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A Good Man Is Hard To Find.

Saturday, September 16, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

If that's all there is, then let's keep dancing.

Things are getting bad for President Bush. Even Peggy Noonan seems to be having her doubts. For the uninitiated, Peggy Noonan's spent the last six years responding to every Bush appearance by rolling over, waving her paws in the air and wetting herself in an orgy of submissiveness.

He is talking a lot lately, out there in America, and in the Oval Office. People don't say as often as they used to, "You watch Bush's speech last night?" Or they don't ask it with the same anticipation and interest.

Yeah. Most of us noticed that about two months after the last election, Peg. While you were still fantasizing about the day George would take you in his arms and plant a lipless kiss on your eager, upturned mouth.

I think that Americans have pretty much stopped listening to him. One reason is that you don't have to listen to get a sense of what's going on. He does not appear to rethink things based on new data. You don't have to tune in to see how he's shifting emphasis to address a trend, or tacking to accommodate new winds. For him there is no new data, only determination.

Nice way to try and spin your slavish devotion, Peg. It's all about his shiver-my-loins "determination." Sweetie, Bush is "determined" in much the same way that a person in a persistent vegetative state is "determined." Lack of thought, lack of analysis, lack of adaptation, that's not determination so much as a flatline on the old EEG.

He repeats old arguments because he believes they are right, because he has no choice--in for a penny, in for a pound--and because his people believe in the dogma of the magic of repetition: Say it, say it, to break through the clutter.

There's another reason people don't listen to Mr. Bush as much as they did. It is that in some fundamental way they know they have already fully absorbed him. He's burned his brand into the American hide.
"Burn your brand into me," Peggy said huskily, drawing him close. "I'm yours, mark me with your hot brand." The rough leather of his chaps against her naked thighs made her insides churn. She pressed her mouth to his ear and in a fierce, urgent whisper said, "Clear my brush. Clear my brush now."

What is polarizing about him is the response he elicits from Americans just by being himself. They have deep questions about him, even as he is vivid to them.

"Vivid, so vivid, yes, yes, yes, you're so vivid, yes. My questions about you are so . . . deep. So . . . deeply vivid."

Americans don't really know, deep down in their heads, whether this president, in his post-9/11 decisions, is a great man or a catastrophe, a visionary or wholly out of his depth.
Um. What? That's kind of a buzz kill isn't it, Peg? Surely you will go on to answer this question with a ringing endorsement of Mr. Bush's vivid determination to brand you deeply. Won't you?

What they increasingly sense is that he's one thing or the other. And this is not a pleasant thing to sense. The stakes are so high. If you woke most Americans up at 3:00 in the morning and said, "Tell me, looking back, what would you have liked in an American president after 9/11?" most of them would answer, "I was just hoping for a good man who did moderately good things." Who caught Osama, cleaned out Afghanistan, made it proof of the possibility of change and of the price to be paid by those who choose terror as a tactic. Not this historical drama queen, this good witch or bad.

The one thing I think America agrees on is that George Bush and his presidency have been enormously consequential. He has made decisions that will shape the future we'll inhabit. It's never "We must do this" with Mr. Bush. It's always "the concentrated work of generations." He doesn't declare, he commits; and when you back him, you're never making a discrete and specific decision, you're always making a long-term investment.
This can be exhausting.

Well, yes, Peg, all that enormousness, when you consider the depth and all, and the vividness of his branding and whatnot, yeah, that can be exhausting. Would you like a cigarette now?

But wait, what was that about him being a drama queen? A drama queen? Interesting choice of words, isn't it?

Lie back on the couch now, Peg, and let's talk this over. What I hear you telling me is that the vividness in the relationship was great. That part was fine. But when you woke up the next morning and had to go to work wearing the same thing you had on when you left the night before, you began to have doubts about whether this man, this impossible, determined, brutish, overwhelming, domineering, masterful, penetrating, oh God, oh God, oh God, so . . . so . . . penetrating man, might not be the guy who was really right for you. Long term.

