about it for my tastes to begin with. And then he says something like this (which I'm cribbing from the article):
Two companies, No Lie MRI and Cephos, are now competing to refine f.M.R.I. lie-detection technology so that it can be admitted in court and commercially marketed. I talked to Steven Laken, the president of Cephos, which plans to begin selling its products this year....“In lab studies, we’ve been in the 80- to 90-percent-accuracy range,” Laken says. This is similar to the accuracy rate for polygraphs, which are not considered sufficiently reliable to be allowed in most legal cases. Laken says he hopes to reach the 90-percent- to 95-percent-accuracy range — which should be high enough to satisfy the Supreme Court’s standards for the admission of scientific evidence. Judy Illes, director of Neuroethics at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, says, “I would predict that within five years, we will have technology that is sufficiently reliable at getting at the binary question of whether someone is lying that it may be utilized in certain legal settings.”

Now, first of all, let me assure you that thirty years ago people were saying exactly the same thing about the polygraph. "In the hands of the right operator it's 98% accurate". "In a few years it will be admissible in court." The world is not likely to run short of people who admire the reason-like efficiency of the standard fascist model anytime soon.

And second, let me ask the first question that pops into my head, and you guys tell me if you've already thought of it. Okay? Here:

What the fuck should we do about the pathological liars who make the laws in the first fuckin' place?

Okay, okay. We can and should expect anything whatsoever from people determined that making more money for themselves is the highest order of human achievement. It'd be nice to read some future-is-just-around-the-corner piece that suggested some new electrical gadget we could stick them into.

And yeah, sure, research is research, as Doc Mengele used to say. If it doesn't happen here it'll happen in Korea or France or Lumbago, and, anyway, you don't ever know where these things lead. Maybe it will serve to rationalize laws, spur economic justice, remove Bronze Age belief systems and the wars that follow them around. Sure.

But what I see is how it's being sold. And it's not being sold to you, dear reader, although in the five minutes I heard Mr. Rosen was being a little cagey on that point, talking about using fMRI to back divorce case contentions. It's not divorce court claimants who'll benefit, despite the Era of Universal Bliss that would undoubtedly usher in. It's governments. It's lawyers. It's multinational corporations. It's the people for whom sticking a probe in you and shutting you into a box is all in a day's work.

The article actually frets a bit about how the technology might make us less likely to execute people:
To suggest that criminals could be excused because their brains made them do it seems to imply that anyone whose brain isn’t functioning properly could be absolved of responsibility. But should judges and juries really be in the business of defining the normal or properly working brain? And since all behavior is caused by our brains, wouldn’t this mean all behavior could potentially be excused?

Oh, well, we can always fix it in software.

Is the impetus to do away with civil rights not moving quickly enough? Is waterboarding too messy, too "controversial", too first decade of the 21st century? Or is it just that the materials are too cheap and readily available?

Don't you have anything better to do? Isn't global climate change, the threat of nuclear annihilation, unaffordable health care, contaminated food supplies, wars, plagues, earthquakes, and the exploitation of children enough for you to chew on, or at least enough to give you pause? Could you at the very least try doing something about people who find fart jokes endlessly entertaining? Demonstrate some small amount of expertise, then work up from there? I mean, the track record of psychiatry is not exactly all that great. Mussolini has you beat by a train schedule, and Alabama actually stopped enslaving people before you did.

It's a prime example of what Jonathan Miller once called "the charismatic panoply of modern professional power". It's the Holy Grail. the Little Chromium Switch Here that controls everything, so long as the interpretation of its secrets remains safely in the hands of our vaunted government scientists.

"C'mon, Mr. Luddite," I hear you say--and I do, too--"get yourself a cell phone, download some ringtones, and plug into the 21st century for what little part of it you have left. Surely you admit to scientific progress? Right? They're discovering how your brain operates, where you process information, what the difference is between authentic and false memories. We're goin' back to the Moon, we're gonna make ourselves a bunch of perfectly spherical ball bearings, and there's a rainbow party at eight."

Okay, okay. The future can take care of itself. This isn't Colossus: The Forbin Project, nor even A Clockwork Orange. What disturbs me is that in the midst of the Bush administration we can still gleefully imagine that if we just give the government enough information it will protect us from terrorism, mendacious spouses, and bicycle thieves, let alone how a generation removed from Birmingham and Selma we can insist that The Law can be trusted to be impartial. Truth is binary only when we drastically restrict the conditions under which we observe it.

As for psychiatry, well, remember on Star Trek when Bones McCoy would get a snootful of Xendorkian brandy or somesuch, and start wailing how "in the 20th Century they actually cut people open! Like Proterian butchers!"? Just remembering back a few decades is all I'm askin'.

Wednesday, March 14

And Which, According to the Ombudsmen of the Times and the Post, Means They Must Be Doing Something Right

Our Buddha broke this winter. I'm sure I'm not the only person who finds this amusing, in a cosmic sort of way, but my Poor Wife was upset, since in the two years it had graced our yard he had become an almost religious figure for her.

