I'm in the late stages of making corrections on the forthcoming issue of the little poltical quarterly on which I work. After the thing has been read three, four, even five times, I'm making fixes. There is blood on the page, man. So I guess I shouldn't feel bad when I read Louis Menand's dissection of Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Here's the lead:
The first punctuation mistake in Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation (Gotham; $17.50), by Lynn Truss, a British writer, appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there. Eats, Shoots & Leaves presents itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing. But its hard to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax.
(Hat tip: About Last Night.)
My question the other day seems to have been answered. Hardly surprising, and useful to keep in mind as we read dispatches such as this one from the sexed-up BBC (see also: "Living in a Bubble", NRO, June 18). Generally speaking, it's always a good idea to read past the headline ("9/11 probe clears Saudi Arabia"), the lead ("The United States enquiry into the 9/11 attacks says it has found no evidence the Saudi government funded al-Qaeda"), the routine quotes from interested parties claiming vindication ("'The commission dispels two outrageous myths about Saudi Arabia,' said Saudi official Adel al-Jubeir.'"), and get into the guts of the piece. There we often find something like the following:
The report identifies Saudi Arabia as the primary source of al-Qaeda funding.
"Al-Qaeda found fertile fund-raising ground in the kingdom, where extreme religious views are common and charitable giving is essential to the culture and, until recently, subject to very limited oversight," the report says.
Saudi Arabia has always denied being soft on Bin Laden's organisationbut US officials it has only started cracking down on funding terrorism since a concerted al-Qaeda bombing campaign began in the kingdom in May 2003.
Wait a minute: how is it that the first paragraph of the story says the 9/11 Commission found "no evidence the Saudi government funded al-Qaeda" and then claims the exact opposite nine paragraphs later? Because, like the Iraq-Al-Qaeda funding story that broke last week, the story is quite a bit more complicated than the networks and others in the press would have you believe. The Commission, which is anything but "non-partisan", is doing a wacky kabuki dance. Sure, the Saudis are in cahoots with al-Qaeda, just as Saddam Hussein's regime certainly was. But, the Commission says, there is no evidence at this time that either the Saudis or the Iraqis had anything to do with aiding al-Qaeda in the 9/11 attacks. Ah, well . . . great. I don't know about you, but I feel much better now.
The Saudis need to know, and the rest of the world should understand, that American civilians cannot be killed on foriegn soil with impunity. And so the burden should be on the Saudi government: fix your terrorism problem, or we'll fix it for you.
On the question of what victory in this war should look like, the liberals and neo-cons both seem to miss the point. Fostering democracy in Iraq, with all that it implies, while a nice idea, is not a legitimate policy goal. Neutralizing Iraq as a threat to U.S. interests, with all that it implies, is. To quote Angelo Codevilla (to whom I've linked in the first sentence of this paragraph):
Our problem is that many of today's Arabs, like yesterday's Germans, like the (unlamented) Soviets, and unlike today's Frenchmen or Germans, have set up regimes that are living, breathing, spawning expressions of hate against us. True, we had something to do with establishing those very regimes. To that extent, Arabs have a legitimate beef against us. But we cannot do anything that would force them to hate us less. Even if, God forbid, we were to fulfill their most strident demandturn ourselves into raging Jew- haters, and destroy Israel for themwe would earn not less hate but even more contempt.
Contempt is the active ingredient of anti-Americanism. And others' contempt for us is entirely our fault. People have contempt for those they consider impotent. The deadliest contempt is reserved for those who have, or seem to have, great power but somehow cannot use it. Contempt is the bite that the jackal inflicts on the stricken or befuddled lion. It is a cheap substitute for courage. Contempt for America makes vile European intellectuals feel like men. Flouting America with impunity, declaring moral superiority over it, bribing its businessmen and politicians, allows Arab dictatorswhether they call themselves kings or presidentsto pretend that they are world statesmen instead of bandits of the desert. And it is our fault, because we let them get away with it.
Terrorism is not a militarily serious matter. All the world's terrorists combined cannot do as much damage as one modern infantry battalion, one Navy ship or fighter squadron. Nor is terrorism such a bedeviling challenge to intelligence. It is potent only insofar as terrorism's targets decide to deny the obvious and pretend that the terrorists are acting on their own and not on behalf of causes embodied by regimes. Terrorism is potent only against governments that deserve contempt. The U.S. government earned the Arabs' contempt the hard way, by decades of responses to terrorism that combined impotent threats, solicitude for the terrorists' causes, outright payments to Egypt and the PLO, courting Syria, a "special relationship" with Saudi Arabia, and a pretense that Islam was as compatible with American life as Episcopalianism. Killing individuals who do not count engenders hatred, while sparing those who do count guarantees contempt.
