Onion Guest-Edits CNN Site

Our president and his crew of new world architects — slogan: “Blowin’ shit up as fast as we can for freedom” — are out on the road with a new message about Iraq: It’s a good war. It’s a necessary war. And if you’re agin’ it, you’re nothin’ but an ol’ appeaser of fascism. (The new pronunciation for “Iraq” is “Sudetenland.”)

That’s nice.

CNN, like everyone else, is covering the story. Reading through one of their newsfeeds, I discovered that someone’s having a little fun, at the president’s expense, in a headline: “Bush 3.0 releases patch for Iraq war.” A good, sharp piece of commentary worthy of The Onion, but markedly different from the story’s actual headline: “Bush begins new push to shore up fight on terrorism, Iraq.”

So what happened? Either someone at CNN is getting playful with headlines, or somehow the page was hacked. I’ve got doubts about either scenario, but whatever happened, it wasn’t an accident. Screenshots below (click for larger images).

[Update: I saw the “Bush 3.0 headlines sometime between 9 and 9:30 a.m. Pacific; it’s now 10:15, and all evidence of the headline has vanished in the updated version of the story. I’ve sent messages through the CNN site asking what gives, but so far no answer.]



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Third Grade Confidential

Kate’s back in school this week. She’s teaching third grade in East Oakland. Most of her kids were in her second-grade class a year ago. The first day, a student asked one of last year’s boys, a troubled and particularly disruptive kid, wasn’t there. “He’s at a different school in a special class that will try to help him calm down,” Kate said. One of the girls raised her hand and asked, “Is it anger-management class?”

Yesterday, the class played a game of tag at recess — the variation that starts out with one kid as “it,” and everyone runs from one side of the playground to the other, and whoever gets tagged joins the first person in catching the others. So finally, there were just two boys who hadn’t been tagged. They were getting ready for their next and probably final dash through their waiting classmates. One of them looked at the other and said, “Let’s do this.”

Defining Moment

The Times worked up a bogus take on our president’s image and poll tribulations a year after Hurricane Katrina caught his administration, and just about everybody else who might have known better, flat-footed. In The Times’s telling, our president’s famous post-Katrina flight over New Orleans, gazing down on the blur of floodwaters and the invisible drama of people losing their grip on life, was a defining and damning moment. In the words of Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican:

“Unfortunately, it may be hard to erase the regrettable photo of him on Air Force One looking down at the destruction and devastation below. That’s a searing and very unfortunate image that doesn’t reflect the president’s compassion.”

Maybe the image is as bad as all that. But you have to ask yourself, what had Bush done before that picture was taken to mark him as such a dynamic, effective leader. What did he have in the asset column that was so thoroughly erased by the decision to view the catastrophe from afar? The Times finds the answer in the smoking ruins of the World Trade Center, where Bush made a personal appearance three days after the 9/11 attacks to inspire the Ground Zero workers.

I’m more inclined to think of another, more sprawling disaster scene: Iraq. After watching Bush’s handiwork there, his Hurricane Katrina performance seems like it’s par for the course. If that seems too harsh, consider my favorite Katrina Week utterance. No, not “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job.” Not New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin going off on his profane radio tirade. Those were great, but I like this more: Bush’s remarks at a Southern California event while Katrina was still pounding the coast:

“The storm is moving through, and we’re now able to assess damage, or beginning to assess damage. And I want the people to know in the affected areas that the federal government and the state government and the local governments will work side-by-side to do all we can to help get your lives back in order.

“This was a terrible storm. It’s a storm that hit with a lot of ferocity. It’s a storm now that is moving through, and now it’s the time for governments to help people get their feet on the ground.

“For those of you who prayed for the folks in that area, I want to thank you for your prayers. For those of you who are concerned about whether or not we’re prepared to help, don’t be. We are. We’re in place. We’ve got equipment in place, supplies in place. And once the — once we’re able to assess the damage, we’ll be able to move in and help those good folks in the affected areas.”

Don’t worry, everyone — he’s got us covered.

