Touchy, aren't we?
Al Franken: "Clinton's military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?"
Paul Wolfowitz: "Fuck you."
The updating of Playboy is progressing quite nicely, I think. Sure, they need to lose the crappy cartoons and the c-list celebs, but beyond that there are some real noteworthy changes. The new front of the book section looks great, and is a lot more coherent and interesting than it's been in years (kudos to Chris Napolitano and his team for that). There are features I'm actually looking forward to reading, and even the pictorials have a less artificial, more modern look (though they have a ways to go before they're half as sexy as anything in Maxim). I've always said this battleship could be turned around, though I still suspect Hef will have to die before it can do a full 360.
Former Modern Humorist designated hitter Chris Painter now writes for the syndicated TV show She Spies, which seems to be a pretty sweet gig in that as far as I can tell he only has to write about two episodes a year. His last one was the first episode I'd ever watched, and to my pleasant surprise it was surprisingly pleasant. Funny, arch meta-jokes. Clever, Sorkin-esque banter. Gratifying lack of Sorkin-esque self-seriousness. And a triple serving of good old American T&A. You could certainly do worse than to set your Replay for his Chris' new episode, Damsels in De-Stress (set at a spa, get it?), which airs in New York on channel 4, Sunday at midnight and elsewhere at other times.
In the briefing on circumcision I wrote for The Week last month, I stated, "Circumcision opponents say that when the glans is unnaturally exposed, it thickens and becomes less sensitive." In my first draft, I followed that with a sentence to the effect of, "There is no evidence for this." The disclaimer got cut for space, and because lack of evidence isn't thought of as newsworthy (unlike unsubstantiated claims). Were I writing the article today, I'd instead have said, "Evidence disputes this."
I remain a rare circumcision moderate: there's no reason (other than cultural) to do it, but there's no harm in it either.
"We've all seen Forever Amber". Ooh, nice try with the whole pop culture thing, but actually, what we've all seen is Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
Also: "love rituals"?
Reuters: a news service and a vocabulary builder. "In some sense people like to be frightened," he said. "And so, to some extent what I am saying is a denial of what seems to be a basic human instinct -- to get a sort of frisson (shiver) of excitement out of danger."
"We were not lying, but it was just a matter of emphasis." Krugman's shrewd critique of the way the war was sold, guaranteed to be shouted down with chants of "USA! USA!"
The Hartford Courant story on Radar has one funny moment: "Roshan is keenly aware of all that's been written about him and Radar. He laughs about some of the incorrect information out there (the L.A. Times spelled his last name wrong throughout its story)." The Courant story, on the other hand, only misspells his name once.
As if I could be more in love with Shakira.
Calling him on it. Talking dirty to Rick Santorum's staff isn't a prank call -- it's activism.
Down the memory hole. You didn't really want to read that article anyway. Not while there's a war on.
The intra-conservative debate (don't you love those?) over Rick Santorum ("Santorum? Isn't that Latin for asshole?" -- Bob Kerrey) is hinging in part on whether Rick equated homosexuality with child abuse and beastiality, or whether he specifically distinguished among them. Andrew Sullivan takes the former position for granted. Not so Stanley Kurtz and many others, who read Santorum's remarks in the exact opposite way. Here's Chris Caldwell:
"The Supreme Court has consistently used the privacy doctrine to shield sexual rights from moral criticism; all that matters under the privacy doctrine is consent. Mr Santorum took exquisite care to respect this distinction. "Not to pick on homosexuality," he explained. "It's not, you know, man-on-child, man-on-dog, or whatever the case may be." What a nifty rhetorical trick! Homosexuality is indeed in a different category from sex with children and animals. But, as Mr Santorum implied, it falls in the same category as many disreputable forms of sex such as prostitution, incest between adults, and polygamy - all of which are consensual."
Sounds pretty definitive. But go to the actual transcript:
"Every society in the history of man has upheld the institution of marriage as a bond between a man and a woman. Why? Because society is based on one thing: that society is based on the future of the society. And that's what? Children. Monogamous relationships. In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That's not to pick on homosexuality. It's not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing."
It's hard to tell without hearing Santorum's voice, but here's how I read it: In the very last sentence, the word "it" clearly refers to "the definition of marriage" from three sentences previous. In which case, the word "it's" in the sentence before that must also refer to "the definition of marriage." What Santorum is saying is not "homosexuality is not man on child, etc." He's saying. "I'm not singling out homosexuality here. There are a lot of relationships that do not fit the definition of marriage. Among them, man on child, etc." Advantage Sullivan.
