Thursday, April 29, 2004

So, today's the day that Bush testifies before the 9-11 Commission, alongside Dick Cheney. Let's note the ground rules:

1. They will not be under oath.
2. Their testimony will not be recorded.

I ask anyone -- even the most virulent Republican -- to explain a legitimate purpose for those limitations.

Bonus points to anyone that acknowledges that the Republicans claimed that perjury was an impeachable offense during l'affaire Clinton.

 7:41 AM

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Two people have now commented about Max Cleland. I thought about including him, but decided not to do it for two reasons:

(1) He is not a former President or current political leader, as the others are;

(2) I can't talk about the hatchet job done to Max Cleland without getting worked up.

It's bad enough that the Republicans tried to defame a decorated Vietnam veteran as soft on terrorism, just because he wouldn't roll over and play dead for the Administration's moronic legislative initiatives.

But what really makes me see red is the Repundits who have claimed that he does not deserve to be considered a hero because his injury doesn't "count." The problem is twofold: (1) he was a war hero before his injury, and (2) his injury was suffered while "in country," and resulted from his exposure to battlefield ordnance carried by soldiers who could be fired upon at any moment.

Ann Coulter said that he was on his way to get a beer when he blew himself up. (First she admits that he "reached" for the grenade, then her rhetoric was all about "dropping a grenade on his foot.") Her argument is that Cleland was in no more danger than Dubya was in the National Guard:

"Indeed, if Cleland had dropped a grenade on himself at Fort Dix rather than in Vietnam, he would never have been a U.S. senator in the first place. Maybe he'd be the best pharmacist in Atlanta, but not a U.S. senator. He got into office on the basis of serving in Vietnam and was thrown out for his performance as a senator.

Cleland wore the uniform, he was in Vietnam, and he has shown courage by going on to lead a productive life. But he didn't "give his limbs for his country," or leave them "on the battlefield." There was no bravery involved in dropping a grenade on himself with no enemy troops in sight. That could have happened in the Texas National Guard – which Cleland denigrates while demanding his own sanctification."

She went on to say that Cleland was not at Khe Sanh at all, and that Lexis-Nexis is the biggest problem facing the liars of the Left.

Okay. Let's do what all honorable Americans should do. Stop taking people's word for it and do the legwork your own d*mn self.

Capt. Cleland was riding with the First Air Cav (of "Apocalypse Now" fame) to serve as a communications officer at Khe Sanh, and his valor in that action earned him a Silver Star. Here's the text of his commendation, which an outraged Sen. Zell Miller read into the Congressional Record:

"Awarded: Silver Star; Date Action: 4 April 1968; Theater: Republic of Vietnam

"Action: For gallantry in action while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. Captain Cleland distinguished himself by exceptionally valorous action on 4 April 1968, while serving as communications officer of the 2nd Battalion, 12th Cavalry during an enemy attack near Khe Sanh, Republic of Vietnam.

"When the battalion command post came under a heavy enemy rocket and mortar attack, Capt. Cleland, disregarding his own safety, exposed himself to the rocket barrage as he left his covered position to administer first aid to his wounded comrades. He then assisted in moving the injured personnel to covered positions. Continuing to expose himself, Capt. Cleland organized his men into a work party to repair the battalion communications equipment which had been damaged by enemy fire. His gallant action is in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service, and reflects great credit upon himself, his unit, and the United States Army.

"Authority: By direction of the President, under the provisions of the Act of Congress, approved 9 July 1968."

According to the Boston Globe,

"Finally, the battle at Khe Sanh was over. Cleland, 25 years old, and two members of his team were now ordered to set up a radio relay station at the division assembly area, 15 miles away. The three gathered antennas, radios and a generator and made the 15-minute helicopter trip east. After unloading the equipment, Cleland climbed back into the helicopter for the ride back. But at the last minute, he decided to stay and have a beer with some friends. As the helicopter was lifting off, he shouted to the pilot that he was staying behind and jumped several feet to the ground.

Cleland hunched over to avoid the whirring blades and ran. Turning to face the helicopter, he caught sight of a grenade on the ground where the chopper had perched. It must be mine, he thought, moving toward it. He reached for it with his right arm just as it exploded, slamming him back and irreparably altering his plans for a bright, shining future."

Later, a fellow soldier admitted to Cleland that he had dropped the grenade. He was a new guy who didn't have his gear figured out yet.

So, here's the story:

1) Cleland was not at Khe Sanh. He was near Khe Sanh, under attack because he was supporting the infantry and cavalry fighting at Khe Sanh, and he performed acts of valor while under fire near Khe Sanh that won him a Silver Star. He then he left there to go work at a communications post near Khe Sanh. So Coulter was literally right, in the most twisted way possible. Those damn Liberals! They just keep lying!

2) Cleland decided to stay behind at the communications post, which was "in country" in the middle of the GVN and near the site of a seige. His reason for doing so was to "have a beer" with the men that had helped him repair it. This hardly counts as "going for a beer" at the "club." And it hardly counts as being as safe as Bush's "champagne unit" in Texas. Texas liberals get mad, but we don't hide in the jungle and shoot people with AK-47s. We prefer to use our withering wit instead. But we're less effective, which is probably why Bush worked so d*mn hard to stay in Texas instead of Vietnam.

3) There's not a lot of live ordnance lying around at the Air National Guard posts, in contrast to a battlefield, which is a damn dangerous place even when aforementioned enemy soldiers are not shooting at you at that very moment. Bush was in greater danger of tripping over his own d*ck than a live grenade.

4) He is a war hero. If you disagree, take it up with the President who gave him the medal.

5) Please contrast all of the above to Dubya, who leapfrogged into the Air National Guard, and then refused to perform his service once he was there. If you are concerned about Ms. Coulter's representations of the documentary proof of that service, please read the records for your own d*mn self and come to your own d*mn conclusions.

Vietnam is a deadly serious issue, even today, twenty-nine years after the fall of Saigon. There were noble and good reasons for men to go to Vietnam. There were noble and good reasons for men to refuse. And there were a whole range of options that were less than noble and less than good, but which were all eminently human.

The men that acted nobly deserve America's thanks and admiration, no matter where they demonstrated that nobility.

And the ignoble traded something for their safety. It's a modest sacrifice, but they must -- absolutely must -- shut the f*ck up.

 9:29 AM

Monday, April 26, 2004

Just so I understand, the complaint about Kerry is:

1. Some think that he didn't deserve his first Purple Heart.
2. Some think that he should not have left Vietnam as early as he did.
3. A guy that joined his unit two months after he left says that he doesn't like Kerry.

