Sunday, May 21, 2006

New Dictionary for New Neighbors?

I'm a big fan of great quotations. I put up a new one on the overhead in my class every day. My students copy it down while I take attendence, we discuss it, they turn in their completed list at the end of the semester, I return them, and they promptly throw them away. Still, I think it's worthwhile. After today, I am reconsidering my decision to limit the quotations to those meaningful, inspirational kind penned by famous authors, thinkers, and politicians. Tonight I overheard one of the best quotes from the neighbor across the street, and I know that, if it were appropriate to share, my students would hold onto that quote noetbook like it was made of gold.

My wife and son and I recently moved to a new town, the town where I teach. It's a small town (population 7000) and I am doing my big-city-boy best not to get claustrophobic and judgemental. Over-all the people here have been wonderful. Our new landlords, for example, are a huge improvement over the hoochy slumlord landlady we suffered for the last couple of years. We were so amazed when they not only showed up to fix a couple things we noticed, but showed up the next day and then, to our great amazement, promtply fixed both problems in one visit. I don't think this is an inherently small town thing; they are both immigrants from China, and I don't think that country has any towns with only seven thousand residents. They are just good people, and I need to remind myself that a town of good people is a good place to live, regardless of its size.

The lady across the street serves as an example of the sad fact that no town is filled with good people. As far as we can tell her full time job is sitting out in front of her house verbally abusing her children. Personally, I can't see why one would make such a career choice. The pay is non-existent, and the more she harangs then the worse her retirment benefit gets. Regardless, shes proven to be a tireless employee, and very capable, so I'm glad she hasn't chosen to work in customer service. She is quite a piece of work, let me tell you. I think her family chose to live in this inland town because her vocabulary would make sailors flee in shame. The mouths on her kids are filthy, even when they are defending themselves from her, but I can't really blame them for that. Tonight, during a dispute over who would mow their lawn, we tink we heard her hitting the kids. I hope not, because as a mandatory reporter I'll have to call child proective services, and that's no way to ingratiate yourself to new neighbors. Anyway, as the kids tried to defend themselves from the charge that they'd previously destroyed a garden hose with the mower the mother shouted at one of the boys, "Well, if it wasn't you it was that nimble-minded f*&% you hang out with!" I could tell from her tone that she was not complimenting her child's friend on his mental agility.

As I ran inside to share this new epithet with my wife, I idly considered grabbing one of our dictionaries and going over to introduce myself. We have more dictionaries than we need, and even our lower quality ones would certainly serve to help this poor woman avoid such faux pas in the future. But, I decided, she would probably use it to come up with a more fitting slur for me.

Intead I will wait until she hits her kids and I see it. Then I will go tell her that I have to make a call, that the authorities rarely do anything about it the first time someone calls them, and that she would be better off sitting on her back porch, where I won't be able to see what she is doing to her kids, and where my son is slightly less likely to learn new words from her.

I very much hope that when this happens she will tell all the other neighbors about the pesky, intrusive, know-it-all, nimble-minded f*&$ who just moved in across the street.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

What if it isn't about the spies? An alternate theory of the Hayden nomination.

Yes, Bush may be calculating that people are more concerned about the threat of teorrorism than the threats to civil liberties, and that this issue will pull the Repubs through the midterms, but I don't think so. He may genuinely think that Hayden is simply the best man for the job (and he may be) but I don't think that's the motive, either. Here's my guess:

Rove has been saying that Republicans need to make this election about how the entire Republican party is tougher on defense against terrorism than the Dems. I think part of the strategy may have less to do less with winning the election than with reuiniting party defectors. Bush is more worried about losing the Repubs than the election.

After all, losing the Senate is unlikely, but losing enough Repub senators to push through an article of impeachment is possible. If the Dems take control of the house, the issue will be how many Republican senators would be willing to break ranks. How can Bush generate an insurance policy? Imagine if there were a way to make sure all the Republican senators had a vote on their record that would certify them as anti-terror at the expense of civil rights. Imagine if they all voted for the guy who ran the NSA program which will certainly be part of whatver article of impeachent Dems draw up.

Bush needs to force these guys to unite behind one anti-terror-screw-civil-rights banner, and making them do so makes them look like flip-flopers come impeachement time. This might be a move to ward off impeachment already, which is a nice sign, because if they know it's coming, the Dems sure as hell know it's coming and are strategizing to make it happen.

Hopefully, rather than serving as an insurance policy for the Pres, this will actually speed up the process. As Republican senators set themselves apart (keeping their eyes on '08) Hayden will get more difficult questions, and the more heard questions Hayden gets, and the more he struggles, the more it will be guessed that these Repubs might support an article of impeachment. And, as we all know, perception has a way of becoming reality in Washington. Sentaors might think, "If everybody else was grilling Bush via Hayden, they must not like him, so I won't either." This could give the impeachment movement momentum before the elections.

Sure, maybe I'm being overly optomistic, but think about it this way; just as no one wants to be the last man to die in the wrong war, no one wants to be the last guy to go down supporting the wrong president.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Who's the Biggest bogeyman in the Closet

President Bush has nominated a soldier to be the next director of the CIA. Some members of Congress have stated misgivings about a military man in a civilian intelligence agency, but that is a question for other people. These questions are not without merit, but the real room for conjecture is how is this supposed to play for Republicans in the midterm elections?

Bush seems to be taking a risk, even if it is calculated, by sending the man who oversaw unwarranted, unconstitutional, and illegal wiretapping to confirmation hearings on the hill. This hasn't sunk President Bush yet, but someday it has to catch up with the administration.

The options, as I see them, are these:

1. Bush is setting up Republicans in the Senate to look strong by standing up to him, and Dems to look petulant by whining about civil rights.

2. Bush actually thinks this is still 2004 and he can push through anything he wants.

3. Bush is myopic enough to think that drawing more attention to his unwarranted, unconstitutional spying on American citizens will score him and the Republicans security points.

4. He thinks #3 and he is right.

The biggest question at this point seems to be where the administration's priorities/loyalties lie. Karl Rove is on a mission to prevent a debilitating defeat in the November ballot. Is Bush giving the Republicans a lifeline, either by beefing up their security credentials or appearing independent from the administration? Is the Bush White House really ready to play itself out as the fool once again in front of Congress (think back to Harriet Miers)? Or is Bush trying to pull defectors back into the fold with a controversial, and potentially polarizing opponent?

I fear the most likely scenario is that Rove has once again set up the Democrats. They will somehow take this bait to look petulant, wimpy on security, bungling, obstructionist, and negative all in one fell statement from Nancy Pelosi.

Or maybe, just maybe, Rove has finally lost control of the apparatus he so carefully constructed, and that machine is now casting wildly about, bent on its own destruction.