Archive for December, 2006

Have I used up a lifetime’s worth of luck?

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

I’m a (far from diehard) Chiefs fan.  So, have I used up my life’s full complement of luck on this one?

3,000 souls yell no

Sunday, December 31st, 2006

If George W. Bush ranked just a little lower on my list of people I would find it nearly impossible to feel sympathy for, I’d almost feel sorry for him. 

Here he is ready to unveil to the world his exciting “new way forward” proposal for Iraq (otherwise referred to as throwing good blood after bad by increasing the number of troops there) and look what happens?  3,000 dead Americans come crashing down on his head.

Plainly, this was for Bush simply awful timing.  US military personnel die almost every day in Iraq.  But like most things that go on and on and on, eventually it all becomes so much background noise.  It isn’t that Americans ever completely forget the carnage, cease to honor the courage of those who fall or (for most) abandon their opposition to the war; but inevitably our daily lives go on.

There is something about a round number like 3,000, however, which screams out for our attention, demands answers and ultimately declares failure in a way so tragic as to overwhelm other agendas, at least for a time. 

And that can be a hard act to follow for even the most gifted snake oil salesman.

So sometime very soon when the worst president in the history of the United States announces — yes, one more time — that he’s discovered the magic potion that will transport us out of this swamp of his own making, a potion that requires us to climb even further into the very same swamp, there will be much more than background noise crying out in protest.

There will be the sound of 3,000 souls yelling no.

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Saddam won the PR war in the end

Saturday, December 30th, 2006

If you haven’t done so already, check out the video of Saddam Hussein’s hanging at the New York Times homepage (you see the preparation, not the actual hanging).

Two things may strike you: First, the quiet dignity and courage of the condemned man (Saddam was a vicious sadist and a war criminal, but he pulled things off well at the end); and, second, how much the executioners look more like a collection of thugs than the lawful representatives of an independent nation.

David Kurtz over at Talking Points Memo got it about right:

Looking at the photo the NYT is leading with on its homepage, I am struck by the motley bunch of executioners. Hooded to protect their identities, they look like a gang of toughs from a B movie–or, on further reflection, like the hooded terrorists who in the earlier days of our occupation were murdering hostages like Nick Berg, on camera, for maximum shock value.

My prediction is that at least among Sunni Arabs, the ultimate impact of this video will be to cast Saddam in a heroic light — the brave leader facing death with courage and dignity, while his executioners hide their faces in fear.

The martyrdom of the Butcher of Baghdad has begun, with a little help from our “friends.”

Saddam’s dead

Friday, December 29th, 2006

Hung by the neck until he died.

This means the invasion was worth it, right?

Bush has lost the support of the military

Friday, December 29th, 2006

The bottom really has fallen out for Bush on Iraq.

(Army Times) Poll: More troops unhappy with Bush’s course in Iraq (via Talking Points Memo)

The American military — once a staunch supporter of President Bush and the Iraq war — has grown increasingly pessimistic about chances for victory, according to the 2006 Military Times Poll.

For the first time, more troops disapprove of the president’s handling of the war than approve of it. Barely one-third of service members approve of the way the president is handling the war.

When the military was feeling most optimistic about the war — in 2004 — 83 percent of poll respondents thought success in Iraq was likely. This year, that number has shrunk to 50 percent.

Only 35 percent of the military members polled this year said they approve of the way President Bush is handling the war, while 42 percent said they disapproved. The president’s approval rating among the military is only slightly higher than for the population as a whole. In 2004, when his popularity peaked, 63 percent of the military approved of Bush’s handling of the war. While approval of the president’s war leadership has slumped, his overall approval remains high among the military.

If he’s lost the military, which clearly he has, then he’s also lost small town and rural America.  This is a mortal blow.  In the coming months, expect Congress (including Republicans) to become increasingly aggressive in opposing Bush’s war plans.

He’s climbed out onto the thinnest branch of the tallest tree in the world, and he’s all alone.

Is it just me or is this seriously spooky, part 2

Friday, December 29th, 2006

So an ancient ice shelf the size of Paris, France (41 square miles) has broken free from Canada’s Artic.  And according to scientists, this is entirely consistent with global warming.

(Science & Space) Ancient ice shelf breaks free from Canadian Arctic 

TORONTO, Ontario (AP) — A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada’s Arctic, scientists said.

The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada’s remote north.

Scientists using satellite images later noticed that it became a newly formed ice island in just an hour and left a trail of icy boulders floating in its wake.

Warwick Vincent of Laval University, who studies Arctic conditions, traveled to the newly formed ice island and could not believe what he saw.

“This is a dramatic and disturbing event. It shows that we are losing remarkable features of the Canadian North that have been in place for many thousands of years. We are crossing climate thresholds, and these may signal the onset of accelerated change ahead,” Vincent said Thursday.

So is it just me or is this some seriously spooky stuff?  The very geography of our beautiful blue and white planet — the way it appears on globes and maps — is changing forever.  And it’s doing so because of damage we Homo sapiens, supposedly the “highest” and “most intelligent” descendents from that first spark of life in the primordial muck, have caused to the earth through our arrogance and neglect.

I don’t mind telling you, it scares the piss out of me.   

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George W. Bush workaholic!