Let's review the charts:

Medals Won By Kerry: Three Purple Hearts for injury in an enemy action (one for an injury that was minor by Vietnam standards), Silver Star for valor in combat, Bronze Star for valor in combat
Medals Won By Bush: "World's Greatest Dad" on Father's Day, 1990

Time Spent In Vietnam By Kerry: 5-6 months of constant combat
Time Spent In Vietnam By Bush: 0
Time Spent AWOL by Bush: over one year

These People Volunteered For Vietnam Combat Duty: Kerry (Swift boat captain), Powell (ARVN advisor at A Shau; later postings)

These People Served Their Country As Veterans in Other Wars: Bush 41 (naval aviator)

These People Served Their Country But Did Not Face Combat: Rumsfeld (naval aviator and flight instructor)

These People Enlisted, Avoided Combat, But Were In Harm's Way: Gore (military reporter in the field)

These People Enlisted And Avoided Danger At All Costs: Reagan (training films)

These People Honorably And Openly Expressed Their Reasons For Choosing Not To Serve:

These People Spent Years Being Tortured For Their Country And Then, After Returning With Honor And Serving In The Senate, Were Victimized By Karl Rove Smear Campaign Claiming They Were "Manchurian Candidates" That Had Gone Nuts In The Hanoi Hilton, Oh And By The Way, He Has A Non-White Child Too: McCain

These People Used Every Means At Their Disposal To Avoid Vietnam But Still Warmonger Relentlessly: Bush 43 (went AWOL from "champagne unit"), Cheney ("had other priorities"), DeLay (wanted to enlist, but all the positions had been taken by minorities), Rove (stalled through college transfers), Limbaugh (anal cyst), Hastert (bad knees, though he was a college wrestler), "Scooter" Libby (stalled)

These People Used Every Means At Their Disposal To Avoid Vietnam And Have Moderated Their Rhetoric: Clinton (stalled until received high draft number)

 1:49 PM

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Her name is Tami Silicio.

When they build the memorial for people whose lives have been damaged by the insane policies of the Bush Administration, her name will be on it.

Tami Silicio's crime was taking a photo of flag-draped coffins. The Bush administration refuses to allow anyone to photograph the 700+ coffins that have come back to the US since we started our little Pottery Barn shopping spree. That would be bad press. And Bush doesn't like bad press. So, both she and her husband have been fired.

I don't know how the families of our soldiers can stand it.

On a similar note, isn't it interesting how quickly you can adjust your expectations. "Oh, good" I said this morning. "They were able to save the knee."

"Oh good," I said at the beginning of the week. "Someone was able to take a photo."

 1:13 PM

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

New Script Revision

A new addition to the script has come in. I was stunned by this when Woodward first mentioned it, but I wanted to let things develop a little before I let my rage kick in. The Bush administration misappropriated $700 million from the Afghanistan fight to fund the ramp-up to Iraq. This is a crime. It is an impeachable crime.

There are a lot of ways that this scene could be written, but this is my take on it:

(Scene: The Bush administration is standing in line at Wars-R-Us. A clerk is ringing up a new sale.)

CLERK: That will be $700 million, sir.

BUSH: Huh? We haven't even killed anyone yet.

CLERK: But you have to pay for all the people to get ready to go to war, sir. It takes a lot of equipment and stuff.

BUSH: But I thought we could do this on the cheap!

RUMMY: We can, we can. We saved a ton by getting rid of the body armor and armored Humm-Vees.

BUSH: Hmmm. (looks through wallet and furrows brow)

CHENEY: (tapping foot) Oh, for Christ's sake. What's the problem?

BUSH: He wants $700 million. And I won't have any more money until my next paycheck. Damn tax cuts!

CHENEY: No, no, if you cut taxes the government gets more money.

ROVE: That's right. Stay the course.

BUSH: But how can I cut taxes and get more money?


BUSH: Okay, okay. (Pause) I could ask my Dad's friends to bail us out.


BUSH: Okay, okay. Geez, this is hard. Where does the money normally come from?

RUMMY: Congress.

CHENEY: Uh, ix-nay on the Congress. This is a secret, remember?

(POWELL comes in late.)

POWELL: Hi, guys, what did I miss?

ALL: Nothing, nothing.

POWELL: Hey, Humm-Vees. Umm... they have no armor. Are they for personal use, or what?

CHENEY: Oh, for... Look, George. We're getting plenty of money for the Afghanistan thing. Use some of that.

BUSH: Don't they need that?

CHENEY: No, no, that's over, we won.

BUSH: Oh, yeah. I saw the flag on TV. It made me proud. He's a bad man.

CHENEY: Afghanistan wasn't important anyway.

POWELL: What the hell are you talking about? Were you in a cave on 9/11?

CHENEY: Yes, actually I was. That's my "undisclosed location."

POWELL starts pushing CHENEY, but stops when CHENEY starts clutching his chest.

RICE: Look, Congress gave us a bunch of money. Use it however you want. You're the President. If you want to go soft on the guy who tried to kill your Dad, then that's up to you.

BUSH: Gosh...

POWELL: You do realize that Congress appropriated that money for Afghanistan, right?

CONDI: Well, Afghanistan, Iraq. They're all in the same "region."

POWELL: What "region" is that? They're 1400 miles apart!

BUSH: Yes, Colin. (snickers at name for millionth time; Powell blanches) Yes, but you must remember that both of them have Arabs. Poor Arabs. Poor Arabs are bad news.

CHENEY: And we already sent out the invitations.

POWELL: What?!?

RUMMY: Well, we were so excited that we told Prince Bandar all about it. With all the charts and stuff.

BUSH: I shoulda been there. I could have added the sound effects.

POWELL: Bandar already knew about this?

RUMMY: Well, we didn't invite you because you were busy. You know. Working and stuff.

POWELL: Mr. President, not only should I have known about this, but this is a crime.

BUSH: Zip it, Colon. (snickers)

POWELL: A crime, George.

BUSH: ZIP IT. www.zipit.com.

POWELL: Impeachment, George!

BUSH: Knock knock. Who's there? Zip it.

POWELL: This is bullsh*t!

BUSH: I love that movie.

CHENEY: Will someone tell Colin there's a reason we don't invite him to our parties?

BUSH: (to Powell) Listen here, now, big guy. You weren't invited to the party, and that sucks. I make faces at you behind your back, and that's tough too.

