Weekly Review — June 3, 2008, 12:00 am

Weekly Review

[Image: A grasshopper driving a chariot, 1875]

Scott McClellan published a memoir about his stint as President George W. Bush‘s press secretary from July 2003 to April 2006. In the book, McClellan says that he does not believe that the Bush Administration “deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people” when it dispensed with “honesty and candor” in favor of launching a “political propaganda campaign” to justify the Iraq War. He also asserts that the media became the administration’s “complicit enablers” and that the president said that he did not remember whether he had ever tried cocaine at “some pretty wild parties back in the day.” Senator Bob Dole responded in a note to McClellan: “There are miserable creatures like you in every administration who don’t have the guts to speak up or quit if there are disagreements with the boss or colleagues.” Ari Fleischer, Bush’s previous press secretary, suggested McClellan had been manipulated by his liberal editors. Wall Street JournalPoliticoNational JournalNew York Daily NewsWall Street JournalIn Baghdad, a car bomb in a parking lot near the Iranian Embassy killed two civilians and wounded five others, and west of the city, in the town of Hit, a suicide bomber killed ten people and wounded twelve at a police checkpoint. APFranz Kunstler, the last surviving veteran of the Austro-Hungarian Empire’s forces in World War I, died at the age of 107,New York Timesand Dianne Odell, a polio victim in Tennessee, died at the age of 61, after 58 years in an iron lung.APAustralia pulled its 550 combat troops out of Iraq, declaring their mission a success. AP

The Democratic National Committee determined that delegates from Michigan and Florida will be allowed half-votes at the party’s convention. “At least slaves were counted as 3/5ths a Citizen,” read a sign at a protest by supporters of Hillary Clinton outside the Washington hotel where the decision was made. Demonstrator Larry Sinclair, a Minnesotan who has posted videos on YouTube alleging that he took drugs and had oral sex with Barack Obama in 1999 but failed a polygraph test about his allegations, handed out a pamphlet titled “Obama’s DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS: Murder, Drugs, Gay Sex.”New York TimesThe New RepublicObama broke his ties with Chicago’s Trinity Church, The Daily DishClinton won the Puerto Rico primary,New York Timesand it was reported that Obama had offered Clinton a “negotiated surrender” that included a possible post as health secretary in an Obama administration.TelegraphA human-rights organization accused the Bush Administration of operating “floating prisons” by holding suspected terrorists on ships and of continuing its policy of extraordinary rendition, a practice it claimed to have discontinued in 2006.GuardianJohn McCain shifted a fund-raiser attended by Bush from the Phoenix Convention Center to a private home, confining his on-camera public appearance with the president to 25 seconds at an airport. New York TimesMcCain’s campaign manager, former lobbyist Rick Davis, was slowly and quietly purging lobbyists from the campaign’s ranks.New York TimesMonkeys were able to move a robot arm with their thoughts. New York Times

At a literary festival in Wales, British columnist George Monbiot attempted a citizen’s arrest of John Bolton, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on charges of war crimes, but was obstructed by security guards.Democracy NowCanadian Foreign Affairs Minister Maxime Bernier resigned shortly before his ex-girlfriend Julie Couillard told a television interviewer that Bernier had left classified NATO documents about Afghanistan in her apartment and had encouraged her to wear a low-cut blouse to his swearing-in in order to attract media attention. It subsequently came to light that Couillard, a former model, had lived with one member of the Quebec Hell’s Angels (who was arrested for possession of submachine guns and marijuana, then turned police informant, and was found dead in a ditch), married and divorced another, and was marked for death by the head Angel, a man named “Mom.” “I don’t care about her cleavage,” said MP Michael Ignatieff, deputy leader of the Liberal opposition. “But this stuff is not only my business, it is the business of all Canadians.” Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a Conservative, rejected calls for an investigation into the scandal.New York TimesNational PostBritish archaeologists discovered that Stonehenge was a cemetery for the elite, New York TimesLa Scala announced that it will produce Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” as an opera,Breitbartand structures built for the 2004 AthensOlympics were falling into ruin.Telegraph

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The city was not beautiful; no one made that claim for it. At the height of summer, people in suits, shellacked by the sun, moved like harassed insects to avoid the concentrated light. There was a civil war–like fracture in America—the president had said so—but little of it showed in the capital. Everyone was polite and smooth in their exchanges. The corridor between Dupont Circle and Georgetown was like the dream of Yugoslav planners: long blocks of uniform earth-toned buildings that made the classical edifices of the Hill seem the residue of ancestors straining for pedigree. Bunting, starched and perfectly ruffled in red-white-and-blue fans, hung everywhere—from air conditioners, from gutters, from statues of dead revolutionaries. Coming from Berlin, where the manual laborers are white, I felt as though I was entering the heart of a caste civilization. Untouchables in hard hats drilled into sidewalks, carried pylons, and ate lunch from metal boxes, while waiters in restaurants complimented old respectable bobbing heads on how well they were progressing with their rib eyes and iceberg wedges.

