Haven't been around here in a while, and jeez, this place is a wreck. Here's the equivalent of me shoving the mess in the closet:
Mark Steyn's website seems to be up and running now, so I'll bid adieu to the "Mark Steyn Is A Genius" series. I'll still link and quote when he says something especially brilliant, but now you can check in on his website via the link to the right to get his updated ouevre.
Speaking of links on the right, I've filled out another group to the blogroll and updated a couple of others. When I'm completely done, I promise I'll post a FAQ to explain what on earth all that junk means.
—IS THE JEFF GANNON THING AN ACTUAL STORY YET?
Just checking. I don't want it to suddenly acquire some kind of relevance without me knowing about it. But watching the lefty moonbats dance with Gannon's scalp is perversely entertaining. Let me see if I have this straight: they busted an unknown writer for a virtually unread organization for taking some homoerotic pictures of himself and other very very gay things
that they're supposed to be tolerant of? Well, congratulations, fellas: you've basically caught ME, only I'm not quite such an exhibitionist with what the good Lord's given me. (With good reason.) Whoo, Lordy, there's some big braggin' rights you got there.
—IS WARD CHURCHILL FIRED YET?
If not, what does he have to do? Start kicking puppies? Burn down a dormitory or two? Propose a statistic-based hypothesis for why there are less female scientists?
Except for the fact that Clint Eastwood won, I really don't care. Clint Eastwood owns
. Everything else was pretty much predicted well in advance.
—24 IS ON TONIGHT
And I shall bid you a fond adieu until then.
So today was The Big Deal.
It turned out to be The Not-Quite-So-Big-As-I-Had-Expected Deal. Top prize wasn't a buy-in to the WSOP main event, but a satellite tournament thereto. But the trip to Vegas was still in it, and a top prize of better than $5,000 worth of merch is pretty good for a tournament that cost nothing to get in.
I've been wondering all week how they were going to hold an 800-person poker tournament in one afternoon. I got my answer as I was waiting to sign in. Instead of an 800-person tournament, it was like an 80-table satellite. Those winners would be taken to the next round and assigned ten to a table again. The eight winners from there would be in the Finals. To speed the process, a steep blind structure was implemented and a strict time limit was imposed per round. After an hour and 20 minutes, a "Last Three Hands" rule would be enforced. At the end of the third hand, the chip leader — regardless if he had completely vanquished the rest of his table opponents or not — would advance.
This caused quite a commotion amongst the players, unused to playing tournament poker under a deadline. The consensus of many was that the smart play was basically a very loose "megalomaniacal" style, pushing all-in with almost anything and hoping that it either stuck or improved to the best hand.
My idea was slightly different. Unless at the "last three hands" cutoff one player had amassed more than half the chips on the table and could, a la Ken Jennings in many of his "Jeopardy!" wins, sit on his lead and cruise to the next round, victory could be achieved by anyone still sitting at the table. Until then, why risk your entire tournament on one crummy hand and the blessings of Lady Luck? I resolved not to enter any hand unless I was holding premium hole cards.
My theory was put to the test almost immediately. On the fourth hand I was dealt A§
. Bullets. It was only the third time I've ever been dealt aces in a live game, so I practically had to glue my butt to my chair. I was in the big blind (100/200, with all bankrolls starting at 10,000), and the players in the first two positions called. This was not unusual; the consensus strategy at our table seemed to be to limp in to see the flop in the hopes of making the nuts and doubling or tripling up, or better. I, in fact, did it myself on an earlier hand, limping in with A¨
and bailing when the flush didn't come so I could save my chips.
So I was really hoping nearly everyone at the table would call so I could raise and extract more (to tell you how faithful we were to this early strategy, I was the first person to raise pre-flop. It hadn't been done at all in the first three hands). But after the first two players, everyone else folded, including the small blind. I knew I had to raise, since I couldn't let them see the flop cheaply. On the other hand, I didn't want to drive them completely out since I didn't figure on seeing A/A or a hand anything close to it before the "last three hands" panic time and needed to maximize my win. I settled on 1000, which I thought was enough to drive out awful hands but just enough for someone holding a decent hand to call — or better yet, reraise. The first position player folded and the man in second position, whom I will hereafter refer to as "Idiot," called.
The flop came 3§
. An ideal flop for my hand; no flush draw or legitimate straight draws, and I didn't fear trips because Idiot probably would have raised at least some amount if he had any pocket pair in the hole, even threes. I checked my aces to trap him; Idiot bet 1000 and I called.
The turn was 6©
. This sealed out any decent straight and all possible flush draws but paired the board. I checked again, figuring Idiot would tell me the strength of his hand: if he had a 6 he'd go all-in. He bet 1000, again, and I called.
The river was J§
. Ouch. I had a bad feeling; just about the only thing Idiot could possibly have been betting on was a J since there were no draws and he would've acted a lot more strongly on the turn with a 6. I checked and he bet 1000 again. In a normal tournament I might have folded, but in this format I couldn't afford to simply throw away the 3200 chips I'd already dedicated to the pot. Plus I was getting better than 7½-to-1 on my money to call; maybe he was holding just a 3 and was weakly attempting to shove me off my hand all the way down. Maybe he had a lone ace and figured he could play the board and his A would outkick whatever I had.
For a second I contemplated going all-in, but decided just to call. Idiot was holding Jª
. He was roughly a 6-to-1 underdog and cracked my aces, my beautiful aces, for a full house with Jª/5ª
As Idiot dragged the chips (my!
chips) to his stack, grinning a toothy idiot grin, one of my regular poker buddies (who happened to be seated at that same table) remarked about how he called a pre-flop bet of 1000 (one-tenth the size of his bankroll) with hole cards that awful. His defense: "I was suited!"
I wanted to punch him. I should have
punched him. A small consolation was that he busted out before me, losing all his chips to an even bigger idiot, and yes, believe it or not, Idiot was the second-biggest idiot at the table: Bigger Idiot was clueless even about when it was his turn to bet.
With a depleted stack, I was in serious trouble. The blinds soon went up to 300/600, followed in twenty minutes' time by 500/1000 and eventually 1000/2000. (The "last three hands" level was played at 2000/4000 blinds.) Just before the last two blind increases, I went all-in in a desperate attempt to double up and accumulate chips to protect my dwindling bankroll. The first time I had Q¨
and Bigger Idiot called me with Qª
, resulting in a split pot; the other time I had A/7 and ran into A/8. Thus endeth my night.
Sometimes I think I've screwed up in the way I've learned about Texas Hold'em; I'm nowhere near as knowledgable as the pros, but maybe if I stayed completely ignorant I could have won this thing.
The real reason I've been absent from the blog all week is that I'm in rigorous training for The Big Deal, a Texas Hold'em tournament sponsored by the local card club, michianapoker.com
, and the local hard rock radio station, 103.9 The Bear
. Top prize is a buy-in the the World Series Of Poker main event and a trip for two to Vegas. Tonight was my final rehearsal.
The only thing that's stopping me from becoming really good at this game is that I'm completely impatient, and will look for any reason to call bets that I know I can't win. Tonight, I was pushed all-in while holding A/8 (the game was shorthanded) with a flop of 5/A/9 and a 3 on the turn (the suits weren't important). I knew my opponent either had my 8 outkicked or was holding two pair. But I labored over the call for so long that my brain tricked me into reading that he had, at best, nines and fives, so I was capable of drawing out on him and could call because of the pot odds.
