I always find stories like this one interesting. For every broken treasure ship at the bottom of the ocean, there were dozens, even hundreds of sailors, soldiers, and merchants who went down when a storm got rough, or a pirate got too close, or something went wrong with the hull or the steering. Every ship had a financier on either side who had, quite possibly, risked his or her entire fortune on the success of the voyage. On each ship there was a hierarchy of expertise, from the captain to the master to the veteran sailors to the landsmen to the passengers, each with his or her own role to play in the disaster that ensued. Finally, there were people left on land who lost their loved ones without ever receiving even a forensic understanding of what had gone wrong.
Archive for November, 2006
Happy 171st to Samuel Clemens, who offered the following oft-quoted words in the New York Herald on 15 October 1900:
I left these shores, at Vancouver, a red-hot imperialist. I wanted the American eagle to go screaming into the Pacific. It seemed tiresome and tame for it to content itself with the Rockies. Why not spread its wings over the Philippines, I asked myself? And I thought it would be a real good thing to do.
I said to myself, here are a people who have suffered for three centuries. We can make them as free as ourselves, give them a government and country of their own, put a miniature of the American constitution afloat in the Pacific, start a brand new republic to take its place among the free nations of the world. It seemed to me a great task to which we had addressed ourselves.
But I have thought some more, since then, and I have read carefully the treaty of Paris, and I have seen that we do not intend to free, but to subjugate the people of the Philippines. We have gone there to conquer, not to redeem.
In recognition of Clemens and his outstanding literary achievements under the pseudonym “Mark Twain,” President Bush today delivered the following impersonation of William McKinley:
We want the people of Iraq to live in a free society. It’s in our interests. In my judgment, if we were to leave before the job is done, it would only embolden terrorists, it would only embolden the extremists. It would dash the hopes of millions of people who want to live in a free society, just like the 12 million people who voted in the Iraqi election. They want to live in a free society. And we support this government, because the government understands it was elected by the people. And Prime Minister Maliki is working hard to overcome the many obstacles in the way to a peaceful Iraq, and we want to help him.
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As we ponder the most recent example of hackery from George Will, let’s recall my personal favorite. That would have to be when he claimed that judicial filibusters were “unconstitutional” during the Estrada nomination controversy–after having argued the (correct) position that the Senate can conduct votes by whatever procedures it chooses while Clinton was in the White House. Hacktacular!
…more amusing commentary from Dave Weigel: “We went from “George Bush is a regular guy you can have a beer with” to “I’m George Bush, bitch!” in pretty short order.”
As readers of this blog know, when it comes to the 2008 primary I’m a strong Gore supporter. But I can see cases for two of the major candidates who are currently being discussed (leaving potential runs by various lesser-known governors out of it for now.) Edwards is interesting and has some advantages, but for me the pro-war vote (not because I think he would have initiated the war as President, but because it make it much more difficult to take advantage of what should be an albatross for the Republican candidate) and his lack of executive experience are serious drawbacks. The other interesting one is Wes Clark. About his 2004 primary campaign, I think Ezra is right. I think a good argument could be made that Clark was the best candidate on paper. The Great Unanswered Question of the 2004 campaign is whether Clark’s abysmal performance as a candidate was exclusively the product of the fact that he was greener than the felt on a new pool table, or because he just lacks the skills. I think this question is, as of now, unanswerable. If he runs again, we’ll find out.
As of now, though, I would have to rank him behind Gore. I’m inclined to think Gore would be a better President on the merits, and he’s literally electable. Also, while I’m not sure that much can be inferred from Clark’s campaigning per se I do think that the choice to enter the race so late itself raises serious questions about his acumen as a candidate; it’s not clear what the hell he was doing. I’m open-minded, but as of now I’m skeptical about his candidacy.
I’ve been meaning to blog about this for a while, but acting on a tip from Lindsay and A White Bear I was sent a free bottle of the 2004 Amelie by the Mankas Hills Vineyards. (It didn’t come with any obligation to write about it.) I also decided to pick up a bottle of the 2002 Contado Cab, for which I paid full retail (New Yorkers can get ’em both at Sherry-Lehman.) I lack the chops to be wine critic–trying to communicate the quality of wine immediately makes me think “OK? Now, stick your nose in it. Don’t be shy, really get your nose in there. Mmm… a little citrus… maybe some strawberry…and, oh, there’s just like the faintest soupçon of like asparagus and just a flutter of a, like a, nutty Edam cheese…are you chewing gum?” But I can say that both have become part of my wine rotation. I prefer the cab slightly to the Amelie (which is a cab/merlot blend), but perhaps by less of a margin than I was expecting. I rarely taste purported hints of mocha in a wine, but in the Amelie I did; it was quite complex for the genre. I had a half bottle tonight with a ziti a la bolognese and a spinach/chick pea salad, and it complemented it very well. When it comes to west coast wines I try cabs almost exclusively, and I thought the complex but very fruity straight cab measured up well to others in its price range. I would definitely recommend either if you like the varietals in question–it’s good wine for the price.
In addition, the Times has a good article about American-made rye (as opposed to Canadian) whiskey today. I’ve only sampled two–the Van Winkle is terrific, and the Rittenhouse is a bargain; and thanks to a friend with a PhD in mixology I can testify that it makes an excellent Manhattan.
By popular demand — that is, at the request of one commenter — here’s the quiz I was going to give my students tonight if the Hand of Providence had not offered me the chance to spend the day shoveling snow and drinking beer instead.