I had come to Washington to witness either the birth of an ideology or what may turn out to be the passing of a kidney stone through the Republican Party. There was a new movement afoot: National Conservatives, they called themselves, and they were gathering here, at the Ritz-Carlton, at 22nd Street and M. Disparate tribes had posted up for the potlatch: reformacons, blood-and-soilers, curious liberal nationalists, “Austrians,” repentant neocons, evangelical Christians, corporate raiders, cattle ranchers, Silicon Valley dissidents, Buckleyites, Straussians, Orthodox Jews, Catholics, Mormons, Tories, dark-web spiders, tradcons, Lone Conservatives, Fed-Socs, Young Republicans, Reaganites in amber. Most straddled more than one category.

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The second-worst thing about cancer chairs is that they are attached to televisions. Someone somewhere is always at war with silence. It’s impossible to read, so I answer email, or watch some cop drama on my computer, or, if it seems unavoidable, explore the lives of my nurses. A trip to Cozumel with old girlfriends, a costume party with political overtones, an advanced degree on the internet: they’re all the same, these lives, which is to say that the nurses tell me nothing, perhaps because amid the din and pain it’s impossible to say anything of substance, or perhaps because they know that nothing is precisely what we both expect. It’s the very currency of the place. Perhaps they are being excruciatingly candid.

There is a cancer camaraderie I’ve never felt. That I find inimical, in fact. Along with the official optimism that percolates out of pamphlets, the milestone celebrations that seem aimed at children, the lemonade people squeeze out of their tumors. My stoniness has not always served me well. Among the cancer staff, there is special affection for the jocular sufferer, the one who makes light of lousy bowel movements and extols the spiritual tonic of neuropathy. And why not? Spend your waking life in hell, and you too might cherish the soul who’d learned to praise the flames. I can’t do it. I’m not chipper by nature, and just hearing the word cancer makes me feel like I’m wearing a welder’s mask.

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When Demétrio Martins was ready to preach, he pushed a joystick that angled the seat of his wheelchair forward, slowly lifting him to a standing position. Restraints held his body upright. His atrophied right arm lay on an armrest, and with his left hand, he put a microphone to his lips. “Proverbs, chapter fourteen, verse twelve,” he said. “ ‘There is a way which seems right to a man, but its end is . . .’ ”

The congregation finished: “ ‘Death.’ ”

The Assembly of God True Grapevine was little more than a fluorescent-lit room wedged between a bar and an empty lot in Jacaré, a poor neighborhood on Rio de Janeiro’s north side. A few dozen people sat in the rows of plastic lawn chairs that served as pews, while shuddering wall fans circulated hot air. The congregation was largely female; of the few men in attendance, most wore collared shirts and old leather shoes. Now and then, Martins veered from Portuguese into celestial tongues. People rose from their seats, thrust their hands into the air, and shouted, “Hallelujah!”

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On December 7, 2016, a drone departed from an Amazon warehouse in the United Kingdom, ascended to an altitude of four hundred feet, and flew to a nearby farm. There it glided down to the front lawn and released from its clutches a small box containing an Amazon streaming device and a bag of popcorn. This was the first successful flight of Prime Air, Amazon’s drone delivery program. If instituted as a regular service, it would slash the costs of “last-mile delivery,” the shortest and most expensive leg of a package’s journey from warehouse to doorstep. Drones don’t get into fender benders, don’t hit rush-hour traffic, and don’t need humans to accompany them, all of which, Amazon says, could enable it to offer thirty-minute delivery for up to 90 percent of domestic shipments while also reducing carbon emissions. After years of testing, Amazon wrote to the Federal Aviation Administration last summer to ask for permission to conduct limited commercial deliveries with its drones, attaching this diagram to show how the system would work. (Amazon insisted that we note that the diagram is not to scale.) Amazon is not the only company working toward such an automated future—­UPS, FedEx, Uber, and Google’s parent company, Alphabet, have similar programs—­but its plans offer the most detailed vision of what seems to be an impending reality, one in which parce­l-toting drones are a constant presence in the sky, doing much more than just delivering popcorn.

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Every year in Lusk, Wyoming, during the second week of July, locals gather to reenact a day in 1849 when members of a nearby band of Sioux are said to have skinned a white man alive. None of the actors are Native American. The white participants dress up like Indians and redden their skin with body paint made from iron ore.

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At Ivanwald, men learn to be leaders by loving their leaders. “They’re so busy loving us,” a brother once explained to me, “but who’s loving them?” We were. The brothers each paid $400 per month for room and board, but we were also the caretakers of The Cedars, cleaning its gutters, mowing its lawns, whacking weeds and blowing leaves and sanding. And we were called to serve on Tuesday mornings, when The Cedars hosted a regular prayer breakfast typically presided over by Ed Meese, the former attorney general. Each week the breakfast brought together a rotating group of ambassadors, businessmen, and American politicians. Three of Ivanwald’s brothers also attended, wearing crisp shirts starched just for the occasion; one would sit at the table while the other two poured coffee. 

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