Saturday, June 07, 2003

Thanks to Lisa English for the link and the compliment!

I'm off to Printers Row today. I won't get to stay for the whole of Sid Blumenthal's reading but I do want to try to get an impression of both what kind of person he is and also what kind of crowd he's attracting.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Thanks Martin!
Robert F. Kennedy: Assassinated June 5, 1968

I don't think that we're automatically correct or automatically right and morality is on our side or God is automatically on our side because were involved in a war. I don't think that the mere fact that the United States is involved in the use of force with an adversary makes everything that the United States then does absolutely correct.
Joe puts the Wolfowitz quote in perspective.

So much for my sh*t-storm prediction.

I 've been mulling over this a bit and checking out the debates over at Kos and Atrios. We here in the blogosphere are fond of arguing over semantics. Having little to go on but the words of those we hope to either elevate or bring down, we get lost in them, tossing back and forth words like "floating" and "swimming" as thought the differences between the two could somehow negate the shared element of water.

Look, the primary difference -- to put it a little too simply -- between North Korea and Iraq is that we had virtually no economic options with Iraq because the country floats on a sea of oil.  In the case of North Korea, the country is teetering on the edge of economic collapse and that I believe is a major point of leverage whereas the military picture with North Korea is very different from that with Iraq.  The problems in both cases have some similarities but the solutions have got to be tailored to the circumstances which are very different.

While this isn't the damning confession we've been waiting for, there is something very unfortunate in the choice in phrasing. When one is trying to live down an image of greed and over-consumption, referring to Iraq as a country which "floats on a sea of oil" doesn't help. "Floats on a sea of oil" just sounds upbeat and hopeful as though Wolfowitz has spent hours dreaming of this mythical sea upon which he will sail his yacht and will never have to dock and refuel.

One of the first things you learn in an expository writing class is that word choice matters. Granted, Wolfowitz was on the spot and answering questions. He also admitted to be oversimplifying the case. Still, the fact that "floats on a sea of oil" was what came out of his mouth makes me wonder exactly what's going on in his head.
I hope they're accepting resumés.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Weather Report: Partly cloudy with a 60% chance of feces.

The US deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz - who has already undermined Tony Blair's position over weapons of mass destruction (WMD) by describing them as a "bureaucratic" excuse for war - has now gone further by claiming the real motive was that Iraq is "swimming" in oil.
Sometimes being right just isn’t worth it.

Eric A. has been running a couple of victory laps on behalf of the anti-warriors, in order to satisfy that dark core within us all that needs to gloat. It is a very bitter victory.

I’m realizing as all of this is finally unfolding that I wasn’t nearly skeptical enough about the claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destructions. And I was pretty skeptical. But my reasons for opposing the war had less to do with weapons capability then with a mix of humanitarian, practical, and diplomatic misgivings, well-seasoned with a zesty distrust of the motives of the Bush administration. So the fact that we’ve been there for two months now, and have turned up a whole lotta nothing comes as something of a shock. It speaks to how completely the question of WMD dominated the discussion that even naysayers like me were willing to recognize the possibility that they might turn up.

I’m not begrudging anyone the right to say, “We told you so.” We don’t say it enough. And think liberal disgust at being ridiculed, dismissed, and demonized by the pro-war crowd (I don’t think links to examples are necessary. Just check out any right leaning site, blog, or periodical) has reached a nice roiling boil. But if you are a forward-thinking analytical type you’re probably too wound up in the possible repercussions to enjoy being right.

One thing that has me cautiously hopeful is that the fall-out from this will mean the death of “The Doctrine of Preemption,” especially if it seems as though the United States will go as far as to fabricate evidence in order to justify going to war. But the fact remains that the damage done to our credibility warrants more than just, “Oops! My bad.”

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

Huge line-up at this year's Printers Row Book Fair

Some names on the list:
Margaret Atwood
Sid Blumenthal
Alice Walker
Why thank you. Living here has its drawbacks but we like it.

The quintessential city that works (or, at least, has a cleverly cultivated reputation for being the city that works) is, of course, Chicago. The ward heelers and aldermen of that city understand (or, at least, are celebrated in song and story for understanding) that political power flows not from the barrel of a gun, and not even, necessarily, from the ballot box (whose contents can change in the counting), but from the ability to fix potholes. Garbage that gets collected, buses and trains that take people places, cops that whack bad guys upside the head, taps that yield water when you turn them, lights that go on when you flip the switch, all lubricated by taxes and a bit of honest graft—these are what keep streets calm, voters pacified, and righteous “reformers” out of City Hall.

By Chicago standards, Baghdad, along with almost all the rest of Iraq, is a catastrophe.

Monday, June 02, 2003

The Poor Man trumps me on the subject of whiny Republicans.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

"One thing I like about radio is the invisibility."

This is how Ira Glass opened last night's performance of "This American Life, Live Onstage: Lost In America.," at Chicago Theatre. Then the lights came up and I got my first glimpse of the face behind the voice as they say. Ira has the most unlikely great radio-host voice, light in raspy, permanently stuck in those last moments of male puberty. A voice that doesn't need to fluctuate much to connote pain, humor, incredulity. Without revealing too much, his face matches his voice perfectly, adorably nerdy, young yet venerable, totally unembarrassed. WBEZ would make a killing producing Ira Glass stuffed dolls.

My mother got me into “This American Life” a long time ago. I think this is the way most people get into programs on Public Radio. They hear them accidentally before they really start listening to Public Radio all on their own. I’m a Public Radio addict. I started listening to it regularly when I found that I could no longer stand TV news and didn’t always have time to read the print. Whatever you might think of the bias over at NPR you can’t argue with their format. It’s news that doesn’t scream, or whoosh, or flash.

“This American Life,” really uses the format well. They pay attention the each aspect of sound, sniffs, the coughs, the sound of a car slowing to a halt in front of the house the guy from Peoria hasn't visited in fifteen years. Going to a live show loses something of this nuance because you aren’t paying attention to the sounds anymore. But I didn’t really miss it since the point was for the radio team to see the listeners and vice-versa. Ira really seems to enjoy it despite claiming to prefer “invisibility.” He sits at his mock desk, making running a radio show look more like conducting than DJ-ing.

NPR has the rather unfair reputation of being the station of old 60s lefties. Judging by the audience last night, and sporadic anecdotes I collect, a lot of Chicago listeners are pretty young; my age or not much older. Likewise the TAL staff doesn’t have a single gray head in the bunch. There’s a definite lack of racial diversity, but to their credit, their programming doesn’t reflect it.

This is the type of thing that restores my faith. It’s very easy to get caught up in being upset and only looking at the worst. Take my previous post. I got myself wound up over a pretty minor article by someone I would’ve probably never heard had I not been fishing for it. I don’t regret it and I wanted to make those points, but I don’t enjoy feeling like that. Lately I worry that some future incarnation of humanity we’ll hold this piece of history up as an example of how not to do things. I hope they find the TAL archives before writing us off completely.