Saturday, May 06, 2006

Big Ol' Blog

A new one.
There’s a new-ish piece of Brit slang: anorak. It refers to an obsessive collector of any stripe, apparently because the anorak is the apparel of choice for obsessive collectors. When I was in college, we called older female students “wedgies,” because that seemed to be their footwear of choice. Both are examples of metonymy. You’re welcome.

At the grocery store.
A group of learning-disabled people was shopping. As I was checking out, one of them, standing by the exit, shouted, “Watermelons! Whoo!”

Sean Hannity
I was listening to Sean Hannity’s radio show on Thursday, and I noticed he and his callers have a peculiar habit. Often he is greeted with this salutation, “You, sir, are a great American,” or “You’re a great American, sir,” or “Sir, you are a great American.” To which he responds, “You’re a great American, sir,” or “You’re a great American.” All done with the cadence of the old “After you, Alphonse” bit: “Oh no, after YOU.”

I can’t figure this out. Did Sean Hannity invent the telephone, take out a bunker at Normandy, or find a cure for cancer? As far as I know, he’s just a guy with a talk show. How does that confer greatness? And the callers? They’re great Americans because they got off the couch, and CALLED a talk show?

In a nation hungry for heroes, it doesn’t take much to whet the appetite.

Stephen Colbert
At the White House Correspondents' Dinner, Stephen Colbert either tore the President a new one or tanked, depending on your political point of view.

I have seen the video of his performance and lean toward the former (because of my political point of view), but it is odd that he delivers his comedy via the persona of “Stephen Colbert,” a Bill O’Reilly caricature (or, as Colbert describes him: a “high status idiot”). In other words, he is speaking truth to power by pretending to be somebody who would never in a million years speak truth to power. Or “truthiness,” I suppose.

I like Stephen Colbert, and find him very funny. On the other hand, after his appearance, leftie bloggers immediately complained that the Main Stream Media had ignored Colbert - despite coverage in the Washington Post, and Time Magazine, among other places. I first read about it from the Associated Press.

Michael Scherer in Salon claimed that Colbert "uncovered the inner workings of the ever-cheapening discourse that passes for political debate. He reversed and flattened the meaning of the words he spoke." In other words, Colbert’s appearance was satirical. Stop the presses!

And a commentator on the Daily Kos posted this: “Where the media fails, the citizens step up. The Colbert critique has gone viral, with internet users rapidly emailing it to thousands online (I've received three forwards of it already).”

Email Colbert to your fellow sans-culottes! To the barricades!

“So go ahead, give life to Colbert's Harry Taylor moment. Email the video to your friends, your family, Republican, Independent, and Democrat alike. I have, and in doing so, I know that Stephen Colbert speaks for me.”

If you’ll recall, Harry Taylor is the guy who went off on President Bush at a q and a earlier this year: “I feel like despite your rhetoric, that compassion and common sense have been left far behind during your administration. And I would hope from time to time that you have the humility and grace to be ashamed of yourself.”

Well now, as far as Stephen Colbert “speaking” for you, like Harry Taylor: Harry Taylor is a real guy, “Stephen Colbert” is not. Tom Paine was a real guy, for instance. “Stephen Colbert” is a comic actor with a late night television show on cable. I suspect he’d be amused or appalled to think that he speaks for anybody.

In a nation hungry for heroes, etc.

Speaking truth to power
Can we retire this phrase now? Thank you.

Sean Hannity redux.
At one point in his show, he claimed that listeners get information from his program that they won’t get from the Main Stream Media. Hello? Sean Hannity IS the Main Stream Media. Didn’t he get the memo?

So Christopher Hitchens wrote an article in Slate tearing Juan Cole a new one (or maybe he tanked – look it up and you decide). He wrote - concerning statements by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the late Ayatollah Khomeini - accusing Juan Cole, professor of history and leftie pundit, of denying that “Ahmadinejad, or indeed Khomeini, had ever made this call for the removal of Israel from the map. Cole is a minor nuisance on the fringes of the academic Muslim apologist community.”

Hitchens: “Here is what he wrote on the "Gulf 2000" e-mail chat-list on April 22:

Cole: “It bears repeating as long as the accusation is made. Ahmadinejad did not ‘threaten’ to ‘wipe Israel off the map.’ I'm not sure there is even such an idiom in Persian. He quoted Khomeini to the effect that ‘the Occupation regime must end’. (ehtelal bayad az bayn berad). And, no, it is not the same thing.”

Hitchens: “For a start, let us look at the now-famous speech that Ahmadinejad actually gave at the Interior Ministry on Oct. 26, 2005. (I am using the translation made by Nazila Fathi of the New York Times Tehran bureau, whose Persian is probably the equal of Professor Cole's.) The relevant portions read: ‘Our dear Imam [Khomeini] said that the occupying regime must be wiped off the map and this was a very wise statement.’

