Thursday, September 30, 2004

Andy's Official Statement on Foreign Policy

In advance of tonight's debate between Bush and Kerry, I was going to lay out my positions on what I think US policy should be around the world. I had it all worked out, organized it region by region, with some very specific recommendations yadda yadda yadda.

However, I find tonight that I am depressed and disillusioned with basically everything, so instead of going into great detail, I will just summarize my positions.

  1. Be nicer to everyone.

LOTR update

Crickhollow and the Inn at Bree are raided in the early hours. Frodo leaves Bree. Gandalf comes to Crickhollow, and reaches Bree at night.

Das Glückliche Mäuschen

So I was awakened at around 1:10 this morning by an unusual noise. It was an electric-sounding crackle, which is usually not good. I raised my head out of bed, but didn't hear anything. Naturally when I went back to my pillow I heard it again. It seemed to be coming from the wastebasket near my desk.

So I turned on the light...didn't see anything out of the ordinary. But there was an empty Tostitos bag in the basket, that was sort of sticking up out of it. As I looked at it through the bleary, zombie-like eyes of someone who had trouble falling asleep and had only just achieved it to be awakened by unusual noises, I thought...I think it's just the wind rustling the curtains and they're brushing against the top of the bag.

But then I moved the curtain and noticed it was clearing the bag by a good 2 or 3 inches. And the window was closed. Just then the bag made the noise again. I'd like to be able to say I didn't shriek like Vera Miles at the end of Psycho and leap backwards, flailing my arms like a sheet in a hurricane, but I think that's an apt description.

Collecting myself once again, I poked the bag. Nothing. Poked again. Nothing. Po-- Damn, there it goes again! To borrow a timeless phrase from Princess Leia, "There's something alive in here."

Gingerly I lifted the bag...nothing seemed to be attached to it, and there was nothing in it except some tostito crumbs. I set the bag on the floor, and peered inside. To my horror, I saw...10-15 wadded up kleenexes. And nothing else.

So I shook the basket again. Then I saw him.

I had a mouse. Who, conveniently, had already thrown himself out.

He was trying desperately to scale the sides of my Rubbermaid 2805 Trashmaster, but he couldn't get a grip on the smooth, chocolate brown walls. He tried leaping...which might have been kind of cute had he not come so close to succeeding. One lucky leap and I'd have had him loose in my bedroom, and then what? What to do, what to do...I was still practically sleepwalking through this experience, and I thought -- as I always do when I have a problem I can't solve -- "I'll call Mom!" But then I thought better of that because, while getting her on the phone usually isn't too hard, hanging up is another issue altogether, and I wanted to go back to bed.

So I slipped on some jeans and flip flops, threw a towel over the rim of the wastebasket, and carried him down the stairs, carefully avoiding the bi-polar lady on the 2nd floor by hiding in the stairwell as she came out of the elevator. At last I made it to the street, where I removed the towel, and tipped over the garbage can. Nothing. Sigh. So I picked up the garbage can and dumped out the contents...10-15 white blobby things, and 1 dark blobby thing which quickly scurried away into the darkness. I thought, "Boy, is that mouse lucky he picked my apartment!"

So now I'm picking up used kleenexes off the sidewalk and putting them back in the garbage. Naturally two transvestites coming home from The Monkey Room are passing by just at this moment. "Honey, what are you doing?" said one of them, in Dominican-accented English.

"You wouldn't believe it if I told you," I said.

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

LOTR update

Frodo reaches Bree at night. Gandalf visits the Gaffer.

Grab Bag

  1. Don't miss my Dick Cheney post below. Make sure you're standing over a carpeted surface, or your jaw might break when it hits the floor. On the other hand, I suppose this could also fall in the category of, "I'm not surprised."
  2. Today's featured opera is Tristan und Isolde.
  3. Antonin Scalia might have gay friends.
  4. I wish I were a Mormon girl.
  5. Mormons have no sense of humor.
  6. The word of the day is kakistocracy: Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens. [Greek kakistos, worst, superlative of kakos, bad; see caco- + -cracy.] I am afraid I might be living in a kakistocracy.

Dick Cheney Spells Out Reasons for not Invading Iraq

Hurray! for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, which dug up this incredible story today...I hope the mainstream press RUNS with it.

Apparently back in 1992, Cheney had these thoughts about Saddam Hussein: "And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many. So I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq... All of a sudden you've got a battle you're fighting in a major built-up city, a lot of civilians are around, significant limitations on our ability to use our most effective technologies and techniques. Once we had rounded him up and gotten rid of his government, then the question is what do you put in its place? You know, you then have accepted the responsibility for governing Iraq."

I echo Andrew Sullivan's call for John Edwards to bring this up at the debate.

The World Today

Interesting Random Factoids of the Day:

Last month, a Zogby poll of Americans who had passports found that they supported John Kerry over Mr. Bush, 58 percent to 35 percent.

The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 3.3 percent in the spring, the government reported Wednesday. That was significantly better than a previous estimate but still the weakest showing in more than a year.

Parkfield, a rural town of about 40 people, lies virtually atop the San Andreas fault, the largest and most active of California's seismic fissures. Six moderate earthquakes - in 1857, 1881, 1901, 1922, 1934, and 1966 - have shaken Parkfield since the start of record-keeping. Because the ground had been quiet since 1966, and because of the average 22-year lull between quakes, the United States Geological Survey issued an official prediction two decades ago that another earthquake would occur in Parkfield in 1988, or at least before 1993. On Tuesday, the quake broke the earth exactly where the scientists had expected, the same spot that ruptured in 1934 and 1966. And it was as strong as they had predicted - magnitude 6.0.

Israeli forces killed six Palestinians including three teenagers on Wednesday. Youths of 17 and 14 in a stone-throwing crowd that confronted Israeli forces were shot dead in Gaza's Jabalya refugee camp. Fifteen others, many of them students in school uniforms, were taken to hospital with gunshot wounds, medics said. In a separate incident in central Gaza, Israeli troops shot dead a boy of 13 and wounded four others in a crowd of stone-throwers. In Jenin, a militant died when a taxi he was in overturned while trying to elude pursuing Israeli soldiers. A comrade was shot dead as he fled on foot. Israeli troops also blew up the Jenin home of a high-profile militant commander in the Fatah faction of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. The militant leader was not there at the time.

Thirteen million gallons of water are pumped out of the [New York City subway] system daily by 309 pump plants, equipped with a total of 748 pumps. As much as three times that amount came pouring in on the days [September 8 and 18] the system flooded.

These facts taken from today's New York Times.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

LOTR update

The Hobbits are captured by a barrow-wight. Gandalf reaches Sarn Ford.

Utterly Amazing

From an AP wire report:

The RNC also is running radio ads in several states urging people to register to vote.
"There is a line drawn in America today," one ad says. "On one side are the radicals trying to uproot our traditional values and our culture. They're fighting to hijack the institution of marriage, plotting to legalize partial birth abortion, and working to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and force the worst of Hollywood on the rest of America."

"Are you on their side of the line?" the ad asks before making the plea to "support conservative Republican candidates."

I mean, are there really people out there hearing this and nodding their heads, thinking, "Yessir!"??? Sadly, I guess the answer is, "You betcha."

I hate this argument about "uprooting traditional values." With a Democratic administration, you can live your life pretty much however you want, with the exception of the ability to possess deadly assault weapons that are absolutely useless for anything other than killing groups of people. It's when the Republicans are in charge that you get told how to live your life.

At some point I guess I'll write about gay marriage. Not really time for that right now. But come on, folks. Western civilization is not going to collapse because we alter a few federal forms and let Mr. and Mr. John Q. Public file a joint tax return.

This ad also patently ignores the fact that both Kerry and Edwards are opposed to gay marriage. Kind of hard for the liberals to advance that much hyped "homosexual agenda" if their candidates aren't supporting it. As far as I know, there aren't any candidates out there who advocate taking God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, but as far as I'm concerned that whole Pledge should be banned. You can't instill patriotism by forcing kids to recite oaths; in fact, you're likely to turn kids off from it. America may have a somewhat checkered history (who doesn't?) but there's still plenty to be proud of. If you want kids to love this country, just teach them our history. More than enough there.

I love that bit about forcing "the worst of Hollywood" on the "rest of America." Yes, as President, I would take busloads of Southern Baptists from Nagodoches, Texas and chain them in seats in a movie theater and force them to watch Gigli. I would fine Blockbuster Video $1,000 for each copy of a John Wayne movie in their rental inventory and order them to be replaced with The Real Cancun. I would alter FCC regulations so that television networks would be fined for each broadcast that didn't contain at least one bare middle-aged African-American breast.

In West Virginia, the RNC mailed out printed brochures which said that "the Bible will be prohibited and men will marry men if liberals win in November. " I mean, this is just outrageous. No one is speaking of banning the Bible, and that would be unconstitutional anyway, since "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

ARGH. These liars have absolutely no shame. Well, I guess they'll find out come Judgment Day, when they realize they have taken the Gospel of peace and used it to sow hatred and division and intolerance.

I Knew there was a Reason I Liked Him

Eminem Takes Aim at Bush

Snaps for this lovely and original double-entendre from the folks at Rolling Stone.

I'm not sure this will have any effect on the election, but I found this part of the brief article aroused my interest: "The video, due on MTV as early as October 5th, features Eminem running naked down a Los Angeles street and dressing as pop icons like Pee-wee Herman."

  1. Where can I get stills/outtakes from said video?
  2. Pee-wee Herman is a pop icon?

Christmas in Gondor

New Line Cinema announced today that the much-anticipated, long-awaited extended edition of The Return of the King will be available on DVD on December 14. This version will contain fifty additional minutes of footage not seen in last year's theatrical release.

