No, they're not calling it that. They're calling it CHIL, which is actually cooler. But pretty much the same thing!
No? It was in 1798. Read all about it.
Call me a glutton for punishment, but I like watching State of the Union speeches. They're an impressive spectactle, even if a relatively recent invention--the president of the United States standing in the Capitol, speaking to the combined membership of the Senate and House, Supreme Court justices, and of course the American people and as much of the world as cares to watch.
The speeches themselves tend toward the prosaic, usually little more than laundry lists of programs and platitudes. They've become a good place to talk about far-reaching programs that never actually come about--beating cancer, landing humans on Mars, that kind of thing. Even President Obama, who showed in Tucson that he can deliver a speech that soars, gave a fairly pedestrian SOTU in 2010.
Then of course, there was Bush, for whom public speaking was never a strong point. Neither, apparently, was honestly, since some of his most glaring lies were delivered during SOTU speeches. The one in 2003 is particulary notable. In it, he said, "From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.
"The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb.
"The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
"Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production."
And went on from there. Now, of course, we know the truth--there was no nuclear program. The "mobile weapons labs" weren't. There was no African yellow-cake uranium, and members of Bush's administration exposed the identity of a covert CIA agent in an attempt to maintain the lie. And the aluminum tubes might have been meant for short-range rocket launchers, but had nothing to do with nuclear weapons.
Obama's task in this week's SOTU is a tricky one. He has to walk a very fine line. He'll be faced with a new, Tea Party-infused Congress, and he needs to steer the country in one direction while not calling them hypocrites to their faces. Because that's what they are if they actually believe that we can keep giving tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans and still seriously address the deficit. Tea Partiers (since the "Tea" stands for Taxed Enough Already) should be rallying around the president who, in his first few weeks in office, signed into law a tax cut for 95% of working Americans, and followed that up with an extension of the BUsh tax cuts for everyone, including those who need it least and would be just fine without it. He has to point out to his foes in Congress and around the country that their talk of a trillion dollars or more in spending cuts is exactly the wrong thing for right now, while we're in the midst of a creaky recovery that still has not created nearly enough jobs. Big companies are sitting on piles of cash, but they're not using it to hire people, because consumers on the whole aren't buying the goods and services available now. If private industry isn't hiring, then the government has to, because the only way to generate consumer spending is to put money into the pockets of those who will go out and spend it. The quickest way to whittle down a deficit, as we learned in the 1990s when we eliminated the Reagan/Bush 1 deficit, is with a strong economy. Cutting billions of dollars in spending now would only set back the recovery and extend joblessness.
What the Tea Partiers might not understand is that their leaders, the Dick Armeys and the Koch Brothers and their ilk, are working toward is what Grover Norquist famously called "starving the beast." If you don't like government, then you reduce its ability to raise revenue. This impacts its ability to spend money on things that people might appreciate, turning those people against government as well. The problem is, a country as big and diverse and complicated as ours requires a certain amount of spending to function correctly. It can't all be left up to the states--we are, after all, the United States of America, not the Disconnected but Adjoining States of America.
For an example of Grover Norquist's dream in action, one doesn't have to look farther than Arizona. During the boom years, Arizona's far-right legislature cut every revenue enhancer it could find. All those tax cuts did nothing to help the state's coffers when the overall national economy tanked, and in fact Arizona's budget woes were among the worst in the country. So the state's response (necessarily) is to cut spending. The cuts they're making threaten community colleges and universities, swell classroom sizes in public schools, shut parks and libraries. Now Arizona wants a waiver allowing it to rescind health care coverage for 280,000 of its poorest citizens, even though that waiver would also mean turning away more than a billion dollars of badly needed federal funds. And that doesn't even begin to address the 96 people remaining of the 98 who have been dennied transplant funding they were once promised.