Victory against terrorists requires precisely the opposite approach: expend little or no energy chasing the trigger pullers and bombers. Rather, make sure that any life devoted to terror will be a wasted life. This means leaving no hope whatever for any of the causes from which the Arab tyrannies draw such legitimacy as they have: people who give their lives for lost causes exist more in novels than in reality. It means discrediting and insofar as possible impoverishing (rather than paying for) Arab regimes that foster opposition to America. It means using military force to kill the regimesthe ruling classesof countries that are in any way associated with terrorism.
Such regimes cannot be other than matrices of terrorism; they are riding tigers. Should the people who run them try to change, they would perish at the hands of internal enemies. America cannot possibly reform them. The choice is to suffer them, their causes, and their terrorist methods or to kill them.
Al Qaeda beheaded kidnapped American Paul Johnson in Saudi Arabia. In a statement, the animals who did it said something about Johnson getting a taste of what Arabs have been getting from long-range. What, I wonder, will be the price for the murder of another innocent American on foriegn soil? These are questions of power and justice, about which more later...
Update: "Al Qaida Leader Reported Killed in Saudi Arabia." So, is this retributive justice or the Saudis' effort to clean up a mess of their own making?
I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I post an "Instamonkey" item, I haven't always read very carefully the piece to which I'm linking. More often than not, I've read it quickly, at the expense of taking on the larger argument, in search of an interesting observation or quote. (You can't tell me you don't do this, too, Mr. and Mrs. Blogger!)
Case in point, my post linking to this Wall Street Journal op-ed on Reagan's conservatism by the British authors of a new book on the American Right. An old friend of mine called me today and gently chastised me about my endorsement of the piece. He pointed out several problems, most notablyindeed, cruciallythis one:
Traditional conservatism was based on six principles: a suspicion of the power of the state; a preference for liberty over equality; unashamed patriotism; a belief in established institutions and hierarchies; a pessimistic, backward-looking pragmatism; and elitism. This was the creed that Burke shaped into a philosophy in the 18th centuryand that most famous conservatives, from Prince Metternich to Winston Churchill, understood in their bones. Mr. Reagan's conservatism exaggerated the first three of Burke's principles and contradicted the last three.
Fine as far as it goes. The problem? It doesn't go very far. In brief: American conservatives aren't tories. Never have been, and despite the late Russell Kirk's best efforts, we never will be. America's founders were essentially whigs. So you cannot easily apply Burkean standards to American conservatism. It is, as my political philosophy friends like to say, problematic. Not that Burke and Kirk aren't worth reading. Kirk, however, was mistaken about "The Roots of American Order." Which is why, to get back to my point, the WSJ article doesn't really hold up so well on closer reading. This is all grossly oversimplified and half-digested, but I hope it's at least clear. I'll certainly approach Messrs. Micklethwait and Wooldridge's book more critically. Thank you, and good night.
Update: I tinkered with the text a bit. I didn't alter the substance much. Upon reflection, I realize that this post requiresnay, demands!elaboration, which I will endeavor to do as soon as work dies down. But I make no guarantees.
From his column yesterday in the Chicago Sun-Times:
What is an ''intelligent'' person? As defined by the media, it seems to mean someone who takes the media seriously. Someone wonkish on the nuts and bolts of particular topics of interest to media types, and able to sit around yakking about them till 3 in the morning. Ronald Reagan had a much rarer intelligencea strategic intelligence. In 1977, he told Richard Allen, ''My theory of the Cold War is that we win and they lose.''
Cute. So few politicians talked like that a quarter-century ago that I'd have been content if it was just a neat line. But Reagan figured out a way to make it come true. Within 10 years. That's strategic thinking.
You should, of course, read the whole thing.
Bill Clinton's publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, says it won't distribute review copies of the former president's memoir, My Life, due to hit stores later this month. I'm sure Knopf has its reasons (e.g., the book is still being edited). Still, I couldn't help but think this is a bit like when a movie's producers won't hold any press screenings because they know they have a stinker on their hands.