POWELL: You do?

BUSH: But I've made my decision, and you need to be a grownup. We're gonna do this. We're gonna throw the best war ever! People will be dancing and celebrating! Are you with me?

POWELL: (long sigh) Yes, yes. I'm with you.

BUSH: All right, then. Don't slip on your dignity on the way out.

(CHENEY turns to clerk.)

CHENEY: So can I just sign this check over to you?

 1:30 PM
Here it is, all summed up in a nutshell.

Democrats nominated Kerry because he was a frickin' war hero, and they thought that would appeal to the red states.

But the people in red states think that there is no such thing as a Blue war hero. For instance, the people that reacted with utter disbelief when someone pretended that his "Battlefield:Vietnam" character was John Kerry.

So as things get progressively worse in Iraq, they progressively think that it would be too "risky" to elect Kerry. They don't see the irony there, because they still see Iraq as having something to do with 9-11, and they go on their gut feeling that Bush is a righteous man instead of the facts that prove he is a frickin' idiot that kicked over an ant bed and won't call the Orkin Man.

Kerry needs a plan.

Unfortunately, Kerry cannot use the 1964 strategy, in which incumbent Johnson managed to show that even though he was a Coca-Cola enema of a man, he was still the best choice for the Democratic base because Goldwater was worse. Kerry doesn't have that "starts a war at the drop of a hat" credibility.

And Kerry can't go 1968, because the Bush team has already started yammering about the Iraqification of Iraq. It's just that they're doing such a damned poor job of it. For instance, Ahmed Chalabi's nephew Salem -- who is a business partner of Douglas Feith -- will now be in charge of trying Saddam Hussein for his crimes. I'm sure the "street" will see that as a completely legitimate process.

Of course, Kerry could try that nonsense about having a "secret plan" to end the war, but the people and the press only let Reds get away with that.

The 1972 option is fatal. He has to actually have a plan, unlike McGovern.

Kerry is left with a nuanced, carefully considered position. That puts him right there with... well, with Adlai Stevenson.

 9:39 AM
Oh, sh*t.

If I say that Garry Trudeau is a complete bastard, am I misdirecting my rage?

That's a rhetorical question, Adam.

 9:07 AM

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

I'm pathetic.

I was moved by this photo, which is only the second photo of our fallen soldiers that I have yet seen.

But I am concerned, alarmed, even distraught, over a completely fictional character who has been wounded in Iraq. B.D. is down, and we still have no idea what happened.

Will he live?

If so, will he be maimed?

If so, how badly?

I know that Trudeau is making this sh*t up as he goes along, and I know that we're talking about a pencil-and-ink character on some newsprint, I know that, but I've been reading Doonesbury for more than twenty years and I feel like I know the guy.

And of course, the point is to think of the thousands of Americans that are in his position. But I can't bear to do that yet.

 7:50 PM
The Order Of Events

So, let's make sure we understand how this all went down, because we're getting script revisions every day. You want to make sure that you have only the freshest outrage. So cut and paste this new scene into the script.

Before we get started, let's realize that not only was Richard Clarke's story absolutely true, because it was confirmed by other news stories published at the time, but Woodward's book also confirms it. I'm sure there's a clear answer as to why Scott McClellan and Condi Rice claimed -- in comments that were so scripted they played in stereo -- that Clarke was a "revisionist historian."

Bush decided to go to war with Iraq within months of taking office, and told Rumsfeld to draw up invasion plans within two weeks of 9/11. And when Afghanistan was old news, because we have taken the capital with a bare-minimum force and installed a puppet government with no power of any kind, Bush could move forward with his plans. He's tired of waiting. All systems are go!

So here's the new scene. It's January 2003. Bush hasn't told Gen. Powell yet, because he knows that Powell thinks its a bad idea. (Those veterans! They're always throwing cold water on our war plans!) But Rummy and Condi and Cheney -- all the Kool Kidz -- think it's peachy! What fun!

Rummy and Cheney are so excited about their big secret that they decide to tell their friend Prince Bandar all about it. Prince Bandar is the diplomatic arm of the House of Saud, which has strong ties to the House of Bush, so they want to make sure that he knows what's about to happen. They bring Prince Bandar to the White House and explain the invasion plan using big charts that are labeled "TOP SECRET. NO FOREIGN." As in, absolutely no foreigners are to see this document for any reason. But he's not really a "foreigner"! He's Bandy! The political advisor to a government that funds terrorists!

Prince Bandar doesn't believe his eyes. So Bush calls him two days later and confirms that the plans are real. (Yes, Cheney and Rumsfeld give Prince Bandar a presentation in Cheney's own office, using Top Secret materials, and he thinks they're talking out of their asses. What does that say about these guys? That our "allies" think Cheney and Rumsfeld are attack chihuahuas.)

So when Powell heard the top-secret news, the guy from Terrorism Central already knew about it for two days.

And this is where you pick up the story with the scene where Bush tells him about the invasion, and Powell asks him if he knows that he will be responsible for 25 million people, and instead of answering Bush asks Powell whether he will be on board. And you will recall Powell's answer, where Powell discarded his honor and the whooping alpha-monkey used it to wipe his inflamed red ass.

So. That's the story. Now wipe that from your mind. News stories are not related to each other in any way. Budget deficits are not related to bad economies and rising inflation pressures. Stories of incompetent planning are unrelated to stories of Americans dying. There is no big picture, only a series of little pictures.

In other news, Prince Bandar has promised Bush that he will use the power of one of the world's largest cartels to keep oil prices low in October and November, because he knows the state of the economy will be a big election issue.

The White House has been its customarily forthright self about this allegation:

QUESTION: Can you describe conversations between the White House and Prince Bandar about his essential promise to lower oil prices before the election?

MR. McCLELLAN: I think you heard from Prince Bandar a few weeks ago about --

QUESTION: He didn’t talk specifically about the election.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- the most recent conversation that we had with him regarding oil prices. And he expressed his views out at the stakeout to you all that Saudi Arabia is committed to making sure prices remained in a range, I believe it’s $22 to $28 price per barrel of oil, and that they don’t want to do anything that would harm our consumers or harm our economy. So he made those comments at the stakeout and we’ve made our views very clear that prices should be determined by market forces, and that we are always in close contact with producers around the world on these issues to make sure that actions aren’t taken that harm our consumers or harm our economy.

QUESTION: There were no conversations specifically about the President’s reelection?

MR. McCLELLAN: You can ask Prince Bandar to --

QUESTION: But from the point -- I mean, conversations are obviously two ways.

