Archive for May, 2005

Neglected by Pentagon, Citizens Step Up for Soldiers

Tuesday, May 10th, 2005

As the federal government has been incredibly lax about supplying soldiers in Iraq with adequate armor, Oklahoma is pushing through legislation that would create Patriot Plates. Purchase of a $35 license plate would contribute $20 toward body armor for Oklahoma soldiers. I wish the Bushies would sit up and take notice that it’s not the responisbility of individual contributers to supply troops with armor. That people have to make a donation above and beyond their tax dollars for armor is ridiculous. Our military should not be a charity case.

In another expample of what seems to be a constant struggle to properly equip soldiers overseas, today The Marine Corp announced they have recalled 5,277 defective vests from troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Though they were defective enough for a recall, “The Marines defended the vests and denied risking the lives of troops in war zones by giving them poor equipment, arguing that the vests were vastly superior to the ‘outdated’ flak jacket they replaced.” (Reuters)

The continuing armor shortage was addressed in the April Government Accountability Office report GAO-05-275. (highlights) (Both PDF)
According to the report, “…body armor was not issued to all troops in Iraq until January 2004, 8 months after major combat operations were declared over.” (P. 36) “By December 2003 the worldwide number of back orders [for the vest component of soldier’s body armor] reached 328,023.” (P.76)

Because of the shortages, many individuals bought body armor with personal funds. The Congressional Budget Office estimated (1) that as many as 10,000 personnel purchased vests, (2) as many as 20,000 purchased plates with personal funds, and (3) the total cost to reimburse them would be $16 million in 2005. (P. 78 )

Another continuing problem is a lack of adequately armored HMMWVs. “Current HMMWVs are protected only by canvas tops and have no additional armor protection.” (P. 122) In this case, for protection from ambushes and roadside bombs, an add-on armor kit is required. However, “as of September 2004, the Army supplied 8,771 of the 13,872 Add-on Armor kits required by CENTCOM but still needed 5,101 additional kits to meet all requirements.” (P. 121)

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that “Though the Army says all of its 35,000 vehicles in Iraq now have some sort of armor, 11,700 of them are protected with nothing more than crudely cut sheets of steel.” Worse, “attacks on vehicles have accounted for as many as 40 percent of the 1,037 deaths attributed to hostile action” leading many to attribute up to 400 deaths to inadequate armor.

But at least we can sleep soundly knowing that manufacturers are seeing record profits from all of this.

My arm’s really been bugging me lately…

Monday, May 9th, 2005

…I think I’ll cut it off! Via Metafilter, apparently an emerging mental disorder is Body Integrity Identity Disorder. People who suffer from this disorder will undergo voluntary amputation and “need to have certain appendages cut off in order to feel whole again.”

The closest comparison to this disorder, which incidentally is not listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, is Gender Identity Disorder.

BIID, to me, is pretty ridiculous. It seems contradictory to the point of modern medicine to put people in a wheelchair for the rest of their lives in order to make them “healthy.” Gangrene is one thing, but the psychological condition that for some reason your leg should be missing? Let’s try talking through this in therapy before chopping legs off, hmm?

Lockpicking links

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

I don’t know why we’re still stuck on the Christian ads on the main page, but I was amused to find that on the blog index page all the ads are for lockpicks. Thanks, Google!

My Day in Denver, Part II

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Here it is folks, the eagerly anticipated, 3000-word monster conclusion to My Day in Denver. In case you forgot, I’ve just had a miserable experience in an Internet coffee shop and I was anxious to leave the neighborhood. I went out to my car to find my doors locked and my keys not in my pocket…

Now, Part II

The keys are in the car. No, wait, it can’t be true. Maybe I dropped them when I was sitting in the coffee shop? It was a long shot, but I could breathe a tremendous sigh of relief. I couldn’t see the keys in the car, they weren’t in the ignition, but I could have thrown them onto the passenger seat with my maps, cigarettes…

No I can’t think about that. I’ll look around in the coffee shop.

