Saturday, July 30, 2005

Will I Ever be a Millionaire?

For much of our country's history, wealth has been a critical social-status maker. One can easily look at the remants of our Founding Fathers' estates - Monticello and Mt. Vernon, most notably - for a glimpse at the privilege and prestige of our orignial leaders. Though some claim we live in a classless society - and shriek at the thought of inciting class warfare - we have been marked this way for two centuries plus change. Think of the robber barons of the late 19th century, the tycoons and their excesses in the 1920s, Roosevelt and the so-called Limosine Liberals, the royalty of the Kennedy clan, the glamor (if you can call it that) of the 1970s, the get-rich-or-die-trying of the '80s, the infinte optimism and technology bubble of the 1990s. Something else also distinguishes American wealth, however, and that is, in this country, "new money" is just as good as "old money."

And so it was on a beautiful day at Jeff Belzer's Chevrolet-Dodge-Kia dealership, just outside downtown Lakeville, that more than 1,000 individuals lined up, interweaved through the rows of shiny automobiles, for their chance at becoming "new money" and jumping into a strata few will ever know. Of course, being an underemployed blogger, I was right there with them at the auditions for the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" television show.

I showed up a 9 a.m., beaming and confident in my knowledge of triviality. Only in America is the aquirement of inane and useless knowledge so richly awarded, and I felt it was my turn to cash in. Obviously, there were numerous other Minnesotans (and some Wisconsinites) who believed the same about themselves.

The line was already long when I showed up. It wrapped around three rows of brand new cars - ones several people joked of buying if they were to win on TV - and I knew I was in for a long day. But the pay-off would be worth it, right?

During my five hours in line, I found ways to entertain myself. I've been reading The Razor's Edge by W. Somerset Maugham, which proved to fill the time wonderfully. Also, I was fortunate to be around a quite congenial group of people whose lively conversations cycled from the Vikings-Packers NFL rivalry to the intricacies of the Minnesota accent to the state of our schools today (there was a high school athletic trainer and an educational psychologist in the bunch). I happened to be wedged between two guys named Tony, one a recent graduate of William Mitchell College of Law who received a job offer on his cell phone while waiting in line, and the other had the thickest mullet I've ever seen, wore a cheap gray suit, and informed us of how the lawyer he had during his first divorce saved his life.

Around 2 or 2:30 p.m., we entered the dealership proper and enjoyed relief from the sun. My chance was near; I would be included in the next group of auditions. A short man with fashionably ripped jeans and hair coifed into a fine mess handed out pencils and applications. Beside the requisite "Have you or anyone you know ever been employed by Such and Such Corporation?", there were questions like "What would Meredith Viera find most interesting about you?" and "I could be in the Guiness Book of World Records for..." The mood enlivened distinctly and there was a buzz about the people milling around and sitting on the showroom floor.

Forty five minutes later, about 250 of us were herded into another room. We all took our seats and waited anxiously for instructions, as well as our brief shot at fame and, of course, a cool $1 million.

A youngish woman with dark curly hair and freckles against a pale complexion drew our attention. Her name was Jennifer and she's a producer for "Who Wants to be a Millionaire." (Slight gasp from the crowd.) She lives in New York City. (Audible ooohs and aaahs.) She explained that we would receive two chances to enter the applicant pool. The event was being sponsored by Netflix for their "Million Dollar Movie Week," so we would take a test on movie trivia as well as a test on just regular trivia for the normal show. We were given 10 minutes to complete each 30-question test on a Scantron bubble sheet. In between tests, and while they were being scored, Jennifer and her assistants brought out T-shirts and free 3-month memberships to Netflix in exchange for jumping up and down, screaming, and just plain acting like monkeys. (This particular blogger is, of course, too civilized for such trifles and remained seated, looking with derision upon those who lost all self-respect in the name of a free T-shirt worth less than $1.)

I'm no movie buff, and I guessed my way through the first test. It was the second test that I - and almost everyone else within earshot - was more concerned with. When Jennifer and her assistants handed out the regular trivia tests, the room went silent. When the egg timer was started, it was as if the room was filled with LSAT or GRE takers.

Afterward, people compared answers and wondered what the cut-off would be. For my part, I knew I had to guess on at last six or seven of them (What country is Lake Nasser located in? A. Egypt B. Venezuela C. and D. Some other countries). I still felt like I may eke out the chance to stay on. Jennifer returned with our results, and read the names of those lucky individuals who may get a chance at the the one thing we were all there for. I was not one of them.

Out of the 250-odd people in my grouping, about 15 to 20 made it through. Doing the math, out of the 1,000 to 1,200 people who went through the process, I would venture to guess that only about 100 to 120 people actually made it into the "Who Wants to be a Millionare?" applicant pool. Out of that number, I would say between two and four people will be fortunate enough to actually make it onto the show.

Reflecting on this experience afterward, I realized first that I wasted an entire day, but I could swallow that. Also, I came away with a notion of social mobility, and the things people will do reach for what they consider a wealthy existence. The mere fact that so many people turned out for a longshot at a brief window of daytime television fame and the off-chance of earning a quick $1 million, to me, shows that people are searching for a way out of their present economic status, one unavailable to them within current conditions. Perhaps I'm looking at it too existentially, but thinking about the less than 3 percent of people who may actually make it onto the TV show, and the less than 5 percent of Americans who own more than 90 percent of the wealth, I just couldn't help myself.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

President Bush's Siren Song

If one says something long enough and frequently enough, it comes to have the status of a given. We have been told time and again by President Bush—for over a year now, in fact—that we are fighting terrorists abroad so we don’t have to face them here at home. This line is a crowd pleaser, drawing applause every time it is uttered. I have traced the line to its birth in June of 2004, and have, through a systematic search on the whitehouse.gov website, produced every instance of Bush’s utterance in chronological order. In addition, I analyze what work this piece of rhetoric is designed to accomplish, what message it is designed to convey, and, most importantly, what reality it crucially distorts.

I. Origins

As exemplified in President Bush’s 4th of July speech—“We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home”— this well-balanced sentence was conceived sometime in the middle of June 2004, before Bush embarked on his flurry of 2004 re-election campaign rallies. Incidentally, if anyone knows of an earlier utterance, please let me know in the comments.

The first rough formulation can be found in Bush’s June 2, 2004 remarks at the Air Force Academy Graduation:
“Some say that by fighting the terrorists abroad since September the 11th, we only stir up a hornet's nest. But the terrorists who struck that day were stirred up already. (Applause.) If America were not fighting terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and elsewhere, what would these thousands of killers do, suddenly begin leading productive lives of service and charity? (Laughter.) Would the terrorists who beheaded an American on camera just be quiet, peaceful citizens if America had not liberated Iraq? We are dealing here with killers who have made the death of Americans the calling of their lives. And America has made a decision about these terrorists: Instead of waiting for them to strike again in our midst, we will take this fight to the enemy. (Applause.)”