I don't think I have to tell you he had A/5. Nor is it necessary to note that the river card was a 7.
When I first started playing hold'em, I was quite adept at picking off bluffs. For some reason now my mind always thinks my opponent is bluffing (short of a huge bet when I have diddly squat) and will find any excuse to call.
Gotta learn to stop that.
Dusting of snow: Everybody panic!!
Despite the wisdom of an overgrown rodent in Pennsylvania, and the realities of the calendar and years of experience, people around here come to think that when all the snow melts, it's not coming back.
These people are stupid.
So when we went from a 55º day to forecasts of snow showers in the span of 24 hours, the whole town went into a four-alarm frenzy. Remember when I said my day job is busy when it snows? Everybody just went nuts, so we were slaughtered. My boss called for all hands to be available yesterday.
And . . . we got all of a dusting. You could clear off your sidewalk with an extension cord, a hair dryer, and five minutes of time. Ridiculous.
People: the snow always comes back. Always
. And guess what? We're going to get at least six to eight inches sometime in the second or third week in March (and the local news' UltraDopplers won't see it coming). It always happens. Bank on it
. Don't start crapping out bricks because you were so stupid as to think that you could put the snowplow and winter jacket away and get your pool ready for summer because we had a couple days off from the permafrost.
It's supposed to get nicer here on the weekend. Maybe I'll be able to get things done then.
So as I sweep out the dust already starting to accumulate in my e-mail Inbox (marchandchronicles-at-yahoo.com), I discover that . . . I just got a letter. I just got a letter? I just got a letter! Wonder who it's from?Thu, 10 Feb 2005 07:13:53 -0500
From: Luke Lea
>Dear Mike Marchand:
>I am hoping you might glance at this fledgling attempt on my part to
>spark a grassroots revolt amongst Democrats in red-state America. I
>hammered together a platform that's economically liberal but culturally
>conservative -- the sort of thing that ought to appeal to those blue-
>collar families Thomas Franks writes about -- and probably will, too, if
>they ever hear about it. Of course it's not at all the sort of thing
>Franks had in mind. Still I hope even old-fashioned lefties like him will
>find B.A.D.'s program wickidly funny and morally entertaining -- not the
>sick Republican joke most of my left-wing commentors so far seem to
>think it is.
>Do check it out and, if you think it worthwhile, show it to your
>friends. I also could use a link.
>Thanks a lot if you do,
>B.A.D.'s founder and, so far at least, sole proprietor
Hmm. Not sure why he thought I'd be interested, unless he meant the site to be a joke, a satire, "This is how we Democrats will get those hicks to vote for us!"
Er . . . it's not.
But since I need all the karma I can get, I will throw him that link: Born Again Democrats
I'm also tempted to credit his diligence in sending me this e-mail, but the only thing I can think of is that he ran a blogosphere search on "Thomas Franks" (really Thomas Frank) and hit my Translation of David Von Drehle's WaPo article "The Red Sea"
, which name-checks Frank and his book What's The Matter With Kansas?
Damn shame he didn't actually, you know, read my blog
, or in some other fashion determine whether or not "a platform that's economically liberal but culturally conservative" would appeal to someone like me, who's economically conservative and culturally somewhat liberal. The B.A.D. platform
has twelve planks, and I can register agreement with perhaps two and a half of them. For crying out loud, they (he) want(s) to leave "under God" in the Pledge Of Allegiance but take out "indivisible," and not just allow, but REQUIRE Biblical teaching in schools.
Well . . . I'm convinced. Sign me up!! (note heavy sarcasm)
If the lefties think this is a "sick Republican joke," they're misrepresenting our policies (one commenter called Mr. Lea a "moderate Republican") and are vastly underestimating our satirical ability. But then, they see Karl Rove in more places than red-state eBay sellers see Jesus, so that doesn't surprise me.
No, he's genuine, all right. Too bad his trolling methods were poor.
Mark Steyn Is A Genius, Editions VII & VIII
British mag The Spectator
carries Mark Steyn's columns but recently instituted a subscription policy, so I feared having to pay to get my fix. Well, it's free for now, and it's marvelous: "Bush will not be mocked"
One of the unsettling aspects of the post-9/11 world is that, while my columns in US newspapers merely have to heap scorn and derision upon Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Michael Moore and Barbra Streisand, in the United Kingdom I find myself principally in disagreement with Lord Hurd, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Sir Max Hastings, Sir Simon Jenkins, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, Mr Matthew Parris and (according to what side of bed he’s gotten out of) Mr Michael Howard. Even The Spectator most weeks. This crowd are all supposedly, to one degree or another, conservatives. So am I. Clearly, one of us has got the wrong end of the stick.
The obvious difference between my kind of conservatives and, say, Sir Peregrine’s is that mine are in power and his aren’t, a distinction likely to endure for the foreseeable future . . . As a result, the Tory party looks a lot more like the Democratic party and the Australian Labor party than its nominal ideological soulmates.
Meanwhile, his regular Chicago Sun-Times
column looks at three somewhat small stories and wonders about their larger implications: "On culture front, we're losing war"
Here are three small news items from around the world you might have missed:
1) An unemployed waitress in Berlin faces the loss of her welfare benefits after refusing a job as a prostitute in a legalized brothel.
2) A British court has ruled that a suspected terrorist from Algeria cannot be detained in custody because jail causes him to suffer a "depressive illness."
3) Seventeen-year-old Jeffrey Eden of Charlestown, R.I., has been awarded an A by his teacher and the "Silver Key" in the Rhode Island Scholastic Art Awards for a diorama titled "Bush/Hitler and How History Repeats Itself."
A trio of itsy-bitsy little stories from the foot of page 27 of your daily paper, if they made it at all. But they're as revealing about the course of the war as anything going on in Iraq . . .
I'm not worried about Iraq. As they demonstrated on Jan. 30, they'll be just fine. The western front is the important one in this war, the point of intersection between Islam and a liberal democratic tradition so mired in self-loathing it would rather destroy our civilization just to demonstrate its multicultural bona fides.
Eason Jordan Resigns
You're always supposed to release bad or damaging news on Friday, so that maximum time can elapse before the news cycle reawakens on Monday morning.
Well, not these days. Eason Jordan resigned last night
, and the blogosphere was all over it
Except for me, enjoying a Friday night away from my computer. Sigh.
Jordan's resignation surprised some
, especially since the story was losing steam; the WEF refused to release the tape and the media, by and large, had still not picked up on it.
So then why did Jordan resign? My earlier analysis
, echoed by Jim Geraghty at TKS
, that the pressure would have to come from the inside, still stands. Even if you don't believe that, there clearly wasn't enough outside heat to force CNN's hand.
That leaves three possible explanations:
1) Jordan's official explanation, that he wanted "to prevent CNN from being unfairly tarnished by the controversy over conflicting accounts of my recent remarks regarding the alarming number of journalists killed in Iraq," sounds reasonable. After all, as long as the story persists, the victim would really be CNN. Who cares about Eason Jordan?
I don't really buy this, though, because for the most part, there was no "controversy," just a lot of noise. And even then, the "controversy," such as it was, wasn't over the "conflicting accounts" of his remarks, but his remarks themselves. The "conflicting accounts" could be settled by permitting the release of the video. The WEF can say no to a blogger named Sisyphus
, but they'd have a harder time rebuffing CNN.