I walked in, the two kids screamed, “YOU’RE BACK!” I started looking around while the Asian clerk and her friend watched me like I was a lunatic.

“You didn’t happen to see my… keys in here, did you?” I asked hopefully. But I knew the truth. They were on the passenger seat, under my maps, cigarettes, cell phone, hip-hop tapes, and random garbage. I wanted to cry.

I walked back out, put my hands in my pockets, rooted around in one last ditch effort to recover the situation, and turned to go back into the coffee shop.

“Look,” I said, “I’m traveling cross-country. My keys are locked in my car. Could you please call the police and ask them to open my door?”

“The police?” The clerk seemed to detest the idea more than I did. “Maybe you can get it open with… a coat hanger!” She ran off to the back of the store, and came back with a straightened white coat hanger. I watched it with skepticism, I never stole a car, never learned to pick a car door, and was never good at trying to open one creatively.

“Thanks.” I turned to face my doom.

I went out and proceeded to shove a looped coat hanger in the cracks in my windows, going after doors, wherever I could stick a piece of wire into my car. I had a bit of early luck touching the lock, and wiggling it a little bit, but nothing that suggested it would have the strength to pull that little bastard up.

My car is a Toyota Corrolla and the door locks, while they are a push down system, are smooth plastic and impossible to get a loop around. I know the car is easy to break into with a slim jim, I’ve seen the police open a few car doors and mine was by far the easiest.

I felt like such an idiot. Here I was in this strange town shoving a thin piece of wire into my car door. I must have stuck out like a sore thumb with my New York plates and my car full of suitcases, boxes and a sleeping bag, things I was afraid I may never see again. And I wanted a cigarette so bad, all the smokes I’d collected through Indiana, Iowa, and all those other states that aren’t good for much but cheap cigarettes, they were all locked in the car. I dreamed of just one cigarette to cut this frustration.

At this point the friend of the Asian clerk came across the street to try and lend me a hand.

“Here, you have to do it like this,” he said, and bent the coat hanger a bit differently while shoving it through the cracks in the windows. He was a guy in probably his mid-thirties, dirty blonde hair, beard, glasses. He was having some of the same troubles I was, sliding right off the plastic. And he was smoking a cigarette. The smell cut to the core of my addiction.

Could I ask him for one? It seemed like a contradiction of good manners. Here was this guy, willing to spend his time shoving a piece of bent wire through my car windows, but I’m about to say to him, “No, no. Actually what I’d really like is one of those sweet, sweet Marlboro 100s.”

He pulled out the coat hanger. “Well, I don’t know if you’re gonna be able to do this,” he told me. “Maybe we will have to call the police.”

“Yeah, yeah,” I nodded enthusiastically. Get the boys in blue over here and end this nightmare. He dropped his cigarette butt on the ground and ran inside the coffee shop to make the call, while I continued to tug on the innards of my car with my home abortion device.

While I was waiting, still working on the car, a thin older woman walked by. She was probably in her fifties, with short blonde hair and no eyebrows except for the ones she visibly painted onto her face. She was dressed in the height of bizarre fashion, bright pinks and yellows, with her very pink lipstick smeared up beyond her lips like a strawberry milk mustache.

“Are you trying to break into that car?” she called over to me.

“Yes, but its mine,” I assured her.

“What, did you lock your keys in your car?”

“Uh huh.” Nothing got by this woman. She was standing next to me now, watching as I tugged back and forth with the wire, jiggling the locks, and pulling it back out of the car in frustration.

“Wow that’s a real bummer,” she said, and continued walking down the street.

The Asian clerk’s friend returned outside, half smiling.

“The police in this town don’t open doors anymore,” he said. “They say you have to call a locksmith.”

This was unbelievable. I’d done this twice before, and I’d seen other people with the same problem. Sometimes it took the cops a while, and sometimes they broke the locks, but my car was always very easy. My confusion must have been visible.