Bush was more succinct on June 15, 2004 at his meeting with President Karzai of Afghanistan:
“First, it's in our interests that we defeat terrorists there than fight them here. That's our short-term security interest.”

The very next day (June 16, 2004), saluting the Military at Macdill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, the line fully bloomed:
“By fighting the terrorists in distant lands, you are making sure your fellow citizens do not face them here at home.”

II. Analysis

Within the rhetorical framework of staying on the offensive tack, the phrase marks a shift in emphasis away from the mantra of bringing the terrorists to justice, and places the accent instead on taking the fight to the terrorists abroad (read: Iraq insurgency) to prevent future attacks in America. Though it suggests that America is safer because of the Iraq war, it simultaneously has the effect of renewing fear of terrorism in order to make Americans believe that, but for out steadfastness in Iraq and our war president, the terrorists, e.g., Zarqawi and his like, could and would strike America again. In this sense it is a piece of rhetoric calculated to reinforce support for the war in Iraq by identifying it with the war on terrorists overseas. In effect it says—and not without truth—that we must stand behind Bush and his enterprises in fear that our way of life and destiny is under imminent threat from abroad. Bush’s message to the American people is clear: The only way the terrorists can win is if we lose our nerve in Iraq.

What’s troubling, however, is that whatever the measure of the Iraq insurgency, as long as terrorist attacks occur overseas, including London, and not here at home, the war in Iraq seems to be precisely what it is not—an effective means of executing the global war on terror. This idea—which conflates fighting terrorism with fighting the Iraq insurgency— is represented, for example, in a statement by Mr. Lawrence Kudlow on The McLaughlin Group on June 20, 2003: “MR. KUDLOW: Look, I think we have in this sense; I think the greatest benefit and the greatest blessing to the USA is that we have not had any terrorist attacks since 9/11. That by itself is extraordinarily positive. And to the extent we are taking it to the terrorists abroad in Afghanistan and Iraq, it is also positive.”

Against this equation of Iraq and terrorists, financier, philanthropist and outspoken Bush critic George Soros notably has argued that Bush’s favorite line is in truth “a Siren’s song”: “Most of the people attacking our soldiers in Iraq originally had nothing to do with al-Qa’ida. They have been generated by the policies of the Bush administration. We have been spared a terrorist attack at home, but it is quite a stretch to attribute that to the invasion of Iraq. The insurrection in Iraq, however, is a somber reality, and it doesn’t make us safer at home. Our security, far from improving as President Bush claims, is deteriorating.”

III. Complete History (from the most recent down to June 18, 2004)

“We will defend ourselves by staying on the offense against these killers. We will find them overseas so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—President Promotes Central American Free Trade Agreement
Organization of American States, Washington, D.C., July 21, 2005


“We're on the offense against these terrorists overseas. We will bring them to justice so they don't murder more of our citizens and other citizens around the world.”
—President Discusses Education, Entrepreneurship & Home Ownership at Indiana Black Expo, July 14, 2005

“And we're staying on the offensive. We're fighting the enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan and across the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President discusses war on terror at FBI Academy, Quantico, Virginia, July 11, 2005

“We are now waging a global war on terror -- from the mountains of Afghanistan to the border regions of Pakistan, to the Horn of Africa, to the islands of the Philippines, to the plains of Iraq. We will stay on the offense, fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them at home.”
—President's Radio Address, July 9, 2005

“We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President celebrates Independence Day at West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia, July 4, 2005

“Today, a new generation of Americans is defending our freedom against determined enemies. At posts in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world, our men and women in uniform are taking the fight to the terrorists overseas, so that we do not have to face the terrorists here at home.”
—President’s radio address, July 2, 2005

“There is only one course of action against them: to defeat them abroad before they attack us at home. The commander in charge of coalition operations in Iraq -- who is also senior commander at this base -- General John Vines, put it well the other day. He said: "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."”
—Address to the nation from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 28, 2005

“Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq so you will not have to face them here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, June 18, 2005

“See, the strategy is we'll defeat them before they attack us; we'll face them overseas before we have to face them here at home. And the best way to make sure we do so is with the best possible intelligence.”
—President’s Remarks before the National Counterterrorism Center, McLean Virginia, June 10, 2005

“We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad, so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—President discusses Patriot Act at Ohio State Highway Patrol Academy, Columbus, Ohio, June 9, 2005

“We are taking the fight to the enemy abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Commencement speech at Naval Academy, Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland, May 27, 2005

“Over the next four years, we'll be relentless in tracking down the terrorists. We will confront them abroad so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks at the Republican National Committee Gala, Grand Hyatt Hotel, Washington, D.C., May 17, 2005

“I've always told the American people here, it's best to find them where they try to hide so that we don't have to deal with them here at home.”
—Interview of the President by Estonian TV, The Map Room, May 4, 2005

“Q[:] Mr. President, your State Department has reported that terrorist attacks around the world are at an all-time high. If we're winning the war on terrorism, as you say, how do you explain that more people are dying in terrorist attacks on your watch than ever before?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we've made the decision to defeat the terrorists abroad so we don't have to face them here at home. And when you engage the terrorists abroad, it causes activity and action. And we're relentless.”
—Press Conference of the President, The East Room, April 28, 2005

“The terrorists have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. Because of your service, because of your sacrifice, we are defeating them there where they live, so we do not have to face them where we live.”
—President Discusses War on Terror at Fort Hood, Texas, April 12, 2005

“Like an earlier generation, America is pursuing a clear strategy with our allies to achieve victory. Our immediate strategy is to eliminate terrorist threats abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home. The theory here is straightforward: terrorists are less likely to endanger our security if they are worried about their own security. When terrorists spend their days struggling to avoid death or capture, they are less capable of arming and training to commit new attacks. We will keep the terrorists on the run, until they have nowhere left to hide.”
—President Discusses War on Terror, National Defense University
Fort Lesley J. McNair, March 8, 2005


“By fighting terrorists in places like Baghdad and Karbala and Tikrit, you are making sure we do not face those enemies at home.”
— President Thanks U.S. Troops at Wiesbaden Army Airfield Base
Wiesbaden Army Airfield, Wiesbaden, Germany, February 23, 2005


“We will continue to hunt down terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, February 5, 2005

“Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—State of the Union Address, Feb. 2, 2005

