A Little Something to Fight the Poison

Saturday, July 12, 2003
THINGS TO DO IN NEW HAVEN WHEN YOU'RE REALLY TIRED and when you've left the key to your apartment on your desk and the doorman's off duty and your flatmate and fiancee are who-knows-where or sleeping like bricks (for around the first 8 hours after midnight):

-Knock a lot. Leave message on flatmate's cellphone
-Have a very late dinner at the late night pizza/kabob joint.
-Knock some more
-Eat the remainder of your pita whilst staring whistfully at your balcony window only 14 ft. off of the ground (and probably unlocked sliding doors)
-Check out local dive bar for a barmaid you know. Convince doorman to let you in free and that backpack doesn't have weapons. Watch a couple songs by the tribute band with the last 2 dozen hardcore fans.
-Check out graduate school bar. Peer at bar's very last patron. Use bathroom.
-Knock even more. Kick. A bit. Bang head against terrible, terrible door. Curse at flatmate's immediate call waiting message for 35236th time.
-Try to talk to and befriend some post-bar undergrads at the local 24-hour convenience store, but fail because of you're second too slow-witted to catch an entry cue.
-Watch in despair as barmaid above pulls up to curb to drop off friends and looks through you without hint of recognition.
-Wander. Check out the fountain on cross-campus.
-Wander back to the 24-hour convenience store and convince counter guy to let you work in their upstairs seating area even though it's supposed to be closed for cleaning.
-Edit a paper you're trying to publish.
-Buy and consume some Red Bull-like energy drink.
-Start a short story and an op-ed.
-Practice your kata between the tables of the upstairs area.
-Edit some more and buy some ginseng/plum iced tea.
-Gaze at 6:15AM sunlight in wonder.
-Wander over to Starbucks. Try to convince opening shift ladies to let you in 10 minutes before they're supposed to open so you can use the bathroom.
-Search out early breakfast place to use the bathroom.
-Return to Starbucks slightly annoyed; buy cheap tea without tipping.
-Open up laptop, stare at it, realize it's too late to do anymore work, close it up.
-Chat up one nice Starbucks gal who would have let you in early, but was told not to by the other workers. Give her advice on grad school and the GREs.
-Go back to apartment and bang some more.
-Give up and find the morning doorman who's just arrived. Suck down paying $20 to let you into your apartment. Stare at roommate's closed door and wonder. Plug in Internet connection and blog in a daze.
Friday, July 11, 2003
DOESN'T THE SECRET SERVICE ALREADY HAVE ENOUGH TO DO? Condoleeza Rice dumps the dodgy Niger uranium claim made in Bush's State of the Union address all over the lap of George Tenet and the CIA:
"If CIA Director George Tenet had any misgivings about that sentence in the president's speech, 'he did not make them known' to Mr. Bush or his staff, said national security adviser Condoleezza Rice.

Her comments to reporters aboard Air Force One came a day after other senior U.S. officials said that before and after Mr. Bush's Jan. 28 speech, American intelligence officials expressed doubts about a British intelligence report that the president cited to back up his allegations.

But Ms. Rice said Friday that 'the CIA cleared the speech in its entirety.'"
If I were Dr. Rice, I'd be very cautious when I start my car tomorrow morning...
THE PERVERSITY OF THE UNIVERSE will be on full display if Blair loses his job but Bush doesn't for the no WMDs in Iraq mess. As Nic Kristof points out, Blair has been far more credible and reasonable in selling the war, but that may not save him because the British people and media are much less credulous, it seems, than their American counterparts.

Yeah, Blair might have earned what he gets for siding with the Bush gang, but it would still be a pity--and if there is a higher power, surely It wouldn't dump Blair and let Bush win '04, right?
Thursday, July 10, 2003
I WOULD HAVE BROUGHT SHOE POLISH: Mrs. Clinton's extreme grciousness in helping Tucker Carlson weasel out of his boastful bet to eat his shoes if her book sold well by presenting him with a cake in the shape of shoe on Crossfire would be really heartwarming, if I could set aside the amount of damage that people of Carlson's ilk has done to American political discourse.

