But first . . .

I BEFORE M C SQUARED

Michael Cain: ‘Much of spelling in English is simply memorization. Many years ago when I studied German in school, spelling in that language was much more regular, to the extent that we were told, ‘If you can pronounce it correctly, you can spell it. If you see it written down, there’s only one way to pronounce it.’ I have since wondered if spelling bees are held in other languages, or if they are purely an artifact of the lack of regular spelling in English. Perhaps your readers know?’

☞ Anyone? Anyone?

Joe Devney: ‘It seems you have forgotten the rest of the rhyme. ‘I before E except after C, or when sounded like A, as in neighbor and sleigh.’ Nine of your fourteen “-ei-” words follow this more complete rule. This obviously still leaves several oddballs, but the situation is less chaotic than you thought.’

☞ Mrs. Green never taught us that part.

Jim Batterson:‘This rule would drive Einstein crazy. He broke it twice in his own name!’

MORE BAD ADVICE FROM CHILDHOOD

1. It’s simply not true that you can’t put ketchup on salmon steaks. Sure, salmon burgers; but salmon steaks, too. (Try it.)

2. Of course bananas can go in the refrigerator, although, yes, if you keep them there too long, they do get black. But for a day or two? Just waiting for the moment when you have your fat-free banana split? (One or two bananas befriending big chilled strawberries – some cold fresh pineapple chunks if handy – covered in fat-free chocolate syrup beneath a triumph of fat-free ConAgra Foods ‘let the fun out’ ReddiWip.) You certainly don’t want your bananas room temperature for that.

3. Anyone? Anyone?

Face it: IT’S HARD TO DO ANYTHING IN AUGUST

Bob Sakowski:‘The FBI agent who arrested Zacarias Moussaoui in August 2001 testified Monday he spent almost four weeks trying to warn U.S. officials about the radical Islamic student pilot but “criminal negligence” by superiors in Washington thwarted a chance to stop the 9/11 attacks.’ Think of it, Moussaoui was arrested on Aug 20. He was charged because he did nothing to prevent the plot that was to occur on Sep 11. Bush had the PDB of Aug 6 read to him on that date and did nothing to prevent the events of Sep 11. If Moussaoui is culpable what does that say about Bush?’

☞ Not much. We all become torpid in August, and that Presidential Daily Briefing was not specific. (Bin Laden determined to strike where in the U.S.?) But how about seven months earlier, January 7, 2001, at Blair House, when the CIA chief told the incoming President, Veep, and National Security Advisor that there was a man named Bin Laden who posed a ‘tremendous,’ ‘immediate’ threat to the United States?

January’s no August. January’s the kind of month that crackles with energy. A tremendous, immediate threat? Instead of jumping on and redoubling the CIA’s plans to go after Bin Laden, the Administration shut them down, taking seven months – in the face of a ‘tremendous, immediate threat’ – to come up with an alternative plan for review. (Source: beginning on this page of Bob Woodward’s generally pro-Bush Bush At War.) One thing you can feel confident about when you have a seasoned team of top Republicans, many of whom had served under Reagan and Bush Senior: whether it’s terrorism or hurricanes or hunting quail, these are guys who anticipate problems and keep you safe.

MORE BRUTAL STILL

I’m all for sparing people’s feelings – reading stuff like this must be torture for the President – but it’s hard not to see at least a few grains of truth in it, over-the-top though it may be. Bill Maher last Friday night:

Mr. President, this job can’t be fun for you any more. There’s no more money to spend – you used up all of that. You can’t start another war because you used up the army. And now, darn the luck, the rest of your term has become the Bush family nightmare: helping poor people.

Listen to your Mom. The cupboard’s bare, the credit cards maxed out. No one’s speaking to you. Mission accomplished.

Now it’s time to do what you’ve always done best: lose interest and walk away. Like you did with your military service and the oil company and the baseball team. It’s time. Time to move on and try the next fantasy job. How about cowboy or space man? Now I know what you’re saying: there’s so many other things that you as President could involve yourself in. Please don’t. I know, I know. There’s a lot left to do. There’s a war with Venezuela. Eliminating the sales tax on yachts. Turning the space program over to the church. And Social Security to Fannie Mae. Giving embryos the vote.

But, Sir, none of that is going to happen now. Why? Because you govern like Billy Joel drives. You’ve performed so poorly I’m surprised that you haven’t given yourself a medal. You’re a catastrophe that walks like a man. Herbert Hoover was a s—-y president, but even he never conceded an entire city to rising water and snakes.

On your watch, we’ve lost almost all of our allies, the surplus, four airlines, two trade centers, a piece of the Pentagon and the City of New Orleans. Maybe you’re just not lucky. I’m not saying you don’t love this country. I’m just wondering how much worse it could be if you were on the other side.

So, yes, God does speak to you. What he is saying is: ‘Take a hint.’

And now . . .

FUN

Jeff: ‘On the heels of your pointing us to Google Maps, now comes Google Finance. It’s cool. You can see a chart along with important news stories – I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Check it out.’

MORE FUN

Hubert Heller: ‘This is an incredible performance. Watch with speakers on. (Click on: Must-See Finale.)’

☞ And you thought your cousin was impressive for being able to balance a spoon on his nose.

Tomorrow: Wal-Mart, How to Manage $500,000, and a Great Speech

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