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Saturday, February 17, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

How in hell do we allow this to happen?

Behind the door of Army Spec. Jeremy Duncan's room, part of the wall is torn and hangs in the air, weighted down with black mold. When the wounded combat engineer stands in his shower and looks up, he can see the bathtub on the floor above through a rotted hole. The entire building, constructed between the world wars, often smells like greasy carry-out. Signs of neglect are everywhere: mouse droppings, belly-up cockroaches, stained carpets, cheap mattresses.

This is the world of Building 18, not the kind of place where Duncan expected to recover when he was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center from Iraq last February with a broken neck and a shredded left ear, nearly dead from blood loss. But the old lodge, just outside the gates of the hospital and five miles up the road from the White House, has housed hundreds of maimed soldiers recuperating from injuries suffered in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The common perception of Walter Reed is of a surgical hospital that shines as the crown jewel of military medicine. But 5 1/2 years of sustained combat have transformed the venerable 113-acre institution into something else entirely -- a holding ground for physically and psychologically damaged outpatients. Almost 700 of them -- the majority soldiers, with some Marines -- have been released from hospital beds but still need treatment or are awaiting bureaucratic decisions before being discharged or returned to active duty.
How can this be? How can American soldiers lose arms, legs, chunks of their brain, eyes and half the flesh on their face and not be welcomed home with a solid gold wheelchair and service to shame a Four Seasons?

The Pentagon has announced plans to close Walter Reed by 2011, but that hasn't stopped the flow of casualties. Three times a week, school buses painted white and fitted with stretchers and blackened windows stream down Georgia Avenue. Sirens blaring, they deliver soldiers groggy from a pain-relief cocktail at the end of their long trip from Iraq via Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and Andrews Air Force Base.

Staff Sgt. John Daniel Shannon, 43, came in on one of those buses in November 2004 and spent several weeks on the fifth floor of Walter Reed's hospital. His eye and skull were shattered by an AK-47 round. His odyssey in the Other Walter Reed has lasted more than two years, but it began when someone handed him a map of the grounds and told him to find his room across post.

A reconnaissance and land-navigation expert, Shannon was so disoriented that he couldn't even find north. Holding the map, he stumbled around outside the hospital, sliding against walls and trying to keep himself upright, he said. He asked anyone he found for directions.
I doubt the recruiters mention this when they're painting a picture of military life. Staggering around sick, looking for your ratty billet while a few miles away in the Pentagon general officers are treated like royalty.

Shame on the military. Billions for high-end weapons, chicken-feed to care for the wounded?

This isn't on the White House, for once. This isn't on the American people. This is on the military itself: they have the money, and if they don't they could damn sure get it.

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How About I Put It Out In Your Ear?

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

I hailed this guy's election to the House of Representatives. Now? Fuck him. The nation's first Muslim Congressman has a stick up his ass.

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Politics and Assumptions.

by Michael Reynolds

Don't assume.

Three points I'd like to make for any Democrats who may read this blog.

1) The party is overreaching on Iraq. I know it looks like a 'slam dunk' that Iraq will still be a disaster say, 20 months from now, but it isn't. Yeah, the odds are it will be. But maybe not. Maybe it will look like the surge bought Maliki just enough space to work a compromise with the Sunnis. Maybe it will look like the little bit of peace the surge could bring, gave Ayatollah Ali (medieval old bastard, but not virulently evil) Sistani enough of a breather that he could rein in Muqtada (the fat little creep) Al Sadr and reassert his own authority. Maybe pacifying Baghdad freed enough resources to put a serious hurt on Al Qaeda in Al Anbar. Maybe Maliki's deal-making undercut the Sunni insurgency.

Yeah, not likely. But not impossible.

In short, we may just get a reasonable facsimile of limited success. Enough for the American people to breathe a sigh of relief and get back to obsessing over missing/exploited/dead blondes.

Hillary is probably wise to equivocate. Edwards has bet it all on American failure. Obama likewise. The House Dems ditto. Dems need to remember that the American people, even if they expect failure, are not going to reward the John the Baptists of Defeat.

Or is that Johns the Baptist of Defeat?

2) There's a name out there that Democrats don't want to think about that they should be thinking about. That name is Jeb.

The conventional wisdom is that Jeb can't run. The conventional wisdom is wrong. It's magical thinking. It's faith-based politics.

If we can have a second Clinton we can have third Bush. The Right loves him. If it were not for the fact that his idiot big brother is at 35% Jeb would be shoo-in. So what if I'm right about point #1 above? And what if George W. gets his dead cat bounce and is sitting at 45% six months from now? Still think Jeb can't run?

