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January 21, 2005

ask not what your tyranny can do for you

For today's entertainment, we are going to attempt to be entertaining.  While that may sound refreshing and easy, it will not be, as we are devoting the day to dealing with the President's List of Demands Inaugural Address.


I've already seen a few arguments that the best thing to do is to let the speech hang in history, and not to bother to be infuriated by any of the cracked-out verbiage, as it has no relation to either the events of the past or the intended actions of the future.  In other words, it's a rhetorical Christmas Tree, and it's just meant to stand there and look pretty and have an inauguration under -- other than that, it has nooo function whatsoever.  Just dead piece of a tree.  Or language, as it were.  So, to refer to it, call attention to it, etc. is just a waste of time at best and a political minefield of distraction at worst.  Basically, as the arguments go, ignore it and get back to work.

I agree with this, in theory, just by scanning the text, and having read the headlines this morning.  It's a load of crap, and it's just the kind of load of crap you don't want to get into a rhetorical fistfight with.  Sure, it's a bunch of abstract nouns with no tether to reality organized into a handful of garbage sentiments engineered make the patriotic weep with pride -- nothing threatening about that.  But it's a basic red flag filled with policy hints and Orwellian shifts, it's the business that distracts the mark while his pocket is being picked.  Best to avoid until later, with perpective and passed time.  So, yes, I should not be doing this.

But sometimes I like the doing something over the doing nothing.  Please, history, ignore this day's work.

So.  Here we go.

It takes a few paragraphs of historically proscribed boilerplate before we get to some good stuff, like this:

At this second gathering...


... our duties are defined not by the words I use, but by the history we have seen together.  For a half century, America defended our own freedom...

Small case of confusion over what "our" refers to.  Survey suggests "its", but such mild grammatical swampiness only serves to endear him among the stupid.

...by standing watch on distant borders.  After the shipwreck of communism came years of relative quiet, years of repose, years of sabbatical - and then there came a day of fire.

Third paragraph, and already he's breaking out the Cro-Magnon so the hill people can understand him.  Communism shipwrecked on...?  Why, the shoals of freedom, of course.  And "day of fire"?  Fucking "day of fire"?

Two different, large complaints: first of all, on a more substanitial level, the idea of a President defining one's administration by a giant intelligence/military failure is a unique one to say the least and one that he's gotten away with for far too long.  He used to partially own the Texas Rangers, and I doubt that, during that time, he would speak stirringly and proudly of the day the Rangers got blanked by the Twins.  It's crass, it's tasteless, and most importantly, he can't have it.  It belongs to history.  Or us.  Second of all, did the first draft of the speech mention the "day of ignoring the PDB titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S."?

Then comes this paragraph describing the growing threat of "tyranny".  Oh, it's good stuff -- robust and head-scratching -- but it's a lead-up to this:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands.  The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

I don't know who this "we" is, but apparently he's got a frog in his pocket.  Anyway, I call bullshit.  "Expanding freedom" is a metaphor for no fixed concept.  In practice, it's a metaphor for blowing shit up.  But even in the lofty Bush speechwriter Bizarro world of florid bullshit, the statement is logically valueless: "Worldwide good things will result from the expansion of good things."  And the condescension implicit in the statement, in the face of what we actually export -- goods, outsourced labor, smugness, piety -- is the most galling.

Let's go on.

From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth.

In light of slavery, sufferage, civil rights movement, etc., that's a pretty fucking dumb thing to say.

The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations.

Or, "mean people suck".

Basically, he's on and on about tyranny, and freedom.  He's seen "Star Wars".  In fact, George Lucas wrote this.  In fact, it's not really President Bush saying this.  It's Han Solo.  Now I feel better.

We will persistently clarify the choice before every ruler and every nation: The moral choice between oppression, which is always wrong, and freedom, which is eternally right.

Well, we're going to start persistently clarifying.  It's true, we had our chance in Saudi Arabi, and Pakistan, and North Korea, but we were distracted.  Distracted by all our missed opportuintes in sub-Saharan Africa, frankly, but the good thing is that it distracted us enough that we totally forgot about China.

But at least we were persistent.

America will not pretend that jailed dissidents prefer their chains, or that women welcome humiliation and servitude, or that any human being aspires to live at the mercy of bullies.

Not that we're going to actually care about all that stuff, but we won't pretend anymore.  We were shitty pretenders.

Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty - though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt.

That little rhetorical device has really been burning my grits, and he and his VP use it all the time.  It's a little BYO Straw Man party.  Who the fuck is this "some" that have questioned the global appeal of liberty?  Hitler?  Stalin?  No, not only has no one actually -- whether the president "knows" or not -- questioned the appeal of liberty, but also no one actually cares about the global appeal of liberty.  Even the wingers that are actually capable of sitting around and contemplating "liberty" all day long have never posed the question of liberty's global appeal.  The better question is whether or not Hulk could beat up Superman. 

It just sucks because it's such a cheap ploy that it merits Spencer Tracy jumping to his feet and waving his finger in Bush's face: "That's a God-damned lie!"  Why Spencer Tracy?  I dunno.  But it is a dirty lie, and one whose skirts the Administration likes to hide behind like a bunch of girls.

Then the president winds up the foreign policy portion of his speech, because, frankly, the rest of the world is laughing so hard that they can't see straight.

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people you must learn to trust them.

Just like I trust 51% of the people here, and Jesus.

Start on this journey of progress and justice, and America will walk at your side.

Once we've blown your cities to rubble.  See how easy this is?

