Sunday, February 26, 2006

From the opening "Beating Heart" until the Closing "Guys in Tights Jumping through Confetti"

Every time I try to write about this, my remarks end up sounding a lot like fist-shaking, like "Things were better in the old days!" and "You damned kids get off my lawn!"

But I'll see if I can sum it up without the venom.

Once every four years, for a brief period of time, some athletes, many of whom are the best in the world at what they do, some of whom think of nothing else for most of every year, compete in their sports.

Part of the reason we have sports at all, is so that we can compete with each other without killing each other.

So these athletes represent their countries, but they also represent a sporting ideal of intense competition in a mutually respecting environment. Sometimes, tragically, it doesn't turn out that way, but overall, the Olympics have a pretty good record.

In that context, it's more than a little bizarre to observe the endless carping about TV ratings and number of American medals. In my memory, the U.S. is usually not predominant in winter sports, and for good reason: we're not surrounded by fjords, we're not obsessed with cross-country skiing or luge, and we're competing with countries who are.

It's odder still to realize that there are plenty of us saying, in essence, "I don't know a thing about 'luge', but dammit, we lost!" "Wouldn't be caught dead on an ice rink, but what the ^*#) happened?? Where's the gold??"

Perhaps the pre-Olympic hype is to blame. It predominantly featured American athletes, and a couple of goofballs with a frozen guy. I can remember a great many talented American figure skaters who didn't medal; I can remember Olympics where America won just a few medals, and many more were won by competitors from communist countries. It was still fascinating.

If you want to know why the ratings are low, check out the number of commercials per hour in the coverage, and check out the amount of obsession on American medals. Especially in downhill skiing. These folks ski against each other all the time in Europe and alternate winning, like the PGA, or the tennis tour.

In some of these events, you get one run down the slope and then they hand out medals. To insist that the Games are only interesting when Americans win medals, is to distract from the inspiring and transcendent performances, and the epic stories behind them, which comprise the most compelling part of the Olympics.

I honestly believe that, if they are promoted in this honest way, the Olympic Games can easily defeat an hour of competition, or actually eight minutes of competition between semi-famous people dancing mediocrely, interrupted by forty minutes of blabbering about it.

Don't get me wrong-- you've got every right to watch "Dancing with the Stars"; I just think NBC allowed the best part of the Olympic story to slip through their fingers. No worries-- they did much better when the games were in the U.S., and they're already committed through 2012. Plenty of learning opportunities between now and then.


Boy, the administration sure seemed mighty confident going into Iraq. One possible reason? The New York Times reports that the United States had obtained a copy of Saddam's secret plan to protect Baghdad:

"WASHINGTON, Feb. 26 — Two German intelligence agents in Baghdad obtained a copy of Saddam Hussein's plan to defend the Iraqi capital, which a German official passed on to American commanders a month before the invasion, according to a classified study by the United States military. " Read the whole story by clicking below.

German Intelligence Gave U.S. Iraqi Defense Plan, Report Says

Friday, February 24, 2006

Best Book I've Read in a Long Time

There are so many Civil War experts in this country, and I don't pretend to be one of them. I majored in Political Science in college; our History major friends constantly reminded us that "Political Science is just History without bothering to read about the real events."
So, I'm no expert. But Lincoln has always fascinated me, and this book is so well written by Doris Kearns Goodwin, that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops. But we have zoning laws, so I'm posting it here: "Team of Rivals"
It's a story of a man with no real track record in politics, no political machines behind him, and not a single suit of clothes that fit him.
His election to the White House was a longshot akin to sinking a 200 foot putt. When he was elected, nobody thought he was the right man for the job. His first order of business was to hire all of his competitors, who fought with each other, and in some cases, thought Lincoln would be a figurehead, and the Cabinet would run the country.
I didn't know how many times he went to the battle front, I didn't know he snuck behind enemy lines. I didn't know what a forgiving man he was-- Republicans, Democrats, Abolitionists, Copperheads, they each, repeatedly, set out to destroy him politically, and but instead tied themselves up in scandals, only to have Lincoln come forward and restore their reputations, and often give them jobs.
Perhaps the best treat of the book is the development of the "Team of Rivals" idea itself-- with so many stories about the New York genius, Secretary of State William H. Seward, who was also brutally attacked the same day Lincoln was shot; Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase, who, if he were alive today, he'd still be running for President, claiming to be better than Lincoln; and Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, the unstoppable workaholic so vital to the Union cause.
And that's just a taste of what's in there. Plenty of the jokes Lincoln told, either to illustrate a point, or just to be playful.
A couple other books I can recommend dealing with that era, are Gore Vidal's historical novel, "Lincoln,"

