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More Fiction in the New York Times

    The New York Times could solve a lot of its problems if it just admitted to itself, and to the general public, that it has become one of the premier sources in America for literary fiction. As a publisher of literary fiction it is not quite in the league of The New Yorker, but it's getting close.

    Jayson Blair was not the anomaly; he was the trendsetter. Today we read about one of the great literary hoaxes of our time, the tale of novelist JT LeRoy, with The Times playing a cameo role as a dupe. The Post's David Segal leaves little doubt that LeRoy is not, in fact, a 24-year-old male novelist who spent his youth as a psychotic heroin addict and cross-dressing male prostitute, but rather is a pseudonym for a 39-year-old woman named Laura Albert. New York magazine broke the story; The New York Times, Segal notes, ran a lengthy profile of "LeRoy" last year in which the reporter describes meeting a short person with a "girlish voice, his conversation punctuated with childlike yelps when something pleases him." The Times also published a travel article by "LeRoy" in which, Segal writes, "LeRoy" described how his mother used to be a stripper in Orlando. (A Times spokesman told Segal, "We have nothing to add to what we've printed.")

   Meanwhile, Howie Kurtz tells us that Times staffers are consternated by the paper's refusal to publish a full account of the mysterious Judy Miller situation. The simple solution is for the paper to tell Ms. Miller that she can write a fictional account, with a protagonist who closely resembles Judy Miller but has a different name, like "Jillian Muller," and who has somewhat different experiences, such as being famous for breaking the story before the Iraq war that Saddam Hussein didn't actually have weapons of mass destruction.

    Obviously this is a sensitive matter and we should give The Times the full benefit of the doubt as it struggles to handle the situation. But we also should remind Ms. Miller that, in a pinch, she can just make something up.

    Times editor Bill Keller, speaking to Kurtz, takes a postmodernist, deconstructionist approach to the prospect of publishing a story about Miller: "[D]espite the understandable yearning for a simple parable, this is a complicated narrative involving a large cast of editors, lawyers and other officials of the paper, and involving imperfect human memories and differing points of view. We'll do our best to tell that story." Translation: We are not in the truth business. We tell "stories," which are narratives grounded not in objective fact but in the hazy, subjective perspectives of human beings who can't even remember where they put their car keys, much less what they heard from Scooter Libby and Karl Rove. To claim that a story is "the Truth" would be to lie about the nature of reality, which is not fixed, deterministic, and linear, but rather is chaotic and relativistic, with black holes at the bottom and quantum foam on top. Thus the Times under Keller prefers a more Rashomon-like narrative structure that leaves the reader uncertain about who actually did what, and when, and why. This goes beyond journalism; this is literature.

   

    [Addendum: As Tony says, we kid because we love. The Times is a national treasure.]

    [Speaking of The New Yorker, here's pure genius from Paul Rudnick, a Shouts & Murmurs called "Intelligent Design." And I am green with envy and slightly purple with self-loathing over not having written this other S&M piece, by Larry Doyle, called "May We Tell You Our Specials This Evening?" An excerpt:

    The chef is also offering a personal favorite, his hot spiced rocks. These are igneous and sedimentary varietals, half-washed and heated to nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then gleefully sprinkled with international peppers.

    For the more adventurous, we have a selection of freshly purchased water crackers spread with unmarked pastes, jellies, and unguents found in the kitchen...

    Our special soup tonight is Georgian alligator turtle, prepared and presented in its own shell. This soup is served cold and slimy, and, in the traditional manner, with the head and legs attached. We recommend that you not touch the head, as it can snap your finger clean off before you can say, "Hey, this turtle is still alive."]

By Joel Achenbach  |  October 13, 2005; 9:27 AM ET
 
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Next: More Dyspeptic Ranting About Journalism

Comments

[Minor typo at 2 o'clock -- I think: "with *a* 'girlish voice . . .'"?]

[Great Kit though -- I'm sure I'll have more to say about it later.]

Posted by: Tom fan | October 13, 2005 9:42 AM | Report abuse

I watched the HBO movie Shattered Glass, about the Steven Glass scandal at the New Republic, and I was pretty much shocked.

It absolutely blew my mind. I truly believe that if tomorrow it was proved beyond a doubt that there was no god, no higher power, most Americans would react with a shrug and continue as before. Sure there would be some panic from the extremists, but we're a pretty secular society. Our real religion is the news, and one of the major beliefs of our society is that what you read in the paper is the truth. Even with bias, facts are facts. This doesn't neccessarily apply anymore, and maybe it's sacrilege, but that scares me a lot more than finding out there's no god.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 9:46 AM | Report abuse

Who is the corporate owner of the Times? Is it Disney? Is it Murdoch? Ted Turner? (Or is that all one entity these days, hard to tell) And Judith Miller should just admit she got tired of being in jail.

Posted by: LP | October 13, 2005 9:47 AM | Report abuse

nothing like being able to nail the competition

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 9:57 AM | Report abuse

Alllllllllllllllllllrighty then! RASHOMON is over 50 years old and still sets the standard for "what is the nature of truth" stories. And directed by who else but Akira Kurosawa.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 9:59 AM | Report abuse

k-guy, do you watch "Extras" on HBO? Did you see the episode where Ricky Gervais is pretending to know about Japanese film to impress a producer? Hilarious.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 10:01 AM | Report abuse

That Larry Doyle piece is indeed brilliant. I loved this para:

"We are also featuring a tasting gavage, in which every appetizer on the menu is wheeled to your table and forced down the gullets of two to four people. The price is twenty-eight dollars per person, plus a nominal service charge. To accompany this course, the chef recommends a bottle of the Pete, which is quite sneaky tonight. It comes in cherry or mixed berry, and is served in brown paper."

Sneaky Pete! Ha!
Served in brown paper!

And Snarky Squirrel, if you're out there, what did you think of the following?

"Before I tell you the entrées, there is one change to the menu: we are out of the pan-fried squirrel brains tonight, as our supplier fell out of a tree this morning."

And the part about Oliver the pig . . . and . . . and . . . I don't know why I'm highlighting individual paragraphs; the whole thing is priceless.

[And kurosawaguy: Yeah, I figured it wouldn't take you long to weigh in on "Rashomon-like narrative"! Go k-man!]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 10:04 AM | Report abuse

At least when our paper, The Chickasha Daily Express ran the headline "Dead Pig Found In Ditch", they had a picture to prove it. Although now when I think about it, the whole thing may have been staged to provide a sensational headline, and from the picture angle, it may have just been a trash bag. I mean you couldn't see it's snout or anything. I don't know who to trust anymore.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 10:05 AM | Report abuse

I unknowningly ran into Times Select today. I couldn't read the article! Rrrg. So now I know what the letter orange box with the white T means.

But no one in the achenblog told me that the nytimes archive is included. (first 100 free each month) That's pretty cool.

But I wonder if the archive is divided into "Fiction" and "Non-Fiction"?

Posted by: Off Topic | October 13, 2005 10:09 AM | Report abuse

Who can you trust if you can't trust the Chickasha Daily Express?!? Nobody, that's who. I'm moving to Baja.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

HBO? No, at our place we have a special viewing system called nothinbutNetflixtilthetuitionpaymentsareover.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 10:10 AM | Report abuse

Hmm...I wonder...it was on BBC first, so maybe you can get it on DVD? If not, it's worth the wait. Ricky Gervais reading the phone book for 30 min would be funnier than any American sitcom on the tube.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 10:12 AM | Report abuse

JW
I know what you mean. There are places in New Mexico that when you are driving and you put your radio on scan, it just keeps cycling because there is nothing to pick up. I moving there to start a dental floss ranch. Raise it up and wax it down.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

I don't get the piece on the specials tonight.
I guess I haven't been in enough pretentious restaurants to feel how dead-on this parody is, or something. When it came to rocks... Rocks?
Last I checked, my old college cafeteria was the only dining establishment who actually served rocks, but even then, they were dubbed "bread".

Posted by: Wilbrod | October 13, 2005 10:20 AM | Report abuse

Wow. I leave for a few months and Joel's still funny, rashomon-references are included, with some top-line Judy Miller bashing as the cherry on top!

Off Topic, the "cool" thing is that if you link to a story in the WaPo, it *never goes away* no matter how long it's been moved into the "archives". I've got links to stories on my website that are four years old and still humming along. When the NYT does that, I'll be impressed.

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 10:28 AM | Report abuse

You're right, Wilbrod -- the idea of eating rocks *is* a little far-fetched. But don't you think you could be tempted if the rocks were "gleefully sprinkled with international peppers"?

Gleefully! Ha!

[Also, I liked "they were dubbed 'bread'"! Ha!]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Just read completely both New Yorker articles. Completely blown away by the sheer, unmitigated talent. Loved, absolutely LOVED the intelligent design one and proceeded to email that one around the world. Even printed it out, to be framed in a triptych along my wall of honor.

As for the news, it would appear that actually reporting on the "news" of the day is not as important as entertaining the dumb clucks out there. I read newspapers every morning online from all over the world, and I find that I get more important information from the foreign press than I do here. The Post certainly is no longer what it used to be. And there doesn't appear to be an aggressive investigative approach to journalism anymore. Either we've become so fatigued by the nascent corruption in various administrations (either/both parties) or we've become very complacent.

If a government official attempts to cut off access to journalists (re: Erlich in Maryland) because he/she doesn't like the message, the news media should say a collective "tough #&&%*%*$^#$" and get on with their jobs! The Post (at least) did its job during Watergate, and I guess that was the high tide mark, never to have been seen quite up that high since.

The New Yorker, however, is true blue stuff, though. Love it, love it, love it.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 10:36 AM | Report abuse

LB, did the Chickasha paper also run an ad for the ribs special at the BBQ out on the edge of town?

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 10:39 AM | Report abuse

Joel, thanks for this one, as I was reading this Kit, I started thinking of Rashamon, and by the fifth paragraph, there you are, with a dash of quantum physics thrown in. Humans are dammed unreliable Observers, as I like to say.

Technically, the entire history of the multiverse and any/everything that might have ever happened in it/them is fiction, from a particular point of view.

(Apoligies to George Lucas, though the sock-consuming Calibi-Yau aliens inhabiting my laundry chute left me a note in one of my Gold Toes saying they agree with him).

I've probably posted the link below previously, but it makes an interesting distinction between the past (as deterministic) and the future (proababilistic).

http://arxiv.org/abs/quant-ph/0506027

Now, I need to read those items from the New Yorker...

We Apologise for the Inconvenience.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 10:40 AM | Report abuse

Good satire never strays too far from the truth. Per Se serves seven different types of salt. I want to someday ask a sommelier if he can recommend a fine Australian Brown.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 13, 2005 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I wrote an e-mail to Washington Post reporter Frank Ahrens this morning about how I read a newspaper, and used today's San Antonio Express News as an example. My Miller comments collide with Joel's, so I'm excerpting my own e-mail, (which seems odd).
***

So, I rifle through the paper, and see Judith Miller's picture on page 7A. I am interested in the story primarily because Washington Post political columnist Howard Kurtz made such a big hoo-hah about it yesterday in his column--about how the NYT had been scooped on its own coverage of Miller and had not even reported Miller's story in full. Our local Miller story is compiled from wire reports. The best parts of the coverage are the 13th and 14th paragraphs:

"The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Fitzgerald could be pursuing a broader conspiracy and that lawyers familiar with the investigation believe that at least part of the outcome hangs on the workings of what has been dubbed the White House Iraq Group.