She noticed the crack a couple weeks ago. The little bed for which he was a focal point or, as they now say on HGTV a focus, was to be remade this year, and when I tried my gingerly-est to lift him out he fell apart at the fourth, or Nirmana, chakra. We brought him indoors to dry out, with hopes of a cosmetic repair job, but I was less optimistic than I let on and ran off and bought Sparky, above, the gargoyle we'd admired last year but decided was too expensive. He looked right at home immediately.

(I was curious, there, whether one could ginger as a transitive verb, and I find that it is indeed possible assuming one wants to make a horse appear more lively by putting ginger in his anus. This is of no immediate use to me, but it does reinforce the idea that if you find yourself standing with a dairy farmer and a horsey type and you need to have one of them hold your wallet for a moment the choice is, as they say on HGTV, a no-brainer.)

Anyhow, physical labor season is upon us and I just have time to say I watched Smilin' Al Gonzales yesterday. And it's not the mendacity as such that surprised me--I have noted on more than one occasion that practicing law in Texas should actually disqualify you from Constitutional law, the way you can't plug in your alarm clock in Paris--but what a terrible liar the man is. He doesn't even reach the pathetic standard of the lyin' politician, that is, to at least look as though someone told you this would be a good lie.

And so it occurred to me that the Bush administration has now managed to shock the Right by proving you could exhaust an inexhaustible military and lose a war with an invincible force, and it has shocked the Left, which has long considered Bush capable of anything, by running out of Liars. And that, as they say at Powerline, is pure genius.

Tuesday, March 13

America: Proudly Facing Whatever Portion Of Its Moral Quandries It Chooses Not To Ignore Since 1981!

Joyce Purnick, Voters Accept Divorced Candidates, but They Have Limits." New York Times, March 11
ALREADY in this pre-presidential year, the question is out and about: How judgmental will the public be of candidates, how demanding of idealized personal lives and vintage family values?

Well, it's curious: the headline already answered that question. I'm sorry, the Moose should have told you!

But the thing that's really curious is how the matter is now up to the public to decide. Or, better put, the matter is again up to the public.

As always, I'm happy to accept the news judgment of seasoned journalistic professionals. You say the public had no interest in whether serial monogamist Ronald Wilson Reagan lived up to the old fashioned morality he claimed was a cure for everyone else's ills, and I believe it. An unexpected benefit of this non-interest was that when the 1981 release of Trivial Pursuit proved so popular the question about Nancy "Mommy" Reagan being knocked-up at the altar was just that much more competitive.

But this new, more flexible approach to the Inviolate Code of Marital Morality set down by an angry God did not include philandering, at least not in 1988 or '92. This is because of the well-known asterisk after "'Til Death Do You Part."

Customers who bought this explanation also bought

Ronald Reagan's devout Christianity
George W. Bush's youthful indiscretions
Some useful distinction between marriage vows and military obligations or sworn testimony by Republican officials, where applicable

Sorry, I just spotted the error. The New Moral Code did not permit philandering by Democrats; as I recall it the public suddenly lost interest in the subject when the question of George Herbert Walker Bush's fidelity to his lovin' Babs came up. The public is a bitch mistress, but she gets to decide. Major news outlets are just along for the ride.
[Is Rudy's personal track record as typified by Andrew Giuliani's recent interview a] problem? No, said David Garth, a political consultant who advised Mr. Giuliani when he ran for mayor. “The more trouble the country is in, the more you tend to overlook some of the personal things you may have looked at before,” he said.

That is one theory: The voting public, practiced survivors of Bill Clinton ’s transgressions and former Senator Gary Hart ’s career-wrecking dalliance with a young woman not his wife, is less likely to dismiss a candidate because of personal foibles today, especially if worried about war and security.

Well, I think we're all glad that's over with, especially at a time when the same people who who peddled the story for so many years now are the ones at risk of being eaten by it find the country in such dire straits. What's the other theory?
“This will be in a way a kind of test of where the values of the electorate stand,” said the historian Alan Brinkley of Columbia University . “There are not too many positions in America that Giuliani’s messy personal life would obstruct. But the presidency might still be one of them.”

"Anything that involves making change" might be another.
The most damaging aspect of Andrew Giuliani’s remarks could come down to his surely unintended role as a town crier. He clued the rest of the country into what has long been common knowledge back home — how the former mayor treated his second wife, Ms. Hanover. In a performance that astonished even jaded New Yorkers, Mr. Giuliani declared his intention to divorce her at a news conference, catching Ms. Hanover unawares.

On the other hand, after eight years of Bush administration news conferences, this may come to be seen as refreshingly ethical. After all, you decide.

Monday, March 12

Kids Today

David Brooks, "The Vanishing Neoliberal" Times, March 11.
While the old liberals could be earnest and self-righteous, the neoliberals were sprightly and lampooning. While the old liberals valued solidarity, the neoliberals loved to argue among themselves, showing off the rhetorical skills many had honed in Harvard dining halls.

Sigh. There's just nothing like a University of Chicago grad who's spent half a lifetime as a paid shill for the Ruling Class taking potshots at Hah-vahd snobbery.

