Archives for December, 2002

Dangerous and Obscene

Max “Bodybags” Boot on war as a means of promoting American values.

Echoed by Charles Krauthammer:

“Iraq will be the first act in the play of an America coming ashore in
Arabia…. It’s not just about weapons of mass destruction or American
credibility. It’s about reforming the Arab world.”

Posted on Dec 31, 2002 in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Blogrollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Here’s a good line: discussing Woody Allen’s 1972 flick “Play It Again Sam,” Jesse Walker asks:

“Remember when Woody was young enough that you could hope he gets the girl without creeping yourself out?”

Jim Henley on a future so bright I gotta build me a concrete bunker

Julian with some interesting observations on “these dark satanic malls.” I’m from Jersey too, and I can relate. Surely though, some of the aesthetic ugliness of suburbia can be blamed on state action, rather than an agglomeration of people’s tastes via the market. The interstate highway system and a resistance to mixed-use zoning for two…

Colby Cosh dissects Glenn Reynolds’ endorsement of global Great Society programs (the neolibertarians, like the neoconservatives, seem willing to abandon any and all limited government principles in the pursuit of Empire)…

Radley’s best albums of 2002. I got the Coldplay on his rec and I think it’s pretty good…

I probably need to diversify and explore some new blogs. But my regulars are so damn good, it’s hard to get motivated to do so…

Posted on Dec 30, 2002 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Thirtysomething

Good news for older folks: Playboy just ran its first over-35 centerfold. (Warning: visible breasts). Coo coo cachoo Missus Robinson.

Does it bother anyone else that the last “very good year” in the Sinatra song is “when I was thirty-five”? (I’m looking forward to riding in limousines with those blue-blooded girls of independent means). After that, “the days grow short” and he’s in the autumn of his years. Nothing but shuffleboard and early-bird specials. Even so, I am reliably informed that a friend’s grandfather had to leave his nursing home because the randy widows there wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace. And that kind of thing apparently happens a lot, as I just discovered from a google search that told me more than I ever wanted to know about “Senior sex.”

Posted on Dec 30, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

“The Altar of Freedom”

I don’t take a lot of pictures, and I don’t have any photo albums. But on Christmas, my Mom brought out two little Tupperware containers full of some pictures I took or copied during college. There were a lot of shots of my college buddies and me at 18, 19, 20—around the age of your average combat soldier.

You watch yourself and your friends age so incrementally, you hardly realize it’s happening. Without thinking about it much, I’d figured we all looked then pretty much like we look now—a few pounds heavier, a little balder in some cases—but basically the same. Instead, I was struck by how positively fetal we all looked. We were boys. We didn’t have jobs, marriages, mortgages, love handles, or responsibilities. A hangover was a theoretical concept. Our parents paid our freight and our rent. We were surrounded by girls our age and all the beer we could drink. Our only job was to occasionally read a novel or a history book, or fake it if you didn’t. College is wasted on the young.

Hussein invaded Kuwait in the summer before my sophomore year. I remember a couple of us having a brief scare in the cafeteria one afternoon that Fall when a friend who’d ridiculously misinterpreted a CNN reference to a U.N. “draft resolution” ran in and told us we might get drafted. Instead, the war was entirely a spectator sport, and distracted us not a bit from our appointed rounds at house parties and bars.

Around the same time, I was taking a class on the Civil War. I remember being quite enamored of a letter that Abraham Lincoln sent to a mother who had lost five sons on the battlefield. He wrote:

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

It is a beautiful letter, in its way. But when I shared it with my father, he grumbled “yeah, well—that bullshit wouldn’t be any kind of consolation.”

It’s as unavoidable as it is crashingly obvious that wars are fought by kids. And sure, maybe our concept of “kid” has been shaped and extended by our prosperity. If so, I’m all for it (I’m now in my twentieth year of adolescence). And yes, the kids we’ll send to fight in Iraq are volunteers. And only 79 of them (Americans, that is) died in the first Gulf War.

The kids they fought and killed were, for the most part, conscripts. They died pretty Goddamned horrible deaths. In a better world, in a better Middle East, they’d have been laughing, drinking, and chasing girls.

If it’s true that Hussein has designs on nuking an American city, I’ll be grateful and humbled and shamed by our soldiers’ sacrifice. And I wont wax lachrymose and Sting-like about the Iraqi draftees that get chewed up in the process. (“Do the Iraqis love their children too?”)