"Formed in August 2002, the group, which included Rove and Libby, worked on a strategy for selling the war in Iraq to the public in the months leading up to the March 2003 invasion, the newspaper reported."

This mention is the first I've heard of the formally titled "White House Iraq Group." I want more information but there is none.

***
(For the record, it was our local paper that called Jayson Blair to the mat for his plagiarism.)

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 13, 2005 10:49 AM | Report abuse

Well Well
someone familiar with my neck of the woods. Kguy you do get around. It's name is Jake's Rib.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 10:51 AM | Report abuse

SCC: "Apologies".

I need qualified supervision.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 10:53 AM | Report abuse

"It's a puzzle, from the standpoint of the fundamental laws of physics, why we should be able to remember the past but not have the same kind of epistemic access to the future. It's a puzzle, from the standpoint of these laws, why we should think that by acting now we can influence the future but not the past. These things . . . are so fundamental to the way we experience the world, that it seems to me that to not to be curious about them is to be, you know, three-quarters of the way to being dead."

-- David Albert, Professor and Director of Philosophical Foundations of Physics, Columbia University, in the film "What the Bleep Do We Know!?"

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I thought you were just using the British spelling, bc. It looked fine to me . . .

Posted by: Tom fan | October 13, 2005 10:55 AM | Report abuse

LB, I don't think we could have gone much longer without a Zappa reference. Thanks.

Though I think the Dental Floss Ranching took place in Montana...

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Okie humor, in honor of LB (where is Tulsafan these days?)

http://readthinklive.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Reader | October 13, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Going to Montana soon, gonna be a dental floss tycoon. Yeah, but I'm headed to New Mexico.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

jw- you wrote, "...one of the major beliefs of our society is that what you read in the paper is the truth. Even with bias, facts are facts."

Do you really think this statement holds much water- that is, do you really think society holds such a belief? It seems to me that we've been on a path for a while now toward more fractals in "news" outlets, and people have become more inclined to seek out those news/information sources that most closely correspond to their own world-view.

There seems to be no shortage of folks who label anything emminating from the NYT or Washington Post as "lies", "slant", "bias", etc. This goes beyond mere grumbling over the perceived biases of news outlets- it gets into the area of questioning the "truth" of what is reported in the outlets which one disdains. Thus I question your assertion that society holds a belief that, "even with bias, facts are facts".

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I don't think society holds news reporting in such high esteem as you seem to assert.

But then again, I'm an imperfect human observer, and thus my interpretation of what I see is inherently flawed. So go figure.

Posted by: Raoul Duke | October 13, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

SCC entry:
Split ellipsis in my 10:55:40 post. (I *hate* that.)

Posted by: Tom fan | October 13, 2005 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Reader
Whoever wrote that is definitely from these here parts.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I think that distrust is a pretty recent development, and it's too soon to say what the effects might be. But people aren't exactly turning away from tv and print news outlets, which to me indicates a certain measure of trust. Sure, people grumble that the NYT and WP are too liberal (or to sycophantic of the POTUS, depending on who's doing the complaining) but I don't know of anyone besides the wing-nuts that would deny that when a paper prints something as fact, you can be 99.9% sure that it's the truth. And if it isn't, a correction will be run. Sometimes it's just hard to find the facts amid the bias.

And on a slight tangent, I think bias in the news is good. It's honest, and I think it makes the story more believable. Nobody's REALLY objective, so if a story has a slight right or left slant, at least you know you're getting a lean cut of meat.

Maybe I'm just to idealistic, and the newspaper is just a propaganda machine working for no one and everyone.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 11:09 AM | Report abuse

Oh yes, LB, I know Oklahoma. I know the stae bird (a breathtaker, best of all the states, the swallow tailed flycatcher), the state reptile (also a zippy number, the collared lizard aka mountain boomer), the state rock, the rose rock. Back in the 70's we lived at Rt 2 Box 13, Noble, Oklahoma. Then we moved to the big town (Norman). When our daughter was born in 1984 we decided that we had better leave before she learned to talk Okie and was scarred for life.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Dear firsttimeblogger: Glad you share my reverence for those New Yorker pieces. About your comment: "The Post certainly is no longer what it used to be." I agree. It's better. There are a lot of problems with today's news media, but I think the idea that the business used to be so much better, more aggressive, more this and that, is an artifact of the natural glazing imposed upon memories by time. I've loved the Post's Katrina coverage, and our coverage from the war zone in Iraq has been inspiring. A bunch of people could have won Pulitzers for their work over there (Anthony Shadid did). I could go on, but I'll save it for a (different) rainy day. [By the way, I'm sad that the WSJournal is reducing its size. It's going from 15 inches to 12 inches wide. I always felt lucky to be reading a good old-fashioned broadsheet.]

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Welcome back, edward. I was wondering where you'd gone to just the other day.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 11:13 AM | Report abuse

k-guy, I hope your daughter appreciates what you did for her. I had to learn English in college, at the same time I learned French--I already knew English vocabulary and grammar, but learning English pronunciation was just as difficult as French for me.

(I'm kidding, really French was easier.)

Posted by: Reader | October 13, 2005 11:14 AM | Report abuse

Oh, and if you're going to the Land Of Enchantment, check out "Off the Map" on DVD with wonderful Joan Allen and Sam Elliot and try to get out to Chaco Canyon sometime. Both are well worth seeing.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 11:15 AM | Report abuse

Heck Kguy, we was spitten distance from each other. (Scissor tail flycatcher).

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 11:16 AM | Report abuse

I too was wondering about edward just the other day, Sara. (Maybe it was our wondering that brought him back?)

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 11:18 AM | Report abuse

First of all, it was only a passing reference in the Kit, but I must say, before I forget, that Quantum Foam would be a good name for a rock band.

Moving along, I'm not a Times basher. It's one of the greater papers in the world. But the Old Gray Lady just keeps setting herself up to be knocked down. Like the story cited by Joel, there is also the recent Geraldo Rivera story to consider. They reported that Geraldo "nudged" aside other folks so that he could "rescue" somebody in Katrina flooding, on camera, but of course. But the video showed no nudge at all. Geraldo -- and it pains me to no end to be backing him, but that's how it goes sometimes -- wanted a correction. The Times wouldn't do it. Later, the Times public editor scolded his own paper over the affair and the paper did issue an obliquely written correction indicating that the writer didn't mean "nudge" in the sense we'd all think, but that it was meant less literally and that Geraldo had simply imposed himself on the situation.

Meanwhile, it turned out that the writer of the Geraldo item has had numerous corrections in the past year or two, many of them over simple details that a reporter ought to be on top of.

Again, I'm no automatic Times basher. I don't label everything in the paper as wrong because commie-pinko lefties are smearing their point of view into every story.

But I'm just not sure what the hell is going on over there anymore.

Posted by: Bayou Self | October 13, 2005 11:26 AM | Report abuse

Joel writes (quotes New Yorker writer Larry Doyle):

"The chef is also offering a personal favorite, his hot spiced rocks. These are igneous and sedimentary varietals, half-washed and heated to nine hundred degrees Fahrenheit, then gleefully sprinkled with international peppers."

The idea of rocks as haute cuisine may not be so farfetched. There are four known pre-technologial centenarian groups: the Okinawans of Japan, the Abkhazians of Soviet Georgia, the Vilcabambas of Equador, and the Hunzakuts of the Hindu Kush of Pakistan (the recent earthquake there is of tremendous interest to me), all of whom have been studied by scientists to some extent or another.

It is a strange case of serendipity that I had the following 1968 book by Jay Milton Hoffman, "Hunza: 15 secrets of the world's healthiest and oldest living people" on my bookcase about five years before I was diagnosed with a rare, late-onset endocrine genetic disorder affecting how I use the most body's most prevalent mineral, calcium.

The Okinawans' drinking water has been filtered through coral calcium. But when a second centenarian group ingests water suffused with alkaline limestone and minerals...well, I think it's time to take notice. I'm no scientist, just a former reporter with a rare genetic disorder dumb enough to keep asking questions. I wish for an interdisciplinary approach to the question.

Chapter 27, "Rock Resin Tea," pp. 141-142:

One of the items used in Hunza land for medicinal purposes is known as rock resin. We brought back several pieces that the Mir gave us. This rock resin was analyzed by the Associated Analytical Laboratories, and found to contain more minerals that either the water or the soil. In fact, it contained every known mineral.

The Hunzakuts method of making this available for medicinal use is to crush the rock resin and pour boiling water over it. They stir this mixture until all the rock resin is dissolved, and then they let it stand overnight. In the morning all the sediment has settled to the bottom. They then pour off the clear water that has the appearance of tea. The rock resin tea, a bitter fluid, is considered by the Hunzakuts to be one of their best medicinal remedies.

Rock resin has the same appearance and odor as the resin Americans obtain from the pine tree. However, in Hunz they obtain resin from the stalactite formations that are broken off from the roofs of caves.

Aside from the water, the Hunz people attribute their unusual good health and very long life to this drink that they habitually take. In their language they call the rock resin "Salajeet." However, in the English language, the only description we could use would be "rock resin."

Rock resin oozes out of the crevices and cracks of the caves. Wher it comes from, people do not know. Therefore, the only information we have of its origin is that it is found in caves. The Hunzakuts knock down these stalactites with a stick. But in some caves where the rock resin is too high to reach with a stick, they shoot it down with a rifle there. For his family, the Mir uses only the rock resin shot down from the highest parts of a cave.

The Mir makes his rock resin tea by boiling it in water. When the rock resin is completely dissolved, he lets it stand until all the sediment has settled to the bottom. The solution is then filtered and kept in bottles. (There are actually two methods, but for the sake of brevity...)

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 13, 2005 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Gee, thanks Joel. I feel all giddy from the attention of the Prime Kaboodler, or whatever one might call you in this context.

Well, I'm not sure I can really agree with you about the Post. And, yes, as I'm sure you're aware, I do list to the left politically. I don't think the Post did what it should have with Bush at the relevant time of the Iraq business. All politicians should be pushed to the absolute wall -- and I don't care if they are dems or repubs, liberals or conservatives. At the very least, our taxpayer's money is on the line, and at the very most,our lives are.

It's just peachy to have the coverage from the war zone to be inspiring. That comment makes me cringe, when I think that the true inspiring coverage should have been to put the Bushies feet to fire to AVOID that war. Even more inspiring would be to force them to go after bin Laden. Inspiring would be to focus on why that didn't happen. Inspiring would be to further investigate why Halliburton and Bechtel are profiting from Iraq and the Gulf Coast at the expense of others (even at the expense of lives in Iraq).

Honestly, I don't look upon the Watergate mess in substance as the good old days, but I do believe the Post was a whole lot better then at getting to the root of it. It seems to me, in consideration of what Bush and company have gotten away with over the past too many years, that the Post has not done its job as well as it did then.

As another example, even during the campaign for the 2000 election, there was an article about Bill Bradley (in full disclosure, I supported him, even with money (which I had never done before, nor since to anyone)) and on top of the article, there was a picture of Al Gore! How nuts is that?

Bush has gotten away with proverbial murder, and the Post has for the most part, given him a bye, in my opinion.

