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September 29, 2006

Um, just for the record?

Mark Foley does not make me horny. No, not even a little.

Okay, well, maybe just the tiniest bit, but mostly just no.

I guess if I were forced to endure unwanted sexual advances from a sitting congresscritter, I guess I'd pick Stephanie Herseth.

Okay, that's all I really have to say about that.

Smoking in the news

Former tobacco farmer Al Gore is going to make damn sure that his pet cause has exactly zero credibility by the time he's done.

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore warned hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff on Thursday evening about the perils of climate change, claiming: Cigarette smoking is a "significant contributor to global warming!"

Nonsense. Cigarette smoking certainly causes some global warming, but it still comes in a distant third behind trans fats and Wal-Mart.

In other smoking-related news, I never thought I'd see this day.

France will ban smoking in public places from Jan. 1 but will adopt transition rules for bars and restaurants, Health Minister Xavier Bertrand said in a newspaper interview on Thursday.

"The question is no longer whether we will ban smoking in public but how and when," Bertrand told Metro newspaper. "It has to start from Jan. 1, 2007." He said the government would make a formal decision in mid-October after a parliamentary committee has reported back next week on what transition rules could apply.

Mark my words. French kids will be throwing rocks in the street before this is over.


The Senate just enthusiastically endorsed a PRO-TORTURE bill that legalizes TORTURE! 32 Democrats, a RINO and an IINO bravely tried to say "No!" to TORTURE, but their voices would not be heard. The language of the bill reads in part:

"Not only do we like torture, we can't GET ENOUGH OF IT!! In fact, we can't WAIT to finish this roll call vote, so we can get right back to doing more TORTURE!!!! BREAK OUT THOSE THUMBSCREWS AND BAMBOO SHOOTS, BOYS!!!"

At least that's the impression you'd get from reading the lefty blogosphere this week. Jesus H., I think I liked these guys better when they were all about "nuance." Remember those days? One of the most reasonable reactions from the moonbats actually comes from the Daily Kos. That's saying something.

As much as the moonbats would like to reduce the whole exercise to a an up-or-down referendum on "TORTURE IS GOOD!" vs. "TORTURE IS BAD," we all know it's not quite so simple or straightforward. Even the moonbattiest libs can't possibly believe their own overheated rhetoric on this matter.

If we'd all settle down and be intellectually honest for a moment here, I think we'd have to agree that the current national divisions are not along some pro-torture/anti-torture fault line. The real debate has much more to do with which specific interrogation techniques comprise torture and which do not.

I think we'd all probably agree that thumbscrews and electrodes do indeed qualify as torture. We'd all also agree that the old "good cop, bad cop" routine probably doesn't. The problem lies in the gray areas in between. What about sleep deprivation? Loud music? Waterboarding? Forced standing? And are all these techniques that can simply be condoned or condemned across the board, or would it depend on circumstances?

I think this is a debate that desperately needs to be resolved. Congress had a real opportunity to clarify exactly what our policies are and aren't regarding specific interrogation techniques, and they balked. I'll admit that I haven't read the entire bill yet, but so far my main problem is not what it said, but what it didn't say.

It's well and good to say you're against "torture," but it's also meaningless unless we're willing to define what interrogation techniques are considered torture and which aren't. From a legislative standpoint especially, this debate is essential.

Unfortunately, Congress is afraid of that debate, and it's easy to understand why. The Right doesn't want to go on record as supporting brutal-sounding techniques, nor do they want to broadcast a guarantee to our enemies that they need not fear rough treatment at the hands of our interrogators. Likewise, the Left doesn't want to be seen as squishy, weak-kneed bleeding hearts, who get all woozy at the thought of poor Khalid Shaikh Mohammed having to sleep on a lumpy mattress.

It's understandable that Congress wanted to duck this issue, but it's also inexcusable. They had a job to do, and they didn't do it. They can complain all they want about unchecked executive authority, but let the record show that when the time came to delineate the boundaries clearly, they punted.

September 28, 2006

A Pragmatic Solution For Iran and Iraq

I found this gem on a discussion forum and just had to share it:

We should immediately change our policies with regard to Iran. We should encourage the very hegemony we are fighting to stop. We should provide them the respect we give other leader nations. We should encourage trade with the US and the establishment of Iranian industries to provide us with goods and services we desire. We should allow them to become a nuclear power.