More details here.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Ah, there's the little desk where I sat, complete with my laptop that I used to write all these despondent emails. Posted by Hello

Swiss Archives, Volume 4

From: Andy
To: Mom
Sent: Wednesday, September 27, 2000
Subject: after thoughts [note: the original email contained a few things too personal for public consumption, and has been edited]


Have you mailed the box yet, or not? If long did they say it would take? It's starting to get cold here and I have one jacket and one sweatshirt, so I may need to buy some stuff. Is there money in the account? Because there isn't any in my pocket.

[For the record, I was paid 1200 Swiss Franks per month during my time with the Zurich Opera, which worked out to about $700. Upon arrival in Zurich I had to pay CHF435 in rent; CHF150 for the resident rail discount; CHF20 to apply for the residence permit/work visa; CHF92 once the permit was approved; CHF70 for the monthly transit pass; and CHF500 to turn on the telephone. Already that's CHF1267, and I hadn't even eaten anything yet or purchased anything to cook with, etc. So it was off to a rough start. Thereafter, rent plus transit pass plus phone bill came to CHF600 monthly, half my measly salary. If you divide 600 by 30 (days per month), you get 20. So I had 20 Franks per day that I could spend to eat 3 times a day and buy anything else I might need or want. 20 Swiss Franks was about $13. I lived like that for a whole year, yes I did.]

This is hardly going to be a profitable year, and I'm a little angry. Now that we have four baritones in the program, I can't imagine I'll have many roles in the house because there can't really be that many to begin with and I would think they have to hand them out as evenly as possible.

Seriously, if I came here for a year to do free concerts and one comprimario role, I will be upset.

Did I tell you the director of the program got mad at me yesterday? They scheduled me to have a voice lesson with some guy (that I didn't know anything about, never heard of him, don't really want a lesson, don't feel I need one) at the same time that I had a rehearsal for Salome. I figured they would catch the error themselves; hell, it was THEIR mistake. Obviously I had to go to Salome. But the director seemed very irritated with me; he thinks I should have called them (though I don't have a phone yet) and he said instead the professor sat around waiting for me for 20 minutes because they didn't know I wasn't coming. Maybe I'm stupid, but I really don't see how that is my fault. And Mr. P____ was not nice about it, it was as if I had embarrassed him with this teacher. So I've been in a knot about that. This nice guy who lives next door to me (from Luxembourg, he's studying water ecology here somewhere) said everybody last year complained about Mr. P____ all the time, he made this one girl cry a lot, etc. He said I should just ignore him, but I don't see how I can, really.

Oh, so the best part of it is that they rescheduled the lesson today for 3:00, which is exactly at the time that my German class starts. Now, to me, my German lessons are more important than a stupid voice lesson right now that really could be tomorrow sometime. So I asked them about it first thing this morning; they're switching my lesson time, but I still will have to leave German 1/2 hour early, which I know will not please the teacher and doesn't please me.

I asked someone who was in the program last year about this teacher, since I've never heard of him. They said he doesn't speak any English and that he's not a very good teacher, so I should just go sing for him and then ignore what he tells me. I guess that will be easy if I can't understand him.

How did I get into this?

At least the phone is being hooked up, and that battle should be over (although Swisscom is supposed to be very expensive, and I'm curious to see what the charge will be for the 1/2 hour I was online this morning and how big a hassle it might be to change to something else). But I'm really getting frustrated because I can see all these things that could continue to drive me nuts for an entire year.

If just ONE thing were really great about being here, I would be so much happier, but for the most part, every aspect is such a disappointment that basically I feel nothing but overwhelming despair.

Random Events and Such

I am home from a dull day at work, spent chasing down email addresses of reporters. The secondary assistant in the International Department was fired last week by the plastic-surgery lady. Apparently there weren't enough chairs in the board room for a meeting they had, and this is now a fire-able offense. Thankfully, I am going to San Francisco next week and already committed to replacing someone on the 4th floor when I get back while she goes on vacation, so, dang, I'm just not available to cover International. That really breaks my heart. Not.

As I came out of the subway station at 81st and Central Park West this morning there was a man playing a trumpet with back-up orchestra on a boom-box. It sounded like Mozart to me, but he didn't write any trumpet concerti...however he did write some horn concerti, so perhaps it was transcribed. Or it could have been a Haydn trumpet concerto. Anyway, I'm wondering if trumpet-karaoke is a rage that will soon sweep the country? My dad could be very popular with the four bars of "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" that he still remembers.

Now I'm home listening to La Traviata. It's a nice quiet, warm evening, though a little humid...the remnants of Hurricane Jeanne have blown a lot of humid air up our way, to be followed by torrents of rain and wind late tonight or tomorrow morning. During the commute, no doubt. Thankfully at lunch today I did remember to go to the drugstore and buy a new umbrella. They didn't have black, so I got green.

I vocalized for like 30 minutes when I got home, the first I've really tried since getting over the flu. I got tired fast. But the sound was okay. I'm physically tired. I haven't been doing my yoga. I'm uninspired. Unmotivated. I just want to be fat and lazy.

I will probably watch The Empire Strikes Back on DVD tonight.

This is random. You don't have to read it.

The Washington Post continued with Part 2 of their profile of the young gay boy in Oklahoma. I am so glad I didn't grow up there! Are people really that ignorant and cruel? It amazes me. There are also links to a photo gallery; he's so cute! Can I adopt him? He can bring his country music collection, but the souped-up pickup with the flames and the chrome tailpipes has to stay in Tulsa.

Speaking of cruel, I got this in an email today from someone. Now, let's set this up. This person stood me up for dates twice. There were many, many, many things he did that set off all kinds of alarms and red flags. When he wanted to make arrangements to meet yet again, I declined. Today he asked for an explanation, and I gave it to him. When he wrote back, here is what he said:

"It's a sad day when people like yourself run rampant, [expletive] anything that has a hole while we sit around and scratch our heads about why HIVand STDs are on the rise in the gay culture."

Oh, yeah, that's me, all right. Show me a donut or a tire and I'm fumbling for my zipper. Well, on the positive side, I apparently pissed him off so much that he no longer wants a 3rd chance.

In other news, in case there was any doubt, the Israeli Government demonstrated today that they are in fact terrorists, by killing a Palestinian in Syria who they claimed had ties to Hamas. Details here. Now, come on. A car bomb? This is supposed to be legitimate how? I mean, assassinations are just bad to begin with, but that's despicable. It wasn't even in Israeli occupied territories (i.e., the Gaza strip, etc.), they actually went into a foreign country and committed a terrorist act. I don't care who the victim was or what heinous crimes he may very possibly have been connected with. You don't pull crap like that. If you know where he is, you go through diplomatic ties to have him arrested and then he needs to be tried in a court of law. There are actually Israelis who think that 97 U.N. resolutions have been passed against them because of rampant anti-Semitism. Hello? No, it's because your government is run by thugs.

LOTR update

Gandalf crosses Greyflood. The hobbits spend a second night with Bombadil.

Correction: Kerry does NOT own an assault rifle

Thank God! I was not looking forward to that controversy.

No Assault Rifle for Kerry, After All

2 dreams

Okay, help me with this.

First dream, I was in a canoe with my dad floating on the ocean off the coast of Africa and there were a bunch of whales swimming around. At first it was cool and I was watching them dive and display their tails (which I dreamed about in amazing detail), but then I noticed one extremely large whale who kept circling closer and closer and I was getting nervous. Finally he was swimming right under the boat, and I leaned over the edge and looked him right in the eye. That's when I woke up.

Then later I dreamed it was time to get up. (Don't you hate that one?) It was dark, so I had to turn on the lights. But the lights wouldn't go on...they only rose to a weak glow, sort of the way they looked just before they finally went out in the great blackout of 2003. (For those of you who weren't here, it didn't suddenly go black...everything faded.) And it was snowing outside, even though I was conscious that it was today. I also still had my Macintosh that I got rid of in 1999.

**** says the canoe is not indicative of anything unless it's empty, in which case it symbolizes the need for new friends. canoe was full. : ) The ocean was calm, which apparently is a "good omen." The ocean definition then refers you to "boat," which says that a boat in dreams is symbolic of your life. (I suppose it was just too obvious to mention that the ocean is one of the most common symbols for the unconscious.) Now, here's some good news: "a dream of your father forecasts progress in business, professional, or career matters." (It's about frickin' time!) Swoon also says that Africa (don't ask how I knew it was Africa...isn't it weird how sometimes you just know stuff in dreams?) generally implies "a happy improvement in status in the near future."

Now we get to the really good news. Swoon says of whales, "This big creature is a splendid dream omen signifying protective influences around you, and if you saw the flukes of its tail, freedom from worry will soon be yours. " "Exceptionally large and/or wide-open eyes in a dream signify an inheritance. Blue or light eyes mean a new friendship; dark eyes, a new love affair. " Well, I doubt there's much of an inheritance coming my way, but the whale did have very dark eyes. Wouldn't it be nice to have a large inheritance and a boyfriend? I guess that what dreams are for, alas.

Okay, on to the second dream: "Darkness: Be prepared for a setback; however, if you managed to grope your way to the light, you will achieve great success. If you were walking in the dark, you will recover something you had given up for lost. Turning electricity on forecasts unexpected recognition for past efforts or favors, but a sudden general power failure in your dream suggests that you suspect you are wasting your energy; reassess your ambitions and consider a possible change of direction." I don't like the sound of that. Of course it wasn't a "sudden general power failure," it was just that the lights wouldn't fully go on. Where's my inheritance?