Laundry Symbols

I was laundering a couple of loads of unmentionables, mentionables, fine washables, and one-of-a-kind items tonight. I don't do laundry for a living; I do it when my clothes are dirty. So, I get frustrated when the "global economy" results in cuneiform symbols on my underwear. A billion Chinese people shouldn't have to decipher "machine wash warm".

So, if you've encountered labels that say,
"Circle, triangle, 323 degrees Kelvin, box with a circle and a dot, fish image, infinity," I hereby present to you a link to perhaps the greatest decoder ring ever: the Laundry Symbols.

Not only do my clothes look like bright and beautiful, I also discovered a t-shirt that could unravel the "Mystery of the Golden Locket." Or, it could just unravel.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

"Sorry kid, you're not ripe yet."

Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu--okay, maybe not ripeness, maybe he's just trying to make his son instantly taller-- has declared his candidacy for a job you don't want: mayor of New Orleans.

Here's the current New Yorker cover.

That would be your POBBMR #2. See below.

Part II-- Olympic Special-- The Speed Skaters
"You shut up." "No, YOU shut up."
"I can skate around in an oval in tights better than you can."
"No, I can skate around in an oval in tights better than you can."
"I'm voting you off the ice."
"Ha ha. You can't do that."
"If I could, maybe we'd beat American Idol once in a while."
"What--what are you saying? Isn't EVERYONE obsessed with who skates around an oval in tights faster?"
"Well, if they were, they'd be obsessed with me."
"No, me."
"Ah cain't quit you."*
"Aw come here, ya big lug."

*Eeeyup. POBBMR--Pre-Oscar Brokeback Mountain Reference.

"You shut up." "No, YOU shut up."

Bush Presses Forward; Selects Syrian Postal Firm

President George W. Bush, undaunted by public debate over the deal that transfers shipping operations in six American ports to a Dubai national company, today announced the outsourcing of America’s postal service to Tadmur Express, a Syrian shipping firm.

“This shift will lower the cost of American shippers who want to ship something,” the President declared. “ Once we move forward on this, the cost of sending a standard first class letter will be 10 Syrian pounds—that’s less than 20 cents.”

Mr. Bush did note that some deliveries might be delayed during an adjustment period, adding, “It’s a small price to pay for paying less to mail things.” When the city of Rochester, New York conducted a test period, using Tadmur Express, surveys showed that on average, a letter mailed from one part of the city to another took only nine days to be delivered.

At a White House briefing, press secretary Scott McClellan refused to comment on how long such an “adjustment period” might take, noting, “the White House has a policy of not commenting on ongoing policy.”

On the Dubai port issue, senior White House officials say the President has privately suggested, “We may have overdone it on the ‘scary world, enemies everywhere’ stuff. Folks need to understand the difference between the general Arab world, who could be terrorists, and the rich Arab world, who are our friends.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney Avenges Hamilton.

Vice President Richard B. Cheney made news again today, gunning down former
Vice President Aaron Burr in the parking lot of the Parsippany, NJ Hampton Inn, at the intersection of state route 46 and interstates 80 and 287. The Corpus Christi Caller Times is reporting that Cheney, following a lead from Homeland Security agents, finally completed his forty-year-long search for Burr, who is best remembered for shooting Alexander Hamilton, one of the current Vice President’s heroes.

Burr had been living in one of the Hampton Inn’s Executive Suites, Suite 312, savoring the European ambience of the Inn’s free continental breakfasts. According to several neighbors, Burr had declared himself “Emperor of the ice machine and all adjacent lands.”

