The fact is that when you're No. 1, you always get blamed for everything. When you're No. 3, or No. 5 -- or No. 135 -- you can put your hands in your pockets and whistle tunelessly with a "Who, me?" look on your face, and no one ever asks any questions.... If Britain's experience is anything to go by, Americans will soon find more satisfaction by trying to break pointless world records or writing absurdist comedy, or recovering from apocalyptic, three-gin-and-tonic lunchtime hangovers.
Dec 30, 2008
Dec 23, 2008
GIZZI: What was the biggest mistake made in the ’08 campaign?I wish she had called more shots on opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media, too. Her televised interviews are among my most vivid memories of 2008. That she wishes she had made more of them gets very close to the heart of her appeal. It seems a shame that only Alaskans get to see her on a regular basis. Maybe a live webcast would be a good idea — like those webcasts they have of Panda bears in China?
PALIN: The biggest mistake made was that I could have called more shots on this: the opportunities that were not seized to speak to more Americans via media.
WALLACE: Highest moment the last eight years?Okay, so he adjusted "compelling" for "highest" but still: someone asked him for the highest moment of the last 8 years and 9/11 came to mind. What sort of person, asked to name a high point, a bright spot, a ray of light in the encroaching gloom, even thinks of the single bloodiest civilian slaughter the Unites States has yet endured? Answer: someone for whom that slaughter only confirms the Bosch-like onslaught going on inside his head. Asked, "If the president during war decides to do something to protect the country, is it legal?" Cheney answered, "General proposition, I'd say yes." An astonishing admision. The "war on terror", like the "war on drugs" is, of course, a war without end. Therefore anything the president decides to do is legal, "as a general proposition."
CHENEY: Hmmm. Highest moment in the last eight years? Well, I think the most important, the most compelling, was 9/11 itself — Fox News
Dec 19, 2008
According to a former senior C.I.A. official, who read all the interrogation reports on K.S.M., “90 percent of it was total fucking bullshit.” A former Pentagon analyst adds: “K.S.M. produced no actionable intelligence. He was trying to tell us how stupid we were.” Inside the C.I.A., says a retired senior officer who was privy to the agency’s internal debate, there was hardly any argument about the value of coercive methods: “Nobody in intelligence believes in the ticking bomb. It’s just a way of framing the debate for public consumption. That is not an intelligence reality."
At the F.B.I., says a seasoned counterterrorist agent, following false leads generated through torture has caused waste and exhaustion. “At least 30 percent of the F.B.I.’s time, maybe 50 percent, in counterterrorism has been spent chasing leads that were bullshit... You get burned out, you get jaded. And you think, Why am I chasing all this stuff that isn’t true? That leads to a greater problem—that you’ll miss the one that is true. The job is 24-7 anyway. It’s not like a bank job. But torture has made it harder.”
Several of those I interviewed point out the dearth of specific claims the administration has proffered. “The proponents of torture say, ‘Look at the body of information that has been obtained by these methods.’ But if K.S.M. and Abu Zubaydah did give up stuff, we would have heard the details,” says Cloonan. “What we got was pabulum.”
I ask Robert Mueller: So far as he is aware, have any attacks on America been disrupted thanks to intelligence obtained through what the administration still calls “enhanced techniques”? “I’m really reluctant to answer that,” Mueller says. He pauses, looks at an aide, and then says quietly, declining to elaborate: “I don’t believe that has been the case.” — Vanity Fair
Dec 18, 2008
After every military victory, no matter how quick and relatively painless for German forces, the same problems with finances and food supplies kept cropping up ... [this] meant that the Nazi leaders had to push ahead with further military expansionism. Any hesitancy would have led to the end of the regime.This confirms what I have long suspected about Nazism: that it was suicidal. Not just that it ended in suicide, although it did for all those in the bunker, but that it was self-destructive in essence. War didn't interrupt their plans: they had no plans for what they might like to do when they weren't invading people. Invading people was what they did, all the time. As such, it was doomed to failure, from the word go. When people say: what might life for us have looked like under Nazi rule, they are posing a non-sensensical hypothesis. Nazism was a self-devouring flame.
I feel the same way about Al Qaeda. We are regularly told that they want a worldwide Celiphate, but if you look at their statements, they have no plans for what to do, were this unlikely event to occur. They have no minister of agriculture. No opinion on taxation. No preference for which day is best to collect the garbage. They have no system of governance. Their chances of implementing it are therefore, and perhaps unsurprisingly, zero.