Simply looking at health care, we can see the danger in this sort of approach. When poor people don't have health insurance through a job or provided by government, then they don't go to a doctor unless they're desperately ill. Then the only doctor they can afford is the emergency room, which they don't pay for but the rest of us do. When they're working for an inadequate hourly salary, they will go to work even if they're moderately sick, threatening the health of everyone else they come into contact with. Their health is more at risk because the poorest neighborhoods don't have good grocery stores with lots of fresh produce and other healthy foods, nor do they necessarily have the education or resources to seek those foods out. The places that service their neighborhoods tend to be small corner markets specializing in packaged foods and liquor, and fast food restaurants where the food is cheap but rarely healthy. These health issues ripple through society, locking those people into a kind of permanent underclass where their education suffers and therefore their opportunities are limited.
Arizona's approach to its budgetary problem is not to raise more revenue, but to slash services like education for everyone and health care for the poor. Long-term, that's a disaster. It's starving the beast, all right, and it results in a government that serves only the wealthiest few (a permanent underclass provides no societal benefit except low-cost employees for certain types of inustry) and that is despised by everyone else. Therefore the goal--of making everyone hate government just as much as Mr. Norquist does--is achieved.
President Obama needs to show the country that there's a different route for us, and he'll be doing so before a largely hostile audience. It's going to be quite the balancing act, and I'll definitely be watching.
In April, IDW Publishing is putting out two compilation 100-page issues featuring some of my past work for them. Here are the details:
Infestation: CVO 100-Page Spectacular
Alex Garner, Jeff Mariotte (w) • Alex Garner, Gabriel Hernandez, Mindy Lee (a) • Alex Garner (c)
You were re-introduced to the Covert Vampiric Operations in Infestation, now get a full 100 pages of classic CVO action in this specially priced edition, including a special never-before-reprinted story by CVO creator Alex Garner! Also features stories by novelist Jeff Mariotte and Gabriel Hernandez (X-Men).
FC • 100 pages • $7.99
Angel 100-Page Spectacular
Jeff Mariotte, Brian Lynch, Scott Tipton (w) • David Messina, Stephen Mooney (a) • Nick Runge (c)
Don’t cry over Angel’s departure just yet! This specially priced comic re-presents some of the best Angel stories in IDW’s tenure, from the very first Angel story we produced to a special comic convention overrun by Spike, Angel and assorted monsters! The first of three special Angel-related 100-pagers as we say our long goodbye to the vampire with a soul.
FC • 100 pages • $7.99
Is all this leading up to new work? Stay tuned...
...in a very indirect way. Thrillers: 100 Must Reads, a nonfiction collection of essays about 100 top thrillers, has been nominated for an Edgar, the premiere award in the mystery field. My essay on Jeffery Deaver's The Bone Collector is #99 in the book. So if it wins, I'm 1/100th of an Edgar Winner. Maybe a little more, since some people wrote more than one essay (but editors David Morrell and Hank Wagner deserve more than a single share each, too).
It's an honor to be part of the book, and doubly so to be nominated by the community of mystery and crime writers.
Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman checks the Republican math on health care reform, and finds they come up a little short. While we're on the subject of numbers, according to the most recent poll, more Americans would rather change the law so it does more than would do away with it--something House Republicans should keep in mind as they push next week to repeal it. They say they want to do what Americans want them to do...and Americans want reform to get better and tougher, not to disappear.
The Washington Post ran a story today about our town. Their story focuses on opposition to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords here, in this border town in the region where half the country's undocumented immigrant arrests are made. It was unusual to see the Post even acknowledge our little town. Unfortunately, their reporters missed the real story.
We've spent time with Gabby Giffords in Douglas. We've seen her surrounded by supporters and well-wishers, people who voted for her, people who know that she's one of the voices of reason and sanity in a bitterly divided Congress. We know ranchers whose property abuts the border, who are friends of the family of murdered rancher Rob Krentz, and who are totally behind Gabby because they know she listens to and cares about their concerns. They know, too, that illegal immigration is down by about half from the highs of 2004-2005.
