Archive for March, 2004

Dennis Miller: Um, Why, Exactly?

Friday, March 19th, 2004

Dennis Miller is my neighbor, loosely speaking. A mom whose kid went to the same preschool my son went to has an older kid in the school Dennis Miller’s kid attends. She tells the story of how Miller screamed profanities at her in front of the children in the parking lot at pickup time one day, clearly stressed out, presumably not just by her having made some driving decision too slowly in the presence of unpredictable four-foot pedestrians.

Another time, my daughter performed in a Bach festival at which Dennis Miller’s kid also performed. I didn’t realize Miller was there, but after the event, as we were driving away from the church where it took place, I needed to hit the brakes to avoid the mammoth black SUV that whipped out of the parking lot into the street in front of me, and then, when I gave an eyebrow-raise to the other driver, was surprised to see Dennis Miller nodding back at me, his look seeming to say that yes, I really had had a close encounter with a real-life celebrity, and didn’t I feel special?

There may be other points at which our lives have come close to touching, but those are the only ones I’m aware of.

I’ve seen him on TV for a number of years, of course. I watched him during his stint as the semi-funny anchorman on SNL’s weekend update, during that long dry spell when I watched the show in the vain hope it might one day live up to its past. I caught his broadcast once, I think, on Monday Night Football. And I watched his HBO show several times, though I can’t say I was a fan; it was more that I was unable to look away from the car-wreck-in-real-time of his segue into the monologue-ending rant, in which he would trot out his one trick for the knee-jerk applause of that part of his audience that sees the trappings of thought, and assumes (too hastily) that there’s something real behind it, hastening to add their stamp of approval so that they, too, might appear thoughtful.

Miller was visibly tired of the schtick then, but apparently it has gotten much, much worse since his political conversion. Witness the following clip, in which Miller “interviews” Eric Alterman on the lies of the Bush administration re: Iraq: Dennis Miller. Notice how he doesn’t even bother to parody having actual insights. He just slumps in his chair, makes a few incoherent verbal jabs (calling them “half-hearted” would be dishonest; I don’t think they make fractions small enough to measure that amount of heart), and, when the second hand reaches the magic point when he can end the interview, abruptly does so.

So, car-wreck-in-progress aside, is there any reason at all to still watch him? He comes off as profoundly depressed, or over-medicated, or both. I was reminded of nothing so much as Bill Murray in Groundhog Day, in the part of the movie where he has been crushed by the weight of repeating the same hateful routine over and over and over and over, and he finally snaps, breaking character and babbling incoherently into the camera before saying goodbye to Rita and stealing the groundhog.

If he wasn’t a neighbor, I’d say screw him. He needs more (or better) therapy, some near-death experience to snap him out of his midlife crisis, maybe. Whatever; it’s not my problem. But he is a neighbor, and neighbors look out for each other.

Get help, Dennis. Before it’s too late.

Michael Caine: Soldier

Friday, March 19th, 2004

From The New Yorker, check out Dan Baum’s up-close look at what it means to be a young amputee back from Iraq: The casualty.

Marshall on Bush’s Anti-Accountability Causality Loop

Friday, March 19th, 2004

As long as I’m pointing to Joshua Micah Marshall, I have to mention this item, which really sums things up nicely: Again and again I read…

Again and again I read — or hear directly from administration supporters — this excuse that any questioning of the administration’s record in foreign affairs, or Iraq, or even on other matters is just a deplorable focusing on the past, a distraction, when the nation faces grave challenges which we need to focus on solving.

This is more than just simple buck-passing. It is a sort of through-the-looking-glass version of how problem-solving and accountability are supposed to work. It also has the perverse benefit of allowing the scope of the administration’s failures to become reasons for not discussing those failures — a sort of self-reinforcing anti-accountability causality loop, with all manner of moral hazards built in.