MR. McCLELLAN: -- what his comments were. But the conversations we have are related to our long-held views that we have stated repeatedly publicly, that market forces should determine prices.

QUESTION: To follow up on that then, I would gather that the White House view is one of expectation that the Saudis would increase oil production between now and November.

MR. McCLELLAN: Our views are very well-known to Saudi Arabia. Prince Bandar made a commitment at the stakeout that I will let speak for itself. You all should look back to those remarks.

QUESTION: We’re missing the allegation here, which is that Prince Bandar and the Saudis have made a commitment to lower oil prices to help the President politically. Is that your --

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those comments to him. I can tell you that what our views are and what he said at the stakeout is what we know his views are, as well.

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m sorry?

QUESTION: Does the White House have any knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, I’m not going to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions --

QUESTION: Is there a deal?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- I wouldn’t speculate one way or the other. You can direct those questions to him, but I’m telling you --

QUESTION: I’m not asking you to speculate either. Do you have knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: I’m telling you what our views are and what we've stated, and I'm telling you what I do know, which is that our position is very clear when it comes to oil prices and what our views are. And Prince Bandar spoke to you all just a few weeks ago out at the stakeout after meeting with some White House officials and expressed --

QUESTION: So you have no knowledge of such a commitment?

MR. McCLELLAN: -- and expressed their view. I'm not going to try to speak for Prince Bandar. You can direct those questions to him.

QUESTION: The President is confident that the American elections are not being manipulated by the world's largest oil producer?

MR. McCLELLAN: Our view is that the markets should determine --

QUESTION: The market doesn't. It's a cartel.

MR. McCLELLAN: But our view is that that's what -- that the markets should determine prices. And that's the view we make very clear to producers around the world, including our friends in OPEC.

This guy is a cross-examiner's dream.

Stay tuned. The Supremes are hearing argument in the terrorism cases, in which they are asked "Can Bush kidnap human beings and prevent them from receiving justice under any form of legal system anywhere in the world?"

 9:42 AM

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Hellboy-oh-boy-what-bullsh*t #192,392,593
An ongoing series of missteps, inconsistencies and goofs in Hellboy

I am sick and damned tired of movies that indulge in satanology out of context. Like Event Horizon, Prince of Darkness and a hundred other horror flicks, Hellboy is eager to use all of the horrors of Hell, demons, Ancient Ones, and the like, without ever acknowledging that those horrors are counterbalanced by the bad-ass angel warriors of the Bible; the notion of redemption, forgiveness, and salvation; and the promise by God that we need never be alone when fighting the forces of evil.

In other movies, it always seems to be a demon (personally present and physically personified) fighting a ragtag group of humans who have nothing but distant Catholic mysticism and reliquaries to protect them. (Every vampire movie, for instance.) No one thinks to ask whether the presence of demons necessarily requires the presence of angels, or to wonder where those angels are, or why the angels have decided to become so completely complacent that they will allow a demon to run around bodily on the face of the earth.

To some extent, the point of Hellboy is that Hellboy -- who is, by the way, literally the Antichrist -- makes the choice to be good, thus obviating the need for angelic intervention. But the possibility of the angelic is never considered, beyond the effeminate notion that the tears of angels can imprison demons and the bones of saints can ward off Sam-I-Am.

Collect all 192,392,593!

 10:06 AM
Hellboy-oh-boy-what-bullsh*t #8
An ongoing series of missteps, inconsistencies and goofs in Hellboy

The Nazi dude gets up off the examination slab, having been pronounced dead, and sneaks up on the Professor.
(a) How? Presumably the power of Rasputin, but Rasputin is not seen.
(b) If the Nazi dude can live without the mechanical clockwork heart -- which is the only way that he can climb off the slab and sneak up on the Professor, because the Professor make a point of dismantling the clockworks -- why bother putting it back in? The ticking-tocking sound has to be a disadvantage when you're trying to sneak around.

Collect all 192,392,593!

 9:47 AM
Hellboy-oh-boy-what-bullsh*t #23,540
An ongoing series of missteps, inconsistencies and goofs in Hellboy

Abe Sapien, fish-man, finds a wad of Sam-I-Am eggs in the "reservoir" under the City. (New York?)

(a) There can be no "reservoir" under any City -- at least, not if you want property values to stay up, because the foundations of the buildings would be wiggling like J Lo's ass.

(b) Sapien finds a humongous wad of eggs down there, yet he must escape because he is being chased by one of the Sam-I-Ams. (Who knew they could breathe underwater?) It is explained that each and every one of the eggs must be destroyed, else Sam-I-Am will keep coming back. Though a wad of eggs is later destroyed in the Russian cave, it is never made clear that:
(i) The good guys destroyed the rest of the eggs in the American reservoir, or
(ii) The bad guys collected each and every one of the eggs and moved them to Russia, including why they would do it, considering that the Sam-I-Ams could do a good job of running rampant while Hellboy is in Russia.

Collect all 192,392,593!

 9:43 AM
Hellboy-oh-boy-what-bullsh*t #149,043,422
An ongoing series of missteps, inconsistencies and goofs in Hellboy

Okay. The only hope of saving Hellboy is fire, which will kill the Satanic hounds attacking him. (Why Hellboy is fireproof but the devil hounds are not is #45,201,590.) Liz makes fire, but only when upset. Liz is furious that Hellboy -- the man she loves -- is being killed. She is distraught, crying, screaming. But in order to "ignite," she needs Myers to slap her in the face. The death of her beloved is not enough, no, she needs a completely trumped-up slap across the kisser to make her upset enough to trigger her powers.

Collect all 192,392,593!

 9:33 AM

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Hellboy-oh-boy-what-bullsh*t #133
An ongoing series of missteps, inconsistencies and goofs in Hellboy

Okay. The Nazi-robot-masochist-dude cuts through stone with his blades and releases Sam-I-Am The Harbinger. But when he fights Hellboy later, Hellboy blocks the blades with his stone hand. Which is it?

Collect all 192,392,593!

 7:48 PM
The Pottery Barn Rule

The NY Times has some information about the new Woodward book today, the best of which is Gen. Powell's rule on invading another country: "You break it, you've bought it." He calls it the "Pottery Barn rule," and it's a damn fine rule if I do say so myself.