Brooks' problem, it seems to me, is that every wrong impulse has been rewarded, over and above the ermine-lined right wing sinecure career path. He was sold young on the idea that Milton Friedman and Ronald Reagan were the glowing edge of a brighter future, the standard bearers of a New Ideal of Freedom, and an end to America's washday drudgery. One look should have been enough to assure someone who just woke up from a decade-long coma that this was fine aged USDA Prime bullshit. (Okay, Friedman's charming trollery could have been mistaken for pixieish, but Reagan was unmistakably a withered charlatan--and before he was through, the USDA would literally devalue Prime.) He got promoted to Chief Inmate at the Wall Street Journal Opinion Asylum, retired the trophy for Most Ingenious Working of "Edmund Burke" into a Weekly Standard piece (as it turns out, everyone got a trophy, just like Pee Wee baseball). Then fame came calling with his pop sociology books, despite the fact that there's little enough need for real sociology, and with the added bonus that it turned out the shit he made up was, somehow, more real than what the actual spade of research might have unearthed. And all was Golden. So like a bit-player baddie in an Indiana Jones flick, he imagines he can dazzle us with his scimitar display. But unlike Indy, we don't bother to shoot the man because he's so, well, laughable.
Neoliberals often have an air of perpetual youthfulness about them, but they are now in their 40s, 50s and even their 60s, and a younger generation of bloggers set off a backlash. If you surf the Web these days, for example, you find that a horde of thousands have declared war on the Time magazine columnist Joe Klein.

Cold steel slices the desert air...
Kevin Drum, who is actually older than most bloggers, says the difference is generational. Klein's mind-set, he says, was formed in the 1970s and 1980s, but "like most lefty bloggers, I only started following politics in a serious way in the late '90s." Drum says he's reacting to Ken Starr, the Florida ballot fight, the Bush tax cuts, the K Street Project and the war in Iraq. Drum and his cohort don't want a neoliberal movement that moderates and reforms. They want a Democratic Party that fights.

Sigh. Kevin's 48 (I just looked it up), which is older than most living creatures and ten years older than I would have guessed, which probably has less to do with those California surfer boy good looks than the fact that he didn't start paying attention to politics until he was forty. If he had maybe he wouldn't be making those "generational" cracks about someone little more than ten years older.

I assume the intervening paragraphs have given the reader time to recover from the idea of Joe Klein as a Neoliberal poster boy. (Brooks, who like most vertebrates is in fact younger than Kevin Drum, continually mentions The Web the way Johnny Carson used to do endless jokes about his VCR clock flashing "12:00". Does he imagine that his reader's eyes glaze over at the thought of daunting new technologies, giving him free rein to invent what Those Kids are up to?) But let's give Kevin a minute or two to catch up. (Kevin, I like you, really. I'm five years older than you. I've been following politics since the 60s. I'm reacting to the Cold War, the Red Scare, the Civil Rights Movement, the Pentagon Papers, the War on Drugs, President Nixon, Governor Reagan, the Equal Rights Amendment, President Reagan, and all that stuff you mentioned. I like to imagine it led me to enough wisdom to, say, oppose a hypothetical war you might not have seen the folly of so quickly. No offense. But Neoliberals are to the 70s and 80s what Grand Funk Railroad is to the 60s: talentless plonkers who jumped onto the first passing bandwagon in hopes of making a buck. Joe Klein is not the face of a failed, toothless liberalism. That's what we have Joe Biden for. Joe Klein is an ass.)

Sorry. Brooks' idea here...wait, do you ever see him on News Hour? The man has the soul of a third-grade tattletale, does he not? He can't hide it. He really thinks that there's a centrist core out there in Flyover Country somewhere that's perfectly represented by McCain and Lieberman, something those of us who actually live here could explain as the Default setting for people who pay no attention and couldn't care less. Brooks is absolutely in line with the supposed Neoliberal agenda; you can almost see a prissy little hand sneaking up to cover a case of giggles. Tee-hee hee, the Democrats are going all Leftist, like that far-out blogger Kevin Drum, and soon the real America will crush them under its Mighty Centrist Performance Sports Sandal (sandal manufactured in Indonesia).

Mr. Brooks, a customary graph (and a half) of incoherence to close, if you will?
Over all, what's happening is this: The left, which has the momentum, is growing more uniform and coming to look more like its old, pre-neoliberal self. The right is growing more fractious. And many of those who were semiaffiliated with one party or another are drifting off to independent-land. (The Economist, their magazine, now has over 500,000 American readers--more than all the major liberal magazines combined.) Neoliberalism had a good, interesting run--while it lasted.

Pah. Neoliberalism was a cynical attempt by youngish moderate Democrats to improve their own electability as the party ran in terror of The Gipper That Wouldn't Die. (Compare the various permutations of "Creation Science" and its long-term effects on what the unlettered call Reality.) It drifted along with the currents until it smashed to bits on the shoals of the Bush administration. The survivors who refuse to swim towards the shore on the grounds that People Who Were Right All Along are not to be trusted can alight on whatever magazine they happen upon; that big bright light overhead is still gonna raise blisters. And had the Democrats stood up to the excesses of the Reagan administration as they should have it would have sunk without a bubble and spared everybody fifteen years of mal de mer.

