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Purge Surge

Friday, March 07, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Lousy picture, cool place.

You know what I love? Throwing shit out. Oh, sweet Jesus, I love throwing shit out.

I live in a house full of compulsive collectors. My son collects Google paraphanalia, early Apple computers, flash drives and techie t-shirts. (My favorite shows two stick figures. One says "Make me a sandwich." The other says, "What? Make it yourself." The first guy says, "Sudo make me a sandwich," to which the second guy replies, "Okay." I have no idea what it means, but the geeks wet themselves when they see it.)

My daughter collects plush toys, clothing that no longer fits, fans, princess outfits, shoes, and anything involving pandas. (Despite all that, she's a jock. I bought her a heavy bag and boxing gloves for Christmas. She's eight years old and can land a nasty hook. It sounds cute till she clocks you.)

My wife collects, as best I can tell, randomly-chosen newspaper clippings, books she won't actually read, CD's she doesn't actually listen to, and shoes. Oh, and stupid crap for the animals. And second copies of books she forgot she already bought. Plus pens. Blankets. Empty file folders. Grudges and resentments . . . except that applies to all women, really, doesn't it?

Damn: I think I just added to that last category.

You know what I collect? Big lawn and leaf bags full of their crap.

Now that we're putting the house on the market, (great timing, Reynolds,) and moving to the Euro zone, (yay, a stupidity daily double,) I have carte blanche to empty the house. To drain the swamp.

You cannot possibly imagine how much crap I have already hauled off to the dump or placed at curbside for Monday morning pick-up. If you were standing still I could bury you in the crap I've thrown out. I could fill your swimming pool with it. If I were to pile it all, one bag atop another, and you decided to climb that pile, you'd need oxygen before you reached the top.

The garage, (or as I like to think of it, the big room full of stupid crap I said we shouldn't buy,) is almost purged. The third floor is almost purged. (Just two guinea pigs away from a clean top floor. Anyone want a couple of Guinea pigs? It's not like they shit their own weight each day or anything.) I've purged my kitchen (yes, it's mine) and pantry. And the attic (the room full of crap I've been trying to throw out for fifteen years) awaits.

Habitat for Humanity has taken a big chunk of the furniture. I've run my wife's SUV back and forth to the dump, the storage locker and the library. The walls are mostly clear of pictures. The painters are coming next week. The carpet guys soon after. Then it's the handyman and the cleaning people, and we will slap this anonymous suburban hellhole on the market and hope for the best.

That's the new house there in the picture. Not the one at the top of the hill, that's a castle belonging to the Frescobaldis. But see the whitish smudge halfway down the hill and to the left? That's the place. It's not the place we thought we had, which was on the campus of the International School, but it's the one I really wanted. Grapevines and cedars, thick stone walls and a view of vineyards and the town of Pontassieve.

But I can't go until I have thrown everything out. I'm seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I'm planning a purge surge for Sunday.

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Wrong Country?

by Michael Reynolds

And yet, I'm moving to Italy:

French women are becoming increasingly assertive in their sexual habits, while one-in-five younger French men "has no interest in sex", according to one of the most comprehensive surveys of the nation's love lives.
Here's the question: how do I convince my wife that we've made a terrible mistake and France is the place for us?

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Cover

Wednesday, March 05, 2008 by Michael Reynolds



I don't know if I'm supposed to show this yet. But here it is. The creatives at the HarperDome did terrific work.

I'll have a video to put up next month.

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Still Feeling Nervous

by Michael Reynolds

I was right. I was right very early on. Earlier than John McCain. Earlier than just about every pro-war blogger.

From the first reports of widespread looting in Baghdad, I've said it: too few soldiers were sent to deal with Iraq. It seems the US military wholeheartedly agrees.

From a survey of 3,400 military officers holding the rank of Major (or equivalent) or above, in Foreign Policy Magazine:

Five years into the war in Iraq, the index’s officers have an overwhelmingly negative view of many of the most important early decisions that have shaped the war’s course. They believe more troops were needed on the ground at the start of the fighting. They believe disbanding the Iraqi military was a mistake.

In fact, asked to grade a set of the war’s most prominent command decisions on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 meaning the decision had a positive impact and 1 meaning the decision had a negative impact, the officers give troop levels at the start of the war a 3.3 and judge the order to disband the Iraqi military at 3.1, lower than any other policy decision measured.