2) Jordan's superiors were basically just itching for a reason to ax him. Howard Kurtz
floated that idea in a WaPo
3) Pre-emptive maneuvering. As Kurtz notes, major media had absolutely not touched this story. If they remark upon Jordan's resigning, he would be — as far as the MSM and all its exclusive viewers are concerned — quitting over a non-scandal. So while Jordan is, officially, resigning of his own volition, it still looks like he's got a dagger in his back with the center-right blogosphere's fingerprints all over it. As David Gergen, who factored into the story, said in Kurtz' piece:
This is too high a price to pay for someone who has given so much of himself over 20 years. And he's brought down over a single mistake because people beat up on him in the blogosphere? They went after him because he is a symbol of a network seen as too liberal by some. They saw blood in the water.
Quoth Glenn Reynolds: "[A]lthough there are some people calling it 'another scalp for the blogosphere,' it was really a case of Jordan taking his own scalp." Well, that won't be the way it looks. Why would Jordan resign if he's in the right and could prove it?
Whatever impetus this story might have had is now all but dissipated, now that the potential target has fallen on his sword. Perhaps that's why he did it.
The Quick And The Dead II
First, Mr. Jordan is a person of some importance. Not only is he CNN's chief news executive, but also, according to CNN's Web site, he chairs the editorial board, is a member of the executive committee and "provides strategic advice" to the senior management team. Clearly, Mr. Jordan has considerable say in what goes on at CNN headquarters in Atlanta. Of course, as big as he is, Mr. Jordan is entitled to his own opinions. However, what Mr. Jordan said at Davos wasn't a matter of personal beliefs; as a representative of CNN, the world's largest news network, he accused American troops of targeting journalists.
Yes, he immediately backed off his initial comment, and has done so since. But let's put this in some perspective. According to several accounts of the discussion, only when challenged by panelist Barney Frank, a member of Congress, did Mr. Jordan retreat. A few years ago, Sen. Trent Lott retreated in a similar fashion after he made some unsettling and indefensible remarks at a birthday party for then-Sen. Strom Thurmond, and he still lost his Senate leadership position.
—The Washington Times
, February 11Of course, Trent Lott was, at the time, the Senate Majority Leader, wielding a significant amount of power along with prestige and honor. I don't know how much power Eason Jordan wields at CNN, but he does represent CNN and, in part, all of American media . . . it's irresponsible for a head of an American newsmedia organization to say "journalists are being targeted by the U.S. military" before an international panel . . .
—Mike Marchand, marchand chronicles
, February 7
The Quick And The Dead
Eason Jordan's verbal pratfall resembles nothing so much as Senator Trent Lott's fall from his majority leader job in December of 2002.
—Hugh Hewitt, in The Weekly Standard
, February 10While I think making an accusation of murder on stage, at the Davos forum, and then not offering any proof is awfully shaky behavior for a news executive, the length of Jordan’s employment at CNN is ultimately up to his bosses.
—Jim Geraghty, TKS
, February 9Lott stepped down from Majority Leader only after the news clip was aired constantly and his attempts at damage control only made the situation worse. Jordan's been fortunate that whatever tape there is hasn't yet surfaced and evidently no transcript exists . . .
If no real fallout occurs, it will be awfully tough to bring enough pressure on CNN/Time-Warner to fire him. Of course, if I were them, I'd seriously begin thinking about whether or not a chief executive should be saying idiotic things. But like Lott, the pressure's going to have to come from the inside if Jordan is to lose his job.
—Mike Marchand, marchand chronicles
, February 7
I won't call myself the smartest person in the universe because I happened to link Trent Lott and Eason Jordan; surely someone else would have figured that out. But I beat these two blogging kingpins by better than 48 hours.
I would gloat to them via e-mail, but I'd like to get hat-tips from them in the future.
I was disappointed with my last performance in my semi-regular poker game with our usual cast of irregulars, so I was hoping to do better tonight.
Naturally, I busted out on the first hand. But I made the right call. At least, I think I did.
Everyone starts with 2750 chips and the blinds begin at 25/50. Due to the result of the blind draw for the dealer button, I began the game in the big blind. The player in third position raised to 150, the man in sixth position (who had to be called over to the game because he was busy chatting up some women — the hazards of playing poker in a bar) called, and I, holding K§
, chipped in the extra buck to make it three to the flop.
The flop came 7ª
, presenting me with an open-ended straight draw but also the possibility of a flush draw that I didn't have. I checked my draw, third position bet 300, and I put him on a Q or a J. Sixth position immediately called, and I figured him for a draw of some kind. I called, too, figuring if I hit my straight I'd clean them both out and if not I could fold.
The turn is K©
. Now I have top pair and the up-and-down straight draw. Hmm.
I checked my draw again and third position bet 600. Because he doubled his bet each round (150 then 300 then 600), I thought the K did him no good but didn't hurt his hand. Perhaps he had a weaker flush draw and was hoping to drive us out, or at least just me since I was showing weakness by checking. Maybe he was sitting on A/J, which meant the K was just another overcard to his pair but at least gave him a one-way straight draw. Maybe he had pocket 7s and flopped a set. Or, I figured likeliest, he had Q/J and wanted to throw a bet out there to see if he could put one of us on kings-up.
Sixth position blinked and then went all-in. Since he was the chatty fellow who had ladies waiting, I figured he had nothing or fairly close to nothing and just wanted to get rid of his chips. Ideally, in that situation, you'd like to raise over the top of him to force the other player out and isolate yourself with him, but since it was the first hand and we all started with the same amount of chips, that would be impossible. I'd have to go all-in with top pair, knowing it beat sixth position, but hoping that third position didn't have a hand that beat me.
He called. Uh-oh.
Sixth position had A§
, but third position had K¨
. Two pair. The river was 4©
which made my evening very short.
I was roundly criticised for playing stupidly. I argued that I read the situation perfectly — which I did (two pair and a junk hand) — and that mathematically, I made the right call — not too sure about that one, though. Let's find out.
The open-ended straight draw gave me eight outs (any A, any 9). Since I put third position on queens over jacks, I was operating under the assumption that any 10 or any 7 would have given me a higher two pair (six more outs) and any K would have tripped me up (two more outs). Sixteen outs from 46 unseen cards left in the deck is better than 2-1 odds and I was getting 2-1 on my money if third position called all-in. So, mathematically, I was making a good call.
The problem was that my premise was flawed; the other cards they were holding killed me. Since third position didn't have queens and jacks, but kings and queens
, that took away the two outs I had for the kings (he was holding one, and the last K in the deck would have filled him into a full house); and it meant that getting a 10 or a 7 was no good since my two pair would still not have been as good as his. To add insult to injury, sixth position had one of my aces. So instead of going all-in with the 16 outs I thought I had, I actually had just 7. I was getting much worse odds than I was hoping for.
Damn. Should have folded.
In retrospect, what really did me in was the K©
on the turn. I didn't know it at the time, of course, but that was the worst card I could have seen. If sixth position had A/10 or 10/9 it made the straight I was concerned he might have had, and it hit third position for two pair, and not just any two pair but top
two pair, meaning I was drawing dead except to the straight. Had it been any other card, especially another spade, I could have folded with a clean conscience. But with top pair and an open-ended straight draw, I had a hand just good enough to get me in trouble.
So consider yourself lucky: that lesson cost me $15 and I just gave it to you for free.Edited 2/10 11:55 PM for minor corrections.