Meanwhile, the supposed debate over whether (consensual adult) incest should perhaps also be legal is such a non-starter. There is virtually no such thing (if there was, the movement would have better web designers), thanks to taboos stronger than any law. Sure, in an abstract philosophical way, invoking the right to privacy would lead one to supporting a repeal of laws against incest. But in the real world, where there is no such repeal movement, the connection is only made by those seeking to invoke a slippery slope from homosexuality to utter pandemonium. As such, it's not worth talking about, at least until gay rights are firmly entrenched in American society.
On a similar note, I can't get worked up over the whole dilemma pro-choicers are supposedly facing over Laci Peterson and fetal murder laws. Sure, in a perfect world where abortion rights are firmly entrenched, there's no philosophical reason that pro-choicers shouldn't support laws that punish the murder of a wanted fetus. But we're not in that world, and the laws are being proposed specifically in order to chisel away at abortion rights. I have no problem objecting to that at all.
Update: It's like he's reading my mind.
How to Give Up Hope. What do you think will bring an end to the "one-hundred year rein of Bush-wing Republicanism"? Karma? Its inherent stupidity? A backlash among ordinary Americans? Heightening of the contradictions? The rise of a rival power? No, no, no, no, and, um, no. Get used to a life of darting "from shadow to shadow, like a proto-mammal dodging the raptors, for a few hundred thousand years or so," says the expat journal Exile. Really, the only hope is a nuclear bomb right in the center of Manhattan. Well, they had me until that. Hilarious, unapologetic anti-American raving. Contains genuine pearls of wisdom, but not fit for the uptightly patriotic.
A few years back, New Youth Connections, the fabulous teen-written newspaper where I got my start, published a girl's tale of coming out to her family. I clipped and saved what struck me as the funniest sentence I had ever read, ever: "I had joined a teen support group for gay, lesbian, transgendered, questioning, bisexual and non-labeling youth." How delightful that people who reject labels now had a label of their own -- "non-labeling" -- to tack on to the end of what is clearly the most label-happy group of folks ever assembled.
I thought of this the other day when I stumbled on a label I'd never heard before, and my reaction was, I have to say, exactly the same as that of the grumpy right wing blogger who spotted it. Shows what we know. Apparently it's huge in Canada.
The blowback begins. "The Iraq war teaches a lesson that in order to prevent a war and defend the security of a country and the sovereignty of a nation, it is necessary to have a powerful physical deterrent."
TypePad is coming. I want photos, and better stats. I could care less about comments right now, but you never know. Blogrolling seems crass. More flexible templates would be nice. So would spellcheck (not mentioned). But do I want to pay for any of this? I doubt it. Maybe Blogger will up the ante, without tacking on a new charge.
Heightening the contradictions. "There are plenty of good reasons not to purposely provoke a series of crises in the Middle East. But that's what the hawks are setting in motion, partly on the theory that the worse things get, the more their approach becomes the only plausible solution." Josh Marshall argues that neocons are loving the chaos in Iraq, and that Bush has pulled a classic bait and switch.
Anyone want a CD player that works almost 75% of the time? We just upgraded our cranky Sony -- it's a 5-disc changer with about 8 years under its belt, so the laser is going -- but it seems a shame to just throw it out. When it's not skipping, it sounds just fine. Free to a good home, just drop a line. I'm assuming that I know most of the people who read this blog, and that you probably live in NY. It's not worth packing this up and mailing it anywhere, and I'd rather not deal with perverted strangers who happened to stumble here from the link on ErosBlog or something. Offer expires May 2003.
Update: If I'd known ErosBlog's Bacchus was going to link this, I'd have made it clear that I have absolutely nothing against perverts, as a quick glance around my site will show. Welcome, perverts, to my humble abode. But the good sex blogger is right: you really don't want the CD player anyway.
One of the nicest things about being an editor rather than just a writer is that now when I have an idea for something that would make a good story, but that I don't actually want to write, I can just assign it. Yeah, I know you editors are saying, "duh," but until this I'd often thought I should just create a web site where I list all the ideas I have that I never got around to doing. The knowledge that nobody on earth would be interested in such a site stopped me. The Half Bakery, however, has done me one better. Here people can submit any, you know, half-baked ideas for stories, TV shows, products, services, trends, etc., and everyone gets to vote on them. Some ideas actually seem eminently feasible, others are just dumbass, and there are far too many Discordian jokes that I would've found hilarious in high school. But as an idea for a Web site, The Half Bakery is at least three quarters baked.
