Monday, June 30

Or Maybe Bush's Codpiece Is A Charm Against Falling Objects

CROOKS and Liars, via aimai:
NBC’s David Gregory chimes in at the end of the segment and drops a question on [Obama’s Senior Foreign Policy Advisor Susan] Rice that was pulled directly from Karl Rove’s playbook:

Gregory: “Hello, Susan.  While we are talking about the prospect of nuclear terrorism, which is what is behind the concerns of North Korea and Iran.  I have a broader question for you and really for Senator Obama.  Why is it, does he believe that America has not been attacked in  this country by terrorists since  9/11?  And does George W. Bush, President Bush deserve credit for that?”
Rice: “I think what we have to acknowledge, David, that we haven’t been attacked but we are nonetheless less safe as a sequence of the policies of this  administration has pursued.  Our standing in the world is at an all-time low.  Al Qaeda is more dangerous now in Afghanistan and Pakistan than it has been.  Our intelligence community is warning they are reconstituting and more deadly to U.S. forces than Iraq.”

Of course, Gregory is incorrect, there HAS been a deadly terrorist attack in the U.S. since 9/11 — the anthrax attacks that killed 5 Americans ring a bell to you? It’s interesting that so many seem to forget this factoid. Speaking of anthrax and Bush failures, you’ll be happy to learn that $5.8 million of your tax dollars were just awarded to Steven Hatfill in his lawsuit against the Bush Justice Department. Hatfill is an Army scientist who was deemed a “Person of Interest” in the anthrax attacks, but was eventually ruled out as a suspect in the Bush administration’s botched investigation. Hatfill’s lawyer placed partial blame on the media for not questioning the Bush administration’s motives in targeting him and for reporting leaked disinformation they could not substantiate.

It occurred to me that this would make a good one of those blog-tag pyramid things: get five people to answer Gregory's question, and they each get five more, and so on, but then I realized I've have to do some work.

Instead, let's just mouth off about it, which should be enough to put the whole canard to rest anyway, the internets being our avenue of self-correction. Yes, it's true that Gregory's question was DOA, which the Hatfill deal, announced the same day, underlines. It's also true that Hatfill--how many of the Press gaggle could have ID'd him before last Friday?  How many now?--reminds us that for dampened-pants America and her Press, the anthrax attacks stopped being terrorism once it became apparent that Saddam Hussein hadn't personally posted the letters (it took Judy Miller and the WaPo a bit longer, but then, it took them a few extra months to actually give up on the Hussein angle, too).

[Excuse the indulgence, but this is one of those stories I'd be willing to undergo fifteen years of dialysis for just to live long enough to hear whatever fraction of the truth eventually gets released. I realize the FBI is hampered, post-Hoover, by its inability to close cases by simply gunning down suspects and calling it a shootout, but I find it very difficult to accept that they seriously entertained the notion that there was a foreign source for the attacks after the first of those risible DEATH TO AMERICA DEATH TO ISRAEL ALLAH IS GREAT letters turned up, unless they suspected a blind (and a good one; remember the misspelling of "penacilin"?). Five years later they'd announce (to the WaPo!) that the previous description of the anthrax as "weaponized" was in error; instead, the unknown perp had just meticulously removed all the stems and seeds. This was curious, seeing as how the Gee must have been the source of the original misinformation, and seeing as how, to the unlettered internet loudmouth the procedure for identifying the weaponizing agent looks pretty straightforward. Not to mention the fact that the two reporters write
Such processing or additives might have suggested that the maker had access to the recipes of biological weapons made by the United States in the 1950s and 1960s.

betraying--or portraying--an innocence of the Army's own admission that the process had continued for decades after Nixon "ended" it. ]

I do apologize for the above; the closer you get to these spooks the more likely you are to inhale something, and it always makes you sound like it was nitrous. At any rate, if Senator Obama announces he'll appoint Glenn Greenwald or Joe Conason to head a blue-ribbon panel he's got my vote. 

Okay, so it's also the case that the "no domestic attack" bit is a canard. The Bush administration, and the American citizens which voted it back into office in 2004, expressly threw caution, international law, and rational practice to the winds in taking "the fight" to "the terrorists", so the subsequent attacks in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Spain, e.g., are to some extent their failures, just as some internet nit-picker might note the 9/11 attacks had been preceded by a warning about some guy named bin-Laden. I am, for example, unaware of a single military historian who claims that Eisenhower's great achievement was that he didn't let the Battle of the Bulge happen twice.

No, if Gregory is justified in asking the question of Rice in terms of Obama's response to a trope, he's clearly off-base in suggesting it as a fact requiring some sort of counter (enough so that one imagines, given his unfortunate and untimely death at his desk, hearing the whole of Inside Washington lionize him for his meticulous preparation). And this is the thing that struck me on further reflection: the self-satisfied assumption of al-Qaeda and International Terror, Inc., as Determined To Attack U.S. on a regular, if not daily, basis, until the whole place is a pile of bricks and twisted steel. Where the hell does that come from, and how does it wind up in the mouth of a "newsman"? It's a surrender to the comforts of hyperreality. It demonstrates a complete lack of appreciation for how complicated the attacks of 9/11 were, how unexpected their physical results (it took considerable study just to explain how the Towers fell; try to convince an engineer the result could have been anticipated), and how successful their political aim--it's terror, Dave!--considering that pants-pissing over possible attacks or negotiatin' with terrists is still a Republican (and H. Clintonian!) rallying point. Future attacks there may be, god help us all, and it's also possible that the Islamic division of SPECTRE would blow shit up inside our borders on a daily, even hourly basis, if it could. But if we got our heads out of comic books, spy thrillers, and our own asses we might at least analyze the threat in a reasonable fashion. Though that would sorta take the advertising quotient and sales potential out of the thing, not something we're especially known for doing.

Friday, June 27

Fun With Monogamy, Vol. MCCXLV

WE are, you may know already, regular viewers of Jeopardy! chez Riley, which out of convenience has evolved frequently to include the end of Wheel of Fortune, in which the Winner of that day's competition gets to solve one more puzzle for a fabulous prize, determined by yet another wheel spin. And this week there's some sort of tag-team competition going on, with two contestants in the place of one, and the two gentlemen solved the Prize Puzzle, and the envelope was opened to reveal they'd won a pair of Buick Enclaves!, which Buick describes as a "luxury crossover vehicle", and which I described, from the accompanying promotional video, as probably among the Top 15% of ugly vehicles on American roadways, no small achievement.

ME: A pair of Enclaves! There oughta be a collective noun for that.

PW: How about "Effrontery"?