In his blog, Juan Cole responded: “Christopher Hitchens owes me a big apology. I belong to a private email discussion group called Gulf2000. It has academics, journalists and policy makers on it. It has a strict rule that messages appearing there will not be forwarded off the list…and is intended to allow the participants to converse about controversial matters without worrying about being in trouble. Also, in an informal email discussion, ideas evolve, you make mistakes and they get corrected, etc. It is a rough, rough draft.”

He goes on to explain: “The precise reason for Hitchens' theft and publication of my private mail is that I object to the characterization of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as having ‘threatened to wipe Israel off the map.’ I object to this translation of what he said on two grounds. First, it gives the impression that he wants to play Hitler to Israel's Poland, mobilizing an armored corps to move in and kill people.

“But the actual quote, which comes from an old speech of Khomeini, does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all. The second reason is that it is just an inexact translation. The phrase is almost metaphysical. He quoted Khomeini that ‘the occupation regime over Jerusalem should vanish from the page of time.’”

Cole adds: “I should again underline that I personally despise everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed so thoroughly that we have never recovered their bodies. Nor do I agree that the Israelis have no legitimate claim on any part of Jerusalem.”

Juan Cole wonders why Hitchens shouold attack him so vehemently:

“How to explain this peculiar behavior on the part of someone who was at one time one of our great men of letters?

“Well, I don't think it is any secret that Hitchens has for some time had a very serious and debilitating drinking problem. He once showed up drunk to a talk I gave and heckled me. I can only imagine that he was deep in his cups when he wrote, or had some far Rightwing think tank write, his current piece of yellow journalism. I am sorry to witness the ruin of a once-fine journalistic mind.”

Christopher Hitchens? Drunk? Stop the presses!

But wait. Now Andrew Sullivan weighs in on his blog (he admits to being friends with both Hitchens and Cole).

"I was not aware - and maybe Hitch wasn't either …- that the email quoted was for a strictly private list. I didn't quote it myself, but I linked. I'm a strong believer in the principle of online privacy, if at all possible, and regret unknowingly violating that rule, and apologize for that inadvertence. Cole, however, trashes whatever high ground he might have sought by accusing Hitch of writing the piece drunk…. By pure coincidence, I was at Hitch's yesterday as he filed the piece. He was stone-cold sober. And on top form. It is Cole who owes Hitch an apology. Hitch stuck to the issues; Cole got personal.”

He then goes on to ask what “…the technical question of what ‘wiping Israel off the map’ means. It could mean a bombing, nuking or military invasion; it could mean its simple ceasing to exist, through some kind of violent uprising among Palestinians.”

“Whatever it means, Ahmadinejad's desire to end Israel's existence and establish Islamist rule in Palestine cannot mean anything but the annihilation of the Jews therein. Coles' semantic point seems to me to crumble upon inspection.”

To which Cole responds:

“Hitchens not Drunk, Only an Asinine Thief

“I'm told Andrew Sullivan is saying that he was at Hitchens's house when Hitchens stole my private mail and published it without my permission, and that he was sober, and that I owe Hitchens an apology.

“I am very sorry to hear this. Hitchens came drunk to my talk last year and was incoherent. I was making excuses for his shocking lapse of simple journalistic integrity by hoping that it was the outcome of besotted judgement. If Sullivan is correct, then Hitchens is just plain without any ethics.

…yadda yadda…

“I had so hoped that the purloined email and the bizarre characterization of my argument, and the attempt of this Western journalist who is clueless about reading Persian texts to correct my philology, was the mere result of too many whiskey sours taken too early in the morning.

“I see that instead it is mere asininity and lack of character. Thanks to Sullivan for settling the issue.”

Israel wiped from the face of the earth or simply erased from the pages of history? Hitchens drunk or asinine? You decide. I present this little snapshot of modern discourse for you to ponder.

On the Ambien
Sean Hannity was all up in arms about Patrick Kennedy, because he had driven his car into a barricade in DC at three o’clock in the morning, and was then found by the Capitol Police wandering around unsteadily. A Kennedy in his cups is news? Like robins in the spring, a Kennedy in his cups is bound to appear somewhere, pretty much on a daily basis.

Hannityheads were all a’twitter because the cops hadn’t given Kennedy a breathalyzer test. Capitol Police claim they were stopped from giving him the test, which further irritated the Hannityheads.

Kennedy claimed the next day that he hadn’t been drinking, but was suffering from a reaction to drugs he’d been taking, including Ambien, and he was going to check himself into Mayo Clinic for treatment.