Andrew Sullivan zeros in on a tidbit in the Rick Santorum dust up: "From the story, it seems as if reporter Lara Jakes Jordan added the "(gay)" in order to get around her poor sentence construction. If so, she ruined a huge and damaging Freudian slip. Because it's clear from the quote that simply consensual sex -- gay or straight -- is precisely what Santorum wants to police." The transcript confirms this suspicion (and much more), but I think Sullivan may be too generous when he calls this a slip. After all, recall what Tony Scalia's said when a lawyer argued, "It's conceded by the state of Texas that married couples can't be regulated in their private sexual decisions." Scalia's reply: "They may have conceded it, but I haven't."
Update: I realized I forgot to point out my favorite moment in the transcript: "I'm sorry, I didn't think I was going to talk about 'man on dog' with a United States senator, it's sort of freaking me out. "
Update: Sullivan has been ferocious on his blog. A real treat.
So, some of us are thinking of organizing a Buffy wake on May 21st, the day after the final episode. Stay tuned, Slayer fans. Meanwhile, that shark Buffy jumped just keeps receeding further and further into the distance. Evil priest hates/desires sexually active women. Um, yeah, whatever. Tres transgressive.
(STORY CAN END HERE. OPTIONAL MATERIAL FOLLOWS.) Ah, irony, thanks to some hastily posted wire copy. What's included after the would-be end of the story? For one thing, this quote that spells out exactly what the US means when it says Iraqis will run their own country: "Nobody has authority unless General McKiernan says so," Whitley advised. "Mr. Zubaidi and Mr. Chalabi have no authority. If we say you run the railroad, you run the railroad. If anybody comes and tells you differently, tell us. We will ask them to stop interfering. If we have to, we will arrest them."
Fly the fascist skies. "Individuals posing or suspected of posing a national security risk to civilian aircraft," will be barred from air travel, says the TSA. That means you and you. (Hmm. I'm trying to keep my smart bombs targeted squarely on the oppressive guvmint, but I can't help but point out that War Times has not updated since late March. Are they starting to feel embarrassed by that 500,000 figure?)
Let me get this straight. The whole time the US was demanding that Iraq live up to UN resolutions and destroy its weapons of mass destruction, Saddam was defiantly and covertly, um, destroying his weapons of mass destruction? Sneaky bastard.
I know enough about Fleet Street to not believe half of what I read in the U.K. papers. But even with a giant grain of salt, this is a tasty alternate take on the official USA-approved version of the Jessica Lynch story.
Update: Five days after this story appeared in the London Times (but before I posted the link) The New York Times published a very similar version (with a less hostile spin), by Alan Feuer, one of Gina's former co-workers, coincidentally.
I don't know if being a blogger obliges me to read other bloggers. Frankly, I'd almost always rather read something that's been at least vetted by an editor, so maybe I'm not cut out for the blogosphere. Also, I hate words like "blogosphere." That said, Jake pointed me to Everything is Wrong, which seems to be an entertaining lefty/geek outfit. You could do worse.
Humorist and Music Club member Francis Heaney is, as you'd imagine, both funny and smart about music. In fact, he's been known to be both at the same time. This weekend he'll be performing some of his catchy, comedic pop songs in NYC. You'll find him along with Charles Herold (and me, in the audience) at 22 Below (155 E. 22nd St) on Saturday 4/26 at 9pm.
...but I'm huge in Canada. I'll take my praise where I can get it, even if the writer is 1) Canadian and 2) seems to have trouble putting together a smooth sentence. From the Toronto Globe and Mail review of Radar: "They don't all work, but it's an interesting jumble, and the funny opening essay by Daniel Radosh summarizing the state of the world, which mixes antiwar protesters with jibes at Madonna, is a perfect encapsulation of Roshan's high-low goal."
Thirty-one readers a day is not a lot, but sometimes I don't know why any of you even bother with my half-assed blog. I also don't know why (or how!) any good writers manage to put together full-assed blogs (i.e., consistently interesting and polished to a shine), but they do. My latest find is so in tune with my own sensibilities that I almost want to say it's the Platonic form of Radosh.net -- the blog I'd be blogging if I wasn't busy with not blogging. And then just as I was about to post this, it occurred to me that maybe the person behind it is someone I know (she talks about having been an NYC media type), so I did a quick Google, and sure enough, it's my old friend Ana Marie Cox. Which is kind of depressing. I mean, it's one thing to admire an abstract stranger for having more time and skill than me, but when it's someone I know, I just feel like I'm doing something wrong. Anyway, please leave here now and visit instead The Antic Muse.
(Thanks to Colleen Werthmann.)
Seeking money for AIDS research? Better tell the government you'll be working with cotton candy, ice cream, and baskets of cute, fuzzy puppies.