“We remain in a war the United States will continue to lead -- fighting terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, January 22, 2005

“We're staying on the offensive against the enemy. We'll take the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President Signs Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, Washington, D.C., December 17, 2004

“Our success in Iraq will make America safer for us and for future generations. As one Marine sergeant put it, "I never want my children to experience what we saw in New York, at the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania." He said, "If we can eliminate the threat on foreign soil, I would rather do it there than have it come home to us." That's why we're on the offensive today in Fallujah and Mosul, Ramadi and north Babil. We're getting after the terrorists. We're disrupting their plans.”
— President Thanks Military Personnel and Families For Serving Our Country, Camp Pendleton, California, December 7, 2004

“Like generations before them, today's armed forces have liberated captive peoples and shown compassion for the suffering and delivered hope to the oppressed. In the past year, they have fought the terrorists abroad so that we do not have to face those enemies here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, November 27, 2004

“We will chase the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President and Mrs. Bush's Remarks at a RNC Victory 2004 Rally
Moody Coliseum, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas, November 2, 2004


“We are staying on the offensive. We will chase the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Wilmington, Ohio, Airborne Airpark, Wilmington, Ohio, November 1, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We are fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, Post-Gazette Pavilion at Star Lake, Burgettstown, Pennsylvania, November 1, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We are fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S. Cellular Arena, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 1, 2004

“We are resolute, we are determined, we are staying on the offensive. We are fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Journal Pavilion, Albuquerque, New Mexico, November 1, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Sioux City, Iowa, Tysons Event Center, Sioux City, Iowa, November 1, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will fight the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Des Moines, Iowa, Iowa State Fairgrounds, Des Moines, Iowa, November 1, 2004

“We are fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Cincinnati, Ohio, Great American Ball Park, Cincinnati, Ohio, October 31, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We are fighting the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Gainesville, Florida, University Air Center, Gainesville, Florida, October 31, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive so we do not have to face the terrorists here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Tampa, Florida, Legends Field, Tampa, Florida, October 31, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We're chasing the terrorists around the globe. We will find them and bring them to justice so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Miami, Florida, Coconut Grove Expo Center, Miami, Florida, October 31, 2004

“We will fight the terrorists across the globe so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Orlando, Florida, Tinker Field, Orlando, Florida, October 30, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive against the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Target Center, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 30, 2004

“We will chase the terrorists around the globe so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Brown County Veterans Memorial Complex, Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin, October 30, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive against the terrorists across the globe so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Devos Place, Grand Rapids, Michigan, October 30, 2004

“First, we're on the offensive against the terrorist networks. The best way to prevent future attacks is to go after the enemy. (Applause.) We will confront the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Verizon Wireless Arena, Manchester, New Hampshire, October 29, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We're chasing the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Seagate Convention Centre, Toledo, Ohio, October 29, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're defeating the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Pease International Tradeport Airport, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, October 29, 2004

“We are staying on the offense. We're chasing the terrorists across the globe so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio, October 29, 2004

“And we'll work hard to make sure this country is secure by not only chasing the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home, but by spreading freedom and liberty.”
— President's Remarks in Westlake, Ohio, October 28, 2004

“We are relentless, we are determined, we are staying on the offense against these terrorists so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Broadmeadows Farm, Yardley, Pennsylvania, October 28, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're relentless; we are determined. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Lititz, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2004

“We are relentless; we are steadfast; we are pursuing the enemy across the Earth so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Vienna, Ohio, October 27, 2004

“We are relentless, we are determined, we are staying on the offensive so we do not have to face these terrorists here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Findlay, Ohio, October 27, 2004

“We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Pontiac, Michigan, October 27, 2004

“We're on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Onalaska, Wisconsin, October 26, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're defeating the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here in our own country.”
— President's Remarks in Cuba City, Wisconsin, October 26, 2004

“The way to deal with them and protect the American people is to stay on the offense, find them where they hide, defeat them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President Discusses the Economy in Richland Center, Wisconsin, October 26, 2004

“We will strike the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Dubuque, Iowa, October 26, 2004

“We are fighting these terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our own cities.”
— President's Remarks in Greeley, Colorado, October 25, 2004

“We are fighting the terrorists with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond so we do not have to face them in the streets of our cities.”
— President's Remarks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, October 25, 2004

“Our troops will defeat Zarqawi and his likes overseas in Iraq so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in New Mexico, October 24, 2004

“As long as I am the Commander-in-Chief, I will confront dangers abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, October 23, 2004

“And our troops will defeat Zarqawi and his friends and allies overseas so we do not have to face them in America.”
— President's Remarks in Jacksonville, Florida, October 23, 2004

“Our troops will defeat the likes of Zarqawi so we do not have to face him in our own cities.”
— President's Remarks in Melbourne, Florida, October 23, 2004

“Our troops will defeat them there so we do not have to face them in our own cities.”
— President's Remarks in Lakeland, Florida, October 23, 2004

“Our troops will defeat them there so we do not have to face them in our own cities.”
— President's Remarks in Ft. Myers, Florida, October 23, 2004

“We'll protect America by striking the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, October 22, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Hershey, Pennsylvania, October 21, 2004

“We will stay on the offense. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here in America.”
—President Discusses Medical Liability Reform and Health Care in Pennsylvania, October 21, 2004

“It is essential we defeat Zarqawi there so we don't have to face the likes of him here at home.”
—President Discusses the Economy in Rochester, Minnesota, October 20, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Mason City, Iowa, October 20, 2004

“It is best we defeat Zarqawi in Iraq so we do not have to face him here at home.”
—President Discusses Rural America in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, October 20, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in The Villages, Florida, October 19, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in New Port Richey, Florida, October 19, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in St. Petersburg, Florida, October 19, 2004

“As long as I'm the Commander-in-Chief, I will confront dangers abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks on Homeland Security in New Jersey, October 18, 2004

“We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Daytona International Speedway Root Property, Daytona Beach, Florida October 16, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Sound Advice Amphitheater, West Palm Beach, Florida, October 16, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Sunrise, Florida Victory 2004 Rally, Office Depot Center, Sunrise, Florida, October 16, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Central Point, Oregon, October 15, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, U.S. Cellular Center, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, October 15, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Experimental Aircraft Association Building, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, October 15, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Thomas and Mack Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, October 14, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We'll strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Rancho San Rafael Park, Reno, Nevada, October 14, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Colorado Springs, Colorado, October 12, 2004

“We must find them overseas so we don't have to face them here, and that's exactly what we're doing.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Paradise Valley, Arizona, October 12, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President and General Tommy Franks's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Morrison, Colorado, October 11, 2004