Doghouse Riley's Real-Life Do-It-Yourself Project File™

Project: Mosaic-topped potting bench

Materials: 2x4 treated lumber, 3/4" plywood, 1x4 construction-grade lumber, carriage bolts, deck screws, exterior nails, construction adhesive, exterior paint, urethane, assorted sandpaper, ceramic tile, exterior grout, sealer, moulding

Tools: circular saw, power drill, sander, hammer, paint brushes, grout float, margin trowel, sponge, terry-cloth towels, magnifying glass, mosquito repellant, tweezers, assorted bandages, bacitracin, tetanus vaccine

Estimated time: 6 years

Estimated cost: $7000, labor included

Instructions: 2002: build potting bench at wife's insistence, paint. Later, in response to her "Shouldn't you do something about the (rain) water standing on the table?" resolve to do nothing about rain water standing on the table. 2003: replace tabletop, paint, urethane. 2004: urethane. 2005: urethane, repaint to match new garden decor, urethane. 2006: urethane, decide to tile top as more permanent solution to weathering, buy tile, leave lying on bench. 2007: pharmaceutical testing. 2008: resolve, post-arthroscopy, to clean up mess. Replace tabletop, repaint, decide to actually get tiling done this time, decide to try mosaic, on the grounds that increasing the time required to finish the project by a factor of 12 will similarly increase the likelihood of its completion. Peruse grout aisle at local Lowe's. Discover, not surprisingly, that grout aisle, like every other aisle in the store, is dominated by the company which shows the greatest degree of quality control in selecting and distributing perks to Lowe's executives. Select color ("platinum") and exterior, sand-positive grout. Get home and use magnifying glass to decipher print on container; discover it's still gibberish, but that product must in fact be mixed with a proprietary liquid and not water, which must have cost the executives at the grout company at least a dozen extra hookers. Return to Lowe's, only to discover that the hole where said liquid is supposed to reside--several feet and a couple products separated from the huge selection of colors which are actually useless without it. Find Lowe's employee to confirm that shelf hole does mean they're out of the product, and not just that it's stored twenty-five feet above and no one wanted to get it. Also learn that unavailability is common, due to color and liquid mixture being packaged in one of those 6 hot dogs/ 8 buns relationships. Drive to next-closest Lowe's, find item in stock. Learn, additionally, that I had fallen for Standard Do-It-Yourselfer Ploy, where smaller, "Come On" packaging of tint was married to Stupid All-In-One bucket, exorbitantly priced and including convenient sponge and rubber gloves, "convenient" in the sense that they were right there in the bucket and I didn't have to go into the garage to get any of the countless examples I already owned, and which I was now required to purchase at pain of starting all over again. Smash tiles with hammer, begin lay-out process. Decide first idea doesn't work, start over. Reject second effort, begin third. Live through two weeks of torrential downpours and concomitant clean-up. Return to project to discover every piece ("tesserae") must be removed and tabletop cleaned again. Make aesthetic decision that whatever the next one turns out it be is The Fuckin' Design No Matter What. Complete. Rig tarp over table to wait out predicted rains. Return, glue down ever last motherfucking piece ("tesserae"), which goes pretty smoothly, assuming you like mind-numbing operations that take two days. Let dry. Mix grout. Apply diagonally using float. "Cut" excess to assure cleaner surface. Discover that there is very little excess. In fact, there's not quite enough grout to cover the entire project, despite the fact that the size of the color component suggested twice what was needed.  As a result, endure wife, who never, ever, reads directions, asking, "Did you read the directions?" Decide to wait and see. Clean with vinegar/ water solution after 30 mintues. Clean again one hour later. Dismantle rain fly. Inspect next morning. Decide that hairline gaps present aesthetic problem, albeit small, and that small untiled area in front will collect water. Realize at about this time that lack of moulding on front of table makes grouting problematic at best; return to Lowe's for moulding plus large-sized colored grout ("platinum") originally avoided as "too much". Employing "go home, use magnifying glass" method, learn that this grout mixes with fucking water. Cut moulding to fit; nail and glue in place. Mix small amount of grout, apply. Worry that color doesn't match. Ponder covering entire tabletop again just as unpredicted rain starts. Throw tarp over table. Return in 30 minutes, clean with vinegar/ water. Return in one hour, clean again, just as unpredicted rain begins pouring. Curse wife. Allow new grout to dry 12 hours. Return for inspection, decide color match is acceptible, decide to take picture to accompany hilarious "Do-It-Yourself" blog post. Retrieve green paint from basement for moulding. Decide to touch up back-splash for picture to cover remaining grout stains. Discover paint is, in fact, a slightly different green used in a different project. Repaint entire backsplash, and moulding. Tidy up bottom shelf of bench by removing unsightly materials to ground behind bench, forgetting it has been freshly painted. Take picture. Run to kitchen to rinse paint out of shirt. Resume pharmaceutical testing.

That's all there is to it! As always, readers are urged to send in pictures of their own completed projects, and the winner could receive a prize package consisting of whatever's left of my stash. But don't count on it.

Wednesday, June 25

Shut Up

David Brooks, "The Bush Paradox." June 24

YES, yes, yes; everything bad, everything false, phony, or self-aggrandizingly stupid in modern American culture--we're speaking of its innovations, here, of course, and not the grinding stupidity, acquisitiveness, and brute violence the whole race is heir to--traces directly to Barbara Walters or Gene Roddenberry. However, this should not be confused with their perfection. which is the work of Ronald Wilson "Dutch" Reagan, or, more precisely, of Ronald Reagan Inc., and its hydra-headed subsidiaries, including the telecommunications industry, the Republican party, and David Brooks.

Brooks' point here--I am not, nor could I make this up--is that the very same "qualities" of George W. Bush (which, we may note, people such as Brooks used to tell us were misapprehensions, or the phantasms of Bush-derranged minds) which led to our failure in Iraq (which people such as Brooks used to tell us was an illusion, or the phantasms of Bush-derranged minds) is what led him to make the "courageous and astute" decision--against all advice to the contrary! mind you--to go with The Surge, which has now proven so wildly successful. History is cyclical! One day you're down, the next you're a VH-1 star! Shut up and finish your umbles, war critics!
The cocksure war supporters learned this humbling lesson during the dark days of 2006. And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility.

I read this thing without even bothering to consider its rebuttal, which, to be sure, is simply enough as to be effortless: Basra. Mosul. Which demonstrated just who's who and what's what, in case anyone, say a leading Presidential contender, believed otherwise. The popular notion in the United States, a country not known for the reasoned, well-informed military punditry, that the addition of 20,000 troops plus a new doctrinal approach has fundamentally changed anything in what's left of Iraq is as misguided as all earlier declarations of Victory, or its slightly-retarded cousin, Victory in Six Months Time. We've thrown in with the Sunni, where expedient, something the earlier, "humbly deferring" Bush (really, it's a quote) refused to do; we are now in control of not more than half of Iraq's provinces. And it's not even a devil's bargain. There's no corresponding Sunni support for Iraq's Shi'a government, or "government", and violence in Diyala, e.g., may, or unquestionably is, simply being delayed so Bush can ride back to his "ranch" with his, and Brooks', illusions intact, at least in so far as public consumption is concerned.

Of course the government could just be lying its ass off to make a bad situation look better, or what we might describe with regard to the Bush administration as The Default Setting.

Even so, it's not exactly pretty, and insisting that Sunshine, Lollypops, and Rainbows are up, respectively, 23, 84, and 61% is a touch, let's say, macabre. Juan Cole on the new "record low" body count:
But over 500 a month dead in political violence is appalling enough. The Srebenica massacre in 1995 killed 8,000. At the average rate of death in Iraq this winter and spring, a similar massacre will have been racked up in 2008. In the Northern Ireland troubles over 30 years, about 3,000 people died, and it was widely considered a bad situation. That death toll is still being achieved every 6 months in Iraq according to the official May statistics.

So let us repeat for those who don't seem to have been listening, including Times columnists who said, circa December 2005, that maybe they needed to have a bit of a rethink on this whole Iraq Success Story, then went silent until they judged it safe to pop back up and say Told Ya!: you were wrong, so astonishingly wrong about Iraq that it is beyond question that your assumptions, your predictions, your certitudes and your guarantees had nothing whatsoever to do with Reality, and everything to do with the blind faith that the tiniest involuntary muscle twitch of the American right was not just correct, not just philosophically justified, but Divinely inspired. You were not proved wrong about Iraq in the fall of 2003; you were proven clinically, certifiably, and cynically, to boot, the victim of megalomania profundus. This was not a slow leak, to be patched at leisure. The balloon popped, the bucket had no bottom. You put everything on Black, and you lost. You do not get to come back five fucking years later and say, There! I told you Black was going to come up! and demand your winnings, respect for your (latest) version of events, or that we now accept a share your humiliation. No sireee, as we say in the Land of real Appleby's customers; you're done, long since, and you have no standing at any point to return to the debate, let alone shape it.