This policy change would immediately impact Russia and China and their drive for increased world power status. By Iran being given full authority to challenge Russia in energy markets, Russia would no longer be able to operate monopolistically in Europe. By allowing and assisting the development of industry within Iran and other poor Middle East countries, the economic growth of China and India would be retarded to a more acceptable level. Terrorism and the potential threat of nuclear weapon misuse should lessen.

The agreement between the US and Iran must be unilateral. In return for allowing them the opportunity to seek economic and world power status, they must police the Middle East. They must totally curb terrorism, especially that directed at the west; negotiate reasonable living arrangements among the various national, tribal and religious interests with the aim of creating economic well being for all; and must respect the ‘Israel of 1948’ borders.

This policy change would immediately create much chaos in the Middle East as we pull out and Iran assumes responsibility for stabilizing the area. Minor armed conflicts would develop, however, the US should vow to allow Iran to work out the solutions. In the long run, a policy change of this magnitude would add to our national security.

I like it. We defuse the tensions with Iran and at the same time can pull our troops out and make the Iraq mess their problem. This is the kind of strategic thinking that has been missing in our Middle East foreign policy of late.

We are never going to solve the Middle East problem through piecemeal actions. Our best hope is to craft some form of a "grand compromise" plan. And the first step in that process is to bury the hatchet with Iran.

George Allen

First of all, am I the only person in American who didn't know that "macaca" was an ethnic slur? Maybe I've led a sheltered life, but I'd never heard it until this story broke, and I still don't know what it means.

Unfortunately, that excuse won't work for George Allen. If the Virginia senator had never heard the term before, then presumably he wouldn't have used it. The firestorm of controversy that ensued was predictable, and exacerbated by the fact that Allen's name is frequently (if inexplicably) bandied about as a potential presidential candidate in 2008.

For my part, I lost all sympathy for Allen the moment he insisted that he has never used the word "nigger," not even once. Now as much as I hate to pre-judge people, I simply do not find this assertion credible. A white guy, who's lived in Virginia since 1971 and who has never, ever uttered that term, even in passing? Please, Senator, do not insult my intelligence. Perhaps you never used it in anger, and maybe you never said it with hatred in your heart, but you know damn well that you've certainly said it.

Anyway, that ridiculous statement relieved me of the burden of feeling any sympathy for Allen during this media pile-on, and I can simply be happy that any serious talk of his presidential candidacy has been squashed. Barry's Second Rule of Presidential Politics is "The Republicans never nominate anyone good." I still hold some hope that the 2008 campaign will break this rule for the first time since Ronald Reagan. That's why I'm not only mystified but chagrined every time some Republican touted (with a straight face, no less) "Smiley" Allen (Hi, Syd!) as presidential material. Thank the Lords of Cobol, we don't have to worry about that anymore.

Now can we please do something to take Mitt Romney out of the picture?

September 27, 2006

Give 'em an inch...

First, they came for the smokers. I did not speak out, because I did not smoke.

Oh wait, I did speak out. Fat lot of good it did, too. Yep, I was in the minority on that one, and people mocked me when I predicted this.

Three years after the city banned smoking in restaurants, health officials are talking about prohibiting something they say is almost as bad: artificial trans fatty acids.

The city health department unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would bar cooks at any of the city's 24,600 food service establishments from using ingredients that contain the artery-clogging substance, commonly listed on food labels as partially hydrogenated oil.

Artificial trans fats are found in some shortenings, margarine and frying oils and turn up in foods from pie crusts to french fries to doughnuts.

Sometimes I really don't enjoy being right, but it's my cross to bear, I guess.

Saving the ACLU?

Now here's a campaign I can get behind. Like many people, I've been disappointed by the increasingly partisan politicization of the ACLU. I say this as a member in good standing, by the way. I think the ACLU is too important an organization to give up on, so that's why I like what these people are doing.

It's a worthy goal, and I wish them luck, because I believe the ACLU has lost its way. Of course, so have both our major political parties, so it's really hard to know where to start.

This and that

A dearth of free time has caused my blogging to suffer of late, but the good news is that's because I've been devoting more time to a project that's officially "cool." If it works out (with any luck) I should be able to talk about it here at a later date.

Meanwhile, I've got some catching up to do. Yes, I watched the Clinton interview that had everyone in such a buzz for the past week. As I watched it, I got a sinking feeling in my stomach because I knew exactly what was going to happen -- a brand new national food-fight of "IT'S CLINTON'S FAULT!" vs. "IT'S BUSH'S FAULT!" would be launched. With so many people on both sides living in glass houses, I'm surprised there are still so many rocks flying about (well okay, no I'm not.)

