Friday, December 30, 2005

The Chicago Tribune in its December 28 edition attempted to justify its support for the administration's decision to go to war. A representative sample of the Trib's in-house investigation, titled "Judging the Case for War," follows:


Biological and chemical weapons


The Bush administration said Iraq had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction. Officials trumpeted reports from U.S. and foreign spy agencies, including an October 2002 CIA assessment: "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions."


Many, although not all, of the Bush administration's assertions about weapons of mass destruction have proven flat-out wrong. What illicit weaponry searchers uncovered didn't begin to square with the magnitude of the toxic armory U.S. officials had described before the war.


There was no need for the administration to rely on risky intelligence to chronicle many of Iraq's other sins. In putting so much emphasis on illicit weaponry, the White House advanced its most provocative, least verifiable case for war when others would have sufficed.

Iraq rebuffs the world


In a speech that left many diplomats visibly squirming in their chairs, President Bush detailed tandem patterns of failure: Saddam Hussein had refused to obey UN Security Council orders that he disclose his weapons programs--and the UN had refused to enforce its demands of Hussein.


Reasonable minds disagree on whether Iraq's flouting of UN resolutions justified the war. But there can be no credible assertion that either Iraq or the UN met its responsibility to the world. If anything, the administration gravely understated the chicanery, both in Baghdad and at the UN.


Hussein had shunted enough lucre to enough profiteers to keep the UN from challenging him. In a dozen years the organization mass-produced 17 resolutions on Iraq, all of them toothless. That in turn enabled Hussein to continue his brutal reign and cost untold thousands of Iraqis their lives."

Short version: We supported the war, and we know a lot of you think we got duped. However, our own investigation proves we were not duped.

But did you notice anything missing? I did.

One of the most crippling deceits in this column, the one that's most responsible for it being a failure, is the fact that it addresses only the administration arguments in the lead up to war. The structure (What they said—What we know today—The verdict) completely ignores the fact that there were dissenting opinions before the war, and that those dissenting opinions were cast aside with extreme prejudice. It ignores the fact that what they said was being undercut by dozens of prominent voices.

That is, the Tribune's sloppy Monday-morning "matrix" analyzes only information given to justify the war, without exploring what happened to information that knocked down those justifications. The structure itself implicitly supports the Bush & Co. spin that "everyone thought Hussein was a threat," a premise which even King Bush's most loyal subjects must know is demonstrably false.

So the same media that ignored dissent in the run-up to war now — brace yourselves — ignores the fact that such dissent ever existed!

To only investigate how "what we know today" counters "what they said" might make the Trib editorial board sleep better at night, but it hardly addresses the full array of beefs war critics have with the administration.

The Tribune, in essence, is giving an easy answer to a complicated question, while conveniently ignoring the one aspect of the story which would prove most damning to its chickenhawk editorial board. How they could have ignored such an important piece of the puzzle is beyond me. I mean, such a glaring oversight couldn't be intentional and self-serving, could it? Unthinkable!