Nah, y'know, I wasn't thinking that at all. I was thinking about how flappers and jitterbugs, hepcats and Beats and longhaired freaks could all, at some point, simply fade back into the crowd scene when their moment in the spotlight was over, but the trendy Reaganauts of Brooks' generation have doomed themselves to repeating sophomoric profundities over and over to a diminishing audience, as if Sisyphus had to endure, not just eternal worthless labor, but the humiliation of everyone laughing at him as his rock kept getting smaller and smaller, without his seeming to notice.

Tuesday, June 24

On The Other Hand, At Least It Was More Entertaining Than Her Columns

I'M sorry, but I fail to see this as MoDo's great comeuppance, especially as she's given space to defend her shit-slinging as style, which is on par with a kid who breaks windows just to get attention claiming he's just practicing his curveball. In fact, let's go one step further and say that the way the question is framed, while no doubt considered by many to be The Relevant One, is itself as much of a dodge as her "I'm a columnist, I don't have to be accurate" routine. The sexism of Dowd's Hillary coverage the past eighteen months--and more, and more--is secondary to her monomaniacal pursuit of Yet Another Clinton, which was not only well outside any reasonable definition of fair, accurate, or emotionally stable, but was unconscionably (un-) edited, given the value of the real estate where she squats. In eighteen months three-quarters of her columns have been about one candidate, one race, and their ratio of Real Issues to Cosmetics Advice was about 1/50,000, assuming we can find the time she spoke about a Real Issue. The Republican primary completely passed her by, save a couple of columns on Rudy Giuliani, one of those post-mortem. The rise and fall of Fred Thompson and Mike Huckabee interested her not in the slightest. She wrote a couple of columns bashing George Bush (speaking of post-mortems), which only served to remind us she'd been one of his most prominent enablers back when it mattered. Yes, yes, it's her byline, but it's the Times that owns the rest of it, and the big question (well, maybe "question" is too strong a word there) is why anyone would be allowed to turn in the same 800-word piece twice a week for more than a year while collecting a fresh paycheck every time. This isn't comeuppance, it's the way the modern corporation polices its own misfeasance: one part Exxon Valdez legalistic delaying tactics, two parts reality program mooning the viewer, like we're all in on the joke. 

That's Entertainment!

MY first official act after becoming an official college student--despite my high opinion of myself I had been merely an amateur drug abuser before that--was to drop Philosophy 101, about two weeks in. I remember being grilled about the reasons by my Faculty Advisor, whom I never saw before or after. I can't remember what I told him; I was, naturally enough for a Freshman, living in the dorms, so it wasn't the "My beloved pet dog was killed" routine, which would have to wait until I got my first apartment. I think I just came clean: I couldn't stand Alfred Jules Ayer, or Language, Truth and Logic, which the instructor, a Full Professor, as was common in some intro courses in some departments in them days, had declared would be my intro to his world. He may have been right, but it would be another twelve years before I came to enjoy Ayer, and, besides he (the Prof, not Ayer) had the second-worse case of Drone's Disease I encountered in the whole of pedantry. Plus it was a hot August, and the class was held in a building dating to a century when that month was given over to harvesting milo, not questioning the existence of God (or, as in this case, simply ignoring Him). Despite an average summertime humidity of 110%, Time's Arrow had reduced the wood to dust, unless it was built out of kindling in the first place, and it's certain that whenever it was built window glass was at a premium, perhaps even rationed. For some reason Ernie Pyle Hall--the Journalism building--sticks in my mind. The century would be wrong, but the ambience is right: the place was a Depression-era storehouse renamed and repurposed as a memorial to the great Hoosier war correspondent, presumably because it resembled Ie Shima with furniture.

Anyway, when I read about the latest Imus imbroglio, my first thought, practically, was of Logical Positivism--which, I should add, now joins Phenomenology on my list of Philosophical Schools Which Would Usher In A New Era Of Peace And Understanding, If Only We Could Enforce Them By Law. We are asking the wrong questions about Imus. First, the relevant transcript (we'll need it in a moment):
Warner Wolf: "Defensive back Adam 'Pacman' Jones, recently signed by the Cowboys. Here's a guy suspended all of 2007 following a shooting in a Vegas night club."

Imus: "Well, stuff happens. You're in a night club, for God's sake. What do you think's gonna happen in a night club? People are drinking and doing drugs, there are women there, and people have guns. So, there, go ahead."

Wolf: "He's also been arrested six times since being drafted by Tennessee in 2005."

Imus: "What color is he?"

Wolf: "He's African-American."

Imus: "Well, there you go. Now we know."

Well, now. Imus' defense was that he meant that Jones was being hounded because of his skin color. Grading on a curve (it is Imus, after all) we might note that he did enquire as to Jones' color, not the texture of his hair, which should at least qualify as some slight improvement. On the other hand, the explanation requires us to believe that Imus has developed some degree of sympathy for the accused miscreant, other than himself and David Shuster.

But it's the wrong question, if not technically meaningless by Ayer's lights. And I don't mean we should be asking Why He's Employed Again, or how much longer the phony rancher routine can play, but rather how it is in the United States of America a man can be paid, handsomely, and command the public airwaves, yet have to ask what color a fucking NFL defensive back is.

Monday, June 23

I Give Up. But First, Don't You Owe Hillary Clinton An Apology?

It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives – and the liberty – of the American people.

TRUST me. Senator, if we could trust you--"you" as a human being, one with power who's asking for more, not "you" personally, on which question I'm more agnostic--we wouldn't need the legislation.

Which reminds me, we don't need the legislation.

It doesn't fucking matter what the "threat" is.

Which reminds me, where's the threat again?

I mean, is it too much to ask, as we ram home sans lubrication an unconscionable expansion of the powers the Bush administration was forced, despite all its Good Intentions, to simply skirt or ignore, that we publicly, if half-heartedly, re-assess the threat? Abraham Lincoln is forever sullied by the suspension of habeas corpus. Franklin Delano Roosevelt, for all his accomplishments, is the guy who imprisoned American citizens for the crime of Japanese heritage. Those acts took place under grave threat to the continuation of the Republic, not hyped-up permanent war over the possibility of evildoers out there somewhere.

So let's do what the administration has refused to do to this point. Let's name a single example of this sort of trampling our most basic liberties resulting in a tangible result. Just one. We'll forego the requirement that it clearly involve a risk to American lives, if you promise not to use any examples involving six unemployed brown people, a package of M-80s, and a Chicago Transit Authority bus schedule.

Just one. We remind you that that Stupid Color-Coded Threat Advisory System--wow, people sure slunk away from that one like they did the great Columbus, Ohio, dam-busting of Thurber's youth, didn't they?--used to go up and down like a yo-yo, yet never once rose before an act of terrorism. We remind you that in the bad old outmoded FISA days Acting President Bush was handed a memo detailing somebody named bin-Laden and something about an attack. The NSA can spy on whomever it wants. FISA--another piece of "broken" legislation which, like campaign finance reform, was never designed to really do what it purported to do--is just a CYA for getting caught going beyond the pale. And considering that the Bush administration's response to precisely that was to make sure the Justice Department did nothing about it, it seems wholly unnecessary, at least as a form of "protection" for the citizenry. Especially with a President we can trust.