Also big in the news last week was the intelligence report that called Iraq a "cause celebre" for jihadists. I think Bush made the right move by declassifying the document, but after reading it, I have to agree with Glenn Reynolds:

While we should fire the leakers on general principles, we should probably also fire whoever wrote this -- for producing a meaningless document full of empty bureaucratic twaddle. If the jihadists win, they'll have more prestige! And they will probably use the internets! Do tell. Jesus Christ, if this is the quality of intelligence we're getting, no wonder we haven't won yet.

But last I checked, no one was fired, despite yet another illegal leak of classified intelligence. Does anyone even care anymore? Anyone? Bueller? Is any classified intelligence fair game to leak and publish, so long as it doesn't mention Valerie Plame? Does anyone even "question the timing" of this leak? Why am I asking questions to which I already know the answer?

September 21, 2006

Democratic hypocrisy on voter fraud

Lots of people these days are concerned about electronic ballots and black-box voting, ostensibly because they're worried about the prospect of voter fraud. Most but not all of these people seem to be Democrats. Good for them; they have my support.

Meanwhile, in other voting fraud news, the House has just passed HR 4844, which takes the no-brainer step of requiring voters to demonstrate that they are, in fact, who they say they are. Unless we make some reasonable effort to restrict voting privileges to legitimate voters, all other talk about "voting integrity" is moot. Asking for valid identification does not, frankly, seem like a very onerous burden to bear in pursuit of fraud-free elections.

House Democrats, however, opposed the measure 192 to 4. I'm sorry, but I think that's embarrassing and pathetic. I don't see a single legitimate argument to justify the Democrats' lopsided rejection of this measure. Some legislators claimed it would "disenfranchise" poor, elderly and minority voters. Others echoed the ACLU (of which I am a member) in calling the House bill a "poll tax." That's absurd on its face, of course, but becomes even more so in light of the fact that the bill itself provides for ID cards to be provided free of charge.

If these "arguments" sound stupid, it's because they are. The problem is that these folks can't come forward with their real reasons for opposing this bill -- namely, that they want illegal aliens and dead people to continue voting.

Fine, then. At least everyone's on record now. And the next time I hear any of these "nay" voters in Congress preening about electronic voting, I'll know exactly how far their concern for "ballot integrity" goes -- exactly so far as it benefits their own party, and not one step further.

September 20, 2006

Stuff that's pissing me off today


It's our United Nations at work, people. Aren't you proud?

Hot on the heels of Mr. Nuke-Israel's little temper tantrum, we're now treated to the spectacle of Venezuelan gadfly and Cindy Sheehan love interest Hugo Chavez blasting Bush as "the devil," complaining about the stench of sulfur, and hawking a book by Noam Chomsky (Chomsky must be so proud.)

And I've gotta ask... for such an august body as the U.N., can't they do something about that shitty green tile? I mean the whole world is watching. Don't they know we're sick of seeing that? Don't they think it's time for an upgrade? I imagine all the break rooms and kitchens at Turtle Bay must be absolute nightmares of Harvest Gold and Avocado Green.

And as if Sean Penn as Willie Stark weren't horrific enough, we're now faced with the prospect of Spicoli playing Albert Einstein. That's nearly as blasphemous to Einstein's memory as Yahoo Serious.

And finally, can we all agree that putting Saddam on trial was a colossal mistake? The Mussolini option is looking better and better in hindsight.

Sure, we might have taken a P.R. hit at the time, but it would have been a one-off, and the story would be over. It would surely have been preferable to the cumulative effect of this ludicrous, ongoing spectacle. Amnesty International would have bitched, of course, but there's always the "Jimbo Kern" workaround:

"Look! In that hole! It's Saddam Hussein!"

"He's headed right for us!"


September 19, 2006

Gore's intriguing idea

I've never been a big Al Gore fan, but his latest proposal certainly caught my attention. Gore wants to tax carbon dioxide emissions (no big surprise there) while simultaneously eliminating federal payroll taxes -- all of them (big surprise!)

Say what you will about Gore, but he is clearly not afraid to think outside of the box. This is perhaps the only meaningful tax reform proposal I've yet to hear from any Democrat of national prominence.

