Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Allow me to add to the chorus of disgruntled passengers to say that American Trans Air sucks. Sucks big donkey dick, in fact.

Friday, January 28, 2005

If you're not in the habit of giving two shits what the President thinks (even if it's in the Times!), then you might have missed this from their interview with him (President's response follows):

On what specific steps he will take to promote what he calls the "culture of life" and whether the ultimate goal should be to overturn Roe v. Wade:

I think the goal ought to be to convince people to value life. But I fully understand our society is divided on the issue and that there will be abortions. That's reality. It seems like to me my job is to try to convince people to make right choices in life, to understand there are alternatives to abortion, like adoption, and I will continue to do so.

Note: "There will be abortions. That's reality."

Staunch pro-choice advocates among us, let me ask you, Does this sound like someone who is champing at the bit to deny women the right to choose? I don't think so. And, yes, this was in the Times, but you have to admit, the President doesn't sound too different than, say, Hillary.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

The op-ed of all time, a meta-read romp to remember and quite a way to go out on top, worth repeating in full -- "How to Read a Column":

At last I am at liberty to vouchsafe to you the dozen rules in reading a political column.

1. Beware the pundit's device of using a quotation from a liberal opposition figure to make a conservative case, and vice versa. Righties love to quote John F. Kennedy on life's unfairness; lefties love to quote Ronald Reagan. Don't fall for gilding by association.

2. Never look for the story in the lede. Reporters are required to put what's happened up top, but the practiced pundit places a nugget of news, even a startling insight, halfway down the column, directed at the politiscenti. When pressed for time, the savvy reader starts there.

3. Do not be taken in by "insiderisms." Fledgling columnists, eager to impress readers with their grasp of journalistic jargon, are drawn to such arcane spellings as "lede." Where they lede, do not follow.

4. When infuriated by an outrageous column, do not be suckered into responding with an abusive e-mail. Pundits so targeted thumb through these red-faced electronic missives with delight, saying "Hah! Got to 'em."

5. Don't fall for the "snapper" device. To give an aimless harangue the illusion of shapeliness, some of us begin (forget "lede") with a historical allusion or revealing anecdote, then wander around for 600 words before concluding by harking back to an event or quotation in the opening graph. This stylistic circularity gives the reader a snappy sense of completion when the pundit has not figured out his argument's conclusion.

6. Be wary of admissions of minor error. One vituperator wrote recently that the Constitution's requirement for a president to be "natural born" would have barred Alexander Hamilton. Nitpickers pointed out that the Founders exempted themselves. And there were 16, not 20, second inaugural speeches. In piously making these corrections before departing, the pundit gets credit for accuracy while getting away with misjudgments too whopping to admit.

(Note: you are now halfway down the column. Start here.)

7. Watch for repayment of favors. Stewart Alsop jocularly advised a novice columnist: "Never compromise your journalistic integrity - except for a revealing anecdote." Example: a Nixon speechwriter told columnists that the president, at Camp David, boasted "I just shot 120," to which Henry Kissinger said brightly "Your golf game is improving, Mr. President," causing Nixon to growl "I was bowling, Henry." After columnists gobbled that up, the manipulative writer collected in the coin of friendlier treatment.

8. Cast aside any column about two subjects. It means the pundit chickened out on the hard decision about what to write about that day. When the two-topic writer strains to tie together chalk and cheese, turn instead to a pudding with a theme. (Three subjects, however, can give an essay the stability of an oaken barstool. Two's a crowd, but three's a gestalt.)

9. Cherchez la source. Ingest no column (or opinionated reporting labeled "analysis") without asking: Cui bono? And whenever you see the word "respected" in front of a name, narrow your eyes. You have never read "According to the disrespected (whomever)."

10. Resist swaydo-intellectual writing. Only the hifalutin trap themselves into "whomever" and only the tort bar uses the Latin for "who benefits?" Columnists who show off should surely shove off. (And avoid all asinine alliteration.)

11. Do not be suckered by the unexpected. Pundits sometimes slip a knuckleball into their series of curveballs: for variety's sake, they turn on comrades in ideological arms, inducing apostasy-admirers to gush "Ooh, that's so unpredictable." Such pushmi-pullyu advocacy is permissible for Clintonian liberals or libertarian conservatives but is too often the mark of the too-cute contrarian.

12. Scorn personal exchanges between columnists. Observers presuming to be participants in debate remove the reader from the reality of controversy; theirs is merely a photo of a painting of a statue, or a towel-throwing contest between fight managers. Insist on columns taking on only the truly powerful, and then only kicking 'em when they're up.

In bidding Catullus's ave atque vale to readers of this progenitor of all op-ed pages (see rule 10), is it fair for one who has enjoyed its freedom for three decades to spill its secrets? Of course it's unfair to reveal the Code. But punditry is as vibrant as political life itself, and as J.F.K. said, "life is unfair." (Rules 1 and 5.)

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Not New Nihilism -- New and Improved Nihilism:
It would indeed be a great thing, to lift up Iraq to a merely Tunisian level of political civility.

But, even assuming it is possible, why should we bother? A chaotic, road-warrior culture in Iraq would be just fine, so far as I can see. In what respect would it not be fine? (Fine for **us**, I mean. It would of course be hard on the Iraqis, but that is not America's problem.)

. . .

We are fighting a war on terror. The goal of that war, as surely everyone really knows, is to prevent atom bombs going off in US cities. Since no terrorist group by itself will be able to erect the infrastructure needed to make nuclear weapons, the real peril is not actually the terrorists -- who will always be with us, though of course we should kill them when we can -- but terrorist-friendly states with the kind of serious physical assets and political organization that will get them to nuke status. The solution is to go into those states, smash up their assets, and destroy their political organization -- which is what we did in Iraq. If this leaves "chaos" behind, I just don't see that as a problem. You can't make an atom bomb out of "chaos."

The management of barbarians is not that difficult. You keep them scattered and disorganized -- "chaotic," in fact! -- while watching their developments carefully to make sure no threat is building.
Hey, you're not supposed to actually say that!

Friday, December 03, 2004

I've thought (hoped) that the situation in Israel would change quickly once Arafat disappeared. In this vein, pay attention to Fred Kaplan's catch about James Baker's recent Times op-ed. I also read that op-ed, thinking it would be juicy, except I was disappointed that it didn't contain what could be the most interesting movement -- specifically, regarding Marwan Barghouti.

After Arafat's death, Baker came out and called on Israel to release Barghouti, who is now in an Israeli prison serving something like 500,000 consecutive life sentences for terrorism, so that he could run for the Presidency of the Palestinian Authority. I thought that was really weird -- why would Baker call for a terrorist's release? -- until I learned about the intrigue behind it.

There are some (the New York Times' James Bennet said as much on the radio) who think that Israel purposely tried Barghouti so as to build up his credibility on the "Arab Street," knowing all along that over the long haul, he would be the partner to work with to bring peace. Fascinating stuff (and when you think about this, remind yourself when was the last time you heard from Ahmed Chalabi -- it's been a while -- hint, hint -- and lo and behold, speak of the devil!). So Baker saying that seems like a real sign that actually is what is happening.

Crazy shit, doodz!

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Understanding this puts into perspective one's apologies for some of the President's dippy positions. To shamelessly quote Bruno, "Learn it. Love it. For it is our future, and it is good."
Great article on the way things looked pre-OIF; nice perspective if you assumed you knew it all about the sanctions.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Ken Jennings' Jeopardy streak is over. The Seinfeld tie-in was crass. You got the sense he was tired, too. What next?

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