Mark Steyn Is A Genius, Edition VI
In Tuesday's Daily Telegraph
, Steyn relieves himself in a column titled "I hate to rain on Europe's parade, but ..."
The obsession of the anti-Americans misses the point: it's not about America. Surely even Fisk and the other "experts" aren't so obtuse that they can't see that the one undeniable fact of the election is that there are millions of Iraqis who want change. That doesn't mean they want to turn Basra and Kirkuk into Cleveland and Buffalo, only that they want something other than the opposing cul-de-sacs of secular pan-Arabist dictatorship and death-cult Islamism, which dead-end alternatives are all the region's had to offer for decades.
For want of a better expression, they'd like a "Third Way": so, just as America has New Democrats and Britain has New Labour, here come the New Shia. Ayatollah Sistani isn't like Khomeini and the other old-school mullahs, and the emergence of a moderate pluralist Shia-led federation in Iraq will be as devastating to the Teheran regime's long-term prospects as any Israeli-American strike on their nuke facilities. As the Arab networks' election-day coverage instinctively grasped, the American angle to this story will be increasingly peripheral.
Don't get him pissed off.
REreread: Silent America, or My Itty Bitty Little Whittle Quibble
The World's Superman
Silent America, Bill Whittle
February 8, 2005
I loved Silent America
. Throughout its pages, Bill Whittle harmonizes America's centuries-old beliefs with the events that shape our world today.
But when he briefly tried his hand at a pop music critique, it hit a sour note.
In the essay titled STRENGTH
, he printed, in its entirety, the famous 1861 love letter by Major Sullivan Ballou
, then admirably noted that while it was a love letter, Major Ballou loved his country as well and had to sacrifice himself for it even though he loved his wife and children so much. He attempted to juxtapose Ballou's time with the present day by saying this:
In 1861, this love for and obligation to the ideals of America was common. The selflessness, the recognition of things greater than one’s self – earthbound, temporal realities like the ability to say what one wants, go where one wants, to live a life free from the dictates of the powerful, and the freedom to defend one’s self and family from the depredations of the cruel and the ruthless – these qualities were common, if not ubiquitous, of the America of 143 years ago.
Let’s look at another snapshot, shall we? Here’s one that’s a little more recent – October 2nd, 2001:
Here is a song from the point of view of someone free and powerful, admired and loved; a person possessing the most fabulous gifts imaginable, a voice that has known no hardship, no fear, no illness and no enemies capable of even giving challenge, let alone loss and defeat:
By Five for Fighting
And my heart just sank.
Please, Mr. Whittle, please tell me you're not going to quote the lyrics
to this great song and then trash it. Oh, but he did, and he did hard
It’s not easy to be me. Dear God, no – the horror of it all. Immortal, impervious...faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. How gauche. How tacky. How totally uncool.
This modern Superman -- this symbol, this America -- hates who he is and what he has become: imprisoned in his ridiculous red and blue sheet, desperate to go up, up and away, as far away from himself as possible. There he stands, in a filthy city doorway: stooped, cynical, a broken man, digging for Kryptonite – digging for death -- on this one-way street -- to Hell. Suicide. Ah, there you go. He’ll be dead and then we’ll all be sorry.
So this is Superman for the new millennium: a charcoal-gray, lower-case ‘s’ on a black T-shirt, curled on a filthy mattress in the basement, hands pressed to his ears to tune out the screams for help from Lois Lane whose ankles he can see as she is murdered up in the alley. Superman: cowering, whimpering, the ultimate victim, who dies from stomach cancer at age 24 from endlessly using his X-ray vision to stare at his own navel.
Gone is the icon of great strength in the service of great good. Gone too is a Superman raised by a simple, honest man and woman on a farm in Kansas, who taught him that there is a difference between good and evil, right and wrong, and how to recognize it, and what to do about it. In his place sits a brooding, whining victim, an emotionally abandoned child raised by a Belgian nanny in a mansion in Bel Aire, hating his father for not producing his student-film screenplay. If our original Superman had nightmares, they were no doubt about the times he had failed to act, failed to save, failed to rescue. This Superman fears nothing more than being caught doing a good deed -- like there’s any difference between “good” and “evil.” They’re just words, cultural relics from a bloody past leading us ever deeper into the darkness of a pointless and meaningless future. It doesn’t matter anyway. Nothing matters. Not even me. Especially me.
I don't know John Ondrasik, the singer/songwriter who's essentially Five For Fighting's one-man band. I haven't laboriously searched transcripts of interviews, so maybe Whittle is right when he deconstructs this song (20-some pages after he viciously blasts the entire idea of deconstructionism) and reconstitutes it as a five-syllable-per-line ode to self-destructive nihilism.
But I doubt it.
This song arose from the pain and heartache of Ground Zero to become a post-9/11 anthem for the same reason people found and printed out images of a crying eagle
: because it evoked the idea of the powerful also being vulnerable.
would be a really dull comic book if he didn't have some weaknesses, some frailties. (I don't read a lot of comic books myself, since it's just about the only way in which I'm not dorky and I would like to have a girlfriend someday.) (Er, I mean another girlfriend. Yeah.) For all his immense power and speed and agility, he's alone on an alien world and without any friends who understand his true essence.
And as someone who doesn't read comic books, I have to wonder: why would any two-bit hoodlum or egotistical supervillain want to take a crack at breaking the law in Metropolis? The crime rate should be zero, or less.
But yet, day after day, Superman has to do the tiresome work of cleaning up the city. He doesn't do it for the money, he doesn't do it for the women, he doesn't do it for the glory, and if he had his way he probably wouldn't do it at all: he'd rather just be Clark Kent, Ordinaryman. But somebody has to. He's "digging for kryptonite on this one-way street" because he'd rather be human, but he realizes he can't go back and make it that way.
In his screed, Whittle does compare Superman with America. It's a meme that's certainly reliable
, right up there with America as "the world's policeman."
And, at least vis-à-vis this song, it's an apt metaphor. We are the world's Superman: alone as a superpower, with very few people who understand us (though many think they do). And why would anyone try to fight us, after demonstrating in World War II that we have both the power and the will to destroy anyone? And yet there we are, cleaning up the world's messes when we'd much rather sit on the beach. Because somebody has to, and we're the only ones who can.
Two lines in the bridge of "Superman" ruin Whittle's entire theory: "You can all sleep sound tonight / I'm not crazy or anything." If Ondrasik's Superman is flirting with the idea of packing it all in because he just can't stand it anymore, then it's only briefly, like the homicide detectives who are haunted by what they see every day but still toe their beat.
This really isn't that big an argument, as there are plenty of insipid pop-culture paeans to suicidal nihilism. In the wake of 9/11 many people dusted off John Lennon's "Imagine"
, a beautiful melody but with inane driveling lyrics. For the "America: A Tribute To Heroes" telethon, "Imagine" was performed by Neil Young, perhaps the closest thing pop music has ever had to an anti-Lennon. Young certainly didn't let "Imagine" stand as his statement on 9/11: he eventually recorded "Let's Roll," a tribute sung from the perspective of the citizen-heroes on Flight 93.