“It’s a liability thing,” he confirmed.

Damn it, they could break my locks all they wanted to, I just wanted to get into my car to my cell phone — come to think of it, I was probably missing calls — my music, my maps, my sweet sweet cigarettes — this guy was smoking again — and finding the Mile High Comics store — which I was becoming less and less interested in and instead focused on getting the hell out of Denver.

He pulled on his cigarette. “See what I’d do, I’d just smash in one of these windows.” My heart sank. I hadn’t heard a less appealing idea in years. “A locksmith’s gonna charge you a few hundred bucks to get out of this mess, and you prob’ly can’t afford that being on the road.”

I had to avoid that. I put my head down on the roof of my car in agony. “I guess I’m going to keep going at this with the coat hanger for a little while. I’m not really prepared to start breaking windows.”

“Suit yourself,” he said, and turned to walk away.

“Hey,” I called after him. “Do you think I could have one of those cigarettes? Mine are locked in the car.” Like I said before, it did seem kind of rude, but with the daunting process of getting into my car and the distinct possibility I would be breaking one of my windows looming over my head, I desperately needed a cigarette immediately.

He surprisingly seemed a little put out by the request. Either he hated giving cigarettes away as some people do, or he sensed it was rude of me to ask any more of him as he’d been trying to help me open my car for the last half-hour. Either way, he gave me a Marlboro 100, lit it, and was gone.

I smoked quickly, and was restored with more energy to prod my car with the coat hanger. Again, I could wiggle the lock, but I couldn’t get it open. The painted eyebrows lady came back at some point, and she decided she would go home for some heavy duty Velcro strips that I could attach to the lock and then pull up with the wire. Even when she said it the idea sounded crazy, but I wanted to be left alone so I told her that would be wonderful and she went on her way.

Eventually, I realized one cigarette wasn’t enough. I was lucky enough to have brought my wallet with me and I had a bit of cash in it. I decided to go to the liquor store across the street for cigarettes.

There was another Asian woman working there, another decidedly disinterested one. She was lounging on a worn out sofa behind the counter watching reality TV. At first I only saw GPC cigarettes, the second cheapest and most horrifying brand of tobacco there is.

“You only have GPC’s?” I asked her.

She got up. “Oh yes, GPC’s. They’re cheaper than regular cigarettes.”

“Ugh. Well, I guess…” I was about to order some, just because I needed the tobacco, when I noticed the racks of racks of premium cigarettes against the wall.

“Oh. I didn’t realize you had all these. I want a pack of Camels. Filters.”

Now she didn’t seem to understand. For some reason its always hard for clerks to accept that I want the full flavored Camels, and they always hand me the lights. Eventually, I bought the cigarettes and moved to walk out. A man with two bottles of Tanqueray stepped up to the counter when I realized that my lighter was locked in the car with everything else.

More frustration. I waited in line again to get a book of matches.

The cigarette was wonderful, and I got back to work on opening the car. I was starting to get really close, through a crack in the door that I left there slamming into a fire hydrant one rainy night, and an incomplete lock that had inexplicably broken one year. I actually had the coat hanger jammed underneath the lock, but just couldn’t wiggle the damn thing up.

Painted eyebrows lady came back at some point with the Velcro, but saw that I was extremely close to bringing the lock up without it. “Besides,” she pointed out in her omnipotent wisdom, “I’m not sure how you would have stuck the Velcro to those locks anyway.” She skittered off down the street into some door she kept going into. She seemed to just be walking back and forth between one particular shop and one particular side street.

At some point, I became aware of a couple guys on a nearby corner, it looked like they were standing outside of a bar, and I thought I heard them laughing at me. This was kind of enraging, I did not feel like getting laughed at, even if it was rather discrete. I was in no mood. But I ignored them.

Eventually, though, they came over to my car, and started looking around.

“I bet my wife’s Corolla key would break into this car.” The clerk’s friend from the Internet cafe had already tried this, and I told them so.