To my recollection, the Bush administration has claimed one, maybe two, instances where FISA just wasn't quick enough.  Which, of course, wouldn't have meant they wouldn't act.  It's just what they could manage when looking for an excuse.  Kinda in the way the stuff on an Adam Sandler movie trailer is the funniest shit they could find.  

So, go on, Senator, demand an example, and show us that Civil Liberties, as a buzzword, is at least allowed to sit in the ballpark while National Defense calls all the plays.

PS, fuck opposing telecom immunity. It's something any decent public official should do; we'll be able to look at the tote board on that one momentarily. The people responsible for cashing in our liberties like a kited check are never going to pay for doing so, immunity or no. The thing to do, right now, is to pledge that as President you will get to the bottom of everything the Bush administration has been up to. Bonus points for investigating the governmental takeover that was Clinton Scandals, Inc., and opening the books on Iran Contra. That is, if you're not too busy taking additional steps to protect American freedoms you just sold for a riband to stick in your lapel. It's the right thing to do. Trust me.

Sunday, June 22

Mild Suburban Amusements, Vol. XVI

THIS morning just after seven there's a pounding on the back door which can mean only one thing:  I've forgotten to latch the gate again, and Parker, the praeternaturally garrulous five-year-old from next door has gotten into the yard like a gulp of magpies.  

PG5:  Keats (the neighbor's cat) is under your car and she (he, actually) won't come out!

DR: Parker, would you poke a hibernating bear with a stick? *

PG5: No.

DR:  Well, you are.

* Exchange shortened for comic effect; it's necessary to repeat any question put to him six times at increasing volume levels just to get him to stop talking long enough to hear you.

Friday, June 20

Is The Wilderness Always This Cold In Mid-June?

OKAY, it's a great day to be an American, especially one who owns a telecom company, or a presumptive Democratic nominee with a $half-billion of expected IOUs in your pocket and the remarkable ability to spin 180º and still get kissed by your supporters.

Otherwise, maybe not.

I have no problem with Democrats playing hardball. In fact I've tried to encourage it for years, but the only time Democrats have played hardball over the past three decades it was in order to cover up how little they were actually doing for their constituencies. And I think the Obama campaign probably made the correct decision wrt Federal financing, but they sure made it rather abruptly, and on a day when the Senator could have been fighting for real, important change in Washington. As it is, I've begun to wonder just how often we're going to hear "the system is broken" as an excuse. This particular system has been broken since the day it was implemented, and I don't recall Senator Obama proposing much in the way of a fix. Or, you know, ever talking about a "broken system" before yesterday. But never mind. Though I can't say I see a whole helluva lot of difference between a man with $500 M in lobbyist money in his pocket and one who got it $100 at a time, at least in terms of which one I'd want to go bowling with. Exxon-Mobil and McDonald's take it in in small doses, too, and doesn't appear to have made 'em all that moral.

And I go to Kos, I go to TPM, I check out the Usual A-List Suspects, last night and this morning, to find that a) word of the FISA "compromise" has not reached the Internet yet, or else everyone was too busy chasing down rumors that John McCain once said he didn't love America, and anyway it's all Steny Hoyer's fault; and b) money in politics is now evil only when Republicans have all of it. (The latter might possibly have been true, temporarily, but you wouldn't have heard me say so.) As a bonus I got not one, not two, but three lectures about how of course Obama supporters realize their man isn't Perfect, and how of course they welcome constructive criticism as long as it doesn't hold them, or him, accountable. Is it just me, or did those beards all grow longer overnite?

And these are, I remind you, semi-professional observers of politics who began insisting the weekend before New Hampshire that Hillary Clinton drop out of the race so their man wouldn't be burdened by having to take, or defend, public positions.

But the extra-special bonus was this Pre-"Compromise" thunderbolt hurled from Mount Moulitsas:
A warning to pro-capitulation House Dems
by kos
Thu Jun 19, 2008 at 12:52:12 PM PDT
When we started this "netroots" thing, we worked to get "more and better Democrats" elected. At first, we focused on the "more" part. This year, we're focusing a bit more on the "better" part. And in 2010, we'll have enough Democrats in the House to exclusively focus on the "better" part.
That means primary challenges. And as we decide who to take on, let it be known that this FISA vote will loom large. Voting to give telecommunication companies retroactive immunity may not guarantee a primary challenge, but it will definitely loom large.
We kicked Joe Lieberman out of the caucus. We got rid of Al Wynn this year. Those were test runs, so to speak. We've got a lot more of that ready to unleash in 2010.
Ah, well, he's young. Maybe there's still time to drown him.

And here's the thing, America: sure, I'm just some crackpot in a rocking chair on a screened-in porch, but you're the ones who selflessly stood in line for days waiting to give blood to 9/11 survivors who sadly did not exist, while the blood banks go begging every summer. You sent so much money in in the wake of Katrina that charities had no choice except to abuse it. You can stop giving your time, your attention, and your money to these people for as long as it takes to get the real fucking concerns of real fucking people addressed. And I'm sure you'd consider it, except for John McCain being old.

[Corexion: Kagro X was on the FISA story at Kos, calling for Senator Obama to use his Strength of Ten Men to transfer some of that money he's keeping to where his mouth used to be. My mistake. And we want to exempt Yglesias from the Usuals, for actually mentioning Obama's FISA disappearing act and then making it worse by saying: "Meanwhile, I guess I hope President Obama uses his powers responsibly, but on some level I'm sort of rooting for massive abuses so the right can get what they've been asking for." He's still young.]

Thursday, June 19

"My Day," by You, Sir, Are No Eleanor Roosevelt

MY day really began fifty-two hours ago, when I, recently informed by his assistant that the Methadone Light my doctor had been prescribing for the searing night pains in my knee which were probably his fault to begin with would not only no longer be made available to fuel my nightly one-pill freakouts unless I shelled out for another visit, at which time I would be further informed that he wasn't going to prescribe more anyway, but that I'd have to start contributing to Pfizer's Advertising, Lobbying, and Hooker fund or say Good Day, Sir! and Welcome, Never Sleeping Again!, walked into my local apothecary and presented my prescription for CelebreX!, having exhausted the generous three-day supply I'd been given as a free sample. Post-meridian pain had been manageable in the interim, so I figured what the hell. The tech took my script, asked me the usual eight questions designed to foil pharmaceutical terrorism or hedonistic intent, and, satisfied, told me it'd be about fifteen minutes. I resisted the urge to ask whether she still had to call Homeland Security or whether it just took that long to count to forty, and said I'd return.

Which I did, two hours later, to be told there was no prescription waiting, then told that they couldn't fill one because my insurer insisted on prior approval for CelebreX! prescriptions. "Do you know what that means?" asked the helpful young man at the counter, helpfully. "I understand the English, but maybe you could fill in some around the edges if you're not busy," I replied. Turns out they had faxed my surgeon's office for a reply and were still waiting. Okey-dokey.

Now it is about eight hours later, and we are rapidly hurtling towards another sundown, or, roughly, 11:30 PM, M(itch) D(aniels) T(ime), and I have no medication. I return to the pharmacy where, again, there's no prescription, and I'm merely informed that the situation hasn't been resolved.  Tough titty.  

So I went home and left a message on what used to be the Cheap Thrills Line, the answering machine for the medical assistant, who has a three-minute-long voicemail message I can now recite from memory, and which begins by claiming she's away from a desk which, no doubt, doesn't even exist, or have a phone on it. And she returns calls with the expediency of Amazon sending you something that qualified for Free Shipping.

It was the first she'd heard of it.

Now, in these cases I don't really wonder who's lying, since they both are, and having slowed considerably with age and near-fraudulent medical care, I no longer imagine resolving the issue with an AK-47 and a string of jerry-built propane bombs. On occasion, this being one of them, I may indulge a brief reverie centered on how wonderful it would be to be the sort of Christian who is certain these people will burn in Eternal Ghenna Fire for crossing him.