Chalk up another gem for your Liberal Media.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Walk to platform, up stairs and down to the end of the overhang, wait for brown toward Kimball, embark and wedge into the door space opposite, the side that allows you to lean back without having to hang on to anything, pushed into metal walls. Good times with inertia. Fun with physics. Disembark at the proper station, careful down the stairs, pull the gloves on, quick step into the revolving grate, around fast and lift the last heel up to avoid a stinger, own that shuffle step, smooth out the stride, left turn, on the toes and regain the heels and continue. Look up to determine likelihood of navigating the cross street before the light changes, temper target foot speed accordingly (here take a left, if necessary, instead of waiting through a full light cycle; the distance will be the same, just not as nice and quiet, and maybe slightly more dangerous, despite lack of hard evidence), continue forward, if possible, pass slower pedestrians, don't walk right behind that lone girl with the pink knit hat because she might get freaked out because there's a long block ahead and it's dark and this is the quiet route. Settle into a space between pedestrians, if possible, temper foot speed again, but only after the proper determinations have been made w/r/t space in front and behind, gender of fellow pedestrians, desire to urinate. Take a left after two blocks, slow down past the unofficial dog park (wary of spooking the dogs, which are liable to run out from behind the short concrete abutments right into your path), smile at the neighborly people, the family folk, the nauseating down-home resignation of it all, don't stop smiling until you clear the cul-de-sac, because they might see, and they might judge, and they might create a scandal, level it at the tall young angry man — very angry, that one — who's always trudging by heavy-footed and spooking the poor puppies as they round the corner 'round the short concrete abutments of the unofficial (for lack of signage declaring otherwise) dog park. Now, safe on the opposite sidewalk, nearing the home stretch, note the pleasant aroma of fresh steam issuing forth from the PVC pipe on the outside wall of the dry cleaners on the alley, the place that's always open, manned by the Asian fellow standing at the counter folding linens, always, then watch right after for the plastic trinkets scattered about in front of the day care center, the one you'd never guess is a day care center were it not for the plastic trinkets scattered about in front. Now take a right and cross at your leisure. Take a left upon arriving at home address, check the common side door to see if the neighbors have been closing it properly, because you really need to pull it shut hard, because there are storage units in the basement and anyone could go down there and steal the old bicycle tires and Coleman lanterns if the common side door is not shut all the way until it clicks, a result that sometimes requires slamming said door at full force. Check the mailbox and sidestep and shuffle keys and twist and on inside, thumb up the thermostat a tick, put on comfortable pants and a soft shirt, consider settling into a book straight away but opt instead to check the television to see if anything worth watching is on, run through the on-screen menus until every option is exhausted, clear some things on the coffee table, straighten the blankets on the couch, relish the overwhelming sense of accomplishment. Consider picking up a book, sitting up in bed for long night of reading and underlining and notes in the margins, opt instead to check e-mail, blogs, message boards, political news, sports, photographs, read and make comments, if necessary, and make new contacts. Check to see if any worthwhile television shows are on the menu, again careful to exhaust all possibilities. Pick up a magazine and set it on the bed, retrieve the book from your book bag and set that too on the bed, next to the magazine, and then make the proper bedtime arrangements, splashing of water and brushing of teeth. Thumb down the thermostat and check the locks, into bed and wrap the icy feet tight and set a pillow on the lap and start with the magazine, flipping through it pell mell, set the alarm and pick up the book. The book. Pick up the book. Pick up the book and read it. It will help you. Pick up the book, Mike. Pick up the book.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Light blogging this week. I fear the government is spying on me. I never should have spoken out against Bush. He's a great leader. I'd die for him. Cheney is a nice guy also. All heil our magnanimous overlords. Due respect. Etc.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

I shave every other day, or sometimes once every few days. I wait until my stubble has achieved its potential, then I destroy it. This is what it means to be elderly — shaving when it pleases you. Now my birthday approaches. The terrors of old age creep steadily into my consciousness — joint pain, forgetfulness, oatmeal for breakfast. I will be 31 years old.

Thirty-one years old sits right around the corner from thirty, but it's an entirely different neighborhood. It's a neighborhood you might not recognize. Because your memory isn't what it used to be. You realize you're lost. And you can't remember your address. This wasn't supposed to happen. It seems like you were 24 just a few blocks ago. All you need is direction. You don't realize that it's like that Stephen King story where the chompers come and eat the time you left behind. You don't even remember who Stephen King is. You ask to speak to a lawyer.

Monday, December 12, 2005

I have a game I play in the morning to while away my commute when the bus gets crowded and I'm stuck between paragraphs. I call it Guess What Your Fellow Humans Do For A Living Based on Their Cell Phone Conversations.

