Nota Bene #115: RIP No. 32

“If you’re really pro-life, do me a favor—don’t lock arms and block medical clinics. If you’re so pro-life, lock arms and block cemeteries.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #109: You Can't Tuna Fish

“It’s absolutely stunning to me, the contempt in which the network holds the audience. The idea that these people have standards is laughable.” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #107: Zzzzzzzzzzzzz

“I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the great ordeal of meeting me is another matter.” Who said it? Continue reading

Goodtime Charlie Wilson cashes his check

Some months back, I attended a convention on behalf of my employer. One of the honored guest speakers was former Texas Congressman Charlie Wilson. Wilson, whose story was Hollywoodized in Charlie Wilson’s War, died today at the age of 76.

Wilson was primarily famous for two things: fucking anything he could catch, and funneling arms to the Afghani mujahedeen during the country’s war against the Soviet Union. Those of us unfortunate enough to be stuck in the room during Wilson’s speech were regaled by tales of how he ignored the law, bullied, end-ran, lied and cheated to get what he wanted, and I mean all this literally. Wilson was as proud of flaunting the law as he was of his lifelong pursuit of women with obvious esteem issues. Continue reading

Nota Bene #100: Il Planetario di Figaro

Wow, 100 issues of Nota Bene! Props to Russ for helping me for a while with this nifty little S&R feature. Never mind all that now, let’s get on with this issue. “What splendid buildings our architects would be able to execute if only they could finally be less obedient to gravity!” Who said it? Continue reading

Nota Bene #99: Heed the Peace Gnome

“You just pick up a chord, go twang, and you’ve got music.” Who said it? Continue reading

Walking like a pretzel

The National Security Archives at George Washington University recently published translations of Soviet Politburo meetings on Afghanistan. They are more illuminating than the combined words of America’s punditocracy that litter the nation’s editorial pages. For one, they probably reflect the administration’s deliberations with uncanny accuracy. For two, they are free of the domestic political maneuvering that editorial writers in the US seem incapable of putting aside. Reading them for their content and applying the words to the US situation requires letting go of the American exceptionalism that plagues our thoughts, but it is important to remember that such exceptionalism will be our downfall…so it’s best to dispense with that in any case.

Mikhail Sergeyevich applies the idiomatic phrase “…… vydelyvnet Krendelya” to Karmal. We could use it do describe Karzai, Obama, Clinton, McChrystal, et. al.. It translates literally as “….. is walking like a pretzel.” The figurative meaning is that someone is staggering and weaving like a drunk; that is, not being straight-forward.
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A fool's errand

Some time ago, an idea to save Afghanistan floated on a few editorial cycles.  Afghanistan grows some of the world’s best pomegranates, coincidentally the “nature’s miracle” of the moment.  If we could just get Afghans to grow pomegranates instead of poppies, they would become wealthy by exporting fruit to the “developed” world.  Peace would follow economic stability and democracy would follow peace…or something like that.  There are countless plans to “get Afghanistan right”, but they all follow the basic path of the Great Pomegranate Plan.

They all stumble into similar failings too.  It’s hard to get delicate fruit out of a country without significant transport infrastructure.  Not many health-food companies will be overly keen to set up processing facilities in the region.  The plan will only remain successful so long as the pomegranate is not usurped as the king of live forever foods and customers in the developed world can afford to splurge on wildly expensive health food.  Oh, and the fact that huge tracts of mature pomegranate orchards were cut down and replaced with poppies over the course of the good war.

We’re not getting Afghanistan right, and nothing in the latest plans suggest that we will get it right any time soon.  Are we even sure what it is we hope to accomplish or even why we’re trying to accomplish it?

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Triumph and tragedy: LIFE and the Space Race

Part five in a series.

LIFE’s portrayal of the space race represented, in most respects, a logical extension of its war coverage. Many of the space program’s early goals were military in nature, and as in World War II, technology was once again both demon and messiah, depending on whether it was theirs or ours.

. . .Sputnik proved that there were great military, as well as scientific, advances in the U.S.S.R. Getting their heavy satellite up meant that Russia had developed a more powerful rocket than any the U.S. had yet fired and substantial Soviet claims of success with an intercontinental missile. Putting Sputnik into a precise orbit meant Russia had solved important problems of guidance necessary to aim its missiles at U.S. targets. The satellite could also be the forerunner of a system of observation posts which would watch the U.S. unhindered and with deadly accuracy (10/21/57, 24). Continue reading

Major newspaper confers cold warrior status on Iran


In a recent article in The Washington Post, Robin Wright quoted Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling Iran the state that presents “the single most important. . . strategic challenge to the United States.” Wright concluded: “After three decades of festering tensions the United States and Iran are now facing off in a full-fledged cold war.” [Emphasis added]

What an honor! One of the United States’s premier newspapers has elevated Iran to the position vacated by fallen superpower Russia. Oh well, we all know how much nature abhors a vacuum. China had its chance, but it has failed to act with sufficient belligerence to claim the prize.

Though Iran lacks China’s, or even Russia’s, economy, it’s leapfrogged ahead of them, if Ms. Wright’s assessment is correct, to attain most feared nation status in the eyes of the US. How does this work to the administration’s benefit? Continue reading

Condi’s way-back machine

At first I was tempted to take Condoleezza Rice’s “no thanks” to a Congressional subpoena as yet another example of executive branch arrogance. But then I realized that’s she’s actually very busy … resurrecting the Cold War?

OSLO, April 26 — Brusquely dismissing protests by Russian officials, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said here on Thursday that a missile-defense system the United States plans to install in Poland and the Czech Republic would pose no danger to the security of Russia.

“The idea that somehow 10 interceptors and a few radars in Eastern Europe are going to threaten the Soviet strategic deterrent is purely ludicrous, and everybody knows it,” Ms. Rice said before a meeting of NATO foreign ministers expected to focus on the missile-defense dispute. Continue reading