Bombing for Bechtel. "Some argue that it's too simplistic to say this war is about oil. They're right. It's about oil, water, roads, trains, phones, ports and drugs. And if this process isn't halted, 'free Iraq' will be the most sold country on earth." Why those of us who celebrate Saddam's downfall still wish it hadn't come at the hands of the U.S. military (not to mention those pesky mass graves and weeping widows).
The first issue of Radar is out -- I'm a columnist and contributing editor, if you don't know. It's been getting mostly good notices (1, 2, 3, 4) and one less good one. As for the business side of things, your guess is as good as mine. My take editorially: It's a solid first issue of a magazine that will get really great by issue three or four. On a personal level, I'm bummed that my elegant 750-word column, "The Opening Shot," was whittled down to 500 words, making it more a collection of half-funny jokes than a wry essay. But I've been promised that there will be more room for it in the future.
The features and departments are the strongest sections, I think. Other than lending a small hand to the Monsters Inc. package, I didn't work on any of these. The sections in which I'll play the biggest role are the two at the front of the book: Static (short, funny items about news and newsmakers) and In Play (short, funny items about entertainers and entertainment). Both sections are well-conceived (though I hope to tweak In Play a bit) and there are some swell items in them -- Stephen Sherrill's Jackson Family Makeover, The Iron Chef's White Trash Challenge. By the way, I found and sort of wrote up the Gabe Kaplan item on the Fresh Intelligence page (I did NOT add that "Eeek"). He responded to my calls too late to get it onto the page, but the upshot is that he wrote the email in question as a joke, and I'm trying to get him to write something for a future issue. Seriously, how cool would that be?
But anyway -- and here's where you come in -- both these sections need to be sharper and funnier. I want stuff that makes people gasp. How-did-they-think-of-that stuff. As you'll see, our mandate is for fact-based humor. Items that are either 100% true, or that at least spin off from something real in the news. Flip through your old issues of Spy for inspiration. We sure did. Then send your pitches my way. If you have ideas for departments or features, that's great too. I have high hopes for this magazine.
In any case, I'd like to hear your honest opinions about the magazine. What works, what doesn't. I'm appointing myself ear-to-the-ground guy, since unlike the rest of the staff, I'm not holed up in the office there.
So I was going to write a simple little item about divergent polls. The New York Times/CBS poll says Americans oppose pre-emptive strikes. The Wall St. Journal/NBC poll says America favors pre-emptive strikes. Media moment gold.
Here's how the Times paraphrased its own findings, "But a majority remains opposed to a policy of pre-emptive attack like the one President Bush invoked in invading Iraq." The sidebar to the story shows what you'd think were the actual poll questions and results: "After the war in Iraq, do you think the United States should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first, or should the U.S. be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the U.S.?" Should not attack: 51%, Should attack: 38%, No opinion: 11%.
The Journal printed only a graphic showing that when asked "Do you agree with the new military policy of initiating pre-emptive strikes," 63% said agree, 25% said disagree, 12% said unsure.
My gut reaction was that when asked simply about "pre-emptive strikes," as in the WSJ poll, people say sure. But when it is explained exactly what this policy means, as in the Times poll, they're more hesitant. But then a footnote to the Times question caught my eye: "Asked of half the respondents." That's odd, I thought. So I checked the actual poll results.
Turns out that for some reason, half of the respondents were asked this question, worded slightly differently than in the Times print edition, but essentially the same: "Which comes closer to your opinion about what the United States policy should be after the war with Iraq? The United States should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first, OR the U.S. should be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the United States?" The results were as the Times reported them.
But the other respondents were asked the question without the specific qualifier that this refers to post-Iraq: "Which comes closer to your opinion about what the United States policy should be? The United States should not attack another country unless the U.S. is attacked first, OR the U.S. should be able to attack any country it thinks might attack the United States?" This time, the responses were, Should not attack: 40%, Should attack: 47%, Don't know, 13%.
Not quite as enthusiastic as the WSJ poll, but odd that the Times shouldn't mention this, I thought. It seems to undermines their paraphrase: Americans don't oppose a policy of preemption "like the one Bush invoked in invading Iraq" -- that's precisely the one they do support. It's cases UNLIKE Iraq -- those yet to come -- in which Americans oppose preemption.
Then I checked the actual WSJ/NBC poll. Turns out it doesn't just ask about "pre-emptive strikes," but also spells out what they mean. However, it does so in language that's clearly designed -- or at least likely -- to elicit a more enthusiastic response: "Do you agree or disagree with the United States' new policy of initiating military action when there is a threat of hostility?" The difference between "thinks might attack" and "threat of hostility" is subtle but genuine.