Rant over for the meantime. Carry on.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

Maybe we wondered at the same time, Dreamer, creating a cosmic force of 2x the normal strength, and that is why he returned so promptly. Perhaps if we had wondered at different times it would have taken longer for him to return.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

I've drunk that stuff, I think it was called Dr. Quacko's Fantabulous Health Tonic and Anti-fouling Paint. [wink]

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 11:36 AM | Report abuse

FTB--the thing is, we ELECTED these people (sort of). I pay the Post's employees $0.35 a day, but I don't know that they should be our mechanism for political decisions. Maybe there's something to this silent majority thing, since with all the grumbling there still hasn't been any shift in the balance of power.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 11:41 AM | Report abuse

Book recommendation for firsttimeblogger:

Neil Postman's 1985 book, "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business"

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Scissor tailed flycatcher! My bad. Insert dope slap here. Well anyway it is a very very beautiful bird, especially in flight just at dusk as the sun drops and the insects start to rise. One of the things I miss about that country, along with sunsets and storms and Gary England and doppler radar. "Right out here just west of Lawton, we're showing two hook echoes, one funnel aloft and one tornado on the ground..."

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 11:44 AM | Report abuse

jw,

firsttimeblogger is right on the money! Yes, these people were elected (not by me!) based on what the voters thought was the truth. I have always depended on the Post to tell the truth (born and raised here) and I agree that they dropped the ball on this one.

This adminstration has been lying to create the truth for a long time and they need to called on it time and time again. That is what the Post can do for us.

The Post and other papers can be the voice for the so-called silent majority. If they step up to the plate and do it right, that is.

Posted by: TBG | October 13, 2005 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Ya gotta love hook echoes and wall clouds.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

I second firsttimeblogger's rant.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 11:51 AM | Report abuse

More of my e-mail to Ahrens:

The article that takes the most space on the front page [of today's local paper] is about Texas Army Guard members on boat patrol on the Tigris in Iraq, brought to readers by an embedded local reporter and local photographer. Every paper has this kind of local coverage of its own troops, and I am so tired of this type of story by now....I am not interested in the Tigris story [because I don't believe in the Bush administration justifications for the war], so I pass on it completely.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I'll third that rant. Journalism as a whole has suffered under the corporotacracy for quite some time, and the American public suffers in turn. When I was a student in journalism class, the first lesson of every semester was how journalists comprise the Fourth Estate. In this respect every major news outlet has been failing the American poeple for a long time.

Posted by: LP | October 13, 2005 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Believe none of what you hear and half of what you see. And a smidgen of what you read. I was oftentimes disappointed and got myself into many predicaments growing up, thinking that written word was truth and trying to reenact/recreate situations I'd read about.
LindaLoo - Is the San Antonio Light newspaper still in existence?

Posted by: Nani | October 13, 2005 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Loomis
Regardless of why the Texas Guard troops are there, they are there. Some people really care about what they are doing and how they are coping.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 12:09 PM | Report abuse

In Wyoming's basins, the distinction between "rock" and "possibly saline sea bottom goop that's been sitting there for millions of years" isn't very clear, and some of that consolidated goop is fairly salty and soluble, so it might go well with international peppers. John McPhee might have tried this delicacy.

Posted by: Dave | October 13, 2005 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Mmmm, nice to bask in the glow of affirmation. And it's very nice to know that I'm not alone in this rant. I find it incomprehensible that people in this country still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. Cheney still smuggly continues the lie, because he knows that he can get away with it. Many people believe things out of convenience. It's sort of health insurance companies (don't get me started on that one!) which automatically deny claims because they are counting on people not complaining or challenging them. And they're right. Silence, people, kills. We need the Post and other "news" disseminators to complain and challenge on our behalf. I don't give a flying &*^*%&(( about TomKat. I want the news and the courage to get it, not to take "no" for an answer, muscle in on my behalf and get the goods.

Thanks, Linda for the book recommendation. I'll go to my favorite Indie bookseller and pick up a copy (hope it isn't out of print). I had jury duty yesterday (we were all dismissed late morning because all three cases on the docket disappeared in one way or another -- my kind of jury duty!), and while waiting I continued reading Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own. Have been completely transported and continue to be by her writing. She is indeed a writer's writer, and as I try to lasso in some of my ideas for novels myself, I pay heed to her words and her expressions and incorporate them into my own imagination. Whatta writer!

Again, carry on.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 12:23 PM | Report abuse

I fourth the rant by firsttimeblogger - Amen!!

Posted by: Ray | October 13, 2005 12:26 PM | Report abuse

Just got the following email. Yep, just what we need to cheer us all up:

Winnipeg Airport
This is hilarious. I wish I had the guts of this girl. For all of you out
there who've had to deal with an irate customer, this one is for
you.


An award should go to the Air Canada gate agent in Winnipeg for being smart
and funny, while making her point, when confronted with a passenger who
probably deserved to fly as cargo.


A crowded Air Canada flight was canceled.
A single agent was rebooking
a long line of inconvenienced travelers.
Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk. He slapped his ticket
on the counter and
said "I HAVE to be on this flight and it has to be FIRST CLASS."


The agent replied, "I am sorry, sir. I'll be happy to try to help you,
but, I've got to help these folks first, and I'm sure we'll be able to
work something out." The passenger was unimpressed. He asked loudly, so that
the passengers behind him could hear,
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHO I, AM"


Without hesitating, the agent smiled and grabbed her public address
microphone, "May I have your attention please, " she began, her voice
heard clearly throughout the terminal. "We have a passenger here at Gate 14
WHO DOES NOT KNOW WHO HE IS. If anyone can help him find his identity, please
come to Gate 14."


With the folks behind him in line laughing hysterically, the man glared
at the Air Canada agent, gritted his teeth and swore "F*** You!"


Without flinching, she smiled and said, "I'm sorry sir, you'll have to get in
line for that too!"

That really, REALLY, makes my day. May it make yours.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 12:30 PM | Report abuse

I'm already cheered up. Today is my wife's birthday and I'm going to meet her in the city (that's for you Kguy) for dinner.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 12:38 PM | Report abuse

I may use something along these Air Canada lines on a guy we have here in town . . .

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 12:43 PM | Report abuse

I fifth that rant! The Post did an exceptional job of the Watergate scandal, and has done absolutely nothing about the Bush administration's war in Iraq, and the group that was plotting that war way before the terrorist struck. Everyone in Washington knew what was going on, yet no one talked about it, and still don't talk about it. It's as if newspapers took some kind of oath not to tell the truth, or to overlook the truth. People really do pay attention to these things.

Posted by: Cassandra S | October 13, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

But, but, but...

The papers HAVE complained and inquired on our behalf. Perhaps not at the beginning of the war, but let's remember, EVERYONE got hoodwinked there--Democrats, Republicans, everyone thought there were WMD in Iraq. And it's indisputible FACT (at least to the Kurds in N. Iraq) Hussein had WMDs in his arsenal--10 years ago.

In November 2004, it was already old news that the Administration had at best been misled on the existence of WMDs, and how did the American people display their outrage? If you want to complain that politians haven't been held accountable, take a look in the collective mirror. Journalists can't go to the ballot box for us.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 12:44 PM | Report abuse

jw -

NOT everyone was hoodwinked. NOT everyone supported the war. I was at the protests myself. "Perhaps not at the beginning of the war.." you say. That is inexcusable. What better time to be questioning our elected officials? Maybe journalists can't go to the ballot box for us, but if Americans as a whole were better informed, perhaps the past elections would have come out differently.

Posted by: LP | October 13, 2005 12:57 PM | Report abuse

since the column to which these comments are loosley directed is supposed to consist of wit and humor, I choose not to rant.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 12:58 PM | Report abuse

I feel kind of guilty for not ranting, LB. But I guess I'm just not feeling cranky enough today. Some other time perhaps.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 1:03 PM | Report abuse

It is a sad fact that today there are so many sources of information- print, TV, radio, internet- and so many disseminate opinions cloaked as news, that no matter what your orientation you can find multiple voices ready and willing to tell you what you want to hear. If all you listen to is Rush and Laura and Ann, and all you watch is Fox, and all you read is the Washington Times, your world view will be validated constantly. And if those oh-so-congenial sources tell you "Never mind that man over there behind the curtain!", then certain clear facts will be ignored and certain valid points of view will be dismissed without a hearing. OTOH, when responsible journalists fail to persist in asking questions "in order to insure future access to sources", or refuse to point out that for the umpteenth time an official answer has no substance and no relation to the question asked, then those journalists loose credibility and readers stop reading and listeners stop listening.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Ok, but-- it was well reported in Fall 2004 that the intel on WMDs was bad, and that the reason Bush went to war was faulty. And he was reelected. I just don't see how you can blame the press for that.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:04 PM | Report abuse

some other time

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 1:07 PM | Report abuse

According to my favorite chef Alton Brown, salt is the only "rock" every human ingests. Of course there are practices in various parts of the world where things such as rock rosin are ingested, but salt is a human necessity. Check out his Good Eats episode on salt. It is very informative, interesting and funny, too.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 13, 2005 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Here's the problem--the majority of Americans don't want to be informed. You do, and I do, and everyone else here does, and that's why we know all kinds of fun facts about what a mess Iraq is and exactly where the blame for it lays. It's not a secret, and anyone who cares could find the information pretty easily.

Most people just don't care. What they do care about is cheap gas and low taxes and a President who has a personal friend in Jesus. If the last election didn't make it clear, the majority of America is not like Us.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:12 PM | Report abuse

JW - please do not insult our intelligence and memories - NO ONE believed Saddam to be a REAL threat to the US even if he was bristling with WMDs. Since when did US foreign policy turn on Kurds getting gassed 20 not 10 years ago!!. The media were not bamboozled or lied to - they went along and even the WaPo editorial page ENDORSED the war!!!. I DESPAIR and as Robert Fisk answered what gives him hope he chocked up and answered NOTHING (maybe ordinary people who stand up). That is what the media is supposed to help us do!!. WaPo, NYT, LA Times all helped the Admin because no one wanted to ask the question WHY. There are certain topics that is just not allowed in the MSM especially when it comes to the Middle East. Unless you follow US foreign policy prerogatives, there is no voice for alternatives. DEMS & REPUBS are all the same when it comes to Foreign Policy.

Posted by: Ray | October 13, 2005 1:13 PM | Report abuse

You see, THIS is why I wanted people to talk to the WP editor in the live chat yesterday.

jw, I got your back.

LB, do you think its about time to pull out the baby panda pictures as a distraction? There's new ones as of yesterday.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 13, 2005 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, Sara, thanks! Coming upon your name and jw and the rest of TSA-15 was like opening the door to my house after a long vacation.

Dreamer, just make sure you and Sara don't simultaneously wish me back into non-corporeal form. I'm happy to exist right now.

Ray, don't you remember the BALSA WOOD AIRPLANES that Saddam was going to wind up with Extremely Powerful Rubberbands to send WMD INTO AMERICA? Because I sure do. WATCH OUT because he might be building some more in jail RIGHT NOW!!!111

JW - actually, I think the majority of america *is* us at this point, considering Bush's approval ratings on terrorism, the war in Iraq, the economy, Katrina, etc.

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Seeing as how the US put Hussein in power, I think the fact that he gassed Kurds would at least be of passing concern. Of, course, it wasn't, and isn't. To Bush or anyone else. Most Americans wouldn't even know what you were talking about if you mentioned the Kurdish genocide.

10 years refers to the UN report which states Iraq had WMDs from 1994 back.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:25 PM | Report abuse

jw writes:
"I've drunk that stuff, I think it was called Dr. Quacko's Fantabulous Health Tonic and Anti-fouling Paint. [wink]"

jw,
You can be such an adorable blockhead at times. [wink, wink] Come walk with me for a day in my thickly soled, orthotic shoes. Maybe you'll like this story better.