Maybe, just maybe you'd have been better off with someone who actually thought. You know, maybe had a little less manly determination and a little more cerebral activity.

And yet: You know he means it when he says he is trying to protect America. You know his heart is in it. You know he means it when he says there are bad guys and we will stop them. And that has meaning.
Ah, what a cruel put-down. He means well. He absolutely meant to call you, he just forgot. He meant to capture Osama . . . but he didn't. He was well-inentioned. That's what he was: manly and determined . . . and well-intentioned.

Was it a Cialis kind of thing, Peg? Was that it? Was he unable to rise to the situation? Is that what left you cooling rather than heating up? Or is it that five years after he said "Dead or alive," and got you all worked up he still hasn't gotten around to cleaning out the garage or taking out the garbage? Is he kind of unreliable? Have you begun to notice that all that manly determination just seems to involve marching in circles in a swamp?

With all this polarity, this drama, this added layer Mr. Bush brings to a nation already worn by the daily demands of modern individual life, the political alternative, the Democrats, should roar in six weeks from now, right? And return us to normalcy?

Well, that's not what I sense.
And here we see Peg putting on her make-up, doing her hair, choosing the dress that's hot but not really slutty, and trolling for a new man to replace George. Oh, she's disappointed with what she sees standing at the bar, but she's looking.

One of the oldest clichés in politics is, "You can't beat something with nothing." It's a cliché because it's true. You have to have belief, and a program. You have to look away from the big foe and focus instead on the world and philosophy and programs you imagine.

Mr. Bush's White House loves what the Democrats are doing. They want the focus on him. That's why he's out there talking, saying Look at me.
The end of the affair. George out there banging on the glass wearing his cowboy boots and his great big, big, belt buckle and saying, "Look at me. Look at meeee."

You can't beat something with nothing, and Democrats? You can't put your vivid brand on Peggy Noonan's hide until you have belief and a program. You're going to have to stop reminding Peg of Mr. Bush, and help her to forget . . . forget . . .

So, you'll need a belief. And a program. Also a cowboy costume.

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Who's The Grizzled Old Fart With The Stogie?

Friday, September 15, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

The camera adds scalp.

My nine-year-old snapped this picture which I've added to my Blogger profile. That's pretty much how a.m. posts to the the blog get written: on the porch, enjoying my one cigar, black coffee up on the rail. (Today's cigar: Macanudo Gold Label. Coffee: Caribou AA Kenya.) For p.m. posts remove cigar, add booze, and move me to the bedroom.

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Pope vs. Mullah Smackdown.

by Michael Reynolds

Home of peaceful Christian outreach to Muslim world.

Oh, I love this girl:

First, let me say that I was alarmed by the historical inaccuracies of the Pope’s speech. Far be it for your humble servant to question the learning of the highest power in Catholicism, but I should think it would be obvious to anyone that the great reverend Emperor whose remarks “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached” have caused much of the furor, did not get to Constantinople by walking. Christianity has been spread by the sword since the Emperor Constantine (after whom Constantinople was named, and not because it sounded nice) took the faith in the 4th century. Very few of the so-called ‘great religions’ have an unstained history, and I am saying ‘very few’ to be polite. (I think ‘none’ is probably more accurate.) It is convenient to the point of imbecility that adherents of these faiths are so willing to forget their own history as soon as the violence that put them in power allows them to relax and reap the fruits of their conquest. I can promise you that if the jihadis ever did manage to take over the world, the first thing they would do is hang up their guns and ask why the enslaved nations took up arms against their just and peacable rule.