The devil is always in the details, of course, and I'd have to know a lot more about it before signing on (what would become of the EITC, for example?) Also, a plan like Gore's would be opposed by the same formidable army of tax lawyers, accountants, and special interests as would the flat tax, the fair tax, or any other major restructuring of the tax code.

Still, it's a very intriguing idea, and, I think, a positive sign. If the big issues like tax reform and greenhouse gas emissions are ever to be solved, it will probably require an initiative much like this -- a clean break from the old patterns that would give both sides reason to embrace it.

Nice work, if you can get it

Check this out. A New Jersey politician got a no-work job lobbying himself at a corrupt state school.

Welcome to the Garden State, folks. I guess it's no mystery why one of the richest and most highly taxed states in the union continually finds itself in such dire financial "crises." The real mystery is why New Jersey taxpayers sit back docilely and accept that the "solution" is for Trenton to dig even deeper into the taxpayers' pockets, throwing good money after bad without ever demanding any accountability for the money that's already been squandered. Then, come election time, they dutifully send the same bunch of clowns and miscreants right back to work.

New Jersey gets the government it deserves, I suppose, but now I'm stuck with it as well. So why did I move here again? Oh yeah, to escape the high tax burden of New York City. Joke's on me, huh?

September 16, 2006

Weird dream

Last night I dreamed that I went to spend the weekend as William F. Buckley's houseguest. I was thrilled to meet him, but dismayed to learn he'd squandered the family fortune and was reduced to filing other people's taxes to bring in some extra bucks.

You don't exactly have to be Carl Jung to sort that one out.

September 15, 2006

The liberals' culture war

The woman who manned the register at the Blue Hill Food Co-op in Maine was a hugely pregnant hippie chick who did not shave under her arms. I knew this because she was wearing overalls... and nothing else. My wife, who is mildly allergic to bees, had just been stung, so we were asking her where we could find a nearby pharmacy.

She scowled for a moment, and then asked us (no kidding!) "Why do you need a pharmacy? You should just menstruate on a piece of tree bark, like I do." Well okay, she didn't really add that last sentence, but she might as well have. She mumbled some directions, we thanked her, and then drove for a few miles until we found a strip mall on the side of the highway, anchored by that pernicious blight of the suburban landscape -- Wal-Mart.

First of all, let me say that I personally tend to avoid Wal-Mart as much as possible. I find shopping there to be a profoundly unpleasant experience (except for the ICEEs, which are getting harder and harder to find these days.) Still, I would never presume to judge those who do shop at Wal-Mart, as many liberals (including the Co-op girl) clearly do.

Secondly, there's nothing wrong with the Food Co-op either. Sure, the staff and some of the clientele can be a bit nutty. It's one of those places where you could probably expect a 10% discount if you say "STOP BUSH'S ILLEGAL WAR IN IRAQ!" at the checkout. But they have a wide variety of stuff you can't find elsewhere. Much of it is good (fresh local produce, craft-brewed beer and exotic cheeses) and much of it awful (meatless meat, cage-free tofu and homeopathic snake oil) but all of the merchandise there has one thing in common -- it was exorbitantly expensive.

See, the Co-op is committed to social justice, paying a "living wage" to its hippies, buying coffee only from the Zapatistas and other such b.s. Still, their curried chicken salad (real chicken -- free range, of course) was quite good, and we shopped there often. With our New York salaries, we could afford to. Others, however, can't.

The pregnant hippie chick and other liberals would, no doubt, prefer that everyone shop at the Co-op -- or at the very least avoid shopping at Wal-Mart. Unfortunately, that's simply not realistic, and the liberals' animosity towards the nation's largest retail chain is further evidence that the liberal movement in America has lost touch with working families. The GOP's rise to power in America came about as the working class began to self-identify as Republicans. Liberals' obsession with Wal-Mart won't help them win the NASCAR set back, I'm afraid.

We've all heard the lefties' anti-Wal-Mart shtick before. We also know that it seldom (if ever) stops at criticizing Wal-Mart's labor practices. More often than not, it goes on to disparage the taste and class of Wal-Mart shoppers themselves. Remember the good old days, when Republicans were the party of the elite?

George Will has a great piece on the Democrats' bizarre fixation on this American institution, and notes some very interesting facts.

