Four more years.

Some years ago, I offered the theory that the back-pages, business card-size ads and classifieds in any print publication constituted the id of its readers. It was always so amusing, back when the newspaper I worked for actually had the budget to subscribe to political journals, to turn to the back and see all those increase-your-word-power pitches in right-wing publications. (The lefties leaned heavily on meet-women-who-will-appreciate-your-genius dating services. Woody Allen got a laugh out of this in “Annie Hall”: Probably met by answering an ad in the New York Review of Books. “Thirtyish academic wishes to meet woman who’s interested in Mozart, James Joyce and sodomy.”

I’m still deciding what porn spam indicates. I get so much of it in my comments, 99 percent of it caught by filters, but occasionally I like to poke around (sorry) there and see what’s what. I can report two trends: 1) absurd sub- sub- sub-niche specialization (mature hairy black Texas Hold’em nudes); and 2) comical trickery. As to the latter, I just deleted a comment that said “fried chicken recipes here” and linked to you-know-what. Ah well. As Willie Dixon said, “I eat more chicken than any man ever seen.” He wasn’t talking about the wings.

Today is, we’ll be reminded approximately a million times, the four-year anniversary of President Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech. Alan just recalled the fond memory of sitting in the morning news meeting that day, gazing at the Page One proofs, which featured that memorable phrase in tombstone-size type. “We were discussing how to note the casualties,” he said. “There had been something like 66, and someone said, ‘We’ll run that on Memorial Day.’ I said, ‘I guarantee you there will be more dead by Memorial Day, and in two or three or four or seven years, we’ll still be fighting in Iraq.’ They looked at me like I was a communist sympathizer. Especially Name Redacted.” Ah, well. That was another country, and besides, the wench is dead.

What I recall of that time — invasion to Mission Accomplished, which petered out into counting the days to my Ann Arbor fellowship — was how strange that time was. Obviously our little newspaper didn’t have correspondents in Baghdad, or even Washington, or even Indianapolis by that point, but we were doing our part to cover the home front. There was a list of story ideas that boiled down to “How is (name of public institution) preparing for the war?” The schools, the police department, etc. I was baffled; what were we looking for, duck-and-cover drills for second-graders? Blackout exercises, lest we be bombed by the Iraqi Air Force? “Pray For Our Troops” signs covered lawns — freebies from the local G.O.P. — and every so often a tiny knot of anti-war protesters would show up at the Courthouse Green for a demonstration, and people would honk at them. I felt like I was speaking to my fellow Americans through a thick sheet of plexiglas.

In the midst of this, someone handed me a slip of paper with a name and a phone number, a local Iraqi of fairly recent immigration who might be willing to give an interview. I went to the guy’s house and we sat for a while watching the war on Arab satellite TV. (He was out of work, and watched it non-stop.) He switched between Al Jazeera and stations in Abu Dhabi and Lebanon. Obviously I couldn’t follow the audio, but I noticed the video emphasized not heroic images of soldiers in Hummers, but civilian refugees walking down the road with their belongings on their back. My subject, a Shiite, told of the ill-fated rebellion after the first Gulf War, how the U.S. had led the Shia to believe we had their back and then oops, we didn’t. He spent a couple years in a Saudi refugee camp before making his way to Indiana, which must have been a strange transition, to say the least.

He was of the opinion — this was April or May 2003, around that time — that now that Saddam had been booted, it was time for the U.S. to leave. He did not express gratitude; it was more like, “OK, we’ll take it from here.” He also said the longer we stayed the more we’d be resented, and that the prime reason we wanted Saddam out after all this time was to get our hands on the oil fields. He also shared his belief that the Mossad had used remote control devices to fly the planes into the World Trade Center. The copy desk cut that part, but they left most of the rest. At least one reader wrote a letter to the editor suggesting that my Iraqi should be more grateful.

A crystalization of the war, right there. Mission accomplished.