Sunday, March 11

And I Believe You're Lying

Thursday night I got caught in a History Channel retelling of Thermopylae. I happen to be a military history buff. I happen not to be someone who breathlessly scans the trailers looking for the next must-see Hollywood blockbuster. So it was only after the first segment, after the fifteen minutes the History Channel had given me of remarkably hot, remarkably metrosexual, remarkably Northern-European-looking Spartans was followed by commercial spots for 300 that I realized the latest installment of Clash of the Pectorals, this Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon cartoon with costumes by Tom of Finland I'd already been bored by in 30 second increments was, in fact, a "retelling" of Thermopylae. Oooh, pinch me, I'm dreaming.

And I had no idea that this cartoon actually started out life as a cartoon, until Tbogg and his readers introduced me to Frank Miller. Mr. Miller is said to be the author of the thing by those fearless or foolhardy enough to temp the gods of Meaning; personally, I think "loving sculptor of its abdominal crunchiness" works better. And Mr. Miller turns out to be something of a wingnut.

Okay, I'm not going to start. I'm a small-d democrat with small-c catholic tastes. But just because I don't blame all Christians for the excesses of a substantial majority or begrudge the theoretically well-adjusted sci-fi fan his leisure on the grounds of the rampant Spock-eared juvenalia in its wake it doesn't mean I don't think both groups should be setting aside some time each week to think about it in the privacy of their own homes, if not in print. As the Amy Sullivans need to confront the reality of James Dobson, et. al., so too should fans of the Space Western or Gladiator Epic metaphorically mud-wrestle Jonah Goldberg or Daffy Davy McHugh or that den Beste character, and meditate on the tender mercies we all require and some receive.

Anyhow, it turns out that NPR accorded Miller the Fifth Anniversary of 9/11 spot in its three-pounds-of-squish-in-a-leaking-paper-bag feature "This I Believe" (tip o' th' fedora to darrelplant) so he could--you'll never believe it!--rail at dirty hippies and their spiritual leader, the Maharishi Mahesh bin-Laden:
Morning Edition, September 11, 2006

I was just a boy in the 1960s. My adolescence wasn't infused with the civil rights struggle or the sexual revolution or the Vietnam War, but with their aftermath.

My high school teachers were ex-hippies and Vietnam vets. People who protested the war and people who served as soldiers. I was taught more about John Lennon than I was about Thomas Jefferson.

Both of my parents were World War II veterans. FDR-era patriots. And I was exactly the age to rebel against them.

It all fit together rather neatly. I could never stomach the flower-child twaddle of the '60s crowd and I was ready to believe that our flag was just an old piece of cloth and that patriotism was just some quaint relic, best left behind us.

It was all about the ideas. I schooled myself in the writings of Madison and Franklin and Adams and Jefferson. I came to love those noble, indestructible ideas. They were ideas, to my young mind, of rebellion and independence, not of idolatry.

Let's get the quibbling out of the way first. Miller was born on January 27, 1957, granting him an adolescence and post-adolescent schooling running from, roughly, 1968 through 1975. Or put another way, the Nixon years. "Aftermath"? No. "Math" in this instance is from the Old English for "mow". The aftermath was the second cropping of grass which grew after the harvest. That is, there has to have been time for a regrowth before the scythe came out again; "aftermath" is not a synonym for "in the wake of". This might be mere trivia, but the distinction is not: what Mr. Miller celebrates in himself here is backlash. "Lash" is from Middle English; its meaning has remained constant, and I suppose the reader is familiar enough with it in the context of Civil Rights.

We assume that Miller has simply appropriated the arguments of the following decade of wingnuts who would claim that by the time they got to school civil rights was a settled matter and reverse discrimination the public shame they struggled selflessly to subdue. And we don't buy it from them, either.

Our second quibble is that simple math--meaning, in this instance, "to actually go back and count"--is enough to suggest that Miller could not have found himself spending his high school years caught between ex-hippies and Vietnam vets, dodging a constant wall of hockers, no doubt. We had little more than one half-assed surge worth of troops in country before 1965. Tours were twelve months. You figure out how long it took a returning vet to become a teacher, and then how long it would take for them to actually capture an entire Maryland school district. Bear in mind just how popular "teacher" was as an occupational choice for men in those days.

Okay, so maybe Frank's high school was the last one-roomer in Maryland, and he was team-taught by a shell-shocked vet and Snowflake, his new Ol' Lady. Or maybe it's all bullshit. Take your pick. Meanwhile, I'm giving odds on Frank having studied US History and World History, alternating one year each, between fifth and six grade; one more year in junior high, plus a year of history/civics in high school, minimum, as a requirement of state law. I'm guessing John Lennon was an elective, and was more likely to have appeared as Bad Example #1 in the burgeoning anti-drug campaign than as homework in English lit.

(This is where we reverse our age-experiences, since I can attest that by 1972 school anti-drug programs had gone from the 40s-era, Reefer Madness films of my junior high years to all-school assemblies at which the filmed images of Sonny and Cher assured us we could remain just as hip as they were without goin' on the needle. Which was more laughable was a toss-up.)

So here's the verdict: you were not oppressed. You were not taught by half-mad ideologues. You were unfashionable, and maybe unpopular, difficult as that is to believe about a guy who doodled superheroes all the time. Tough toenails.