So Mr. Pope, I have one thing to say to you: Pot, meet kettle.
Preach it sister. Then she gives it Muslims with equal heat:

So: were the Pope’s statements, including those about his own religion (let alone ours) innacurate, misleading and vaguely slanderous? Yes. Absolutely they were.
And, as usual, they were topped only by the innacurate, misleading and vaguely slanderous response of the Muslim world. It’s been Denmark all over again: Muslim agitators tripping over themselves to be yet more disgustingly ignorant than the offending European bigots, ensuring better than any Neocon pundit ever could that Muslims lose every inch of moral high ground within the first news cycle. Thank you, Mullah Nutsack.
I love people who can pack a lot of scorn into a few words. (Hmmm, I wonder why I'd like someone like that?) And Aisha, co-blogger with Eteraz, can aim that Gatling gun pretty well.

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Pakistan Releases Al Qaeda.

by Michael Reynolds

Seismograph of 1998 Pakistani nuclear test.

Bill Roggio at Fourth Rail, the indispensable blog on all matters involving the Afghanistan war has this:
The Pakistani government is living up to its commitments on the "Waziristan Accord," and has emptied the prisons of Taliban and al-Qaeda who have been captured since the fall of 2001. The "Waziristan Accord" calls for the Pakistani government to "release prisoners held in military action and would not arrest them again," and that is exactly what is happening.

The Daily Telegraph discloses that Pakistan has released over 2,500 Taliban and al-Qaeda, although an American military intelligence source estimates the number is higher. The Pakistani military has in the past put the number of al-Qaeda and Taliban captured at around 500-700.

Included among those released:

Mansour Hasnain: A member of the group that kidnapped and murdered Danny Pearl. He also was "a militant of the Harkat-al-Mujahedin group, is one of those who hijacked an Indian Airlines jet in December 1999 and forced New Delhi to release three militants -- including Omar and Azhar."

Mohammad Hashim Qadeer: "Suspected of being one of [Daniel] Pearl’s actual killers, was arrested in August 2005 and has notable al-Qaida links" and "ties with the banned extremist groups Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen and Jaish-e-Muhammad."

Mohammad Bashir: Another Pakistani complicit in the murder of Daniel Pearl.
Concludes Roggio:

These “miscreants” and “foreigners” are said to be streaming back to al-Qaeda's new safe haven of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan, and reconstituting al-Qaeda's organization.

As the Pakistani government lives up to their end of the “Waziristan Accord,” the Taliban and al-Qaeda have broken it repeatedly. Anti-Taliban clerics and tribal leaders have been shot and beheaded in Waziristan. A government official was also kidnapped in Waziristan, and a reporter was murdered in Dera Ismail Khan. The Taliban flaunts the terms of the truce and expends into neighboring agencies, and the Pakistani government continues to look the other way.
Roggio's post is full of links not reproduced here, along with many more specifics on released terrorists, so go read the whole thing.

I asked the question when this accord was first announced: have we lost this war? (The Donklephant version here.) At Sideways Mencken, at Donklephant and at all sorts of other sites where my post has been discussed, optimistic commentors invented theories of clever behind the scenes plans and conspiracies that would somehow alter our perception of this situation. People wanted to believe Musharraf and the administration were up to something Machiavellian. I would suggest that all those theories are now revealed as wrong.

This is exactly what it has seemed from the start: a surrender by the government of Pakistan to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

It is absurd now to pretend that Musharraf is a U.S. ally. At very best he can be seen as a neutral in the War on Terror. That represents a very big, very bad shift in the center of gravity.

Let me remind people who aren't following this unraveling disaster on a regular basis: Pakistan is not a possible future nuclear power. It is a nuclear power right now, today. A nuclear power that now accepts the presence of Taliban and Al Qaeda within its borders.

We invaded Iraq because it might some day have nuclear weapons, and might, some day, play host to Al Qaeda. We are considering action against Iran which might develop nukes and is the main sponsor of Hezbollah but is clearly no friend of Al Qaeda. Pakistan has nukes today and hosts Al Qaeda today. Not somewhere off in the future, right now. Today.

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Pick Your Team.

Thursday, September 14, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

I'm with the goober on this.