The Caller Times reports from eye witnesses that, at approximately 9:47 am local time, Cheney reached the third floor of the building, pushed aside the linen cart, and cried, “Burr, you murdering bastard! Come get your medicine.”

Hearing his name, or believing he had heard something, the 250-year old Burr emerged from his suite, drew his English Flintlock blunderbuss pistol, and shot a perfect bulls-eye, immediately killing a Hoover U6439-900 Upright Vacuum Cleaner. Then Cheney drew, and announced, “This is for Ten-Spot,” Cheney’s nickname for Hamilton, the slain former Secretary of Treasury, whose face is on the ten-dollar bill.

While Cheney was making this announcement, the frail Burr shot again, this time a glancing blow, maiming, “Winter Frolic,” a light-hearted watercolor painting by local artist Francis McKetchum. Cheney finally fired his nickel-plated pistol, a replica of Doc Holliday’s weapon, used during the famous gunfight at the OK Corral. Cheney completed the task with one shot. He blasted a hole in the window at the far end of the corridor, missing Burr completely, but the noise stunned him, and his body immediately gave out. Burr’s last words were, “I see you Alexander: Milk Duds!” Or words to that effect.

Cheney, citing executive privilege, reholstered his weapon, and, retreating to the back seat of his Cadillac Escalade, order his driver to “Get me to Newark, young man—pronto!”

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Uhhp With People: A Love Story

“Uhhhp….Uuhhp! See, what did I tell you? The minute they found out that Cheney had a hunting accident, what did I say?”

“You said that—“

“I said the liberal media would have a field day. They would make it all about Cheney’s a bad guy. See? See? Here they go. Was I right?”

“I remember you said—“

“They don’t even understand about guns and sportsmanship. Fer crissakes, it wasn’t even a bad injury. He’s fine. Just got a little buckshot, that’s all. They probably don’t even realize that. Make a big deal, ‘He got shot in the face.”

“No, when you’re right, you’re right honey. You called it.”

“Uuhhp…Uuhhp! Now they’re saying the guy who got shot had a minor heart attack. The guy’s 78! A lot of people have heart attacks anyway, but just you watch! Now they’ll make a big issue about it; the liberals will be talking about Cheney’s heart, and before you know it, they’ll be yammering about gun control again.”

“I don’t understand why they have to be such troublemakers.”

“Remember Abu Graib? What did I tell you—?”

“You said the liberals would go to town, and attack America.”

“And what happened?”

“You have a real insight about these things.”

“And when Bush said that thing about Saddam Hussein was not involved in 9/11, I said the Democrats would be whining about it all over the t.v., and the next day, boom!—there it was.”

“You’ve been right on the money. I don’t know how you do it.”

“Well, I pay attention to things. These Liberal Democrats play politics about everything. Remember the disaster?”

“The tsunami?”

“No, no, no”

“The medicare thing?”

“The Iraq?”

“No no no. What are you talking about? Iraq? Medicare? Now you’re starting to start like them!”

“It’s just—I can’t read your mind. If you want to talk about something, just say what it is!.”

“You’re right. I’m sorry. I was talking about Katrina.”

“The disaster.”



“Okay, right away, the liberals blamed it all on Bush. All Bush’s fault. Like the president made the levies break. Like the president flooded everyone’s houses.”

“They should just report the facts, and leave the president alone.”

“That’s what I’m saying. Leave the man alone and let him do his job.”



“I don’t even know yet, but I can feel them about to attack him again.”

“You’re amazing.”

“Oh, you’re amazing… Is there any pie left?”

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Bush's New Politeness Policy

As we described, President Bush mentioned the importance of civil dialogue, then later mentioned that his policy in Iraq is the only option. In fact, here's his latest greeting to Democrats:

Oh, cherished colleagues!
Oh, most amiable of adversaries!

Let my entreaties find favour in your able ears and wise countenances.

I humbly seek your acknowledgement of the remaining alternatives, which are but my way, and the highway.

Oh, learned advocates! Hear my plaintive plea!

The most excellent favour of a reply is requested by high noon, on the morrow; or, that you shall purchase safe passage out of town.

Your servant and the Lord's,

GW Bush