Quotes include:

Over a period that began in early 2002, Mr. Powell is depicted as having cautioned Mr. Bush and other advisers repeatedly about the potential drawbacks of military action in Iraq. The "you break it, you own it" principle he cited in delivering those warnings was privately known to Mr. Powell and his deputy, Richard L. Armitage, as "the Pottery Barn rule," the book says.

"You are going to be the proud owner of 25 million people," Mr. Powell is said to have told Mr. Bush in the summer of 2002. "You will own all their hopes, aspirations and problems. You'll own it all."


In Mr. Woodward's account of the meeting between Mr. Bush and Mr. Powell in January 2003, the president is described as having simply informed the secretary of state of his decision to go to war in Iraq, as part of a 12-minute meeting in which Mr. Bush made a conscious decision not to ask Mr. Powell for advice.

You're sure?" Mr. Powell is quoted as asking Mr. Bush in the Oval Office on Jan. 13, 2003, as the president told him he had made the decision to go forward. "You understand the consequences," he is said to have stated in a half-question. "You know you're going to be owning this place?"


According to the book, Mr. Bush did ask Mr. Powell "Are you with me on this?" and told him, "I want you with me." Mr. Powell is quoted as having replied: "I'll do the best I can. Yes sir, I will support you. I'm with you, Mr. President."

I think it might have worked better if Powell had just come right out and told him, "remember, sir -- you break it, you've bought it." It might have jarred Bush a little more.

And, on a slightly different (and more ominous) tack, there's this quote:

Among the previously unknown episodes presented in the book was a White House meeting in December 2002 in which Mr. Tenet and his deputy, John McLaughlin, met with Mr. Bush and his top advisers for what was intended as a dress rehearsal for a public presentation of the administration's claim that Iraq possessed illicit weapons.

Mr. Bush was not impressed by the presentation, the book reports, and urged that it be refined to make a stronger case to "Joe Public." He is said to have turned to Mr. Tenet and said, "I've been told all this intelligence about having W.M.D. and this is the best we've got?"

In response, Mr. Tenet is described in the book as having twice assured Mr. Bush that the intelligence information supporting the American claims meant that the case was a "slam dunk." A C.I.A. official said that Mr. Tenet was reflecting an assessment spelled out in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate that declared unambiguously that Iraq possessed both chemical and biological weapons.

Stop and stew on that last one for a moment.

There are people in this country that ferociously support Dubya because they feel he's a good man -- that he gives off vibes that he is a man they can trust. And I think that's probably true. When he engages the faculties that got him elected -- the faculties that made him one of Texas's greatest governors -- he is a good man with very good instincts. But once in the White House, he allowed himself to be hijacked by the head-in-the-clouds neoconservatives. When Dubya was finally presented with the evidence supporting his long-planned war on Iraq, for the first time all in one place, his first reaction was "...this is the best we've got?" But he didn't challenge his intelligence director; he allowed someone to tell him that what he had just seen was a "slam dunk," despite his better instincts.

In fact, more than anything, it reminds me of the apocryphal rumor that Gen. Powell, while preparing for his UN presentation, threw a bundle of documents in the air and exploded "I can't say this! This is b*llsh*t!" He then suppressed his rage and went back to work, because he is a soldier and he follows orders.

Consider that comparison.

Consider the possibility that the person most like the President in temperament and attitude is the person with the least power and influence.

And if you still feel sympathy for the man, think back to his most recent press conference, where he had an earpiece feeding him answers and yet he still couldn't think of a single mistake he had made while in office.

In completely unrelated news, fighting in Iraq is up to 1971 levels.

God grant that it goes no farther. And God grant that Dubya be given a long, Jimmy-Carter-like lifetime to consider what he did wrong and to make amends.

 10:01 AM

Friday, April 16, 2004

A modest suggestion for a song.

We need a good song for this election -- a rallying song that will portray the problem with the current administration, and somehow imbue Kerry with some of the Elvis he so desperately needs..

We need Creedence Clearwater Revival's big f*ck-you to privileged draft-dodgers, "Fortunate Son."

Kerry would have to avoid the song, because he was certainly a child of privilege -- albeit one that volunteered for service and that was decorated for valor in battle. But frankly, this election isn't about Kerry. For those of us who understand that supporting our troops involves resistance to Emperor C-Plus Augustus, it's a fantastic rally cry, a jolt of adrenalin, the sort of song that makes you want to jump up and hold a rally. It's pure cocaine liberation injected straight into your eyeballs.

And it's only 99 cents on iTunes.

If you're not with me yet, consider this timeline of events:

1. Bush takes office, having received a minority of the popular vote, but a majority of the unelected justice vote. He immediately begins to plan for an invasion of Iraq, because -- and I quote -- "He tried to kill my Dad." He begins acting as though he had a popular mandate to yank the country as far to the right as possible.

2. Bush receives a series of PDBs that are uncharacteristically blunt. Unlike Clinton, who personally read each of his PDBs and made notes on them, Bush has people summarize them for him. Bush, after all, does not read or watch the news, because he trusts his advisors to tell him anything he needs to know. PDBs are normally one to two paragraphs long and quite dispassionate, but they grow increasingly blunt and alarmist, as if to get the attention of a dullard. The longest PDB yet -- "Bin Laden Determined To Strike Inside United States" -- causes Bush to snap into action. He goes on a month-long vacation where he is cut off from his national security briefings.

3. Bush is told about the 9-11 attacks. He does not react, instead choosing to continue visiting a class of school children for another 35 minutes, and then he is passively dragged around the country in Air Force One. When his advisors realize that he looks like a coward, Ari Fleischer asserts that the administration has proof that Air Force One was a target. He later admits that there was absolutely no evidence of that. At any rate, once on the ground, Bush snaps into action and orders Rumsfeld to make plans for an invasion of Iraq. He tells Rumsfeld to keep it quiet, because he realizes that if people knew that he was already planning another war while the war on Al Qaeda was still going on, he would be perceived as a warmongerer -- as opposed to a "war president," which is a mantle that he proudly wears.

4. The Bush administration begins banging the drums of war against Iraq, claiming that Iraq is such a clear and present danger that we cannot agree to our former allies' requests to give the UN inspectors another 45 days to complete their investigations. "We cannot let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud," says Dr. Rice. Donald Rumsfeld adds that not only are there weapons of mass destruction, he knows exactly where they are. Bush tells the Congress a discredited theory about yellowcake uranium as if it were (1) new, and (2) indisputable, instead of (1) stale, and (2) completely discredited. Fence-sitters in Congress give Dubya the benefit of the doubt and vote for authorization for war, but the UN reacts coolly to Powell's presentation of "the evidence." The Congress snaps into action and renames the French Fries in the cafeteria.