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‘Fire When You Are Ready’

The esteemed Writer’s Almanac mentioned Saturday that August 26 was the 86th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the vote throughout the United States (according to a Smithsonian Institution essay, 11 states had already enacted full or partial women’s suffrage before the federal amendment was passed). The Writer’s Almanac threw in a few details about the event — the secretary of State, Bainbridge Colby, signed the ratification proclamation, that he did it at home and virtually in private in order to stay clear of a feud between factions of the women’s suffrage movement. I hadn’t read any of that before and found it interesting. Although he apparently didn’t want any truck with the activist women, he was apparently quite expansive with reporters on the day of the signing. The Writer’s Almanac quotes him as saying, “I turn to the women of America and say: ‘You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.’ ”

If that sounds familiar, it’s no accident: ‘Fire when ready’ is a near-verbatim lift from Commodore Dewey’s instructions to one of his officers at the 1898 battle of Manila Bay. In 1920, those words must have had a lot more immediacy than they do now, so maybe Colby spoke assuming everyone who read those words would understand just what he meant. I don’t quite get it, though: Ladies, you may fire when you are ready. Upon whom are they supposed to train their guns? Colby and his like?

I went looking for a more complete version of the quote, and found it in another blog: the complete text of the New York Times story that appears to serve as much of the source of the Writer’s Almanac account. Here’s Colby’s Dewey quote as the Times gave it:

” ‘You remember,’ he continued, ‘the simple way in which the late Admiral Dewey went about the opening of his battle at Manila Bay, how he waited until morning to enter Manila Bay, went up on deck, wiped the egg stains of breakfast from his moustache, observed the disposition of the enemy’s ships and of his own, which had crossed the mines during the night, and then taking out a cigar, turned to one of his Captains and said,”‘When you are ready, you may fire, Gridley.” So I turn to the women of America and say: ‘You may now fire when you are ready. You have been enfranchised.’ ”

Reading the whole quote, it’s clear that Colby was rather taken by the parallel between himself and Dewey. The women? They were incidental to the part he was playing. In fact, the article makes Colby sound like someone who was still working on a fully stocked and, thanks to the 18th Amendment, completely illegal liquor cabinet.

The Times account also straightfacedly reports Colby’s praise for his boss, Woodrow Wilson, as one of the great supporters of women’s suffrage: “There never was a man more deeply or profoundly convinced of the justice of the suffrage cause than Woodrow Wilson. And there never was a party leader who held his party with more stern, austere and unbending insistence to the performance of a duty dictated by high principle.”

Interesting, then, to read the Smithsonian article’s account of the president and the suffragists: that when women met with him just after he took office in 1913 and asked him to support action on an amendment, “Wilson replied–none too brilliantly–that the suffrage issue had never before been called to his attention and that he did not know where he stood.” For years afterward, Wilson refused to lift a finger to move the amendment forward and eventually ordered the arrest of militant suffragists picketing the White House (the Smithsonian piece says the president was especially sensitive to banners that quoted his own rhetoric. Alice Paul, the founder of the National Woman’s Party, was arrested carrying a sign that said, “THE TIME HAS COME TO CONQUER OR SUBMIT. FOR US THERE CAN BE BUT ONE CHOICE. WE HAVE MADE IT” — a statement Wilson made in reference to Germany in World War I.

When You Care Enough …

Looking for route information for a Chicago-area bike ride, I came across this dark, ironic and bitterly funny highway-safety site from the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation: drivewithcare.org. It pitches “Bob Fuller’s Roadside Memorials,” a service that promises careless drivers a way to show they regret killing people along the road:

“If you drive carelessly in the City, eventually you’ll kill somebody. When you do, turn to us. Just call from the scene. We’ll deliver a fitting handmade Roadside Memorial in 30 minutes or less. Choose from our handcrafted collection, or personalize your own. A Bob Fuller Roadside Memorial is a tribute to the person you killed. A way to say, ‘I’m sorry.’

Motorist/killers can choose from several themed memorials, including “The Jogger” ($19.95 — comes with a pair of used running shoes draped around a centerpiece cross).

