Tuesday, April 06, 2004


Misanthropicity is going on hiatus for a couple of weeks. In the duration, I recommend you check out the links to the right. While you’re at it, feed and clothe the homeless and, for God’s sake, clean the bathroom.

Monday, April 05, 2004


The egregious William Safire complains today that “we obsessively review catastrophes past when we should be looking ahead” and, amazingly, means this as a critique of the commission looking into why we let the 9/11 terrorist attacks happen.

He calls discussion of this pointless, “history almost as ancient as whether F.D.R. did enough to avert Pearl Harbor” and acts as though the United States cannot multitask on future threats while assessing past behavior.

Oh, good lord, Safire. This kind of transparency is embarrassing for one such as yourself -- an egotist with pretensions to policy setting.

President Bush is campaigning on his record as a soldier, as a battler of terrorism. He’s running advertisements with images of 9/11 victims. He’s sauntering around on aircraft carriers in a flight suit. He’s joking about being unable to find Iraqi weapons of mass destruction while U.S. citizens are being roasted alive in Falluja -- and he put us there by insisting Iraq was part of the war on terrorism.

Shameful, Safire. Although you may be right about one thing: This administration may be less able to tackle future problems because of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, but by all rights it should be because the commission helps put it out of office.

Sunday, April 04, 2004


A surprisingly satisfying “Zen antidote to road rage” can be found at honku.org. Haiku about driving, which is exactly what this site features, are almost certain to fall into the same tedious categories, and these do. But the content surpasses expectations in part because of the predictability of the form -- like those “Jim’s Journal” cartoons floating around about 10 years ago, in which people with no expressions take four poorly drawn panels to do very little, and it’s brilliant nonetheless. Well, some were.

Saturday, April 03, 2004


The evolution of Porter Square continues in intriguingly repetitive ways. Hoity-toity kitchen gear shop Arclinea is gone, replaced by custom handbag shop Anna Williams. The Porter Square Cafe, to which I went once, is gone, replaced by sports bar Spirit, to which I suspect I will never go again. The popular Cafe International is gone, replaced by Thai restaurant Sugar & Spice, which is also very popular -- implying that its owners should watch out before they’re replaced by a third popular business. Now Maharajah, the Indian restaurant, is gone, to be replaced by ...

An Afghan restaurant, Buzkashi.

Buzkashi is the national sport of Afghanistan, a horsey game that owes more to raping and pillaging than does polo or dressage. Diners can expect the food to have as much to do with horses as the predecessor restaurant did with maharajahs; what’s interesting about the coming of Buzkashi is that it’s the second Afghan restaurant in Cambridge, after the Helmand, down by the Cambridgeside Galleria. The Helmand is an upscale casual chain with sites in San Francisco and Baltimore and the distinction of being run by family members of Hamid Karzai, the interim president of Afghanistan.

Afghan food is good -- savory in ways that are somewhat similar to Indian food, for geographically obvious reasons, but let’s hope the similarities end there. Maharajah was, briefly, the best Indian food around. It took a turn for the overpriced and cartoonish years ago, and Porter Squarians were justified in switching allegiance to Passage to India or even traveling to Davis Square for Diva, the Indian, ugh, Bistro, which features the same food with a nicer atmosphere and pretentious name.

Buzkashi looks to be less fancy than the Helmand, which is good, since one should always have options on the fanciness scale (especially if it’s across the street from you and you hope to eat there a lot). It also appears to be about the 80th Afghan restaurant in the United States, barring some pocket hidden from the folks at Afghanrestaurants.com.

Friday, April 02, 2004


Yesterday’s failed welfare bill at least shoves our face in a cruel fact about America, one easy to forget sometimes: The U.S. minimum wage is $5.15 an hour and has been since 1997. Someone working full-time for minimum wage earns $206 a week, or $10,712 a year.

Realistically, the wage is more like $4.41 an hour, because the consumer price index has risen 17 percent since 1997. So figure working full time gives a minimum-wage worker $176.40 a week, or $9,172 a year.

A main reason the bill failed -- it’s not dead, just shelved until the Senate decides to pick it up again -- is that Democrats wanted to add a minimum-wage increase, and the Republicans, the party in charge, denied them a vote on it. Instead of increasing the wage, the new version of the bill would (among other things) follow through on President Bush’s request to spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting “healthy” marriages.

Ostensibly, because they would be paid for by the government, the healthy-marriage sessions could become free entertainment for minimum-wage couples, obviating the need for movie tickets (which cost about $10, or twice what a minimum-wage worker will earn in an hour). If the government set out doughnuts and coffee, these couples could save even more money that would otherwise be spent on food (say, a large burger and fries combo at a fast-food joint for about $6, or slightly more than what a minimum-wage worker earns in an hour). A couple could attend a session a week and save themselves $32, or a theoretical $1,664 a year!

Of course, the Democratic proposal would raise the minimum wage to $7 an hour over two years, for about $4,500 more a year.

Thursday, April 01, 2004


The atrocities in Iraq yesterday have contributed to a remarkable accomplishment by President Bush: They made his jokes about the war in Iraq, which were not funny at all, somehow even less funny.

The jokes came at the March 24 annual dinner of the Radio and Television Correspondents’ Association, at which guest President Bush made a speech typical for the event: filled with what was supposed to be self-deprecating humor. David Corn, of the Nation, described the worst part of Bush’s speech:

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.

Many defended this as being exactly what the speech called for, self-deprecating humor, but the humor is lost on those who disagree that this war of choice was worth the thousands of deaths in Iraq, included those of more than 500 U.S. soldiers. With the latest batch of brutality, surely it’s time to reassess the wit.

So here’s some text from Jeffrey Gettleman in today’s New York Times. Give it a read, then imagine Bush’s presentation again.

After [the men] were shot, the scene turned grisly. A crowd of more than 300 people flooded into the streets. Men swarmed around the vehicles. Some witnesses said the Americans were still alive when one boy came running up with a jug of gasoline. Soon, both vehicles were fireballs.

“Everybody here is happy with this,”
[an Iraqi] said. “There is no question.”

After the fires cooled, a group of boys tore the corpses out of the vehicles. The crowd cheered them on. The boys dragged the blackened bodies to the iron bridge over the Euphrates River, about a mile away. Some people said they saw four bodies hanging over the water, some said only two. At sunset, nurses from a nearby hospital tried to take the bodies away.

Men with guns threatened to kill the nurses. The nurses left. The bodies remained.