"CelebreX! is probably the biggest single medication we have trouble with," she tells me, oblivious to the laundry list of questions she's begging. "The protocol is that the patient has to have tried two other NSAIDs, have familial adenomatous polyposis, or some forms of cancer." I'm not sure she said "familial adenomatous polyposis", which I got off the Wiki; it's possible they've got some all-purpose Latin handy for just these situations. At any rate, why they'd have prescribed something which was going to be rejected was never made clear, although I'm guessing it has something to do with two-weeks, all-expenses-paid, at CelebreX! Island GolF Resort and BunnY Ranch. She'll get right on it, and they have 72 hours to reply.

In the meantime I'd been considering just getting hold of some C17, some H14, a couple ounces of F3,  a snifter of N3, a soupçon of O2, and a dash of S, and mixing up my own.

So I've slept in two-hour blocs for the past two days, and it's Thursday, which means I have to go out to the Westside to fill my mom's pillbox, a responsibility which devolves from Sunday free-time to Thursday find-time in warm weather because my sister and her family weekend at The Lake, which is somewhat ironic because I've never known her to even enter a body of water larger than a standard bathtub without waterwings, nose-clip, and swimcap, which serve as a sort of visual Greek chorus to her laughable dog paddle. That is, my sister spends weekends around a body of water despite the fact that even when swimming she manages to stay 85% dry. So I head out there as soon as I imagine rush hour has ended, only to discover that the entrance ramp to the Interstate I could have avoided by turning five miles earlier is closed, a condition which had not been predicted by any local signage as recently as ten days ago, so I go on another mile and turn, which course proceeds true for about three-fifths of a mile before I'm detoured again, then yet again. Three separate, unrelated detours. I finally got there by way of Little Mexico, which, relatively at least, is not all that far from Big Mexico. This is not to say the remainder of the trip was uneventful, oh no. By the time I got home I'd been stopped at, by, detoured around, or simply aggravated by (in no particular order):

• Three stoplights being repaired.
• Two stalled vehicles abandoned in the middle of their respective streets. No flashers, in case I need to say it.
• Three separate Public Works vehicles whose drivers have apparently been informed, perhaps as recently as this morning, that getting their pick-up trucks over 20 mph, regardless of the posted speed limit, will cause them to explode and erase all records of the driver's pension.
• A train.
• Two streetlights being worked on (separately, a dozen miles apart).
• A small pickup truck with forty-two pallets strapped atop the bed at an angle usually described as "frightening". (It was forty-two, believe me; I had several minutes to count them while going 15 behind the guy--who couldn't possibly have seen what was behind him, by the way--and wondering if I could get far enough behind him to survive their inevitable collapse except by stopping dead and being rammed by the guy behind me, who, judging from the fact that he insisted on going thirty-five anyway, evidently couldn't see the two stories of industrial accident in the making two cars ahead.)
• A guy standing up on his motorcycle, arms spead like a crucifix, doing forty in the opposite lane. Actually in the inside lane going the opposite direction, since by that point had he been in the lane next to mine so help me god I'd'a swerved at him.
• A public works paint truck (not included in the tally above; this one, as we'll see, was going the opposite way) passed on the blind curve of a two-lane roadway by five cars at once, apparently under the impression they constituted some sort of legal entity akin to a corporation by virtue of proximity. The truck was painting a double yellow line along a stretch of Kessler Boulevard which has been a no-passing zone since the Klan ran things.

I'm not even going to begin to tell you what happened when both cashiers at the pet food place I stopped at on the way home managed to freeze their registers within five seconds of each other, leaving me with a slipping bag under one arm, opposite the throbbing knee, and apparently convincing the woman in front of me who either stocks up by the year, owns her own rout of wolves, or has one 700-pound dog, to give up in exasperation what minimal effort she had heretofore been making to keep her five children (all under the age of menstruation, mutatis mutandis) from ransacking the joint. And y'know, for the first time in my life, I understood.

So, if you'd like to know what crossed my mind the other evening when I heard John McCain criticize His Democratic Opponent for voting for a bill which gave tax breaks to oil companies! all I can tell you is my head had already exploded.

[UPDATE: While I was out again--just don't ask--the medical assistant called to say that the CelebriX! prescription had been expeditiously approved and was waiting for me, or so she was assured, at my local pharmacy. Which I take to answer the question of who dropped the ball in the first place.]

Tuesday, June 17

Shut Up

VIA aimai, the campaign musings of Michael A. Cohen, proud white man:
Sixteen years ago, the most influential campaign speech of the last two decades was delivered at a hotel ballroom in Washington. It wasn’t broadcast on television and only a few hundred Americans heard it in its entirety. But when presidential candidate Bill Clinton appeared at the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition on June 13, 1992, and attacked an obscure rapper named Sister Souljah it fundamentally changed the popular perception of the Democratic Party.

I'm sorry, did you just say "the most influen..."
Standing only a few feet from Mr. Jackson, Mr. Clinton excoriated the young rapper, who had said: “If black people kill black people every day, why not have a week and kill white people.” Mr. Clinton declared, “if you took the words white and black and reversed them, you might think David Duke was giving that speech.”

His words were crucial in recasting the image of the Democratic Party. For years, Democrats had been perceived as captives to a host of special interest groups, from labor and teachers’ unions to women’s and gay rights groups. But none were seen as more influential, and in many respects, as damaging to the party than African-Americans and their titular leader, Mr. Jackson. Today, as the Republican Party has become increasingly captive to its own collection of conservative special interest groups, the lesson of the Sister Souljah speech is one that the party needs to eagerly embrace.

Talk about your Two Americas. I really didn't imagine that Repub...
Mr. Cohen has taught speechwriting and political rhetoric at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He also served in the U.S. Department of State as chief speechwriter for U.S. Representative to the United Nations Bill Richardson and Undersecretary of State Stuart Eizenstat. He has worked at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Foreign Policy magazine, and as chief speechwriter for Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

Chin mullet and Melina Mercouri glasses. They didn't make his cv, but I assume he attaches the pic, as they must serve as what we used to call a Sander Vanocur Sideburns Pledge of Authenticity, something that apparently convinces your standard mark at a New America Foundation cocktailer that you must mean what you say, since otherwise you couldn't get away with a look that just might possibly still outrage a prospective spouse's great-grandmother at tea, assuming she can't get out much.

That is, of course, unfair to Vanocur, who was, and still is, a decent journalist and a Nixon Enemy, and whose muttonchops were an actual stick in the eye of his bosses in them days. And it's unfair to Cohen, but after that column I don't give a fuck. The thing about the I'm Too Old to Know Precisely How Many Years Out of Date that Look Is is that I'm really tired of hearing this sort of shit about what when on before they soiled their first diaper from people too convinced to look, and happily aware that an initial qualifier like "perceived" or "popular image"allows them to proceed as if they'd proved something.   The "image" of Democrats imprisoned by special interests became a nickel in the change purse of our political currency through the efforts of their political opponents, and it stuck to the extent that people were idiotic enough to imagine a teachers' union is a special interest, but a banking or manufacturing association is not.  In olden times this was occasionally referred to as How Democracy Is Supposed To Work. That was before we decided to vote based on which candidate looks like he might wax his own car, or, more contemporarily, which candidate is married to a woman who doesn't remind Jonah Goldberg of someone who might mastermind convenience store stick-ups. 