5. A government working group carefully plans the difficulties that would ensue from an invasion of Iraq. The group concludes that the Iraqis would not greet us as liberators, and that the three ethnic groups would begin to cooperate against us. It also concludes that hundreds of thousands of troops would be necessary to pacify the angry population. The group is disbanded and its report is suppressed.

6. America streams into Iraq and quickly takes control. Rumsfeld sees this as a vindication of his blunt refusal to send in the level of troops demanded by his own generals. American troops guard the Oil Ministry while looters tear down the other buildings for scrap.

7. Weapons inspectors find no weapons of mass destruction anywhere. Bush boldly takes responsibility and admits that he is a big enough man to admit that he was wrong. Just kidding. Bush's yellowcake uranium story is debunked by the man that investigated it, and the Bush administration rewards him by "outing" his wife, an undercover CIA operative seeking intelligence on weapons of mass destruction. When it becomes apparent this is (1) felonious, (2) cowardly, and (3) un-American, the loose-lipped Robert Novak refuses to explain which high-level administration official gave him the information.

8. Inspectors in Iraq do find evidence that (1) Saddam was a really bad guy, and (2) Saddam sure would have liked to get his hands on some weapons of mass destruction, but that (3) he was afraid to do it because the UN weapons inspectors had been breathing down his neck. Tony Kay reports that there were no weapons of mass destruction, and he is immediately crushed into powder. Bush Administration rhetoric shifts to the contention that "there is no doubt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction programs." When Helen Thomas of UPI confronts him with this change, an exasperated Bush says "What's the difference?" The Bush administration attacks war critics by insisting that there is no difference between calling Bush on his lies and condoning Saddam's genocides.

9. American troops begin working to improve Iraq, but in a completely new development in American history, their cultural insensitivity alienates the very people they're trying to help. Gen. Shinseki demands hundreds of thousands of additional troops, and is crushed into powder by a rampaging Rumsfeld.

10. Clinton/Bush administration official Richard Clarke publishes a book that focuses on his argument that the invasion of Iraq was foolish because it drained our resources away from the far-more-critical fight against Al-Qaeda. But because he is asked to testify before the 9/11 commission, more attention is focused on his criticisms of the Bush administration before 9-11. Robert Novak, fresh off his "outing" of Valerie Plame, suggests that Clarke is motivated by racist, sexist animosity toward Dr. Rice.

11. When the American proconsul in Iraq orders an opposition newspaper to be raided and shut down, America discovers that the Arabic word for "Tet" is "Fallujah." Generals again demand hundreds of thousands of new troops, this time with a little more unity.

12. The Bush administration quietly fills long-dormant positions on local draft boards. Rumors begin that the administration is working to require pre-clearance before Americans may enter Canada.

13. American newspapers begin to defy the Bush administration's ban on news coverage of the unloading of coffins of our dead soldiers.

14. Now that soldiers and contractors are being killed, maimed and violated on national television, Bush consents to give a primetime press conference. (He has given fewer such press conferences than any president since the advent of the medium -- half as many as the next lowest number, set by Reagan.) Bush's costumer selects a tie with tiny polka dots. In a perfect metaphor for the war effort, the costumer does not realize that television screens are prone to the "moire" effect, which causes polka dots to blend together and shimmer, creating a horrible glowing effect. This was unlike anything the Bush administration could have expected -- that is, unless he had bothered to ask anyone who had any experience in television.

15. During the press conference, Bush (1) shifts his rhetoric from protection of the homeland to "making the world a better place," which should comfort the families of the 600+ dead and thousands injured, (2) cannot think of anything that he has done wrong, and complains that such a hard question should have been submitted to him in writing before the conference, (3) claims that oil revenues are greater than the administration thought they would be, when in fact they are 10% of expectations, and (4) boldly answers the Fox News question "You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. Could you respond to that general criticism?"


Sing along with me.

Some folks are born made to wave the flag,
they're red, white and blue.
And when the band plays "Hail To The Chief",
they point the cannon at you.

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no senator's son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one.

Some folks are born silver spoon in hand,
Lord, don't they help themselves.
But when the taxman come to the door,
Lord, the house look a like a rummage sale.

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no millionaire's son.
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one.

Yeh, some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
they send you down to war.
And when you ask them, how much should we give,
they only answer, more, more, more.

It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no military son,
It ain't me, it ain't me,
I ain't no fortunate one.

And this is a promise -- if the draft begins, look to this site to provide in-depth legal advice to those that are not fortunate sons.

With apologies to Lloyd Bridges in "Airplane!", I picked the wrong week to swear off politics.

 10:51 AM

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The most depressing thing in the world is being in your office late at night working.

No. The most depressing thing in the world is being in your office late at night, working, while the sounds of music pulse through your window, reminding you that on this glorious night there are people who are enjoying life, while you are reviewing documents, the same documents that you have reviewed before, the same documents that you will review again.

Well, no. I mean, let's get some perspective. The most depressing thing in the world is probably the Holocaust, or the existence of serial child murderers, or something like that. Cancer. The Nick and Jessica Variety Show. Something really nasty like that.

But this sucks.

A secretary stopped by my office at the end of the day today -- that was four hours ago -- and chatted with me about my pictures of Jonah. I have decorated my office in Early Jonah Photo, and when we had gone through those photos, I even pulled up the very latest photos on the Internet to show to this secretary. And there he was. Curly hair, big eyes, pursed lips. And there she was -- my wife, beaming with happiness. I literally sank into my chair, deflated. The secretary became extremely uncomfortable, because she realized how much I wanted to go home and be with my little guy. She politely edged out of my office and left me to cry in my Diet Coke.

But that's life these days. After a long period where my efforts at the office seemed to gain little traction, it has all hit me at once, and I'm working long, long hours to try to catch up.

I need a break, and Jonah is already asleep, so I'll take a moment to wrap up my comments on the Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century.

Few of the remaining speeches struck me as being very good. FDR's "a day that will live in infamy" speech was better than his other efforts -- he slows down and takes his time, which got rid of the earlier impression that he was stepping on his d*ck every time he opened his mouth. The same with LBJ's speech on signing the Civil Rights Act. When he takes his time, he can be a competent orator. And Jerry Rubin's address to the Yippie Convention was hilarious, in that he sounds like Lenny Bruce and has the same sense of humor.