The median household income of Wal-Mart shoppers is under $40,000. Wal-Mart, the most prodigious job-creator in the history of the private sector in this galaxy, has almost as many employees (1.3 million) as the U.S. military has uniformed personnel. A McKinsey company study concluded that Wal-Mart accounted for 13 percent of the nation's productivity gains in the second half of the 1990s, which probably made Wal-Mart about as important as the Federal Reserve in holding down inflation.

By lowering consumer prices, Wal-Mart costs about 50 retail jobs among competitors for every 100 jobs Wal-Mart creates . Wal-Mart and its effects save shoppers more than $200 billion a year, dwarfing such government programs as food stamps ($28.6 billion) and the earned-income tax credit ($34.6 billion).

People who buy their groceries from Wal-Mart -- it has one-fifth of the nation's grocery business -- save at least 17 percent. But because unions are strong in many grocery stores trying to compete with Wal-Mart, unions are yanking on the Democratic Party's leash, demanding laws to force Wal-Mart to pay wages and benefits higher than those that already are high enough to attract 77 times as many applicants than there were jobs at this store.

Whether you like Wal-Mart or not (and again, I don't) it sure doesn't sound like the unmitigated evil that John Kerry deemed it in 2004, when he called it "disgraceful" and symbolic of "what's wrong with America." So long, party of the working man. Hello, party of effete white liberals.

You need look no further than this absurd war against Wal-Mart to understand why the Democrats have repeatedly failed to gain traction in heartland America. It's another symptom of the same disease that Will summarizes brilliantly in the last paragraph of his column.

When liberals' presidential nominees consistently fail to carry Kansas, liberals do not rush to read a book titled "What's the Matter With Liberals' Nominees?" No, the book they turned into a bestseller is titled "What's the Matter With Kansas?" Notice a pattern here?
Yes. I do.

September 14, 2006

A great day for science!

Hot on the heels of this groundbreaking study comes another one that says boozing makes you rich... or something like that.

Men are smarter than women

Really, this is news?

This story is sure to raise a furor, but I'm not paying much attention to it. I scanned the headline and the first few sentences, chuckled briefly, and e-mailed it to my wife. I didn't read the whole thing. I don't know what the study's methodology was, and I don't really care.

I can tell you what methodology wasn't used, though. It did not include a survey of popular magazine titles marketed to the two sexes. Any study based on reading trends would have to conclude that men are about fifty points smarter rather than the four-point advantage cited in this study.

I mean, think about it. Every single women's magazine out there tells you you can have a bikini body in two weeks with this brand new diet. Never mind that every women's magazine on the planet has given you a brand new diet every month of the year at least since Robert Byrd's cross-burning days, and none of them ever worked before. Forget that! Just poney up a few bucks for this one more magazine and it will be the magic bullet to get you into that thong where all the previous ten thousand issues failed utterly.

There are, of course, plenty of muscle mags that tell guys they can get totally ripped and look like Arnie in his pre-Conan days, but they would never insult their intended audience by claiming they could do so in two weeks. Men would know better and wouldn't buy it.

So that's my scientific study about why men are smarter than women. QED.

Bankrupt, but strong!!

When my friend told me Air America was bankrupt, I just shrugged and said, "Yeah, so?" See, because I thought he meant intellectually bankrupt. HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW!!!!!

Get it? I swear, I crack myself up sometimes.


This is exactly why I voted against GWB back in 2000:

President Bush has acceded to his father's urging and has made former Secretary of State James Baker a leading adviser on Iraq.
After Bush's first term, I was lulled into a false sense of complacency that Poppy's friends were not actually calling the shots behind the scenes. Now this. Why, God, why?

Look, I think it's a positive development that Rummy is being sidelined, okay? But doesn't the Bush family have any other friends besides this James A. Baker guy? Anyone??

September 13, 2006

Why I don't fear the Democrats

I've been saying for some time now that I hope the GOP loses at least one chamber of Congress in the upcoming midterms. Now, however, some other conservatives who actually matter are beginning to say the same thing.

My party has simply lost its way, and I believe it's going to take an electoral spanking for them to find their path out of the wilderness. Sadly, political defeat will not guarantee a Republican rebirth, but it is a necessary if not sufficient condition. I take no joy in hoping for their defeat. It's a bit like putting down the family cat -- unpleasant but necessary.

Some of my Republican friends have tried to dissuade me. Unable to defend the current Congress, they try to frighten me with the specter of House Speaker Pelosi. But guess what? I'm not afraid of the Democrats anymore.