So the "image" of special-interest internment makes Clinton's comments the defining moment of the New Democratic Party (which would go on to achieve so much Greatness)  because they faced down Scary Black People. Not that we're saying Black People are scary, mind you. It's an image. Otherwise, Clinton's speech might today be seen as, oh, just another example of a politician plucking some low-hanging fruit while back-handing a constituency with no where else to go, a constituency which--I find this always comes as a surprise to people who don't often associate with Scary Black People--is no more in favor of murdering strangers on the street than any other, and much less so than some, and not the vital lesson on the importance of pandering to racists that it is today.  

And this guy wrote speeches for Chris Dodd.

I suppose now would be a good time to offer my apologies to the entire Internet community for imagining, months ago, that this sort of thing was going to be kept heavily under wraps, and that people with marginal racist issues had mostly learned how to be polite in public. I may have been more wrong about things in the past. I thought decaffeinated coffee would never fly. I thought there was a reachable bottom to the reality program market. I thought men would never want to look like Melina Mercouri in a Halloween costume.

I thought that a lot of the "racist" attacks on Obama were ginned-up nonsense from hyperactive supporters, and I still do. What I was not prepared for--and I suppose this is a species of lack of fellow-feeling--was just how goddam shit-your-pants frightening the candidacy of a dark-skinned male would be in a country where Oprah is the most powerful person in the entertainment biz, where Denzel Washington can be certified Sexiest Man Alive, where Charles Barkley would once consider running for office as a Republican. I don't care how you qualify it, saying, even imagining, that "African-Americans and their titular leader, Mr. Jackson" were a millstone around the special-interest-beholden Democratic neck until Bill Clinton made 'em sit down and shut off the boombox, is more than butt-ugly racism. It's butt-ugly stupidity.  And maybe you're not the guy to be telling other people what lessons they need to learn.

Monday, June 16

First As A Tragedy, Then As A Bunch Of Made Up Shit

HERE'S the thing about that Noonan column ("McCain: Old America: Patriotic/ Obama: New America: Do Your Own Thing") which I spent part of the weekend niggling like a loose tooth: the woman is about three years older than I, and it never occurs to me, reading her, that she could be any less than thirty years my senior. She's the Leon Redbone of political commentary, except without the good material.

It's been so long now that Nooners and her ilk have been paid, and celebrated, for being professionally disingenuous that they must find it impossible to be anything else, assuming there's some reason they'd try.  The requirement of speaking to a new set of circumstances in American political life has proven beyond them, and they've retreated into some stock of half-remembered schoolyard taunts, or, in Peggy's case, into a McGuffey's Reader version of an America she was, in fact, too young by a matter of decades to have actually lived through. By the time Peggy was old enough to think about these things for herself such an America was not just dead, but had died in a collision with Reality: the Great Depression ended the debate over laissez-faire capitalism, WWII ended the debate over racial discrimination, and the Pill had ended the debate over reproductive freedom. All, that is, at least to the extent that it was necessary to accept in some degree that one was a crackpot, or worse, to cling to the contrarian view, just as one must make some sort of accommodation in being a Biblical literalist, anti-evolutionist, or reader of professional reader of pet auras. Noonan, naturally, talks the talk:
In the Old America they were not enlightened about race and sex

because they always do. Admitting that one understands the basis for the destruction of the Old Order is important for appearance's sake, and allows one to maintain the whole thing was a Well-Intentioned Mistake, or a Crazed Act of Mass Trendiness, or the Malicious Vandalism of Nattering Nabobs.

We're not suggesting that "debate" doesn't rage on on all these "issues", just as it does over Evolution. Peggy Noonan may have said goodbye to girlhood in the late Sixties as if leaving the cloister, though she claims a later political awakening (they always do!). She could have found her Old America at the time by looking around, but it's more likely she found it by keeping her eyes closed.

We're close enough in age we may well have used the same history text in high school, and I distinctly remember learning about post-Great War isolationism, labor unrest (not the whole story, mind you), Progressivism, robber baronage, the exploitation of Chinese labor and the New York Draft Riots. I'm pretty sure Eugene Debs, Shay's Rebellion, Abolitionism, the Klan, a bowdlerized Helen Keller and a well-scrubbed Margaret Sanger strode the boards there, too. It can't have taken Peggy much of an effort to realize that what she's describing--regardless of how much of it qualifies as non-fiction--is the artifact of an era--in fact, an mish-mash of eras--which had already begun crumbling by the time she was a girleen. And that, of course, the situation may have looked very different were one observing it through the other end of the social, racial, or economic microscope (or were one a middle-class Catholic schoolgirl at a time or place when that was less than popular).

But the one that frankly stopped me in my tracks was
Old America: We have to have a government, but that doesn't mean I have to love it. New America: We have to have a government and I am desperate to love it.

We've said it too many times to remember, but it seems, if anything, to become even more accurate as time passes them by: this is the result of talking to yourselves for three decades. You've lost the ability to construct an argument and whatever cortical function it is that's supposed to make you care. The damage is, alas, permanent; some of your cohort may manage a fairly normal-appearing life by pretending to support New America and the promise of personal robots and the survival of bodily death. For the rest, hope is at hand: if we can just get you to admit the whole Reagan thing was a canard, and you were never meant to be anything but a cracked minority,  it's possible you may find happiness hating Franklin Delano Roosevelt for the duration of your second childhood.

Thursday, June 12

The GOP: If They're Not Nominating A Corpse They're Trying To Resuscitate One

Sheryl Gay Stolberg,
"Bush Loyalist Fights Foes of 'No Child' Law" June 12

FIRST off, let us say about the Reformer that he or she is, at least in the modern age, a close cousin of the Enthusiast, except the odds of the Reformer being a cynical, self-serving skunk are that much greater.

Celebrity Jeopardy! also-ran Margaret Spellings pops up with the toast this morning--she's busy running for governor of Texas on the Federal dime, in case you're wondering what's actually going on--just as we started combing our Bush archives for a possible Retrospective, an instructional journey into the giant impacted bolus of American politics I hope we'll all share someday soon. (Wish I'd done so a couple months back, as the stuff about the 2000 primary, and Bush Backer fears that it was Going On Too Long, has been trimmed of both pith and zest.) How fitting that one of the last Bush Insiders is squeezing the withered Federal dugs in an ostensible attempt to rescue the crown jewel of his domestic policy, the sorry-assed 2001 exercise in political chicanery (that fooled Ted Kennedy--who'd been in the Senate for forty years at that point!--for a time) which, basically, updated the 1995 Clinton education "reforms", the better for Republicans to make use of them. How fitting, and how inadequate a comeuppance. Even domestically.

Ted Kennedy was fooled into thinking the Bush administration was genuinely interested in bipartisan educational reform! I know a lot of liberals admire the man, and I know he's stood bravely atop the ramparts on more than one occasion, but maybe they should have been checking him for brain bubbles seven years ago. The very idea of Bush's candidacy should have been enough to convince anyone that the modern Republican party could not be trusted to make accurate change, let alone in any more serious operation;  if not, then the remarkable way Dick Cheney appended himself to it should have been, for Teddy, et. al., what a comet was to the Bronze Age rabble. And all that's before the 2000 election. This would point out one of the lessons to be learned, someday, from an examination of the Bush administration: that We, as a People, are remarkably slow to learn lessons.
"...with respect to how education fares compared with other domestic priorities, I think we’ve done well.”

-Secretary of Education Margaret Skillings

Sure. Just as, in the Land of Stinking Fresh Turd Piles, the Mostly-Dessicated Cow Flop is king.