We were at the Safeway in Douglas the day someone dropped a gun on the floor. That was the summer of 2009, when tempers were high and every town hall meeting, it seemed, was volatile. But despite the gun incident, we saw town halls on TV that summer that appeared far more threatening and dangerous. The police came out, they determined that the man who had dropped the gun was not a threat to Gabby, and though they stayed through the rest of the event, the atmosphere was not particularly tense. Gabby stayed the entire time she said she would, and talked to a long line of people, many acrimonious, many others supportive. We didn't bother waiting in line because by the time we got there, her staffers told us she probably wouldn't have time for everyone. I had met her once before, at a debate in another city, had been impressed by her intellect and her courage and her friendliness, and though we were disappointed, it was our own fault for arriving late. We stayed a while, did some shopping, and went home.
Yes, there was a lot of bitter invective hurled at Gabby during the 2010 election cycle, including ridiculous billboards painting her as a Pelosi puppet (though nothing could be further from the truth). There was a constant stream of TV and radio ads railing against her. Jared Loughner's anger with her seems to stem from a 2007 encounter, but it's impossible that he wasn't exposed to some of the rage directed her way in the fall of 2010 (and impossible to say how that exposure was interpreted by his troubled mind).
At the same time, she's a Democrat who keeps bucking the odds, winning races in a largely red state, because she appeals across party lines. The extremists don't like her. For the most part, they don't like anyone who doesn't echo their own nonsense back at them, and that's true not just here but around the country. The Post seems to have come here looking for examples that fit their predetermined narrative. I can only imagine they had a harder time finding those examples than they would have if they'd come looking for people who respect and admire Gabby. Maybe that wouldn't have been newsworthy right now--she's been the subject of kind words from tea partiers and Republican party leaders and the president and many others. But it would be closer to the truth of the situation.
T. Jefferson Parker. Martha Lawrence. Luis Alberto Urrea. Taffy Cannon. Don Winslow. Gar Anthony Haywood. And many more, including me.
We're all in an upcoming anthology called San Diego Noir, part of a great series of books containing noir/crime stories set in different locations around the country and across the globe. Great stories have come out of these books, and this one will be no exception. It's edited by Maryelizabeth Hart, to whom I am incidentally married (although the publisher was given the option of rejecting stories--and exercised it--so I didn't just get in on my looks alone). My story is called "Gold Shield Blues," and set around La Jolla's Mount Soledad.
It'll be on sale in May, with a gala kickoff bash at Mysterious Galaxy. Stay tuned!
Two of my favorite lines from tonight's brilliant address:
"Let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together."
"Out task, working together, is to constantly expand our circles of concern."
Bonus line:"Gabby opened her eyes for the first time."
"It’s not just infrastructure where we must rebuild our sense of great national purpose: virtually every measure shows that we’re falling behind. Today the United States is ranked 10th in global competitiveness among the G20 countries. America is now 12th worldwide in the percentage of 25-to-34-year-olds with a college degree, trailing, among others, Russia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Israel. This year investors have pulled $74 billion out of domestic stock funds and put $42 billion into foreign stock funds. High-profile multinational companies including Applied Materials and IBM are already opening major R&D centers in China. And as we look to the Googles of the future, it is increasingly possible that they will be founded by students from Tianjin University, rather than MIT or Stanford.
"We need to face up these new challenges-- not just as individuals or separate interests, but as a nation with a national purpose. The world of the next generation will change too rapidly for political parties to focus too narrowly on the next election. And the 21st Century can be another American century-- but only if we restore a larger sense of responsibility and replace the clattering cacophony of the perpetual campaign with a wider discussion of what is best for our country."
The above is part of a speech given by Sen. John Kerry today, partly in reflection on Saturday's tragedy, partly in reflection on where we are as a country, and where we're going. The whole speech is worth a few minutes of your time. You can read it at the Washington Post.