John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge, writers for The Economist, describe Ronald Reagan's enduring brand of conservatism in the Wall Street Journal today:
The fundamental fact about American conservatism is not just that it is conservatism but that it is "American." Reaganism has survived in so much better shape than Thatcherism because it went with the grain of American culture, tapping into many of the deepest sentiments in American life: religiosity, capitalism, patriotism, individualism, optimism.
Messrs. Micklethwait and Wooldridge are authors of The Right Nation: Conservative Power in America, which is sitting on my desk at home. With any luck, I'll get around to reading it sometime after the election. I know almost nothing about it, except that P.J. O'Rourke gave it a nice blurb. This Journal piece leads me to think it's probably not too bad.
UC Irvine's Richard McKenzie takes apart six prominent myths about Ronald Reagan's economic record in the O.C. Register on Sunday. (Link requires registration, I'm sorry to say.)
McKenzie concludes: "The Reagan years were not the best of times, and the Gipper made strategic policy mistakes. But Ronald Reagan can rest in peace. The economic record of the 1980snot what his critics continue to say about itstands as a testimonial to the basic rightness of his policy course."
(Hat tip: Col. Slanders)
The Supreme Court dismissed the Pledge of Allegiance case today, ruling that plaintiff Michael Newdow "could not sue to ban the pledge from his daughter's school because he did not have legal authority to speak for her."
Reports the Associated Press: "At least for now, the decisionwhich came on Flag Dayleaves untouched the practice in which millions of schoolchildren around the country begin the day by reciting the pledge."
The really good news is that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor joined Chief Justice Rehnquist in saying that, even if the justices had decided on the merits, the Pledge is constitutional anyway. Hers was the questionable vote. Now we know.
Well, this settles it: 26 retired career diplomats and military men sign a letter saying Bush must go, and it makes the front page of the L.A. Times. The president should just throw in the towel right now.
Recall the similar attention the press gave to the Vietnam vets who denounced John F. Kerry. What's that you say? It wasn't similar at all? Quite right. (Although, when googling for stories, I did find an amusing if overheated account of Kerry "giving the bird" to an organizer of VVAJK at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. last month.) The difference, you see, is this: diplomats are supposed to know things that you and I don't know. Who are you going to believe? The former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a former member of the Joint Chiefs or a bunch of partisan grunts? These men may or may not have fired a shot in anger, but they have had intimate dealings with foriegn leaders, and understand the nuances of diplomacy.
Furthermore, their credibility is supposed to be enhanced by the fact that several of the signatories worked for the late President Reagan and the first President Bush. What's more, we are assured that this ad hoc group, Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change, are not endorsing Kerry "explicitly"even though several have endorsed him individually. In any event, as William C. Harrop, George H.W. Bush's former ambassador to Israel, told the press, "it more or less goes without saying" that the group is backing the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.
I was particularly taken with this statement from Jack Matlock, former ambassador to the Soviet Union under Reagan and Bush:
Ever since Franklin Roosevelt, the U.S. has built up alliances in order to amplify its own power. But now we have alienated many of our closest allies, we have alienated their populations. We've all been increasingly appalled at how the relationships that we worked so hard to build up have simply been shattered by the current administration in the method it has gone about things.
Matlock must be referring to Germany, France, to a lesser extent Russia, and perhaps Saudi Arabia. What this statement shows, however, is the way in which many diplomats become co-opted by the spirit of internationalism, and lose sight of the best interests of the United States.
Alliances, let us never forget, are not and should never be permanent arrangements. They are combinations in pursuit of common interests. When those interests diverge, then the alliance must necessarily come to and end. "Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations," Thomas Jefferson said in his First Inaugural, "entangling alliances with none."
Diplomats are inclined to play it safe, to smoothe over differences, to make peace. It's become a cliche, but it's worth repeating here: the world, America's world, changed on September 11, 2001. What we've seen in the years since is a growing chasm between those people who see that reality, and those who remain mired in what is aptly called a "September 10th mindset." For more than two decades, it was the stated policy of the United States government to never negotiate with terrorists, and our de facto policy to capitulate time and again. Failure rests on the shoulders of four administrations, two Republican and two Democrat. Members of "Diplomats and Military Commanders for Change" bear no small responsibility for their complicity in that failure.
We will argue for a long time about this war, about the way it was waged, about its goals. But there can be no doubt that the Bush Administration, however imperfectly, has gone a long way to correct the gross errors of a quarter century of American foriegn policy.