I was fascinated by the recording of Nixon and Kruschev arguing, because to hear Kruschev speak is to understand the John Birch Society. The man's every word sounded like raving insanity, like he was ready to tear off a hunk of human flesh with his teeth at any moment. Nixon sounded like a complete incompetent; you could only hope that he was packing heat so that he could defend himself.

I was also fascinated at the recording of the fight at the UN between Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin over the Cuban Missile Crisis. To listen to the brinksmanship of the two, and the way that Stevenson turned the tide of UN opinion because he could put his money where his mouth was, is to understand the grave errors of the Bush administration. Powell's nonsense has put America in the position of the Soviets -- we bet everything, in front of the whole world, and got utterly humiliated. Our only hope is that we never again need to ask any other country to "take our word for it." Stevenson was a little stiff, but he had the goods, and it was glorious to hear him in his finest hour.

In contrast, there were two speeches that competed for the title of "worst speech in human history." It's hard to pick which one is the worst, sort of like how it's hard to decide whether you would rather have your balls fried or parboiled.

On the one hand, we have Neville Chamberlain's speech to the nation in which he informs them that England is at war. Chamberlain's effete voice sounds leaden as he tells England that he told Hitler that he demanded a response to his concerns about the Poland invasion by 11:00, or else a state of war would exist between England and Germany (passive voice his), and he received no response, so (heavy sigh)... I regret to tell you that the nation is at war. (Morbid pause.) I'm sure you understand how disappointed I am. (Pause. Eons pass.) Anyway, I'm sure we'll win eventually.

That's a paraphrase, but it's not far off. At the moment of England's greatest need, it got its greatest invertibrate. It's kind of funny now, because we know that Churchill is coming, but I imagine that Chamberlain's self-absorbed fatalism rocked England to the core.

So there's that one.

And on the other hand, you have Nixon again. Only this is Nixon squared, Nixon to infinity, Nixon pulling down his pants and mocking his own penis. Nixon's idea of a concession speech. I had heard about this one, but it was even worse than I could have possibly imagined, because it's so long.

If you've just lost the election, what do you do? Say a quick few words, congratulate the opponent, thank the volunteers, and leave the stage with the remaining shreds of your dignity, right? Sure you would.

But you aren't a masochistic, pent-up little wad of bile named Richard Milhous Nixon.

Here are some examples of the problems with his sixteen minute long bloodletting:

Nixon says "and one last thing" at least half a dozen times, each time opening a new wound and pouring salt on it. The effect is of a man that not only can't shut up, but who seems to be perversely enjoying his own humiliation.

He says "I don't blame the press" another half a dozen times, each time continuing on to say "they have the right to publish whatever they want, and if they don't want to report what I say, that's their right." He calls out reporters by name and praises or criticizes them, or their paper, for their coverage of the campaign.

He strains to keep the tone light, but his voice quakes and his words are curdling from the venom, so there is a dramatic tension that makes you wonder if he's going to snap.

He becomes his own worst enemy, by making the arguments against himself with far more persuasion than he makes his own case -- as when he wants to dispel the thought that he is humiliated by his loss, but spends so much time lingering on the hypothetical question ("People asked me when I ran for Governor, isn't this a come down? From being Vice President? And no, it's not, I was proud to... run... for governor.") that it sinks in far worse than if he had just breezed past it. He ran for the lesser office and LOST.

And then, to cap it all off, in a feigned attempt to be jovial with the press corps, he offers his farewell to public life. Here's a paraphrase:

"So, you destroyed all my hopes and dreams, you bastards of the press, who covered my campaign as if I were an unlikeable, petty, sniveling tyrant with zero people skills. But just remember this -- you're losing out on your best game, because [insert famous quote here:] 'You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore.'"

To my mind -- and this is just me -- I think Nixon permanently forfeited his right to be President at that moment. It was so ill-advised, so unrestrained, that Nixon should never have been trusted again. For God's sake, it's even less forgivable than leaving Mary Jo Kopechne at the bottom of the river, and we all know that Kennedy lost his President privileges over that.

So, there it is. The best and the worst speeches. Listen with care.

Ironically, earlier tonight, Shrub spoke to the nation about the emerging proof that any reasonable person would have done a hell of a lot more before 9/11, even if 9/11 itself couldn't have been prevented. "Oh sure," he's probably saying right now, "I have a sore ass and a smelly thumb, but that was merely historical proof that I had my thumb up my ass." And if he says he "had no actionable intelligence," it could be the first completely accurate thing he's ever said. Somehow I think that he'll never make it into the Great Speeches of the Twenty-First Century set, not even with his 9-11 speech. He does stand a chance at winning Worst Tie Of All Time.

A final thought: Richard Cohen wrote an absolutely wonderful op-ed piece today in the WaPo. Read it here. Read it now.

It begins:

Here are the reasons Iraq is not Vietnam: It is a desert, not a jungle. The enemy is not protected and supplied by major powers such as the Soviet Union or China, not to mention a formidable front-line state such as North Vietnam. The Iraqis are not, like the Vietnamese, a single culture fighting a long-term war of liberation from colonial masters. They are fragmented by religion and language, and they have been independent ever since the British left lo these many years ago. In almost every way but one, Iraq is not Vietnam. Here's the one: We don't know what the hell we're doing.

And it ends:

The lesson of Vietnam is that once you make the initial mistake, little you do afterward is right.

Damn straight, brother.

If you take offense at the comparison, if you think that the media is to blame for not reporting more of the "good news," if you think that I'm being foolish, then spend some time here and let me know when you change your mind.

 10:41 PM

Thursday, April 08, 2004

Here's a great picture and a damn fine piece of art. Go see it right now. Go print it out and plaster it on every signpost and wall. It's the first great work of art in this war.

And here's the creator's blog, with his comments on the piece.

 3:53 PM
Ranking the Speeches

I'm continuing to listen to the Great Speeches of the Twentieth Century, and they continually amaze me.

Disappointing Speeches

1. MLK's "I Have a Dream" Speech. This was an excellent speech, but it wasn't The Greatest Speech Of The Twentieth Century, as it is often portrayed. MLK was a fine speaker, but the seventeen-minute-long speech is about five minutes too long. As it is, MLK had trouble sustaining the build, and it lost momentum in the "Let Freedom Ring" portion. A really fine speech -- better than most of the other so-called "great speeches" -- but a real disappointment to me.

2. FDR. Everything by FDR sounds shrill and unappealing; he was well-trained in the old style of public speaking, but added an energy and force that simply cannot be sustained by that style. As it is, he sounds rushed and unorganized, like a sausage bursting out of its casing.