An addendum to Eric's post on proper patriotism. There's an article in the Utne Reader that makes a compelling argument for why the Left should embrace patriotism. The upshot of the article is that the Left has to remind people what America truly stands for -- democracy, liberty, a haven for the down-trodden etc. The article also contains interesting historical tid-bits about some of America's patriotic touchstones, including the Oath of Allegiance and songs like "America the Beautiful" and "This Land is your Land". It turns out they weren't exactly written by Republicans....
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
MOST PEOPLE who read blogs probably already know about this, but here's the key Niger uranium links that have appeared over the past few days:

-"The Former Ambassador" Joseph Wilson's NYT article.
-Ari Fleischer's largely incoherent attempt to explain why the Bush Admin shouldn't be excoriated for this--rough last week on the job, huh, Ari? (posted by public-minded Josh Marshall)
-The NYT story on the White House's sort of mea culpa.

What really surprises me about all this is that it took the mainstream media this long to make a stink about it. I thought everyone was pretty sure that the reports were bogus months ago.
BEN FOLDS was amazing. Should have been quicker in mentioning the concert I went to on the 4th, but it's not like I've got a reputation for being timely. It was a bit odd, because when Toad's Place (New Haven's famous Yale-embedded dive bar) meant all ages, they really meant ALL ages. I'm talking a few grandmoms, as well as a bunch o' kids who were seriously pre-pre-teen. Like 11-years-old all ages. But he was amazing--not only did he make us sing the parts to many of his songs, but he made us actually almost sing well. And "Song for the Dumped" is still pretty funny in Japanese. Very cool.
NOT THAT IT MATTERS really, since I can't even vote or legally donate money to this cause, but I really, really, really like the idea of a Wesley Clark run. And Esquire's excellent profile didn't hurt one bit (via The Wesley Clark weblog). Parts of it almost moved me to tears, like this account of personal courage in Bosnia:
In August 1995, the general—three stars, working as J-5 for the Joint Chiefs—went to Bosnia as part of the negotiating team Ambassador Richard Holbrooke had put together to end the civil war that had resulted in the massacre of as many as eight thousand Muslim men and boys at the town of Srebrenica the month before. In Belgrade, Clark had met for the first time Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic, who was sponsoring the Bosnian Serbs. Now the team had to travel to Sarajevo. Told that the airport in Sarajevo was too dangerous to fly into, the team decided to drive and asked Milosevic to guarantee its safety on a road held by Bosnian Serbs. Milosevic did not, and so the team wound up taking a fortified Humvee and an armored personnel carrier on a pitched, narrow, winding mountain road notoriously vulnerable to Serb machine-gun fire. Clark and Holbrooke went in the Humvee, the rest in the APC. In his book, the general describes what happened this way: "At the end of the first week we had a tragic accident on Mount Igman, near Sarajevo. [Three members of the team] were killed when the French armored personnel carrier in which they were riding broke through the shoulder of the road and tumbled several hundred meters down a steep hillside."

It is not until one reads Holbrooke's book, To End a War, that one finds out that after the APC went off the road, Clark grabbed a rope, anchored it to a tree stump, and rappelled down the mountainside after it, despite the gunfire that the explosion of the APC set off, despite the warnings that the mountainside was heavily mined, despite the rain and the mud, and despite Holbrooke yelling that he couldn't go. It is not until one brings the incident up to the general that one finds out that the burning APC had turned into a kiln, and that Clark stayed with it and aided in the extraction of the bodies...
Clark-Dean is beginning to sound amazing. Dean-Clark would be great too. Heck, Clark-Kerry, Kerry-Clark, throw Graham in there somewhere, I don't care. All of those men (and a bunch of Democrat women, if they're interested) have better souls than Bush. I think about 98% of the world knows that. You Americans try to have the decency of recognizing that when you vote in 18 months, OK?

UPDATE: Wesley Clark's son popped up in The Daily Kos' comments (identity verified by Kos) and provided some valuable answers about his dad's intentions (scroll down, as he posted more than once). Cool.
Monday, July 07, 2003
SAVING GRACES: Sisyphus' 4th of July post almost makes me want to be an American:
"So you're here. Unless you're a cave sloth or a TRex, somebody with a lot of guts went to an awful lot of trouble to make that possible. They walked here from Asia, or they came over in a wooden boat or they survived being kidnapped and enslaved or they crammed the hold of a ship without any lifeboats or escaped any one of a few centuries of wars and privation in the rest of the world or maybe they studied as if their lives depended on it and stepped on a plane.