And on the afternoon of September 11, when I attended a hastily-arranged memorial service under the American flag in the middle of Notre Dame's campus, someone had draped from the window of their dorm room a large banner with the lyrics of U2's "Sunday Bloody Sunday"
But the reason those songs didn't take and "Superman" and U2's more recent "Walk On"
did was precisely because we rejected the notions inherent in the other songs. Lennon's dream of no countries and no religions didn't square with a nation whose beliefs in America and God were both reawakened (or, for some people, awakened). Bono's advocacy of nonviolence in the face of brutal attack certainly didn't comfort a people suddenly filled with righteous anger. The eagle cried in one often-seen Internet image; in another it's sharpening its talons
Whittle could have chosen any of those vapid songs and made virtually the same point: that those values which were omnipresent during Sullivan Ballou's time are much less so now and that we have to fight for them. "Superman" was a poor choice, first for the above and second because the album it appears on was released nearly a year before 9/11.
But other than that . . . Silent America
Well, except for some proofing errors, but I meant more in a general sense.
Hey, I'm not being lazy, I'm . . . okay, I'm being lazy.
I have no idea what to cover for the Marchand Chronicles
essay this week. I've already hit upon Easongate (and can we please stop using the "-gate" suffix soon?) twice, Howard Dean's lock on the DNC chairmanship surprises nobody, least of all me (I was on it three weeks ago), and because of that the Democratic party is continuing its principled stand for political irrelevance, which makes a debate on Social Security more of a headache than it's worth.
Okay, here's your essay:
Bush Will Win Social Security Debate
The Marchand Chronicles
February 7, 2005
The title says it all.
I also had to sit at the DMV today. It wasn't something I wanted to do, after the Bureau Of Motor Vehicles stole $40 and no less than 15 of my IQ points by making me watch the dumbest movie in the history of celluloid
. But I needed to have a title reprinted for my long lost previous car to finalize the insurance settlement.
The DMV's around here are like what hell's waiting room would be. You have to stand in line to take a number to sit and wait. Isn't that remarkable? A deli in a grocery store has one line, or one pool of people who used the Take-A-Number wheel. But at our DMV's you stand in line to get that number, then wait while they call you. They used to have two different number systems, one for licenses and one for titles and registrations. Evidently people found that too confusing, so they went to one system, but the workers still are divided into the same categories. So they call numbers out of order, which sorta delegitimizes the entire number-taking process.
I was fortunate to get out of there in less than an hour and for only nine dollars. They didn't even attempt to extort money from me. See the power of having a blog?
Also, today's Fat Tuesday, known in this highly Polish community as Paczki Day. I don't know what "Paczki" means in Polish. In fact, despite the "-czki" ending, I doubt that the word is Polish; two vowels in a six-letter word make for a 2-1 consonant/vowel ratio, which is way too low for most Polish words.
At any rate, paczkis (pronounced POONCH-kees
) are basically Polish donuts. Most people eat them before Ash Wednesday and the sacrificial Lenten season. I eat them because they're on sale. And they're fantastic. Krispy Kreme? Pfft! If Krispy Kremes had butts, paczkis would kick them, assuming of course that paczkis had feet.
I'll get to the footnote I left in the RE of Silent America
tonight. Then I'll be all square, but still without anything to write about.
Jordan = Lott?
warned bloggers not to jump the gun on comparing Eason Jordan's remarks with the Rathergate fiasco.
The better comparison is Trent Lott.
Like Lott, Jordan said something profoundly dumb. Arrestingly, stupefyingly, skip-the-needle-on-the-record-WHAT-DID-YOU-SAY?? dumb. Lott's comment sorta festered for a while, though, whereas Jordan was immediately challenged on his remarks.
The excuse for Lott is, well, he didn't really mean to celebrate segregationism per se
, yada yada yada. An ineffective, and when you get right down to it, irrelevant explanation: Strom Thurmond and the cause of racial segregation are so inextricably bound that you have to uncouple the racist baggage before you spout off with "we wouldn't have had these problems all these years."
Jordan's defense isn't even that good; instead of That's not what I was saying
, he's got That was what I was saying, that's just not what you were hearing.
In other words, with Lott the listener had to assume
malicious overtones; with Jordan the malicious overtones were right there.
So even if you buy into Jordan's explanation — I'm willing to give him the benefit of that doubt — you've still got the disparity between what he meant and what it sounded like he meant
. Of course, Trent Lott was, at the time, the Senate Majority Leader, wielding a significant amount of power along with prestige and honor. I don't know how much power Eason Jordan wields at CNN, but he does represent CNN and, in part, all of American media: while CNN gets killed domestically by FOX News, CNN represents American media overseas and has virtually since its inception.
So what then for Jordan? Should he resign in disgrace? I don't know. Lott stepped down from Majority Leader only after the news clip was aired constantly and his attempts at damage control only made the situation worse. Jordan's been fortunate that whatever tape there is hasn't yet surfaced and evidently no transcript exists. Some of the other players in the discussion are starting to talk, but nobody is calling for his ouster.
But it's irresponsible for a head of an American newsmedia organization to say "journalists are being targeted by the U.S. military" before an international panel, even if it's an economic panel, with an audience full of representatives from other countries, especially Arab nations who just love anti-U.S. tidbits. Whether they're actually true or not doesn't really matter, as long as it's juicy gossip.
If no real fallout occurs, it will be awfully tough to bring enough pressure on CNN/Time-Warner to fire him. Of course, if I were them, I'd seriously begin thinking about whether or not a chief executive should be saying idiotic things. But like Lott, the pressure's going to have to come from the inside if Jordan is to lose his job.
Mark Steyn Is A Genius, Editions IV & V
Twin columns from Mark Steyn yesterday, both having to do with Europe. His Chicago Sun-Times
offering, "Will Europe warm up to Bush climate change?"
compares Europe's constant dithering (and the Democrats') with President Bush's decisiveness:
Go back to the 2002 State of the Union that inaugurated the "axis of evil." I loved the expression mainly because all the sophisticates loathed it. Such rhetoric "gets us nowhere," complained Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister. It was unhelpfully "absolutist" and "in unilateralist overdrive," sneered Chris Patten, the European Union's external affairs commissioner. Why, it was "absurd," scoffed Hubert Vedrine, the French foreign minister.
So much for the axis of ennui. Three years on, one-third of the evildoers is in jail, his people have been liberated, and their country has just held the most free and fair election in modern Middle Eastern history. That last wasn't supposed to happen, either. "They can't have an election right now," declared John Kerry, Senator Nuance himself, in the presidential debates. "I personally do not believe they're going to be ready for the election in January," said Jimmy Carter, winner of the Nobel Prize for Peanuts. "There's no security there."
But Carter and Kerry and Old Europe were wrong, and the absurd absolutist simpleton was right. Iraq is free not just because of the military skill of America and her allies but because of the political will of one man, who stuck to his guns against the opposition of the Eurocynics, the U.N. do-nothings, the Democratic Party weathervanes, the media doom-mongers, and the unreal realpolitik grandees of his own party -- the Scowcrofts and Eagleburgers.
But 'cross the pond in The Daily Telegraph
, Steyn takes a mighty swipe at the UN, from the headline, "Would you trust these men with $64bn of your cash? Of course not"
If I had $64 billion of my own money, I'd look after it carefully. But give someone $64 billion of other people's money to "process" and it would be surprising if some of it didn't get peeled off en route. Especially if that $64 billion gives you access to a unique supply of specially low-priced oil you can re-sell at market prices. Hire Third World bureaucrats to supervise the "processing" and you can kiss even more of it goodbye. Grant Saddam Hussein the right of approval over the bank that will run the scheme, and it's clear to all that nit-picky book-keeping will not be an overburdensome problem.