On the southbound 37, I've spotted a lawyer ["I need a writ of habeas corpus and a bottle of Glenlivet on my desk by 8:30. Oh, and tell Mr. McVigor that his wife-], a chemist ["Try three parts sodium chloride. If that doesn't work, we might have to check the connections on the Bunson burner. Yes. No. I got lightheaded last week after-"], a nanny ["But Mrs. Larson, her head turned all the way around! Like it was on a swivel. Three times. And the smell-"], a dog breeder ["Naw. You tell dat bitch she best not fuck with my boys or I-"], an Italian chef ["Hey! Giuseppe! Mozzarella!"], a secretary ["-and collates. Oh and when it collates just right, mmmm, yeah, I get so-"], and a bus driver.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

My fingers are too cold to type properly, but I plow ahead in the face of insurmountable odds because that's the kind of person I am. The kind of person who would eat cereal dry, straight out of the box, instead of admitting defeat upon discovering that there's no milk in the refrigerator.

I was thinking yesterday, after reading one of my comments, I was thinking that if I were heading up the marketing arm for, say, Planter's or some other company that deals in the nut trade, that I would start a campaign in the spirit of the "Got Milk?" and "Beef: It's What's for Dinner" campaigns, only mine would be something like "Macadamias: They're Nuts!" I could revolutionize the entire industry, set it on a track that might lead to swanky nut bars and big soft glossy magazines aimed at nut aficionados and their lifestyles. Macadamias could be the next designer coffee (and coffee, as we've discussed at length, is life, really). Lovers would exchange boxes of rare nuts to commemorate relationship milestones. All because people would be taken in on a molecular level by my kick-ass marketing campaign. [Vince Vaughn turns to Jennifer Anniston at a Hollywood after party, or, better, during a crucial scene in their next romantic comedy, and remarks "Have you tried these Macadamias? They're nuts!"] I would be inducted into a marketing hall of fame. People would want to know how I did it. I would be outwardly humble, all the while knowing that my success was due in large part to the same special genius that makes events revolve around my presence. I am like an infant, my world conveniently for me, and when I close my eyes that world disappears and when it disappears for me it disappears for everyone.

This is Marketing 101: believe in your own special genius. Promote yourself with your own voice. Be sure to make sure everyone knows how important, how potentially revolutionary your ideas are. Make sure that they know you have locked in to the secret latent desires of humanity, and that you and only you can help them tap that rolling vein and extract the consumer income within and pave their way toward industrial complexes in the suburbs, gauche monuments to themselves, the cover of Forbes, Fortune, private jets and political influence.

You [I] know the secret formula. You [I] have the unique heartbeat.

Believe me.

Believe me.

Believe me.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Last night I smashed a white spider with A Frolic of His Own. Talk about devastating satire. That chick-pea arachnid never had a chance. (He did, however, succeed in planting the notion in my head that I am at all times surrounded by large, bulbous creepers, that I might wake up wading in a crawling pool of his brothers. And so afflicted with the yawning fantods, my sleep did not come easy.)

A Christmas tree stands proud and prominent in my living room, adorned with traditional adornments, filling the immediate living space with wonderful evergreen smells, shedding thistles at an alarming rate (which thistles find their way into the carpet and, later, the bottoms of my cold, naked feet). I declare war on Christmas. Right after I open my gifts.

I need to start drinking better coffee. Maybe some of those exotic blends from Guatemala or Peru. Folgers Bland Dusty Grounds won't cut it in the long run. I need the good stuff. The stuff that puts the sexy in your belly. I pass by no fewer than three cosmopolitan coffee shops on my way in to work (Starbucks one, independent sellers the other two), but neglect to stop in because they are either crowded in the morning (and I can't stand crowds in the morning) or they look too much like the kinds of secret shops where if you don't wear the right kind of glasses and order in Middle English longtime patrons will think you're some gawking hayseed. I can't deal with that shit. I won't. I might. The Folgers is god awful. Someone needs to take action.

I've been reading and writing in bunches while doing only a minimal amount of arithmetic. Arithmetic being by far the most confounding of the Three Rs. I want to smash it with a novel. The power of words.