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Albany Bulb

Albany Bulb

The western tip of the Albany Bulb, about an hour before high tide early Friday afternoon. Not sure where the bulb name comes from, but Albany is the next town north of Berkeley, a little patch of stucco bungalows squeezed between the foot of the hills and the shore. The bulb is the old town dump, and juts several hundred yards into the bay just north of Golden Gate Fields, a working horse track. Unlike Berkeley’s dump, the bulb hasn’t been reclaimed; there’s lots of debris and broken concrete everywhere among the thickets of wild grass and fennel; but it has turned into a park anyway; as you get out to the western end, the terrain becomes more hummocky and overgrown, and people have set up impromptu art installations with stuff that’s worked its way out of the dump (and, by the look of things, with plenty of fresh rubbish and artsy castoffs).

In Memory of Emily Wagner

Here’s a home-made memorial along one of the paths: “In memory of Emily Wagner,” Oakland’s 33rd homicide victim in 2004. I remember hearing about the case briefly at the time — she was run down by a driver who was having a fight with her boyfriend and died a month later.


And this — you tell me what this is. Out on that spit on the western end of the bulb, there was a rotting carcass of some kind (at least I think it was a rotting carcass; it smelled dead, and Scout was determined to sample it). The part closest to the camera looks like a head and beak to me. But the head and beak of what I can’t tell, and the rest of the “remains” were too gelatinous for me to poke around much to see if I could identify more body parts.

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Butt End

It’s the butt end of the week. And the month. And the summer. More because I like the sound of “butt end” than because there’s anything to complain about in the day or season. Though it is getting dark earlier each evening. And the August fog has arrived thick and cold. And the daylight doesn’t break as soon in the morning. So yes, we’re at the spent end of summer, just before Labor Day, and there’s nothing to do but enjoy the warm, dry hours we have left as we move toward equinox and solstice and dark.


“… And I mean, I just don’t know how anybody could enjoy anything more than I enjoy reading Charlton Heston’s autobiography and, you know, getting up in the morning and having the cup of cold coffee that’s been waiting for me all night still there for me to drink in the morning, and no cockroach or fly has died in it overnight–I’m just so thrilled when I get up, and I see that coffee there, just the way I want it, I just can’t imagine enjoying something else any more than that. I mean, obviously if the cockroach–if there is a dead cockroach in it, then I just have a feeling of disappointment, and I’m sad. …”

–Wallace Shawn, “My Dinner with Andre,” 1981

The ’77 Bulgemobiles Are Here!

1977 Lincoln Town Coupe

This showed up on the curb in front of our house yesterday afternoon: a ’70s vintage (1977 is the closest match I can make) Lincoln Town Coupe, outfitted with The Club to foil joyriders and a variety of bedding, personal-care items and plastic utensils that suggested that this is someone’s rolling domicile. I was more than half-expecting someone to show up to sleep in it last night. Around 10:30 or so, we came back from a movie and there were a couple of pairs of shoes placed neatly outside the driver’s-side door; across the street, someone was puttering around a van I hadn’t seen before, which also looked like a live-in vehicle. I guessed that the two vehicles were related and went to talk to the van person. He told me he owned the Lincoln and intended to leave it in front of our house for a couple days but wouldn’t be sleeping in it. I asked him about the shoes , and he said he’d left those by mistake and went to pick them up. He left a few minutes later. The Lincoln remains on the curb this morning.

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Graphic History


Slate is running an online version of “The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation.” Ever since I came across Art Spiegelman’s “Maus” — one of the best and most chilling Holocast narratives I’ve ever seen — I’ve been a big fan of the graphic novel format as a method for relating history (another, much quirkier example: “The Fatal Bullet,” a retelling of the James A. Garfield assassination). I don’t think such treatments are replacements for deeper reading, but they can make complex historical subjects more accessible to a wide audience.

In the case of the new 9/11 comic book, you won’t learn anything new if you paid attention to the original report and other accounts. But seeing the events in pictorial form has a way of bringing them freshly to mind. Whether a lot of people want to have that day put in front of them is another matter; I tend to think the day is worth contemplating and contemplating again. (The Washington Post, which I believe owns Slate, ran a story on the book last month. Among other things, the piece mentions that the authors’ previous credits include un-revolutionary stand-bys like “Richie Rich” and “Caspar” — you know, the friendly ghost).


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