In other words, the system didn't fail. This is the transnational system, working as it usually works, just a little more so. One of the reasons I'm in favour of small government is because big government tends to be remote government, and remote government is unaccountable, and, as a wannabe world government, the UN is the remotest and most unaccountable of all. If the sentimental utopian blather ever came true and we wound up with one "world government", from an accounting department point of view, the model will be Nigeria rather than New Hampshire.
As always, read the whole thing on both counts. Stronger than Guinness and it tastes better, too.
Douchebag Of The Week: Eason Jordan
Douchebag Of The Week
February 3, 2005
Fish in a barrel time.
For showing no compunction about either slandering American servicemen or shredding journalistic ethics, CNN Chief News Executive Eason Jordan wins this week’s Douchie, hands down.
You may remember Mr. Jordan from an April 2003 New York Times
column in which he admitted spiking stories that reflected badly on Iraq in order to maintain “access” with Saddam Hussein’s regime. But at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he went one better, claiming, according to Rony Abovitz, a blogger in attendance
by another attendee, one of Mr. Jordan’s ex-employees) that “he knew of 12 journalists who had not only been killed by US troops in Iraq, but they had in fact been targeted.” When challenged by Abovitz and by U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA)
[yes, I can’t believe it, either; I do believe I’ll award Congressman Frank a Dodge-A-Douchie Distinction for it. Consider it a Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card for Douchebag Of The Week Awards.], Jordan backpedalled furiously, but not before being “applauded” and “called a ‘very brave man’” by non-American WEF attendees, especially from Arab nations.
Several days after the ensuing blogstorm, Jordan issued this response
To be clear, I do not believe the U.S. military is trying to kill journalists in Iraq. I said so during the forum panel discussion. But, nonetheless, the U.S. military has killed several journalists in Iraq in cases of mistaken identity. The reason the word “targeted” came up at all is because I was responding to a comment by Congressman Franks [sic], who said he believed the 63 journalists killed in Iraq were the victims of “collateral damage.” Since three of my CNN colleagues and many other journalists have been killed on purpose in Iraq, I disputed the “collateral damage” statement, saying, unfortunately, many journalists -- not all -- killed in Iraq were indeed targeted. When someone aims a gun at someone and pulls the trigger and then learns later the person fired at was actually a journalist, an apology is appropriate and is accepted, and I believe those apologies to be genuine. But such a killing is a tragic case of mistaken identity, not a case of “collateral damage.” That is the distinction I was trying to make even if I did not make it clearly at the time. Further, I have worked closely with the U.S. military for months in an effort to achieve a mutual goal: keeping journalists in Iraq safe and alive.
In effect, he was taken out of context.
This might be a feasible explanation if 1) he could name or even relate the details of even one journalist killed by U.S. forces, mistaken identity or no, 2) he weren’t showered with praise for his “bravery” — what’s brave about making the above comment? and 3) he didn’t make virtually the same charge last November
, even including that journalists were being tortured by the military. And that little nugget was so newsworthy that Jordan’s very network, CNN, devoted precisely zero minutes to it. Had it been verifiable, it would have been the second coming of Abu Ghraib.
In light of those, Jordan’s explanation comes off more like a parsing of the word “targeted.” To say “journalists are being targeted” implies intent — that American military personnel are finding journalists in Iraq and purposely executing them. But Jordan insists he’s being taken out of context by removing the context from his statement and jumbling the chronological order: “journalists are being targeted” means “people are being targeted who later turned out to be journalists in a tragic case of mistaken identity.”
Video of the WEF could hit the blogosphere as soon as Wednesday
, so stay tuned. I fully intend to retract this Douchie if it isn’t fully deserved, and instead award it to, say, Janeane Garafolo, who compared the Congressional purple-finger salute to Iraqi voters with the Nazi “Seig Heil!” gesture
, or Bill Moyers, the retired PBS hack who just won’t go away, libelling and lying his way
through an environmental award speech.
Screwed News: New Terror Hoax
Terrorists’ Threat Against Empire State Now Considered Hoax
February 2, 2005
Last week’s threat to destroy the Empire State Building posted on a militant Islamic website is now believed to be a hoax, Screwed News
In the post, a militant Islamic group calling itself Crimson Jihad claimed it had a nuclear weapon in the 21st floor of the Empire State Building. The leader, known as “The Sand Spider,” threatened to “rain fire” on New York and an additional American city every week thereafter “unless the US pulls all military forces out of the Persian Gulf area, immediately and forever.”
But intelligence agencies believed from the outset that there was no such group. According to an expert from a counterterrorist agency, neither of which can be reported, the video was made to try to establish a “splinter faction.” Furthermore, according to the expert, the man in the video chose his name “probably because it sounds scary.”
According to a spokesperson for toy company Puzz3D, the images of New York’s famous landmark posted on the website resemble the 30-inch foam jigsaw puzzle nearly exactly. Another toy company, Mattel, is investigating whether or not the bomb shown in the video is one of its toys.
“The Sand Spider” could not be reached for comment.
The commercial was right.
Drinking six bottles of Guinness at the same time is not a good idea.
Which is why I interspersed them with pizza. Brilliant!
So I was off in my Patriots-cover-the-spread pick. Doesn't matter to me, though, as I had $10 riding against a family member straight up. I offered her the points; she declined. There's another sixer of Guinness right there, if I ever feel like downing the stuff again.
Best Super Bowl commercial, aside from the Anheuser-Busch "Support The Troops" ad-that-really-wasn't-an-ad, was the Ameriquest one where the cat knocks over the pot of spaghetti sauce. I won't ruin the punchline; you have to see it for yourself
It doesn't make me want to get a mortgage or anything, but it's still a great spot.
REread: Silent America, Bill Whittle
A Nation Of Ideas
Silent America, Bill Whittle
February 1, 2005
Who the hell is Bill Whittle?
Well, he's not a movie star, he's not the distinguished senator from the great state of Florida, he's not an acclaimed musician, he's not a successful entrepreneur, he's not a legendary sports star, he's not a wealthy socialite, he's not a five-star general, he's not a radio shock jock, he's not an award-winning biographer, he's not the winner of a reality TV series, he's not a red-carpet fashion critic, he's not a Broadway playwright, and he's not the reigning WWE Heavyweight Champion Of The World. In other words, he's not a celebrity.
In addition, he's not a newspaper columnist, magazine writer, think-tank analyst, political cartoonist, former U.S. ambassador to Crapistan, talk-radio host, college professor, foreign-policy advisor or FOX News contributor. In other words, he's not someone whose opinions are considered expert.
Which is precisely why he wrote Silent America
. And precisely why it's a marvelous book.
If you add up all the people who are considered "celebrities" whose books currently sit on store shelves and all the opinionated pundits whose bloviating was transcribed and printed, you'd have a big fat number. Let's just say it's one thousand. You know what? Let's go crazy: five thousand. That represents .00169% of Americans. There are 295 million and some-odd other people in this country. The ones you don't ever see getting interviewed by Oprah Winfrey, Barbara Walters or Bill O'Reilly. They are Silent America.
Silent America? Since when are we silent?? We are, after all, the home of marching bands, Smith & Wessons, Harley-Davidsons, atomic bombs, jet engines, Corvettes and rock 'n roll. Yet there we are, unspectacular in every way except for the sheer number of us.
And yet, who are we? How can 295 million individuals have anything in common, especially as most of us are the products of other nations and the blending of other cultures? What force could possibly be so strong that it binds us all?