Monday, December 05, 2005

A few years back I bought a wool/acrylic zipper-front pullover off the sale rack and it had been sitting in the far reaches of my closets until I got back to Chicago and the mercury plunged and now wouldn't you know it the damn thing has saved my life. It wasn't twenty this morning. It wasn't ten. It was zero. The morning dog piss splashed icicles in Saturday's snow. My fingers forgot their purpose. My toes are all alone.

I've dealt with worse. Back in college at the illustrious Illinois State University, the winters proved a cruel beast with which I was woefully unfamiliar. Much is made of the Chicago wind — a stealthy stream that wraps itself around the trunks of the city's skyscrapers with skin-peeling alacrity. I'd weathered that weather for nearly twenty years before I answered the call of higher learning and headed to the campus at Normal, Illinois, cocksure the move south adumbrated warmer climes, gentler winds, an altogether pleasanter experience. I imagined cactuses and canyons. Water parks, at the very least.

But friends I can tell you without question that the Great Winds & Winters of Central Illinois do indeed grab the unsuspecting and send them careening off of residence halls like ping pong balls. I had never seen, nor do I hope to see for the balance of my puff, such terrifying lows, such frigid gusts, as I saw during my five years on the cusp of the Missouri Valley. In the winter of 1996, when lows tickled the absolute limits and winds whipped around Watterson Towers like Daggers of the Fucking Apocalypse, the churning back draft at the foot of the edifice sent students silly enough to venture out into the public square rocketing into a jet stream that might have deposited them somewhere in Burkina Faso. I've seen these things happen.

I obtained my degree with incident and, against all odds, opted to remain nestled against the frosty bosom of the metropolitan Bloomington-Normal area. I became, like most of them, isolated in thought and geography. It's no wonder that when I shook loose, I headed farther south, to Dallas, Texas, where winter was a mere fruit fly circling over a plate of sliced melon. (After that, we get into long stories that have little to do with weather, more to do with rock 'n' roll and the lifestyle that entails. Neither here nor there, that, really, to get into specifics, you know. But it culminated with me standing in front of a sale rack, looking to stretch my clothing dollar, spotting a BDg wooly looking pullover with sport stripes. Some other, less important now, socks and shirts.)

So isn't it crazy (yes of course it is) how things go full circle? Only no they really don't. Perception folds back into itself, like a folded jacket, sitting on a desk, next to a backpack, and the coffee is low and cold in the cup, and so I

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I had one of those unsettling moments of non-being this morning, perhaps brought on by the sprinkle of snow and the consequent necessity to put down careful footsteps lest I slide headlong into a parking meter.

All that concentration this early in the morning just soaks on in and makes me start to think about the muscular aspects of walking — the individual pillars of subconsciousness that make such action automatic and, under normal operating conditions, relatively safe. Each muscle or muscle group and tendon and cable working with the brain and nervous system to produce a fluid, repetitive motion, the details of which go off without incident, so quiet as to remain undetected. So then after I've deconstructed or attempted to deconstruct the entire physiological process of getting from Wells to State by foot, I start to wonder what it is that even makes me human at all. If I can get through a day on my reflexes and instincts, am I alive or am I just another skin-wrapped gut bag waddling around on a massive playing surface for the amusement of gods and pigeons?

The beep my key card makes in the office door jars me out of it. I stomp my feet on the carpet and the rings of snow around my soles leave foot-shaped rings. The tips of my shoes are dark and wet, the toes inside a wee bit numb. I struggle with my backpack straps, take my gloves off and slap at the snow on my knees. I realize that my next haircut is way overdue and that when I remove my hat, it might reveal a mangled nest that will hardly resemble the well-sculpted follicular accomplishment I last beheld in the bathroom mirror. Despair.

The elevator is a brushed-steel box, its ascent slow and uneventful. I see my ghostly reflection and it's hardly me there, but there I am. I blow into my left fist, my right fist. I pat the hair on top. Unzip my jacket. Exhale. Fourth floor.