Marshall on the Very Bad Bush Ad

Friday, March 19th, 2004

Joshua Micah Marshall really doesn’t like the latest ad from Fearless Leader: As you know, it’s now been revealed…, and Let me follow up on last night’s post…. The thing that’s driving him nuts is the brazen way Bush is not only trying to make it seem as if Kerry voted on a line-item basis against flak jackets and higher combat pay and whatnot (which Kerry didn’t do), but is actually accusing Kerry of the same things the Bush administration was caught red-handed trying to pull themselves just a few months ago.

Which really is pretty brazen, after all.

Chait on Ari vs. Scott

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

Here’s a fun piece from The New Republic’s Jonathon Chait. It compares presidential spokesperson Scott McClellan with his predecessor, Ari Fleischer: Honest mistake. An excerpt:

Fleischer could spin elaborate webs of obfuscation, leaving the press corps mystified and docile, albeit somewhat resentful as well. Every sentence he uttered came out in the same bored affectation. The most outrageous lie sounded, in his telling, like a truism so obvious it barely deserved mentioning. Most people find such behavior deeply unnatural. When asked a direct question, our natural impulse is to answer it honestly. The capacity to do otherwise is useful for any press secretary but particularly so for the current administration, whose domestic agenda has never commanded popular support and which relies heavily upon secrecy and message discipline. Fleischer was in this sense the perfect Bush press secretary. His ability to prevaricate and dodge, without betraying himself through physical or verbal tics, represented a kind of genius. Alas, what came so easily to Fleischer utterly eludes McClellan. If the two of them ever sat down at a poker table, Fleischer would probably walk away with all of McClellan’s money and the shirt off his back.

Gwynne Dyer Continues to Make Sense

Thursday, March 18th, 2004

More very worthwhile discussion about the larger context of this whole “War on Terra” thing from historian Gwynne Dyer. First, from a few weeks back: It was an unlucky day when the neocons met the Islamists. Second, from a week or so ago: The UN is not a morality play.

Klein: What the Commission Should Ask Bush About 9/11

Monday, March 15th, 2004

From Time’s Joe Klein comes this excellent set of questions that Bush should be required to answer about 9/11: Bush and 9/11: What we need to know.

Überbloggers Urge Kerry to Engage Bush on National Security

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

Much talk these past few days about the Kerry response to the second round of Bush ads; Kerry so far has responded more to the “he’ll raise your taxes!” part than to the “he’ll go easy on swarthy foreigners!” part.

Joshua Micah Marshall thinks Kerry needs to engage on national defense: The Kerry campaign went up with an ad today… And Kos of Daily Kos has an assessment of Bush’s actual weakness on the issue that I pretty much agree with right down the line: Reframing Bush’s national security record.

Big Brother Wants Your Email

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

…and your web-browsing history, your IRC utterances, screen captures of your multiplayer Halo sessions… Easier Internet wiretaps sought.

ymatt’s Wyld Ryde

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

Sometimes I think ymatt has too much time on his hands. But I also think Edward Tufte should use this image as an example in his next book. (Update: Tufte apparently disagrees. I asked him what he thought of the diagram in his question forum, and the question was promptly deleted. Oh well; his loss.)

Anyway, click for a larger version:


Riverbend in the the Spring

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

I haven’t linked to Riverbend in a while, and this seemed like a good item with which to resume: Spring…

Basically, an occupying power brought in a group of exiles, declared Iraq ‘liberated’, declared the constitution we’ve been using since the monarchy annulled and set up a group of puppets as a Governing Council. Can these laws be considered legitimate?

The Poor Man’s Bush Campaign Ad

Friday, March 12th, 2004

I like this a lot. But that’s the kind of sick bastard I am. Anyway: New Bush ad. And don’t miss the old ad, either.

Meyer: Welcome to Bushworld

Friday, March 12th, 2004

On the subject of mainstream media realizing that “balance” doesn’t preclude calling a lie a lie, here’s a powerful editorial piece from Dick Meyer of Welcome to Bushworld. Does a really nice job of connecting the dots. The picture that emerges isn’t anything really new, but again, it makes me happy to see mainstream voices willing to talk about this.