This was funny: "Snow is a generally good omen, unless you ate the snow, in which case it portends a coming season of sadness." (I did not, for the record, eat any snow in my dream. Hurray!) "To dream of deep snow or of a snowstorm signifies hard work but with an unexpected big success at the end; wet snow on trees, etc., is an omen of profitable investments; snow in the autumn indicates unusual happiness." (All this is sounding good to me!) They didn't attribute any significance to a Macintosh that has been in the garbage for 5 years, but they did say a computer is symbolic of a "compulsion for complete control."

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Didn't find any skeletons

I don't know what did it. Maybe it was the WaPo piece on being young and gay in Oklahoma (where the wind comes sweepin' down Oklahoma, I guess), but I was inspired to clean out my closets today.

HOLY COW is all I can say. What did I keep all that crap for? I mean, okay, the big cardboard boxes I was keeping for when I finally move out of this apartment, whenever that will be. But you know, some of those boxes moved with me to New York from Los Angeles eleven years ago. They are disintegrating. It was time to let them go.

What really frightened me were the comforters. I think I found 5 comforters hidden back there, a couple of which I don't remember at all. One of them was actually kind of okay. I mean, I would never have picked it out, it looks like I stole it from the Motel 6 in Modesto, but it's in good shape and will work nicely on the sofabed if I ever guests in wintertime. Two I kept for sentimental reasons; one was my bedspread from when I went to school in Los Angeles (yessir, twelve years was with the sheets I used in LA, too, which I got rid of since I no longer own a twin bed) and another was a soft, cuddly one my first NY boyfriend gave me back in the fall of 1994 when I first got my apartment and didn't even have a bed yet. He felt the pile of sheets and blankets I was sleeping on wasn't quite soft enough, so he donated that one to the heap.

The other two were so ugly I was ashamed that I owned them, and I put them in a large bag and will be donating them to the Salvation Army next weekend.

I also did four loads of laundry, paid my bills (and I have $75 left over!) and did the dishes. My feet are killing me. I still have to make the bed and there's some tidying left to do in the living room. It's only 6:30, I have plenty of time, but I'm not sure I have plenty of energy.

Amazing new series in the Washington Post

If this doesn't break your heart, then you don't have one. Is it any wonder that I get angry at straight people? Y'all have no idea what you put us through.

In the Bible Belt, Acceptance Is Hard-Won

(free registration with the WP required)

John Kerry owns an assault rifle???

Read it for yourself, people.

"In Magazine Interview, Kerry says he owns Assault Rifle"

My tiny room in Zurich; if you look closely in the niche behind the bed, you can see my infamous telephone. Posted by Hello

Swiss Archives, Volume 3

From: Andy
To: Mom
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2000
Subject: what i'm dealing with


Hopefully we are nearing a resolution on this phone situation.

Here we are on Tuesday morning, still nothing. And so I called the 800 number for the phone company, because somehow that gets through even though I can't call anyone else. Fortunately I was connected to a customer service rep who spoke English because I haven't learned enough German to complain effectively yet. : )

Anyway, we went through all the basic questions first. "Did you fill out a contract?" Yes, honey, I filled out the contract in person last week at the Kreuzplatz office and it was faxed back to the main office. "Did you know that you must pay a 500 Swiss Frank deposit?" Yes, dear, I paid the deposit in cash and I'm holding the receipt in my hot little hand. "Oh."

So she looks up my account on the computer, and she says (really, I'm not kidding): "I see that you did not tell us the name of the person who lived in the flat before you. We need that information to trace the phone line, otherwise an electrician must come to your home to turn on the line."

??????? Now, this girl was very sweet, so I couldn't get mad, but if anyone can provide me with any kind of explanation as to how on earth that is reasonable, I would appreciate it.

I said very politely that I had no idea who had lived here before and had no reasonable way of finding out. Furthermore, I doubted very much that I needed an electrician since I was using that very phone line to speak with her.

Long pause.

" are using this phone line to speak with me?" Uh-huh. Bingo. "Oh...hold please..."

So after a small eternity she comes back on the line and says, "Sir, I'm very sorry, I cannot explain why you cannot make phone calls. I must refer this to the back office." And THEN, and this is the good part: "IS THERE A NUMBER WHERE I CAN CALL YOU BACK?"

Who would have thought Switzerland would be this weird? Ah, che pazienza!!!


LOTR update

The Old Forest. Frodo comes to Bombadil.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

War on Terror: Is the world more or less safe?

I can't take any credit for this, but I have to re-post this from

ZAHN: Is the world a safer place because of the war in Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: No. It's more dangerous. It's not safer, certainly not.
ZAHN: How so?
MUSHARRAF: Well, because it has aroused actions of the Muslims more. It's aroused certain sentiments of the Muslim world, and then the responses, the latest phenomena of explosives, more frequent for bombs and suicide bombings. This phenomenon is extremely dangerous.
ZAHN: Was it a mistake to have gone to war with Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I would say that it has ended up bringing more trouble to the world.
ZAHN: Even members of President Bush's party are saying that the United States is in trouble in Iraq and it's possible the United States won't win the war in Iraq. Is that the way you see it?
MUSHARRAF: Well, when you enter operations, you can go wrong in your calculations. That always is a possibility in any operation.
ZAHN: Has that happened in Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: Well, there are difficulties. One can't predict. Maybe the difficulties are surmounted and then it ends up with a victory, with a success. But, at the moment, we are bogged down, yes, yes indeed.
ZAHN: Are you fearful the United States will pull out before it should militarily?
MUSHARRAF: That will be a folly. They must leave a stable, territorially integrated Iraq. We have people of Iraq hard administering themselves, governing themselves, and governing their own natural resources. That must be left intact. They must not leave a disturbed area there. The disturbance can spread to other areas.
ZAHN: Do you think that the war in Iraq has undermined the overall war on terror?
MUSHARRAF: It has complicated it, certainly. I wouldn't say undermined. It has further complicated it. It has made the job more difficult..

Full post here.

What backdoor draft?

Everyone should read this guest column in the NY Times today.

Alan, my prayers are with you and your colleagues.

This is the restaurant in Bern, Switzerland, referred to below. Posted by Hello

Swiss Archives, Volume 2

From: Andy
To: Mom
Sent: Tuesday, September 26, 2000*
Subject: interesting photo from Bern


Okay, no telling when this will actually get to you. I'm so annoyed with these people here! I went to Swisscom this morning and filled out an application -- the forms and fees in this country are endless! One of the questions for the phone line application was: "Name of person who lived in apartment before you." ? How many people actually know that? I guess things are different here. Just like when I registered with the Foreigner Police here (Fremdenpolizei -- Fremden sounds like "friend" but it actually means "stranger"), they asked what my religious affiliation was.** Wouldn't it be illegal to ask that question in America? Even so, I thought it was ridiculous. Anyway, Swisscom will send my application to the main office in Winterthur, which is a town about 15-20 minutes northeast of Zurich, and then they will mail something back to me here at the dorm. But they still haven't put my name on my mailbox, and that annoys me.*** The nasty guy who runs the place said he's just been really busy lately, that he'll get to it. Just like NY! I'm sure running this place is quite a job, but still, you'd think getting a new tenant's name on a mail box would take like 10 seconds and would be somewhat a priority. One girl here in the program from Sweden had mail sent to her and the post office sent it back to Sweden because her name wasn't on the box yet. Which is just ridiculous. I'm awaiting important stuff! Not just my phone info, but also a card from the transit authority that the opera made me buy, **** which entitles me to 1/2-price fares for a year anywhere in Switzerland, as well as my notification from the Police that my B-Permit is ready (at which time I hear a rumor that I will pay an additional 92 Franks -- I paid 20 Franks for the application and 40 Franks for the entry visa -- I think I should ask the opera studio to pay for that, don't you?) Now I've lost my train of thought...

Anyway...I think what I was trying to say is that it may yet be a long time before I can get on line. That's most annoying. No one is very helpful here. Questions are not answered as completely as I would like.

I've attached a picture I took in Bern when we went for the concert. We ate at some Italian restaurant outside on the square but the restaurant next door had this interesting name.***** Interesting especially because they seemed to be serving Chinese food...but please don't ask me to explain Switzerland, it is maybe the weirdest place I've ever been. I finally broke down and bought another pillow because I could sleep with the one tiny, too soft and oddly shaped (completely square) thing they gave me. I guess I need work on the metric system, though...I bought the cheapest pillow I could find (29 Franks, which I think is about $20) and it's like 65 cm X 100 cm. The box was a normal pillow shape, but the real pillow was sort of rolled up inside, it's the size of a mattress for a small dog. And it's also too soft. But if I wad it up, then it's a little better. Alas. I also finally bought a stereo -- I found something not totally ugly with a CD player, radio and tape deck for CHF 99. I guess I'll just give it away when I leave since it's not dual voltage. Maybe I can sell it to the opera studio. And I bought an alarm clock, but all digital clocks here run on 24-hour time, so currently it's 16:24.