Update: Patterico has an excellent post today that expounds further on the mentality of diplomats.
Former Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters discusses his departure from the band 20 years ago in the latest issue of the UK music magazine, Uncut. Some interesting stuff there for Floyd fans (the interview, alas, is not yet online), but I don't think it will enhance Waters's reputation very much. Waters, who currently lives in New York City, was (apparently) otherwise occupied on September 11, 2001. He has some fantastically idiotic things to say about war, The War, Thatcher, Reagan, Bush, and America generally. Here's an excerpt:
The Final Cut is described as "a requiem for the post-war dream." Is the post-war dream the same as "The Gunner's Dream," where he hopes that the world can one day become a safe and peaceful and compassionate place for everyone?
That's exactly what it is. The post-war dream... we experienced the beginning of the Welfare State in 1946. The government introduced all that new legislation. At the point where I wrote The Final Cut, I'd seen all that chiselled away, I'd seen a return to an almost Dickensian view of society under Margaret Thatcher.
The album opposes war in general, and is specifically fired by your feelings about World War II. To what extent were your lyrics driven by other conflicts such as the Falklands?
I felt then, and I still feel today, that the British Government should have pursued diplomatic avenues more vigorously than they [sic] did, rather than steaming in the moment that the Task Force arrived in the South Atlantic. Some kind of compromise could have been effected, and lots of lives would have been saved. It was politically convenient for Margaret Thatcher to wham Galtieri because there's no way she would have survived another six months without the invasion of the Falkland Islands.
Some critics have said that your references to Thatcher, Reagan and other world leaders have dated the work. But it could be argued that, although the names have changed, it remains relevant today. Would you agree?
Absolutely, yeah, in the face of the invasion of Iraq. I wrote some songs last April which I haven't managed to release yet, and maybe they will date in some way. ...It's so easy for us to develop enmities for people in other countries whom we know nothing about, people we can identify as a potential threat. Most of them are just ordinary people. Most people over the world are moderate, and our lives get destroyed by extremists of one kind or another. My theory has always been that the problem is exacerbated because of the demands of commerce.
As we saw with the invasion of Iraq.
Now, at this point, many readers are probably saying something similar to what I said when I first read this the other day: "What?? Jebus Aloicious Crisp! Are you stupid?" (Or words to that effect.) Take a breath. Have a cup of coffee.
Better? Good. Now, here we have most of the naive anti-war cliches: all misunderstandings can be resolved through diplomacy; diplomacy must be exhausted (which it never is) before force is even considered an option; we're all just nice people at bottom; whatever the politicians may say, behind every war is a lust for power and greed.
As if that wasn't bad enough. But Waters isn't finished. Oh, my goodness, no...
The jingoism and colonial ambition that you rail against on The Final Cut is probably more appalling now than it ever was.
It seems to be. It seems to have got worse, and it's terrifying. I'm living in New York at the moment, and it's absolutely terrifying what a slight grasp of foreign politics and of the facts the American public has in the face of the onslaught of the Murdoch media [sigh], Fox News [double sigh], and CNN [Wha...? Well, I guess that makes some strange sense]. It seems to amount to a conspiracy in the media to defraud the population. It's quite terrifying out here. [Yes, Roger, you've made that abundantly clear.] What happened in the aftermath of 9/11 was absolutely frightening and it still is, although it's just beginning to change now.
Is it changing because of the information emerging about military intelligence and so on?
Exactly. [Why, it's almost as if the terrorists never flew those planes into those towers!] Also, people are beginning to see a little bit more. Bush's domestic policy is fleecing the poor to pay for the rich, and people are just beginning to get that as well.
Would you say that the American public is more gullible than the British?
There's a solid Tory vote in the working class based on an attachment to the jingoism of the past and the empire and the flag. It's true in Republican America as well, particularly in the Midwest, where they're very very God-fearing. In the Bible belt, even if you're working class, blue collar, a farmer or whatever, there's about half the population who are prepared to believe that if you're successful you must have got something right"Oh look, they're rich and they're powerful, they obviously know what they're doing, so let's vote for them," rather than, "They're rich and powerful, they're stealing all our money and spending it on themselves, so let's vote against them." Democracy seems to be the best chance we have at the moment, but it's by no means a perfect instrument.
There was no freedom of speech about 9/11, no habeas corpus. They'd thrown away a lot of their notions of civil libertiesarresting Muslims and imprisoning them without trial, with no access to lawyers. Everybody [Yeah, everybody!] was saying "Hey, so what? Kill a few, torture a few, so what?" I don't think they realise just how slippery that slope is.