As Bill Murray said in Stripes, we're here because every decent country on earth threw us out, because they didn't want us or because they stopped growing and someone down the trunk of your family tree wanted to be in the land of the really big pie - a pie that wasn't all carved up and handed out centuries before. A pie with some pieces left.

You may be one of those ancestors yourself.

Anyway, if you're here, somewhere in your blood is the blood of someone with a lot of guts."


Can't you Yanks elect more people who sincerely speak like this? Please?

Actually, some such similar stuff applies to Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and is starting to become much more true of many other countries (my lame anecdotal empirics: I used to play cards with Eduardo, a half-Japanese kid from Brazil; and roomed in college with Azim, an Indian Muslim from Kenya; Manu is from some unknown planet [just kidding, pardner!]; and so on...). But the U.S. was there first, with the modern day liberal democracy thing, even if it's often been a rough ride that hasn't lived up to all of its ideals, and I will give it props for that.

ALSO, SOME THOUGHTS ON 'PROPER PATRIOTISM': if you scroll down from the original post, note the obstinate folks who insist that Sisyphus was wrong to post her message citing the good aspects of America's tradition without also citing the evil aspects:
"You might also remember that [Sisyphus'] country was built on the slaughter and deprivation of the native peoples, plus the slavery of millions of black people.

America has many fine attributes and has done good things in he world, but it has also committed many acts of evil, and rather than spouting such nonsensical jingoistic garbage, you might care to ponder the bad as well as the good....

Every American is guilty of the atrocities you inflict on the rest of the world, you might care to ponder that too."

--Some anonymous tool commenting on Sisyphus' site

People who believe something like the above (usually thoughtless radicals and fanatics) have overlooked the following:
(1) There is almost no country in the world about which some similar statement is untrue. The political history of humans society reveals a nearly unbroken chain of bloodshed and there is no moment where this violence is prominent and at the same time more hidden than at the moment of a society's founding. A history of the founding and world-historical events of the Earth's peoples would be in great part a history of genocide, fratricide, ethnic cleansing, and mass coercive dislocation.

(2) But making amends for the terrible history of one's nation doesn't mean--can't mean--constantly self-flagellating oneself and fellow citizens for the sins of their forefathers. This doesn't mean that we can forget--the critical 20th Century lesson contained in the words never forget will never be outdated. But it would be impossible to motivate moral and political progress in most average people if they were denied any opportunity to take some pride in who they are. Sisyphus' critic is just wrong when he(?) states that "every American is guilty of the atrocities that [their country] inflicts [or has inflicted] on the rest of the world." Such an assignment of collective guilt disrespects the individuality of persons that provides any viable concept of freedom with coherence. Individuals can never be guilty (merely) because of their unchosen affiliation with a collectivity. They can, however, be responsible for what a collectivity with which they're affiliated has done or is doing. It is wrong to tar all Americans with the guilt created by the Bush Administration's actions, just as it is wrong to tar all Catholics with the guilt of the child molestation of some of the religion's priests, or Germans for the incomparable crimes of their forefathers. One can, however, attach to members of all of those groups the responsibility of trying to reverse or repair the actions of their compatriots or forefathers. Doing so recognizes that we are both distinct individuals and always already born into this world as members of groups.

(3) People cannot be motivated to care about doing something about their country if they are convinced that it is irredeemable and that it possesses no immanent values worth struggling for. An honest patriotic pride isn’t employed to gloss over the memory of a nation’s historical evils and leaves more than enough space to recreate their memory and to learn from them. But to flourish, a vital and progressive population must also have spaces and moments during which they can celebrate their sustaining ideals and the aspects of their history of which they can sincerely be proud.

(4) And if you can't differentiate Sisyphus' plea to her compatriots to do a better job of realizing the ideals of hope and tolerance on which the United States were founded from "jingoistic nonsense," then you, sirs, are of no help whatsoever in making things better.

So that's my bit in trying to be part of (ugh--Walzer, you're mostly great, but I despise this phrase, mainly because it contains such a lie) "the decent left." Have a happy post-Canada Day/Independence Day week, everyone.

(via Brett Marston)

Sunday, July 06, 2003
JUST WONDERING: Is there a German compound word for "the justified indignation one feels when involuntarily exposed to a public display of affection by an objectively unattractive couple in a coffee shop"? There should be. Brett, any help here?

UPDATE: Brett suggests something like Anstossendeleutekaffeekuschelnekel. Nice.