So, bloggage:

Readers frequently call the work of columnists “musings,” as in, “I was reading your musings the other day, and…” Jon Carroll is one of the very few who can muse, in print, and lead you along from the first word to the end. Today: Musings on miracles.

I was away with the Girl Scouts when this story broke, so I missed it until yesterday. If it weren’t so jaw-droppingly shocking — another GOP hypocrite caught with his pants down, literally — I’d have reported it then. As it was, I had to call for smelling salts to get off the floor.

Off to Flex Appeal. Back soon.

Posted at 9:46 am in Current events, Media |

30 responses to “Four more years.”

  1. John said on May 1, 2007 at 10:20 am

    I watched “Annie Hall” (thanks Netflix!) Sunday morning and now you are quoting it! If you do this next week, then I’m going to be really freaked out. By the way, I haven’t seen “Annie Hall” in years but it hasn’t lost any of its laughter or innocence. Cameo appearances by Jeff Goldblum, Marshall McLuhan and Truman Capote. Film debut of Sigourney Weaver. Carol Kane, Shelley Duvall, Paul Simon and a very funny Christopher Walken. This is a very funny and enjoyable movie.

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  2. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 10:38 am

    When I read the story of Randall Tobias, I thought of you, and figured you would add it to the list. The madam, or whatever she is, of that escort service is threatening to talk a lot.

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  3. James said on May 1, 2007 at 11:01 am


    Weird Annie Hall connection.

    One of my dad’s friends from his acting years is Donald Symington, who plays Annie Hall’s dad.

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  4. nancy said on May 1, 2007 at 11:16 am

    And a showstopping line he had: “Great sauce, mom!”

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  5. Danny said on May 1, 2007 at 11:53 am

    All, I will not be debating on this forum today, but I do want to put forth a few things to consider from a different perspective.

    Nancy, though I am not a big fan of the current administration, I really do not know how you can see things the way you do. I distinctly remember Bush repeatedly saying that the struggle that western culture finds itself in (whether you want to call it the war on terror or something else) will last decades and there will be many fronts. So I never thought that the “mission accomplished” statement was supposed to mean what you say it meant to people: namely that Bush was saying the war in Iraq was over. In fact, I think he tried to stress in many addresses to the nation that this was going to be long and difficult. How can anyone ignore this?

    But I guess if it makes you and everyone feel better to be somewhat-revisionits armchair quarterbacks, so be it.

    And regarding the man-on-the-street interview you had with the then-recent Iraqi immigrant, I think it is extremely important that we realize this guy and many people “over there” have no idea of what they are talking about. Jews flew planes into the building. Right. When Rosie O’Donnell gets her new show, maybe she can debate this guy as to who is more responsible for the conspiracy that brought down the WTC, the Jews or the adminsitration.

    Another example I came across of this sort of weird thinking was an Iraqi blogger (or someone who claims to be so) who was going on about how much he hates Al-Malaki, the current PM, because Shiites are being allowed to rape Sunnis (like all kinds of crap wasn’t gong on when Saddam was in power, give me a break) and how much the US has screwed things up, and how we are losing, and how he hopes the oil was worth it. I mean, come on. The oil? What oil? My fuel bill is higher now than it has ever been. Yet another example of someone who doesn’t know what they are talking about.

    So I guess what I am trying to say is just because the “muslim street” shares with the liberal left a mutual hate of the Bush admin, that doesn’t mean that they are right and that we should venerate their opinions (cuz, “hey, they LIVE over there and watch Al-freakin’-Jazeera”) and that it is incumbent upon us to do a bunch of reflection on how bad we are as a people.

    They fly planes into the buildings. They kill innocent people at pizzarias. They hate Jews.


