And over here, we have a blog post

15 Feb

Well hello there, my fellow Interneter, it’s been a bit of a while since we’ve had one of these “posts” on this a-here “weblog” so what I’ma do for ya is just sprinkle this page here will random bits of shit since my mind is blown from three weeks of teaching young ‘uns and old ‘uns how to correct run-on sentences (ha!) and why Joan Didion’s prose is the closes thing we have to the hum of choose your deity here and then write these “articles” for a “newspaper” yeah right and how.

Maybe there is such a thing as muscular prose. I’d describe it as frontal deltoid prose. With a twist.

And here you can see the percentage of people who believe in that beagle Darwin who propisized the coming of the Great Cock-a-Roch and evolution.

There is a spector of things that will come upon the Midwest to destroy boredom. With a flame thrower. There will be casualties. Sorta.

These are things being written about in Boise: Laugh houses and liquor laws, chief-of-staff’s last days and South Austin’s languid twang-hop weed-spot blues.

Never end a sentence with a comma. This I believe: colons are the scrounge of the song of the literal. C.f. Ned Lud. You have 52 semi-colon in your life; use them wisely.

These are the phrases.

Baghead. The Movie.

And now! A poem! By WM.

Mingus At The Showplace

I was miserable, of course, for I was seventeen
and so I swung into action and wrote a poem

and it was miserable, for that was how I thought
poetry worked: you digested experience shat

literature. It was 1960 at The Showplace, long since
defunct, on West 4th st., and I sat at the bar,

casting beer money from a reel of ones,
the kid in the city, big ears like a puppy.

And I knew Mingus was a genius. I knew two
other things, but as it happens they were wrong.

So I made him look at this poem.
“There’s a lot of that going around,” he said,

and Sweet Baby Jesus he was right. He glowered
at me but didn’t look as if he thought

bad poems were dangerous, the way some poets do.
If they were baseball executives they’d plot

to destroy sandlots everywhere so that the game
could be saved from children. Of course later

that night he fired his pianist in mid-number
and flurried him from the stand.

“We’ve suffered a diminuendo in personnel,”
he explained, and the band played on.

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My president is black

20 Jan

The Jay Z remix. Check out Jay throw down beginning at 2:30. The first punch line gave me chills.

My president is black, in fact, he’s half white
So even in a racist’s mind, he’s half right
If you got a racist mind, it’s alright
My president is black but his house is all white

Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk
Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run
Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly
So I’ma spread my wings, you can meet me in the sky

I already got my own clothes, already got my own shoes
I was hot before Barack, imagine what I’m gon do
Hello Miss America, hey, pretty lady
Red, white and blue flag, wave for me, baby

Never thought I’d say this shit: baby, I’m good
You can keep your puss, I don’t want no more Bush
No more war, no more Iraq
No more white lies, my president is black

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Not-so-fond Farewell: Vanity Fair’s Oral History of the Bush White House

16 Jan

Vanity Fair has a striking account of the Bush years from the people inside and around the White House. It’s extensive, so here are some excerpts that jumped out at me. Itals indicate VF’s  summaries of events leading into a quote.


On the intellectual rigor of Bush 43:

Richard Clarke, chief White House counterterrorism adviser:
The contrast with having briefed his father and Clinton and Gore was so marked. And to be told, frankly, early in the administration, by Condi Rice and [her deputy] Steve Hadley, you know, Don’t give the president a lot of long memos, he’s not a big reader—well, shit. I mean, the president of the United States is not a big reader?


On the new administration’s approach to climate change:

Rick Piltz, senior associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program: Christine Todd Whitman, the E.P.A. administrator, was one of several people in the Cabinet, along with Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill, who strongly supported a proactive position on climate change. And she was, I think, in Europe telling European governments that the U.S. position was to regulate carbon dioxide. And when she got back home, she had an interaction with the president in which she was very brusquely told that that was off the table. The turning point, essentially, was that Cheney grabbed hold of this issue and took down the whole notion of regulating CO2.


On the preparedness of the admin to navigate Washington politics:

May 24, 2001 Vermont senator Jim Jeffords, a Republican, changes party, and control of the Senate shifts to the Democrats, making Tom Daschle the Senate majority leader and testing the administration’s public face of bipartisanship.

David Kuo, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: I went to a communications meeting the day after Jeffords switched. I remember feeling like I was looking at people who had won a reality-game ticket to head up the White House. There was this remarkable combination of hubris, excitement, and staggering ignorance.