“Yeah, but this one’s worn so perfectly that it’ll get into anything.” They tried, and I didn’t blame them for trying. If they’d opened the door, I probably would have kissed them, and probably would have gotten my ass kicked for it. They key didn’t work, but they kept trying.

They were really funny, and it was great to talk to them for a few minutes. They seemed really down to Earth, and I’m sure if they had time to consider the problem they would have opened the lock far faster than I ever could have. It was clearly not the first car they tried to break into. But, as one of them worked on jamming the coat hanger through a crack in the door, the man revealed something that to me was completely insane.

His friend was urging him to leave. “Five more minutes,” he’d respond, and keep hacking at the lock, “and then New York’s on his own.” Eventually, he mentioned, “Oh we’re in a hurry to get to the hospital. My wife just had a baby.”

“WHAT!??” I exclaimed, “What on Earth are you doing here? You’ve got to get to the hospital!”

“Well, I think I can get in here,” he answered, and kept working on the lock. I was floored. I pleaded with him to leave the project, that I would be fine, and he needed to be with his baby. He continued working on the lock, despite the objections of his friend. “I just want to show New York here a little Denver hospitality,” he said.

Finally he did leave. As he shook my hand, he told me that a brick building up the street housed the local police department. According to the people in the Internet cafe, the police would not help me. But, given my situation, I decided I would stop by personally to beg them to open my car doors, to tell them I would accept any damages they inflicted on my car so long as the door would open. I threw the tools I’d been using onto the roof, grabbed my laptop bag and started hiking up the street.

There was a police station up the street. The thing he didn’t realize, was that it was an “Investigation Bureau” or something like that, and was barely ever manned. The police had failed me again. Still, the walk did me some good as it calmed me down a bit from the huge frustration of trying to open my locks. About two hours had passed at this point, but I was able to peacefully get back to trying to open the door.

It was shortly after that that I managed jam the coat hanger into the lock, and finally pulled the thing up. The car door swung open and I threw my fists into the air in ecstatic victory. “I am the champion of this car!” I screamed to an empty street, except for one haggard looking guy in torn fatigues with a long gray beard. He came over to me while I was rummaging around my possessions that I was so happy to finally have my hands on.

“If you had an older car that would have been easy,” he told me. “See that’s what I used to do, break into cars.”

“Where were you two hours ago?” I asked him jovially. “I could have used you.”

“I can’t break into these new Japanese cars,” he responded and wandered off down the street.

Painted eyebrows lady came back now, pleased that I’d finally opened my door. “You should go get a Heineken,” she told me. I put my back against my car in relieved bliss. “What are you going to do now?” She asked me.

I considered the question, I wasn’t sure. My original plan to stop by the Mile High Comics Megastore seemed shattered. I was tired of Denver, while the people there had been more than hospitable it reeked with the frustration of locking my keys in my car. “I guess I’m going to try to make it to Utah tonight.”

“Well, you’re welcome to come home with me for a few minutes for a drink,” she told me. “I live right around the corner.”

I shrugged. “Why not?” I said. I got what I wanted out of the car, closed the door and put a key into my wallet to avoid anything like this happening again. (A brilliant move, as I left my keys in my ignition again in Seattle but had the door open after less than five minutes of rummaging in my wallet.) So painted eyebrows lady and I headed back to her house.

It was a small, cozy place. There was a massage table in the main room, and she told me that she was a massage therapist. She apparently had rented a shop on the street but the city didn’t want a massage parlor there, so she had to run an antique shop instead.

“When I found this cute little house, I knew I had to move in. It’s so close to my business so I can just do both.” This was apparently why I saw her going back and forth. She had moved to this part of Colorado to be near her mother. I found out she was divorced, and had a son my age in Oklahoma. He was studying film and had fallen in love out there and was determined to stay in Oklahoma to be near his lady love. Painted eyebrows lady (whose name I don’t remember, so we’ll call her Katherine) actually gave me her card when she found out I was a writer, so perhaps her son could produce a screenplay I write someday.