From the Washington Post:
Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell came out in opposition today to White House-sponsored legislation to create special military commissions that would try terrorist suspects, saying he rejects efforts to "redefine" a key provision of the Geneva Conventions.

Powell, a retired Army general who formerly headed the Joint Chiefs of Staff, stated his position in a letter to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), one of three Republican senators who are blocking President Bush's plan for military tribunals. The three -- who also include Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the committee -- are advancing an alternative tribunal bill that contains more protections for defendants.

I can only pay attention to so many issues at once. I have a life. I have to pick and choose what to focus my little brain on. So I have not paid a lot of attention to the issue of miltary tribunals.

I don't generally make up my mind on any issue depending on who supports and who opposes a particular approach. The idea ought to stand on its own.

But I occasionally make an exception. Like when on one side of the issue you have ten Nobel laureates, and on the other side you have Billy Bob the bait salesman from Gap-Toothed Joe's Bar and Grill. Doesn't mean I'll always go with the "smart guys" or the academics or the experts, but sometimes the choice of who to trust is pretty clear.

In this case we have George W. Bush on one side, and John McCain, John Warner, Lindsey (looks like a goober, talks like a goober, and yet is not a goober) Graham and Colin Powell on the other side.

George W. Bush vs. McCain, Warner, Graham and Powell. That's pretty easy.

Incidentally this plays hell with the Bush/Rove strategy of turning this against Democrats. Every Democrat House member facing a competetive race needs to have an ad loaded up and ready to go that says, "I voted with John McCain. My opponent is just another Bush rubber stamp."

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Saddam Just Misunderstood.

by Michael Reynolds

"Do I look like a dictator to you? Careful how you answer."

Hitler had the same problem: He just couldn't get good help.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - The judge in Saddam Hussein's genocide trial said on Thursday he did not think the ousted Iraqi leader was a "dictator", prompting a spokesman for the U.S.-sponsored court to defend its impartiality.

Abdulla al-Amiri made his comments one day after prosecutors demanded his resignation, complaining that he was too soft on Saddam, who had threatened to "crush the heads" of his accusers. They also complained he let Saddam make long speeches in court.
[. . .]
Amiri, who has compared his approach to the trial as that of a referee seeking "fairness", then addressed Saddam politely, saying: "You are not a dictator. It is the people who surround a man who make him a dictator". He did not elaborate.

Visibly pleased, Saddam uttered a respectful "Thank you" and then regained his seat in the Baghdad courtroom.

Iraqi High Tribunal chief investigator and spokesman Raed Juhi sought during a news conference later to distance the court, set up by U.S. occupying forces, from Amiri's comment.

"The court will continue with its neutrality and its course. The judge is only human," Juhi said.

"At the end, the judge will decide guilty or not guilty based on the evidence. This has no effect on the case."
No effect. In much the same way as if the judge had said, "John Wayne Gacy, you're no murderer, you're an artist."

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One We'll Miss.

by Michael Reynolds

The real thing.
She was a true-blue Texan. The type of smart-witted, big hearted, tough-minded person we Texans hold dear. And while some strongly disliked her (for her politics or for her history of alcoholism or just for being a woman in a man’s job), many more respected her, even loved her, because she spoke her mind and spoke sense.
Absolutely. Agree with her or not, she was political fun.

Read all of Alan Stewart Carl's appreciation of a political original.

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Don't Shoot, We're Praying For Your Death.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

You really have to read this to see just exactly why we are losing ground and may have lost the entire war in Afghanistan:

U.S. military officials tell NBC News they had “high-level” Taliban fighters in their gunsights during a July reconnaissance flight but decided not to fire. The decision to pass on the target angered some in the military, but commanders say they have “no regrets.”

Army intelligence officers confirm the grainy black and white aerial photo taken by a Predator drone and obtained by NBC News on Tuesday shows some 190 suspected Taliban militants standing in several rows near a vehicle in an open field in Afghanistan.