On the admin’s immediate response to Sept. 11:

Richard Clarke: That night, on 9/11, Rumsfeld came over and the others, and the president finally got back, and we had a meeting. And Rumsfeld said, You know, we’ve got to do Iraq, and everyone looked at him—at least I looked at him and Powell looked at him—like, What the hell are you talking about? And he said—I’ll never forget this—There just aren’t enough targets in Afghanistan. We need to bomb something else to prove that we’re, you know, big and strong and not going to be pushed around by these kind of attacks.

And I made the point certainly that night, and I think Powell acknowledged it, that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. That didn’t seem to faze Rumsfeld in the least.

It shouldn’t have come as a surprise. It really didn’t, because from the first weeks of the administration they were talking about Iraq. I just found it a little disgusting that they were talking about it while the bodies were still burning in the Pentagon and at the World Trade Center.


On the wasted national opportunity in the shadow of Sept. 11:

September 27, 2001 At O’Hare International Airport, Bush advises Americans on what they can do to respond to the trauma of September 11: “Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

Matthew Dowd: He was given a great, great window of opportunity where everybody wanted to be called to some shared sense of purpose and sacrifice and all that, and Bush never did it. And not for lack of people suggesting various things from bonds to, you know, some sort of national service. Bush decided to say that the best thing is: Everybody go about their life, and I’ll handle it.

There’s this West Texas thing in him, which is the—you know: Bad people are comin’ to town. Everybody go back to their house. I’ll take the burden on. Which, you know, may work in a Western town, but doesn’t work for a country that wants to be part of that conversation.


On the shifting of focus from Afghanistan to Iraq:

Bob Graham, Democratic senator from Florida and chairman of the Senate intelligence committee: In February of ‘02, I had a visit at Central Command, in Tampa, and the purpose was to get a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan. At the end of the briefing, the commanding officer, Tommy Franks, asked me to go into his office for a private meeting, and he told me that we were no longer fighting a war in Afghanistan and, among other things, that some of the key personnel, particularly some special-operations units and some equipment, specifically the Predator unmanned drone, were being withdrawn in order to get ready for a war in Iraq.

That was my first indication that war in Iraq was as serious a possibility as it was, and that it was in competition with Afghanistan for matériel. We didn’t have the resources to do both successfully and simultaneously.


The admin disses and dismisses UN weapons inspectors:

June 1, 2002 In a graduation speech at West Point, Bush advances a new strategic doctrine of pre-emption, stating that the United States reserves the right to use force to deal with threats before they “fully materialize.” Preparations for war with Iraq are not yet publicly acknowledged, but earlier in the spring, as Condoleezza Rice discusses diplomatic initiatives involving Iraq with several senators, Bush pokes his head into the room and says, “Fuck Saddam. We’re taking him out.”

Hans Blix, chief U.N. weapons inspector for Iraq: The most remarkable thing was the talk that we had with the vice president before we were taken to Mr. Bush. To our surprise, we had no idea we would be taken to Mr. Cheney first, but we were, and we sat down, and I thought it was more a sort of a courtesy call before we went on to President Bush.

Much of it was a fairly neutral discussion, but at one point he suddenly said that you must realize that we will not hesitate to discredit you in favor of disarmament. It was a little cryptic. That was how I remembered it, and I think that’s also how Mohamed [El Baradei, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, who was present], remembered it. I was a little perplexed, because it was a total threat, after all, to talk about the discrediting of us. Later, when I reflected on it, I think what he wanted to say was that if you guys don’t come to the right conclusion, then we will take care of the disarmament.


Skinseki gets the Iraq troop numbers right, and is forced out of the Army because of it:

February 25, 2003 General Eric Shinseki, the army chief of staff, tells a congressional hearing that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” will be required to mount a successful occupation of Iraq. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz publicly rebukes Shinseki, stating that the general’s estimate is “wildly off the mark.” Shinseki is forced to retire early.

Jay Garner: When Shinseki said, Hey, it’s going to take 300,000 or 400,000 soldiers, they crucified him. They called me up the day after that, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. They called me the next day and they said, Did you see what Shinseki said? And I said yes. And they said, Well, that can’t be possible. And I said, Well, let me give you the only piece of empirical data I have. In 1991, I owned 5 percent of the real estate in Iraq, and I had 22,000 trigger pullers. And on any day I never had enough. So you can take 5 percent—you can take 22,000 and multiply that by 20. Hey, here’s probably the ballpark, and I didn’t have Baghdad. And they said, Thank you very much. So I got up and left.