Today, I also speak anew to my fellow citizens:

A-no he doesn't.  But I sure hope that the missing WMDs are in this portion of the speech, because they were a much more compelling reason to invade a sovereign nation than tyranny.  But no.  There are not.  The speechwriter really kicks it in, with Soaring Patriotic Prose 101 wandering around looking for a trope that will really stick, like that shining city on the hill.  Again, there is not one.  But there are secret messages:

I ask our youngest citizens to believe the evidence of your eyes.  You have seen duty and allegiance in the determined faces of our soldiers.  You have seen that life is fragile, and evil is real, and courage triumphs.  Make the choice to serve in a cause larger than your wants, larger than yourself - and in your days you will add not just to the wealth of our country, but to its character.

"Join the Army before I draft your asses."

In America's ideal of freedom, citizens find the dignity and security of economic independence, instead of laboring on the edge of subsistence.  This is the broader definition of liberty that motivated the Homestead Act, the Social Security Act, and the G.I. Bill of Rights.  And now we will extend this vision by reforming great institutions to serve the needs of our time.

"FDR and LBJ said it was OK for me to give your money to Wall Street."

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something."  In our time it means something still.  America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof.  Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

"My speechwriters are clearly no longer suited for the job.  I shall have to promote them to the Cabinet."

Now all I have to look forward to is the State of the Union, where it will be me, the TV and whiskey, with whiskey the odds-on favorite.

[I'm ashamed to say that Roy Edroso has more, better things to say here, which I could have just linked to in the first place and saved myself all this typing.]

Posted by mrbrent at 11:32 AM

January 20, 2005

laffs and how to swing them

I am in the need for some laffs.

And when I am in the need for some laffs, I let Hulk do the driving.

Posted by mrbrent at 3:31 PM

ill wishes and bad hopes

Well, today's the Coronation, and, by my reckoning, the big goof should be swearing on a stack of very old bibles, just about now.

Then the orgies start.  No, not the good kind.

I would consider this a pretty dark day, at least for me.

But at least I still got mah looks.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:01 PM

he's unified... in our lord

So. I get home late, decide to check the Yahoo Box Of Every Relevant Headline, and... Holy!
• Bush pledges to seek unity in second term

Did anyone check to see if the moron was crossing his fingers?

Dude, the concept "unity" to him now is like the concept "nerd" was back when his daddy bought him some quality face time at Yale -- something whose underwear should be run up a flagpole while you "inappropriately touch" their girlfriend.  Seriously, a president who brags about a 51% "mandate", and unnamed Yahoo Editor will run that headline sober?  Thank you, Devry Technical Institute of Journalism.

Strike "unity" and insert "assimilation" and I'll half believe you.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:24 AM

January 19, 2005

they call her "doctor"

Today is the second day of the Senate confirmation hearings of Condoleezza Rice for Secretary of State.  Of the whole United States!  Some observers are citing unfolding drama of combative Senate Dems chiding Rice for the past four years of foreign policy, and for the nickname "Condi".  Oh, those are some mean Democrats!

Just like the meanest pomeranians in the world.

But, once the whole thing is over, and Rice's ankles have healed from the nips and scratches, Rice will have been confirmed, and all of the angry noises will have been for naught.  A few seconds of TV coverage hear, a droll quote in the dailies -- just a bunch of Senators overacting their relevance.

While I'm of course opposed to Rice (just call me generally opposed), I'm slowly becoming more a fan of the grand gesture than the trench-fighting resistance.  Administration nominees should have more to fear than a lecture from Barbara Boxer and avuncular reservations from Joe Biden.

One gesture I would recommend would be for a Senate Democrat to cede their time to a special musical guest.  "Dr. Rice, instead of quibbling over your past and future foreign policy fuck-ups, I hope you'll join me in welcoming... Three Doors Down!"

Maybe a little middle-of-the-dial will bland some sense into the Administration's heads.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:30 AM

January 18, 2005

even littles like this make me feel that i accomplish something

I just wanted to try to be the first to make the "good news/bad news" joke:

From this afternoon's Yahoo Headline Box of Hammers:

• Diabetes may reduce prostate cancer risk


Posted by mrbrent at 4:58 PM

not afraid to admit defeat

This morning I thought I'd give the MT machine elves a little work-out.  Was trying to start the day with a whimsical little post dealing with MLK Day.  After posting, wiping, posting, wiping, I realized what I knew all along: no way I wasn't gonna come off as shrill, first of all, and unfunny, more damning.

But I found someone who posted the post that is exactly what I meant.

So, yeah.  What he said.

Posted by mrbrent at 12:42 PM

January 17, 2005

four more wars

If my memory serves me correctly (which it often does not), the events of the past month or so are eerily reminiscent of those from four years ago.

If you recall the months following 9/11/01, an odd drumbeat of hints and allegations against Iraq began to filter into the press.  Iraq had WMD.  Iraq was violating UN resolutions.  Iraq said something specious but impugning about the vitrue of our mom.  In fact, the Vice President even asserted a connection between Iraq and the suicide attacks of 9/11, which was not often repeated but believed by two-thirds of the country.  The next thing you know, we were at war.  It was uncanny.

And of course, it turns out that the allegations were universally overstated, if not imagined out of thin air by a Tom Clancy wannabe.  But, the war persists, because "that would be like closing the barn door after the horses have eaten your children".

It seems the same thing is happening right now -- the build-up, the creation of the false emergency to justify unilateral military action.

I believe that the Administration intends to invade Social Security.

I'm not quite sure what the Speaker of the House and various Secretaries mean when they talk about Social Security "gassing the Kurds", but I will say that I believe that we should not risk the lives of our fighting men and women in order to invade a social program.

Face it, ourarmed forces cannot afford to get mired down in yet another unwinnable war, just because someone called our mom a ho.

Posted by mrbrent at 11:02 AM