There is more, including a fascinating sidebar about Waters's father, Eric, who was killed at Anzio in 1944, when Roger was only five months old. His father's death explains a great deal about his anti-war stance, but it hardly justifies it. I'm a great Pink Floyd fan, and I even like some of Waters's solo material, but he islike so many celebrities with a little knowledge and large opinionsa fundamentally silly man.
While the nation mourns the loss of the 40th President, let us not forget the passing of one America's greatest soulmen, Ray Charles. The Big Trunk over at Powerline pays tribute to Brother Ray, complete with pictures! My friend Rick Henderson sang the praises of Ray Charles and XM Radio in an e-mail earlier today:
My XM subscription more than paid for itself yesterday and today. The 50s channel played nothing but Ray Charles (all eras, all genres) for several hours. Through the weekend, every other song will be one of his. I'm delighted we got to see him perform with an orchestra at the Hollywood Bowl a few years back; I'm kicking myself that we didn't take advantage of one of his many visits to the small, off-Strip rooms in Vegas, where he no doubt wailed with his own band.
(An aside: Rick, an old friend from my daily newspaper days, recently left the Las Vegas Review-Journal for the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which is not far from where I live. Riverside's gain is the the Blogosphere's loss, however, as anyone who followed the link above will discover. Too bad. Here's hoping the Deregulator will return some day soon.)
I, for one, am kicking myself for never seeing Ray Charles perform live at all. Thank God for recordings (and XM). May he rest in peace.
The Claremont Institute has a speech President Reagan delivered in 1991 to a conference it co-sponsored (with the Tawain chapter of World League for Freedom and Democracy) marking Captive Nations Week. Here, I think, is the most poignant passage, which comes at the conclusion of Reagan's remarks:
Those who preach the supremacy of the state will be remembered for the sufferings their delusion caused their peoples. It is my hope that in the 21st century, which is only 9 years away, human dignity will be everywhere respected; that the free flow of people and ideas will include not only the newly freed states of Eastern Europe, but those republics which are still struggling for their freedom to the east.
America's solemn duty is to constantly renew its covenant with humanity to complete the grand work of human freedom that began here 200 years ago. This work, in its grandness and nobility, is not unlike the building of a magnificent cathedral. In the beginning, progress is slow and painstaking. The laying of the foundations and the raising of the walls is measured in decades rather than years. But as the arches and spires begin to emerge in the air others join in, adding their faith and dedication and love to speed the work to its completion. My friends, the world is that cathedral. And our children, if not we ourselves will see the completed workthe worldwide triumph of human freedom, the triumph of human freedom under God.
When it's late at night and the demons come, what do you see? Judging from this story, I'd bet you see a lot of red.
Pope John Paul II met privately with President George W. Bush and U.S. bishops on Friday. Shortly after the meeting, in a public statement, the Pope "denounced the acceptance of abortion and same-sex unions as 'self-centered demands' erroneously depicted as human rights," according to this Associated Press report. Today's comments followed a similar pronouncement last week, in which the Pontiff "warned another group of U.S. prelates that American society is in danger of surrendering to a 'soulless vision of life.'" No dismissive comment yet from Andrew Sullivan.
Ray Bradbury is peeved that Michael Moore appropriated the title of Bradbury's most famous novel for his latest propaganda effort. Speaking to a Swedish daily, Bradbury said, "[Moore] stole my title and changed the numbers without ever asking me for permission." I'm a bit skeptical about the translation, but the sentiment couldn't be more clear.
(Hat tip: No Left Turns.)
UC San Diego student Daniel Watts, who noticed my post the other day about the controversy over his airing the Nick Berg decapitation video on college TV, writes:
As I learned during the gubernatorial race, the media has a tendency to take everything I say out of context.
Some of the articles have misquoted me as saying that the video "is not a big deal."
It IS a big deal. Anyone dying in Iraq is a big deal. What the media blew out of proportion was the attempted showing of the Nick Berg video on Library Walk on Tuesday (by another student, not me); the video wasn't even shown, but the media hung out for 2 hours to interview the guy.
There are multiple reasons to show the video. The main one is that photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse have been plastered all over the newspapers and Internet, but the media have not gone to similar lengths to try to give the same attention to an even worse crime committed AGAINST Americans. The media's coverage of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse is slanted; they will show graphic photos of prisoners being mauled, humiliated, etc. but they won't show even worse
atrocities committed by the terrorists.