“We got to beat them overseas so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Coors for Senate Luncheon, Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum, Denver, Colorado, October 11, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We are striking the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Hobbs, New Mexico, October 11, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Chanhassen, Minnesota, October 9, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Missourians for Matt Blunt and the Missouri Republican Party Breakfast, America's Center Convention Center, St. Louis, Missouri, October 9, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Waterloo, Iowa, October 9, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive against the terrorist networks -- we will defeat them overseas, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Wausau, Wisconsin, October 7, 2004

“We'll stay on the offensive against terrorist networks, striking them before they come to America to hurt us.”
—President's Remarks in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, October 6, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive against terrorist networks. We will strike them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Farmington Hills, Michigan, October 6, 2004

“We must -- we must chase them down all around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at an Ask President Bush Event in Clive, Iowa, October 4, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive. We are striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio Rally, October 2, 2004

“The best way to do our duty to protect this country is to fight them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home -- (applause.) -- is to stay on the offense, never relent, use every asset at our disposal.”
—President's Remarks at a "Focus on Ownership" Event, Renaissance Theater, Mansfield, Ohio, October 2, 2004

“But the best way to protect the homeland is to stay on the offensive, fighting the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here in America.”
—President's Remarks to the National Association of Home Builders
Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio, October 2, 2004


“We will continue to stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by President Bush and Senator Kerry in First 2004 Presidential Debate, October 1, 2004

“We'll stay on the offensive. We'll defeat the terrorists around the Earth so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Mcintyre Ski Area
Manchester, New Hampshire, October 1, 2004


“We're staying on the offensive. We'll strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Allentown, Pennsylvania, October 1, 2004

“We will defeat the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in West Chester, Ohio, September 27, 2004

“The best way to protect America is to stay on the offense against them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in "Focus on Education with President Bush" Event, Midwest Livestock and Expo Center, Springfield, Ohio, September 27, 2004

“We must whip the terrorists in Iraq so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at "Focus on Education" Event, Janesville Conference Center, Janesville, Wisconsin September 24, 2004
“We are staying on the offensive. We are striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Bangor, Maine, September 23, 2004

“We must stay on the offensive and bring them to justice before they hurt us again here at home.”
—President's Remarks in "Focus on Education with President Bush" Event, Valley Forge Convention Center, King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, September 22, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: We're defending the homeland, we're transforming our military, we're strengthening our intelligence services, we're staying on the offensive, we're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, September 22, 2004

“We're standing with the people of this good country because we understand that, as Prime Minister has said, that we must defeat them there; otherwise we'll face them here at home.”
—President Bush Meets with Prime Minister Allawi in New York, September 21, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here in America.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in New York City, September 20, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: We will stay on the offensive against them; we will bring them to justice, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Derry, New Hampshire, September 20, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive, striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President’s Radio Address, September 18, 2004

“We've got a clear strategy: we'll continue to defend the homeland; we'll transform our military to meet the threats of the 21st century; we'll strengthen our intelligence services; we will stay on the offensive -- it is best to strike the terrorists elsewhere, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Luncheon, Grand Hyatt Washington, Washington, D.C., September 17, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in St. Cloud, Minnesota, September 16, 2004

“You can't -- it's impossible to try to rationalize with them. And that's why we're using every asset at our disposal to find them around the world, so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at "Focus on Health with President Bush" Event, NSC Sports Hall, Blaine, Minnesota, September 16, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President at Victory 2004 Rally, Mayo Field, Rochester, Minnesota, September 16, 2004

“You're fighting terrorist enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan, and across the globe, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks to the General Conference of the National Guard Association of the United States, Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, September 14, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: we're defending the homeland, we're transforming our military, we're reforming and strengthening our intelligence services; we're staying on the offensive, we'll strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Victory 2004 Rally, Coors Amphitheatre, Greenwood Village, Colorado, September 14, 2004

“And so the only way to deal with them is to stay on the offense, is to chase them down overseas so we don't have to face them here at home, and we will.”
—President's Remarks in "Focus on Health Care" Event, Muskegon County Airport, Muskegon, Michigan, September 13, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Victory 2004 Rally, C.o. Brown Stadium, Battle Creek, Michigan, September 13, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We are striking the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks in Victory 2004 Rally in Holland, Michigan, September 13, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive in this war -- striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President Proclaims Patriot Day, September 10, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Huntington, West Virginia, September 10, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will chase the terrorists around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Chillicothe, Ohio, September 10, 2004

“We will find them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Colmar, Pennsylvania Rally, September 9, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, September 9, 2004

“We're still on the offense here in this country. We're chasing down these killers overseas so we don't have to face them here at home.”
—President Discusses Reforming & Strengthening Intelligence Services, The Cabinet Room, September 8, 2004

“We will -- we will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Lee's Summit, Missouri, September 7, 2004

“And the only way to deal with them is to find them and bring them to justice around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Sedalia, Missouri, September 7, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: We're defending the homeland, we're transforming our military, we're strengthening our intelligence services, we're staying on the offensive, we're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Columbia, Missouri, September 7, 2004

“We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at a Victory 2004 Rally in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, September 6, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: We'll defend the homeland; we'll stay on the offensive; we'll strike the terrorists abroad, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Parkersburg, West Virginia, September 5, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President and Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, September 4, 2004

“We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Kirtland, Ohio, September 4, 2004

“We must find them in other countries so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event in Ohio, September 4, 2004

“We will stay on the offensive. We will strike the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President and the Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Victory 2004 Rally in Moosic, Pennsylvania, September 3, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Cedar Rapids, Iowa Rally, September 3, 2004

“We're staying on the offensive. We're striking the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—Remarks by the President and Mrs. Bush at West Allis, Wisconsin Rally, September 3, 2004

“We are staying on the offensive -- striking terrorists abroad -- so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at the 2004 Republican National Convention, Madison Square Garden, New York, New York, September 2, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
—President's Remarks at Columbus, Ohio Rally, September 1, 2004

“We must pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at the 2004 Farm Progress Show, Alleman Farm, Alleman, Iowa, August 31, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at the American Legion 86th Annual National Convention, Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Nashville, Tennessee, August 31, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President and Mrs. Bush at Taylor, Michigan Rally, August 30, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Wheeling, West Virginia Rally, August 29, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Troy, Ohio Rally, August 28, 2004

“Our strategy is clear: We will stay on the offense. We will defeat them elsewhere so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at "ask President Bush" Event, Lima Senior High School, Lima, Ohio, August 28, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them elsewhere so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Perrysburg, Ohio Rally, August 28, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them and defeat them around the world so we do not face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President and the First Lady at Miami, Florida Rally, August 27, 2004