I'm not afraid because the Democrats are no longer the watered-down, quasi-socialist party of my youth. Hell, they're not even a liberal party anymore. In case you haven't noticed, the Democratic Party is being taken over by affluent white people -- affluent white people with substantial exposure in the equities market, no less.

It's no longer the party of George McGovern and Walter Mondale. The days of pre-Reagan, 70% tax brackets are gone, and the modern Democratic Party knows it. The days of Jesse Jackson calling all the shots are history as well, and those days aren't coming back. The days of gun control as a serious issue? Over. Done.

The animating force behind the Democrats' nascent resurgence comprises educated, upper income white people who voted for Reagan in the 80's because they didn't want their kids bussed to crappy schools. In 2004, this same demographic voted for Kerry in large numbers. They disdain Wal-Mart (another true sign that they're no longer the party of the underclass), send money to Howard Dean and drive their hybrids to Ned Lamont rallies.

These are hardly the class warriors of years gone by. They are the post-Clinton Democratic Party, and I see little there to fear. I'll certainly disagree with them on many issues, but so what? I could say the same about the Republicans (and increasingly I do.)

Yes, there's always the risk that the Democrats, emboldened by new-found power, will overreach and lapse back into the same old patterns. Should that happen, they'll be tossed back out on their ears, because at the end of the day, the American public is simply not liberal, no matter how disgusted they may be with Bush and this Congress.

So what will I miss about the current GOP leadership? Damn little. I'll have more thoughts to post on this topic later, but this post is already too long. For now, suffice it to say that I agree with Christopher Buckley: “Hand over the tiller of governance, that others may fuck things up for a change.”

September 12, 2006

Life imitates parody

If you'd read me this headline out of context, I'd guess it had come from ScrappleFace.

But no, they're serious:

Fears of revenge attacks on stingrays over Irwin death

The question we should be asking, of course, is why do the stingrays hate us?

This is insane!

So get this. A couple of days ago I had to appear in Hoboken's municipal court to defend myself against some bogus, nickel-and-dime allegation (I was keeping it for a friend, I swear.) Anyway, while I was waiting my turn, I got to watch three different people appear before the judge on charges of "smoking in public."

These people were among to first charged with this offense, since the statute was so new that the judge had to excuse herself from the bench so she could familiarize herself with the precise wording thereof. Two of the three had been busted for smoking on the light rail platform -- outdoors, mind you -- and the third for smoking on a ferry slip, right near the water's edge.

All three of the defendants copped a plea. They pled guilty to "disturbing the peace." Why? Because it carried a lesser penalty. The anti-smoking jihad has become so ridiculously out of proportion in this state that firing a butt outdoors can cost you a thousand dollar fine and/or six months in jail!!! I kid you not.

Under those circumstances, I can't blame them for plea-bargaining. Still, I don't think I would have done it myself. Penalties aside, "disturbing the peace" just sounds a lot more serious to me than "smoking in public." If I see "disturbing the peace" on someone's record, I assume he was probably drunk and throwing bottles in the street at 3 AM.

I don't really want something like that on my rap sheet. It could jeopardize future employment opportunities. Hell, to get my current job I already had to do a heap of explaining about the neckties and the men's urinal. Last thing I need is a "disturbing the peace" conviction.

And if I were a judge (ha ha) I would be on the lookout for the right defendant to make an example of. Someone will probably need to be sentenced to six months in jail before the people of New Jersey finally realize that this anti-smoking crusade has gone too damn far, and now stands completely divorced from reason and common sense.

PS -- Did you notice that I was careful to use the terms "jihad" and "crusade" once each to describe the same thing? I should get diversity/sensitivity points for that, no?

September 11, 2006

Path to 9/11

So did anyone actually watch the damn thing?

Meanwhile, The Onion is too accurate to be funny.

9/11 + 5

This day just sucks.

I was at Ground Zero yesterday, for reasons that had nothing to do with the anniversary. I stood there looking at what Ray Nagin had accurately (if artlessly) referred to as a big whole in the ground, and it seemed emblematic of the lack of progress we've seen over the past five years, on many different fronts.

A camera crew from Voice of America came to interview me and a couple of other people about 9/11. For once in my life, I had nothing to say. That didn't stop me from blabbing on and on with some vapid nonsense, but I felt like there was nothing I could possibly say that would be appropriate. As an American who lived in Manhattan through 9/11, how can you possibly compress your experience of the past five years into a 10-second sound bite? Our words were also to be translated into Farsi and broadcast in Iran. My big chance to speak to the Iranian people and I just felt as empty as Nagin's hole in the ground.