The military said Wednesday that the group seen in the Predator image was likely gathered for a religious ceremony.“During the observation of the group over a significant period of time, it was determined that the group was located on the grounds of a cemetery and were likely conducting a funeral for Taliban insurgents killed in a coalition operation nearby earlier in the day,” a coalition spokesperson said. “A decision was made not to strike this group of insurgents at that specific location and time.”

Even though U.S. military officials in Afghanistan had positively identified those gathered as Taliban fighters, including some “high-level Taliban leaders,” they told NBC News they have “no regrets” in refusing to give the order to attack the gathering.

You're kidding me, right? We're giving carte blanche to almost 200 dangerous enemy combatants because they're at a funeral? What? Seriously, what? They're praying over the bodies of guys who were just busy shooting at our guys and we have them right smack dab in our sights, and we don't shoot?

What in the hell do we tell the families of the American or allied soldiers who get shot or blown apart by one of these 190 Taliban?

Does no one know how to fight a war?

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Guantanamo Care

by Michael Reynolds

Senator Bill Frist.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said Tuesday his recent trip to the Guantanamo Bay detainee camp showed excellent prison conditions, including "24/7 medical care - better than many Americans" get.

Bill (the Videoo Doctor) Frist is expected to run for president in '08. Perhaps he'll run on improving medical care. Slogan: Don't You Deserve Guantanamo Care?

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Another First.

by Michael Reynolds

Keith Ellison: first Muslim Congressweasel.

How cool is this? It seems almost certain that we will soon have a Muslim Congressman in the House of Representatives.

State Rep. Keith Ellison overcame setbacks and questions about his past to win the DFL nomination to succeed U.S. Rep. Martin Sabo, placing him on the verge of becoming the first Muslim elected to Congress.

The Minnesota 5th -- Minneapolis and some inner ring suburbs -- is solidly Democratic so this is a lock.

We're an overwhelmingly Chrirtian country in the middle of not one but two hot wars and one long, twilight struggle with various Muslim foes, and the good people of Lake Woebegon elect a Muslim.
We all wish Mr. Ellison well but of course he will be treated to the same assumption of guilt we apply to all members of the US House. Muslim Congressman is not a problem. Muslim Congressman is the problem.

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Not Leprosy, Stupidity.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Not me or anyone I know. Just an image.

Okay, public announcement: the thing on my left arm that looks like leprosy or some hideous skin disease that you're all staring at and hoping I won't accidentally brush against you? It's not fucking leprosy.

Here's the story.

For our vacation in July we went to Hawaii and Jackson Hole. Yes, because of the inescapable geographic logic.

In Jackson Hole my kids wanted to go on something called the "Alpine Slide." (Okay, I wanted to go and made them come along.) You take a ski lift 2500 feet up the side of the mountain and then ride down the mountain on a tiny little sled that travels in a sort of plastic half-pipe.

I did it the first time without incident. But I enjoy speed. I'm a roller coaster guy. So on the second run I thought: I can go faster. I thought: I can ignore the warning signs that say "slow." I thought: despite the fact that I'm 6'2" and weigh 235 pounds and I am squeezed onto a sled the size of a fucking TV tray, I can defy the laws of physics.

In answer to your inevitable question: no, completely sober.

So, down I go, caution to the wind, and over I topple. I slide down the Alpine Slide on one knee and one forearm and have plenty of time to consider which will be more painful: the burn I suffer if I stay in the half-pipe, or the broken leg I catch for rolling out of onto the hillside which -- don't let the picture there fool you -- is very steep and strewn with jutting protruberances.

Well, once the phrase "jutting protruberance" came to mind I decided to stay in the half-pipe and leave about, oh, let's call it eight square inches of skin behind.

Three months later it doesn't hurt anymore and it's a lot smaller than it used to be, but yes, when I showed up at "parents night" at my kid's school, I did look like someone who should be confined to a remote South Seas island, there to while away the final months of my life counting the jutting protruberances that fall off.

