SOTU Spaghetti

I make a dish called pasta puttanesca; literally, “whore’s spaghetti.”  The sauce is made of olive oil, garlic, anchovies, chopped tomatoes, capers, basil, and perhaps a few olives, tossed into pasta.  Last night, since I was about to sit down to watch President Obama deliver the annual State of the Union address to an assembly of infamous whores, pasta puttanesca seemed like the perfect TV dinner.  But we had no penne, no rigatoni, no mostaccioli, no ziti — the cupboard was empty save for a box of angel hair spaghetti.  So what?  Pasta is pasta, right?

I learned otherwise.  When you mix the sauce with penne, there’s plenty of sauce to coat the pasta and the dish is tasty.  When you mix it with angel hair, there’s so damn much pasta surface area for the sauce to cover that the sauce gets lost and the flavor disappears.

Sort of like the President’s SOTU address: diluted, safe, conciliatory to the point of blandness.  It was a pep rally, short on substance.  Beyond Obama’s proposal to stop subsidizing the oil industry — a great idea but almost certainly a non-starter given the oil industry’s deep penetration of the House and Senate — where was the substance?  Yes, by all means let’s have high-speed rail and rebuild our infrastructure — but how, with whom, and with what?  I was disappointed.  Obama has a lot of capital right now, more than Bush ever had, but he’s apparently unwilling to risk any of it.

Perhaps because I was in the military for so many years, I don’t get this thing with opposition party rebuttals to the presidential SOTU address.  When the colonel addresses his officers and men, the major doesn’t get to take the stage afterward to disagree.  Yes, I know television has been broadcasting SOTU rebuttals every year since 1966, but precedence doesn’t make it right.  It’s certainly not in the Constitution, which simply directs the President to:

. . . from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
– Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

And though I cannot cite the specific article which specifies it, the Constitution’s pretty clear that there will be only one President.

But as far as the media* is concerned we have, in effect, multiple presidents.  We have John McCain, who has become a sort of a “Sunday President” through his frequent and regular appearances on Meet the Press and other Sunday talk shows.  And now we have not one, but two Republican spokesmen to deliver separate “official” and “Tea Party” Republican responses to the President’s address.  I wonder what would have happened if the Progressive Caucus of the Democratic Party had asked for air time to deliver a rebuttal of their own.  Well, no . . . what’s to wonder?  No network would have covered it.

After its ruling in Bush v. Gore, I didn’t think there was much more the Supreme Court could do to damage its reputation, but with the petulant and partisan absence of Justices Alito, Scalia, and Thomas from last night’s SOTU, the court has shown it still has the mojo.

Boy, that Michele Bachmann’s a piece of work, isn’t she?  Watching her Tea Party SOTU rebuttal last night, I kept wondering what the hell she was looking at.  Something behind me and to my left, but what?  Later in the evening I checked Twitter and discovered everyone else had the same question.

On my way home from this morning’s haircut appointment I listened to NPR’s Diane Rehm interview Kenneth Slawenski, author of a biography of J.D. Salinger.  Diane, for some reason, seemed hostile and on edge this morning.  Every time Slawenski related a fact about Salinger’s life — for example, that he had been a soldier and had landed on Omaha Beach on D-Day, or had written a letter about a work in progress to a friend or agent — Diane would insistently interrupt, asking questions like, “How do you know that?” or “Do you have proof of that?” or “Did you actually see those letters?”.  Most annoying, particularly in light of Diane’s failure to challenge the outright lies told by the Tea Party hacks and climate change deniers she so often invites to speak.  Why not ask them to prove their assertions?

It’s annual checkup and vaccination day for our two pets, Schatzi the dachshund and Chewie the cat.  Schatzi’s an enthusiastic traveler but a fearful patient; Chewie’s the opposite.  I’ll have to listen to Chewie howl all the way to and from the vet’s, and hold a trembling Schatzi while she gets probed and poked.

For the past two years I’ve come to depend on a Facebook application called Visual Bookshelf, a library database I use to catalog and review books.  Two weeks ago VB disappeared, taking with it all my content.  Despite hundreds of user queries on the VB discussion board, program developers were mum about the outage.  I vowed, if VB ever came back, to copy all the content I’d ever posted there and duplicate it in a database at home.  Yesterday VB started working again, and I immediately copied all my reviews.  The catalog’s a little tougher, but I’m working on it.  I’ll keep using VB, but I’ll have a backup at home.  Lesson # 1: don’t depend on free Facebook apps.  Lesson # 2: backup, backup, backup.

Earlier this morning I brought the cat carrier in from the garage.  That was a mistake.  Chewie saw it and went into hiding.  I have two hours to find her and lure her out.  Better get busy!

*For clarity’s sake I note that CNN was the only network to air Michele Bachmann’s rebuttal live, but the fact that the rest of the networks covered it later justifies lumping all of them together.  Same thing happens whenever Sarah Palin complains to Sean Hannity on Fox, and all the other networks re-broadcast it hours later.  Hint, media mavens: it’s not news, it’s political propaganda — and you’re being used.

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