And while trolling the poll results, I found two intriguing items that didn't make the print versions at all. When the Times asked, "Do you think Iraq probably does or probably does not have weapons of mass destruction that the United States has yet to find?" 81% said it does, 12% said it does not, and 1% volunteered that in fact such weapons HAD been found.
Sure, it's not so bad if 1% of Americans have their heads up their asses. But that's the people willing to contradict the poll question. The WSJ/NBC poll asked the really important question: "Was the United States successful at finding evidence of weapons of mass destruction?" This time 36% said it was, 11% said they weren't sure. Only a slim majority knew that so far no WMDs have been found.
Don't ask how many people in either poll thinks it matters one way or the other.
Quote of the day: "This isn't freedom, this is bullshit." -- Mosul citizen on the city's descent into anarchy (superb reporting altogether here).
Quote of the day: "I'm having a blast. I'm young. It's my turn to shoot and loot." -- US Army reservist, entering one of Saddam's palaces.
Uday Hussein plastered his walls with photos of hot chicks -- including the Bush twins. Paging Vern Yip...
? Where to start with Donald Rumsfeld's masterwork of indignant denial. Most stories spotlighted "Free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes," which I have to admit is kind of enticing to those of us who live in the land of the free (I'm gonna bust into the White House and steal some chairs, yo!). Then there was the they're-looting-"symbols of the regime" defense, which must be news to the civilians who saw their homes, stores, hospitals, and museums ransacked. But I kind of liked the part where he said the photographers just happen to get off a few lucky shots. "I could do that in any city in America. Think what's happened in our cities when we've had riots and problems and looting. Stuff happens!" He continues in that vein for a while. Worth reading the whole thing. Now I'm not saying things won't eventually calm down (soon people are going to have to resort to looting the looters if they want to get anything good) and Iraq will still be better off than under Saddam, if messier, but Rummy's whiplash turn from gloating to defensiveness is sure delicious.
Meanwhile, this photo had me fuming all over again about Chris Hitchens' idiotic "barely a 'war' at all" claim. I think the average American personally knows about 500 people. Let's say a shmoozer like Hitchens knows twice that. Somehow I think if he could imagine every person he knows dead -- and then multiply that by five to ten -- he wouldn't be so quick to claim that "scarcely" any blood was spilled. It's not just me, the guy's gone totally delusional, right?
Also in Slate, the ever-smart Kinsley says victory in war does not equal victory in the argument about the war -- though I for one still think it's possible that Saddam had some CBW's, though not in any quantity or type to remotely threaten the US.
Quote I can't believe I missed a few days ago: "They shouldn't be out they got the memo." Marine rifleman, justifying shooting civilians at checkpoints.
A new Slate contest. Not the News Quiz, but reminiscent.
I'm plenty happy to see Saddam gone, but this kind of gloating is just obscene. "Scarcely a drop of blood spilled"? A reasonable estimate of Iraqi dead is upwards of 10,000 -- maybe a quarter or a third of them civilians. And as we've been learning, many Iraqi soldiers fought because they were forced to. They may not be innocent, but they were not entirely guilty either and their deaths should be mourned. "Barely a 'war' at all"? In 21 days, the US killed perhaps three times the number of people who died at the World Trade Center. I don't recall Chris Hitchens shrugging those lives off. Of course there is no comparing the intents of these two events, but while it's one thing to believe blood must be shed to accomplish a worthy goal, it's quite another to pretend that it didn't happen.
Am I the only person who took Entertainment Weekly's giant Pop Culture Quiz? I've been trying all week to brag about scoring a 96, but no one seems to know what the hell I'm talking about.
Six CDs worth of material from two Mirth of a Nation collections, and they couldn't find room for one of my pieces? Well, you still get comedy from Tim Carvell, Henry Alford, Francis Heaney, Alysia Gray Painter, David Rakoff, Merrill Markoe, Jamie Malanowski, Mark O'Donnell, and many others, so it's probably worth checking out. Still, did they really need two from Andy Borowitz?
Of course, you can still buy a copy of Mirth I and have someone read my pieces out loud to you. And Michael has promised me that an updated version of the PowerPoint Anthology of Literature will appear in Mirth III.
Chris McConnell writes:
I read your blog entry about how you don't know if you "stand FOR anything that can be achieved by marching right now." For what its worth, one of the reasons I still march is to remind others abroad that not all Americans support this war or support the adminstration's foreign policy. My sister is studying in Berlin right now, and she'll show her classmates photos I take of actions in Austin to show there are people in this vast state and nation that aren't bloodthirsty racists, etc. I worry that the tendency to tar all Americans with the same brush abroad is only aggravated by the actions of the Bush adminstration.