“We must engage these enemies overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Albuquerque, New Mexico Rally
Albuquerque Convention Center, August 26, 2004


“We must engage them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Las Cruces, New Mexico Rally, August 26, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Farmington, New Mexico Rally, August 26, 2004

“In order to secure our country, we must stay on the offense and bring them to justice, defeat them elsewhere so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event, Lakefront Park, Hudson, Wisconsin, August 18, 2004

“I know we must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, August 18, 2004

“We must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at St. Paul, Minnesota, August 18, 2004

“We must engage these enemies so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Hedgesville, West Virginia Rally, August 17, 2004

“We will continue to find these killers and defeat them overseas, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Ridley Park, Pennsylvania, August 17, 2004

“We will engage these enemies around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Traverse City, Michigan Rally, August 16, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them and defeat them in foreign lands, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President Speaks at VFW Convention, August 16, 2004

“We must aggressively pursue them and defeat them in foreign lands, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President and Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Sioux City, Iowa Rally, August 14, 2004

“The short-term strategy is to find this enemy and defeat them so we don't have to face them here at home.”
— President and Mrs. Bush's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event with Small Business Owners, Southridge High School, Beaverton, Oregon, August 13, 2004

“We're -- we will work with our friends and allies to pursue these terrorists around the world. Listen, it's better to defeat them there than to face them here in our own country.”
— Remarks by the President and Mrs. Bush at Victory 2004 Dinner, Santa Monica Municipal Airport, Santa Monica, California, August 12, 2004

“I understand we must pursue them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President Speaks to Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, International Training Facility, Las Vegas, Nevada, August 12, 2004

“We must engage the enemy around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Phoenix, Arizona Rally, August 11, 2004

“Second lesson, which we'll do -- we'll do this year and we'll do over the next four years -- we must bring them to justice in places where they hide and plot, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event, Eclipse Aviation, Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 11, 2004

“We will aggressively pursue them. We will engage them. We will defeat them so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Panama City, Florida Rally, August 10, 2004

“We must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Pensacola, Florida Rally, August 10, 2004

“That's why it's important for us -- that's why over the next four years, we will engage them in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Ask President Bush Event, Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, Virginia, August 9, 2004

“We must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Stratham, New Hampshire, Picnic, August 6, 2004

“My most solemn duty is to protect our country. I will continue to do so by hunting these killers down around the world and bringing them to justice before they hurt us here at home.”
— President's Remarks to the Unity Journalists of Color Convention, Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., August 6, 2004

“We must engage the enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Saginaw, Michigan Rally, August 5, 2004

“The second lesson is, though, that in order to defend the homeland, we've got to be on the offense. We must deal with those people overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home.”
— Presidents Remarks in Ask President Bush Event, Aladdin Shrine Center, Columbus, Ohio, August 5, 2004

“We must engage them so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at Bush-Cheney Rally, Southern Minnesota Construction Company Quarry, Mankato, Minnesota, August 4, 2004

“We must engage the enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Davenport, Iowa, August 4, 2004

“We will engage these enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere, so that we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Canton, Ohio, July 31, 2004

“We must engage these enemies around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Cambridge, Ohio, July 31, 2004

“We must engage these enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, July 31, 2004

“We will engage those enemies around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Springfield, Missouri, July 30, 2004

“We must engage the enemy so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 30, 2004

“We must engage these enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at the 2004 President's Dinner, The Washington Convention Center, Washington, D.C., July 21, 2004

“We will engage these enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world, so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— Remarks by the President at St. Charles, Missouri Rally, July 20, 2004

“We must stay on the offensive. We will engage the enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin Rally, July 14, 2004

“We must deal with them in foreign lands so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Ask President Bush Event, Mid-States Aluminum Corporation, Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, July 14, 2004

“We must engage the enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks in Waukesha, Wisconsin, July 14, 2004

“We must engage these enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President's Remarks at Marquette, Michigan Rally, July 13, 2004

“We must engage our enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home…We're defending our homeland, we're defeating the terrorists abroad.”
— President's Remarks at Duluth, Minnesota Rally, July 13, 2004

“Our strategy for peace has three commitments: First, we are defending the peace by taking the fight to the enemy. We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home.”
— President Bush Discusses Progress in the War on Terror, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, July 12, 2004

“We're defending our homeland, we will defeat the terrorists abroad.”
— President's Remarks at York, Pennsylvania Rally, July 9, 2004

“Our men and women in uniform have removed two terrorist regimes that threatened our people and are now helping the Iraqi and Afghan people get on the path to democracy and self-government. By fighting the terrorists abroad they have made American people more secure here at home.”
— President Discusses American Dream, July 8, 2004

“We will engage these enemies in these countries and around the world so we do not have to face them here at home.”
— President Celebrates Independence Day, West Virginia State Capitol Grounds, Charleston, West Virginia, July 4, 2004

“In Iraq, we're serving the cause of our own security, striking the terrorists where we find them, instead of waiting for them to strike us at home.”
— President Bush Discusses Early Transfer of Iraqi Sovereignty, Hilton Istanbul, Istanbul, Turkey, June 28, 2004

“By fighting terrorists abroad, you're making the American people more secure at home.”
— President Bush Salutes Soldiers in Fort Lewis, Washington, June 18, 2004

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

BOOKS: Could've been better

How many times, after finishing a book or walking out of a movie or the theatre, have you said to yourself: "It could've been better"? It's a statement I don't like to make because it implies some greater knowledge over a work than I have within me. It's an attempt to put myself somewhere above the author or director or actor, and snidely remark on choices that I wouldn't have made, or at least don't think I would have made if I had actually been talented and knowledgable enough to write the book, direct the movie, or star in the play.

With that disclaimer, however, I have to say that Eric Schlosser's book, Reefer Madness, the follow-up to his highly acclaimed (and wonderfully written) Fast Food Nation, certainly could have been better.

In Reefer Madness, Schlosser attempts to dissect several niches within America's underground economy (or black market). He looks at three such areas: marijuana, illegal immigration, and pornography. With the exception of much of his work on illegal immigration, Schlosser fails to draw these into his central premise.

That certainly isn't to say the book is uninteresting or uninformed. On the contrary, the book is well-researched and provides fantastic insight into these three areas. In making connections to the underground economy, however, Schlosser fails to prove his point.

