Friday, November 28, 2003

Something which I’ve been wondering about a lot lately is why I like the “Bush Smirk” so much. You know the smirk --a prime example of it came during the 2003 State of the Union when Bush said, “All told, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in many countries. Many others have met a different fate. Let's put it this way -- they are no longer a problem to the United States and our friends and allies.”

If memory serves, the smirk came right on “they are no longer a problem.” And from then on, I thought the smirk was great.

Of course, those with a particular ideological bent absolutely hate the smirk -- do a Google search for “Bush’s Smirk” and see what results you get, for example.

And it’s not a new thing. Timothy Noah wrote about it in Slate in 1999; the crux of the piece was that Bush’s supporters felt he could get in trouble for it, something along the lines of “wipe that smirk off your face!”

I can’t figure out why I think it’s cool, but it could have something to do with a generation’s predilection for sarcasm and snark, irony’s petulant younger cousin. Snark is Bart Simpson. Snark is Page Six. Snark is Al Franken. Snark is Michael Moore. And snark is probably Ann Coulter, too. Maybe snark unseated irony after 9/11 -- I don’t know for sure -- but I’m pretty sure that my positive reaction to the Bush Smirk is because of something along these lines.

But I didn’t know why the Bush Smirk was so effective until Thanksgiving, when he visited the troops in Baghdad. No, he didn’t do much of the smirk, at least in the way people usually conceive it, but the visit illustrated for me why the smirk works. Whether you think the visit was a PR stunt or a heartfelt morale boost, it showed Bush at his best, which is the way he connects with people in spite of and underneath the pomp and political speeches.

(This is not to say that his speeches are meaningless. Two recent ones in particular -- the one in the UK and the one at the National Endowment for Democracy are actually brilliant, and will likely be in history books years from now.)

This is all less complicated than it sounds when you see it in action, and Thursday was a prime example of it. He spoke to the troops, but the message was nearly meaningless compared to the way he connected with the troops in the audience.

Which is where the smirk comes in. The State of the Union smirk was a classic example of it. Often with Bush, lofty sentiments don’t come out so gracefully, which is probably just a delicate way of saying he’s a bad speaker. I tend to see him as the CEO, saying necessary things because he’s the figurehead and he has to; sometimes he’s just the “regular guy,” up there not because he’s such a visionary, but because he’s the one who is supposed to do it. And it’s times like these when I’m pretty sure that the smirk is him saying “I say this because I have to, but you and I know what these wonks really mean to say, which is ‘we’re going to continue to get those motherfuckers.’” That’s when Bush uses the smirk to really communicates to all of us -- at least those of us who aren’t totally repelled by it.

It’s not like Clinton, whom you felt really had a hand in what he said, or Reagan, who said eloquent things so well. And it’s something that I don’t think any of the Democratic candidates have -- often they seem to be under the impression that they just might be visionary. Say what you want, but Bush exudes a humility, even when he sounds “arrogant,” like many accuse him of. The Smirk is genius, and seemingly totally extemporaneous, which is why I trust it, or at least why it’s, like I said, just pretty cool.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Boston.com's Eric Wilbur has a nice roundup of links regarding the possible trade between the Red Sox and Diamondbacks for Curt Schilling.

The best thing about this deal? George Steinbrenner will shit himself if the deal goes through.

If the Diamondbacks can pare down their payroll and still get a solid hitter in Milwaukee's Richie Sexson, then they're in good shape. Don't get me wrong -- Schilling is great, but the Diamondbacks will survive without him. Maybe not survive to the World Series, but they'll be OK.

Monday, November 24, 2003

New Al Qaeda warning, according to DEBKAFile. Happy Monday! Cause for concern? Who can tell? I would say that Al Qaeda Fatigue is setting in, except that markets still respond to these threats. Ultimately, it makes you wonder whether Al Qaeda are really just interested in manipulating the markets.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Here's a picture of Jennifer Love-Hewitt carrying coffee through a Wal-Mart in Plano, TX, as part of a promotion for a new Wal-Mart inside-the-store discount coffee chain. No further explanation is given as to why the Party of Five star was wearing an apron, but one can assume that it has something to do with the fact that she (along with pop culture luminaries like Steve Martin and Jessica Simpson) is a native of nearby Waco. The new Wal-Mart coffee department will feature in-store delivery of drinks. As in, "When you finish steaming that mocha, I'll be over in menswear."
As the Drudge Report link says, the Hepatitis A outbreak in Pennsylvania was caused by green onions that came from Mexico: "The FDA announced Thursday that it has traced green onions in those outbreaks to three Mexican suppliers and is inspecting all green onion shipments from them."