We will, at some point this fall, elect a guy who says a lot of the right things about NCLB, but concludes, in that reasonable soul of his, that what the thing needs is a good reforming. (I suppose there's an off-chance that we, or Diebold, will elect the other guy, the one who believes real education should begin for all Americans on Day One of  boot camp.) We hope, against audacious hope, that he will not get his way, and that the Federal government will begin concentrating on issues of equal access and a well-rounded education, and away from semi-crypto-union busting and aid to religious schools. And a reasonable course in our own History to replace the current collection of fairy tales wouldn't hurt, either. Or maybe a nice Blue-Ribbon Panel on what sort of meddlesomeness is required to correct the problems thirty years of meddlesomeness have wrought. In this we trust in the support of the American people, who have shown, with regard to Iraq, that their interest in healthy living includes a regular program of speed-walking away from the messes they create while whistling vigorously.  If our elected officials have not learned what inevitable fate awaits God-playing corpse re-animators then  the very idea of literacy seems pointless.  

Where the Republican party has, for years, sought to make public schools fail, we hope to make them succeed, and our own simple proposal will soon be available to both campaigns as a .pdf. In the meantime, somewhat oversimplified, our suggestion is that, since voters can now be required to show picture ID to exercise their most basic rights, they could be required to take the NCLB test as well, and their results tabulated and quantified as the basic skill level required to be a good citizen. That ought to raise nearly every school in the country to the Excellent category overnight.

Wednesday, June 11

Flood News

• In a demonstration of How Far We've Come in the Times-led Newfound Respect for Middle American Values, at least so far as We're Given To Understand Them, on CBS yesterday the fact that several Midwestern states have been underwater for a week actually rated a sentence at the end of the tragic story about how it was hot in Manhattan.

• This, of course, is not merely the attitude of the Big City Fellers; local news hairdos who remained relatively stoic last week as a tornado ripped apart an apartment complex in a poor section of town were deeply touched Saturday at the four-hour heliocopter shot of an SUV trying to negotiate flooded streets in the suburbs. Meanwhile, like most renters, most of the displaced apartment residents had no renters' insurance, and can't return for their belongings because the place is structurally unsound, and has to be reinspected every time it rains, which is once every six hours or so for the last ten days. Compare flood insurance, whose absence from the average homeowner policy is perpetually treated as something the average homeowner couldn't possibly have anticipated.

• To his credit, Indiana Governor Mitch "Low Ground" Daniels toured the site on Day Two. Day One was reserved for his visit to Camp Atterbury, which sustained heavy damage, but which, being a federal facility, isn't going to want for a penny and doesn't need the Guv's help getting aid, though does have lots of guys in cammo standing around as decoration.

• I came in in the middle of the story, but I suspect it was in Johnson County (where government buildings were swamped) where the Prosecutor was trapped in his office by rising waters, discovered by rescuers who were unable to break the window necessary to effect his release until a baseball bat used as evidence at trial floated by.

Tuesday, June 10

Does This Come In Any Other Color?

THE regular reader is no doubt aware that this blog exists in the main as my desperate attempt to be liked, to fit in, and that all my comments to the contrary--these, for example--are merely a ruse designed to make it appear as though I myself am totally oblivious to the emotional locomotive driving endless hours of what would, otherwise, be totally wasted effort. This (the ruse) is why you generally do not see me jump in with my patented Look What A Clever and Slightly Tolerable Curmudeon I Am routine whenever there's a small prairie fire of irrational enthusiasm sweeping the nation and its internet, as, say, when the first American of admitted partial African descent* secures the Presidential nomination of a major party, or when Bill Buckley kicks off. Because that's exactly what you'd expect me to do. See?

However, I would appreciate it if some genuinely liked, truly in-the-know person out there might let me know how long the Festival of Self-Congratulations Over How Far We've Come is scheduled to last. Is it going straight through the Convention, or will there be three separate Platitudinal Events in the run-up to Inauguration Day? Will it keep going after that? The Historic First Really Good Inaugural Ball Dancer? The Historic First Pitch of the 2009 MLB season ("We're just moments away from that historic toss, Joe Morgan, and as an African-American yourself, do you think President Obama's natural athleticism can overcome that strong breeze coming in from Left?")? Will we combat the Barack Hussein Obama shit with an "H is for Historic" campaign? I need to figure out when I can say this stuff is driving me crazy.

By Michelle Obama's Pearls! People in the 19th century gladly sat (or stood) through eight-hour orations; four years between Presidential elections must've seemed no longer than the average ad campaign does to us, besides giving outgoing and incoming residents sufficient time to move their belongings. Today the passage of four years surpasses human understanding, and it's sufficient time for a new generation of voter to spring up like alfalfa, or a strip mall. Five years on, and the Iraq War is an orphan. Even John McCain is treating it more as something to get through, like a midterm, or a colonoscopy, and the only people who act like they remember how it started are the six guys who earn a tidy living telling Slate every six months why it was, again, that they changed their minds about it. Except Hitch, of course. One could almost begin to feel sorry for that sod.

Maybe we need to tie the terms of elected officials to some national standard of average attention span, instead of speeding along the turnpike, periodically entering tunnels so long that we not only come out of them purblind, but having forgotten why we got in the car in the first place. By Michelle Obama's Pearls! A People who don't remember Eisenhower's golf, or Kennedy's touch football, or Johnson's surgical scars,** Billy Beer, Jelly Bellies™ , or broccoli-phobia are not just doomed to repeat them, but to drag the rest of us along for the ride. And apart from a reasonable historical, or just plain good, sense, what about Bush II's Presidential cowboy boots, brush clearing, and alcohol-induced adult-onset sociopathy? Are those forgotten already?

And yet, at a time when, By Michelle Obama's Pearls! we Need It Most, we get this:
“When you are operating at a national and even global level,” said Mikki Taylor, the beauty director and cover editor of Essence magazine, everything signifies. “No gesture is too small from now on,” Ms. Taylor said. “It’s all information. We’re all taking something from this look.”

Enthusiasm is the basest human emotion. It's a measure of what sort of diseased minds get hold of our spiritual longings and turn them into cash cows that the supposed Seven Deadly Sins combined, throughout recorded history, do not measure up to the damage Enthusiasm can do on an average weekend. Enthusiasm is the Viagra™ of non-sexual intercourse. Worse, really, because Viagra™ is not, to my knowledge, generally employed by rapists, and because Enthusiasm regularly lasts more than four hours, though less than four years. The Enthusiast has a big, unearned hard-on, and he intends for you to Get It, one way or another. And Enthusiasm's weapons, unlike those of more supposedly Deadly sins, are all lethal: the broadaxe, the neutron bomb, the beauty director and cover editor.

Look, if you do not remember Bush the Nicknamer, Clinton the Sax Addict, or the national craze for lumberjack shirts that trailed Lamar Alexander like an exceedingly ugly waterskier, kindly return to your studies. If you do, or if these words spark some dim recollection, for god's sakes try to think two months in advance, for once. Unlike starlets, and boy singers, and reality-show harlots, there's not another America's Next Presidential Couple around the corner. Could you not do your damnedest to make us sick of this one by Halloween, when comical costumes will finish the job?  Please, please--I don't ask for much here, do I?--just kick your enthusiasm where it belongs, start asking questions, and stop talking about How Far We've Come, fer chrissakes; you're a college-educated careerist who just might possibly know something of Martin Luther King's bio, at best, and the only thing you've overcome is Unfashionable Kitchen Appliance colors. You may swear now you'll LUV OBAMA 4EVER, and I hope he'll give you reason to, but the whole thing ain't up to you. And in all that time there'll still be plenty of Republicans around who still deserve stomping on. Sheesh, even Peggy "Pulitzer Bait" Noonan knows this country was founded by the first people to toss a king out on his ear and refuse (however narrowly) to replace him with another.