The depth of Rumsfeld’s utter wrongness and flippancy begins to show:

March 19, 2003 The Iraq war begins. Two weeks of “shock and awe” bombardment herald the invasion by ground forces. U.S. and British troops make up 90 percent of the “international coalition,” which includes modest support from other countries. The defeat of Iraqi forces is a foregone conclusion, but within days of the occupation Baghdad is beset by looting that coalition forces do nothing to stop. Rumsfeld dismisses the breakdown of civil order with the explanation “Stuff happens.” Kenneth Adelman, a Rumsfeld-appointed member of a Pentagon advisory board, and initially a supporter of the war, later confronts the defense secretary.

Kenneth Adelman, a member of Donald Rumsfeld’s advisory Defense Policy Board:
So he says, It might be best if you got off the Defense Policy Board. You’re very negative. I said, I am negative, Don. You’re absolutely right. I’m not negative about our friendship. But I think your decisions have been abysmal when it really counted.

Start out with, you know, when you stood up there and said things—“Stuff happens.” I said, That’s your entry in Bartlett’s. The only thing people will remember about you is “Stuff happens.” I mean, how could you say that? “This is what free people do.” This is not what free people do. This is what barbarians do. And I said, Do you realize what the looting did to us? It legitimized the idea that liberation comes with chaos rather than with freedom and a better life. And it demystified the potency of American forces. Plus, destroying, what, 30 percent of the infrastructure.

I said, You have 140,000 troops there, and they didn’t do jack shit. I said, There was no order to stop the looting. And he says, There was an order. I said, Well, did you give the order? He says, I didn’t give the order, but someone around here gave the order. I said, Who gave the order?

So he takes out his yellow pad of paper and he writes down—he says, I’m going to tell you. I’ll get back to you and tell you. And I said, I’d like to know who gave the order, and write down the second question on your yellow pad there. Tell me why 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq disobeyed the order. Write that down, too.

And so that was not a successful conversation.


On losing American lives in Iraq:

Charles Duelfer, U.N. and U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq: One Iraqi colonel told me, You know, our planning before the war was that we assumed that you guys couldn’t take casualties, and that was obviously wrong. I looked at him and said, What makes you think that was wrong? He goes, Well, if you didn’t want to take casualties, you would have never made that decision about the army.


On Bush’s successes in Africa:

May 27, 2003 Bush signs legislation authorizing the President’s Emergency Plan for aids Relief (pepfar). He visits Africa, a main focus of the legislation, soon thereafter. pepfar commits some $15 billion for aids prevention and treatment over a period of five years. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof concludes, “Mr. Bush has done much more for Africa than Bill Clinton ever did.”

Michael Merson, M.D., international aids researcher, who has evaluated the relief program:
Look, pepfar is the largest commitment ever made by any nation for a global health activity that’s dedicated to a single disease. I mean, that’s just not disputable. It has a prevention component, a treatment component, and a care component, but treatment is the centerpiece. The last number I’ve seen is that this initiative has led to treatment of more than 1.7 million people, most of them in Africa. Now, that’s not all the people who need treatment, but it’s a huge amount. pepfar at least tripled our aid flow to Africa—I’m talking about total aid flow.


On losing two centuries of moral high ground:

Bill Graham, Canada’s foreign minister and later defense minister: We were there in Washington for a G-8 meeting, and Colin suddenly phoned us all up and said, We’re going to the White House this morning. Now, this is curious, because normally the heads of government don’t give a damn about foreign ministers. We all popped in a bus and went over and were cordially received by Colin and President Bush. The president sat down to explain that, you know, this terrible news had come out about Abu Ghraib and how disgusting it was. The thrust of his presentation was that this was a terrible aberration; it was un-American conduct. This was not American.

Joschka Fischer was one of the people that said, Mr. President, if the atmosphere at the top is such that it encourages or allows people to believe that they can behave this way, this is going to be a consequence. The president’s reaction was: This is un-American. Americans don’t do this. People will realize Americans don’t do this.

The problem for the United States, and indeed for the free world, is that because of this—Guantánamo, and the “torture memos” from the White House, which we were unaware of at that time—people around the world don’t believe that anymore. They say, No, Americans are capable of doing such things and have done them, all the while hypocritically criticizing the human-rights records of others.


The horrors of Abu Ghraib become known around the world:

Alberto Mora, navy general counsel: I will tell you this: I will tell you that General Anthony Taguba, who investigated Abu Ghraib, feels now that the proximate cause of Abu Ghraib were the O.L.C. memoranda that authorized abusive treatment. And I will also tell you that there are general-rank officers who’ve had senior responsibility within the Joint Staff or counterterrorism operations who believe that the number-one and number-two leading causes of U.S. combat deaths in Iraq have been, number one, Abu Ghraib, number two, Guantánamo, because of the effectiveness of these symbols in helping recruit jihadists into the field and combat against American soldiers.