I found a video store that rents DVDs, and they basically have only American movies. But they won't let me rent there until I actually have the B-permit, which is 4-6 weeks and 92 Franks away. My certified letter of employment from the opera house wasn't good enough. Gnerr. I would really love to hang out and watch a movie in my room tonight. Lah-dee-dah. I could go see the ballet tonight (Prokofiev's "Cinderella")...if I'm in the mood for ballet. It would at least be cheap, since I spent 70 Franks and got a monthly pass for the tram here and I get free tickets to EVERYTHING at the opera house.****** Did I tell you I got a box seat for "Lulu"? Unbelievable. They spoil the IOS singers. Not complaining about that.*******


*This was part of the emails that were written prior to 9/26/00 but not sent until then.
** I later found out this was for tax purposes; in Switzerland, they actually take money out of your paycheck and give it to whatever religion you declare you are. Now that would be a conundrum for the Republicans, wouldn't it? Because the way to not pay this extra tax is to delcare yourself an atheist. Frankly, as poor as I was, I think Jesus would have understood. Maybe.
*** In Switzerland it is apparently illegal for the post office to deliver mail to an address if the name on the item being delivered is not printed on the mailbox. In the apartment building where I lived, I was forbidden from putting it on myself, and the building manager took his sweet time doing it and it caused huge headaches. **** In fact, this was one of the things that they refused to deliver. I had to go to the railway office to say I hadn't received it. This positively icy woman looked up my account on the computer and said it had been sent back to Bern. When I asked why, she said, "Our records indicate that your name was not on the mailbox." But she said it in that wonderful Swiss way that means, "You are a complete moron." After we got that resolved I smiled and said, "Fuck you very much!"
***** My stepfather's family is Swiss in origin and this restaurant had their original spelling.
****** Assuming the performance wasn't sold out.
******* Trust me, this was the LAST time I would ever say that!

Friday, September 24, 2004

Is some democracy better than no democracy?

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has suggested that parts of Iraq might be excluded from elections set for January due to rising violence.

This takes a moment of pondering before you figure out why this is really, really wrong. I mean, on the surface of it, it doesn't sound all that bad. You know, realistically, okay, maybe all of Iraq won't be calm and organized enough to participate in elections in January. So they're hoping to get most of the country ready. Better than Saddam Hussein, right?

But think about it: which areas won't be ready to vote? The areas that are controlled by the insurgency. Are they not Iraqis as well? So you will have an election where the people who are most opposed to the candidates propped up by the U.S. are unable to participate.

Next thing you know, there's a "government" in place, Bush pulls out of Iraq saying we achieved our goal (mark my words, Bush is much more interested in cutting and running than Kerry is) and washes his hands of the mess. And voila! Civil war because there will be large chunks of the country that doesn't support the new government.

Now, it may be a politically risky position, but I would advocate delaying national elections in Iraq until each voter can be guaranteed the opportunity to participate.

20 Tips on How to be a Professional Singer

  1. Wait for all applause...real, expected or imagined! If you don't get an ovation, face front and repeat the last phrase -- louder!! Failing this, clap for yourself, and shout "bravo!" as you take a bow...if you time it right, they'll never notice. After a recital, give encores until you get the standing ovation you deserve.
  2. Cultivate an attitude of hostility. Tension gets results...onstage and off! Once people are afraid to make you angry, you are set for life.
  3. A good performance, like concrete, should be molded quickly and then forever set.
  4. Your first responsibility as a singer is to find your light.
  5. Do not listen to your fellow singers on stage, it will only throw you off.
  6. Don't look at them won't like what you see.
  7. Have clear and specific interpretations (for example, point at everything you're singing about, e.g., "Cielo (up) e mar (down)")
  8. If a phrase isn't working for you, change it. If a coach asks you about it, just tell them you're working from the Urtext.
  9. Stage managers are not singers, so ignore them. Keep them alert by never arriving on time or signing in. Certain opera companies let other people sign in for you, so be sure to ask.
  10. Never be afraid to ad lib to get attention, especially if you feel like the other singers are not very interesting.
  11. Mistakes can always be attributed to someone or something else. Never accept blame. (This apparently works in politics, too.)
  12. Always find something to bitch about, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. Your fellow singers will appreciate your professional attention to detail.
  13. If your coach makes a mistake playing the piano, be sure to point it out and make them play it until they get it right. It's only fair. Insist that they be off-book by the first staging rehearsal.
  14. Never carry make-up. Someone else will always have what you need.
  15. Never help understudies, or even acknowledge their presence. They secretly hate you and want your job, and after each performance they email everyone they know with a detailed evaluation of how much you suck.
  16. When understudying someone, be careful to whom you send emails.
  17. Do you help your fellow singers (ESPECIALLY if you are the understudy) by giving them constructive criticism whenever you feel it necessary. Be sure to give your criticism immediately before they go on so that it will be fresh in their minds for the performance. Don't hesitate to offer advice on vocal technique or to point out musical mistakes or incorrect diction that the coaches have overlooked.
  18. Play the reality...always be aware of the audience and whether you think they are enjoying the performance. Give them half an hour. If they still aren't clapping, there's no point in giving 100% because they won't appreciate it anyway. Save your strength for the next audience. Never forget, you get paid whether they clap or not.
  19. If a director hints that you need work on character development, don't worry. All you really need is a wig and a costume and the characterization will take care of itself.
  20. The only difference between an amateur and a pro is that you get paid.

LOTR update

Gandalf crosses the Isen.

Can I have some mustard with my freedom fries?

No! Not French's!!!! Anything else. Just so long as it's not Heinz Ketchup.

Some people need to get a life.

And in other food-related news of the bizarre, offers us this ironic headline:

Body of missing Sara Lee executive found frozen

Yay, Paul Krugman agrees with me!

Me, in my post "Memo to John Kerry" from three days ago:

"You have falsely stated John Kerry's position when you say he hasn't proposed anything beyond what Bush is doing. Kerry is proposing to do what Bush has also proposed to do, but hasn't."

Paul Krugman, in today's Times:

"Mr. Bush claims that Mr. Kerry's plan to secure and rebuild Iraq is "exactly what we're currently doing." No, it isn't. It's only what Mr. Bush is currently saying. And we have 18 months of his administration's deeds to contrast with his words."

This is even possible?

From today's NY Times Editorial page:

"Republican leaders have also been chipping away at the Constitution by proposing to deny judges jurisdiction to review selected acts of Congress. The House passed a measure yesterday retaining the Pledge of Allegiance's "under God" phrase and prohibiting any federal court - including, outrageously, the Supreme Court - from judging the law's constitutionality."

Goodness gracious, people! If this doesn't tell you that something is seriously wrong in Washington (i.e., we have a Congress full of people who either don't understand how our government is supposed to work, or don't care), then...well, I just don't even know how to finish this sentence.

What a coinkydink

So I was reading this NY Times article, Kerry Accuses President of Misleading U.S. on Iraq, and all the way at the bottom I saw this:

"Just a few hours after his Rose Garden news conference, Mr. Bush stepped up his attack on Mr. Kerry in a campaign event at the airport in Bangor, Me. It was critical, Mr. Bush said, "not to wilt or waver or send mixed messages to the enemy.""

Airport in Bangor, Maine...? Kind of makes you wonder if the plane carrying the folk singer was diverted to Bangor just two days ago to provide these people with some evidence that the President is still working to defend us here at home. (Which he really isnt, you know.) Maybe that's too "out there," made me think.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

break-up email

From: Andy
To: the nipple pincher who claims to be cuter than me
Sent: September 23, 2004
Subject: Welcome to Dumpsville, Population: You

Dear A_______,

I got your email. The reason you have not seen me online is because I have moved to Tibet and become a monk. I don't have much internet time here in Lhasa. All is well.

Take care,

PS, the Dalai Lama says "yo."

Swiss Archives, Volume 1

From: Andy
To: Mom
Sent: Tuesday, September 26
Subject: Gift ideas


Still no phone line so no telling when this gets to go out, but no hurry.* I was just thinking...I don't know if you're planning to send any care packages, but Andy would really really like a couple of bags of ground Starbucks French roast coffee. I know that must sound insane to you since I'm living in country famous for its coffee, but so far what I've been buying at the grocery store is FOUL. I can't stand it. Maybe I'm getting the proportions wrong since I'm in the metric system here, but damn it, I don't like this stuff. And also maybe it's the foreign milk. Whatever.

That pillow I bought sucks. Remember I said it was huge? Well, it's also down and cheap so really it would wad up and fit in a shoebox. No wonder it was marked "Aktion." (That apparently means "sale" here. You can walk into a department store and see signs for "Super Hot Aktion" (yes, w/English words) and that just means "Clearance.") That doesn't mean you should send a pillow, I'll deal with it, I'm just whining. I've had firmer mashed potatoes.

Three ring binders here do not exist. Only 2- or 4-ring. Seriously! I've looked. I packed all this music into one binder to bring it here that was too tight to turn the pages, so I wanted to buy another one...either I give up or I punch a bunch of extraneous new holes in the music. Annnnnnoooooyyyying! And there's no bar soap, apparently, only "Douche Gel." (A douche is a shower, but I feel weird buying this stuff.)


*For the first several weeks of my stay in Zurich I had no phone service because the management where I was living neglected to explain what exactly it was I needed to do to get the line turned on. I actually wrote this email sometime before 9/26/00, but had to save it on my laptop in the "waiting to be sent" folder until I could get the phone line and sign on to the internet; it was then sent on the 26th.

I wonder if there's a matinee?

Well, this might help solve the problem of what to wear on my upcoming trip to San Francisco. Apparently absolutely nothing is perfectly acceptable. It would give me another option.

Survey says: cucumber

Well, last night was pretty out of the ordinary for me, at least on a weeknight. Some friends and I went for Malaysian food in Chinatown, then strolled through the San Gennaro fair, and then headed back up to Chelsea to watch some friends compete in Faggot Feud at XL. Our guys lost. I can't understand that. They were waaaaay cooler than the opposing team. This was the first time I've seen Amanda Lepore in person. Hmm. I guess I don't have anything more to say on that subject.

I got home at 2:30, so I guess, sort of, it's a good thing I'm not working today.

And I decided last night that I do still have a heart and that it still works, at least a little bit.