But to the extent that this war is about anything other than avoiding a nuclear September 11th, it is not in my name. We have governments, not to spread joy and good and liberation throughout the world, but to protect our lives, liberty, and property. They’re a necessary evil, just as war is a sometimes necessary evil. The notion that it can be a positive good is as dangerous as it is obscene.

Posted on Dec 27, 2002 in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Iraq: Don’t Do It

Here, for your perusal is a (long)piece I wrote for January’s Liberty Magazine. (You can get Liberty at your local Borders or Barnes & Noble.) It’s an attempt to convince hawks and fence-sitters that war with Iraq will undermine U.S. national security, perhaps catastrophically so.

Posted on Dec 27, 2002 in Uncategorized | 15 Comments

L’affair Lott

I’m sure glad that’s over. Nobody came off particularly well: not the GOP, not Lott, and certainly not the right-wing pundocracy, which alternated between the excruciatingly earnest condescension of Mike Doonesbury trying to make black friends and hooting and pointing like Donald Sutherland at the end of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I hope you folks saved up enough rhetorical ammunition to take it up a notch in case a real white supremacist comes along.

As for Lott, it’s tough to feel sorry for him. But the former head of the Stupid Party isn’t evil: he’s stupid. How did such a political naif ever become Senate leader of a major party? Check out this picture, from Tuesday’s New York Post, of Lott holding up his granddaugher for the cameras. Really: look at it! (I’m unable to upload it to the site for some reason.) Who the hell holds a baby like that?? Trent: the camera’s on! People are watching! You’re a U.S. Senator! You look like a freaking child molester!! Sigh….

Update: Here it is. Somebody take that child away from him!

trent.jpg

Posted on Dec 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Back in Babylon

Had a nice Christmas with the folks, including a candlelit-by-necessity Christmas dinner when the storm blew out the power briefly along the Joisey Shore. Got some swell swag including one gift that brings home to me what a pampered Bobo wus I am: a sonicare electric toothbrush. I mean, can you imagine Humphrey Bogart using one of those? He probably washed his hair with hand soap.

Picked up the latest edition of the Washington City Paper on my return. Its theme is New York vs. D.C. and the editors surrender unconditionally, making fun of everything from D.C.’s “Chinatown” (and its soon-to-open Hooters with Chinese characters on the sign) to my favorite bar, the Raven, which they call the “fakest dive.” I kinda suspected it was over for the Raven when cute girls without face piercings started showing up, and a bunch of boozy fraternity date-rape artists sang “Born to Run” at the top of their lungs one night about a month ago. If it had been a real dive bar in a real town, like Chicago, some pipefitter would have beaten the piss out of them. Instead, the half-hipster hill staffers and nonprofit researchers in attendance just grumbled in their beer.

Still, New York can stuff it. I live in a great house, in total bourgeois comfort in a great neighborhood. I’ve got a job I love and umpteen friends who can talk about something besides Friends. I wouldn’t live anywhere else. My kids are going to go to District public schools and become white rappers.

Posted on Dec 26, 2002 in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I Lied.

Excellent post from the comments section below about “creepy old dudes,” senatorial politics, and the quest for a Majority Leader who is pure of heart:

Case in point, from the Washington Post:

Nickles “is a fixture at a prestigious Bethesda club that enforces Saudi-like rules when it comes to females . . . . The club is so committed to its 80 year policy of excluding women–who are banned from the premises except during the annual spring cocktail party and by-appointment-only Christmas shopping in the pro-shop–that in the 1980s it was willing to forgo a multimillion dollar tax break to preserve its gender purity.”

“By-appointment-X-mas shopping at the pro shop?” Yeesh. I’ll bet Nickles also locks his doors when driving north of 16th and Park on the way to his all-male, evil Republican, golf-n-martini happy hours. But, hey, at least the new progressive face of the Republican party is not a former segregationist, and thinks blacks are equal!

The point is, the Republican party is full of some pretty creepy old dudes. Period. So is the other party (I remember some old white partner who is a big, well-connected Washington “liberal Democrat” tell me, after a few too many drinks, that he supported affirmative action in order to forestall “unrest” ocasioned by the fact that blacks are inferior.) But the creepy old dudes will all be dead in about 30 years. Until then, faced with a constrained set of choices as I exercise my right to vote, I am voting for the slate of creepy old dudes that are less likely to raise my taxes, and socialize my health care.