Try giving up your exaggerated sense of grievance for Lent!* We say it again: you are entitled to pat yourself on the back for resisting Fascism if you were a Spanish farmer or a German shopkeeper of the 1930s. Resisting tie-dye and muttonchops in the 1970s, well, not so much. And as we have not just said many times but effectively demonstrated (to our own exacting standards), you, Mr. Dewey-eyed Jeffersonian High School Graduate of 1975, and you, Miss I Wanna Be Bobby's Bouffant resistance fighter of the Wars of Sexual Liberation, you were not forced to copulate with Negroes or Dance the Peyote Dance or Let Your Freak Flag Fly as a condition of future employment. If you found the Sonny and Cher show too Dadaist and Donny and Marie just a bit flashy there was always Hee Haw and Lawrence Welk. Duke Wayne and Dirty Harry were packin' 'em in at the General Cinema. It was the Smothers Brothers who got booted off the air. It was the audacious Petula Clark who touched a black man and touched off a firestorm. The happy white people of Happy Days seemed to have escaped any cultural marching orders from the omnipotent Left.

We suggest, finally, that the more serious problem facing public education today is how we begin teaching people that the world isn't wired to their individual asses. Bully for you, Mr. Miller, and Huzzah! for reading beyond your high school requirements. We could name a new literacy medal after you, but then we'd have to revoke it after reviewing what you've done to other people's literacy since then. Grade schoolers learn about jolly Ben and the Kite; middle schoolers read the Declaration. High schoolers get the Constitution, maybe some of the Federalist papers, perhaps Jefferson's "Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom" or Franklin's Autobiography. What more, exactly, would you have them read? How does that escape idolatry? Since History, the most abysmally taught and most politicized public school subject, gets taught linearly, how much are you willing to chop off the end? The Reagan Revolution? Watergate? Vietnam, the Sexual Revolution, the Civil Rights Movement, the rise and fall of the 20th century Klan? Have I just answered my own question?

*Tom Hilton, with much thanks.

Friday, March 9

Current Events Lab

Ben Evans,
"Gingrich had affair during Clinton probe." AP, March 8

"The honest answer is yes," Gingrich, a potential 2008 Republican presidential candidate, said in an interview with Focus on the Family founder James Dobson to be aired Friday, according to a transcript provided to The Associated Press. "There are times that I have fallen short of my own standards. There's certainly times when I've fallen short of God's standards."

So What Did We Learn? That Gingrich's campaign, sorry, potential campaign staff learned that somebody had this. Can't be a Democrat--who would possibly care at this point? I'm lookin' at you, Mitt.

Alternately, maybe Dobson asks all his interviewees about their extramarital histories. I can't say, personally, since the only one I watch is his Pre-Oscar telecast.
Gingrich argued in the interview, however, that he should not be viewed as a hypocrite for pursuing Clinton's infidelity.

So What Did We Learn? That even after all these years, shorn of his ability to speak gobbledegook or racist codewords to the Sons of the Confederacy CPAC, Newt Gingrich could not successfully argue that rain falls down.
"The president of the United States got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting federal judge," the former Georgia congressman said of Clinton's 1998 House impeachment on perjury and obstruction of justice charges. "I drew a line in my mind that said, 'Even though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed, and even though at a purely personal level I am not rendering judgment on another human being, as a leader of the government trying to uphold the rule of law, I have no choice except to move forward and say that you cannot accept ... perjury in your highest officials."

So What Did We Learn? One, that there's still no USDA limit on the amount of partially-hydrogenated sludge you can add to a wire story. Two, that God still permits people to lie to Jim Dobson without bursting into flames.

How long do you suppose Newt has been practicing that one? "Got in trouble for committing a felony in front of a sitting judge." I've seen weasels that couldn't weasel that good. What Clinton did (god I'm tired of defending that man's penis, however many admirable qualities it has) was make a false statement in an affidavit ("in front of a sitting judge"--as I understand it, few of them actually chose to stand--implies that Clinton committed perjury on the witness stand, which he did not) in a case which was later dismissed. Clinton later--after the impeachment--pleaded guilty to contempt of court. Which is not a felony. In a matter that would not have been pursued in 99.999% of already mooted cases. Despite the practiced parsing Newt still oversteps, since he couldn't avoid saying "committed a felony" despite that "got in trouble for..." Clinton stood accused of a possible felony, the act he at least tacitly admitted to could have resulted in a felony charge, but he certainly did not "commit a felony" which was then pursued by the sad but duty-bound Gingrich.

And no, Mr. Evans, the statement could not "refer to" the impeachment charges, where "felony" is not even a part of the vocabulary, and where there are no federal judges, seated, standing, or leaning against a wall, just a Supreme Court Justice. Who is, by law, required to dress like an Oxford don in a Pink Floyd movie. This has nothing to do with anything, by the way; I just like reminding people. Gingrich was pulling a fast one. You stood aside and held the door open for him as he escaped.
Widely considered a mastermind of the Republican revolution that swept Congress in the 1994 elections, Gingrich remains wildly popular among many conservatives. He has repeatedly placed near the top of Republican presidential polls recently, even though he has not formed a campaign.