I'm telling you, if the anti-NAFTA types don't capitalize on this, it's their own fault. This is way bigger than that batch of bad strawberries back in 1997.
I love the old Monorail. It's super retro-hip. It goes so well next to the 1960s jet-set redesign of the SkyCity Restaurant atop the Space Needle. It would have been great to integrate the two monorails together. But in the end, my take is this: The original Monorail was built for the 1962 fair to show people what the future could be. Well, now that the future's officially here, the old monorail has served it's purpose. It kept Seattle dreaming of a monorail for 40 years, long enough for us to figure out how to actually build one. So I salute the old monorail, and I wish it well in it's afterlife, but it must go away now. To keep it as some sort of 'museum piece' would be to diminish it's original call to action.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

This MSNBC article notes that "[s]ome say a part of the city's history will be lost with the demise of the original Monorail. It was a reminder of the World's Fair that, to Seattle, was like a bar mitzvah or a first driver's license, marking its passage into adulthood."

Frank, what's your take on the cool old version?
I guess this settled the issue. So to paraphrase the President: Bring it on!
As I suspected, there is -- or was, at least -- some controversy regarding landmarking Seattle's 5th Avenue Monorail. Frank, what's the full story?
Not the new one, but rather the old version -- I'm just sad that the supremely cool retro 1962 landmarked cars won't be part of the new project. How can you landmark something and then put it in a museum? As a sometime visitor to Seattle, I love the old monorail, but then again, I don't live there, so what right do I have to talk?
Flooding continues for the second straight day around the Puget Sound, making it ever clearer why we need elevated transit. To that, the Monorail builders have recommended that the Green Line run through Seattle Center. This move is currently being opposed by morons who think the Seattle Center is too precious to deserve effective public transportation. Said morons are conveniently unaware that Seattle Center was BUILT WITH A MONORAIL, and the current jewel of the Center, the EMP, was architecturally designed to accomodate one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Kabbalahist Madonna says Clark. And she's impressed with the candidate, an endorsement that carries weight, according to some: "'Hey, don’t underestimate this, reports [an] insider. 'Madonna is often ahead of the curve.'"
Fat ass and Flannery O'Connor wannabe Neil LaBute is keeping a one-week diary on Slate about trying to lose weight. He's also throwing in a little bit of the "creative process" in there so we can see how he works. (This basically consists of monologues like: "What bothers you, I mean, what specific part of it really gets you? Hmm? The fact that I was fucking somebody, or that the somebody was him? Someone you know.") Monday's diet plan was to have a "heavy-protein breakfast and then see how it goes." Watch those carbs!
Don Gibson has died. Meat Loaf has collapsed on stage. Fortunately, the news of Britney Spears' overdose appears to have been a hoax and her new CD, including songs about wanking, will be released today as planned.
While reading about Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad's warning to Muslims to stay away from London on November 20, I came across his fatwa against Terence McNally. (The Sheikh, a big, hook-handed piece of pig cock, has apparently made similar warnings in the past regarding events that have panned out.) But why Terence McNally? Because of his depiction of Jesus as gay in "Corpus Christi."

Monday, November 17, 2003

Who is more Jewish -- Kerry or Clark?

First Kerry: "In a 30-minute appearance that dwelled mostly on American leadership and foreign policy, Kerry at one point described the violence against Jews in World War II and then said: 'Had leaders seen the world differently when there was cause to see it differently, life might have been different. We understand -- and I say we, because I recently learned of my own ties to the Jewish faith, a hundred years ago, which opens a whole new door, a window of connection.' A Boston Globe inquiry early this year found that Kerry's paternal grandparents were of Jewish origin. Kerry had not been aware of the background of his grandfather, who converted to Catholicism. Kerry is a practicing Catholic."