It's a theme I've returned to several times here. In part because I'm still irritated at being on the receiving end of jeers and catcalls from the CJB's -- Chin-Jutting Bloggers -- even well into 2006.

And in part I go back to it because I still read bits of magical thinking on this issue. I still read people who cannot quite come to grips with the fact that US strategy in Iraq was flawed, that Donald Rumsfeld was not only incompetent but stubbornly so, and that the CJB's, by shouting down criticism in the name of patriotism, did the military, and this country, a disservice.

I'm still not sure that people have gotten past the desire for a sort of Harry Potter magic spell approach to wars. Victorianus!

I did not, back in 2003, believe disbanding the Iraqi Army was mistake. I didn't catch that. And I'm still not sure that was the best move given the relatively bloodless course of battle to that point. We'd have been using a largely intact Sunni force to maintain order in a Shiite country.

I had a different perspective on the Iraqi Army: I thought it was a mistake not to kill a lot more of them. I thought the lightning thrust to bring about a quick resolution was a mistake. I thought we needed a couple weeks of attrition, that we should have used the B-52's against any troop concentration we could find. The Iraqi Army should have been decimated. It needed to be destroyed before they could be rebuilt. Then, in reduced form, it could have been reconstituted with a strong admixture of new Shiite recruits and officers.

Kill as many as we could, make sure they knew they were utterly defeated, and buy off the survivors by enlisting them.

People, especially Americans, want to believe in magic formulas. Some easy-peasy new way to accomplish an old goal. Some clever new spin. They wanted in 2003 to believe that we could fight and win a war, then occupy a hostile country and transform that country, without really doing anything very difficult or unpleasant. Me, I don't believe in clever or easy or new when it comes to imposing our will on another nation. I believe in sledgehammers. I believe in force.

It's why, despite the progress we've made under Petraeus and Odierno, I'm not declaring victory. Because we're winning in part by being clever, by being subtle, by manipulating. We're winning on the back of politics and the exploitation of rivalries. And it may yet work. I hope it does. But the problem I have is that the Shiite militias have not been defeated, they've just stepped aside. And the Sunni Awakening forces who help us today have also not really been defeated, not in their minds, not when they are now aiding us, pulling our bacon out of the fire. The Iranians surely have not been defeated.

It bothers me having so many ex-foes, maybe-foes, soon-to-be-foes-again, walking around with weapons on their shoulders thinking themselves undefeated. It doesn't feel like victory, it feels like a pause. Makes me nervous.

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Veep Pledge

by Michael Reynolds

So the race goes on. And on. Also, on. Seven weeks until Pennyslvania. Seven weeks for Hillary and Barack to slap each other around.

Not a good thing for Democrats. We're going to need Pennsylvania in the general, so a seven week mud-wrestling match is not going to be helpful. I have a proposal. Because, as my regular readers know, I am all about helping.

I propose that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama both announce now that whoever prevails, they will choose the other as their running mate.

Why is this a good thing? First because it will limit the attacks and the incivility. It will force the debate onto substantive issues. Pennsylvania would get a rational discussion of issues by two very smart people, rather than a contest of sneers and subtle slurs.

Secondly, it's what all Democrats want. The fact is we like both these candidates. We want them both. Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton. Most Democrats can live with either.

A simple pledge that takes all the negatives out of this race, preserves party unity, keeps media focus on the Democratic side of the race, allows fundraising to go on apace, and leaves Republicans unsure of quite how to run against them.

This is the message Howard Dean and the uncommitted Super D's need to deliver to Barack and Hillary: you're going to be in this together, united, even while you jostle for the top spot.

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The Wife

Tuesday, March 04, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Because she's brilliant, that's why.

A family announcement. My wife, the beautiful and talented K*therine Appleg*te, has won two major prizes for Home of the Brave.

The Josette Frank Award from Bank Street College of Education.

And the Golden Kite Award, which is given by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.

These are two very prestigious awards. How did she win? By being an extraordinarily talented writer.

Both awards involve acceptance speeches. She's looking into beta blockers.

(***For new readers, I disguise my wife's name to discourage Google searches leading young readers to this PG-13 site.)

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