Dec 13, 2008
Conclusion 1: On February 7, 2002, President George W. Bush made a written determination that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which would have afforded minimum standards for humane treatment, did not apply to al Qaeda or Taliban detainees. Following the President’s determination, techniques such as waterboarding, nudity, and stress positions, used in SERE training to simulate tactics used by enemies that refuse to follow the Geneva Conventions, were authorized for use in interrogations of detainees in U.S. custody.
Conclusion 2: Members of the President’s Cabinet and other senior officials participated in meetings inside the White House in 2002 and 2003 where specific interrogation techniques were discussed. National Security Council Principals reviewed the CIA’s interrogation program during that period.
Conclusion 13: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at Guantanamo Bay was a direct cause of detainee abuse there. Secretary Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 approval of Mr. Haynes’s recommendation that most of the techniques contained in GTMO’s October 11, 2002 request be authorized, influenced and contributed to the use of abusive techniques, including military working dogs, forced nudity, and stress positions, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Conclusion 19: The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
Dec 12, 2008
Dec 9, 2008
Last Thursday on “The O’Reilly Factor,” comments made by Newt Gingrich fueled a battle between host Bill O’Reilly and New Yorker writer Hendrik Hertzberg. Ginfrich defended his comments thus:
If you go back and look at what I said, it was a very narrowly focused reference to people who were invading churches and in one case surrounding a 65-year-old person and harassing her about wearing a cross. Now, in my judgment, people who do that are fascists. And whether they are fascists on the right or fascists on the left, they’re fascists, because they believe in imposing their views on you.I love that "narrowly focussed reference." I'd love to know what Gingrich thinks the central tens of fascism are and why Prop 8 demostrators strike him as embodying them. A preference for the petite-bourgois? The primacy placed on ties of blood and nation? A foreign policy based on radical belligerence? A totalitarian cult of personality surrounding their non-democratically appointed leader? Gingrich means none of these things, of course. He is simply using "fascist" to mean "argumentative". Sigh.
The piece disputes Rourke's mistreatment at the hands of his step father, Eugene Addis. “He never spoke the truth in his life,” Addis is quoted as saying, pointing out that he never abused him or his brothers “because they never needed manhandling. Mickey was the best kid I had. I had no reason to abuse him... Listen! Right now I’m in better shape than Mickey Rourke ever was. If I wanted to kick his ass I could. But I never did.”
To review. He never beat Mickey because Mickey was well behaved. And if he had chosen to beat him, he would have licked him, but he never did, because Mickey was 'the best kid I had.' Yikes.
Dec 8, 2008
"Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself, the study found. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost... A happy friend who lives within a half-mile makes you 42% more likely to be happy yourself. If that same friend lives two miles away, his impact drops to 22%... Happy spouses provide an 8% boost -- if they live under the same roof. Next-door neighbors who are happy make you 34% more likely to be happy too, but no other neighbors have an effect, even if they live on the same block."— British Medical Journal
Dec 7, 2008
Dec 6, 2008
You could argue that Wallace has actually hit on the reason Nixon's crimes are the lesser of the two men. Bugging the 1972 Democratic party convention is nowhere near as big a deal as ordering the torture of innocent men (which is what the torture of suspects must logically entail). Yes Bush thought that in so doing he was protecting America but Nixon, too, acted to stop America from falling into the hands of commie-sympathisers during a time of war — a quite noble aim, on the face of it, and no more or less deluded than Bush's notion that torture keeps America safe. How far did Nixon really believe his own internal logic? Being the smarter of the two men, he probably didn't, which means his crimes were the more cynical. Wallace is guessing that Bush bought into his own rationale with greater gusto, which renders his acts the more wretched. He tortured by mistake.
When are people going to wake up to the fact that Obama is not the cool kid in class. He is the nerd who has spent so long looking at the cool kids in class that he can imitate them perfectly — but never quite join in. That is the basic story behind Dreams of My Father: Taking coke but not developing a habit. Playing basketball but too tactically to be a star. Going to Chicago because he wanted to strengthen his roots, but never quite being 'black' enough. He is the only black man I have ever seen who dances with a white man's overbite. It's one of his the most appealing qualities, in my book: the sense you get of a nerdy observer, watching and absorbing, but too ambivalent to integrate, fully.