LOTR update

Four Riders enter the Shire before dawn. The others pursue the Rangers eastward, and then return to watch the Greenway. A Black Rider comes to Hobbiton at nightfall. Frodo leaves Bag End. Gandalf, having tamed Shadowfax, rides from Rohan.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Oh baby, it's a wild world

So yesterday American security officials diverted a United Air Lines 747-400 that was enroute from London's Heathrow Airport to Washington, D.C., and forced it to land in Bangor, Maine, stranding 290 passengers for three hours. Why? Because officials noticed, a tad late, that one Yusuf Islam -- someone on the TSA's "no-fly list," was on board. Mr. Islam is none other than the former folk singer who used to go by the name Cat Stevens. Officials cannot yet say why Mr. Islam was on the list or why he is being detained. Here are my questions:

  • What good is a "no-fly list" that has historically included such dangerous people as Senator Kennedy of Massachusetts if sometimes we're not noticing that the banned passengers are on board until it's too late? I would assume that, given the events of 9/11, one of the purposes of the list is not only to keep terrorists out of the country, but also to prevent potential hi-jackers or suicide bombers from getting on a plane in the first place. I'm not going to defend Mr. Islam because I don't know anything about this particular incident. But you know, my goodness, if he's on the list, keep him off the plane. (And people should be told they're on the list so they don't waste money buying a ticket, and also so that they have an opportunity to appeal.)
  • Why Bangor, Maine? If the point is to keep terrorists out of the country...isn't Maine part of the U.S.? Why not allow the flight to land in D.C. as scheduled and apprehend the suspect there?
  • Diverting the flight probably cost United hundreds of thousands of dollars, and adding three hours of sitting around to the travel time of the long westbound transatlantic flight is pretty cruel. You can bet a lot of connections were missed and it caused lots of headaches.

Now, perhaps as the facts come out, my perspective on this will change. And you know, I think you have to give some credit to the TSA (or whomever) for recognizing that a mistake was made and taking immediate steps to correct it. Whether the steps taken were appropriate or not, only time will tell.

Okay, moving along to today's news: so Bush addressed the UN yesterday. I read the text of his speech this morning, and when my jaw wasn't dropping to the floor, it was busy following the rest of my face from side to side as I shook my head in disbelief. Bush thinks he can fool these people. Bush doesn't realize that they come from countries where the press isn't politically and financially connected to the Republican party. He apparently doesn't realize that they respresent governments which have their own intelligence services. They know what's going on in Iraq. It's as if he's standing in front of an enormous building that's on fire and claiming it's a necessary step in a remodelling process that's going exactly according to plan.

Frankly, after last night's dissection of the David Brooks column, I don't have the energy to do a point by point analysis of Bush's speech, so you can all breathe a sigh of relief. If analysis is what you want, I'll happily steer you in the direction of today's New York Times lead editorial, and these two pieces in Slate.

In general what struck me was the hypocrisy. President Bush apparently has no sense of irony. Or history. Or shame. Here are just a couple of the memorable lines:

"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. We know that oppressive governments support terror, while free governments fight the terrorists in their midst. We know that free peoples embrace progress and life instead of becoming the recruits for murderous ideologies." [Who chose to invade, again? Governments who support terror: we supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons, money and advice in his war against Iran and turned a blind eye to his use of chemical weapons. Iran-Contra scandal, anyone?]

"We're determined to end the state sponsorship of terror, and my nation is grateful to all that participated in the liberation of Afghanistan. " [That seems to be a pointed emphasis on the fact that these people refused to countenance the "liberation" of Iraq.]

"Finally, the Security Council promised serious consequences for his defiance. And the commitments we make must have meaning. When we say serious consequences, for the sake of peace there must be serious consequences. And so a coalition of nations enforced the just demands of the world." [Following Bush's address, John Kerry pointed out that the US has paid 90% of the costs so far, has a 90% share of the military force on the ground, and has suffered 90% of the (non-Iraqi) casualties. That's some coalition!]

"I support that resolution, and urge all governments to affirm a basic ethical principle: No human life should ever be produced or destroyed for the benefit of another." [He's specifically talking about cloning here, but clearly he means to include stem-cell research under this umbrella. Also, applied in a larger context -- e.g., war on terror -- isn't Bush consistently arguing that the price we are paying in terms of lives is worth it for the benefit of those who will live to see the "new" Iraq? Philosophers will probably debate this unusual statement for decades.]

"At this hour, the world is witnessing terrible suffering and horrible crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan, crimes my government has concluded are genocide." [Bush might as well have concluded that the ocean is wet. He'll take credit for the government's conclusion -- which only came about after public outcry that we weren't acknolwedging the crisis there -- but what exactly has he done to stop it? According to Bush, we "played a key role in efforts to broker a cease-fire," but has that stopped the genocide? Bush doesn't say. He adds that Rwanda and Nigeria have committed troops. Why haven't we? Oh, wait, because we don't have any left.]

"Today the Iraqi and Afghan people are on the path to democracy and freedom." [No comment.]

"To any who still would question whether Muslim societies can be democratic societies, the Afghan people are giving their answer." [Yes, they lobbed a rocket at the former Unocal consultant running for President. Behold Democracy, in all its glory! I wonder what places like Turkey, Indonesia and Malaysia thought about this comment.]

"The U.N. and its member nations must respond to Prime Minister Allawi's request and do more to help build an Iraq that is secure, democratic, federal and free." [There he goes again, telling the U.N. what they have to do. Back to Diplomacy 101, with you, George! And furthermore, Mr. Flip-Flop: stop criticizing John Kerry for wanting increased international support in Iraq. And, open up reconstruction contracts to non-coalition countries.]

"A democratic Iraq has ruthless enemies because terrorists know the stakes in that country. They know that a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will be a decisive blow against their ambitions for that region." [I hesitate to comment on this, but I will. If we're talking about al Qaeda here, bin Laden has a specific geo-strategic goal for the Middle East, and that is getting the U.S. military permanently out of Saudi Arabia and eliminating U.S. meddling in regional politics. Let's not forget, the only reason Saddam Hussein was as strong as he was is because the Reagan Administration spent so much effort to prop him up. I don't think bin Laden is necessarily opposed to a democratic form of government in Iraq or elsewhere, as long as it's a form of democracy that doesn't interfere with his perceived ideals of an Islamic society. Is that even possible? Who knows. His position is that neither the U.S. nor anyone else has the right to come in and set up a government for them. He doesn't want us coming in with our crass commercialism and corporate government superstructure anymore than we want burkhas in Texas. Once again, Bush has mischaracterized the entire problem. "Terrorism" is not the problem, it's a method.]

"So a terrorist group associated with Al Qaida is now one of the main groups killing the innocent in Iraq today, conducting a campaign of bombings against civilians and the beheadings of bound men." [Unsubstantiated. In fact, assuming he's referring to al-Zarqawi here, most experts believe that he operates entirely independently of al Qaeda. And the U.N. people know that. International politics is what they do for a living, after all.]

"For too long, many nations, including my own, tolerated, even excused oppression in the Middle East in the name of stability." [Why do I feel like he's blaming Clinton?]

"Israel should impose a settlement freeze, dismantle unauthorized outposts, end the daily humiliation of the Palestinian people and avoid any actions that prejudice final negotiations." [If he really believes that, he'd have done something about it.]

Okay, okay, I'm done. I'm sorry. That was more than I wanted to write on that subject.

Here's an interesting little factoid uncovered by Ward Harkavy, who writes the Bush Beat column for The Village Voice: "Look at what the U.S. State Department was saying two months after 9-11: A "Network of Terrorism" web page called "Countries Where al Qaeda Has Operated", posted November 10, 2001, and still on the official government site as of this afternoon, lists 45 countries, but not Iraq—or Syria, for that matter."

In other news, it's absolutely GORGEOUS outside this afternoon, and as a result of my incredible efficiency at work yesterday I'm unemployed again today because I accomplished in four hours what they had budgeted a week for. Oh well. So I'm getting off my butt and away from this computer and going out and facing reality for a while.


I see now that in last night's post I referred to "forged documents about Nigerian uranium" in the 2003 State of the Union address by President Bush. Those documents were purportedly from Niger, not Nigeria. It was an oversight I attribute to the lateness of the hour at which I was writing.

LOTR update

The Black Riders reach Sarn Ford at evening; they drive off the guard of Rangers. Gandalf overtakes Shadowfax.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Memo to John Kerry: It's this easy

You know, New York Times columnist David Brooks is a pretty intelligent guy, and he writes very well. I will never forget his theory that if Martians came briefly to earth to study mankind by observing a Central Park playground for a couple of hours, they would conclude human beings begin life small and white but grow up to become large Jamaican women.

But along with his colleague William Safire (who regularly interviews Richard Nixon from beyond the grave...), I'm not entirely sure he's firmly grounded in the same reality that you and I are in. Despite that, he's one of the sharper conservative minds out there (I'm trying to resist the urge to say there's not much competition...) and his column from today gives us a pretty good look at how the GOP hopes to discredit Kerry's foreign policy stance.

However, watch how I rip his assault to shreds with my meager military experience (well, Cub Scouts for 2 years, plus some Army recruiters tried to get me interested in the service in Colorado in 1999) and my extensive foreign policy background (10.5 months in Switzerland, with side trips to France (5 days), Italy (5 days) and Germany (4 days), 17 days in London, 10 days in Venice, a month in Japan, a weekend in Victoria, B.C., and about two hours in Algodones, Mexico) not to mention my extensive political studies (bachelor's and master's degrees in Voice from Manhattan School of Music, and I saw Fahrenheit 9/11).