Posted on Dec 18, 2002 in Uncategorized | 14 Comments

I’ll Shut Up Now

Michelle Malkin just said it all:

Both liberals and conservatives who are lambasting the vacant Lott as an unrepentant bigot give him too much credit, methinks. The former college cheerleader did at Thurmond’s birthday party what he has done all of his life: He mouthed the words he thought his audience at the moment wanted to hear. Lott never actively donned a white sheet, like his Senate colleague and ex-Klansman Robert Byrd, D-West Va. Instead, Lott is, and always has been, on the sidelines of America’s race debate.

When James Meredith weathered violent riots in his brave quest to integrate the University of Mississippi in the fall of 1962, Lott was neither standing next to him nor standing with the segregationist mob. The Ole Miss alum was holed up inside his frat house, preserving his and his brothers’ political viability.

There is only one cause, one animating spirit that Trent Lott is committed to: not the South, not the segregationist past, but himself and his future in high office. And now, to save his hide, Lott will shake his pompoms and turn somersaults to please whomever (Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., the Rev. Al Sharpton) can help him stay in power.

There’s more, with some nice digs at the Prez as well (also a former cheerleader).

cheerleader.jpg

Posted on Dec 18, 2002 in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

A Bit Rash

I think he could have done better.

Posted on Dec 18, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Colby Cosh

is witty and wise. Read the whole blog.

Posted on Dec 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Walking and Chewing Gum

This metaphor keeps showing up in the Iraq debates, when proponents of the war try to refute the charge that war on Iraq will hurt the fight against Al Qaeda. The US is the world’s most powerful country and it can “walk and chew gum at the same time.” Clinton said it not too long ago, and Jonathan Chait repeated it last week at the AFF debate.

Now it’s true, as Jim Henley points out, that

The country has only so many qualified intelligence analysts and translators. It has only so many trained elite troops of the kind who can usefully harry Al-Qaeda in its various lairs. Those that are shifted to Iraq are not available for duty in Afghanistan, Yemen or whichever parts of Pakistan we’re secretly operating in.

But it’s also true that (as Jim notes in the same post, and as I never get tired of pointing out) war in Iraq will likely empower and expand Al Qaeda, by making the clash of civilizations into a self-fulfilling prophecy. The question isn’t whether we can walk and chew gum at the same time. It’s whether we should walk and shoot ourself in the foot at the same time.

Posted on Dec 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

This is the last thing I’m going to say about Trent Lott. I’m happy to see him go, but I think the whole episode points up something weird about our political culture and its focus on form over substance. Form is important, no doubt, and you could read Lott’s remarks as an ugly, coded appeal to Jim Crow sympathizers (though I find it hard to believe he’s smart enough to be sinister).

But… I’m fairly certain that for a large chunk of the informed electorate (a large chunk of a thin slice, that is) about the very worst thing you can say about John Ashcroft is that he once gave an interview to Southern Partisan. It’s not this, or this or this (some States’ Rights champ he is), or even that he supports a drug war that puts every third young black man in jail.

Or, put another way: John Poindexter, Iran Contra felon, is designing a surveillance system that will let him look in everyone’s underwear drawer (figuratively speaking). Sure, some folks are outraged about this. But neither Poindexter’s proven record of lying to Congress nor the unconstitutional abuse of privacy inherent in the system have sufficed to get him canned. You know what would? If the folks monitoring Poindexter discover that he once told a couple of racist jokes.

Posted on Dec 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Weblog Confessional Roundup

JenRaj used to draw naked pictures of Sgt. Wojciehowicz from Barney Miller when she was a wee lass.

And Radley’s little brother is thinking about getting Mom Balko an “Agitator” thong for Christmas (check comment no. 13).

Posted on Dec 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | Comments Off

More on the NAACP Report Card

The more you learn about it, the more ridiculous it appears. Not only does a vote for impeachment count against you, but, according to Fox News:

Among the issues where the senators [Lott and Nickles, that is] differed with the NAACP were funding for Head Start and other education programs, the confirmation of John Ashcroft as attorney general and global AIDS funding.

Both got 13 percent ratings in the 1999-2000 Congress, and in 1997-1998, Lott and the NAACP agreed on two out of 10 votes, Nickles on only one out of 10.

“We are concerned that Nickles has voted just as poorly or even more poorly than Trent Lott,” said Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP’s Washington office.

In this worldview, you’re either a social democrat or a closet Klansman. Think the GOP has the brains, the talent, or the guts to successfully resist this spin? I sure don’t.

Posted on Dec 17, 2002 in Uncategorized | 1 Comment