So What Did We Learn? That absent USDA guidelines you may find yourself chewing mouthfuls of pure sludge, unfiltered. "Wildly popular among many conservatives"? What the fug is that supposed to mean? If we're going to quote the empirical evidence. let's, I dunno, quote it. Last I saw (couple weeks ago; I'm not gonna look up Primary horserace figures any more often than that, not one-year out) Newt Gingrich was running neck-and-neck with Mitt Romney. This despite the fact that Newt has twenty years of name recognition, some of it not involving adultery and dying wives, whereas 78% of likely voters think Mitt was "that hot shortstop phenom in the Texas league last year". This is in a race where there aren't any Wildly Popular Among Conservative names at the top. The Gingrich constituency is that segment of the Coulter Party which believes the 2006 results show that the GOP has not been sufficiently mendacious.
"There were times when I was praying and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong. But I was still doing them," he said in the interview. "I look back on those as periods of weakness and periods that I'm ... not proud of." Gingrich's congressional career ended in 1998 when he abruptly resigned from Congress after poor showings from Republicans in elections and after being reprimanded by the House ethics panel over charges that he used tax-exempt funding to advance his political goals.

So What Did We Learn? That "got in trouble for committing a felony" is not in the AP stylebook. And God's problem is that He'll listen to anybody.

Somewhere Norman Mailer, writing about prizefighting, notes the ego demands on the Heavyweight champion include that he must walk around knowing that he, quite possibly, is the Baddest Man on the planet. Does the same existential strobelight flash in Newt's skull? Is there some greater weight in lifting the head off the pillow in the morning when you know it's possible that you're the Lyin-est Scumbag to ever run for office?

Thursday, March 8

He Was Only a Lieutenant Colonel/ But He Had the Brains God Gives a Bird

Steve Buyer and another of the Big Guns in the JAG Corps, Gulf War I

Indy Star:
Rep. Steve Buyer, R-Ind.,...the top Republican on the House Veterans Affairs Committee...said he is concerned that the military care for active-duty soldiers and for veterans is being confused and that Democrats are using the issue for political purposes.

No, I don't know where we get 'em. I do know how we wound up keeping Buyer--he won a three-way Republican nutjob clusterama in 2002 over Freshman Brian "I Saw The Plane Hit The Pentagon" Kearns, who had chosen to fight it out in the newly-redistricted 4th, rather than continue in his old district, the 8th, the new home of John "But I Thought Congressmen Were Allowed To Smuggle Guns Onto Planes" Hostetler. Kearns actually proved too nutty even for Indiana Republicans, and the 4th proved solidly Republican, which was good news for Buyer, who had already suggested using nuclear weapons in Afghanistan provided--get this--that we prove the anthrax attacks were the work of al-Qaeda. Sure brings back memories, huh? Buyer made news again in 2003 when he wrote Denny Hastert requesting "indefinite paid leave" from Congress (!) because he'd been called up to active duty, a request made even more curious by the fact that he--how do we put this nicely?--hadn't. And couldn't, for that matter, being a Member of Congress. So he went home and spent some time getting his equipment and his story straight.

That paid leave probably explains how it is that Buyer, a signatory of the Contract With America's pledge to set term limits at twelve years found himself running for a seventh term in 2006.

By the way John Aravosis has the story of how Buyer came to be chairman of Veterans Affairs under Tom DeLay (follow the links).

(Buyer is now a full Colonel in the reserves, having received that distinction in 2004, along with Lindsay Graham, in a special White House ceremony, after it was discovered that there were, indeed, two Republicans with actual verifiable military records.)

Happy Birthday

John Smith Hurt
March 8, 1892--November 2, 1966

Wednesday, March 7

No Man Is An Island, But Some Men Could Serve As Personal Floatation Devices Without Much In The Way Of Modification

Jonah Goldberg, "Outside the Press Boxes:
GOP candidates don't fit the media's mold". NRO, March 7

I am, actually, a bit under the weather, enough so that I seem to have imagined that taking my head for a swim via a Jonah Goldberg column might counteract an impolitic large intestine. I tried something similar once when an amusement park ride made me queasy. No luck then, either.
Maybe I’m remembering this wrong. But I could have sworn we spent the last seven years talking about how the Republican party is the party of backward red states—where hate is a family value, fluffy animals are shot, and God is everyone’s co-pilot—and how the Democratic party is the avant-garde of the peace-loving, Europe-copycatting blue states, where Christianity is a troubling “lifestyle choice,” animals are for hugging, and hate is never, ever a family value.

Jonah, thanks to the Corner, folks with stronger GI tracts than mine can actually see what you spend your time talking about, and it's not your version of someone else's idiocy as Conventional Wisdom; it's your own idiocy as Conventional Wisdom, hold the irony.
Admittedly, over time the red state-blue state thing was eclipsed by other clichés about how the GOP had been hijacked by “theocrats” or by K Street corporate lickspittles, warmongers, immigrant-haters, hurricane-ignoring nincompoops, and, for a moment during the Mark Foley scandal, cybersex offenders. I can dredge up all the relevant quotes, but if you’ve been paying attention, I shouldn’t have to.

Every week or two I check, and every week or two I'm surprised once again to learn that Goucher College hasn't faked its own death, dyed its hair, and slipped off to South America with the insurance money.
Here’s the interesting bit: The GOP rank and file is steadfastly refusing to play to type. The frontrunner in most polls is Rudy Giuliani, a pro-choice, anti-gun, immigration-expansionist former mayor of the capital of Blue America, New York City. Just last weekend, Giuliani finished a close second in the CPAC straw poll of conservative activists (and first if you add the activists’ first-choice and second-choice ballots).