The book reads like three separate and distinct works. The first part, on marijuana, its domestic production, its widespread use among Americans, and its distinction as a favored boogeyman for the political right (and occassionally for the moderate left), is essentially a dissection of this country's marijuana laws and the overzealous use of the criminal justice system in "combating" pot growers, distributors, and smokers. The second part, on illegal immigration, focuses on migrant farmworkers in California and our nation's longtime love affair with importing cheap labor while demonizing those who provide that cheap labor. The final part, on pornography, is basically a history lesson on the porn industry, how it came into being, and how it has now become part of popular culture.

Perhaps, just perhaps, these three separate parts could have gone together in a much longer book that was much more in-depth about the underground economy. Unfortunately, in less than 300 pages, there's simply no room to run a single, much less several threads, through each of these to connect them. Nor did Schlosser really give any effort to doing so. He makes it clear in the introduction that these are three long essays based on different work he's done for The Atlantic Monthly. The problem is he just scratches the surface on three very interesting topics and researches and reveals enough to make it interesting, and then stops.

Fast Food Nation succeeded because it was a tightly drawn book with a strong central premise. Working from that theme, Schlosser offered case studies, as well as relevant facts and figures that worked to truly engage and inform the reader. Reefer Madness feels like an attempt to package three Fast Food Nations into one book and somehow expect them to fit together.

Sorry, but it could've been better.

Crystal Pickle Jar Gazing

My esteemed colleague Ilya and I just finished a "working" meal over at Moti Mahal (Indian restaurant on the corner of Franklin and 31st...I'd recommend it), which consisted of bloviating for quite some time, brainstorming some changes to the PeP, and of course, coming up with the illustrious Pie-Eyed Pickle of the Week. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot going on now that the press corps is obsessed with spic-and-span Judge John Roberts and the the Discovery space shuttle launch (non-event of the year!). So instead, we're introducing a new segment: Crystal Pickle Jar Gazing.

Maybe because we have nothing better to talk about, maybe because we're just plain infatuated with this stuff, maybe for no other reason than for our pure enjoyment, Ilya and I have decided to conjure up spirits from the past and ask them about the future. The future of what, you ask? Why, the 2008 presidential candidate field, of course!

Ok, I'm looking into our Crystal Pickle Jar now. It's cloudy, very cloudy. And a strange neon green pigment. But wait...what is this...the Democratic candidates are coming into view.

Let's see, who's this? It's Hillary Clinton, of course! With Bill and Chelsea in tow. Oh, wouldn't it be great to have the Clintons in the White House. It would be just like the '90s, except without the economic boon and grunge music.

Who do we have next here? This one is a little fuzzy. Hmmm, ah yes, it's John Kerry! Sure, you'd think the guy wouldn't run after losing to a president running for reelection with the lowest approval rating in history. But, wait, what's this behind him? Oh no, it looks like a train wreck.

And here comes John Edwards! And his sunny disposition isn't affected one bit by the curiously strong dill of the Crystal Pickle Jar.

Now we have a gray-hair in a blue sweater vest...must be Wes Clark! Hopefully, he'll get his stump speech down this time. Or at least his soundbites.

They're coming much faster now...I see Evan Bayh, senator from Indiana...and look over there, it's Tom Vilsack, governor of Iowa...and there's Joe Lieberman; I know it's him because his mouth is moving but I can't hear the words. And there's Carol Moseley Braun swimming around the edge of the jar with Dennis "The Kooch" Kucinich! Oh my, I miss those two! Yikes, everyone look out! There's a shark in the Crystal Pickle Jar!

No, wait. It's just Al Sharpton.

So there you have it, folks. The Democratic field for the 2008 presidential election. Should be a goodie! The Crystal Pickle Jar never lies. Stay tuned for next time when we have the Republican field!

Semi-Daily Divider

  • Why are we still blathering about the smoking ban? Because as it stands now, it doesn't make any sense. Don't get me wrong; I'm in favor of the ban. But to apply something that is so controversial in such a piecemeal way is beyond me. You can't smoke in Minneapolis, you can't smoke in Hennepin County, you can't smoke in St. Paul and Ramsey County (but you can if you know where to go). I've said it before and I'll say it again: Go big or go home. This deal needs to be metro- or state-wide in order to work effectively.
  • Lil Normie Coleman has decided to introduce a stem cell bill in the Senate that would overturn Bush's stance on the subject. His reasoning: "We don't want to be the party that's anti-science." Too late, buddy.
  • In other Congressional news, my friend and yours Rep. Mark Kennedy (and 2006 Senate contender) has decided to vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA). Why does this matter? Well, kids, let me tell you a story about western Minnesota and sugar beets. As it turns out - and I did not know this until recently - the western part of the state is filled with sugar beet farmers, whose produce becomes the sugar we enjoy so much in our sweet-tooth society. Approving CAFTA will allow cheaper foreign sugar (from Central and South American countries) to enter the market freely, and thus the sugar beet farmers will face some very inexpensive competition. Whether this will actually bankrupt the sugar beet farmers, I don't know. I'm no economist. The vote will be important come election time, when Kennedy is trying to win rural counties.
  • The University of Minnesota's solar car finished 2nd in a 2,500-mile race. Boy oh boy, I can't wait to get my hands on one of those babies...
  • Your Pie-Eyed Correspondents are plenty gifted and talented, and we didn't even need extra money from the state.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Daily Dive

Saturday, July 23, 2005

BOOKS: The Meaning of Humanness

“[S]cientists…have enlarged the realm of human affairs to the point of extinguishing the time-honored protective dividing line between nature and the human world. In view of such achievements, performed for centuries in the unseen quiet of laboratories, it seems only proper that their deeds should eventually have turned out to have greater news value, to be of greater political significance, than the administrative and diplomatic doings of most so-called statesmen.”
—Hannah Arendt, The Human Condition (1958)

“Enough” is an apt title. Enough is what we don’t know about genetic engineering. That in a 1993 March of Dimes poll 43 percent of Americans would engage in genetic engineering simply to enhance their children’s looks or intelligence, indicates for Bill McKibben’s project that a majority of Americans aren’t as informed as they should be about the consequences of such procedures. For there is some evidence which indicates that the more people know about genetic engineering, the less they like it. Enough: Staying Human in an Engineered Age (2003) is McKibben’s attempt to educate us about genetic engineering so that we may avoid the way to hell.

Genetic engineering of children, or “germline engineering,” represents for most people a frightening future, and understandably so. And not just for those people who don’t want evolution taught in schools, but for liberals and conservatives alike (but for different reasons). “I think genetically engineering our children will be the worst choice human beings ever make,” argues McKibben. The question is, is it possible to choose not to make this choice?