My son calls it my "stupidity scar." Stupidity is not contagious.

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House Eyeballing The Shark.

by Michael Reynolds

Hugh, go smack the goddam writers with your cane.

The last two episodes of Fox's House -- a show I love -- have been pitiful. It's like the show lost 30 IQ points. Lousy plotting, lousy dialog, exaggerated characters. Please God, stop it. If these are new writers fire them. Fire them now. Today.

The show is off the rails. Getting ready to jump the shark. Stop it.

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Yeah, What They Said. UPDATE

by Michael Reynolds

See, it's a Pointer. You know, pointer post? Pointer?

Why bother writing it myself when Dyre Portents and Keith Olbermann have already done it so perfectly?
You know I don't say "must read," but still, you ought to.

UPDATE: The comment below was too good not to promote to the front page. After reading Reader I_AM's blistering response to the Keith Olbermann portion of the post I linked to, I think she's largely right. I think I did a lazy read after hearing half of it live on MSNBC last night and was too generous. I like Olbermann -- I like anyone on TV who can actually write a coherent sentence -- so I didn't have my critical radar up. I need to watch that tendency to give a pass to writers I like. It's intellectual death to start endorsing whatever is said or written by those on "your side" of a political debate.

I think there's a difference between Olbermann's statement and the one by Dyre: Olbermann does try to lay the non-memorial directly at Bush's feet. Dyre includes it in a list of things that make him angry about our response to 9/11. I suspect Dyre would agree with R-IAM that this particular item on the list is not Mr. Bush's fault, but I don't want to speak for him. If Dyre wishes to respond to R-IAM I will be happy to include that here as well.

Reader I_AM:

I've read it a couple of times before I got here--which, why bother? I saw Olbermann deliver the damn thing.

I'm sorry, but this speech just doesn't wash with me. Oh, I get the anger and how it represents the anger of others. I get how much of that anger is valid, and share it on more points than not.

But the empty acres of the Ground Zero site are a lousy, lousy metaphor for anger at Bush and the failures of this administration. The use of that site--the default graveyard of so many--in this fashion is specifically and particularly partisanly political in part for this very reason.

What, now we're mad at Bush--on top of everything else--because he's not chief zoning officer and planning commissioner? Memorial designer? Because he didn't exceed the job description and authority of his role to wrest local control of locally and/or privately owned property and declare it federal land and federal responsibility? (Do you think that would have met the standards of the Federal Takings law, or whatever that provision is--I'm not a lawyer.)

Ground Zero is an excellent metaphor for a number of things. Such as the evil of terrorism, for example, the terrible aspects of human nature, or even a clash of worldviews or civilizations. Etc.

It even--though I viscerally recoil from its use in this way--works as a metaphor for the inability of people with competing viewpoints, interests and turfs to finally look at the broader picture and work together to solve a problem, clean up a mess or even seek a path to healing, regardless of who's currently Big Daddy; in short, as a metaphor for the toxic disunity of this country. And for buck-passing.

Olbermann's finale was cheap. Cheap and self-serving. He engaged in the very thing that he, and many others, have been so appalled at when people he doesn't agree with do it. And he did it against the backdrop of that terrible scar that has yet to start being literally bandaged because of the actions or inactions of groups of local/regional citizens and local/regional officials who apparently don't have any more ability to rise above the differences and effectively compromise than this administration or, for that matter, this Congress.

Metaphor, schmetaphor. People need to stop pontificating--even whining--and get busy. There's a long list of things to do. Including--if they're part of the relevant local/regional constituencies and planning groups--building that memorial.

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So, What's John Mark Karr Eating?

by Michael Reynolds

Just watch the box, honey. Daddy's busy freaking out.