Katherine offered me a glass of lemonade. She apologized for not having any beer, (she did say I needed a Heineken on the street) and said she didn’t drink. She did have a bottle of peppermint schnapps under the counter, but it looked wretched and I passed. She said she had a couple of friends coming over, one to give her some money, and another to bring her food. They showed up while we were discussing where I was going to go after Denver, two Latino men. The one with the food was big and burly, but very friendly. He brought Katherine a burrito and a soda, but nothing for himself.

“Who’s all this food for?” she said when she saw it.

“You, of course,” so matter of factly it presumed that any meal he brought into her house must solely be for her.

The other man was tall and thin, and didn’t come as far as the kitchen. Instead she left the burly man in the kitchen with me and sat at a table in the next room, presumably to talk about money.

The burly one and I discussed how I was going to get out of Colorado, and he told me that snow was expected in Denver, but didn’t know how much. When I told him I was going to try and leave the city and sleep in my car if conditions got too bad, he laughed.

“You’re going to sleep in your car out in the mountains?” he asked me.

I hadn’t really considered this. The landscape was a complete mystery, and most places up to this point had been completely barren of an elevation changes.

“If you’re going to make it to the desert in Utah, you’d better leave quickly. And consult your weatherman before you do it.” I agreed, and slurped down my lemonade. I got up to leave while Katherine was still talking to the thin Latino man. I headed out that way to the door, and Katherine got up to say good bye. She smiled warmly and said “God bless you” over and over.

And off I went on my way.

The Majesty of Utah

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Utah is, without a doubt, the most disparate landscape I encountered on my trip. From dusty plateaus to snow peaked mountains to desert rocks the color of scarlet, Utah is a marvel of Earth’s landscapes. And I only encountered the southern half of the state.

On Route 70 just west of Colorado, scenic rock formations of tall layered plateaus surround the highway, set in the flat expanses of dusty gray desert. The layer colors range from muted greens and blues to deep reds, and stretch marvelously towards the sky, often creating brilliant arches and rock formations that are as stunning just off the highway as in any National Park.

The land is apparently mostly useless, something I learned the hard way as I set off from a rest stop with a quarter tank of gas. I passed a gas station shortly thereafter, but I let it pass as I assumed there would be another one before long. I assumed wrong, a sign after the exit informed me that there would be no gas stations for a hundred miles.

I panicked. I set the odometer on the car to see how long I could go. In my head I figured a quarter tank was barely less than enough gas to drive a hundred miles. I’d figured out that my car went about 300 miles per tank of gas, so it was going to be close. Some slack would be granted by the space below the E line, but I couldn’t be sure how much.

Worse, the terrain made the highway go up and down hills constantly. I’d be driving across the most brilliant rock formations in the United States and instead of admiring their magnificence I’d be staring nervously at my fuel gauge.

After about 50 miles of this, a sign indicated that gas was available at an exit. This was before I expected, but of course I had to check it out. Another sign off the exit indicated that the gas was 25 miles to the right, so I took off.

The road was full of flat desert with distant plateaus, as brilliant as all those I’d been seeing on the highway. Farming seemed to be the game for the few who lived in the area, as long irrigation lines stretched as far as the eye could see.

Eventually I reached the gas station, with my gauge’s needle slipping dangerously below the empty line, and the “low fuel” light screaming at me in aggressive orange. It was a small run down looking building in a town full of them, with two pumps and no name brand listed. I looked at the store, the sign read “CLOSED: next gas 12.5 miles.”

I could have cried, and I stared at the window in disbelief. It was about 10 AM on a weekday, how could they not be open? I noticed people walking around inside, and decided to go for the door. It wouldn’t open.

I began knocking and tugging frantically, maybe I could reason with these people. The man inside started yelling aggressively back at me, and I yelled to him, “Can I get some gas?”