In Letters From An American Farmer
, early American writer J. Hector St. John de Crèvecoeur found the somewhat circuitous answer:
What then is the American, this new man? . . . He is an American, who, leaving behind him all his ancient prejudices and manners, receives new ones from the new mode of life he has embraced, the new government he obeys, and the new rank he holds. He has become an American by being received in the broad lap of our great Alma Mater.
But that was in 1782, when the nation was still a child's age. Success and material wealth breed complacency, however, so when our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001, many people weren't even consciously aware that America, both the physical nation and the intangible idea, required defending.
This new paradigm was instantly discernible to some people. Others were only vaguely aware of what it meant but knew immediately that the course we had been heading in led to disaster and it was time to bail out. Bill Whittle fell into the latter category, and as an experienced pilot, named his weblog Eject! Eject! Eject!
to symbolize that feeling.
But the essays he wrote weren't merely an emergency warning. He also retraces our steps to find out where we went wrong and surveys the wreckage, like the National Transportation Safety Board whenever a plane crashes. That incorporeal feeling of patriotism that 295 million people (minus a few oddballs and freaks) felt when they bought and hoisted American flags, signed up to join the U.S. Army or the CIA, or, for those foreign-born, to become citizens of this nation — they may not have been able to say just why they felt the way they did, but the beliefs were real, right down to their hearts and souls. Bill Whittle gives them words.
And he doesn't mess around. Each of his 14 essays have one-word titles, stripped of the ostentation of superfluous verbiage but always capitalized and boldfaced to highlight the enormity of their importance. Some are references to the massive events and currents that dominate human existence, like WAR
, and POWER
. Others are odes to American characteristics, like FREEDOM
, and STRENGTH
. Still others, like EMPIRE
, are about what America is not.
Each provides a window into what America means. Even when the topic at hand strays from 9/11 or the other overriding issue in the book, the war in Iraq, they still impart valuable lessons for why we are who we are. That's important because the individuals who comprise Silent America usually don't make history. It's easy, in fact far too easy, to consider ourselves pawns in great clashes of ideas and civilizations; who we are and what we think doesn't matter. But on those rare occasions when we do speak, even if it's as cosmically insignificant as buying and raising an American flag on September 12, 2001, we unite as Americans and utter statements that resonate throughout the world. In 1776, it was "We hold these truths to be self-evident." In 2001, it was, in so many words, "This shall not stand." And we must stay strong, because if Silent America loses that voice (never mind the oxymoron), this nation, this idea called America diminishes — something that the British military couldn't accomplish then nor can al-Qaeda's demented ideology of terrorism can accomplish now. If we break, the world will be forever altered, and not in a good way.
It's important to note the organic nature of Silent America
. All of Whittle's essays remain free to read on Eject! Eject! Eject!. He was persuaded into blogging and eventually publishing them by other members of Silent America. And the good reviews dotting the back cover don't come from The New York Times
or even the likes of Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter — they came from Silent America. The book is, to borrow a famous phrase, of, by, and for the people.
So do yourself a favor and buy it, now. I know you can read it all free online — but you can read the Bible for free online, too. But you buy one because it's worth it to have a documented anchor for your beliefs. So it is for Silent America
. Aside from one really marginal disagreement (ed: which I eventually posted
), I've never found words so eloquent, that ring so true with those beliefs I feel in my heart except in the Bible.
So who the hell is Bill Whittle? He's one of us. And that's all that's important.Edited 2/10 11:57 PM to add the last link.
Work work work.
Two straight 12-hour days don't leave a lot of time for blogging. Here's this week's RE
. I'll do Screwed News
sometime tomorrow, in between Hours Four and Six of the Super Bowl XXXIX Pregame Show.
Oh, and before I forget: Patriots, to cover if that's the bet you're making. For posterity, though, I'll say 34-20.
State Of The Union
I really don't like State Of The Union addresses. They're usually dull laundry lists of programs, and their dullness is infinitely exacerbated by the infinite parsing and reparsing of every last word by the press corps. I don't care how long the speech was, I don't care if it matched pundits' expectations of what topics were broached, and I definitely don't care to know how many times it was interrupted by applause.
And speaking of the applause, can we try to do that a little less, fellas? I mean, come on, do we really need to interrupt him every eight and a half seconds? Can't we agree or disagree with speeches the way the British do? When Parliament approves what the Prime Minister says, they bellow a hearty "Hear, hear!" and then shut up. If talk shows can have applause signs to tell the cretins in the audience when to clap, surely we can do it for Congress, too.
For his part, the President was clearly getting annoyed with being pre-empted by applause even before finishing his point:
To make our economy stronger and more productive, we must make health care more affordable
APPLAUSE — and give families greater access to good coverage
APPLAUSE — and more control over their health decisions.
APPLAUSEAPPLAUSEAPPLAUSE I ask Congress to move forward on a comprehensive health care agenda - with tax credits to help low-income workers buy insurance
APPLAUSE — a community health center in every poor county
APPLAUSE — improved information technology to prevent medical errors and needless costs
APPLAUSE — association health plans for small businesses
APP and their employees
LAUSE — expanded
LAU savings accounts
SE — and medical liability reform that will reduce health care costs, and make sure patients have the doctors and care they need.
CHEERSAPPLAUSEAPPLAUSEAPPLAUSEAPPLAUSE . . .
Nobody will remember any of this stuff, whether the $350 million Palestinian aid package passes or fails or gets killed in committee or expanded to $400 mil or decreased to Alex Rodriguez' contract value.
They will remember this, though:
I wish the applause were longer.
DIPped in acid.
That's how my brain feels after watching that pointless Driver Improvement Program film and wasting more than four hours of my life. I'm not sure what was worse, the pompous moralizing on alcohol by Phil Donahue (yes, you heard me, Phil Phreakin' Donahue), or intellectually stimulating test questions such as the following:
What does "BAC" stand for?
Press "1" for Big Alcohol Container.
Press "2" for Blood Alcohol Concentration.
Press "3" for none of the above.
Big Alcohol Container? BIG ALCOHOL CONTAINER? And what does that have to do with safe driving, anyway? A better question would have been "What is the limit that constitutes illegal driving?" or "How many drinks would the average person have to consume in one hour to be legally drunk?" But instead, we now have potentially thousands of drivers fully knowledgeable on what "BAC" means but not how low it has to be to stay legal or how many drinks that would comprise. That's, of course, assuming they even answered the question right and didn't simply cease paying attention when the King Of The DIPs, Phil Phreakin' Donahue, accused every American of having a drinking problem. (Yes, I did; I have a RE
to write. And yes, he did; I'd quote it if I could turn the film back on without the overriding urge to heave it out the window.)
You're probably saying, "Well, why did you even watch the video then?" Because each portion of the test had questions specifically dealing with the video presentation. Right before the Big Alcohol Container question was this item of future brain sludge that probably displaced some actual valuable knowledge in my memory:
Which talk show host appeared in this portion of the video?
Press "1" for Oprah Winfrey.
Press "2" for Phil Donahue.
Press "3" for Sally Jessy Raphaël.
I'd rather have a root canal than go through that again. Perhaps that's entirely the point; maybe the state of Indiana is enforcing safe driving through the threat of mind-numbing boredom.
I want a cluckin'
refund. And my Big Alcohol Container.
I have something to confess to all of you. I didn't want to have to tell you this, but . . . in the last year, I've had . . .