This from Reader I_AM at Done With Mirrors struck a chord with me:
The very least of that is that, as trivial an observation as it may be to share, 9/11/2001 was the very first time I sat my kid in front of the TV with a video (and then another, and then anotheranotheranotheranotheranother) with the express purpose of it babysitting him. Something I'd said I would not do and had never done before. So I could watch the coverage. On multiple other TV's, on radio, via internet, all on at the same time, demanding my attention, demanding my attention away from him, from the very first moment I saw the very earliest of coverage, including stuff glimpsed that later deliberately wasn't broadcast, because of when I was up and how many news outlets, at the time, that were already up and running to greet me when I arose, or that I'd start up automatically upon rising, at the time, and monitor all at the same time.

On the day of I had a similar child-rearing moment. Knowing it was important, should I let my four year old son watch any part of it? Or should I shield him? I didn't want him to have to grow up saying, in effect, "Yeah, I was alive during Pearl Harbor but my stupid parents wouldn't let me watch." In the end we went all laiisez-faire, allowing him to pass through, see whaetever he saw and move on back to his computer or the TV in the other room.

As far as I can tell he formed no memory of that day. Kids: they really should come with detailed instructions.

But I can also sympathize heartily with this, from Reader I_AM's blog partner, Callimachus:

I've rarely felt a higher flame of impotent rage, and choking sorrow, in my chest than I did that day. Why do I want to recapture that, via the magic of network coverage?

I don't want to relive it. I lived it once. That was enough. I suspect that will be enough for the rest of my natural life.
I watched none of the coverage yesterday. Didn't watch the ABC made-up history miniseries. Never went to see United 93 or Stone's World Trade Center.

A whole day of it, wall-to-wall on the news networks? Made me long for another creepy pedophile they could obsess over.

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More Than Money.

Sunday, September 10, 2006 by Michael Reynolds

Not my household idols.

I had an odd reaction on 9/11.

I was living in Chicago. My son was four, at home, not in school at that point. His babysitter was there so we could get some work done.

I must have come in late, a few minutes after the first plane hit because at first I wasn't sure if it was tape or live. I knew right away it was deliberate -- terrorism not an accident. Not on a bright, clear day.

My reaction was to laugh. Not a happy laugh, but the outraged, disbelieving, hubristic sound you make when someone has pushed you to the point where you have no choice but to hurt them. Revenge came first. Sadness later. I suppose that's my core personality: the first thought is always to push back. My first perception is always about the power dynamic. Normal emotions show up later, after the moment of crisis is past. Self doubt comes . . . well, it usually doesn't.

I've often described myself, only half-jokingly, as a civilized thug. It's not that I run around getting into fistfights, I don't. I'm a nice guy. My deal with the world is: don't push me, I won't push you.

But that inner thug is why I'm not a liberal. You remember the famous line of Sean Connery's in The Untouchables? "Capone sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue." You can have your gentle Jesus meek and mild talking about blessing the meek, I'll take 007.

By that afternoon on 9/11, at the point where it was becoming clear that this was an Al Qaeda action I didn't just want Bin Laden dead. I wanted Afghanistan melted down. I wanted to see mushroom clouds in bloom.

By September 20th 2001, when President Bush went to Congress to speak to the American people I had tears running down my face and it is no exaggeration to say that if he'd asked me to sell my house to buy bombs I'd have done it. I'd have dragged my pudgy, middle-aged ass off to boot camp if he'd asked it.

Of course that wasn't what happened. Instead Mr. Bush gave me money. At that time we were selling a lot of books, cashing big royalty checks, so I was "the rich," I got the tax cut. I remember feeling insulted. As though I wouldn't willingly give them whatever I had to win this war. As if at a time like that my main concern was a few extra grand to spend on buying muni bonds and dinners at Charlie Trotters. I was 47 years old at the time, I knew I wasn't going to be fitted for a uniform, but I thought I'd be asked to throw something into the effort. But, no. Like 99% of Americans I was asked for nothing.