Unlike the development of advanced robots (e.g. AI) and nanotechnology, both of which McKibben also covers but which are at least 10-15 years from blooming, germline engineering is an imminent possibility. In this light, the best feature of McKibben’s book is the way he foresees and describes the parade of horrors, the slippery slope over which mankind looms and down which we are helpless to stop sliding without a decidedly political choice to step back from the precipice of post-humanity. Or rather, as he says, “This is no slippery slope—this is the Khumbu Icefall, the Olympic bobsled track, the double black diamond run from the top of the highest chairlift.”

Now, as was science fiction only a few decades ago, we are capable of taking human evolution into our own hands and, consequently, may affect the entire potential of future generations for better or for much worse. For McKibben this is a matter of threshold. We are at what he calls “the enough line.” Beyond this line is not just more, but something completely different. Beyond this line McKibben conjures up the specter of a world where old-fashioned sex is useless for purposes of procreation, where neither mothers nor fathers are needed, where a child could have 46 fathers and no mother, where humans may live for two- or three-hundred years if not forever, where sub-human humanoids may not be covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and so on. These visions of the future should prompt us, McKibben hopes, to argue passionately about limiting the use of science and technology for the fuller realization of our own value goals, especially what we owe to children—not just to your own children but to children in general—and to the future.

McKibben wants to make one thing clear: “My point is merely that our bodies, or more precisely the bodies of our children, which have always seemed to us more or less a given, are on the verge of becoming true clay.” What hitherto has made us human—viz., our immortality, fear of death, fragility, and our givenness, being the product of a combination of heredity, environment and chance—could sooner or later change. We could all too easily become more humanoid than human, the designed product of our parent’s choice, in a word, a new species of human. Nothing less than the relationships with ourselves is at stake, and the implications for our future will largely depend on whether or not we can control our genetic ingenuity. If we fail to regulate species-changing technologies, we will be entering a world that no longer makes sense to us, a world that is meaningless because we will be cut off from all that bears real meaning. The joy of life, says McKibben, “will melt away like ice cream on an August afternoon.” Umberto Eco sounds the same warning in his The Island of the Day Before: “The joy of life is born from feeling, whether it be joy or grief, always of short duration, and woe to those who know they will enjoy eternal bliss.”

II

McKibben is right to worry about staying human because it is becoming increasingly more difficult to raise doubts against species-changing technology because the more we have accepted the practice and commercialization of genetically modified plants and animals, the more genetic modification of humans beyond strictly medical “cures” (and we have reason to doubt that there is such a thing) appears unstoppable. The fact that genetic engineering is risky is no longer an obstacle to its expansion, if it ever was. Not only will the technology become safer and more reliable as it develops, but its risks will always seem attractive in the light of the risks, say, of giving birth in the human way. Without recourse to such technology, who knows what “defects” your baby might have to bear? He or she (you don’t know, you can’t choose) might turn out to be short, stupid, fat, slow, and ugly. Why not alter the fetus’s genetic makeup from the start? Add points to its IQ. Choose its sex, height, looks and personality. The potential gains of the latter “option” can’t help seem safer than leaving things up to the whim of nature. And that’s the problem. McKibben finds the seductive and simple logic of Lester Thurow’s words important enough to quote twice: “Suppose parents could add 30 points to their child’s IQ. Wouldn’t you want to do it? And if you don’t, your child will be the stupidest in the neighborhood.” By framing the issue as one about parental love for a child’s well-being, there seems to be no basis from which we can “reject positive genetic influences on a person’s essence when we accept the rights of parents to benefit their children in every other way.”

Inevitable? The urgency with which McKibben wraps his warnings is warranted by the fact that once this particular genie is out of the bottle, it’s too late. Once some parents start to “improve” their offspring, other parents will be compelled, out of “love” for their children, to not only do the same, but to make their children even better. It becomes a game, an unwinnable arms race, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses’ DNA. In this game, deciding to enhance your child is not a moral decision; it’s a strategic move. Given our deeply consumeristic culture, genetically improved babies may expand as fast and become as mandatory as cell phones.

If this sounds alarmist, you are right to be skeptical. Indeed, McKibben is prone to gross exaggerations, particularly when he moves beyond pointing out the limits of and reasons for engaging in genetic engineering. For instance, his picture of how engineered humans will function is surely flawed. That parents will have the ability to program their child does not mean that the child will be, “for all intents and purposes, a robot,” or “an automaton of one degree or another.” The child will still be a human, just an “enhanced” one. Though the child may be programmed to be, say, as optimistic as his father, genes only predispose a person to act in certain ways. Genes matter a lot, as McKibben notes, but however modified, they don’t function in mechanistic ways. As Gary Marcus has pointed out, genes should be understood as a source of options, as a set of IFs and not MUSTs. Programmed genes do not make us robots. Just as now I don’t think, “Is it really me doing the thinking and writing? Or is it my programming?” so too if I were to find out that I was programmed I can’t imagine thinking such thoughts. They just wouldn’t arise. Even if I could see my “design specs,” I don’t think I would experience myself as divided, torn between my wishes and my protein’s wishes. After all, don’t we already get some idea of our design specs by looking at our parents? And don’t we catch ourselves acting like them? We are already forced to recognize that our parents in part define who we are. And yet, as McKibben notes, we all mature by rebelling against our parents. Won’t, then, this remain true for a genetically modified person, with the added incentive to rebel against that person whom your parents tried to make out of you by nature (engineering) and by nurture (influence)?

We have reason to be hopeful that a post-human dystopia won’t come to pass because “the technologies don’t yet exist.” Though we tend to think of progress as an inexorable force outside human control, it isn’t. Nothing that depends on human thought and action is inevitable. “It is something we can guide and direct and even stop.” However, although germline engineering is not inevitable, it is likely on some scale or another, and thus we nonetheless have to make preparations for it. McKibben realizes late in the book that the metaphor he has been using throughout, of the genie in the lamp, is misleading. The genie is for all intents and purposes already out of the lamp. Achieving a permanent victory over these technologies is absolutely impossible. Straining the genie metaphor, he thinks we can “sometimes build a pretty tight cage around genie and bottle both.” And if we can do that, if we can guide, direct and even ban germline genetic engineering through some sort of regulatory regime, that’ll be enough.