“They didn’t give a shit about al-Qaeda”:

July 22, 2004 The bipartisan 9/11 commission—whose creation was fiercely opposed by the administration—issues its report. It provides a detailed reconstruction of events leading up to the attacks, and of the attacks themselves; an earlier staff report found “no credible evidence” of a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq. The final report also determines that many warning signs of an impending attack were ignored.

Lawrence Wilkerson: John [Bellinger] and I had to work on the 9/11-commission testimony of Condi. Condi was not gonna do it, not gonna do it, not gonna do it, and then all of a sudden she realized she better do it. That was an appalling enterprise. We would cherry-pick things to make it look like the president had been actually concerned about al-Qaeda. We cherry-picked things to make it look as if the vice president and others, Secretary Rumsfeld and all, had been.

They didn’t give a shit about al-Qaeda. They had priorities. The priorities were lower taxes, ballistic missiles, and the defense thereof.


On Colin Powell’s role in the admin:

Lawrence Wilkerson, top aide and later chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell: I’m not sure even to this day that he’s willing to admit to himself that he was rolled to the extent that he was. And he’s got plenty of defense to marshal because, as I told [former defense secretary] Bill Perry one time when Bill asked me to defend my boss—I said, Well, let me tell you, you wouldn’t have wanted to have seen the first Bush administration without Colin Powell. I wrote Powell a memo about six months before we were leaving, and I said, This is your legacy, Mr. Secretary: damage control. He didn’t like it much. In fact, he kind of handed it back to me and told me I could put it in the burn basket.

But I knew he understood what I was saying. You saved the China relationship. You saved the transatlantic relationship and each component thereof—France, Germany. I mean, he held Joschka Fischer’s hand under the table on occasions when Joschka would say something like, You know, your president called my boss a fucking asshole. His task became essentially cleaning the dogshit off the carpet in the Oval Office. And he did that rather well. But it became all-consuming.


On the role of the religious right in the admin:

David Kuo, deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives: After the 2004 election they cut the White House faith-based staff by 30 percent, 40 percent, because it became clear that it had served its purpose.

There’s this idea that the Bush White House was dominated by religious conservatives and catered to the needs of religious conservatives. But what people miss is that religious conservatives and the Republican Party have always had a very uneasy relationship. The reality in the White House is—if you look at the most senior staff—you’re seeing people who aren’t personally religious and have no particular affection for people who are religious-right leaders. Now, at the end of the day, that’s easy to understand, because most of the people who are religious-right leaders are not easy to like. It’s that old Gandhi thing, right? I might actually be a Christian myself, except for the action of Christians.

And so in the political-affairs shop in particular, you saw a lot of people who just rolled their eyes at everyone from Rich Cizik, who is one of the heads of the National Association of Evangelicals, to James Dobson, to basically every religious-right leader that was out there, because they just found them annoying and insufferable. These guys were pains in the butt who had to be accommodated.


On who is really running Iraq:

Joschka Fischer, German foreign minister and vice-chancellor: The big problem was that the administration was in a permanent state of denial—that they are doing the job for Tehran. That’s another irony, a very tragic one. Because if you look to the basic parameters of Iran’s capability or strategic strength, this is not a superpower—they’re far from a superpower. They never could have achieved such a level of dominance and influence if they would have had to rely only on their own resources and skills. America pushed Iran in that way.

I was invited to a conference in Saudi Arabia on Iraq, and a Saudi said to me, Look, Mr. Fischer, when President Bush wants to visit Baghdad, it’s a state secret, and he has to enter the country in the middle of the night and through the back door. When President Ahmadinejad wants to visit Baghdad, it’s announced two weeks beforehand or three weeks. He arrives in the brightest sunshine and travels in an open car through a cheering crowd to downtown Baghdad. Now, tell me, Mr. Fischer, who is running the country?


On Katrina:

Matthew Dowd, Bush’s pollster and chief strategist for the 2004 presidential campaign: Katrina to me was the tipping point. The president broke his bond with the public. Once that bond was broken, he no longer had the capacity to talk to the American public. State of the Union addresses? It didn’t matter. Legislative initiatives? It didn’t matter. P.R.? It didn’t matter. Travel? It didn’t matter. I knew when Katrina—I was like, man, you know, this is it, man. We’re done.

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You know those water landings flight attendants are always talking about?