See Brooks' column in its original format here.

September 21, 2004


Finally, Kerry Takes a Stand

DB: Yesterday John Kerry came to New York University and did something amazing. He uttered a series of clear, declarative sentences on the subject of Iraq. Many of these sentences directly contradict his past statements on Iraq, but at least you could figure out what he was trying to say.

Andy: You know, this is one of those falsehoods that the Bush Administration and his campaign have repeated so often that people have just begun to accept it as true. "Flip-flop!" they cry, when the barest glance at recent history shows that Bush is going to go down as the flip-floppingest President we've ever had. From steel tariffs to nation-building, from opposing the creation of a Homeland Security Department to refusing to allow Condoleeza Rice to testify before the 9/11 Commission (the creation of which he opposed), to counting his 23 different rationales for the occupation of Iraq and so much, much more, this President has taken one stand after another and then buckled under the political pressure from the public outcry. Then, after his 180 degree policy shift, he claims that he supported whatever idea it was all along and, without exception, takes credit for the idea. This follows a pattern he established as Governor of Texas. While campaigning for the presidency in 2000, he touted the passage of a bill of patients' rights as a hallmark of his leadership. He forgot to mention that the Texas Legislature passed it over his veto. I don't see how you're allowed to take credit for something you vetoed, but Bush managed to do it. Now, as far as the charge that Kerry's Iraq positions have run from one end of the political spectrum to the other goes, that's a gross oversimplification. For a great explanation of what Kerry's position has been on Iraq, and how Bush has twisted it to his advantage, check out William Saletan's August 12 column in Slate.

DB: First, Kerry argued that Iraq was never a serious threat to the United States, that the war was never justified and that Bush's focus on Iraq was a "profound diversion" from the real enemy, Osama bin Laden.

Andy: Well...yes. Let's see. No weapons. No weapons programs. No stockpiles of chemical or biological agents that could be used to make weapons. No facilities that could be used for the creation of such weapons without massive overhaul. No systems for delivery. Hussein never threatened the United States. No proven ties to al Qaeda. So yeah, I'd call that not much of a threat. Since we began our war in Iraq, al Qaeda has attacked in Spain and Indonesia, and we're told daily that they have designs on disrupting our election. We've got what, 130,000 soldiers on the ground in Iraq, trying, apparently unsuccessfully, to restore order. The New York Times described the situation this way today: "it's hard to identify any major urban areas outside Kurdistan where the U.S. and its allies exercise effective control. Insurgents operate freely, even in the heart of Baghdad, while coalition forces, however many battles they win, rule only whatever ground they happen to stand on." Meanwhile, according to what I can tell, there are about 9,000 US soldiers in Afghanistan, which by anyone's standard is not a safe place to be these days. Just a few days ago, Hamid Karzai made his first campaign trip outside of Kabul, but the helicopter he was travelling in had to abort its landing and fly back because someone fired a rocket at it. The Taliban still effectively control the entire southern half of the country, and tribal warlords control everything else outside of Kabul. And somewhere out there, presumably, is Osama bin Laden. Might the situation have been different in Afghanistan if we'd sent 130,000 troops there, instead?

DB: Second, Kerry argued that we are losing the war in Iraq. Casualties are mounting, the insurgency is spreading, and daily life is more miserable.

Andy: Well, I try to avoid redundancy, so...see above. Then add the part about the mounting casualties, the spreading insurgency and the miserable daily life and...yeah, we're losing.

DB: Third, Kerry argued that in times like this, brave leaders should tell the truth to the American people. Kerry reminded his audience that during Vietnam, he returned home "to offer my own personal voice of dissent," and he's decided to do the same thing now. The parallel is clear: Iraq is the new Vietnam.

Andy: Yeah, that part about brave leaders telling the truth, that might be nice for a change.

DB: Finally, Kerry declared that it is time to get out, beginning next summer. The message is that if Kerry is elected, the entire momentum of U.S. policy will be toward getting American troops out of Iraq as quickly as possible and shifting responsibility for Iraq onto other countries.

Andy: Okay. Hold on. This is where we start spinning. Kerry is not advocating withdrawal. This is not a cut and run strategy. This is a plan to start dealing with the personnel crisis that we are facing. The National Guard was created to defend us here at home. Just ask President Bush. Yet a lot of the soldiers dying over there are guard boys, who thought they were doing their country a favor by volunteering their service a few days a month close to home. Now they're stuck. Troop rotations are being altered so that these guys are staying abroad longer and spending less time at home. Units getting ready for a Stateside break are told at the last minute that they have to stay. Troops are being withdrawn from Korea -- let's remember that Pyongyang actually does have nuclear capability -- and redployed in the Middle East. Soldiers who thought they had completed their tours of duty are being forced to go back. They want to come home, and their families want them back. John Kerry wants to get more foreign troops in there so that the American soldiers can come home. It's not about "shifting a burden," it's requesting help for what I'm sure you'd agree is a noble cause. Neither is the goal of bringing troops home from Iraq the "entire momentum" of Kerry's foreign policy. He wants to work toward increased international cooperation so that we can do this job more effectively.

DB: The crucial passage in the speech was this one: "The principles that should guide American policy in Iraq now and in the future are clear: we must make Iraq the world's responsibility, because the world has a stake in the outcome and others should share the burden." From a U.S. responsibility, Iraq will become the world's responsibility.

Andy: Didn't Bush try to argue that Iraq was the world's responsibility back in 2002? This all began because, ostensibly, Iraq was in material breach of U.N. Resolution #1441. Bush went before the world community at the United Nations and basically said, "Hey, come on guys. You established these rules, and this guy is breaking them. They're your rules, why aren't you doing anything about it?" Bush keeps saying the world is a safer place. It's not just about us, or at least, it wasn't supposed to be. How can you criticize John Kerry for wanting to bring the rest of the world back on board?

DB: Kerry said the United Nations must play a central role in supervising elections. He said other nations should come in to protect U.N. officials. He called for an international summit meeting this week in New York, where other nations could commit troops and money to Iraq. He said NATO should open training centers for new Iraqi soldiers.

Andy: And these ideas are bad because...?

He talked about what other nations could do to help address the situation in Iraq. He did not say what the U.S. should do to defeat the insurgents and stabilize and rebuild Iraq, beyond what Bush is already doing. He did not say the U.S. could fight the insurgents more effectively. He did not have any ideas on how to tame Falluja or handle Moktada al-Sadr. He did not offer any strategy for victory.

Andy: John Kerry's strategy for victory is winning the election, sending Bush back to Texas, and re-staffing the Department of Defense, the State Department and the Pentagon with confident, experienced people who aren't fatally shackled to an impossible ideology and who are going to turn this thing around. Contrary to what Bush would have us believe, the insurgents in Iraq are not "terr'rists" who "hate freedom." David, their country is under foreign occupation. More than 10,000 Iraqi civilians have died, and thousands more are wounded and suffering; probably millions are grieving. Employment is at 50%, and public utilities still aren't functioning as well as they did before our invasion. Of the $18 billion that was approved for reconstruction projects, only $1 billion has been spent, and just recently Bush approved shifting some of the reconstruction budget over to security. These guys aren't dumb. They're angry at Bush for the way he brought their country to ruin based on a pack of egregious lies and exaggerations and they're angry because he has failed to fulfill his promises to them with regard to restoration. And just as the Iraqi people don't want to be held accountable for the crimes of Saddam Hussein, they probably don't hold the average American responsible for the hubris of George Bush. They will if we re-elect him. A win for John Kerry will restore Americans' credibility around the globe. How do we stop Moktada al-Sadr and calm the situation in Fallujah? Make an example of the US soldiers who tortured prisoners at Abu Ghraib and turn them over to the International Criminal Court to be tried for crimes against humanity. Get the electricty on and keep it on. Get clean water to people. Fix the sewage that clogs the city streets. Do something to actually improve these people's lives. You have falsely stated John Kerry's position when you say he hasn't proposed anything beyond what Bush is doing. Kerry is proposing to do what Bush has also proposed to do, but hasn't.

DB: But he did, more than at any time in the past year, stake out a clear contrast with Bush.
The president's case is that the world is safer with Saddam out of power, and that we should stay as long as it takes to help Iraqis move to democracy. Kerry's case is that the world would be safer if we'd left Saddam; his emphasis is on untangling the United States from Iraq and shifting attention to more serious threats.

Andy: The only people who ever suggested that the only choice was between war and leaving Saddam Hussein to do whatever he damn well pleased were guys like Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. Kerry never ever said we should have just let Saddam be. Even Howard Dean never said that. But is it not even remotely conceivable to you that there might have been another way? That there was an option that maybe didn't involve sending 1,000 Americans to their death? Kerry, and everyone else, agrees that it's a good thing that Saddam Hussein is in custody. But frankly, wouldn't you rather have Osama bin Laden instead? Kerry would also agree that we should stay in Iraq as long as is necessary to help move the country to democracy. He's just going to make policy decisions that will actually get us there. And yes, let's disentangle ourselves from Iraq as soon as possible and start dealing with North Korea and al Qaeda.

DB: Rhetorically, this was his best foreign policy speech by far (it helps to pick a side). Politically, it was risky. Kerry's new liberal tilt makes him more forceful on the stump, but opens huge vulnerabilities. Does he really want to imply that 1,000 troops died for nothing?
By picking the withdrawal camp, he has assigned himself a clear task. Right now 54 percent of likely voters believe that the U.S. should stay as long as it takes to rebuild Iraq, while 39 percent believe that we should leave as soon as possible. Between now and Nov. 2, Kerry must flip those numbers.