He opened the door. “What’s the problem?” he asked me.

I repeated my question, a little pitifully this time. “Can I get some gas?” I said.

“Of course,” he responded, and stepped aside.

I walked in, a little confused, and apologized. It seemed the door was just kind of hard to open, and a sign on the knob had said so. I pointed out that their sign said “CLOSED.”

“That’s because she forgot to flip it around,” the man said condescendingly to an older woman behind the counter. She stepped out and changed the sign. “It’s not like anybody ever looks at it,” she said.

I fueled up my tank and told them, “You guys are my heroes.” I wandered out, another possible disaster averted.

The Internet can be a dangerous place…

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

Boy do I feel August’s pain.

Happy Mayday!

Monday, May 2nd, 2005

Well I’m a day late, but regardless I always think its appropriate to discuss a little bit of the history behind May 1. Celebrated around the world as a worker’s holiday, it has been ignored in the very country of its origin. Instead, it has hideously been named National Law Day in a final insult to its significance.

The holiday was born of a labor dispute in Chicago 1886. Workers went on strike beginning on May 1 to demand an 8-hour workday. The industrial revolution had brought with it unrest for the working classes and socialists and anarchists such as August Spies and Albert Parsons were giving convincing arguments to an unhappy labor force. From The Dramas of Haymarket, an online project produced by the Chicago Historical Society and Northwestern University:

From the point of view of labor, the May 1 labor demonstration was a great success, as hundreds of thousands of workers across trades nationally, and tens of thousands in Chicago, lay down their tools. Among many demonstrations in the city was a parade along Michigan Avenue, with Albert Parsons as one of its leaders. These demonstrations took place without serious incident. But such events would make the anarchist leaders marked men when violence did break out three days later in the Haymarket. The Chicago Mail of May 1 told its readers that any turmoil that lay ahead should be attributed to Parsons and Spies.

“Mark them for today,” an editorial warned. “Hold them responsible for any trouble that occurs. Make an example of them if trouble does occur.”

A dispute between union and non-union workers on May 3
ended when police arrived. They were taunted and rocks were thrown, and when police fought back two workers were killed. Spies was infuriated.

The sounds of this battle drew others from the Lumber Shovers’ meeting, including Spies, to the scene. What he saw appalled him. “Well, as a matter of course,” Spies recalled at the trial, “my blood was boiling, and I think in that moment I could have done almost anything, seeing men, women and children fired upon, people who were not armed fired upon by policemen.” He hastily returned to his office in the Arbeiter-Zeitung building, where he poured his outrage into a deliberately inflammatory bilingual broadside exhorting laborers to stand up like men to their murderous oppressors. He titled this broadside “Workingmen to Arms!”, but the person who set the text in type had, without asking Spies, added the heading, in full capitals, “REVENGE.”

Though the large retaliatory demonstrations started out peaceful, as they dwindled they grew more intense. A bomb went off and gunfire erupted, killing several policemen. Anarchist organizers were blamed and indicted for the incident. “The Chicago Seven,” as they came to be called, were eventually convicted and executed. However, they were later exonerated from the crime posthumously. It is largely these events that led to the creation of an 8-hour workday, solidifying the significance of the day for workers everywhere.

I challenge that any such compelling historical argument exists for the U.S. September Labor Day, and instead this day was largely ignored because of supposed Communist influences. While the holiday was well-celebrated in the former Soviet Union, it is also a colorful and exuberant holiday in Western Europe, Australia, South America and throughout the rest of the world.

While it cannot be celebrated officially in this country, it has traditionally been used as a day for demonstration. One often slighted example is massive anti-war civil disobedience in Washington, D.C. 1971. The resulting arrests broke records for arrests in a single day. From Ending a war Inventing a movement Mayday 1971 by Kauffman:

The Mayday civil disobedience, moreover, was larger than any action organized by Mahatma Gandhi or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In fact, more protesters were arrested on the first day of the action than in any other single event in U.S. history. According to one of the few historians to have studied the event, Mayday so unnerved the Nixon administration that it palpably speeded U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. White House aide Jeb Magruder said that the protest had “shaken” Nixon and his staff, while CIA director Richard Helms called Mayday “a very damaging kind of event,” noting that it was “one of the things that was putting increasing pressure on the administration to try and find some way to get out of the war.”

