Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Paul Burgess Hates Me. (Who's Paul Burgess?)

So Paul Burgess hates me. He hates everyone on "The Left." We're all a bunch of lying haters and hating liars, and we just don't understand anything. Hmph! So there.

Paul Burgess is, apparently, the former director of foreign-policy speechwriting at the White House from October 2003 to July 2005.

What I want to know is this: Why does anyone think that he knows anything?

The assumption is that because he wrote speeches, that he must know something about the administration's policies and about its policy-making process. Except that he doesn't. He may have been witness to some corner of the decision making from time to time -- he may have even felt free to throw in his two cents when he was there -- but for the most part, he was told what the policy was and instructed to construct some prose poetry to make it palatable to the public.

If I ran a news organization, I'd find myself a former speechwriter who had no interest in ever working for any administration ever again and put him in charge of deconstruction. Every time some politico made a speech, I'd put him on the air or give him a blog to pull back the curtain and show how the tricks were done. How he pointed out this, this, and this, but failed to metion these, that, and those. How he used language in a tricky way to distract from gaping holes in logic. Or how every time he mentioned Iraq he mentioned 9/11, and every time he mentioned 9/11 he mentioned Iraq, so that even though there was no real connection between the two, he created one in the backs of the minds of the people listening.

But instead, we get lickspittles like Peggy Noonan, Pat Buchanan, Ben Stein, David "Axis Of" Frum, and now Paul Burgess, all of whom will say, without fail, that President Bush gave a brilliant speech, and that the Democratic responses are full of dangerous thoughts that they dare not repeat, lest they gain purchase. Suffice to say that they're dangerous. DANGEROUS!

Speechwriters are copywriters. That's all. Their job is to sell something. Part of that process may be to convince themselves of the value of what they're pushing, to find the approach that works on themselves first, but that doesn't mean that they know anything. I wouldn't buy a car based on the recommendation of the person who wrote the brochure with the logic that he MUST know what he's talking about, they hired him to write the brochure! (I also wouldn't NOT buy a car based on his supposed insider knowledge, either, without knowing the whys and wherefores. I wouldn't want to pass up a good buy, thinking that it was a lemon, only to find that his animus was towards the executive who kept making him change his copy.)

All I can tell is that Burgess drank his own Kool-Aid. The selective representation of the facts that made up his speeches became its own kind of reality, and he doesn't want to part from it. Of course all "the left" does is hate the president, assuming that you're living inside the echo chamber of the west wing and Fox News. Look what happened when the president's television viewing was left unattended for one evening: He watched a Cousteau documentary and then created a huge wildlife preserve off the coast of Hawaii! No, the only possible explanation for anything is that "the left" hates the president, and irrationally so. (Probably because he's so strong. And steadfast. And resolute. Who else could possibly protect us?) Don't even try to find another explanation elsewhere, or you'll be tainted! It certainly isn't that the conservative protectors of the status quo have become reactionary zealots, dismantling the framework of the country. ("Heh, you don't need all of these here supports. Trust me. Your methodology is flawed!")

(Found, among other places, here.)

Friday, October 13, 2006

Great, One More Thing For Me to Listen To

This American Life is going to start podcasting the show for free for one week after the original air date. After that, it will be archived and available for purchase for 95 cents via iTunes or Audible.com.

(Found via *sigh* BoingBoing.)

iTunes link

Thursday, October 12, 2006

An Analogy

I was listening to the Randi Rhodes show yesterday, and someone from Nashville called in with the fakest fake accent I've ever heard. (Really. He'd maybe heard of Nahsville, and that was about it. I'm no linguist or even an amateur connoiseur of regional dialects, but it was an agonizingly bad imitation of a southern accent.) His "question" was the old chestnut: "Why do you keep criticizing the president and the war? Do you think Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein? Huh? Huh? Do you?" (Sorry, that should probably be "Do ya?," since he was from "Nashville" and all. You know, folksy and shit.)

I started thinking about that, and about how that question is always thrown out as the trump card that will end all arguements, because everyone has to agree that of course Saddam was bad, and having him in power was bad. But the real question is, Have we replaced life in Iraq under Saddam with anything better? And I came up with this analogy:

Imagine that for the last several decades, you've been regularly poked in the eye with a sharp stick. Poke. Ow! Poke. Ow! Poke. Ow! And so it goes, year after year after year. You hate it, you hate the guy who's doing it to you, you hate the society that lets it be done, but you muddle on.

One day, someone arrives to say that you're free! You will no longer be poked in the eye with a sharp stick! Hooray!

Instead, your knuckles will be struck by a ball-peen hammer.

Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow!

After this goes on for a while, you say, "I don't think that I like being hit with a hammer."

"Oh," comes the reply in a sarcastic tone, "'I don't think that I like being hit with a hammer.' I suppose that you think you were better off with the other guy poking you in the eye?"

At this point, wouldn't you think that there have to be more options than that? Something other than the Sharp Stick of Repression and the Ball-peen Hammer of Freedom? How about a Backrub of Liberty? A Footrub of Independence? How about a Just Leave Me the Fuck Alone, Period?

The pundits -- safely ensconced in TV studios elsewhere -- go on and on about how by any measure, this person's eye is getting better, which justifies our intervention and removal of the wielder of the sharp stick. What about the hammer blows?, someone timidly asks. Bah. People accidentally hit themselves with hammers all of the time. It's not that big of a deal. Exaggerations by the liberal media, that's all. Besides, the only other option would have been to leave the wielder of the sharp stick alone to poke away.

Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow! Bang. Ow!

The sweet sounds of a mission accomplished.

* * *

It isn't that Saddam Hussein wasn't a bad man, or that Iraqis don't deserve freedom and security, or that nothing should have been done. It's that what was done was stupid. It was ill-conceived and poorly planned, and has been and continues to be a waste of money, time, and most importantly human life. I don't know how to fix it. I don't know that it can be fixed. All I can do is look at what has been done and wonder if we couldn't have come up with a better plan than simply hitting a different body part with a different implement.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

They Don't Get It

The last paragraph in the LA Times story, "Foley Case Shakes GOP," about the resignation of Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) last Friday amid accusations of inappropriate sexual advances made towards Congressional pages:
The statement [from The Arlington Group, a coalition of leading social conservative groups] asserted that House Republicans may have failed to sufficiently investigate Foley because they feared "a backlash from the radical gay rights movement."

Huh? What backlash? The "radical gay rights movement," if such a thing exists, would already have hated the conservative members of Congress who are nominally "in charge". What possible repercussions could they release upon the poor legislators who have made careers by declaring how hated they are by the radical homosexuals? Was Foley juiced? Could he have had them whacked?

What they're really saying is that when faced with a so-called degenerate within their own body, within their own party, they did nothing. The party of morality couldn't even be bothered to deal with someone who actually HAD crossed a moral and ethical line! Not when *gasp* politics were involved!