Andy: Well, given the way the Bush campaign has worked so hard to paint Kerry as an out of touch liberal extremist, it's hard to swallow your charge that he's tilted further to the left. I mean, in that case, he must be practically horizontal by now. I'd better take a look back at the photos of the address and make sure he wasn't reclining on his left side on a chaise longue. Hyperbole aside, given the overwhelming body of evidence that this war was based on a false premise and that the reconstruction has been catastrophically mismanaged -- and several Republican Congressmen are beginning to say the same thing -- what's wrong with wanting to turn things around over there? I mean, if restoring order to a war-torn country is a "liberal" position, what kind of nutcase is voting conservative? John Kerry is most certainly NOT implying that our brave servicemen and women are dying for nothing; but I'll come right out and say that if we don't radically change our course, they will have died for a lie and an insidious betrayal.

And again, you've misrepresented entirely Kerry's position with regard to withdrawal. Kerry agrees we need to see this through. But what's wrong with wanting to bring the troops home as soon as possible? Is it more patriotic to want them to stay longer? You're not even making sense, now.

DB: Substantively, of course, Kerry's speech is completely irresponsible. In the first place, there is a 99 percent chance that other nations will not contribute enough troops to significantly decrease the U.S. burden in Iraq. In that case, John Kerry has no Iraq policy. The promise to bring some troops home by summer will be exposed as a Disneyesque fantasy.

Andy: First, no one who is ostensibly defending the Bush Administration should be leveling charges of irresponsibility. Abu Ghraib. Forged documents about Nigerian uranium in the State of the Union Address. Boasts by the President to the press, "We've found them; we've found weapons of mass destruction." August 6, 2001: "Bin Laden Determined to Attack in U.S." Second, there is a 99% chance you made up that statistic. These other nations do not want to work with Bush, because he won't compromise and refuses to acknowledge reality. With Kerry in control, you bet we'll get increased international cooperation. Third, since Bush does not intend to get foreign assistance anyway, how does he propose to bring the troops home? And if you want to talk Disneyesque fantasies, just listen to him talk about Iraq's upcoming elections as if it's a new thrill ride opening soon. Trust me, you'll love it.

DB: More to the point, Kerry is trying to use multilateralism as a gloss for retreat. If "the world" is going to be responsible for defeating Moktada al-Sadr and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then no one will be responsible for defeating them. The consequences for the people of Iraq and the region will be horrific.

Andy: Let me get this straight: If everyone is responsible, no one is responsible? Well, let's go back to Gulf War I. We got a lot of help there. We achieved our goal. Sorry, David, your analogy isn't holding up to historical precedent.

DB: Finally, if the whole war is a mistake, shouldn't we stop fighting tomorrow? What do you say to the last man to die for a "profound diversion"?

Andy: Yes. We should stop fighting. But that doesn't mean we should come home. We broke it, we bought it. We have got to put Iraq back together again. And if the international community doesn't want to help, so be it. After all, they warned us. They told us this was a bad idea. They told us exactly what would happen. The American people, by and large, refused to question the rush to war at the critical juncture. They will now be called upon to pay for -- literally -- that mistake. With Bush in charge, I can guarantee that the cost to the American taxpayers will only increase. If you want lower taxes in the long run, you need to vote Democrat now.

And as for asking what you say to the last man to die, this question needs to be directed at George W. Bush, not John Kerry.

DB: But that is what the next few weeks are going to be about. This country has long needed to have a straight up-or-down debate on the war. Now that Kerry has positioned himself as the antiwar candidate, it can.

Andy: Well, I think it's going way too far to call John Kerry "the anti-war candidate," but other than that, yes. I agree wholeheartedly. Let's have this debate. David, you are a New York Times columnist with -- correct me if I'm wrong -- four books published. I'm a musician who works temp jobs answering phones and making spreadsheets to pay the bills. If someone like me can dismantle your statements in one sitting, the GOP is in serious trouble.

BUSH VISITS NEW YORK: I love this picture. The President's motorcade snarled traffic in the city today when he visited the U.N. I wonder how long it took this woman to get where she was going, and what it cost. For you out of towners, the meter still runs when the cab is standing still. Maybe she got out and walked. Posted by Hello

Fabulous Evening in New York

Tonight was a spectacularly pleasant evening in the City; so much so that I abandoned my plans to go home and do some yoga and instead walked from work (75th & 5th) to the Barnes & Noble on 82nd and Broadway and bought a book called A Winter in Arabia, written by a woman named Freya Stark about her travels in what is now Yemen in 1937-8.

After Barnes & Noble I walked north up Broadway, popped into Duane Reade for some necessities (exceptionally un-charming cashier), then treated myself to a Grande Caramel Frappuccino at a Starbucks that was out of both napkins and straws. I had to walk all the way to the next Starbucks -- a full two blocks! -- to get a straw. I am not making this up, as Anna Russell says.

Starbucks 1

Starbucks 2

I finally got on the subway at 96th and Central Park West, so that's a pretty decent walk. Made small talk with a real Nu Yowark-type who liked my Bush button that says "Daddy's Little War Criminal." We both complained about Bob Shrum and then parted ways. Didn't introduce ourselves. Ah, NYC. (No, it wasn't a cruise, guys.)

So now I'm home while brown rice is simmering in the rice cooker and I'm listening to one of my all time favorite CDs, which I highly, highly recommend: The Best of Miles Davis & John Coltrane (1955-1961).

Last night I was rather annoyed by a large green fly that was buzzing around my room making lots of noise. I was tempted to swat it, but you can you kill something like a fly that's totally harmless? So I let it be. Later as I lay in bed it came to rest on my nightstand and I watched it for a while. It was kind of handsome, actually, as far as flies go. I guess he was cleaning himself. He kept doing this thing, lifting up his hind legs and running them down over his wings, over and over. Then he'd fly up into my lightbulb in the nightstand lamp, bump against that 4 or 500 times, then settle back on the nightstand and stare at me. I pitied him and wished there was a way I could set him free, but it was a nippy night and I didn't fancy leaving the windows wide open. I don't know where he is now.

Speaking of having pity for things that annoy you, there is this woman where I work that recently had plastic surgery and, we surmise, a little Botox. That joke about how you don't have any facial expressions with Botox? It's true! Her face hasn't changed expression in a week. Unfortunately, the expression her surgeon left her with is Sudden Shock. She's looked permanently surprised ever since she got back from vacation.

I said "no" at work today. They had a project for me to do, and when they finished explaining it to me, I said, "I'm sorry, but that is a complete waste of time. It's ridiculous." I'm not talking about a project that would have taken 20 minutes or even a couple of hours. Optimistically, we were looking at 3 days' worth of the most tedious work you can imagine. I mean, it would rank right up there with taking 16,234 grains of rice and sorting them according to weight. If you want a full description of what they asked me to do, email me and I'll tell you (but do it soon, or I'll forget the details). So they went back to the drawing board, and together with a couple of other people we found a way to achieve the same result in about 3 hours. It was tedious, sure, but 3 hours over 3 days? Gee, tough choice.

I didn't yet read over Bush's remarks at the U.N. I'm just going to presume he insulted their intelligence, as he operates on the assumption that everyone in Europe watches Fox News, too, and they have no idea what's really going on. I hope he got a cold reception.

In other Star Wars Trilogy on DVD arrived in the mail today...hurray!

LOTR update

Gandalf meets Shadowfax, but the horse will not allow him to come near. He follows Shadowfax over the fields.

It's growing frijo in Nueva York, but it's still muy caliente in San Antonio, baby! A good friend of mine made the cover of a local magazine...lookin' good, babe! Congrats! Posted by Hello

Rude Awakening

Wow, so, I think overnight, Michael Moore read my mind ( blog) and sent me one bitch-slap of a (group) email. You can read the full text here. He makes several valid points about why we should not waste our time complaining about what an ass John Kerry is and instead dedicate ourselves to the campaign with the ferocity and dedication of the Republicans.

On the other hand, I think we have to pat ourselves on the back, because Kerry's campaign would not be taking the aggressive turn that it was if the entire democratic constituency hadn't been groaning through the month of August, "What the hell are you doing, John? Go after these guys!" Of course, he hasn't won yet, so maybe it's a tad early to be self-congratulatory (it is only 7:28 a.m., after all, I haven't even had coffee!)

After screaming "WAKE UP!" at me, Moore did console me with reasons why we should not believe the polls that we keep hearing about...that is definitely food for thought. (And, frankly, it makes me want to make my cell phone my primary number.)

I'm listening to Brahms chamber music to come back down after that. Going back to work today! Oh, joy!

Monday, September 20, 2004

CBS: Complete Bull Shit

Really, after my previous post I meant to call it good for the day, but then on a friend's blog (props, JWC) I came across this link from The Washington Post and wanted to pass it on. I mean, this is really shameful. If you compare the official guard memos with the CBS versions, you can immediately see obvious discrepanices. I mean, it's not like there's one little point of contention on which experts disagree over whether these could be legit or not. It's a laundry list.

What kind of hack forges 30 year old documents using Microsoft Word?

Today's Capers

Aren't y'all lucky that I stayed home sick today so that I can research my blog? Dang, I wish there was a way to get paid for this. Btw, the doctor's office called: he's away until Wednesday, so I guess I'll just do my best and hope I recover. Sore throat is feeling better.

So at NYU this morning Kerry -- finally -- began to attempt to undo the damage caused by his infamous remark, "I voted for the war before I voted against it."

