November 2006

If you look at the Green Zone by satellite as Steve Gilliard has done, you will see the only exit is the road to the airport, which is already the most dangerous road in the world, despite the US presence and years of effort. If Bush holds us there until we have to fight our way out, the cost in American lives will be beyond imagining. Take a look at the pictures, and read Gilliard’s description in the post.

Meanwhile Bush continues to live in a bubble, impervious to facts. What is the biggest danger to our troops? As Wolcott says there is a growing fear that:

. . . not only is Bush unable to avoid catastrophe, he’s unwilling to, because that would mean he was wrong, and Bush can’t admit he was wrong–the cracks of doubt would bring his entire psychic superstructure crashing. And at that point we’d have a presidential crisis that would make Nixon’s lunar unraveling look like a teddy bear’s picnic.

Our media loves to turn the cameras on McCain, but rarely asks tough questions, and does no analysis. However, as Matt Welch writes in the LA Times, McCain has a long and clear legislative and paper trail. Analysis is not that difficult.

Sifting through McCain’s four bestselling books and nearly three decades of work on Capitol Hill, a distinct approach toward governance begins to emerge. And it’s one that the electorate ought to be particularly worried about right now. McCain, it turns out, wants to restore your faith in the U.S. government by any means necessary, even if that requires thousands of more military deaths, national service for civilians and federal micromanaging of innumerable private transactions. He’ll kick down the doors of boardroom and bedroom, mixing Democrats’ nanny-state regulations with the GOP’s red-meat paternalism in a dangerous brew of government activism. And he’s trying to accomplish this, in part, for reasons of self-realization.
. . .
McCain’s books and speeches are shot through with the language and sentiment of 12-step recovery.
. . .
If his issues line up with yours, and if you’re not overly concerned by an activist federal government, McCain can be a great and sympathetic ally. But chances are he will eventually see a grave national threat in what you consider harmless, or he’ll prescribe a remedy that you consider unconscionable. Nowhere is that more evident than in his ideas about the Iraq war.

McCain has been banging the drum from nearly Day One to put more boots on the ground in Iraq. “There are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this,” he said on “Meet the Press” on Nov. 12, “but they all require the presence of additional troops.” McCain is more inclined to start wars and increase troop levels than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. He has supported every U.S. military intervention of the last two decades, urged both presidents to rattle their sabers louder over North Korea and Iran, lamented the Pentagon’s failure to intervene in Darfur and Rwanda and supported a general policy of “rogue state rollback.” He’s a fan of Roosevelt’s Monroe-Doctrine-on-steroids stick-wielding in Latin America. And — like Bush — he thinks too much multilateralism can screw up a perfectly good war.

The price of all this war-making, in money and manpower, would be staggering; it’s hard to imagine without a draft (McCain has long been a fan of mandatory national service, at the least). But the costs to his political ambitions may even be greater. The nation is in no mood for the war we’ve got now, let alone a doubling-down on Iraq and ramped-up unilateralist tough talk in the Middle East. The trend lines of public opinion on these counts are not pointing in McCain’s direction.
(Do we need another T.R? Matt Welch,, 11/26/06)

Australian filmmaker John Safran became fed up with Mormons ringing his door before noon and trying to convert him to Mormonism. So he flew to Salt Lake City Utah and made a film of going door to door trying to convert Mormons to atheism. It was hardly a successful effort, but there are a few laughs here.

Today features a great selection of cartoons from Bob Geiger.

As someone who has often moved between cultures, I would say that it is almost impossible not to get things wrong some of the time. One hopes to apologize and correct oneself as needed, and one hopes that the other parties will be gracious and forgiving if one has accidentally crossed a line. It is important to be equally gracious and forgiving when others blunder. In most cases this works, people are inclined to be generous, unfortunately not always.

Misunderstandings can also be funny.

I have recenly been reading A Great Improvisation by Stacy Schiff, about Benjamin Franklin, France, and the beginnings of the American republic. As Schiff writes in her introduction about Franklin, he was:

. . . the one man in the colonies possessed of that brand of sleek charlatanism known as social grace. . . Franklin was charged with appealing to a monarchy for assistance in establishing a republic. . . Franklin was a natural diplomat, genial and ruthless.

The French and the Americans had very little knowledge of what each other were like, and so there were incidents like this delightful little story:

The degree of misconception on both sides was staggering . . .

The citizens of Boston labored very hard to be sociable . . . Still, an American knew what he did about Frenchmen, and when Cambridge’s most successful businessman hosted a formal dinner for the foreigners he welcomed them with brimming tureens of their national dish. With his first spoonful, one of the guests fished up a full-grown, brilliantly green Massachusetts frog. “Mon Dieu! Une grenouille!” he exclaimed, holding up his catch and passing it, by a hind leg, to the gentleman at his side, who did the same, until the well-inspected creature reached d’Estaing. An examination of the bowls before them revealed that each officer had been similarly favored; the Frenchmen could not contain their mirth. “Why don’t they eat them?” wondered their crestfallen host. He had dispatched emissaries to every swamp in Cambridge. (p.170)

A cartoon from Anne Telnaes courtesy of Dependable Renegade, and a bit of fashion fun at the expense of the dim son.

The Republican leaders who took power in the House in 1994 spent most of their adult careers collecting money from big government they claimed to despise. They were generally insignificant or only marginally successful otherwise, and they did not serve in the armed forces. They served in the House of Representatives as a cluster of truly poor and misguiding leadership for the full 12 years they held power. This assessment comes a bit late, since all this was easily visible from the beginning, but Dick Mayer at CBS News tells the tale.

Politicians in this country get a bad rap. For the most part, they are like any high-achieving group in America, with roughly the same distribution of pathologies and virtues. But the leaders of the GOP House didn’t fit the personality profile of American politicians, and they didn’t deviate in a good way. . . .

The iconic figures of this era were Newt Gingrich, Richard Armey and Tom Delay. They were zealous advocates of free markets, low taxes and the pursuit of wealth; they were hawks and often bellicose; they were brutal critics of big government.

Yet none of these guys had success in capitalism. None made any real money before coming to Congress. None of them spent a day in uniform. And they all spent the bulk of their adult careers getting paychecks from the big government they claimed to despise. Two resigned in disgrace.

Having these guys in charge of a radical conservative agenda was like, well, putting Mark Foley in charge of the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. Indeed, Foley was elected in the Class of ’94 and is not an inappropriate symbol of their regime.

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