Okay, I have been saying for the past four years that the Religious Right, having caved in on Republican nominees between 1988 and 2000, before adopting George W. as one of their own, resulting in severe burns, would name the 2008 nominee or die trying, since it wasn't going to get any easier after that. In 2004 they bought into the Values Voters schtick, which, as I recall, was a cliché much prized by the Em Ess Em and the right punditocracy (I can dredge up all the relevant quotes, but I don't want to), plus the genesis of a humming little cottage industry for a couple of left-wing Catholic girls. Then rest of the country got to know Mark Foley the way the Republican leadership knew him. The religious right had enough power in January 2005 to interrupt a Presidential vacation, something a Category V hurricane wouldn't be able to do nine months later. When the anti-Schiavo backlash hit some of your more savvy Tax Cut Republicans woke up, smelled the last quarter century, and reacted with alarm (either mock or sham; the jury's still out). The Metaphysical Certainty wing of the Party That Knows Best reacted in standard GOP fashion when confronted by uncomfortable, undeniable realities: it doubled down, and took out Bill Frist and Jeb Bush before the campaign ever started, just for pique. And of course you've had Ted Haggard and Ralph Reed and Pat Robinson helping raise public awareness in the interim. It looks like Do or Die will wind up as the latter, don't it?

But let's hold on, here. Hain't nobuddy cast a vote yet, 'cept by tellerphone, and already two of the three Republican frontrunners have swerved so far right we'll have to identify their charred remains from the dental records. McCain is dead, he just hasn't fallen down yet, and with all that money in back of him that won't be for a while, barring utter humiliation early. And he's assembled the same team that pummeled him to death in South Carolina in 2000. Remember? Or is everybody on the Right suddenly civil in public now?

McCain's folks think Rudy will be coming back to the pack once voters get to know him. I doubt they imagine that will happen without some assistance on their part. Mitt already has indicated an understanding that he can't wait forever for his Jim Rockford-esque 180º to pay off. It is perhaps enough to note that at this point there aren't many Republican candidates veering leftward.

To which Rudy, wisely to this point, has said little beyond that "strict constructionist" gag he apparently thought would mollify 25% of anti-abortion voters and verbally confuse the remainder. He's been especially lucky in his choice of Bumbler McCain as his major opponent (no less a spokesman for the Red Meat wing than Rick Santorum recently said, "Anybody but McCain", despite the fact that McCain has the closest thing to Santorum's voting record this side of Sam Brownback). Will he get away with that for eighteen months? Will "Values Voters" forget the whole Gay Marriage Misunderstanding in order to vote for the Soviet-heroic statue of Mr. 9/11? I doubt it, but then I took the Persians at Thermopylae and gave the points.

(Speaking of Brownback, what he's up to is anybody's guess but he hasn't Rudy's name recognition, and he hasn't been raising money unhindered by public office or private morals for the last six years. He could do worse than stand back and let everybody else snipe at Giuliani through the rest of the Hot Stove season. Maybe there's at least one Republican who's learned something from the Iraqi insurgency.)

Still there's a couple of things. It's a nice "conservative" wet dream to have Rudy waltz through the primaries with his electability intact, which he will only do if it's decided early. But if it's decided early the Religious Right will not be on board (the rank and file anti-Queers- and Dirty-Hippies-voters may not know Rudy yet, but the James Dobsons sure do, and they'll take that flesh in one-pound packages, thanks). And, Jonah, the whole point is you can't win without 'em. They can't guarantee a win, but they sure can guarantee a loss.

This is the final pre-conscious spasm of the Rudy Wet Dream, that the Republican party can jettison all those rabid-right voters Jonah wills into invisibility until he needs them again, and govern from the Center without otherwise moving a muscle. And may I say (oh, shit, I almost forgot I'm obligated to give you the Grand Weasel Flambé Finale:)
Lastly, perhaps the GOP is self-correcting. The exaggerations notwithstanding, perhaps the rank and file is reining in the party establishment. The Republican party is undergoing a seismic shift, prioritizing foreign policy in ways not seen since the height of the Cold War. In response, the usual rules are being rewritten.

Or maybe it’s just too soon and this is all about name recognition. But whatever the real story is, you can be sure that won’t be the story line you hear from the press.

Happy, now? Is the GOP self-correcting? Or just out of options? Wake me when they're willing to admit when they're wrong. I could use the rest.

Such Language!

We're running a little slow here due to a flare-up of my recurring medical condition ("schizophrenia"), but we do rise to vigorously protest the ginned-up outrage over off-color remarks (our position is clear, if currently edged in sparkly, rainbow-hued glorioles: you kids don't have to work blue just because Bob Saget does!) when the language is tortured, brutalized every day, right under our noses and no one does a thing:

Local anchor: "A spokesman says INDOT says if you think you won't be affected you will be."

TCM voice-over: "Humphrey Bogart hunts two blackbirds, one literal, one metaphorial..."

Local (?) teevee commercial for vanity publishing scam: "The book is packed with ansa-dots..." (anecdotes, presumably, but maybe I'm presuming too much).

Local field reporter: "Police are issuing a discourage to motorists..."