"Radar, Hula Hoops, and Playful Pigs: 67 digetible comments on the fascinating chemistry of life," Dr. Joe Schwarcz, 1999, pp. 178-180:

Sometime during the first century B.C., the Egyptian queen bet her lover, Marc Antony, that she could invite him to the most expensive dinner ever served. Marc Anthony had enjoyed some rather elaborate meals in his time, so he agreed to the wager. When the appointed hour arrived, he sat down at a table set with a goblet containing a clear liquid. As Anthony's anticipation grew, Cleopatra carefully removed one of her huge pearl earings, crushed it and dropped the powder into the goblet. The liquid, which was actually vinegar, fizzed impressively as the bits f pearl dissolved. The queen picked up the goblet and triumphantly drank the potion. She had indeed consumed the most expensive dinner of all time: the pearl was worth as much as two million ounces of silver. By committing this act, Cleopatra may also have become the first woman ever to make use of dietary calcium supplements.

Pearls are essentially composed of calcium carbonate, the active ingredient in many calcium tablets used today. These supplements can help prevent the bone-brittling disease known as osteoporosis [something I shall never experience]. But increased calcium intake may even have more wide-reaching effects. It may offer protection against kidney and colon cancer; furthermore, calcium increases the rate at which the body produces nitric oxide, a chemical instrumental in relaxing the walls of the blood vessels, thereby lowering blood pressure.

... Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the human body, serves a variety of functions in addition to playing a role in bone formation. It is essential for bloddclotting, for the normal functioning of the nerve tissue, and for the contraction of smooth muscle. Even the beating of the heart is regulated by calcium levels [as it seems, too, is short-term memory formation. Is this Judith Miller's problem? Is she calcium deficient?].

...As far as the body is concerned, it makes no difference whether the calcium carbonate is manufactured in a laboratory or comes from pearls. Whether one chews Tums, grazes on the White Cliffs of Dover, or dines on chalk is clearly a question of personal preference.

Posted by: Linda Loomis | October 13, 2005 1:27 PM | Report abuse

I don't have time to give a comprehensive contribution on how aggressive the press has been on investigating Our Glorious Leaders in Washington. I just note that I see a lot of criticism in Howard Kurtz's and Dan Froomkin's columns from commentators who feel that the press has not acted - in effect - as an effective advocate for liberals or Democrats. They don't use those words, of course, but that's the impression I get. "Why hasn't the press...." usually preceeds a criticism of one of our Glorious Leaders that hasn't been met with the proper amount of ascendance by the news media.

Maybe newspapers are cowed (ahem) by the hordes of Rabid Rightwing Partisan Screamers who excoriate the news media for every perceived bias expressed in a news story. Or maybe they're trying to maintain an atmosphere of objectivity in a polarized (<

Posted by: CowTown | October 13, 2005 1:28 PM | Report abuse

If anyone read the chat with the Post's executive editor (or el Capitan, as he likes to be called), you must have noticed a delicious irony. A question (more of a statement) on how liberally biased the Post is, followed by a question about the Post being in the current Administration's pocket.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:33 PM | Report abuse

SCC

The second to last paragraph should have ended, "...of objectivity in a polarized environment."

Thank you.

Posted by: CowTown | October 13, 2005 1:34 PM | Report abuse

I'm in such a bad entertaining-myself-to-death place today -- I saw that story in the Post about the baby panda ("Panda Cub's Public Debut Postponed Until December") and said to myself, "Oh that panda is so immature! Imm-a-too-a. Heh . . . heh heh heh . . . heh heh."

And then I resumed giggling over omni's "That's Mr. Putz to you/What a Maroon" joke from several days ago.

[See, I'm part of the problem, not part of the solution.]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 1:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree with what jw is saying. We live in a democracy and we all have the right to vote and the information is freely available. The majority of American voters elected the people who are holding office. I just would like to mention that 50.01% is a majority. Just because "most Americans aren't like us" doesn't mean "people like us" are rare. There are lots of us out here. The tide will turn.

I also agree that the press could have been tougher on the Bush administration. I also think that schools need to go back to teaching "citizenship"--that is, the Constitution, the bill of rights, and our responsibilities as citizens. (Instead of putting our focus exclusively on test scores.)

Posted by: Reader | October 13, 2005 1:38 PM | Report abuse

Peanut
how about the picture of the python with the alligator sticking out of its belly?

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 1:40 PM | Report abuse

I can't think of a stronger word for "irony" but I think a stronger word is needed in that case, jw. A liberally biased newspaper in the pocket of a completely conservative Administration?

With all the Bush talk, I think this would be a good time to post a link to your obligatory time-waster. I went to that site last night and just let it run in the background for about 20 minutes. I may be a Republican but I'm less than impressed with him lately and I thought that site was hilarious.

I'm with jw on the "the majority of American doesn't want to be informed" thing. Most people I talk to don't know what's going on and don't want to know what's going on because they don't believe it involves or affects them directly. I think you have to live in a highly political climate to encounter the other end of the spectrum.

And edward, I promise to get together with Dreamer and coordinate our "wondering about edward" schedules, though I don't know why either of us would ever "wonder" you gone.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 1:45 PM | Report abuse

An SCC is really needed here.

"the majority of America doesn't want to be informed" OR "the majority of Americans don't want to be informed."

Take your pick.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 1:48 PM | Report abuse

Well, there *are* new tv shows on this fall, so most Americans are probably worried about people:

a) trapped on an island
b) trapped in a prison
c) trapped in a suburban neighborhood

The 30,000 people dead in Pakistan don't seem to register too much.

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 1:51 PM | Report abuse

What's better is clicking on him and then repeatedly squeezing him through bubbles. Such fun!

http://fishki.net/video/bush.swf

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:52 PM | Report abuse

Hate to be a blogkiller (a role actually reserved for Joel), but many of you in the political side of this boodle would benefit from a reading of George Lakoff and his "frame" theory about why people beieve the things they do (WMD, etc.) Really hate to put it in a nutshell, but this comes close: Lakoff says that given a choice between believing a specific "fact" or piece of data, or the "frame," people usually chose to believe the "frame." (Problem is, you gotta read some of his work to understand frames, how they work, etc. See http://www.rockridgeinstitute.org/people/lakoff)

I don't buy everything Lakoff says (and despite appearances, one can agree with his theories without necessarily agreeing with his politics). But by and large, the man has got a lot of this stuff figured out.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 13, 2005 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget:

d) trapped in the Pentagon

And no less then 3 alien invasions!

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:54 PM | Report abuse

Could be we're all part of one Universal mind, Sara -- our thoughts are all connected. Edward starts missing the blog, so some of us start thinking about him, and eventually that manifests itself as edward's reappearance here.

Or maybe you, me, and edward are all figments of each others' imaginations, in a sense. Maybe we inhabit a Dreamer/Sara/edward parallel reality. As Joel said in his Kit today, "reality . . . is not fixed, deterministic, and linear, but rather is chaotic and relativistic, with black holes at the bottom and quantum foam on top."

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 1:55 PM | Report abuse

I heard about that but missed the pictures (There were pictures?!). I was also thinking of posting a link to a local news story down here (complete with picture) of Jesse Jackson arguing with civil engineers over how the levees broke. I found it to be a highly amusing since I had no idea Jesse Jackson's credentials included civil engineering. Now I'll have to go track down that link...

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 13, 2005 1:56 PM | Report abuse

it seems like there is always 30,000 people dead somewhere.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 1:56 PM | Report abuse

ooh. ooh. i claim dibs on quantum foam!

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 1:56 PM | Report abuse

where ever there is a camera or a way to get into the spotlight, Jesse will be there

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Wait until 24 starts and then we'll be worried about whatever evil plan the ever-impressive, always capable and oh-so-handsome Jack Bauer will thwart!

jw, I loved clicking him with the mouse and pulling him through the bubbles! You can make him go in little tight somersaults. I even figured out how to make him do a sort of disco dance.

I realized though, while playing on the website, how dirty politics can be because of the internet, though. Back in the days of powdered wigs nothing that degrading would show up regarding public officials. Kind of sad in a way.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 1:58 PM | Report abuse

1) there *are* 30,000 people dead

2) to quote my namesake in Fight Club, "with a long enough timeline, everyone's survival rate drops to zero"

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 1:58 PM | Report abuse

A drop in the bucket, really. At least when it's not Americans. So, are all those people who whined about the lack of foreign aid after Katrina breaking out their check books? I hope so...

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&ncid=1756&e=3&u=/051005/photos_od_afp/0510051834439f26kp4u_photo0

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 1:59 PM | Report abuse

sara, do you like 24? it's actually one of the few shows (House, MD excepted) I still watch on network television.

Regardless of whether you're a Dem or a Rep, you have to want President Palmer in charge. Hell, he almost makes me want to switch my insurance to All State.

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

"is" as in an event

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 2:00 PM | Report abuse

For amusement's sake:
http://www.wwltv.com/local/stories/wwl101305barges.ecf15f85.html

...snickering is permitted.

I don't watch TV if I can help it. I'm part of the Netflix crowd. I have cable for speedy internet access only.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 13, 2005 2:02 PM | Report abuse

You all make a big mistake with the false libs/conservative or dems/repubs issue. When it comes to Foreign Policy they are both the same. The Conservative/Repubs always use liberals arguments (liberation, minority rights, liberation of women, helping out the poor) to start/support wars and libs/Dems always use conservative arguments (we gotta be tough, domino theory, communist/terrorist threats) to start/support wars. I agree with you all on most domestic issues but FOREIGN POLICY has been hijacked by an elite few (NEOCONS or my preferred term "Likudnik Freepers"). The Media is not in Bush's pocket or with the libs they are with the NEOCONS and agree with them 100%. That is why they gave Bush a pass. The most shining and typical representative of the whole media is THOMAS FRIEDMAN - he stands for the ridiculousness of an American Empire (Globalization) and the rise of the NEOCON ideology. As TF once wrote "McDonalds will not possible without McDonnell Douglas" that says it all. Clinton, Bush, McCain, Gore, Biden, Lieberman are all part of this group!!.

Posted by: Ray | October 13, 2005 2:03 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, your statements about reality reminded me of something my coworker said today (just out of the blue with nothing specific to prompt it, but that's just his personality):

"I reject your reality and will now replace it with mine."

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 2:05 PM | Report abuse

More rants please.

firsttimeblogger, I think the paper is on the record as saying it could have done much better before the war in dealing with Administration claims on WMD -- I am pretty sure we ran a front page story saying exactly that. I'll look for it. The paper put some stories inside the A-section (famously one by Pincus saying there wasn't solid evidence of WMD) that should have been on the front page. Getler addressed this explicitly this past Sunday in his ombudsman column.

I feel a little bit as though my original point (that the Post is a better paper today than in the past) got distorted a little, or sort of hijacked into a discussion of WMD. But perhaps I didn't respond on point to what firsttimeblogger originally wrote, which was:

"As for the news, it would appear that actually reporting on the "news" of the day is not as important as entertaining the dumb clucks out there. I read newspapers every morning online from all over the world, and I find that I get more important information from the foreign press than I do here. The Post certainly is no longer what it used to be. And there doesn't appear to be an aggressive investigative approach to journalism anymore. Either we've become so fatigued by the nascent corruption in various administrations (either/both parties) or we've become very complacent...The Post (at least) did its job during Watergate, and I guess that was the high tide mark, never to have been seen quite up that high since."