This anniversary recalls not only that one awful morning, but previous anniversaries as well. September 11, 2002 was a strange and eerie day. I attended a memorial service along the Hudson River that morning, and just as we were observing a moment of silence marking the time of the first impact, a strong gust of wind came off the river and blew over a commemorative wreath and several sprays of flowers. The winds continued for the rest of the day, and on my walk home I had to detour around a police barricade surrounding the new AOL/Time Warner towers. Some building material had been dislodged by the winds and killed a pedestrian walking below.

The second anniversary began as a normal workday, but our building observed a moment of silence at the time of the impacts. For sixty seconds, everything was quiet in the entire building, except for one guy seated near me. He was visiting from Germany, and continued blabbing away on the phone in loud German even after the moment of silence had been announced. I wanted to punch him.

The third and fourth anniversaries sort of blend together in my head, but five years is a milestone that encourages a bit more reflection than the others. This isn't an easy anniversary for me, and I'm not sure that they'll get any easier as we move further away from the events of that day.

I see photographs of people in the newspapers, then and now. I read about there stories and how their lives have changed for better or for worse. We've all seen these human interest stories a thousand times... but something is different about them now. For the first time, I have observed that the people in question are noticeably older.

It wasn't yesterday anymore. And for reason I can't exactly explain, there's something profoundly disturbing about the new strands of gray and the new lines around the eyes that comprise the tell-tale physical manifestation of the fact that September 11 is slipping away from us.

And why is it bad to have more distance between us and a national nightmare? I don't know. Like I said, I can't explain it. But the only thing I can compare it to is seeing the frail, aged survivors of the Holocaust or Pearl Harbor, and watching their numbers grow fewer and fewer every year. As horrible as those events were, there is something frighteningly sad about seeing these people disappear. Soon the day will be upon us when no one alive will remember either. When that happens, something huge will be lost to us.

Today, I realized that this long, gradual, drifting away has already begun for the events of a clear September morning that still seems like yesterday to many of us, even though it was not. So no, I'm not sure future anniversaries will be any easier.

September 08, 2006

This is depressing

Five years later, and we're still looking at new architectural designs for the World Trade Center. Sigh.

Nevertheless, I have to say that I do like what I see of the new plans. But I've learned not to get too emotionally invested in any one plan. We've been through umpteen billion iterations of this already. I'll start paying attention again when they actually build something.

It's Friday!

Why not make a cheeseburger pizza?

Some extra ham and cheese for toppings can't hurt.

Et puis, voilà!

September 07, 2006

You know what's odd?

I'll tell you what's odd. When this piece of anti-American, pro-terrorist propaganda was released, all us Republicans were told that we should actually watch it before expressing an opinion about it. This seemed reasonable to me, so I dutifully purchased a copy of Fahrenheit 9/11 from a sidewalk vendor in Chinatown and watched it before rendering my verdict.

Ironically, many of the same people who told me I had to watch Michael Moore's terrorist recruitment film before judging it are already up in arms about a film they've yet to see. Apparently, a different set of rules applies in this case. If a film is even rumored to impugn Brave Sir William of Clinton, then it is fair game for criticism, sight unseen.

Why? Because the Cilnton Administration had nothing to hide, of course. That's why Sandy Berger copped a plea to stuffing classified documents down his britches and destroying them, you see -- because he had absolutely nothing to hide.

These people thought it was just great that Fahrenheit 9/11 came out in an election year, and was harshly (and unfairly) critical of a president who was currently sitting for re-election. But for some reason, it's completely insidious to cast aspersions agains a president who is not up for re-election during an off-year election cycle.

To all those whiny Democrats, I have two messages I'd like to convey:

  1. Welcome to the club.
  2. Bite me.

Thank you, that is all.

September 01, 2006

Final word

Yes, my blogging has sucked lately (and here I'm referring specifically to the quantity of posts, as the quality has sucked for some time) as I still struggle with my backed-up inbox. Still, I couldn't let this go without a mention. As the whole Plamegate nonsense finally ends, not with a bang but with a whimper, the Washington Post sums it up rather nicely.

[I]t now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming -- falsely, as it turned out -- that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium-shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials. He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission and that the answer would point to his wife. He diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously.

"Unfortunate" is one word for it.