The following titles are either (a) books written by “neoconservative intellectuals” or (b) films of such high quality that they were only made available on videocassette or DVD. Can you guess which is which?
1. Savage Wars of Peace
2. Finding the Target
3. Ultimate Avengers
4. Dangerous Nation
5. Black Dawn
6. The Savage Wars of Peace
7. Out for a Kill
8. The Foreigner
9. Hard Line
10. Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story
No cheating, OK?
I’m only mildly disappointed that the Lord has seen fit to smite Juneau with 12-14 inches of snow today. The disappointment comes from the fact that my evening seminar was all set to discuss the first half of Anthony Shadid’s Night Draws Near, but it looks as if we’ll have to postpone our treatment of the Iraq War until the last week of the semester. I was even prepared to do a dramatic reading of Michael Ledeen’s infamous “cauldronize the Middle East” column; then I would have given my students a quiz that I made up entitled “Neoconservative Book Title, or Straight-to-Video 1980s Action Film?” Alas.
The great news, of course, is that I don’t have to leave the house today. And I’ll have time to develop a dramatic reading of one of Ledeen’s latest arias.
Anyone have a fake beard I can borrow?
When I’ve posted about Orson Scott Card, I am often assured that despite of his recent tendency to express nutty political ideas (and film reviews) in terrible prose he was once a gifted novelist. I cannot judge this claim, but it is now clear that the only viable version of this claim requires the word “once”. Really, one can make this point by picking almost any sequence from his new “novel” at random, but here’s my candidate:
Princeton University was just what Reuben expected it to be — hostile to everything he valued, smug and superior and utterly closed-minded. In fact, exactly what they thought the military was.
He kept thinking, the first couple of semesters, that maybe his attitude toward them was just as short-sighted and bigoted and wrong as theirs was of him. But in class after class, seminar after seminar, he learned that far too many students were determined to remain ignorant of any real-world data that didn’t fit their preconceived notions. And even those who tried to remain genuinely open-minded simply did not realize the magnitude of the lies they had been told about history, about values, about religion, about everything. So they took the facts of history and averaged them with the dogmas of the leftist university professors and thought that the truth lay somewhere in the middle.
Well as far as Reuben could tell, the middle they found was still far from any useful information about the real world.
Am I like them, just a bigot learning only what fits my worldview? That’s what he kept asking himself. But finally he reached the conclusion: No, he was not. He faced every piece of information as it came. He questioned his own assumptions whenever the information seemed to violate it. Above all, he changed his mind — and often. Sometimes only by increments; sometimes completely. Heroes he had once admired — Douglas MacArthur, for instance — he now regarded with something akin to horror: How could a commander be so vain, with so little justification for it? Others that he had disdained — that great clerk, Eisenhower, or that woeful incompetent, Burnside — he had learned to appreciate for their considerable virtues.
And now he knew that this was much of what the Army had sent him here to learn. Yes, a doctorate in history would be useful. But he was really getting a doctorate in self-doubt and skepticism, a Ph.D. in the rhetoric and beliefs of the insane Left. He would be able to sit in a room with a far-left Senator and hear it all with a straight face, without having to argue any points, and with complete comprehension of everything he was saying and everything he meant by it.
In other words, he was being embedded with the enemy as surely as when he was on a deep Special Ops assignment inside a foreign country that did not (officially at least) know that he was there.
Thank heaven he could go home to Cecily every day. She was his reality check. Unlike the ersatz Left of the university, Cessy was a genuine old-fashioned liberal, a Democrat of the tradition that reached its peak with Truman and blew its last trumpet with Moynihan.
The “no, he was not” is a nice touch.
Anyway, it’s not surprising that this would win the endorsement of Glenn Reynolds. Recently, Reynolds quoted a passage from Neal “Into the Nipples” Stephenson, which consisted of two “characters” expressing trite points about hypocrisy by reading B+ high school essays at each other. According to Reynolds, not only does this demonstrate that “Stephenson’s position as a moral thinker is underrated” but–I swear I’m not making this up–he was able to “slip that stuff in without being overbearing.” Yeah, if you find Neal Stepehnson subtle then Card’s recent novel should be just right.
Nancy Pelosi has, thankfully, chosen to reject both Hastings and Harman, the obviously correct option. The evidence against Hastings is pretty compelling, and taking a bribe as a federal judge isn’t the typically vacuous “character” issue; it suggests a lack of ethics and judgment in ways that can affect policy. Moreover, the political hit would have been immense, and it’s not as if Hastings was so great on the merits it would be worth paying the price. Meanwhile, Matt is right that Hastings’s only virtue was not being Harman: “Hastings shook some dudes down for $150,000 and ruined three FBI investigations. Jane Harman, by contrast, supported an invasion of Iraq based on bogus intelligence that’s costs hundreds of billions of dollars and killed hundreds of thousands of people. Who do I have more doubts about?” Avoiding both of them was clearly the right call, and kudos to Pelosi for bucking the various caucus pressures and doing it.
Alas, it seems as if the oft-touted Rush Holt is out of the running. I don’t know much about any of the three viable candidates, but while it’s not literally true that they can’t be worse than the two who were passed over it seems like a safe assumption.
…UPDATE: As Matt Weiner points out in comments, I should note that Yglesias is just stipulating to a worst-case scenario; Hastings is almost certainly innocent of the charges of sabtoging FBI investigations.