Thursday, August 21, 2003

Too Much, Too Much

It seems that there are a lot of things swirling around right now, and I'm finding them all overwhelming. For instance:

1. The most recent estimate of the death toll in France is 10,000. Yes, ten thousand dead -- three 9/11s -- most of them senior citizens or handicapped people who were unable to find relief from the heat, and unable to get in touch with families who were on vacation. The Washington Post recently mocked the European heat wave ("To listen to the fuss Europeans are making about their weather, anyone would think that it was actually hot over there."), and I can't wait to see whether they attempt to express any sort of pity. After all, France must be punished! They refused to join our "coalition of the willing," because we rejected their plan to let the UN inspectors have a few more months -- cowardly bastards!

2. Arnold Schwartzenegger claims that he became a Republican in 1968, when he watched the Nixon-Humphrey debate on television while a friend translated it. He claims he was disturbed because Humphrey's politics reminded him of the Socialism he had hated in Austria. The only problem is that Nixon refused to debate Humphrey. And this is on top of the many reports now surfacing that Schwartzenegger feels no compunction against fondling any woman he happens to find attractive. Schwartzenegger is the favorite to win the California governor's race.

3. A couple of good op-ed pieces here and here in the Times state the obvious: we're trapped in Iraq, without the will to commit the forces and the staggering sums it will take to truly bring peace to that bitter region. Maureen Dowd said it best: "The Bush team has now created the very monster that it conjured up to alarm Americans into backing a war on Iraq." We're currently paying $4 billion a month in Iraq -- which doesn't even include the cost of rebuilding infrastructure -- and it simply isn't enough to even protect our own troops. We got into a fight that we didn't need, that had nothing to do with 9-11 or our national security, and the result is a massive drain on our economy, our international status, and most of all, our troops.

4. President Bush recently noted that there are 10,000 troops in Afghanistan, "which is down from, obviously, major combat operations." The Post explains that 10,000 is the highest number of soldiers ever, and is double the number that were in Afghanistan for the actual invasion. This comes just as Salon does a heartbreaking story about how Afghanistan is sinking into total anarchy -- even in the supposedly secure city of Kabul. The Commander In Chief simply has no clue.

5. The Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court snuck a 2 1/2 ton marble Ten Commandments into the Supreme Court building in the dead of night, and supporters spent last night around the monument to make sure that no one "snuck in" and took it away. Refreshingly, Chief Justice Moore makes no attempt to argue that the monument is constitutional, and the other eight justices have now unanimously ordered Court officials to remove the eyesore. This story was a hollow flash because there was no "there" there -- it is not even debatable whether the monument was permissible in the first place, because Moore made it clear that his intent was completely religious. It's not even interesting from a legal point of view, except to pose the curious problem of how the judicial branch enforces its will through other branches of government. (The better example was the burning question of whether Eisenhower would call out the Guard to enforce the school segregation decisions, or ignore the decree of the Supreme Court.) But it gets news coverage as if it matters -- as if it were a referendum on God himself.

6. Speaking of which, there's a massive battle brewing in Texas over whether textbooks should have to present "alternatives" to evolution in science textbooks, even though there are no "alternatives" that are based on science. Of course, as Kristof noted last week, only 28% of Americans believe in evolution.

7. The accusations are flying after last week's massive blackout. (Don't even get me started about the parallels to "The Trigger Effect," the first episode of "Connections" and the best hour of television ever made. Here's the chapter on which it was based.) Republicans blame Democrats for blocking Dick Cheney's energy plan, which was hatched in secret meetings with Ken Lay and other energy executives, and which focused on adding production capability instead of upgrading the grid itself. Democrats attempted to upgrade the grid in 2001, but Rep. Farr's bill was opposed by Bush and shot down by Republicans. Of course, under Republican deregulation, there's no motivation to spend money on the grid, which is falling into disrepair. So, naturally, Bush opposes a new plan to fix the problem through FERC regulation, even going so far as to oppose his own FERC chairman. And, of course, we're all about to pay the $50 billion needed to improve the grid beyond third-world-nation level. At least we're not in our newest colony, where temperatures are above 120 degrees, and electrical service won't be completely restored for another two years.

8. After a Hamas bomber killed 20 people in Israel, including children, Israel assassinated a Hamas leader in retaliation. In a perfect case of the pot calling the kettle, Hamas declared that Ariel Sharon had "ended the truce and announced its death." I keep thinking about the Oresteia trilogy, which purported to be about the evolution of civilization from "an eye for an eye" to true justice from a neutral arbiter. I wonder whether we'll ever reach that "primitive" level.

9. The OED just added "bootylicious" to its list of defined words.

I think that perhaps I need to go sit in the meadow for a while.

 12:59 PM

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