3. LBJ. The man was a terrible public speaker. No tempo, no build, just a stentorian drawl that sounded utterly ridiculous. I now understand why Lenny Bruce commented that people couldn't take the content of his policies seriously. "No one wants to hear about The Great Society from a man that says 'Heah -- lemme show ya my scar...'"

4. Neil Armstrong on the surface of the moon. In preparing the documentary "For All Mankind," NASA claimed that Armstrong really said "one small step for a man," but that the "a" was blocked by transmission static. It has become de rigeur to give Armstrong the benefit of the doubt. Maybe NASA has access to a different tape than I do. But given the pacing and tempo of his speech, it seems highly unlikely that Armstrong intended to insert an "a" before "man." Cronkite heard it correctly, as did the rest of the planet. And humankind's first words on the surface of the moon are nonsense.

Jaw-Droppingly Awful Speeches

1. Nixon's "Checkers" Speech. Simpering, whining little p*ssy Nixon begs the nation not to send him packing. Often choking on his words -- not out of emotion, but out of incompetence -- he recites his net worth, refers to his wife and kids, and omits all the salient points of his career (like his obsession with Alger Hiss). It was somewhere between Paul Schaeffer's masochistic record promoter in "Spinal Tap" ("Kick me in the ass! Kick this man in the ass!") and John Turturro begging Gabriel Byrne for his life in Miller's Crossing. Nixon lost the 1960 election on that day in 1952. By his 1968 inaugural address, Nixon had gained a gravitas that served him well.

2. Reagan's "Why Reykjavik Failed" Speech. He's the "Great Communicator," but this was well into his decline, and he mutters about a bullfighter and essentially asks America to trust him.

3. Goldwater. The man was awful. Just awful. LBJ's horrendous "daisy" commercial makes complete sense when you hear Goldwater's bombastic, snarling tone.

Good Speeches

1. RFK's Campaign Speech. RFK wasn't the public speaker that his brother was, but that worked well on the day that he had to walk out and tell his audience -- the Democratic faithful who had turned out to support his 1968 campaign -- that Martin Luther King, Jr. had just been killed by a white man. His halting words, in which he tied King's goal for America to his own plans, were effective.

2. Reagan's First Inaugural Address. Those of us who remember the addled, post-Hinckley Reagan would do well to listen to the Reagan of 1980, a sharp orator who had earned every bit of prominence he had developed in the Republican party. His first inaugural address was amazing: forceful, eloquent, and persuasive. The centerpiece was his repeated passionate opposition to deficits and debt, based on the simple argument that just as people cannot live beyond their means, neither can a nation. It was true then, and it's true today. The sad part is that Reagan ultimately quadrupled the national debt while in office, as part of a deliberate scheme to get the economy moving.

The Greatest Speech of the Twentieth Century
(But I'm Only Halfway Through The 4 CD Set)

1. Mario Cuomo's speech to the Democratic National Convention, 1984.

"There is despair in the faces you don't see, in the places you don't visit in your shining city."

Just listen to it.

 9:54 AM

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

I know I said I wouldn't blog about Bush, but these are good stories to tell about anyone, not just Emperor C-Plus Augustus.

1. According to St. Louis insiders, the Cards piped canned applause over the loudspeakers when Bush went out to throw out the first pitch during their season opener.

Now, I'm not comparing Bush to Hitler when I say this, but it reminds me of Lenny Bruce's routine about where Hitler went wrong (which I'll paraphrase):

Hitler (in 1945): "They love me, right?"

Himmler: "Oh, SURE, bubie. They think you're FABulous."

Hitler: "Really? You're sure?"

Himmler (edging toward the door): "Absolutely. No problems."

2. The Charlotte Observer is reporting that a recent $2,000-a-plate fundraiser dinner was marred by the fact that the diners were given no silverware. The menu explained in small type that, at the request of the White House, no flatware of any kind was distributed so that there would be no distractions during the Emperor's speech. Link (to Atrios, because Charlotte requires registration).

And finally, Scott McClellan upbraided the 9-11 Commission because the last time Condi testified, only five people showed up. What arrogance! What dereliction of duty!

Of course, it now comes out that the White House had decreed that no more than three commissioners would be permitted to attend any meetings with cabinet members of Dr. Rice's rank.

So. There. I broke my promise, but it felt good.

 9:53 AM

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

I've been experimenting with setting aside irony, and it's been an interesting experiment thus far. Strange. Sensitive and dangerous, like sex without a condom.

I was thinking about that experiment this morning as I drove to work. I've been listening to Rhino's 4-CD set, "Great Speeches of the 20th Century," which has been a mixed experience. For instance, William Jennings Bryan was a great speechwriter, but an amazingly mediocre speechgiver. Casey Stengel was every bit as hysterical as I've heard.

And I understand why JFK's inauguration speech changed the lives of an entire generation. I've heard sound bites over the years, of course. The speech is now known simply as the epigram that serves as its climax: "Ask not what your country can do for you..." But I was frankly surprised that there's a lot more to the speech than that. It's a masterpiece of oration, effectively constructed, energetically delivered, and astonishingly effective. Because I had let down my irony barrier, chills ran down my spine. You should definitely have a listen; don't merely read the transcript.

Of course, the speech serves better as a "do what I say" than as a "do what I do." Consider this passage:

To those old allies whose cultural and spiritual origins we share, we pledge the loyalty of faithful friends. United there is little we cannot do in a host of cooperative ventures. Divided there is little we can do--for we dare not meet a powerful challenge at odds and split asunder.

To those new states whom we welcome to the ranks of the free, we pledge our word that one form of colonial control shall not have passed away merely to be replaced by a far more iron tyranny. We shall not always expect to find them supporting our view. But we shall always hope to find them strongly supporting their own freedom--and to remember that, in the past, those who foolishly sought power by riding the back of the tiger ended up inside.

To those people in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required--not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

His words were prophetic, even within his own short lifetime -- by the end of his presidency, Kennedy was already "riding the back of the tiger" in Vietnam. And today, we have alienated "those old allies" and divided our efforts from theirs, and we ride a new tiger that grows hungrier by the day.

It's an amazing speech, much greater than the sound bite that had been previously spoon fed to me. Powerfully inspiring. A damn fine argument for setting aside your irony and caring about something. Sex without a condom. You should try it.

I get to hear MLK on the drive home today. Who knew that "I have a dream" is seventeen minutes long?

 12:51 PM

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