Bush Ads Bend Kerry Truth

Friday, March 12th, 2004

So, the official Bush campaign is about two weeks old, and they’re already rolling out the B.S. attack ads. Among other interesting reactions to this is the following article from the Washington Post: Bush exaggerates Kerry’s position on intelligence budget.

I have to say, I’m really happy to see some of the mainstream media willing to immediately come out and call this ad misleading. Hopefully that’s a sign of a larger unwillingness to let the echo chamber frame the debate this time around. We’ll see, I guess.

February Death Toll Down for Us, Up for Them

Wednesday, March 10th, 2004

I’ve updated my Iraq-Vietnam comparison graphs with the numbers of US dead in Iraq during the month of February, and the news is good, at least for our loved ones currently stuck over there: only 20 US war dead last month. That’s the best month since the start of the war. On the not-so-great side, at least for those who still believe Bush’s assertions that the outcome of all this will be a democratic and stable Iraq, the downturn in US fatalities doesn’t seem to have been so much the result of the people blowing us up having been defeated, as their having switched to blowing up other Iraqis.

If you’re interested in the total deaths for US troops so far, it comes to 544. One way of looking at that is to realize that at its peak, the Vietnam war was killing nearly five times as many US soldiers each month as in the entire first year of the Iraq war. From a less-optimistic point of view, Bush’s elective war so far has managed to kill off as many of our youth as the first three and a half years of Vietnam.

Again, I’m getting these figures from the advanced search tool at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund site, and from Lunaville’s page on Iraq coalition casualties. The figures are for the number of US dead per month, without regard to whether the deaths were combat-related.

The first graph shows the first year of each war. (Click on any image for a larger version.)

Next, the same chart, with the Vietnam numbers extended out to cover the first four years of the war:

Finally, the chart that gives the US death toll for the entire Vietnam war:

Obligatory note: I am not claiming any military significance in this particular comparison. I’m just talking about the wars’ respective political histories. See lengthy discussion in my previous postings here, here, and here, for example. Or don’t bother, and just spout off in the comments about what an idiot I am; you’ll have plenty of company.

Alan Greenspan: What’s Wrong With Corporate America

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

I started this site partly to showcase glaring examples of high-profile falsehood. But paradoxically, I also wanted to showcase high-profile truth-speaking, a phenomenon that in its own way can be even more glaring (and is certainly a good deal rarer). Anyway, a fine example of the latter is on display here: From Fed chairman Alan Greenspan, via the Price of Loyalty, a sober, hard-hitting indictment of the dishonest way CEOs have inflated their corporations’ apparent worth, at the expense of long-term viability: Greenspan memo: What’s wrong with corporate America.

One thing I find interesting about this is the way the problem of dishonest CEOs gaming the accounting system is mirrored by the problem of dishonest politicians gaming the electorate (though here, sadly, Greenspan seems to have a harder time staying honest; see this recent item from Paul Krugman, for example: Greenspan dabbles in bait-switch).

Anyway, fellow shareholders in the American dream, arise! It’s time for a hostile takeover.

Bush’s 9/11-Investigation Testimony

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

You may (or may not) have been following some of the ruckus surrounding Bush’s foot-dragging with respect to being questioned by the commission investigating the 9/11 attacks; see this fun transcript of the morning White House press gaggle from Joshua Micah Marshall if the sound of one press secretary flapping is the sort of thing that brings you enlightenment: “Full cooperation” is a many-colored thing.

But for a more imaginative reaction to all this, try the following, from Ted Barlow of Crooked Timber: DC 5/11: Day of Inconvenience.

Scott Forbes Compares Blair, Bush

Tuesday, March 9th, 2004

Here’s an interesting item from a few days ago: Why words matter. It compares Tony Blair and George Bush in terms of their respective justifications for the war on Iraq, a comparison that doesn’t reflect at all well on Bush.

Calvin and Hobbes, Searchable

Friday, March 5th, 2004

If you haven’t seen this, you should: Cavin and Hobbes: Stripsearch.

Bill Clinton for Veep

Friday, March 5th, 2004

This op-ed piece from Stephen Gillers really cracked me up. Sure, bring it on: The next best thing to being president.