And from the New Yorker article on Clark: "During his sojourn in England, Clark received a visit one day from some relatives of his dead father. They were on their way home to the United States after a trip to Israel, and they said that they wanted Wesley to know about his family. They told him that Benjamin Kanne was the son of a Russian Jew who’d fled to America to escape the pogroms and became a lawyer and a Democratic alderman in Chicago. Clark, who had been raised a Southern Baptist, says that he was not shocked by the discovery—that, in some intuitive way, it made sense. 'In Arkansas, there were a number of Jewish families, and I knew many of them growing up,' he said. 'They were, many of them, associated with the drygoods industry. . . . And I remember feeling, when I was a kid there, I could look at these people and feel a certain kinship of thought with many of them.' Clark wanted to learn everything he could about his father. 'It completed me,' he said."
Read the New Yorker piece on Wesley Clark. Clark is correct to say that "Democrats are desperate for someone who’s got a coherent message and the courage to deliver it.” There needs to be a vision, and the Center for American Progress is trying to fill that gap (let me know when they figure it out, though!).

Clark is correct to add, “It just seems to me that much of the Democratic dialogue, preëlection, in recent years has been stressed in terms of policies. It’s ‘He believes in universal health care.’ Or ‘He believes in something else.’ Or it’s been expressed in terms of labelling. Like ‘He’s a moderate,’‘He’s a liberal.’ I think that my candidacy is not as easily tagged.” This is the problem with John Edwards, who has a bunch of great policy initiatives; Edwards could be the best candidate in the country -- for state governor, that is.

But Clark has not shown a vision. He's saying the right things, but not following through. He ends up being sort of like a smart-looking guy with nothing much to say.

Oh, and flip-flops aside, before you get all jazzed about Clark's military career, feel free to check out his record. Next time you find yourself unsettled by all the helicopters shot down in Iraq, remember that Clark is a guy who wanted 200,000 American troops in a ground invasion through the Balkans.
Clinton stooge Wesley Clark stating the obvious in USA Today: "'It's going to be very hard for the United States to turn the problem over to the Iraqis if Saddam is still there as the, we might say, illegitimate ruler,' said Clark, a Democratic presidential contender. 'It's going to make it very hard for an Iraqi government to survive.'" Later on at the meeting with writers and editors from USA Today and other Gannett papers Clark mentioned that "he hadn't seen the evidence of Saddam's war crimes, a comment that prompted adviser Chris Lehane to slip him a folded note. 'You should make clear that Saddam is a bad guy,' the note read. Clark glanced at the note but didn't return to the topic." And Clark is supposed to be one of the more clearer headed ones in the bunch. These guys are toast; if Bush isn't reelected, it will rival only the Gore campaign in complete ineptness.

Friday, November 14, 2003

On the other hand, hawkish elements could always point to the U.S.'s vulnerability in the case of a terrorist attack on the nation's food supply, if public concern about food safety reaches a critical mass.
Gephardt and other anti-free trade types should go on the offensive now with this hepatitis thing; if the green onions were from Mexico, as some suspect, then it's as good a time as any to bring up the perils of NAFTA -- like what all these guys have been saying, for example.
Here's more information about Hepatitis A from the CDC. But does anyone care to speculate why Hepatitis A strikes more often in the Western United States than in the East?
And green onions were suspected last month in an outbreak of hepatitis that affected more than 200 people in Georgia.
Have they been caused by green onions? The Knox County (Tennessee) Health Department suspects a batch of green onions in the death of a Tennessee man. And now Chi Chi's, the apparent source of the outbreak in Western Pennsylvania, is pulling green onions from its menus.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

The late Strom Thurmond holds the record for longest filibuster (by one person): 24 hours, 18 minutes. I would love to find out more about what he actually said during that time; I've read that he started out reading state election laws. He was filibustering against a 1957 civil rights bill.
And finally, although whether it actually exists is a hotly debated topic, there is an entire site devoted to "andropause." While visiting, take the quiz, which can help determine whether you're suffering from the malady.
And it's not a coincidence that we are smack dab in the middle of peak breeding season for deer. "This is the most exciting time of all to be in the woods and offers the best chance to kill a large buck," according to Field & Stream, which notes that "mounting testosterone levels" in bucks "have them sleeping briefly and eating little as they search for the first females ready to mate." Get ready for the rut!
Increasingly, men are being prescribed testosterone to combat "andropause," or "male menopause." The treatment is intended to raise libido in older gentlemen. While we're at it, feel free to revisit the excellent This American Life episode devoted to testosterone, in particular Act Two, in which a transexual describes his nature vs. nurture epiphany after taking testosterone. I especially remember Griffin Hansbury's graphic description of what it felt like to want to fuck everything walking down the street after taking "T." Enlightening. And affirming. For sure.