For more information check out the Metafilter thread on Mayday, where many of these links can also be found.

It’s better than I expect Episode III to be…

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

Darth Vader’s blog.

Edit: From my father, the New York Times asks science fiction writers just why Star Wars has become such a stale dinosaur of a franchise. Episode VII: Revenge of the Writers.

And while we’re on the subject of movies, the Times also writes on the power of the original Godzilla picture, which I previously discussed here. Godzilla vs. the Giant Scissors: Cutting the Antiwar Heart Out of a Classic. They add a few historical details I was lacking, so it’s worth a read.

Edit II: Will I eat my words? Kevin Smith says Episode III is good! (SPOILERS) On the other hand, early reviews of Attack of the Clones said that was good too as almost anything looks good compared to Phantom.

Technology woes, cont.

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

For all you out there looking for my road trip pieces, guess what?! Upon closer inspection my laptop is either dying or virus-laden. Either way, I’m pretty screwed for the moment. I’ll keep up the current events blogging and on the low-tech end a top-secret comics project(!), but I’m also going to have to learn more about computer repair than ever before. Or save a lot of money and bypass the whole issue. Hey, so click links! Tell your friends to click links! On another note, I shudder to think what Laura Bush’s comments below about hand-jobs for horses is going to do to my Google ads.

Bushes do my job for me…

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

I don’t know why anyone even bothers writing political satire at all, Laura Bush is putting everybody to shame. She made a few pretty raunchy jokes at the expense of her husband and the White House correspondence dinner last night. As August Pollak put it, “Laura Bush: my husband’s a moron who once jerked off a horse.”

“I am married to the President of the United States and here is our typical evening. Nine o’clock, Mr. Excitement here is sound asleep, and I am watching Desperate Housewives. With Lynne Cheney. Ladies and gentleman, I am a desperate housewife. I mean if those women on that show think they’re desperate, they ought to be with George. One night after George went to bed, Lynne Cheney, Condi Rice, Karen Hughes and I went to Chippendales….I won’t tell you what happened, but Lynne’s Secret Service code name is now Dollar Bill.”

“George always says that he’s delighted to come to these press dinners. Baloney. He’s usually in bed by now. I’m not kidding. I said to him the other day, George, if you really want to end tyranny in the world, you’re going to have to stay up later.”

“The amazing thing is that George and I were just meant to be. I was a librarian who spent 12 hours a day in the library, yet somehow I met George.”

“People often wonder what my mother-in-law is really like. People think she’s a sweet, grandmotherly Aunt Bee type. She’s actually more like Don Corleone.”

“I’m proud of George. He’s learned a lot about ranching since that first year when he tried to milk the horse. What’s worse, it was a male horse.”

“George’s answer to any problem at the ranch is to cut it down with a chainsaw. Which I think is why he and Cheney and Rumsfeld get along so well.”

She also pointed out that she was capable of pronouncing “nuclear” properly. This is for real, I saw the tape on TV today.

Apparently these correspondence dinners are generally used for the President to take a moment to poke fun at himself. The word among columnists seems to be that Clinton had a bit more fun with this, and Bush has some trouble coming up with ideas. Last year, this columnist for The Nation watched with dismay at Bush’s light attitude towards the failure to find weapons of mass destruction:

But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”

The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.

What do I get out of this? We’ve all been wagging the finger at the male Bushes for evil policy and general conspiracy, but Laura lets us all know it’s really Barbara. “She’s more like Don Corleone.” I can just see Barbara after the speech: “You’re a disgrace to the family, Laura. You’ve said too much.”