But can we do enough? How can we be sure that enough is enough? “If we adopt appropriate safeguards,” we can ward off germline manipulation altogether, or at least distinguish between legitimate and illegitimate uses. The trouble seems to lie not in determining appropriate safeguards but in enforcing them with sufficient political will. On the one side, techno-enthusiasts and the ideology of ceaseless technological advance, many scientists (who constitute potent power-generating groups), would-be genetic engineers (who are extremely smart), and the global marketplace, are all arrayed behind the forces of “progress.” Against these forces, politicians don’t have an inspiring track record of blocking developments in science and technology. About the only cause for hope is the control governments have been able to assert over nuclear use and proliferation. But cloning and other species-changing technology is easier for groups to master than building a nuclear bomb. Indeed, the only hope for avoiding a post-human future seems to be our doubts about genetic manipulation, and the only effective force in support of these doubts is education.

Friday, July 22, 2005

That's me in the spotlight

I was at the Intonation music festival in Chicago last weekend. I found this picture on Pitchfork Media's concert recap website. I'm listening to Xiu Xiu.

Judging John Roberts

I'm going to go out on a limb here: John Roberts is a great candidate for the U.S. Supreme Court. Ok, I guess that's not going very far out; the man has impeccable credentials, he's young, he has a compelling story, and he's both affable and serious. By all accounts, he is everything one would look for in a Supreme Court nominee.

I also think Bush made a brilliant strategic move in choosing him. His resume is impenetrable, he's respected among the conservative base as well as within moderate circles, he doesn't come off as being extreme, and I personally doubt he is as extreme as either Thomas or Scalia. Also, unlike those two opprobrius justices, he doesn't wear his politics (or his religion) on his sleave.

To be perfectly candid, I think he's a nominee Democrats can live with, especially considering that Clinton nominated and eventually swore in justices Breyer and Ginsburg, who are far more offensive to the right than Roberts may be to the left.

There's only one problem, though. He's a white male. On a court that already has seven white males.

So what? Conservatives will argue: Look at his credentials! He's qualified! Give him a fair up-or-down vote! There the lefties go trying to be "multicultural" and "PC"!

It's a common argument, and also a simplistic one. John Roberts is not the only person in this country qualified to be on the Supreme Court. Sure, he has a fantastic resume. But so do many other judges, lawyers, and lawmakers...who happen to be women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanics, et al, or some combination of the above. John Roberts does nothing to advance the Court forward. He's a step back.

Look at the facts: Approximately 51 percent of U.S. citizens are women. Minority populations, particularly Hispanics, are booming, and many are advancing in their educational status. Women outnumber men in the nation's law schools. And yet, assuming John Roberts' nomination to the court, 88 percent of those deciding cases on issues that matter most to Americans are men. Just 11 percent - all in Clarence Thomas' hands - are non-white.

Despite its sometimes nativist tendencies, this is a country that by and large celebrates its diversity. We like to consider ourselves something of a melting pot, though I understand that definition has somewhat passed its prime. The executive and legislative branches are already dominated by white men, but with the judicial branch, particularly the Supreme Court, our executive is offered the choice of what it looks like. So why is it so hard to make it look like the rest of the United States?

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Be Afraid of Stanley (Wrong Again) Fish

Ladies and Gentlemen, this man needs no introduction: Stanley Fish is an academic rock star. He’s a punk. A provocateur par excellence. His opponents arguments quickly decompose in the light of his critical knowledge and sharp pen. To wit: Fish threw down the gauntlet this week in his New York Times op-ed, “Intentional Neglect” (the thesis of which is in part the upshot of a debate he had with Ronald Dworkin in the 80s). Pre-empting the now endless talk about Judge Roberts, Fish declared that “words and phrases like ‘originalist,’ ‘strict constructionist,’ ‘textualist,’ ‘judicial activist’ and ‘intentionalist’,” stand for different styles of interpreting the Constitution that nobody could employ because they are, so to speak, crimes that nobody could commit. Those who think otherwise “are wrong.” Every judge is necessarily an intentionalist, for “intentionalism is not a style of interpretation, it is another name for interpretation itself.” Interpretation for Fish is just the asking and answering of the question, “What is it that is meant by these words?”

Classic! This is classic Stanely Fish. This particular strategy was highlighted by Dworkin in the early 80s. According to Dworkin, Fish is known to impose meanings on phrases used within judicial practice, “which are, in fact, wholly alien to the way in which these phrases function in that practice. He then announces, as important conclusions, that the crucial distinctions made through these phrases are bogus.” This is exactly what Fish does in his NYT op-ed, announcing that except for intention-bound interpretation, the above ways of interpretation are bogus. (As he himself notes in his op-ed, the thesis that however one establishes a meaningful interpretation one will at the same time be assigning an intention for an utterance, does not tell us anything at all about how someone will interpret a particular text and, if the thesis were true, it would be unnecessary because it would describe what every member of the Court in fact does under the title “interpretation”).

But, of course, Fish knows that the matter is not as simple or straightforward as that. “The matter of intention,” he wrote elsewhere, is “a vexed topic that usually brings out the worst in everyone.” What Fish means by this can be seen in the famous Fish-Dworkin debate. I just love to read the back-and-forth of bitter insults.

It all began with Dworkin’s essay, “Law as Interpretation.”1 Fish responded in the same issue in his essay, “Working on the Chain Gang: Interpretation in Law and Literature.”2 Fish concludes that essay rather humbly by saying “if we…grant [Dworkin’s] thesis its strongest form, he will certainly have a position, but it will be, in every possible way, wrong.” Dworkin responds in an essay with a tremendous title: “My Reply to Stanley Fish (and Walter Benn Michaels): Please Don’t Talk about Objectivity Any More.”3 In it he calls Fish’s understanding “incompetent,” “bizarre,” an “extraordinary career of error,” “stunningly irrelevant,” and thus Fish winds up having “nothing to say that is relevant to my essay, for all the heavy weather he makes.” Zing!

Dworkin thinks he has won, but Fish, a true warrior intellectual, parried Dworkin’s rebuttal with his essay, simply and subtly titled “Wrong Again.”4 He says of Dworkin’s strategy what one might say of lawyers more generally: “He does not embrace contradictory positions because he wants to gain an advantage over his readers (although that may be in fact what happens) but because he is confused.” Then comes the coup de grace: “That, I think, about covers it, and I will only add that in deference to Professor Dworkin’s request, I have not once used the word ‘objectivity,’ although I have now mentioned it.” Game, set, match, Fish.

1 Dworkin, "Law as Interpretation," Texas Law Review 60 (1981-1982): 527-550.
2 Fish, "Working on the Chain Gang: Interpretation in Law and Literature," Texas Law Review 60 (1981-1982): 551-567
3 Dworkin, "My Reply to Stanley Fish..." in The Politics of Interpretation, edited by W.J.T. Mitchell (University of Chicago Press, 1983): 287-313.
4 Fish, "Wrong Again," Texas Law Review 62 (1983-1984): 299-316