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  6. brian stouder said on May 1, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    This article made me muse about death

    an arresting (so to speak) excerpt

    Consider someone who has just died of a heart attack. His organs are intact, he hasn’t lost blood. All that’s happened is his heart has stopped beating—the definition of “clinical death”—and his brain has shut down to conserve oxygen. But what has actually died? As recently as 1993, when Dr. Sherwin Nuland wrote the best seller “How We Die,” the conventional answer was that it was his cells that had died. The patient couldn’t be revived because the tissues of his brain and heart had suffered irreversible damage from lack of oxygen. This process was understood to begin after just four or five minutes. If the patient doesn’t receive cardiopulmonary resuscitation within that time, and if his heart can’t be restarted soon thereafter, he is unlikely to recover. That dogma went unquestioned until researchers actually looked at oxygen-starved heart cells under a microscope. What they saw amazed them, according to Dr. Lance Becker, an authority on emergency medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “After one hour,” he says, “we couldn’t see evidence the cells had died. We thought we’d done something wrong.” In fact, cells cut off from their blood supply died only hours later.

    So that, quite possibly, ‘dead’ people may be reviveable for much longer; and indeed – all those stories about people who have “died” and come back are – at best – recounted dreams

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  7. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 12:00 pm

    Danny, I think you should read the transcript of the “Mission Accomplished,” speech. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so tragic.

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  8. nancy said on May 1, 2007 at 12:12 pm

    Well, he did say “major combat operations in Iraq are over.” That’s pretty final.

    As for my Iraqi’s stupid ideas, I’m in full agreement. I only want to point out that these are the folks we were rescuing from Saddam — people who didn’t like us much to begin with, nursing a grudge from the failed Shiite uprising in, resentful of our interest in their natural resources and contemptuous of our allies as well. And they were going to greet us as liberators? This was going to turn out well?

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  9. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    I experienced a miracle on Sunday. It was of the cutting board variety.

    About two weeks ago I bought a nice melon colored suede jacket in Macy’s. It had been marked down many times, and was about fifty bucks. Nice color, good fit, works for office wear, all that. I wear it to work, come home, and too lazy to take to my bedroom to hang it up, I drape it over a chair and go make dinner. The dogs knocked the chair over, dragged the jacket around.
    My floors are not pristine. There is dirt on my jacket, small streaks of it. I remember reading somewhere that a pink pearl eraser takes superficial dirt off suede. I have no pink pearl erasers in the house. I hang the jacket up and make a note to get an eraser.
    Sunday, I have to drive younger son to a park to participate in “Big Sunday” which is an all city clean up, fix up volunteer thing. I take one of the dogs with me and walk my son across the park to his meeting place. My dog slips out of his collar, runs off. He comes back with (wait for it) A PINK PEARL ERASER! And it works for getting superficial smudges off suede.

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  10. Danny said on May 1, 2007 at 1:21 pm

    You are such a big, fat liar. No way!

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  11. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 1:25 pm

    I have witnesses. About 50 kids who were planting flowers.

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  12. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    Also, why would I lie about something that boring?

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  13. ashley said on May 1, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    BTW, Pink Pearl is a great album by Jill Sobule, whom I saw open for Warren Zevon.

    Here’s my version of “Mission Accomplished”.

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  14. Danny said on May 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I was totally joking, Mary.

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  15. ashley said on May 1, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    I hate to tell you Danny, but while “they” may hate Jews, the admistration hates New Orleanians, to the point of wanting them dead.

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  16. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    I’ve got that album, Ashley, and yes it’s a good one.

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  17. Danny said on May 1, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Ashley, where did you get all of those pictures of downtown Baghdad?

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  18. ashley said on May 1, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    They’re rebuilding Baghdad. That’s the difference.

    They’re also rebuilding Iraqi wetlands, while performing 5 year studies on rebuilding the ones in Louisiana.

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  19. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Ashley, it may be time for you folks to secede from the union. Set up casinos, make dope legal, and you’re set. You don’t need those a-holes from the federal government.

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  20. nancy said on May 1, 2007 at 3:02 pm

    Ash, what do you think of the Mississippi rerouting plan? I assume this is the thing John McPhee talks about in “Atchafalaya.”