Dec 4, 2008
“I don’t enjoy any kind of danger or volatility. I don’t have that kind of ‘I love the bad guys’ thing. No, no thank you. I like nice people.” When I ask her if she ever gets the urge to straighten out Lindsay Lohan, who starred in Fey’s movie Mean Girls, or to counsel Tracy Morgan or Alec Baldwin when they hit tempestuous passages in their personal lives, she says, “I have no enabler bone in my body—not one. I’m sort of like, ‘Oh, are you going crazy? I’ll be back in an hour.’?” — Tina Fey, interviewed in Vanity FairTogether with Jerry Seinfeld, Fey is part of a new super-breed of American entertainer: the entirely non-destructive comedian. There's pain there, but so expertly harvested, and turned into great gags so efficiently, that it takes you a while to work out what's missing, exactly. Nancy Franklin gets close when she calls Fey's style on 30 Rock "managerial" ("Fey’s intelligence comes across, of course, but it’s a kind of managerial intelligence, a high level of competence"). She indulges her female neuroses (age, kids, food) rather like the kid in class who joins in the ritualised moaning about exams only to ace every test. A fake self-depracator! With moderate to high self-esteem! Don't get me wrong. I love Fey on the show but I love her most when she's dealing with Alec Baldwin, behind whose gimlet eyes lie fathomless pools of pain.
Dec 3, 2008
Dec 2, 2008
Novel Writing — Monty Python (Matching Tie & Handkerchief)
The Slow Descent into Alcoholism — The New Pornographers (Mass Romantic: Remastered)
Just Because I Can — Prefab Sprout (B side)
The Absence of God — Rilo Riley (More Adventurous)
Blue — Cat Power Jukebox (Deluxe Edition)
The Pills Won't Help You Now — The Chemical Brothers (We Are the Night)
Too Young — Phoenix (United)
I Don't Know What It Is — Rufus Wainwright (Want One)
Crash Into Me — Dave Matthews Band (Fatboy Slim Remix)
Love Is Blindness — Cassandra Wilson (New Moon Daughter)
Trouble Man — Marvin Gaye (Anthology Series: The Best of Marvin Gaye)
I Am The Walrus — The Beatles (Love)
Useless Desires — Patty Griffin (Impossible Dream)
I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free — Nina Simone (Nina Simone: Anthology)
The Things We Do for Love — 10cc (The Best of 10cc)
It Looks Like Love — Josh Rouse (Subtitulo)
Girls In Their Summer Clothes — Bruce Springsteen (Magic)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered (DJ Smash Essential Funk Mix) — Stevie Wonder (Motown Remixed)
Lola (Live) — The Kinks
"Again and again, perfectly sentient adults cited the clinching arguments made on the candidate's behalf by their children. Again and again we were told that this was a generational thing, we couldn't understand. In a flash, we were back in high school, and we couldn't sit with the popular kids, we didn't get it. The Style section of The New York Times, on the Sunday after the election, mentioned the Obama T-shirt that "makes irony look old." Irony was now out. Naiveté, translated into "hope," was now in. Innocence, even when it looked like ignorance, was now prized."— Joan Didion NYRBThe last time America was supposed to have lost its sense of irony was 9/11. It's hard to know what people meant exactly. It's nor as if the nation's wits, so used to ironising mass slaughter, went: okay not this time. The same with elections. It's a pretty prosaic either-or kind of deal: you go into a booth and you pull a lever. Pretty hard to do that ironically. You could of course try and argue that your support for a candidiate was only ironic, but the joke would be on you, surely? I could be wrong. Maybe all the people who voted for Bush were being ironic about it, but if so then it didn't make the blind bit of difference. All of which is a round about way of saying that Didion sounds cranky as hell. Hope? Bah humbug.
1) I always know when I am wrong but it takes a while to admit it. That feeling — knowing-I'm-wrong-but-taking-my-time-to-admit-it — is suspiciously close to the feeling I get when I have a good idea.
2) I cannot write a character whom I don't, in some sense, love.
3) Making the reader fall in love with someone is impossible.
4) Problems that I am convinced are completely insolvable, without becoming someone else entirely — a much better writer, say — are invariably quite solvable, if only I do the thing I don't want to do.
5) Conversations can be about anything.
6) Themes are deadly. (Actually I already knew this, but not so well that I didn't have to find it out again).
7) Scenery can be a good thing but only if someone is doing something.
8) Final chapters can be a bit like parties where you drink too much and embarrass yourself.
9) Not knowing whether you've written a good book or a bad book is not just the way it works, but the way it should be.
10) Taking a walk is never a bad idea.