This also irritated radioland, which smelled a cover-up. Radioland was also irritated by its perception that Rush Limbaugh had been unfairly hounded by the media for his addiction to oxycontin, while liberal Patrick Kennedy was being treated with kid gloves.

Well, I don’t know about that. Do a Google on Patrick Kennedy, and there are plenty of harsh words to be found. On the other hand, like I said - an intoxicated Kennedy? Stop the presses!

And Ambien has become increasingly ambient in America. CBS News reports that sales of sleeping medications have increased 55 percent since 2001. In 2005, some 2 billion dollars were spent on Ambien, and similar meds, like Lunesta and Sonata.

And Ambien often comes with bizarre side effects, like sleep walking, sleep driving, and even sleep eating. A researcher at the Minnesota Regional Sleep Disorders Center in Minneapolis told CBS: "We've had people eat very inappropriate things that they would never eat while awake. Some examples would be buttered cigarettes, salt sandwiches, raw bacon."

Back in 2003, Colin Powell, being interviewed for a London based Saudi newspaper, was asked if he took sleeping pills. Powell told the reporter, “Yes. Well, I wouldn't call them that. They're a wonderful medication — not medication. How would you call it? They're called Ambien, which is very good. You don't use Ambien? Everybody here uses Ambien."

Everybody here uses Ambien? Does he mean everybody in the Bush administration? Do side effects include leaking, denial, obfuscation, and saber rattling? That would explain a lot. I wonder if President Bush finds himself sleep-bicycling at night, riding around the Oval Office, and stuffing his face with pretzels. Alert the Main Stream Media! I mean - Give Sean Hannity a call! He, sir, is a great American.

From Reuters:

Critics have accused Bush of hypocrisy for opposing a Spanish language version of the anthem.

They pointed to a book called AMERICAN DYNASTY by Kevin Phillips, who wrote that Bush "would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing 'The Star-Spangled Banner' in Spanish."

(From the book, p. 142: “When visiting cities like Chicago, Milwaukee, or Philadelphia, in pivotal states, he would drop in at Hispanic festivals and parties, sometimes joining in singing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ in Spanish, sometimes partying with a ‘Viva Bush’ mariachi band flown in from Texas.”)

Penultimately: Anthem anathema
The blog, Eschaton, put this timeline together. I have cut and pasted it here.

AP, 1998: Helping matters, Bush also speaks fluent Spanish. So does his brother, Jeb Bush, who is married to a Mexican-American and was elected governor of Florida, thanks in part to a strong Hispanic vote.

Portsmouth Herald, 1999: Bush also took a question from a Spanish reporter and answered in fluent Spanish.

Pat Robertson on CNN, 2/24/2000: Well, I think he could say that, but I think he's made it clear. He said it in Michigan. He said, "Look, I'm not anti-Catholic, and I don't support racism." I mean, this guy has put together a coalition in Texas of Hispanics -- he speaks fluent Spanish -- of -- of African- Americans, of Democrats. I mean, he is a very, very tolerant, broad-based guy. And I think that the media's spinning this thing way out of proportion to what really happened. That's my feeling.

New York Times, 2/28/00 (Nicholas Kristof reporting): He also showed off his Spanish, which is fluent, by firing off a sentence in Spanish.

McLaughlin Group, 6/2000: MR. O'DONNELL: Absolutely, and they both -- they both do it well. I mean, George W. Bush is fluent in Spanish.

National Review, 4/2000: Yes, indeed. He was fluent in Spanish, which appeals to that minority, and he was fluent in gibberish-the touchy-feely Clintonian hogwash that the elusive "soccer mom" is said to go bananas over.

PBS, 5/9/2000: RICHARD RODRIGUEZ: I was listening the other day to Governor Bush speak fluent Spanish to Hispanic voters when it struck me that Spanish is becoming unofficially, but truly, the second language of the United States.

CNN 8/2000: PRESS: Well, I wonder how good George Bush's Spanish is. Did he know what the lyrics were before he said they ought to play the song at the convention? I don't know.

O'BRIEN: Yes, he says he's fluent.

Morning call, 4/22/06: It's also good to see President Bush, (a fluent Spanish-speaker, by the way), leading the vision for comprehensive immigration reform based on three elements: border security, effective immigration law enforcement, and very importantly, a temporary worker program.

Scott McClellan, May, 2006: The president speaks Spanish, but not that well….I'm saying that not only was that suggestion absurd, but that he couldn't possibly sing the national anthem in Spanish. He's not that good with his Spanish.

Finally, a metaphor?
“The Spanish wire service EFE reports that Bush speaks Spanish ‘poorly’ but with great confidence.”


Blogger Jaye Ramsey Sutter said...

You are as charming to read as ever. I have missed you for years and am relieved to have found you again.

This time, don't go.

12:00 PM  

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