Friday, November 07, 2003

The Killarney Rose, a glorious dive bar on Pearl Street where prices for drinks are remarkably reasonable (forget Manhattan, $10 for a round is a steal anywhere in the five boroughs), has been remodeled. Gone are the cheesy 1980s New York Giants memorabalia, old-time cash registers and old-timer bartenders. In are "tasteful" brick facades, computerized cash registers and young bartenders in Killarney Rose monogrammed polo shirts. In October, to mark the bar's 35th anniversary and its remodeling, the bar featured 1960s-era drink prices: "'Back at the particular time when we opened up, there were a lot of cut-rate prices,' he adds. 'Today the atmosphere means more than the prices.'" And I suppose that's true, but that atmosphere is lost on me. If you visited Killarney Rose after 9/11 there was a ghostly air about the place. The bartenders said business was off and, like a lot of things, everything about it seemed tenuous. That feeling has changed downtown, which is obviously a good thing, but still . . . there was something about the bar. Look at the picture of the sign out front -- it was the old sign -- there's a little glimpse of how it once looked. There's also a picture of the old bartender, who, we were told last night, has since retired and moved upstate somewhere. I hope the place is successful. And the prices are still good enough to make a special trip.
In responding to reports that the dirty amateur video Paris Hilton and Shannen Doherty's husband made will be released, Paris' parents have said that they are "greatly saddened at how low human beings will stoop to exploit their daughter Paris, who is sweet-natured, for their own self-promotion as well as profit motives." Read between the lines, however, and the message is closer to Why would you ever let a guy who started a "too-hot-for-TV video venture called Beverly Hills Pimps & Ho's" videotape you doing it? Dumbass!

Thursday, November 06, 2003

David Blaine (that guy -- again?) is saying that if he had been British and a yabbo, he'd have thrown eggs, too. When will it end? When will the misery end?
It's usually not worth bringing up, but there are a couple ominous signs today vis a vis international terrorism: 1) DEBKAfile's Al Qaeda warning from a couple of days ago (scroll down to the box); 2) crazyass speculation like this; 3) Bush is giving a speech about democracy in the Middle East about 40 minutes from now; 4) and guys are blowing themselves up in Saudi Arabia during Ramadan. Not that anything is likely to happen, but I'm just saying.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

New study shows surfing the internet during work is beneficial: "More and more employees are surfing the Web for personal reasons during work hours, and according to Saint Joseph's University's Dr. Claire Simmers and Drexel University's Dr. Murugan Anandarajan, it could be beneficial for employees and employers." (I confidently predict that this will be the biggest blogged news story of the day.)
Union jobs are safe for now: ballot questions 3, 4 and 5 have been rejected.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Off today because of Election Day (it's a union job, remember?). Go vote if you're supposed to. See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Warning: I'm in a bad mood about this. It looks like Questions 3, 4 and 5 will lose, if you base public sentiment on the opinion pages. The Times is against 3, 4 and 5, and offers the biggest copout for their opposition to 4 and 5 -- the issues are just too “complicated”: “It does not do New Yorkers any favors to ask them to intervene in the voting booth on questions that are this narrow and this complicated.” Of course, you could always feel free to fucking read the commission’s report and help us figure it out, but I suppose that’s too “complicated.”

On Question 4, the Times doesn’t like the “sound of exempting security-related contracts from public disclosure and bidding,” without bothering to explain why this might be a good thing. For that, read the Charter Commission’s abstracts of the ballot questions: where now the City Charter requires public notice and hearing of contracts for the purchase of goods and services, the proposal would “provide an exception to this requirement where the Mayor determines that the notice or hearing would disclose sensitive information that, if made public, could be detrimental to the security of the City or its citizens.” In other words, it’s to guard against terrorism. In a city threatened by terrorism, this makes obvious sense to me. Of course, you could also read the fucking thing and find out for yourself.

Question 5 deals with, among other things, reducing seats on the Voter Assistance Commission from 16 to seven. The Times “wonder[s] why an independent agency like the Voter Assistance Commission should be reconfigured to diminish balanced control in favor of the mayor.” Well, again, how about finding out?

The bottom line, for the Times, is that “these issues belong not on the ballot but before the City Council.” Except I’m pretty sure that voters need to approve changes to the City Charter, so I’m not sure what that would do. The Times should go fuck itself, not only for its lame notion of public service but for mindlessly accepting the entrenched east coast way of government. It's all bullshit and these stupid shells of cities deserve to rot, along with the unions and everything else out here.

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