Mr. Bush started to lose me right there, when he said he was keeping the tax cuts. That's all people like me were supposed to care about: as long as got our piles of cash, we'd be okay. It was a slap in the face. Some tiny sliver of society would carry the weight, and the rest of us were to do nothing. In fact, we were to carry on precisely as if nothing at all had happened.

I'll never be a real liberal because when a guy hits me I don't wonder whether I've done something to deserve it, I just wonder if I can beat him.

But I'll never be a true conservative, either, because there are things more important to me than money.

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No Shit, Genius.

by Michael Reynolds

Do me a favor, sweaty: stay away from my kids.

An evangelical Christian who favored pre-game prayers in high schools has a Paul-on-the-road-to-Damascus moment:

Let me start by saying I am an evangelical Christian and have pretty hard-core beliefs about the rights of individuals, particularly students, to express their faith, to include religious themes in their school work, to perform Christian-themed music and dramas during school talent events, etc. If a school administrator had ever tried to stop one of my kids from carrying a Bible, participating in voluntary prayer, or openly discussing their faith with another student, I would have sued him back in to the Stone Age.

Then our rocket scientist finds himself transferred to Hawaii and to a community that is largely Asian. At the first school football game he . . . Oh, but let's let him tell it:

Coming from a fairly traditional Southern upbringing, I was not at all initially surprised when a voice came over the PA and asked everyone to rise for the invocation. I had been through this same ritual at many other high-school events and thought nothing of it, so to our feet my wife and I stood, bowed our heads, and prepared to partake of the prayer. But to our extreme dismay, the clergyman who took the microphone and began to pray was not a Protestant minister or a Catholic priest, but a Buddhist priest who proceeded to offer up prayers and intonations to god-head figures that our tradition held to be pagan.

Nooooo! Noooooo! The horror! The . . . horror!

We were frozen in shock and incredulity! What to do? To continue to stand and observe this prayer would represent a betrayal of our own faith and imply the honoring of a pagan deity that was anathema to our beliefs. To sit would be an act of extreme rudeness and disrespect in the eyes of our Japanese hosts and neighbors, who value above all other things deference and respect in their social interactions. I am sorry to say that in the confusion of the moment we chose the easier path and elected to continue to stand in silence so as not to create a scene or ill will among those who were seated nearby.
Yes, who wouldn't be frozen in shock and horror when exposed to religious nonsense that is . . . gasp! . . . different than your usual brand of religious nonsense?

Get ready for epiphany. Not the epiphany, just an epiphany:

We often advocate the practice of Judeo-Christian rituals in America's public schools by hiding behind the excuse that they are voluntary and any student who doesn't wish to participate can simply remained seated and silent. Oh that this were true. But if I, as a mature adult, would be so confounded and uncomfortable when faced with the decision of observing and standing on my own religious principals or run the risk of offending the majority crowd, I can only imagine what thoughts and confusion must run through the head of the typical child or teenager, for whom peer acceptance is one of the highest ideals.

Really? You think maybe it's difficult for a fucking nine year old to figure out what to do when every single person around him is observing a bizarre religious ritual? You think? Did Jesus himself enlighten you on that point, genius?

I know, I know, I should be generous. I should be saying, "Oh, good for him," but I don't have a lot of tolerance for people who simply do not get, or simply refuse to get, what is blatantly obvious to anyone not in a persistent vegetative state.

Boo hoo: Mr. Christian had to be exposed to strange Buddhist rituals. Imagine how much fun it is to have Christianity rammed down your throat every eight goddamned seconds when you happen to believe that all religions -- majority and minority -- are exercises in mass self-delusion that tread perilously close to psychosis.

Of course this guy at least had the minimal decency necessary to admit the obvious once the obvious was hammered directly into his eye sockets. And that puts him miles ahead of the usual prayer in school nutjob who isn't shocked, shocked at the idea that public religious observances of this sort might be coercive and exclusionary but is rather thrilled, thrilled at the idea of coercing others and excluding the heathen.

Props to Debate Link via The Moderate Voice.

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