A second reason I march is simply because I think that this war is symptomatic of crappy US foreign policy that's gone on since before Vietnam, and, since my country's actions abroad have the attention of most media-consuming Americans, its an ideal time to publicly sound off on the way my country behaves. I do think people should be reminded of the
ways we propped up evil-doers like Pinochet, Noriega, and Saddam Hussein and call into question the hows and whys of our international actions, whether or not I'm received well.
Finally, I worry about things like civil liberties and social disapproval of dissent, and I tend to think I need to exercise my civil liberties in order to keep them. And I show up to marches, not just to air my views, but to also lend support and give positive feedback to others who are more active in challenging policy.
Chris -- a blogger whom I crossed paths with back in the days of something called The Transom (it was going to be the GenX AOL) -- makes some excellent points. It may sound half-assed, but I like seeing protests, and I support the people who choose to go out there and get shot with non-lethal weapons. I'm more on the side of protesters than not. But I reiterate that what I want to see accomplished now is not something that can be accomplished by marching. To take Chris' points in reverse order:
Showing support for people who are doing the hard work: This is the most convincing one to me. There are people doing real hands-on work, and if public marches give them energy, that's good. Still, that's pretty second-hand.
Civil liberties: When there's a real march for civil liberties, I'll join it. But let's face it, while domestic issues get tacked on to these protests, they're really about the war through and through. A handful of signs about John Ashcroft doesn't take the focus off Iraq.
Imperialism: Who isn't anti-imperialist? (Don't answer that). But that fits squarely in my definition of things to march AGAINST not FOR. Acknowledging America's history is important, and marching against imperialism in general has its time and place, but there's real work that can be done now to create a non-imperialist post-Iraq. However, it requires the kind of proactive agenda I mentioned in my original post (citing Gomes). Blocking traffic won't accomplish that. Indeed, I think the continued "stop the war" protests -- even as it's been clear that the war will be over very quickly -- has made it more difficult for the Left to claim a spot in the postwar discussion. To quote today's Times, as a reliable measure of conventional wisdom: "The antiwar forces, who have had to contend from the start with the widespread belief that their position is unpatriotic and unsupportive of American troops engaged in deadly combat, must now bear the additional burden of arguing with success."
Had we been saying from the start, "of course the US military will accomplish its goals, and of course Iraq will be better off without Saddam, even though this isn't how we would have chosen to get rid of him, so let's be sure that what comes next is genuine independence and liberty, not a puppet regime" it would be more likely that people would listen when we said, as we will inevitably have to, "the US is installing a puppet regime." Now they'll just say, "if it were up to you, Saddam would still be in power." I know lots of people I love and respect on the left argue that we shouldn't tailor our message based on what other people are going to say. But many of them never talk to anyone who doesn't agree with them, and I think don't know how easy it would be to win over the vast middle if we just acknowledged that we're not totally out of touch with what other people think.
Showing other countries that not all Americans support Bush: First of all, I think they know that. Secondly, fighting for a just postwar Iraq rather than holding endless "stop the war" marches would send a similar message, if a quieter one.
But big thanks to Chris for sharing his thoughts, and helping me hone mine.
Studying the same Bush statement, two media outlets offer radically different interpretations.
From The New York Times: "Mr. Bush was self-assured, blunt-spoken and aggressive. For once, the English language seemed his ally rather than his worst enemy. He betrayed not the slightest doubt about the decisions he has made on the war in Iraq so far or the ones he faces."
From Slate (scroll to 4/8): "If this position confuses you... join the club. Bush, too, looks confused. He's a black-and-white guy. He likes to talk about good and evil, freedom and tyranny, principles and focus groups. When these things come together in the same person or idea, he gets flummoxed."
What accounts for the difference (other than possible overcompensation on NYTer Johnny Apple's part to make up for his week one quagmire story)? Both stories focus on a Bush quote. But the Times edits it to its self-assured, bluntest. Slate publishes it in full.
Other quote of the day: "I think they thought we wouldn't shoot kids. But we showed them we don't care." -- Private Nick Boggs
Quote of the day: "Iraq has now already achieved victory -- apart from some technicalities." --Mohsen Khalil, Iraqi ambassador to the Arab League.
I shouldn't have to remind anyone here to be watching The Daily Show every night. But just in case, here's a nice summary of why the show is better than ever. It's a mystery to me that people think Michael Moore is still the funniest, smartest comedian on the left, when Jon Stewart and co. hand him an ass-whomping five times a week.