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  21. ashley said on May 1, 2007 at 3:29 pm

    The biggest problem with that is that if they reroute the Mississippi into the Atchafalaya, the Atchafalaya has a dramatic grade difference, and the water will be going too fast for navigation. They’ll have to build an entire lock system.

    I don’t see anybody committing any money to south Louisiana for anything. They want it to lie fallow, then they’ll see what life is like with no seafood, $6 gas, and broke farmers up and down the Mississippi because there’s no port.

    Something has to be done. Did you know that federal law dictates how much water flows down the Atchafalaya, and how much flows down the Mississippi? At least for now, the best solution is to build the levees to Cat 4 or better, and work on the wetlands. Rerouting may be the ultimate answer, but that will be asking a couple of million people to give up their lives in the biggest relocation of people since the trail of tears.

    Mary, I’m way ahead of you.

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  22. brian stouder said on May 1, 2007 at 3:41 pm

    Well, my last several posts have failed to fly (which is OK; everyone needs an editor) – but on the off-chance that this one gets through, let me say that I’m amazed that Louisiana loses 24 square miles of ground every year! One would have assumed that that state would GAIN ground (from Minnesota/Wisconsin, Illinois/Iowa, Missouri/Kentucky, Tennessee/Arkansas and Mississippi) quicker than Old Man River could roll it away…

    An interesting article on death on msnbc – but I won’t link to it, in case that was my earlier transgression. The upshot was that when a person ‘dies’, their cellular existence lives on for another hour – but that massive introduction of oxygen and heart stimulation is what causes the cells of the heart and brain to switch off!! Newer revival techniques (cooling and slowing the re-introduction of oxygen) have succeeded remarkably well in tests

    Anyway, that article got me musing upon death, which seemed to dovetail with today’s subject on several points

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  23. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Saw that article, Brian. I forwarded it to my friends in palliative care, an interesting bunch. Group interviews for palliative care nurses are quite an experience.

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  24. nancy said on May 1, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Brian, I de-spammed you, so your original comment appears in order.

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  25. brian stouder said on May 1, 2007 at 4:14 pm

    I de-spammed you

    Thanks! That sounds so…21st century!

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  26. LA mary said on May 1, 2007 at 4:27 pm

    Speaking of palliative care: my chaplain friend there has sent me this email. If anyone is interested, I would help facilitate the transportation at this end.

    Sharon Adell and I have a patient who needs help placing her 13 cats. She is quite ill with breast cancer and can no longer care for her cats because of her treatment which leaves her open to infection. Please go to her daughter Brenda’s website for the beautiful photos and bios of each cat. By the way Brenda is a top professional photographer and does shoots for Vanity Fair; GQ, etc. Thank you for anything you can do to help these lovely ladies!

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  27. Linda said on May 2, 2007 at 5:55 am

    Re: your remarks on the Iraqi you interviewed. It reminded me of a passage from the Bill Mauldin’s book, The Brass Ring. He was with the troops that liberated Sicily, and said that even as the Sicilians threw a banquet in honor of the American troops, the look in their eyes said that Americans were just another set of conquerors, and that the natives wanted them to leave.

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  28. MichaelG said on May 2, 2007 at 8:44 am

    Ashley, how do you pronounce “Atchafalaya”? I see it all the time in James Lee Burke’s wonderful books and I’m guessing that it has some kind of trick pronounciation.

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  29. ashley said on May 2, 2007 at 11:26 am


    Emphasis on “chaf”. At chaf uh lie uh

    The tricky ones to spell are Tchoutacabouffa and Tchoupitoulas.

    Just don’t ask New Orleanians how to pronounce “Calliope”, “Burgundy”, “Chartres”, or “Clio”. And don’t forget that Frenchmen Desire Good Children.

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  30. MichaelG said on May 2, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Thanks, Ashley, and for the links!

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