15 Jan
"Just what I need, to be floating around the North Atlantic, clutching a cushion full of beer farts."

"Just what I need, to be floating around the North Atlantic, clutching a cushion full of beer farts."

I wonder if someone can do a study to see the percentage drop of people reading books while flight attendants do the safety lecture in the next couple of days.

[NY Times: US Airways jet crashes into Hudson]

UPDATE: For your safety and mine, here’s George Carlin on the airplane safety lecture [Part 1]:

[Part 2, which addresses "the unlikely event of a water landing"]:

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Blagojevich goes to the poetry well one more time

12 Jan
Rod Blagojevich pause too much on line breaks

Rod Blagojevich pauses too much on line breaks

I just returned from Florida (80 degrees)–with a little side trip camping in the mountains (8 degrees), and still Illinois governor Rod “Blagy” Blagojevich is reciting poetry.

Or, more accurately, bits of really, really long poems. He didn’t read any of my three suggested poems though. Hey man, it’s your career (or impeachment, as the case may be). Here is the whole, weird press conference:

I have mixed feelings about all of this. On the one hand, Blago is a top-shelf turd, and who wants this guy to become the face of poetry? On the other, when’s the last time you heard anybody reciting a poem, especially on CNN? The only time we hear poetry is when we elect a Democratic president and have to pretend for a couple minutes on a frigid January afternoon that we’re listening to some poem someone has whipped up like a special-order birthday cake.

You know what I’d like to see at the next Blago press conference? I’d love it if he abandons poetry for the novel. Imagine: the governor and his hair take the stage–along with seven people he has randomly chosen from the South Side or Michigan Ave or Gary, Indiana or Greenbay, Wisconsin wherever his travels take him–and without an opening statement choose a page in the middle of Gravity’s Rainbow and give a dramatic reading, singing the songs in the book in a rich, distinct baritone.

Let the media make something out of that, my friends. Can you imagine columnists wrestling with 15 pages of Pynchon, trying to decode what the embattled governor, obviously batshit crazy at this point, is trying to do?

It, in and of itself, would be straight out of a Pynchon novel. And I suspect no one would enjoy that more than Mr. “Postmodern, No Photos Please” himself.

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Morning Briefing: Portland Edition

5 Jan

Let me tell you, there are several hundred things I would rather be doing than watching the sun rise from the Portland airport, although this is the thing that I have most recently done. Unfortunately, this is all I’m going to get to see of the Rose City. So without further ado, your briefing.


Ta-Nehisi Coates pens a love song of sorts to his days at Howard, U Street, his search for the Real and, finally, Biggie Smalls.


Poet Mark Irwin talks about the evil word “if.”


Kevin Stein has a new book coming out.


The calls start for Dungy’s non-playoff-winning head.

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I fell down and sprained my Internet Meme: Seven Things About Me

4 Jan

So I’m sitting here waiting for the word that all is clear and we can hit the town for dinner. While I’m waiting, I think I’ll continue this little Internet-y thing going around (totally not an STD). Mike Scalise, a writer with whom I attended grad school, has just tagged me for a Seven Things. So here’s is my off-the-top-of-my-head version.

  1. I played high school basketball in Indiana, which was exactly like the movie “Hoosiers,” except fast-forwarded about 50 years later. My team–I swear to fucking God this is true–was named the Plainfield High School Quakers. The Fighting Quakers. My life has been one of confusion because of this.
  2. I’m going to Florida tomorrow. Fort Myers. And I’m not even over the age of 50.
  3. (Mike and Ryan Call talked about their wives within the first three things, so I think that’s a pretty good precedent.) I am living in sin with a wonderful woman, who makes things like sin extra fun. She loves the NFL and really should start a football blog. I even have a good name, which I’m not sharing because things like blog names are, in the words of Blago, fuckin’ valuable.
  4. I was the subject of a documentary my senior year of college. I also acted in three plays that year. During the last one, I got so far into character (asshole college student) that I flicked a lit cigarette into the audience. This displeased some.
  5. I went snowboarding for the first time this Christmas. Fell down a lot. As you do.
  6. I’m left-handed and born on August 9th. Take from that what you will.
  7. My secret dream is to do stand-up comedy once, just once. But I probably never will.

Okay then. Now’s the part where I have to tap seven other people, and this is really kind of embarrassing for me since the number of friends I have is roughly, like, two or something. So I’m going for some big-league taps, just to, you know, fill the list out.

Consider yourself tapped: Parsons, Paul Krugman, Matt Wood, Kenney Marlatt, Mark Titus, Rachael Daigle, and Brendan Fitzgerald.

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