Update. Martha Keavney writes: "Isn't he actually arguing the other (correct) side, that the earth revolves around the sun?" Um, why, yes, he is. But maybe that's really the nutty position after all. Now that I've actually read this, the other guy's arguments are pret-ty persuasive...
No atheists in foxholes? There are nearly 30 of them!
Quote of the day (if the day is last Thursday; and lest I be accused of only finding funny quotes that make the US look bad): "Democracy. Whiskey. And sexy!" -- Iraqi civilian greeting American troops.
"It's like I am seeing the same movie twice..." A dispatch from the last country the U.S. liberated.
Headline of the day: Barbara Bush Says She Admires Her Son.
Two weeks ago we put together a package for my brother-in-law Kevin who is with the 101st Airborne in Iraq. Since he once told me that his favorite magazine is Maxim -- and that it has replaced Playboy as the magazine the guys fight over most -- I had planned to go down to the 14th floor and pick up a few copies for him. Then Becky sent us the regulations: "Any matter containing religious materials contrary to Islamic faith or depicting nude or seminude persons, pornographic or sexual items, or non-authorized political materials is prohibited." I was pretty sure Maxim fails several of those tests, so we sent Blender and some other publications Kevin probably has no interest in (along with wet wipes and candy wrapped in the same cheery yellow as cluster bomblets, just to mix things up a bit.)
What a chump I am. On Saturday, the New York Times ran this photo of Kevin's brigade. You can't quite see it here, but the guy on the right is clearly reading a copy of...Hustler!
Imagine -- I watched M*A*S*H my whole childhood, and never learned that Army rules are meant to be broken.
Update: Art Winer writes: "I was absent mindedly watching CNN with the sound muted, and couldn't help but notice, in fat block letters on the screen: NO PORK OR PORN. Out of context, or even in context, that would make a great title for...err...I dunno, something. Maybe an album cover."
A hilarious excerpt from the recent New Yorker profile of Noam Chomsky. This argument is clever and funny. Much more so than in the stiff written version that Chomsky published back in November:
Back in the classroom, Chomsky's co-teacher asked whether one of the students wanted to try to make a case for the war in Iraq. A round-faced young man near the door raised his hand. "I think the most central claim for the pro-war movement is the liberation of the Iraqi people," the student said. "That's been the hardest one for the left to counter. I think that at the core the best of what Professor Chomsky has been able to say is that in the past the U.S. hasn't done it."
"Not just hasn't done it, has supported the opposite," Chomsky broke in. "And not just the U.S. but the people currently in office. . . . Suppose the goal is to liberate Iraq. How come it's not proposed at the United Nations?"
"There are a lot of answers to that, like I think-" the student began.
"Really? I don't know of any," Chomsky interrupted. "But here's a way to liberate Iraq, an easy way, and it will knock off all the most common arguments. No U.S. casualties, no threat to Israel, good chance of bringing democracy, probably be welcomed by the population, they'll allow plenty of oil to flow, Saddam will be torn to shreds, they'll destroy every trace of weapons of mass destruction. Help Iran invade Iraq. They could do it very easily if we gave them any support at all."
"Excuse me. They have a fair chance of introducing democracy. The U.S. doesn't. The reason is that the majority of Iraq's population is Shiite. Shiites are likely to want an accommodation with Iran, but the U.S. will never allow them to have a voice in the government because it doesn't want the government to have an accommodation with Iran. . . . What's the downside?"
The student looked baffled. "Are you honestly advocating that we help Iran invade Iraq?" he asked.
"No. You are," Chomsky said. The students laughed, startled by this unexpected twist. "Proposing that Iran attack Iraq is insane. But it makes a lot more sense than having the U.S. attack. Are you saying that the people who supported Saddam while he was committing his worst atrocities are more likely to liberate the Iraqis than the people who opposed him?"
Jake asked me the other day how many visitors Radosh.net gets. I have no idea. But now I'm kind of curious, so I've added a stat counter to the bottom. As far as I can figure, anyone can click on it and see how many people are coming to the site and why (or at least, what they were searching for when the stumbled on it; sorry, pal, you won't find any "bin laden songs" here). If someone thinks these free counters are a bad idea for any reason (nothing in the TOS seemed egregious), let me know and I'll remove it if necessary.
Music club met Saturday to spin songs on theme of childhood. Three people chose favorite songs from their own childhood (marked with a * below). The rest brought songs about childhood. Jill's pick -- number nine -- was both. Mine was number seven. I'm going to hell.