The Right doesn't like McCain, won't like Giuliani when they get to know him, and probably can't swallow flip-flopping, magic-Mormon-underwear-clad Romney. But they love Jeb. Jeb is their Republican Messiah. A savior with Florida in his pocket. All Jeb needs is one well-crafted line to put some air between himself and his brother. Don't count him out.

3) Yo, Hillary. (I'm sure she reads this blog religiously.) One word for you, sister: Gore. Obama is already fading. Edwards is weaker than the pundits make him. Bill Richardson, who probably should be president, and Joe Biden, who should probably be Secretary of State are not gaining traction.

Gore would sweep up the crunchies and the peaceniks. He'd have money. He has experience. He's already won one presidential election. And I suspect the voters will be more interested in competence than in likability this go-round.

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Suspended Animation.

Sunday, February 11, 2007 by Michael Reynolds

I'm in suspended animation.

One manuscript, the kidlit one, is with the three editors who actually know more than we ("K"and I) do about kidlit series. If they say nay then I'm in trouble. It will mean I've made a big, costly, six-months-of-my-life mistake. Waiting to hear.

Having fired an agent a couple months ago I'm finally back looking for a place to send the adult book. Agent, agent, anyone have an adult agent? Kidlit I can send over-the-transom because I know people. In grown-up books I know no one. Waiting to send it out, don't quite know why I'm waiting.

Malibu Movie Guy got back in touch, wants us involved in "the creative" on the movie pitch for the old book series we'll call "A" -- just to be irritatingly cryptic. Wants to fly us to Hollywood to pay us our props, make sure we're on his team. Would rather have us inside the tent pissing out rather than outside pissing in, I suppose. If a movie gets made that's good for us. (Merchandise money, bay-bee.) But that "if" is something like a one in ten shot probably. Waiting to hear from him.

We don't know what the hell to do about the kid's schools. The decisions have to be made now and all parties have more or less simultaneous deadlines so that we have to say "no" to school A before we find out if we're getting a "yes" from school B. "K," has never faced a choice which she couldn't complicate with endless new options, and I've never faced a choice where I don't secretly want the answer to be, "let's run away to Italy." Waiting to hear, waiting to exhaust all choices, waiting for K to say, "You know, you're right: let's all run away to Italy."

Toward the end of April I'm off to shoot a documentary in London, Paris Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona. Just shy of two weeks with three guys and way too much work. The spontaneous parts are easy for me, the scripted stuff is hell. I have no memory. Me doing Hamlet: "To be or . . . Line?" Okay. "To be or not to. . . Line?" Okay. "To. . . Line?" Honest to God, there are houseplants with better memories. More waiting, tapping my watch.

In part because of the terror of appearing on-camera I'm trying to lose weight. 6'2" and 240 is sort of my default setting. That picture up there in the profile? That's about 240. So I'm on the fucking elliptical and lifting weights. I've dropped seven in three weeks and I've gone from staggering through 20 minutes on the machine to cruising pretty confidently to a full hour. I'm in better shape than I have any right to be. I'm 52 and look 57. But I should look at least 60 given my life. But I know myself: when it comes to diet and exercise I have the self-discipline of a degenerate gambler with a roll of twenties in one hand and a pair of dice in the other. So I'm waiting to fall off the wagon.

Across my bedroom there's a white board with things I'm supposed to be writing. The heading at the top says, appropriately enough, "Top Job." Under that it says, "Conversations." That's the documentary. It means I should be working on the script, but I have a hard time working on the script because I am a good phenomenologist who believes he should go forth with the barest minimum number of assumptions. A script -- even one I'll discard, even one I know is just a thought exercise, an aid to planning, feels like a series of assumptions. Makes me cranky. I'm not so much waiting on that as stalling.

Beneath the "Top Job" slot on the white board are a bunch of other things I need to work on. I don't have time. But they nag at me. And the list isn't even inclusive because, see, I know "CW," one of the editors referenced above, needs a monthly middle grade series that can appeal across gender lines, and I cannot stand not responding to a market, and I haven't even written that down. I have to wait to see first how he reacts to the kidlit project I sent him.

My sister has what is likely to be a fatal cancer. We're not close. But she is my younger sister, 48, with a two-year-old daughter and a failing marriage. I try to offer advice that doesn't cross any lines. Like I have anything useful to say to a person living that nightmare. Not a goddamned thing I can do, so I'm waiting to see. Hope through research, right?

But the real reason I'm not blogging about politics is that I'm in suspended animation there, too. I don't know whether the Petraeus Surge will work. I'm waiting to see. I don't know if Obama is for real. I'm waiting to see. I don't know if anyone can stop Hillary. Waiting. Iran? Waiting to see if there's any evidence. Scooter Libby? Waiting.

I hate waiting. I especially hate waiting when it's clear that I should just pack up the family and run off to Italy.

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