I was addressing the very general question of The Post's quality these days, and perhaps should have focused more on what the Post's investigative journalism. So here we go: I suspect our investigative journalism is, on the whole, better than it used to be.

This is a purely subjective matter and there's no way to prove it one way or the other. Obviously Watergate sets a gold standard that will always be hard if not impossible to match. But at the risk of overemphasizing one particular prize contest, here's something to ponder: During the entirety of the 1970s, The Post won 9 Pulitzers, of which only 2 -- Hoagland for foreign coverage and Woodstein et al for Watergate coverage -- were for reported news (the rest were for criticism, commentary, editorials, Herblock, etc.). Here is a list of Pulitzers the Post has won just since 1999:


1999 - for Public Service, by The Washington Post, for an investigative series of stories "Deadly Force, " about the unusually high rate of shootings by the D.C. police department.

2000 - for Public service, by The Washington Post, for an investigative series, "Invisible Lives, Invisible Deaths," by Katherine Boo, about the fatal neglect of D.C.'s mentally retarded in group homes.

For Criticism, by Henry Allen for his coverage of photography.

For Feature Photography, by Post photographers Carol Guzy, Lucian Perkins and Michael Williamson for their work on the Kosovo conflict.

2002 - for Investigative Reporting, by Sari Horowitz, Scott Higham, and Sarah Cohen for a series on the District's child protection system where children have died due to government agencies placing them in unsafe homes and institutions.

For National Affairs, by The Washington Post, for aftermath coverage of September 11, by Karen DeYoung, Dan Eggen, Barton Gellman, Amy Goldstein, Walter Pincus, Thomas Ricks, Susan Schmidt, and Bob Woodward.

2003 - for Commmentary, by Colbert I. King for his against-the-grain columns that speak to people in power with ferocity and wisdom.

For Criticism, by Stephen Hunter for his authoritative film criticism.

For International Reporting, by Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan for their exposure of horrific conditions in Mexco's criminal justice system.

2004 - for International Reporting, by Anthony Shadid for his extraordinary ability to capture, at personal peril, the voices and emotions of Iraqis as their country was invaded.

2005 - for General Non-Fiction, by Steve Coll for his book, "Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001."

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:06 PM | Report abuse

I love 24. I recently got hooked during the Labor Day marathon on A&E. I now Tivo the four 24 episodes on A&E on Mondays and watch them throughout the week.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 2:07 PM | Report abuse

"McDonalds will not possible without McDonnell Douglas"

Sounds like Jesse Jackson.

This barge was to large. To heavy for the levee.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I was waiting for the alligator to come up in the blog. It has been quite the water cooler discussion here in Florida. Followup stories within days: (1) Miami Gardens, a missing cat followed by discovery of a python with a "suspicious" cat-sized bulge. (Reportedly, the x-rays made the evening news: yep, that's somebody's cat.) (2) Somewhere west of Miami, a python found in someone's yard with a *turkey* inside him. These snakes are usually found after they eat because they don't move much then. More and more exotic reptiles have been found in the Everglades, the Herald reported that in the last two years there have been 154 exotic snakes captured. So, I guess people can stop spending ALL their time worrying about hurricanes.

Posted by: Reader | October 13, 2005 2:08 PM | Report abuse

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58127-2004Aug11.html

Beat ya! (I already informed myself this morning).

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 2:10 PM | Report abuse

forget it, I'm not ranting

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Just fyi, here's Getler, on Sunday:

I cannot think of a story in the past 40 years that offers more warning signs for journalism and for the role of the press in our democracy. And it's not just the press for whom Iraq should loom large. It is also Congress, the Cabinet, the civil service, the intelligence community and the military leadership.

There is no bigger story than war. And a war whose major premise -- the threat from Iraqi weapons of mass destruction -- turned out to be unsupported is an even bigger story. That the administration presented this threat to the public with such a strong, yet false, sense of certainty -- including the imagery of mushroom clouds -- is an even more important lesson for all of us about big but not well-examined decisions. How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge? How did an entire system of government and a free press set out on a search for something and fail to notice, or even warn us in a timely or prominent way, that it wasn't or might not be there?

...Much has already been written -- including about two dozen columns of mine -- about the press and the general failure to challenge in prewar coverage. As I look back at the past five years in this job, that is by far the single most important and most disappointing performance by the press, including The Post. And The Post -- along with the Los Angeles Times and the Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service -- was among the best. But it was nowhere near good enough.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:10 PM | Report abuse

Your mojo is still strong, jw.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 2:11 PM | Report abuse

[Oops -- my 2:11:51 post looks really, really dumb after Achenbach's comment. I have 'boodled out of order once again. Sorry.]

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Rants are fine. Go ahead. All rants welcome. I want to make clear that I'm not saying that, because we won some prizes, all should be forgiven when we mess up in some other way. But make no mistake that I'm proud to be associated with such a great frickin' newspaper, and I get kind of tired of people with 20-20 hindsight saying we're complicit in murder and so on. In fact I think I feel another rant coming on. Must stifle it. (Remember Archie B. to Edith: "Stifle!")

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Achenbach: You are right for listing all the tough investigative pieces the post has done but please read them again. They are all against relatively powerless entities long known for their corruption except for Colbert King (whose pieces were not promoted or do I recall ever seeing this person on TV - I don't even know the gender/race of this person though I read a few pieces and loved it). I am quite a libertarian on most issues. I grew up outside the US and used to admire the US press greatly. I grew up reading Time and Newsweek and watched "All the President's Men" not less than 10 times. I am a Pol Sci/Econ Major and went to Law school here in the US. I do not suscribe to either of those two publications anymore and I am thoroughly disenchanted with politics/politicians and especially the MSM. America used to or at least pretended to stand for the truth and justice but now alas... Thomas Friedman Rules!!.

Posted by: Ray | October 13, 2005 2:21 PM | Report abuse

I love the WaPo! And not just because I love Joel...

Posted by: edward | October 13, 2005 2:22 PM | Report abuse

I think I just love the smell of newsprint. The Post could be total crap and I wouldn't notice, 'cause I'm lovin' that smell.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 2:25 PM | Report abuse

It *is* a great frickin' newspaper, Achenbach. I wake up each morning to the sound of the Post being dropped outside my apartment door, and I always jump gleefully out of bed to snatch it up.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I wrote, "our coverage from the war zone in Iraq has been inspiring." firsttimeblogger responds, "It's just peachy to have the coverage from the war zone to be inspiring. That comment makes me cringe, when I think that the true inspiring coverage should have been to put the Bushies feet to fire to AVOID that war." Look, I have friends who've risked their lives over there to report on that situation and I do find it very inspiring that they'd do that. We've had reporters fired at, we've had photographers nearly killed in rocket attacks. Pam Constable was in a caravan of cars in which several journalists were killed. Karl Vick, Rajiv, Shadid, many more have been in extremely dicey situations and have done tremendous work. There's no reason for you to cringe.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

I'm that way with old books. Old leather-bound books. The ancient history section at my university is my heaven.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 2:26 PM | Report abuse

jw,

"I love the smell of newsprint in the morning?" So you want Robert Duvall to play you in the movie?

Posted by: pj | October 13, 2005 2:27 PM | Report abuse

I like to rant. I may start doing this full time. Like a real blogger!!!!

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:29 PM | Report abuse

Four exclamation points -- oh my.

Posted by: Tom fan | October 13, 2005 2:30 PM | Report abuse

I have a friend who ends every sentence with exclamation points. It freaks me out. Even questions. He'll use an exclamation point instead of a question mark.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 2:31 PM | Report abuse

This is a top of a story that ran on the front page of The Washington Post on Aug. 8, 2004, by Howie Kurtz:

"
Days before the Iraq war began, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter
Pincus put together a story questioning whether the Bush administration
had proof that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.


But he ran into resistance from the paper's editors, and his piece
ran only after assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, who was
researching a book about the drive toward war, "helped sell the story,"
Pincus recalled. "Without him, it would have had a tough time getting
into the paper." Even so, the article was relegated to Page A17.

"We did our job but we didn't do enough, and I blame myself
mightily for not pushing harder," Woodward said in an interview. "We
should have warned readers we had information that the basis for this
was shakier" than widely believed. "Those are exactly the kind of
statements that should be published on the front page."

As violence continues in postwar Iraq and U.S. forces have yet to
discover any WMDs, some critics say the media, including The Washington
Post, failed the country by not reporting more skeptically on President
Bush's contentions during the run-up to war.

An examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more
than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post
published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on
the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence
for stories that questioned the administration's evidence complained to
senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic
about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of
groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at
times.

"The paper was not front-paging stuff," said Pentagon correspondent
Thomas Ricks. "Administration assertions were on the front page. Things
that challenged the administration were on A18 on Sunday or A24 on
Monday. There was an attitude among editors: Look, we're going to war,
why do we even worry about all this contrary stuff?"

In retrospect, said Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr., "we were
so focused on trying to figure out what the administration was doing
that we were not giving the same play to people who said it wouldn't be
a good idea to go to war and were questioning the administration's
rationale. Not enough of those stories were put on the front page. That
was a mistake on my part."

Across the country, "the voices raising questions about the war
were lonely ones," Downie said. "We didn't pay enough attention to the
minority."

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

I was on the ground for the invasion of Iraq in the first gulf war. I don't think that I would have wanted to cross the line of departure with just a camera or note pad and pen in my hands.

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

The point being that The Post has acknowledged the shortcomings of our pre-war coverage.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 13, 2005 2:32 PM | Report abuse

As a public service, here is a link regarding Thomas Friedman, whom I did not know existed until Ray mentioned him today.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Friedman

Posted by: CowTown | October 13, 2005 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I used to read Friedman's columns all the time until they went "select"

Posted by: LB | October 13, 2005 2:37 PM | Report abuse

A while back Sara said-
"I realized though, while playing on the website, how dirty politics can be because of the internet, though. Back in the days of powdered wigs nothing that degrading would show up regarding public officials. Kind of sad in a way."
Au contraire, mon cher. In the election of 1884, the Repub was James G. Blaine, described by the Dems as "the Continental Liar from the state of Maine." Apparently Halliburton hadn't been invented yet and so he had to do his shady dealing with railroads. They countered with a charge that Dem Grover Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock- "Ma, Ma, Where's my Pa? Gone to the White House, Ha Ha Ha." The more things change the more they stay the same. 121 years ago Repubs were all about the money and Dems couldn't stay away from sex.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I see your point, Joel, and raise another one. I do like Colby King, BTW, a lot. And I've seen him (live and in person) being absolutely hysterically funny (my kinda person, all my rants notwithstanding).

One of the problems with the coverage of this war is that it would appear that those most personally directly affected by it (i.e., those who have lost a loved one) are the only ones making the sacrifice, particularly emotionally -- and that's most of the time where the rubber meets the road for active change. And what a sacrifice it is! Especially when the basis for the war was based on a set of lies. OK, the price of gas and other fuel has gone up -- even before the hurricanes struck (and with *gasp* surprise, surprise incredible profits for the corporations involved), and so now maybe, just maybe, people might be starting to see a connection. During the Vietnam War (I used to march then, too, when I still had knees that worked), there was increasing coverage of the caskets in the hangar in Delaware. Cheney and company (oh, ok, Little Boy, too) wanted to make sure that this time around, that wouldn't happen (in the name, I believe, of privacy. Yeah, right.). And what did the media do in response to that? If I'm not mistaken, um, NOTHING, except to flop on their backs and beg the administration to rub their tummies.