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Bush taking more time to craft Iraq plan

President Bush worked nearly three hours at his Texas ranch on Thursday to design a new U.S. policy in Iraq, then emerged to say that he and his advisers need more time to craft the plan he’ll announce in the new year.

Three hours! He’ll definitely need to extend his vacation another two weeks to rest up!

(Stolen from AMERICAblog)

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Growth industry of 2007: Antiwar Republicans

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

I predict that George W. Bush has six months, nine at most, before the bottom falls out.  Not in Iraq itself — that bottom fell out a long time ago.  No, I’m talking about GOP support for the war. 

A sense of growing concern — really more like abject terror –  is spreading like a flu epidemic among the ranks of the Republican Party over how the war in Iraq will play out politically in 2008.  While most of the punditry continues to treat the 2006 results as a one time curiosity, smart Republican politicos know better.  Something much more fundamental is at work.

The danger signs for the GOP are everywhere.  For one thing, the public, not unexpectedly showing considerably more common sense than much of our political leadership, remains strongly opposed to US policy in Iraq, with huge majorities opposing any increase in the number of troops stationed there.  When one considers that just such a “surge” in troop numbers appears to be the evolving GOP Iraq strategy, the political risk couldn’t be clearer.  (All the more true given the fact the strategy has virtually no chance of working.) 

Add to that the fact John McCain, Republican presidential frontrunner and leading congressional advocate for increasing force levels, is seeing a significant drop in his support among independents (probably as a result of his taking that very position) and you begin to see the first outlines of a possible GOP perfect storm.

Republicans in Congress largely stood by Bush in 2006 and they got their clocks cleaned.  They won’t do it again.

We already have the recent “statement of conscience” against the war by Senator Gordon Smith (R-OR), who just happens to face a tough reelection contest in ’08.  Assuming there are no stunning improvements on the ground in Iraq over the next few months, sadly a fairly safe bet, I think the following is likely to happen: At first we’ll see a small trickle of additional Smith-like GOP flips to the antiwar camp.  But relatively soon, probably no more than six to nine months from now, as the political panic really sets in, the dam will break.

I predict that by the end of 2007, George W. Bush is going to find himself a very lonely man. 

POSTNOTE: And, yes, it is sad that political calculation, as opposed to concern for the lives of our troops, may in many cases be the deciding factor that turns GOP representatives and senators against the war, but as a member of the reality-based community, I have to call it as I see it.   

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Soldiers Here and Over There Saying “Enough”

Thursday, December 28th, 2006

Chicago Sun-Times CoverToday’s Chicago Sun-Times cover featured the story of 34 year old Steven Henderson, a former Army sergeant who spent two tours in Afghanistan and received an honorable discharge from four years of commendable service. Then, George asked him to do it all again:

A letter he received two weeks before Christmas orders him to report to Fort Benning, Ga., by Jan. 14. Under the order, he is required to fight in Iraq for a period “not to exceed 545 days.”

But this time, Henderson says he will not serve his country.

“It would take a miracle for me to put on a uniform again and to carry a weapon in Iraq,” he said. “I have no intentions of going to Iraq.”

“Not to exceed 545 days.”? 545 days is 18 months, but the latter sounds a lot longer. A year and a half dodging bullets seems even less appealling.

That’s why it’s going to be very difficult for George to raise an army to fight his ill-conceived, ill-advised, unethical, immoral, and illegal war on the people of Iraq.

What’s Georgie going to do when intelligent young men like Henderson tell Georgie what he can do with his stinking war? Send the twins? Go himself? Not going to happen.

And about that “surge” George was floating . . .

The Associated Press is talking to a lot of soldiers in Iraq and, despite Robert Gates’ Iraq propaganda tour, a lot of boots on the ground don’t see a reason to send more nor want more American soldiers over there.

“Nothing’s going to help. It’s a religious war, and we’re caught in the middle of it,” said Sgt. Josh Keim, a native of Canton, Ohio, who is on his second tour in Iraq. “It’s hard to be somewhere where there’s no mission and we just drive around.”

No mission and we just drive around”? That sounds a lot like Bush’s entire term in office.

All jokes aside, every day that Bush plays “switch finger” over his Iraq occupation, is another day he’s condemning our soldiers to an early death.

It’s time to bring them back.

- Greg

Gerald Ford: He Pardoned Nixon

Wednesday, December 27th, 2006

That’s what I remember about him - the pardon. Well, that and Chevy Chase’s impersonation of him. So, I don’t dislike him; I just didn’t really like him. Ford, that is, not Chevy Chase.

I had a history teacher who once said, “Nixon didn’t do anything any other President didn’t do, he just got caught doing it.” That was Mrs. Wicker. She was one of two teachers in high school who I think of fondly, if only because what she taught was interesting to me.

I don’t know if she said what she did about Nixon as a way to absolve him of his crimes by pointing out that all Presidents are guilty of something, or simply pointing out that all Presidents are guilty of something. I do know that her comments have stuck with me and, at that time of my life, provided the catalyst for my thinking of Nixon as a crook, above and beyond the crooked deeds of other Presidents, real or imagined.

To me, Ford pardoned a criminal, and that just seemed unconscionable.

So, I never really thought much of him beyond his Nixon connection.

I did think more about Chevy Chase, even if I didn’t think he was always funny. And while I’m a fan of slapstick, I never found Chase’s impersonation of Ford as all that funny.

Although, “Vacation” is a seriously funny movie.

- Greg.