Wednesday, June 11, 2008


I woke up half an hour early today, and since it's still on the humid side and my hair has been the exact same kind of ornery for the past 25 years, I've attained a certain zen about it and don't bother with the full round-brush-and-assorted-hair-clip-deployment extravaganza that usually occupies my morning hours, so I wound up with substantially more time to roam around the house doing nothing before leaving for work. (NB: I am no longer going to try and adjust my commute for traffic. There were insane awesome/scary thunderstorms last night, which downed a lot of trees and such, and the radio people promised delays...cue me turning into the parking lot almost a full half hour early.) I decided to spend this jackpot of free morning time doing something I haven't done for - though it pains me to say it - several years.

I turned on "American Morning."

I used to be a complete CNN junkie...I'd come home from work or whatever and just turn it on. Even if it was muted, I would watch the ticker. The height of this madness was around 2001-2004, when I lived in DC and "needed" to watch it constantly. Since then, and maybe even during that period, I don't know, I find CNN absolutely insufferable, and can't even bring myself to watch it for election results. There's a select core of reporters and talking heads who I like - and we're talking about maybe five people here - but CNN has filled the spaces between then with the most vapid, hyper-partisan bullshit artists I have ever had the displeasure of hearing spew nothing comments around. There is a difference between presenting both sides of an argument (which frankly they would do better to just stop trying to claim) and presenting every wingnut extremist viewpoint the Internets have to offer. Even some formerly excellent reporters have devolved into emitting complete word salad without saying anything revelant, anything with some MEAT to it. Sad, really.

Shouldn't we demand more of the viewing public? I ask this not just of CNN, but of almost everything on TV these days. The best professors I have now and have ever had are the ones who demand that I give my dictionary a workout, who demand that I follow the pace they set, who demand that I have some level of background in a (fucking) 300 level course. What the hell is so wrong with asking people to engage their minds every now and then? I have absolutely no higher ground upon which to perch here...last night, I watched a gigantic man painted green (a la The Incredible Hulk) whomp someone off a platform and into water on American Gladiators, and as I have discussed here before, I will watch any crappy weekday court show you give me. But can't it be both? Do we really think that we're so...unfaceted that we can't think that someone painted green is kind of hilarious while also giving a shit about the state of foreign and domestic policies? ARE we that single-minded that we can only enjoy or care about one or the other? If so, a.) I'm moving and b.) how the hell did we get here from the days of the American Revolution?

So okay, I watched CNN this morning and clearly this has riled me, so let me tell you why. Amidst the Attention Deficit Theatre that is CNN's programming, there was a brief - and we're talking 45 seconds or so here - piece about a recent Bush comment on the war.

"I think that in retrospect I could have used a different tone, a different rhetoric," Bush told the Times as he flew across the Atlantic on Air Force One. The phrases he used to win support for the war such as "bring 'em on" and "dead or alive" he said, "indicated to people that I was, you know, not a man of peace."

Let's first dispense with the angry that you know is brewing in my head right now. Look...I realize that some people think I'm a bit of an asshole when it comes to grammar, vocabulary and spelling. I get lots of exasperated comments along the lines of, "Jos, who cares" when I correct people. You know what, I care, and you should care, because you sound and look ILLITERATE, okay? You a moron. This goes double, triple, to the nth power for the goddamn President of the United States. From the historical examples he gives of "bring 'em on" and the charmingly dick-swinging "dead or alive" to the contemporary usage of "you know," there's just inappropriate ALL OVER THE PLACE in that statement. You are the LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD. Try to muster some more dignified speech, you asshole. I was talking with a friend this weekend, and language came up (via My Fair Lady...yes, I know super awesome people. Nerds of a feather, etc., etc.)...he'd basically taught someone English, and felt that was one of the greatest gifts you could give someone. How can you argue with that? How can you possibly give any more than the ability to express yourself as accurately and eloquently as possible? How can you give a greater gift than to be able to communicate with such an enormous swath of the world's population?

And then how could anyone say it doesn't matter?

My other strongly held and apparently old fashioned belief is in the virtues of diplomacy. I know, I know...I'm so out of the loop. No one needs DIPLOMACY today...we just smash everything with the largest hammer available! Stupid fucking me. I try to refrain from getting all "I told you so" about things that involve actual people dying but seriously you guys, how much time did I dedicate to pissing and moaning about the fact that diplomacy spent all its time bent over George Bush's desk during the run up to the war? Saying what you want to happen does not constitute diplomatic negotiation. Listing demands does not constitute diplomatic negotiation. Pretty much any time you drop the phrase "bring 'em on," you're not dealing with diplomatic negotiation. This is not complicated. This is Diplomacy 101. Diplomacy is a conversation, and nothing of the sort happened.

So, Bush feels like maybe he made a bit of an oopsie with the language. Okay. This gets 45 seconds of coverage, then switches to a report on how Ken Starr is going to help Hollywood deal with the paparazzi problem. (In that report, someone actually said, "we have to protect our celebrities," at which point I threw up in my own lung and swore a bunch.) But back that up...45 seconds to cover Bush's comment. Let's look at this. Had Bush bothered with some diplomacy, my nearest guess is that one of two things would have happened. First of all, it would have created more time to do a bunch of important things, starting with actually resolving the dispute without all the shock and awe, passing through allowing for some actual Congressional and press review and consideration of the plan, and ending somewhere in the vicinity of developing both a modern, well-planned military attack and that thing where you get out without everyone dyi...oh yeah, an exit strategy. Second of all, and I realize that this is wishful thinking considering the woeful state of the intelligence community's Arabic resources, but they might have realized that the problems of the Middle East will never be resolved via American Democracy, and that maybe a different approach should be taken, IF of course they didn't have the Light Bursting Through the Clouds style realization that we really shouldn't have touched this particular wasps' nest with a ten foot pole.

In short, Bush's little language booboo cost around 4000+ American lives, to say nothing of injuries or foreign casualties. Oops.

45 seconds of the news, and no analysis. Just a quote.

Maybe war in Iraq was inevitable. Maybe we had to go in. I don't think ANYONE'S complaining about the fact that Saddam Hussein is dead. But there's no question that Bush's stance and language exacerbated an already hot problem, and that is a goddamn shame. How embarassing, for what I truly believe is the greatest nation in the world to have as its spokesman such an inarticulate, backwards-sounding man. Maybe the saddest thing is that he cultivates this image, deems it appropriate to the office. I sincerely believe that he feels he is larger than the office, and someone who feels that way shouldn't be anywhere near the White House or any of its attendant red buttons. But good just throw what is potentially a hugely significant comment out there and then immediately veer back to the fluffy celebrity news seems such a disservice to basically everyone ever. Is no one doing their job? Where are the muckrakers? Where's the outrage? Doesn't anyone care about this stuff...worry about it...think about it?



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