Local weather performer/high school quiz show host: "Sir Thomas MOR-ay..."
(This is just the waterboarding portion, since he also miraculously re-christened the Patron Saint of Lawyers, something like "Werther Thomas" which I didn't quite catch. Remind me to tell you sometime what they accepted as the consequent of a categorical syllogism on the same show.)

Tuesday, March 6

The Kuleshov Effect

It snowed Saturday overnight, just enough that I had to go downstairs to retrieve my errand boots before I went to buy the Sunday paper. We're still feuding with the paperboy from ten years and two houses ago. It had turned what the teevee people were probably calling "bitterly" cold, although that sort of hyperventilation generally fades some by the end of the season, when it becomes harder and harder to scare up ratings by warning people who never go outside if they can help it that it's still winter. (Snow, of course, is another matter, since you have to drive in it; a good snow in the Rockies in June is worth another two ratings points.)

It was 7:15 when I went out the back door. There was a large woodpecker busy somewhere nearby, probably a yellow-shafted flicker, but we sometimes see red-breasteds and the occasional pileated. I couldn't see him but there's no mistaking the sound of their hammering for that of the smaller models, and I (still coffeeless) thought, "Hell of a way to make a living, bub, at thirteen degrees."

It was ten minutes later, as I was leaving the grocery, that some thirty-something guy ravishing his cell-phone would collide with me, bounce off, and walk on into the store without ever looking up. Who th' fuck are you even talking to at that hour on a Sunday? I have survived some horrible contagions in my life--disco, Ronald Reagan, Friends--but cell phones are worse than any of 'em. Okay, except Reagan. I do not get it. I cannot say that enough. If the doctor was calling me Sunday at 7AM to tell me the tests were negative and I could keep my testicles I'd tell him to call back during business hours.

I came home figurin' that bird had a pretty sweet set-up, considering.

They're started doing roadwork on a section of I-70 downtown, and they closed a couple of exchanges Monday, giving the local news hairdos another chance to wail on the Doomsday whistle. The DOT, another government agency Mitch "Lolipop Guild" Daniels has freed from the concerns of government interference, has done what American entrepreneurship does best: it gave a crappy product a snappy name that test-marketed well. So fourteen times per half-hour segment one of the hairdos now spits out some already digested info, not about "the I-70 construction project" or "the massive snarl-up on the interstate", but about the Super 70 Project. Get it? It's Super! It's Super Absorbent! Super Size It! Justice League Seal of Approval! Swear to God, one of 'em used the phrase twice in one simple declarative sentence.

I've figured out why the modern newscast requires four regular anchors, four subanchors, eighteen weather dramatizers, and countless field reporters, just to relay the same eight-point-four minutes of news over the course of four hours daily: it's because everybody not on camera is on his or her cell phone.

And these are the same people (one of whom did a story toss two weeks ago that included the phrase "New Way Forward in Iraq") aping heartfelt concern over the vidclips of the Armed Services Committee Walter Reed hearings they had to introduce yesterday. One called the hearings "very intense". You know when they break out the adjectival intensifiers for their milky blandishments they're serious!

Very intense! The news as brought to you by Emilio Estavez in Repo Man. What she meant, of course, was, "You might want to look away, or else you'll catch a glimpse of men who lost 25% of their superior cranial surface area fighting a meaningless war half of you supported by putting out yard signs. And then were treated like shit when they got home, lest any of you be given pause by the amount of money we were spending so a drunken frat boy you, a once free and proud people, actually elected President, could work out his Daddy issues. In fact, you might want to run, far, far away, as if you can ever get away from yourself."

Is it even necessary to add that thousands more Americans are bound for the same war having had their training cut short so the same Idiot-in-Chief can score points with what's left of his constituency? That they're headed off with less than the nominal equipment, some of it less than optimal equipment, or that we've known about this for four years now? Or that this sort of thing has been reported for at least half that time? That the Bush administration fucking short-changed the American veteran right out in public, without even bothering with the distracting patter? And that includes every news hairdo now cluck-clucking over "deplorable" conditions? Or that those matters were too very intense for them to report on? New Way Forward. Fuck you. Very.

I had originally intended to work Holy Joe Lieberman's quote from Sunday's Face the Nation into yesterday's Brooks piece, but it's a better fit here. Lieberman bemoaned the fact that we'd "failed in our moral responsibility" to our service men and women. This would be the same Joe Lieberman who said of Abu Gharib that it was moderately deplorable but the Moslems asked for it. I guess we're supposed to believe it's never dawned on the man that some of those injured vets got that way thanks to the recruiting power of that hands-off attitude, just as it never dawned on Bob Schieffer to ask Holy Joe--the reliable bipartisan voice for the Blinders On strategy--how it is he missed the moral outrage before a ton of it fell on his head.

Never trust a public moralist, and never trust someone who will take money to call a public shame "very intense". When the people who have bought and sold the War on Terra are leading the charge to flush out the sewers, not cashier a few general officers and see if that appeases the crowd; when Joe Lieberman's moral outrage leads to his resignation, when the right wing noise machine apologizes to John Murtha, when the Mighty Wurlitzer blows a fuse--then they can cry real tears, and then we can believe 'em. You could have stopped this shit as it was happening. And wouldn't that have been Super!