I sit in awe of the Pulitzer Prizes. In fact, I'm over the moon that Harold Pinter won the Nobel for literature today. Ok. But with all due respect (really), so what? I find the complicity (especially with the "embedded" journalists -- we could call them "embed fellows" I suppose) nevertheless appalling. Lives, real lives, are at stake here. And it's not just American lives (even though, of course, those are the only ones which "really" count), either. And, somehow, it doesn't seem to matter to the gung-ho chicken hawks out there. Might it be possible with real life intensive war coverage -- reality based, not just in time for a commercial break -- that things might change? Well, I guess this is my cynical day, but I'm not so sure. So long as the corporations (currently downsizing the workers while upsizing executive salaries and bonuses) are the financial backers of the Republican Party and controlling the legislation nationally and locally, I, well, *sob*, think not.

The administration says "no"? If it's not really, truly, statutorily illegal to do so, DO IT anyway. The only thing we have to lose is our (um, tinny *arf* sound here) freedom. There. I said it. Feeling so much better. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 2:39 PM | Report abuse

I see your point kurosawaguy and I completely agree with you, politics have always been dirty, but I still think it's a little more degrading to have a highly flexible President Bush falling endlessly through a sea of bubbles that bounce him around like a pinball. Even more degrading is the fact that you can control it and pull him through the bubbles, spin him around, make him dance, etc... Sex scandals and the like have always existed, but games such as these are something only the internet could bring about. It brings a whole new level of "low" to politics, even though it really is hilarious.

Posted by: Sara | October 13, 2005 2:46 PM | Report abuse

One more thing, Joel, in response to your valid point about your colleagues in danger in Iraq -- do not misunderstand my point. I do not for one minute wish to diminish either their bravery or their integrity in any way. At all.

It's just that people not directly affected by this war seem to think that war is cool as hell -- and appear to be encouraged by this administration to believe that those who think war in general or this war in particular is decidedly not cool should be tried for treason or sent to Florida where they could be shot for sneezing wrong.

The way to make this war up close and personal to this nation, which has a debt load of staggering proportion due in huge respect to this %*%$ war, is to cover it as if it really REALLY mattered to this entire country. Which it does. But sometimes you'd never know it. The journalists and photographers over in Iraq and other war zones (say, whatever happened to Afghanistan?) are doing their jobs. But if there were no war to cover, what would they do? Make one up?

Man, what a day at the blog. . . .

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 2:52 PM | Report abuse

"How did a country on the leading edge of the information age get this so wrong and express so little skepticism and challenge?"

My mother always taught me that honest people believe other people and liars think others are lying. I think the fact that most Americans believe what the administration tells them speaks well for at least the general honesty of the population. Of course that doesn't really help us now.

And Grover Cleveland claimed the child out of wedlock because among the men who had "enjoyed" the favors of a certain young lady, he was the only single one and thus saved another, married, man some humiliation. At least that's what I've heard.

Posted by: TBG | October 13, 2005 2:52 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan,

Has anyone, er, ever suggested that you suck up a lot?

Posted by: SuckUpDetective | October 13, 2005 2:55 PM | Report abuse

jw,
Thank you (and Joel) for playing into my hands today. No doubt, as a young buck at the age of 25, you have ingested/drunk a number of things, including "Dr. Quacko's Fantabulous Health Tonic and Anti-fouling Paint."

I presume that you have also had some whiskey and bourbon in your brief lifetime? Perhaps you are aware of the role of calcium in the taste of whiskey and bourbon and its role in the sport of kings?

I picked up the following book when we lived in Floyds Knobs, Ind., just north across the bridge from Louisville, Ky. And tell me why it is, again, that those blind cavefish at the deepest depths of Mammoth Caves in Kentucky live to be so old--in fish-years, of course.

Metis William Leat Heat Moon's 1982 book, "blue highways: a journey into america," pp. 17-18:

It's an old debate here: Is bluegrass indigenous to Kentucky or did it come accidentally to America as padding to protect pottery shipped from England? As for the rock under the bluegrass, there's no debate. Water percolating through limestone leaches out the calcium and phosphorus that make for strong yet light-framed stake winners [Kentucky Derby, etc.] whose spine and leg bones have the close grain of ivory rather than the more porous grain of horses pastured in other areas.

And it's also limestone percolation that engenders good handmade bourbon; after all, hundred proof is half water. To make bourbon with purified water, as today the distilleries must to maintain consistent quality, is to take the Kentucky out of whiskey. And that raises another old debate in the Bluegrass about who made the first straight bourbon. One group holds--and with evidence as good as anyone's--that it was a Baptist preacher.

In Lexington, I passed row after row of tobacco warehouses and auction barns on my way into the thousand square miles of bluegrass wold [stet] once called "God's footstool," a fertile land where pumpkin vines so fast that they wear out the melons dragging them along. So they say.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 2:55 PM | Report abuse

You have suggested that to me many, many times, "SuckUpDetective."

What's it to ya? Why the obsession?

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 2:58 PM | Report abuse

TBG, I didn't mean to disparage Grover Cleveland at all. He was by most accounts a pretty good president, still holds the record as the only prez to serve two nonconsecutive terms, and gave his name to my personal all time favorite Sesame Street character. I just wanted to demonstrate that campaign sleaze is as old as the republic and I used that election because as I get older I don't remember much that happened before 1875 or so.

Posted by: kurosawaguy | October 13, 2005 3:06 PM | Report abuse

This is a top of a story that ran on the front page of The Washington Post on Aug. 8, 2004, by Howie Kurtz:
"
Days before the Iraq war began, veteran Washington Post reporter Walter
Pincus put together a story questioning whether the Bush administration
had proof that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
***

I saw Kurtz's story; I read it, I printed it out. We got the mea culpa from Kurtz. Perhaps it should have been a mea maxima culpa. Do journalists ever say they are sorry, as Richard Clarke did to the 9/11 families? Now there are 2,000 soldiers dead, and thousands maimed or injured. Would it hurt so much for leaders of our free press to say, "I'm sorry."

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 3:10 PM | Report abuse

Achenfan,

As we have not corresponded before, obsession accusation does not register.

Am actually impressed by your tradecraft of sucking up. It is best practice. I would like to emulate it.

Take my interest as a compliment, as I did not mean to strike a nerve. I apologise. All the best to you and you and you and you.

Posted by: SUD | October 13, 2005 3:17 PM | Report abuse

To what I take as Joel's point:

We're all just people.
Collectively, and individually, from the Editors of the NYT and WasPost and other media outlets, to the politicians and celebrities who make the majority of it, to we unwashed masses of 99.4% chimpanzees who read it.

People - individually and collectively - make mistakes. We can be misled. Sometimes we see and believe things what we want to more clearly that what our senses are telling us. Sometimes we lie to try to get what we want, or omit information to manage people's perceptions. We cheat, we steal, etc. Sometimes we make the same mistake repeatedly, because we are just plain human.

Of course, humanity also has wonderful qualities such as nobility, intelligence, imagination, self-sacrifice, and the ability to love beyond the bounds of mortality.

Personally, I don't hold members of the news media to any higher standards than I would any other human, nor news media outlets to any higher standard than any other organization of people. Their charge as I understand it is to report what they see as clearly as they can. Those fortunate enough to be columnists tell us what they think and why.

The Washington Post is my news outlet of choice, and they normally do what I consider to be great work. Sometimes mistakes are made - I'm thinking of Janet Cooke and "Jimmy" here - but they took responsibility for it - anyone else remember that Ombudsman's Report? - and tried to make sure it wouldn't happen again. Isn't that all we can ask of anyone?

Re. the New Yorker items: Somehow that Intelligent Design piece reminds me a lot of Isaac Asimov, Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (both individually and collectively), Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner, and Douglas Adams (see the last line of my 10:40 AM post.), to name a few.

This reminds me: Has Gene ever made a phone call to God's 800# Customer Service Line (I seem to think he has)?

Gene: God, why did the Yankees lose this past weekend?

God: Um, let me think...Damn Yankees vs. the Angels...who would I have predetermined to win? On a SUNDAY, no less? Hello? (knocking on Gene's forehead)Jeez, Gene, don't you have anything better to ask me?

Gene: Well, OK, I do have one thing that's been bothering me.

God, putting a 3x5 card to his forehead like Carnac the Magnificent: ...and the answer is: because if I gave you James Earl Jones' voice you'd be too lazy to actually WRITE.

Gene:

God: Don't even ask about mojo, buster. You already know the answer to that one.

******************************************
Sorry about the length, folks, I've been in meetings and my muse ended up with a lot to say.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 3:29 PM | Report abuse

Question for the group.

Whenever I read the term mojo, it always relates to a male.

Do women have mojo's?

Posted by: buttercutie | October 13, 2005 3:31 PM | Report abuse

Excellent, bc. Thank you.

Posted by: CowTown | October 13, 2005 3:33 PM | Report abuse

yes, bravo

Posted by: temecula | October 13, 2005 3:35 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for the compliments, folks.

Re. mojo: What women have is beyond mojo, and multifaceted to boot.

Primarily, they have Hand.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 3:41 PM | Report abuse

Bravo, bc. It's so easy to hold others to much higher standards than the standards we apply to ourselves, to expect others to overlook our transgressions while failing to overlook theirs. And I don't think this is because we think we're better than everybody else. Quite the opposite: We see everybody else as being part of the "They" who are running the show, and ourselves as mere passive observers [lowercase "o" intentional here]. Maybe we need to improve our ability to see ourselves as good enough to be part of this accountable, infallible "They."

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 3:43 PM | Report abuse

bc, that just made my day. I hope Gene sees it.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 13, 2005 3:44 PM | Report abuse

From Kurtz: "An examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more
than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post
published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on
the front page."

I remember this Kurtz story as well and that's how I recall the Post's coverage, too. I think both Walter Pincus and Dana Priest were writing articles like this. They just didn't get a lot of play in either the Post or get picked up by others. The management in the Post now realizes that they were incorrect in this and, one hopes, will be more careful in the future.

Post-invasion coverage of Iraq in the Post has been excellent in my view. They have had both imbedded and non-imbedded reporters and they have produced some great stuff.

I was going to rant about the phrase 'weapons of mass destruction' because I intensly dislike it. To me, chemical and biological weapons, as nasty as they can be, are not weapons that cause mass destruction. To me, a weapon of mass destruction is something that will make a city disappear, e.g. nuclear weapons. I don't know how much the ready acceptance of the phrase WMD colored editorial decisions of the pre-war coverage, but it would be interesting to find out.

Paraphrased from Wikipedia: The phrase 'weapons of mass destruction' was first used in the Times of London in 1937 to describe the large-scale bombing that the Germans did at Guernica in the Spanish Civil War. "Who can think without horror of what another widespread war would mean, waged as it would be with all the new weapons of mass destruction?" was how they worded it. A very prescient sentence. Two years later, of course, the Germans incorporated it into Blitzkreig. I suppose in Vietnam the term 'carpet bombing' was used.

Just after World War II, the UN set up the Atomic Energy Commission using this phrase:
"...atomic weapons and of all other weapons adaptable to mass destruction" and the term was used primarily by the arms control community.