1. We're Going To Be Friends -- The White Stripes
2. The Cape -- Guy Clark
3. Your Smiling Face* -- James Taylor
4. V.F.D. -- Michelle Shocked
5. Bad, Bad Leroy Brown* -- Jim Croce
6. Furry Happy Monsters -- REM
7. Dur Dur D'etre Bebe! (It's Tough To Be A Baby) -- Jordy
8. Veronika Der Lans Is Da* -- The Comedian Harmonists
9. Kooks -- David Bowie
10. Hockey -- Jane Siberry
11. Wild Horses -- The Rolling Stones
Our next theme is: Songs You Disagree With. My understanding is that Francis intended it to mean songs that espouse views you disagree with. Donald Rumsfeld might bring Give Peace A Chance (in the unlikely event that we invite him to join us). But this needn't limit us to songs that make political or social statements. Someone who has only had positive romantic relationships might bring Love Hurts. A pessimist could choose Tomorrow (I'll see your bottom dollar and double it). If you hate, hate, hate New York in June, a Gershwin tune, and holding hands in the movie show when all the lights are low, your choice is clear.
But some people argued that it is possible to disagree with a song for other reasons. That you could disagree with the songwriter's musical choices, or the producer's arrangements. Or, I believe it was said, you could disagree with a song on principle if it was a favorite of your ex. To me this is all smacks of deliberately confusing Songs You Disagree With with Songs You Find Disagreeable. Obviously this is more of a personal decision, but most of you know me, or at least have a sense of the views I espouse, so if you have suggestions, fire away.
Quote of the day: "Europeans are antiwar, but they are pro-commerce." -- Lt. Col. Duke Deluca on clearing landmines in Iraq that had been made in Italy.
"Bush still doesn't 'get it.' I tried making my feelings clear but he's too busy ignoring me, he is such a jerk. Everything in his life is just Saddam, Saddam, Saddam and I am sick of it.... On the plus side, I think my hair looked pretty good today."
When you see photos like this, it's easy to understand why people are protesting the war. Of course, most Americans don't see these photos, or even hear accounts like this or this (scroll to end). Instead they hear stories like this, and rarely parsed this way (scroll to April 2).
That explains why I'm so torn, because I haven't been protesting since the war started. Not because I think it's more important to "support the troops" (or that the two are mutually exclusive). And not because I don't share the protesters rage and sorrow. I am still very much AGAINST the war, but I just don't know that I stand FOR anything that can be achieved by marching right now. Before the war started, preventing it would have been a victory for peace and international law. Stopping now -- pulling out troops -- would be a victory for the Iraqi regime, and a death sentence for thousands of Iraqis. I think the invasion has already messed up the world situation irrevocably, and withdrawing now won't make matters better and will likely make them worse.
For the most part, I've been among those saying that the left should focus now on winning the peace, as argued eloquently by Peter Gomes, for example.
But as the battle for Baghdad looms, I'd like to find some way, at least to stop that from becoming the military and humanitarian nightmare of Basra/Nasirya/Najaf/Umm Qasar on a vastly greater scale. So I'm thinking, the U.S. should declare victory now. We won't take Baghdad or any other cities not already "secured," but we won't leave the country either. In exchange for keeping his presidency and his life, Saddam Hussein agrees to a few conditions:
-- Withdraw fighters from southern Iraq entirely, where the UN creates another free zone, like the one in the north. With the threat of violence removed, we allow the immediate flow of humanitarian aid and rebuild the infrastructure that we promised not to destroy in the first place.
-- Allow aggressive inspections
-- Allow international human rights monitors to operate freely throughout the country, including Baghdad
For its part, the US can sign onto the International Criminal Court and agree that any Iraqi war criminals should be prosecuted there.
None of this would be pretty, of course, but it would save countless lives both from short term fighting and postwar illnesses. And, if the international community steps in to help out and legitimizes this cease fire/occupation lite, Saddam would be completely isolated and the regime would likely collapse on its own in a few years. Like a house of cards.
So, um, I was going to write up something about this for Slate, but this rambling, poorly sourced blog version was all I had time for. Now that I think about it, a version of this plan was floated before the war began.
"This provides them with an incentive to hustle and to work." U.S. military's brilliant idea for providing water to Umm Qasar: sell it.
We don't need no stinkin' charges. What, because he has kids and a blond wife he can't be a terrorist? These anti-American whiners make me sick.
The ultimate TV crossover. Trading Spaces meets Star Trek.
No war for...oh, who are we kidding?
Reuters' "Oddly Enough" rubric used to mean wacky news stories about hapless criminals and funny animals. Now, apparently, it's the place to bury embarrassing stories about the war.