I don't know how you felt about the published story, but I just wanted to clear that up. The media tend to selectively print what fits their predetermined story best.
I wish young Watts, whom I know a little and for whom I predict great things, had read my post closely. I think he would have discovered that I agree, in so many words, with everything he said here. As I've written before, I think every American (of reasonable age and maturity) should see the Berg video. What we need most in this war is clarity. Who is the enemy? Why do we fight? Although there will always be a few invincibly ignorant people who will never be reached, these questions are answered, in part, by the ghastly images and audio on the Berg video. This enemy will not be reasoned with. He aims to kill us. We need to kill him first.
Although Memorial Day weekend doesn't mark the official beginning of the Summer season, for all intents and purposes Summer starts now. One sign: the high temperature here shot up 20 degrees in a day.
This weekend, then, was supposed to be the kick off of the Summer of Rum. Instead, we're all sick as monkeys. Mama is, to be delicate, expurgating regularly. The boy and I are feverish, bleary-eyed, and delusional. He tried to bludgeon me with a plastic golf club a couple of hours ago, but he was too weak to land anything but glancing blows. I'm so achey, though, it still hurt like hell. Pathetic.
Anyway, I had planned to throw together some preliminary remarks about rum, how it's made, what's worth drinking. I had something in the works...well, something in the back of my mind, really...about the Mojito.
I am, in fact, sipping a Mojito as I type this. I made it with Pyrat Blanco rum (per Monkey David's recommendation on the phone the other day), key limes, sugar, and mint from my front yard. Unfortunatey, I can't really taste it. Muddling key limes, I think, was a mistake; too many seeds. But I needed to use them up.
So, consider this another tease.
Oh, I happened to catch the end of W.W. II memorial dedication on Fox News this afternoon. Wasn't the music marvelous? And did anyone see the two Presidents Bush kidding around with President Clinton? What was that about?
St. Paul alerts us to a new ancient holiday.
My alma mater is in the news again, and not in a good way. University administrators have stopped a student (and former California gubernatorial candidate) from showing the notorious Nick Berg beheading video on college TV.
Daniel Watts, a junior and an opinion editor at The UCSD Guardian, aired the video two weeks ago on Warren College television, a closed-circuit station available campus-wide. Evidently, he needed approval to broadcast it. Why is not exactly clearsomething about a rule barring "indecent" or "patently offensive" content. As Watts explained to the AP, "I wanted to show the media is blowing it out of proportion." Mission accomplished.
The Guardian, the opinion section of which Monkey David and I edited more than a decade ago, published a rather listless editorial on the controversy today. "Watts, who now plans on airing his footage on Student Run Television on May 27, should use the video only as a means to promote open debate among students who choose to view it." As opposed to what another student planned to do with it on the University's Library Walk: "[the] screening was to be a self-proclaimed 'pro-American' event, intended to rally the campus in support of U.S. soldiers in a fit of disgust and thirst for vengeance toward Bergs murderers. It would have been cheap propaganda, attempting to generalize the conflict in Iraq." Right. Because we wouldn't want to make any distinctions between civilized people and savages, now would we? We wouldn't want to illustrate the difference between the way the United States wages war, and how our enemies treat Americans.
Just out of curiousity, I went back and looked for what the Guardian's editors wrote about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, which turned out to be nothing at all. That's probably just as well.
I said to my wife the other day, after another agonizing trip to the gas pump, that maybe our next car should be one of those new-fangled hybrids we keep hearing so much about. "Those things get, I dunno, 70 miles to the gallon or some such!" I proclaimed, having heard that figure bandied about here and there.
"Of course," my wife replied, "they cost an arm and a leg, don't they?"
"Maybe. But it would sure beat selling the boy into slavery," said I, only half in jest. At $2.30 a gallon and climbing, sacrifices may have to be made.
My wife nodded. "Don't make me have to kill you," she said affectionately.
I let the subject drop. But I kept thinking about those hybrid cars. Turns outand I should have seen this comingthey aren't all they're cracked up to be:
Buyers star-struck by the stated fuel-efficiency ratings don't realize that, even at $2-a-gallon gas, it would take 12 years to recoup the cost of a hybrid Civic versus a similarly equipped gas-engine model.... Based on Consumer Reports results, the annual savings on a Civic hybrid versus a top-of-the-line Civic EX driven 15,000 miles a year is $200 at that pump price. But the hybrid costs about $2,400 more.