Okay, Mr. Peabody, let's set the Waybac Machine for Fall 2002. Bush was practically foaming at the mouth that Iraq was seemingly in violation of U.N. Resolution #1441. (A brief comparison: number of U.N. resolutions used to justify invasion of Iraq: 3 (Nos. 678, 687 and 1441). Number of U.N. resolutions passed against Israel between 1947 and 1989: 97.) Initially he used the alleged violation to argue for renewed weapons inspections in Iraq, which he got. Later, Bush would defend the invasion by saying, "We gave [Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn't let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power." Yeah, except that's not what happened, George. He did let the inspectors in, and you criticized their ineptitude because they couldn't find the weapons that you insisted were there (even though, for reasons of "national security," you refused to share what intelligence you had with the U.N. inspectors to aid their search), and they stayed in Iraq until you told them to leave right before you let fly with the bombs. And now of course it turns out that Iraq didn't have any banned weapons...or any gee...I guess they weren't in violation of Resolution #1441 after all, were they? Boy is that inconvenient. And, why hasn't Kerry mentioned that?

So getting back to Kerry "hitting Bush" at NYU today, finally he managed to articulate that, given the assumption that Iraq was in "material breach" of Res. 1441, he voted to authorize the President to use force against Iraq basically as the next step in the diplomatic process, a way of saying, "Okay Saddam, we're serious, if you don't come clean on these weapons programs, the Congress of the United States has given their permission for military action against you."

Kerry expects us to believe that there is a significant difference between ratcheting up the threat of war as a diplomatic strategy and actually going to war. Of course there is a difference, but this may exceed the US electorate's capacity for nuance. It didn't help that last month Kerry said that if he'd known then (Fall of 2002) what he knew now (August 2004), he'd still have voted for the war. Can anyone explain to me what the man was thinking at that moment?

Throwing some red meat up in the air that landed right at Karl Rove's feet, Kerry offered this statement today: "Is [Bush] really saying to Americans that if we had known there were no imminent threats, no weapons of mass destruction, no ties to al-Qaida, the United States should have invaded Iraq? My answer is resoundingly no because a commander in chief's first responsibility is to make a wise and responsible decision to keep America safe."

This would have been wonderful if only his answer hadn't been a resounding yes a month ago.

However, we're stuck with this bozo (thank you, Iowa) so I guess I should focus on what Kerry is finally doing right -- at least today -- and forget about the mistakes of the past. So, moving on, Kerry also said Bush's mistakes "were not the equivalent of accounting errors. They were colossal failures of judgment -- and judgment is what we look for in a president." And, "This president was in denial," Kerry said. "He hitched his wagon to the ideologues who surround him, filtering out those who disagreed, including leaders of his own party and the uniformed military. The result is a long litany of misjudgments with terrible consequences."

You know, this is the kind of thing Kerry should have been saying January. But I guess later is better than never.

Questioning Bush's repeated assertions that Iraq is a great success, he offered this picture of life on the ground in Baghdad: "Raw sewage fills the streets, rising above the hubcaps of our Humvees," Mr. Kerry said. "Children wade through garbage on their way to school. Unemployment is over 50 percent. Insurgents are able to find plenty of people willing to take $150 for tossing grenades at passing U.S. convoys." I love that line about the hubcaps and's almost poetic.

"Last week, the administration admitted that its plan was a failure when it asked Congress for permission to radically revise spending priorities in Iraq," Mr. Kerry said. " It took 17 months for them to understand that security is a priority, 17 months to figure out that boosting oil production is critical, 17 months to conclude that an Iraqi with a job is less likely to shoot at our soldiers." Now this is good stuff...more please.

Also, John Edwards apparently returned from whatever exile Bob Shrum sent him off to. I'm guessing Shrum ordered Edwards to keep a low profile when his charming, boyish good looks that everyone keeps writing about failed to effect a big bounce in the polls and that also there was a risk that Edwards' charm, sincerity and eloquence might not look good overshadowing Kerry's globe-trotting caveats and curlicues, as Slate Magazine puts it. I voted for Edwards in the New York primary this spring; I know that might come as a surprise, since he was basically the most conservative candidate and I'm such a lib'ral, but I was really attracted to his energy and sincerity, and was delighted when Kerry picked him as a running mate. What sense did it make to keep him under wraps? It's not like Karl Rove is worried that Darth Cheney, who can at least speak in complete (if mendacious) sentences, will overshadow the infamously verbally clumsy Bush, who is given to lying about the timeline of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq at the whim of a hat.

"Let me just say this in the simplest possible terms," Mr. Edwards said. "When John Kerry is president of the United States, we will find Al Qaeda where they are and crush them before they can do damage to the American people." That's a tough promise to deliver on, but certainly this kind of rhetoric is more on-target. He also took a much needed swipe against crackpot Denny Hastert, who recently made news for suggesting that Kerry's campaign is being funded by foreign drug rings via billionaire George Soros. Hastert's latest departure from the unpleasant world of reality has him agreeing that "al Qaeda would operate with more comfort if John Kerry were elected." I can't really see how that's so, since Kerry is likely to re-forge broken alliances and re-focus our attention on actual terrorists instead of impotent dictators.

The New York Times published a lengthy piece today which is basically smearing Bush's character based on difficult-to-substantiate allegations from thirty-odd years ago. There's not much new in there at all, if you've been following the scoops by the Boston Globe that have been written about by David Corn, Molly Ivins and Michael Moore (and others, no doubt) with regard to Bush's Guard "service." Frankly, I think all this is a little bit irrelevant since there are plenty of things from the last four years to attack Bush on that don't require circumstantial evidence or investigative guesswork, but a friend of mine urges me to recognize the legitimacy that the Times piece will confer on the details of this period of Bush's life, which have, to a large extent, been ignored by the mainstream press. Hopefully he is correct.

Check out this pic, however, of George Bush, Sr. playing tennis with Winston M. Blount, the guy whose campaign Dubya left the Texas Guard to work on. (Courtesy of Winston Blount III.) Does it not look like a still from some really bad conceptual ballet? Please God, let them photoshop this one on Fark. Anyway, if you're not familiar with the sordid details of Jr's guard days, check out the article for an enlightening read. Otherwise, the main highlight for me was this: "After the election, Mr. Bush returned to Houston, moving out of his small rented bungalow in Montgomery. He left the place a mess, with a broken light fixture and piles of debris, according to Mary Smith, whose husband was the bungalow's caretaker. Ms. Smith said her husband, who has since died, sent Mr. Bush a bill for professional cleaning but never heard back."

Speaking of Bush's guard service...from the boobs at CBS who brought us Janet Jackson's breast in all its split-second, nipple-ornament-obscured glory, an admission today that they "cannot prove that the documents are authentic." Oops. Come on, people. My own blog is researched better than your "60 Minutes" story. What's going on here? First, I think the National Guard business is old news and a non-story anyway. Why are we beating a horse that's so dead we're not sure the carcass is actually a horse, when out there behind the White House there's a whole stable full of derby winners? And, in a moment of non-partisan-ness, anyone who would dare to impugn the character of a sitting President by means of forged documents ought to spend some time in jail.

The Times Editorial Page was very interesting today. The prize for best editorial with a patronizing tone goes to "Official Business." I can rarely read William Safire anymore, which is sad because he has a razor-sharp wit and an inspiring way with words. But frequently he seems to live in an alternate reality, especially regarding the situation in Iraq, he likes to promote already discredited conspiracy theories like the Atta in Prague story, the transcripts of his interviews with Richard Nixon from beyond the grave are just weird, folks. However, today he goes through a power-point like strategy for Kerry in the remaining six weeks. He probably meant it as satire, though I think it's dead on, and frankly, it makes you wonder which side he's really on. Ironically, Bob Herbert's piece is so critical of Kerry, or at least his strategy thus far, that if you weren't a regular reader, you might assume Safire was the liberal counterpoint to Herbert.

From a letter to the editor, a writer provides some handy numbers that Kerry might want to work into his next speech on Bush's Iraq policy:

To the Editor:

Bob Herbert ("This Is Bush's Vietnam,'' column, Sept. 17) wonders who will be the last person to die for President Bush's "colossal mistake'' in Iraq. Put that together with your Sept. 16 front-page article about the pessimistic National Intelligence Estimate on what lies in store for Iraq, and with President Bush's inability to say how long American troops will have to remain there.

Five years? The last person to die for President Bush's mistake may now be 13 years old.

Ten years? The last person to die for President Bush's mistake may now be 8.

Fifteen years? The last person to die for President Bush's mistake may now be 3.

This is what John Kerry needs to tell parents all across America.

David M. Perlmutter
San Diego, Sept. 17, 2004

On a final political note today, the Associated Press reports that 245 votes were "lost" thanks to electronic voting machines during the recent primary in Florida. Officials assure us that this little snafu did not affect the outcome of any races, however in a different district an incumbent was unseated by a margin of 130 votes. You may also recall that Bush "won" Florida by about 540 votes.

Okay, enough of that! Fans of the magnificent film Y Tu Mama Tambien rejoice, because hottie Gael Garcia Bernal has two new films coming out. The Times' profile of the actor has some interesting information, but is mostly notable for the way the interviewer apparently had the hots for young GG. Check out some of this prose:

"Unloading a big floppy satchel and laying his crutches on the floor, he shrugs, pulls off his jacket and takes a seat. Then, he makes eye contact. Gael García Bernal, it turns out, is a divine sight even in a post-operative state."

"Beyond Mr. García's smoldering good looks, there's a smart, well-read, cultured human being who rejects the superstar syndrome and has something to say."

"Mr. García's greenish-brownish-bluish eyes change with the light as he retraces his journey from Mexican soap operas to big, bold art films."

I know there's a joke in there about "unloading his big, floppy satchel" but I'm not going to go there.