Wikipedia then says: The phrase had fallen out of use since the early Cold War era (when it primarily meant nuclear weapons) by 1990. Then, and during the 1991 Gulf War, it was resurrected and used prolifically by politicians and the media, despite having a fairly antique aura. The subject it was used to discuss was Iraq and it continued to be used throughout the 1990's regarding the need for continued sanctions and military containment of Iraq. This usage, which conflated very different categories of weaponry (chem-bio vs. nuclear), was essentially a political rather than a military one, and it might be argued that the resurrection and use of the term from 1990 - 2003 was expressly for political ends. This usage reached a crescendo with the 2002 Iraq disarmament crisis and the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq that became the primary justification for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Because of its prolific use, the American Dialect Society voted WMD the word of the year in 2002, and in 2003 Lake Superior State University added WMD to its list of terms banished for "Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness". End Wikipedia.

So I have no idea who is right, but based on its original use I am in the camp that would only use it to describe nuclear weapons.

For further reading (don't worry, there won't be a test):

http://www.wordorigins.org/wordorw.htm

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2744411.stm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weapons_of_mass_destruction

Posted by: pj | October 13, 2005 3:53 PM | Report abuse

What women have is the Upper Hand. Without women, all men have is Hand.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 13, 2005 3:54 PM | Report abuse

The more accurate acronym being used lately is "WME" or Weapons of Mass Effect, which more accurately describes chem/bio/rad weapons.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 3:58 PM | Report abuse

Dreamer, I think you know that one of the Patron Saints of the SCC is Walt Kelly:

Pogo: "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I'm better than you are, nananinahnah.

Posted by: They | October 13, 2005 4:00 PM | Report abuse

I hadn't heard that one, jw. That's pretty good.

Posted by: pj | October 13, 2005 4:02 PM | Report abuse

I think everyone's kinda stuck on WMD, but most of the defense/security type people have been using WME, for exactly the reasons you pointed out.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Woman have moja.

Posted by: en Espanol | October 13, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

I was using "Hand" as short form for "Upper Hand", e.g. "Now, she's got the Hand."

I'm pretty sure that this was so in the Seinfeld episode, though Tom fan would be the Umpire on this, I stand by her ruling on this whatever it may be, even if the ball never touched the dirt.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 4:04 PM | Report abuse

does that mean it would be a compliment to tell a woman, say the pick of the many women on this blog, something like:

"you got good hand, babe" ????

Posted by: buttercutie | October 13, 2005 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Indeed, bc; indeed.

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 4:05 PM | Report abuse

[I meant re. the Pogo quote. Will switch gears to answer the Seinfeld question.]

Posted by: Dreamer | October 13, 2005 4:06 PM | Report abuse

And when we are in darker moods, WME can mean Weapons of Mass Extinction.

Posted by: pj | October 13, 2005 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Like Ice-9.

Posted by: jw | October 13, 2005 4:09 PM | Report abuse

bc:
Yes, there was indeed a Seinfeld episode about "Hand." George was dating a pianist, and he was thrilled because he seemed to have "hand" in the relationship, i.e., he seemed to be holding the cards, wearing the pants, etc. When George, Jerry, and Elaine went to see the woman's piano performance, Jerry put a Pez dispenser on Elaine's lap, and she laughed, throwing off the performance. George's girlfriend later found out that Elaine had been the one who had laughed, and she broke up with him. He said, "But I had hand!" She replied, "Yep, and you're gonna need it."

Posted by: Achen- and Tom fan | October 13, 2005 4:10 PM | Report abuse

Smallpox kills about 30 percent of its victims, but trust me on this one, you would not want to be one of the victims. Now that the virus has been quelled for several decades, a release of the smallpox variola virus would be somewhat like a virgin soil epidemic, but Dr. Mark Slifka out in Oregon reminds us that older folks who had the bifurcated-needle inoculation in their youth still have some immunity.

And don't let the Washington Post get away with, as it did in its op-ed just two dayus ago, that notion that vaccine maufacturers should not be held accountable for vaccine liability (death and disfigurement). If only my parents had been more legally astute.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I was thinking Weapons of Mass Excitement.

Could be a dirty bomb, could be Angelina Jolie.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 4:12 PM | Report abuse

Ugh.

Posted by: Achenfan | October 13, 2005 4:16 PM | Report abuse

speak for yourself, bc.

Ugh seconded.

Posted by: buttercutie | October 13, 2005 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Then there are bombs like that last joke.

SCC: 4:12:15.

bc

Posted by: bc | October 13, 2005 4:25 PM | Report abuse

The underlying assumption of the "Post Storm" brewing this afternoon seems to be that the Post is a lesser creature than it once was because it has failed to bring down Bush the way it helped bring down Nixon.
Hogwash. Unambiguous facts of criminal conduct brought down Nixon. The worst that can be said about Bush is that he is tragically wrong. Being wrong is not a crime. That the Post has not gone after Bush with both barrels a firin', although there are doubtless many within the organization who desperately want to, is a testament that the paper values facts over spin. As a reader, I find it comforting that the Post is frequently assaulted for its alleged bias by both the right and the left.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 13, 2005 4:39 PM | Report abuse

you guys crack me up

Posted by: LP | October 13, 2005 4:46 PM | Report abuse

As closure to my post from yesterday, an excerpt from Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_Dad:

Roger the Alien: The sarcastic and possibly gay space alien who saved Stan's life in Area 51. He spends his time eating (mainly junk foods), smoking, and drinking. He is not allowed to leave the house and the family has to conceal his existence, although he has left on a few occasions in various disguises. He did go out once as himself to a sci-fi convention. He is mischievious, once prank-calling several world leaders after finding Dick Cheney's BlackBerry. Every seven hours, a green waste is ejected from his body; his pancreas has fangs and is able to live and move outside his body for several hours at least. Roger's distinct speech pattern is a parody of Paul Lynde. He has the ability to transform his feces into valuable metals and gems after the consumption of certain foods, although he is currently unaware of the market value of his droppings. Roger's species goes through reproductive cycle every six years. Implantation of the egg (or transfer of the fetus) occurs by having direct mouth-to-mouth contact. He can speak Spanish.

I realize the 'boodle is onto much more important topics today, but this was my first opportunity to defend my Paul Lynde/American Dad stance...from now on, however, I will stay current so as not to be pigeon-holed...

Posted by: C8 | October 13, 2005 4:48 PM | Report abuse

buttercutie: "Hand" is definitely different from "mojo," and yes, women can have mojo (or moja, if you prefer). My wife, in particular, has "parking lot mojo," the ability to drive (or be a passenger when I'm driving) into any crowded parking lot, and have the parking spot closest to the door suddenly become empty seconds before we arrive. It's uncanny.

Loomis: yes, it is too much to ask "the leaders" (whoever they are) of journalism to get together to issue a mass apology. Inidivudally issuing mea culpas is sufficient. What you appear to want is a pound of flesh, too, and it's not a reasonable request.

Posted by: Curmudgeon | October 13, 2005 4:48 PM | Report abuse

C8 has demonstrated by everyone should see American Dad at least once. If you like the utter irreverence of the Simpsons, but want something even edgier (sp?), you'll love this show. Thanks for the description, C8.

Posted by: CowTown | October 13, 2005 5:06 PM | Report abuse

"The worst that can be said about Bush is that he is tragically wrong. Being wrong is not a crime."

Time will tell.

Posted by: TBG | October 13, 2005 5:13 PM | Report abuse

Hey kurosawaguy,

I'm not even that familiar with Cleveland's presidency, jut always thought that was kind of a neat story.

"Maw, Maw, where's my Paw? Over in the White House, haw haw haw!"

Posted by: TBG | October 13, 2005 5:19 PM | Report abuse

Curmudgeon wrotes:
"What you appear to want is a pound of flesh, too, and it's not a reasonable request."

The comparison to me as Shylock in Shakespeare's "The Merchant of Venice" is wholly unfair and inappropriate.

Four your information, I gave up my pound of flesh as a 9-year-old child with eczema vaccinatum.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 5:28 PM | Report abuse

Being tragically wrong by committing a series of unlawful acts is, um, really illegal.

Posted by: firsttimeblogger | October 13, 2005 5:36 PM | Report abuse

TGB writes:
I'm not even that familiar with Cleveland's presidency, jut always thought that was kind of a neat story.
"Maw, Maw, where's my Paw? Over in the White House, haw haw haw!"

Grover Cleveland is just one of three presidential descendants of Roseanna White Porter: Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, and Gerald Ford.

Roseanna's sister was Mary White Loomis, my distant-x8 great-grandmother.

But I'm far angrier with Bruce Tinsley who has co-opted the only Loomis-descended president, Millard Fillmore, for his small, mean-spiritd right-wing comic strip "Mallard Fillmore." Why couldn't he have picked on President Martin Van Buren? Why not a comic strip featuring a talking chest of drawers called "Marty Van Bureau?"

SCC: All typos today are owed to a bad headache.

Posted by: Loomis | October 13, 2005 5:39 PM | Report abuse

Right on, firsttimeblogger...not only illegal but morally reprehensible, which in Dubya's case is beyond hypocritical as His Party claimed to have cornered the market on "values"...as far as "time will tell", I for one think the past 5 years of his administration have certainly told me all I need to know...

Posted by: C8 | October 13, 2005 5:47 PM | Report abuse

Look, I dislike Bush too. But just because you are wrong doesn't automatically make you a criminal. Incompetent, maybe, but accusing one of criminal behaviour just because that person gets things wrong smacks of Lavrenti Pavlovich Beria. And to get back to the point I want to make, if Bush or his cronies have really broken the laws of the land (and not just of logic) then I expect to read about it first in the Post.

Posted by: RD Padouk | October 13, 2005 5:53 PM | Report abuse

wow! what a boodle today!!! the whole concept of msm as "truth" - my boss (who would support bush to the end of the earth) always says the msm is full of lies and if you would just look at the "facts" you would see what "liberal bush bashing crap" (his words) all the biggies are from the wop to the nyt, cnn, msnbc, etc. he endlessly forwards me articles from the ton of obscure neocon sights he frequents, much to my chagrin!

as for the media apologizing for military losses - i lost my uncle in iraq - he was one of the explosives experts with the army coe that got hit by a roadside bomb the same day that the blackhawk went down. he had a closed casket wake/burial as his remains had been severly damaged. we were all very very proud of the work he did for our country and knew that if he had a choice of how to go, he would chose exactly what happened, he was that passionate (and good) at what he did! we were also proud that quite a few papers (not only the local north carolina papers but even the WP!) ran lengthy articles about him and his collegues showcasing their expertise and mourning their loss. that made the pain just a little tiny bit more bearable. (he was like a father to me).

on a lighter note: Joel - those new yorker articles were HILARIOUS and i, also, sent the god one to everyone i know! now i have a link for you - it may remind you of someone (tom, perhaps?)

http://www.hallmark.com/wcsstore/HallmarkStore/images/products/ecards/nfg1969.swf

Posted by: mo | October 13, 2005 5:56 PM | Report abuse

scc - not to my chagrin... b/c chagrin means "disquietude or distress of mind caused by humiliation, disappointment, or failure" - what i meant is that he ceaselessly sends these to me and i can't stand it!

Posted by: mo | October 13, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

Omigosh! The "Hand" episode (pianist girlfriend, Pez dispenser, etc) is on Seinfeld RIGHT NOW (channel 5 in D.C.)!

Now that's mojo.