There's more, so read the whole thing, by all means. Bottom line: Even if you get 40-to-50-miles to the gallon, you still may end up having to sell your blood to make the car payment. Isn't that always the way? Then again, perhaps I shouldn't count out American ingenuity just yet.
Just spoke with my 23-month-old son on the phone. He's at the San Diego Zoo today with his grandma and grandpa. (This was a make-up trip after an ill-fated and disappointing visit to L.A.'s zoo a few weeks ago.) You'll never guess which animals he liked the most.
That isn't the subject of this story, but that's the obvious conclusion one draws from it.
In anticipation of the hot summer months ahead, I've been studying cool-weather cocktails. Rum drinks mostly. I'm sipping a passion-fruit mojito right now. (Tasty, but good grief! Do you have any idea how much passion fruit costs?) The great Bernard DeVoto wrote of rum, "In both cheapness and effectiveness it proved the best liquor for Indian traders to debauch their customers with. People without taste buds can enjoy it now, though the head that follows it is enormous, and such sentimentalists as the seadogs of small sailing craft can believe they do. But mainly it is drunk as all sweet liquors are, in a regressive fantasy, a sad hope of regaining childhood's joy at the soda fountain. No believer could drink it straight or gentiled at the fastidious and hopeful hour."
DeVoto was right about a great deal, but he was sadly misinfomed about rum.
In the past, my tastes have run almost exclusively toward gin drinks, according to the DeVoto Doctrine, in conjunction with with my own rule about seasonal drinks. (The last two links are blog*spot entries, so you may have to scroll down.) When the mercury breaks 100, nothing beats a gin-and-tonic-with-lots-of-lime-and-a-generous-dose-of-Campari.
Well, almost nothing.
This year, I've discovered the wonders of rum. Actually, I should say I've expanded my horizons to discover the wonders of aged rum. A few years ago, I went on a major Mai Tai kick. Contrary to popular belief, a well-made Mai Tai is a truly top-shelf cocktail. By "well-made," I mean made the Trader Vic way, with really good dark rum, and orgeat syrup, etc. No pineapple juice! No farging grenadine!
Anyway, it turns out that there is a lot of really good rum out there. Sipping rum, as it were. But perfectly mixable, too. (Unlike single-malt scotch, say; it is, after all, rum.) A couple of months ago, the New York Times published a recipe for something called a Tamarind Rum Punch. It requires an ounce and a half of Ron Zacapa Centenario rum ($35 a bottle) and two and a half ounces of tamarind nectar ($0.65 a can). God help me, it's a fine drink. I found the recipe for the passion-fruit mojito there as well. Liberal media? Perhaps. But I say the Times is good for something after all.
I've worked through the Zacapa, as well as a the 12-year-old Montecristo from Honduras, Bacardi 8-year, and Appleton's Extra. All good stuff.
So good, in fact, that I've decided to declare this coming season the Summer of Rum. In the coming weeks, I'll be posting recipes for some exceptional rum cocktails. A few recipes will call for some obscure ingredients (Velvet Falernum, anyone?). Some... will not. All of them will be first-rate cocktails. I'll also post tasting notes on various rums. Occasionally, I will tie these posts to politics.
More often than not, however, I will post on politics after two or three of the cocktails I'll be posting recipes for. So, it's a win-win scenario.
Is it tragedy or is it farce? I don't know. But for LaToya London to be eliminated from "Idol"? Appalling. Simply appalling. But she'll be OK. She'll get a nice deal. It'll be OK. It'll be OK...
That said, Elton John is still an ass.
Release the votes!
I see we're getting a lot of traffic today from people Googling the video of Nick Berg's decapitation. Sorry, folks: we don't have it, we don't plan to get it, and even if we did, I'm not sure we have the bandwidth to actually post it. Personally, I think every American should see it. We need to be reminded who (and what) the enemy is.
If, however, you're looking for links to ultra-violent flash cartoons, vintage cocktail recipes, or political commentary of dubious quality, then you've come to the right place. Thanks for stopping by.
Contrary to my earlier assertion, it turns out you can shoot the sheriff and commit horrible blasphemy at the same time. (If you haven't seen the original, to, you know, give the carnage some kind of context, click here.) (Oh, yeah, and there's an interactive version, too.)