Two speeding tickets.
Yes, that's right, two whole tickets. This has highlighted me as a possibly hazardous driver to the Indiana Bureau Of Motor Vehicles. Which is odd, because compared to many of the other drivers around here, I should be the least of their concerns. There are people with records way worse than two speeding tickets who are still licensed by the state to operate one-ton metal monsters at high speeds.
But still, I've been flagged; I must now complete the Driver Improvement Program (DIP, an accurate acronym) or face suspension of my drivers' license. My only options were to take defensive driving courses that for some reason are only held in Indianapolis (brilliant idea, BMV: order someone whom you consider a potential road hazard to drive 200 miles round trip!) or rent the DIP film from Blockbuster and take the test by phone or online. So, Blockbuster it is.
I don't rent movies much. How much do they run these days? Five bucks for the new releases, maybe a buck-ninety-nine for the oldies? Well, not the DIP. The DIP costs $39.99 to rent for three days, on top of the $200-plus I've already jacked up for the ticket fines.
The following is the exact conversation I had with the Blockbuster employee last night, with one exception. Since my shock and anger led me to use language that was a bit . . . earthy, I've decided to edit the dialogue for those in my audience who may not like profanity (I say "may not" because right now I don't really have an audience per se
). Not to brag, but I think I've edited it so well that you won't even notice where I used explicit language:
Blockbuster Employee: Okay, sir, with tax [Ed: OF COURSE
I had to pay sales tax! I'm not enriching the state enough!], your total comes to $42.39.
Me: FORTY-TWO BUCKS??!?
Are you truckin'
BBE: No, sir.
Me: You don't even SELL movies here for that much!
BBE: Well, it is four hours long, on two discs. [Ed: Obviously he's been given talking points.]
Me: So are all the other bod-slammed
movies you rent here with special-edition DVD extras.
BBE: I understand, sir.
Me: For forty-two bucks, this had better be the best rubberduckin'
movie in history. I'd better laugh, I'd better cry, I'd better think, I'd better consider it a moving testament to the human spirit AND the feel-good movie of the year, if those gaspoles
at the BMV are charging $42.39 for it.
Me: Snotjammed roosterpluckers.
If that's not bad enough, the DIP is protecting against fraud by making you wait one hour between registering and taking Part One of the exam; that way, you'll be sure to watch Part One of the film. Which means if you watch and then register, thinking registering and Part One of the exam would be joined together, you're just going to be bored for an hour.
I would say whether or not I did that, but I'm out of clever substitutions for bad words.
Why I write.
There are days when I wonder why I struggle with writing. It seems like I have a permanent writers' block, with good ideas swimming in my head that I just can't seem to spill out in words. Often the only way I see those ideas in print is when someone else writes them
But then there are days when the words just come spilling out of me and I know, just know, that this is what I'm meant to do. Sadly, those days are usually marked by tragedy. One such was the breakup of the space shuttle Columbia
, which happened two years ago today. Click the mission logo to read what I wrote about it after it happened.
Mark Steyn Is A Genius, Edition III
After whacking American naysayers about in his last column, Mark Steyn takes on the Europeans
But nevertheless there they were, prosperous, well-dressed Spaniards waving placards showing US missiles and dollar bills going into the ballot box and noisily objecting to the fraud of a so-called election held under American occupation.
Given the fact that the voters of Baghdad and Basra and Kirkuk showed the cojones the Spaniards failed to last March, you'd think those protesters would have been less careless about reminding us that the terrorists got a much better election result out of the Spanish electorate than they did from the Iraqis.
Marchand Chronicles: Iraq Elections
Iraq Is Not Vietnam . . . Finally
The Marchand Chronicles
January 31, 2005
It’s rare that someone makes a major announcement only to have it go down in spectacular flames nearly immediately after. But last week, three days before the historic Iraqi elections, Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) gave a speech at Johns Hopkins University
in which he said, among other things, the following:
Forty years ago, America was in another war in a distant land. At that time, in 1965, we had in Vietnam the same number of troops and the same number of casualties as in Iraq today.
We thought in those early days in Vietnam that we were winning. We thought the skill and courage of our troops was enough. We thought that victory on the battlefield would lead to victory in the war, and peace and democracy for the people of Vietnam.
We lost our national purpose in Vietnam. We abandoned the truth. We failed our ideals. The words of our leaders could no longer be trusted.
In the name of a misguided cause, we continued the war too long. We failed to comprehend the events around us. We did not understand that our very presence was creating new enemies and defeating the very goals we set out to achieve. We cannot allow that history to repeat itself in Iraq.
Vietnam in 1965 is four decades and four thousand miles removed from Iraq in 2005, but comparisons between the two simply will not end, even though they’re about as alike as the jungle and the desert.
But Senator Kennedy makes his case on one comparison: troop and casualty levels. That’s it; that’s all he’s got. But the blue-finger elections on Sunday nullify the entire analogy.
In July 1954, an international conference concerning what was at the time France’s war in Indochina was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Among the agreements reached under the Geneva Accords was a national election in all of Vietnam in two years’ time. Those elections never happened; Ngo Dinh Diem, Prime Minister of South Vietnam, feared a Communist victory and instead, with American approval, held a bogus election only in the South in which he claimed a 98% victory.
Over the next few years he built up a banana republic with American support. But Diem’s regime proved so corrupt that he was overthrown and killed in 1963, just a few weeks before the assassination of Senator Kennedy‘s brother, President John F. Kennedy. By 1964, the internal power struggle in South Vietnam meant that the Viet Cong controlled a substantial part of the country, and Ho Chi Minh’s Communist North Vietnamese government began sending troops south. Meanwhile, through the Tonkin Gulf Resolution, President Lyndon Johnson was free to “escalate” American troop levels in the region, with the first batch of troops landing in Vietnam in early 1965.
However, the situation in Iraq is completely different, if only because the U.S. allowed the national vote after two years, even knowing that the government the Iraqis will choose might reject the Americans as invaders. Major combat has ceased; the only engagement U.S. troops face is against an insurgency, ruled by non-Iraqis and staffed with foreigners and hated Ba’athists, that’s so continuously being rolled up that they’re choosing softer targets, like the Iraqi police and civilians.
So: in 1965, the Americans had really just begun major combat, in an area virtually dominated by its enemy, following a series of political fiascos spanning more than ten years and occupation by one power or another that had lasted for decades. In 2005, the Americans face a foreign-led guerilla force controlling less and less territory, with the political advantage squarely in their corner.
The Iraqi “insurgency” had their opportunity to stage their own Tet Offensive: a last-ditch, all-or-nothing effort to hurt the “occupying force,” rally the people around their cause, and demonstrate their continued presence in the region. It looked like that was their strategy, too, promising all-out violence on Sunday’s Election Day. But their attacks were unspectacular, and millions of Iraqis voted, either not fearing or outright defying the terrorists’ threats. While al-Qaeda’s frontman in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, still vows jihad
, it has become clear that the majority of Iraqis prefer democracy.
With all predictions of catastrophe proved laughably wrong, the best argument naysayers have now is the elections were all well and good, but “now comes the hard part.” Certainly President Bush knows this; during the first presidential debate with John Kerry he used the phrase “it’s hard work” approximately 83 times.
But when forty years ago in Vietnam, administration claims of “light at the end of the tunnel” sounded only like wishful thinking, here and now in Iraq they sound more like reality.
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