Posted by: TBG | October 13, 2005 6:06 PM | Report abuse

MSM is at it again read Richard Cohen (a revolting idiot) and to a lesser extent David Broder (mr. despicable DLC) opinions today and you will know why we want to war in Iraq with WaPo's blessings. Only in America can they convince themselves that the editorial page bears no reflection as to the tone of reporting in a newspaper. WaPo does not reflect either a completely lib or conservative bias. No it reflects the ESTABLISHMENT thinking - which means whatever the NEOCONS want is good for the US. They only rely on "official sources" - if it is not acknowledged by an official it did not happen. Infact we now know that the only reason WATERGATE was a success because an "OFFICIAL" the #2 at the FBI was doing the leaking!!!!. ESTABLISHMENT people!!!.

Posted by: Ray | October 13, 2005 6:38 PM | Report abuse

We're fortunate to be graced by the presence of American Nobility here.

Posted by: Serfer | October 13, 2005 6:53 PM | Report abuse

My dad and I used to have these long and impassioned debates when I was a teenager. One time at the end of a particularly antagonistic (on my part) debate in which the words establisment and truth were used by me several times, he made a statement that has stayed with me ever since.

He compared absolute truth to a point, a single inviolate point. Then he said to imagine a group of persons standing around that one point, in a circle. He asked me, 'Do they see exactly the same thing? Does the man standing facing you see exactly the same thing as you do?' Of course I answered yes, but he told me no, that guy opposite me sees the other side of the point and that the fellow standing kitty corner from you sees the point of truth from another tiny angle.

I've always figured this is the best description of why every persons truth is so unique. Truth may be a single point a single item, but since no two people can occupy the same space at the same time, and since no two people will be looking with the same set of eyes and with the same experiences interpreting what those eyes see, each man's vision of the truth, understanding of the truth is going to be different.

Sometimes truth is misnamed. Sometimes what is called truth should be called an 'interpretation of the facts from where I stand'.

A farmer has a lot of time while driving the tractor up and down the field. Some guys listened to the radio, and the news, but I think my dad did some of his best thinking out there.

Posted by: dr | October 13, 2005 7:23 PM | Report abuse

and Linda, just sending out one more request for the pancake recipe, please,(insert whiny begging tone). I hope to one day wear you down.

I also have a silly story for you. A man and his wife were out camping with his parents. To save space the ladies had filled smaller continers with everything from oil, to syrup, and little bags of this and that. The gents went out fishing, the ladies had a nice long chat over coffee, and decided to make pancakes for when the gents came back to the campsite. The gents showed. The ladies did up the pancakes, normal everyday pancakes. Flour oil, eggs, milk. The pancakes cooked up golden, and were the fluffiest lightest things the ladies had ever seen. The gents filled their plates, and took a bite, and spit it out. Turns out the ladies had put dish detergent in the same kind of container as the oil, and the dish detergent went into the pancakes.

Posted by: dr | October 13, 2005 7:32 PM | Report abuse

Boy, the Kit and Boodle really exploded today. Loved the New Yorker references.
That turtle soup piece was priceless. Can't wait to read both S & M's.

Mo:
Thanks for the hallmark reference. I loved the way the boss was tapping his fingers.

Reader:
I was going to mention the alligator and the python the other day when Joel was going on about "eat or be eaten." Who will win? Gross!

I think the Wash Post website is really great with its extensive news coverage. It is easy to navigate and one can find info in depth on all kinds of topics. I don't have access to the paper copy daily, but read it when visiting my daughter who lives in the DC area. Of all the online papers one can read, I keep coming back to the WP. I don't always agree with the columnists or editorials but I'm always interested in the opposing viewpoints. One of the best things is all the different reporters they have covering the stories. Large news bureaus are rare these days but make a big difference in quality of output.

Go White Sox!

bdl

Posted by: boondocklurker | October 13, 2005 8:09 PM | Report abuse


...post 9/11 the bush2 whitehouse was able
to ride the issues of national security
high and unquestioned....leading into the
war on iraq was a open public field of
opinion that was seeded over and over with
"looming dangers" and fearmongering......
...nothing new when compared to the "RED
MENACE" of the 1950's....drum up the fear
factor...keep it stoked with imagery of
imminent danger and discourage perspective
or oppositional viewpoints with blanket
statements of patriotism or implied lack
of loyalty to the country....the example
of the WH press secretary stating that all
americans should be careful about what they
said or did being well documented..........
....bill maher came in for some severe push
back over some of his comments............
...the media largely had fallen into soft
opposition point of views post 9/11 which
the bush2 whitehouse was willing to use
to full advantage during the leadup to the
iraq invasion....the un was pilloried...the
french..the germans...the democrats here in
the us...all were branded as out of bounds
by the bush2 WH...iraq demonized..israel
allowed to label the palestinian conflict
as a terrorism war...the drum beating of
militarism and techno superiority allowed
to shade out diplomatic venues or longer
time spans required by negotiation...the
story was "going to war"...the media fell
into place...we got the shock and awe war
which cnn gladly put the cameras to..with
embedded reporters the "coalition forces"
were able to largely chaperone the media
and set the context...and so here we are
2 years plus later...and we find ourselves
wondering how we got led into this war by
deceitfullness?..well...bush2 has to only
go 3 more years with his "never give up"
stance..then he can retire on his very
generous goverment pension and start plans
for the library and the book..meanwhile the
rest of us will have to plod onwards......
so easy to get into....the shock and awe
part came very easy...the self delusion on
the part of arrogant americans too abundant
and the longer intentions likely to be
not what we are being led to believe......
....i do think it is about the oil...and
as with what is going on now in the lower
tier of inner asia countries and around the
caspian sea...another oil conquest story
in the making,we get the window dressing of
spreading democracy but not the deeper idea
of the more real "national interest" that
will likely bring us into direct conflict
with russia and china at some point.......
as was the case in iran...as is the case
in iraq....saddam did not just fall out of
the sky...decades of british and american
meddling preceded him...there is a rich
history of misdirection and imperial goals
leading to him...and from him to the next
likely "iraq strong man"....who will bend
to american influence ...its not a new or
different story...yugoslavia being a good
example of a contrived country ruled by
tito with firm expediency...with him gone
it reeled out of control,and so with iraq
the same...and if the us is able to worm
a way to the next strongman it may recover
saddam's "stability"...or it returns to
pre british empire ottoman boundaries of
smaller enclaves..religous or ethnic or
both.........if not for the oil would the
us have walked itself into this bottomless
pit of strife and historical conflict?..

Posted by: an american in siam.... | October 13, 2005 11:18 PM | Report abuse

George Bush doesn't care about facts, people.

Posted by: :-( | October 14, 2005 2:25 AM | Report abuse

Facts are inconvenient things.

Posted by: yellojkt | October 14, 2005 8:47 AM | Report abuse

Re. "Hand". Some of jw's mojo must have rubbed off on me Tuesday evening.

With all of this political talk, I am reminded of Paul Valery (I wish I knew how to put accent marks in here): "Politics is the art of preventing people from taking part in affairs which properly concern them."

bc

Posted by: bc | October 14, 2005 9:22 AM | Report abuse

bc
OK, I'll bite. What was your mojo up to, you devil, you.

Posted by: CowTown | October 14, 2005 9:30 AM | Report abuse

mo:
I loved that boss link. It was kind of soothing, in a we-are-weird kind of way. But I have to say, I'm sure Tom is nothing like that. I'm sure Tom is the perfect boss.

Posted by: Tom fan | October 14, 2005 9:48 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Seinfeld mojo, when my niece was born a few years ago, the first thing my mother told me was how huge her hands and feet were for a newborn. That evening, I saw the episode of Seinfeld were Jerry dates the woman with "man hands" and I spent the remainder of that first week going between amusement over the mojo and guilt/fear that I may refer to my niece as "man hands" in the future. Luckily, she has since grown into her extremities and is very tall for her age. I never really liked Seinfeld until I saw that episode.

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 14, 2005 9:52 AM | Report abuse

The "Hand" Seinfeld episode was on TV last night?

Further evidence of the holographic nature of the Universe.

Posted by: Dreamer | October 14, 2005 9:52 AM | Report abuse

[The "I had Hand!" episode, I mean -- the "Man Hands" episode is another thing altogether. I've 'boodled out of order again.]

[It's weird, though -- I was actually thinking about Man Hands last night, for some reason that I can't remember.]

Posted by: Dreamer | October 14, 2005 10:01 AM | Report abuse

I was playing with my niece and it must have triggered a cosmic collision. :)

Posted by: peanutgallerymember | October 14, 2005 10:18 AM | Report abuse

I posted a new kit and I hope it's ok that I excerpted a bunch of the comments from this boodle. I only lifted a smattering of them to give a flavor of what we were talking about yesterday. Some people, you know, don't go into the Boodle, ever, they find it scary. So I was Kittenizing the Boodle a little, I guess you'd say.

Posted by: Achenbach | October 14, 2005 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I no longer buy women's socks because they never fit well--too small. You can just forget about me buying women's gloves--gardening, Playtex, woolen or otherwise.

Interesting genetic mutation (?) of the Vilcabambas of Equador, as told in David Davies' 1975 book, "The Centenarians of the Andes."
***
p. 57
The most outstanding thing about the physical features of the people, whether from the actual villages or the mountain farms, was that they all had decayed teeth. In most cases all their front teeth had gone by the age of 13 or 14 and their grinders (or molars) were just hollow shells. What was the cause of this? When we moved on to study the teen-agers, tooth decay was the norm also. It happened that their teeth were literally dissolving away. The gums were extremely healthy. Losing their teeth at a comparatively early age means that they have to subsist on soft foods, and most of the people had a diet that is gruel-based. I asked the old people how they managed to eat, and they indicated--often in most amusing ways and with many mouth openings to show them bereft of teeth--that their gums had become hardened. If the decay was to do with small traces of lead then the gums would not have looked so healthy. The gums would have looked as they do in some forms of periodontal disease, soft and glue-like, and would be bleeding constantly. None of these signs existed. And there is no doubt they could have been so lucid at the end of their days if they had had excessive lead in their diet. Even slightly too much affects the brain.

If the gums do harden, so it seems do the muscles of the face, for the people in these villages do not seem to lose the contours of their faces as is so often found in the toothless of Europe. In fact, to have one's teeth extracted is normally the quickest way to start looking old.

p. 58
(A 300-year-old skull dug up from the local cemetary showed the same dental conditions.)

p. 59
Sugar was not the culprit; there was very little of this in their diet. In fact, the only thing obviously likely to cause decay that we immediately came across was the locally made rum. We wondered whether a trace element in the water could be affecting the teeth and maybe other areas of their bodies. This we investigated later and came to some interesting conclusions.

Posted by: Loomis | October 14, 2005 10:45 AM | Report abuse

Joel, no Pulitzer for you unless you Kit on rebar and Hobbitses.
Don't make me call Getler.

On a note more related to the Kits of the past couple of days, Reader pointed out yesterday: "The majority of American voters elected the people who are holding office. I just would like to mention that 50.01% is a majority. Just because "most Americans aren't like us" doesn't mean "people like us" are rare. There are lots of us out here. The tide will turn."

Please, let's not rehash the 2000 Presidential election.

I agree that there is a tide turning, and with inflation beginning to rear it's head, the GOP's position is looking more and more difficult. The question continues to be: Can the Dems actually take advantage of their good fortune?

bc

Posted by: Anonymous | October 14, 2005 11:45 AM | Report abuse

I'm always late to the party these days, but for what it's worth:

The Gender Genie shows that real JT LeRoy is a woman.

Posted by: irregardless | October 14, 2005 3:24 PM | Report abuse

I live at 44035 Commonwealth in Seattle. Been up here before?

Posted by: Mike Flacklestein | August 2, 2006 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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