* For fuck's sake, we all are.  Obama's just a few steps closer to the source.

**Shown off, apparently, because there were international rumors he'd had a very different surgery. Cf. John McCain's medical document dump.

Friday, June 6

Friday Garden Blogging

Climbing rose whose name I've forgotten.

Hostas whose names I've forgotten.

Gruss an Aachen ("Jerry") rose, dead or alive.

Thursday, June 5

Don't Go In The Basement

IN case you were wondering where I'd got to, it's Day Two of Big Basement De-Hydrolizing II: The Re-Wettening, which means it's the fifth straight day of clean-up, or the second since the first one was almost but not quite completed, or the one that Just Might Kill Me. The storms that rolled in around 2:30 in the AM Wednesday were the strongest sustained (five hours) ones I can remember, but then my memory isn't what it used to be. Decent road-show Lear straight through to morning, though. Through Herculean efforts (which have left me, today, walking like Vulcan) measurable standing water has been corralled into two areas; the rest is just wet. We've gone from twenty-second fill time on an unassisted Shop-Vac (12 gal.) nozzle dunk up to nearly three minutes. I time them on occasion. Really. I am the J. Alfred Prufrock of nozzle dunks.

Honorable mention in all this goes--don't get ahead of me--to local media coverage, which began Monday evening with wall-to-wall carpet narration of a storm system, or Possible Tornadic Event Horizon to the incontinent argotizer, which barely brushed the northern edge of their Viewing Area. (Here is all you'll ever need to know about Local Teevee News: they solved any potential problem about interrupting Jeopardy! so that some maroon who pays $200 for a haircut that looks like he slept on it could, basically, narrate himself watching the thing move across his computer screen, by splitting the screen, and showing Alex on one-half. I highly recommend you try it some time: watch Jeopardy! with the sound off. See if you can spot anything vital that's missing. If you can, you're unfit to be a modern teevee producer.)

Now, there's a short span here where I'm unclear about what went on over the air, because I went out to mow the lawn before the predicted Tuesday rains, and when I got back in my Poor Wife was still watching the goddam radar, only now it was showing a monster fucking Highly Probable Tornadic Event Potential whose Horizon was about fifteen miles west and aimed right at our heads. ("It just popped up," she said. "While they were speculating about how much rain Chicago was getting, I'm guessing," I muttered.) We sat mesmerized as the thing moved--more slowly than anticipated, if by "anticipated" you mean "occurring every two minutes as a part of the incontinent, brain-damaging chatter kept up by profession nincompoops"--slowly over us, manhandling people to the south and north but merely tearing major limbs off our trees and depositing them where they did no damage, and as the American Meteorological Society Approved Mouthpieces followed the damn thing to the outskirts of Dayton, name-checking every town in between. It was only the next morning we were to learn that a category 2 tornado had ripped a mile-long swath through a neighborhood two miles from where these jokers sat, warning Snack's Crossing and West Muckville of the exact moment they were scheduled to join in the festivities, just in case any viewers out there couldn't read the graphic in the fifteen minutes allotted.  

My wife says that the next morning they offered up some excuse as to why they knew just what radar code meant a possible tornado possibly developing, but had no idea for several hours that one had smashed down within earshot. This is, of course, the major accomplishment of the age: better explanations.

Well, that, and the other thing, the development of high-tech gizmos to the point that even their paid apologists can no longer pretend they impart any information at all to someone lacking a lifetime of study.  Potential weather disasters are now your best opportunity to watch some guy playing with a computer, and beyond counting lightning strikes, and putting up little fluorescent graphic mushrooms to indicate hailstones, they've got some dealie that turns clouds into a sort of three-dimensional pie chart that looks like some Lego™ figure out of the old "Money For Nothing" video and is roughly half as informative.  Whatever these people are paid, I suppose the ability--it must be innate; I doubt it could be learned--to avoid saying "What the fuck is this shit?" every time one is required to play with it makes 'em worth it, in some wardrobe-malfunction avoidance sense.

Now, here's the thing: I'm not a gardener who uses chemical controls, at least not unless something catastrophic was occurring, but if I were, and if, say, there was a problem with chafers, or corn smut, or tulip blight, I would respond to every occurrence in the same fashion. Not teevee weather. Faced with the same set of circumstances Wednesday (or worse, if anything) which happened to occur during their regularly scheduled celebration of barely-competent teleprompter following, do they go wall-to-wall to make sure the citizens of Petroleum, Donnybrook, and Mucus Lake are kept fully informed? Do not get ahead of me. No, the weather--though a major story, as it is every single fucking day of the year--is interrupted regularly for the pictures they've finally been able to get of the previous day's weather, plus the standard Health Scene reports on diseases or elective surgeries popular in New York, or wherever the feed they got came from, and the results of their having sent someone around with a microphone, ambushing streetwalkers who looked as though they might have a half-formed opinion on The Historical Candidacy of Barack Obama.

And then, since no amount of whipped cream is ever complete without more whipped cream, came the Wednesday morning storms, almost exactly as predicted, which were thundering like mushroom-mazed Valhalla and dumping inches of rain hourly with no seeming let up. And a throbbing knee had awakened me a half-hour before, and when I first heard the approaching disaster I switched on local news. Don''t get ahead of me. Enjoy your infomercial.

Tuesday, June 3

Oh, I Forgot. He Had A Meddlesome Priest Deferment.

Bill Kristol, "What Obama Left Out." June 2

Why, it's military service! Senator Obama neglected to mention military service!

You'd imagine Bill Kristol (b. December 23, 1952) would sympathize, seeing as how he's the same Bill Kristol who in 2003 twice told C-SPAN callers he was "too young for Vietnam" or "too young to be drafted for Vietnam" when called on his chickenhawk ways, despite the fact that he was actually in the last class of draftees sent to Vietnam. But you'd be wrong.

re: 2008 Elections

James B. S. Riley
Global Powders & Notions, LLC

General Delivery

Indianapolis, IN
June 3, 2008

Jesus Horatio Christ
The One True Religion, Inc.
Time Immemorial

Dear Jesus:

I gotta tell Ya, first off, that we had quite a discussion about that salutation here at Global Powders. People suggested everything from "Your Worshipfulness" to "Anointed One" to "You don't have to write Him, He hears everything you say." One guy even insisted Your name was Yehoshua, which led to ugly name-calling and some minor fisticuffs down in the cube farm; I suppose You're used to that sort of thing. I emailed Rod Dreher--I figured if anybody knew he would--but I haven't heard back yet.

Anyway, in the end I fell back on my unadorned Midwestern Protestant upbringing, since I'm pretty sure that's Your preference. But on the off-chance it isn't, no offense! okay? I mean, I've already got water in my basement. Frogs would bring the neighborhood association down on my ass. (Just kidding!)

Anyway, I suppose You know why I'm writing You. You've been Personally involved in every US Presidential election since 1976, and things have gone from bad to worse. And maybe that's Your preference--who am I to question it, huh?--but my god Your people are embarrassing themselves. I'm pretty sure by now You realize turning the Catholic bishops loose on John Kerry was a mistake of biblical proportions. New Coke™, even. I mean, jeez, they've only been civilized for a couple of generations at best, and You rile them up about the Eucharist all over again. Don't you vet these people? How'd one of 'em wind up at Trinity United doing a drag-show Joan Rivers? Haven't we suffered enough? Sometimes I think Your sense of humor is just too subtle for the room, Dude.

So, in conclusion, would it hurt You to sit the rest of this one out? I'm pretty sure we can fuck it up the rest of the way all by ourselves.


James B.S. Riley

P.S. I'm enclosing some shots of my knee, if you've got a moment.

JBSR: dc