Friday, December 29, 2006

Hail to the dead unelected president

Happy Ford day weekend, to crib a phrase from Wonkette. Our other unelected president, GWBush, has declared Tuesday a federal holiday in honor of the recently deceased Gerald R. Ford. Bush will be spending his extra day off cutting brush in Crawford and figuring out how not to cut and run in Iraq. The decider needs time off to decide, as if he hasn't had enough paid days to figure out what to do in Baghdad.
Which brings us to the big question: Why the huge media fuss about Jerry Ford? And how come he's getting so much respect now when he got so little in the late '70s?
Obvious. Compare the old clips of Ford as president with the one of Bush mumbling nice things about him. Bush seems insincere, hungover and stupider than anyone ever would have accused Ford of being. Ford was the guy who declared our long national nightmare over, and here we are in the middle of another one. There is no Ford in the wings waiting to take over from Bush. This long national nightmare has two more years to run.
Every media tribute to Ford is a rebuke to Bush, and a wish for simpler, non-Nixonian times. That's the way I read it. And Bush, paranoid drunk that he is, seems to read it that way, too. Thus he won't be coming to Ford's funeral.
He has hundreds of others to plan, and won't attend any of them either. He calls it a surge. Rhymes with dirge.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Heckuva job, Rummy

Donald Rumsfeld was demobilized from his job at the Pentagon, a few years too late. There is little chance of demobilization anytime soon for the soldiers and Marines in Iraq. Instead they're likely to be stuck in the quagmire for another two years, with the National Guard called back again and again.

Heckuva job, Rummy. That's essentially what our willful idiot president said to Rumsfeld at his resignation ceremony. Bush said "he always put the troops first, and the troops know it."

Unfortunately, he didn't put in enough troops at first, and looting and insurgency quickly spiraled out of control. He wanted to follow his obsession of smaller, more mobile forces instead of following his generals' advice that it would take hundreds of thousands more troops to pacify Iraq. By all accounts, when the statue of Saddam came down, Rumsfeld started to lose interest. But before he went back to his pet project of transforming the military, he made some crucial bad decisions that have transformed the military in deadly ways.

First, he wouldn't accept any advice from the State Department, the British or anyone else on managing post-war Iraq. The "consummate bureaucratic warrior" had to keep control within his office. Second, he created the insurgency as we know it by ordering colonial administrator Paul Bremer to demobilize the Iraq army and fire all Baath party members from their jobs, thus rendering the institutions of the country unmanaged and creating 350,000 armed enemies.

While he was putting his troops first, he did so without giving them adequate body armor or adequate strategies to deal with the enemies he had put on the street. And he refused to listen to the few generals who dared tell him his notions were wrong. In fact, he tended to fire them. The man's arrogance is such that he has compared himself to Churchill. If you think he bears no resemblance to Churchill, remember that Churchill was the man who gave Britain Gallipoli. Rumsfeld has given America a four-year Gallipoli.

Before Rumsfeld left the Pentagon office he held so long, he said a few words, typically stubborn and obtuse, aimed at keeping American troops in Iraq. "Today, it should be clear that not only is weakness provocative, but the perception of weakness on our part can be provocative as well," he said, among other things.

Who created that perception of a weak America? It was the triumverate of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld who conjured a war we cannot win and shouldn't have waged, a war that has killed tens of thousands, shamed our nation and broken our military.

That's the word, "broken." Even the Army chief of staff used it, when Rumsfeld was safely halfway out the door. He left as the second longest-serving secretary of defense after Robert McNamara, who also left behind a hopeless war. And a broken military.

Unlike McNamara, though, Rumsfeld won't suffer a guilty conscience. A conscience is required.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

I'm the Indecider

"President" George W. Bush is delaying his speech detailing his new strategy for Iraq until early 2007. There could be any number of reasons for this.

One: He still doesn't have a strategy to announce. He hasn't had one for almost four years, so why should he have one now?

Two: He can't announce that the troops will be home by Christmas until after this Christmas.

Three: A speech now would cut into his vacation, so he has to run back to West Texas. There's brush to be cut.

Four: The electronic box under his suit that feeds him speeches is on the fritz.

Five: Dick Cheney hasn't made up his mind yet. He's a quandary, because someone finally gave him what-for on the subject of Iraq, and someone with more pull in the oil biz -- King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

Six: The family intervention by the Iraq Study Group didn't take and Bush is laid up with a bad case of Jack Daniels.

Seven: All of the above. Whatever the reasons, the decider is the avoider and Congress should be the impeachers.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Live slow, die old

Sorry, that previous post self-destructed somewhere in the middle and I was too discouraged to start over. No one is out there reading anyway, so who the hell cares? It was just some garbage about how the phone never rings once you've left your job. Even most of the telephone solicitors and wrong numberers seem to give up on you.

Here are some more things you don't have to worry about when you get oldish and leave your job (engrossing details later):

Buying clothes. You find you have all the clothes you'll ever need for the rest of your life, except possibly sweat pants and socks, which tend to wear out while padding around the house. My closet is filled with beautiful pressed shirts, which I swear someday I will wear fashionably untucked with sneaks and linen pants so I can look like a rich beach bum. But I'm saving them for something, and wearing T-shirts and jeans, looking like a bum, sans beach. Of course, I've switched to long-sleeve T-shirts (a little expenditure there) because I'm an oldish guy and in the summer I fear skin cancer and in the winter I don't run the heat very high because I fear heating bills. Sweat shirts and fleece, that's the answer, and the universal oldguywear.

Bad service in restaurants. No, you don't have to fear that because you stop going to restaurants or you go to them when the staff is standing around waiting for customers to arrive, around 11:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m., the official AARP dining hours.

The high price of gas. Who drives? No wonder old people are always crashing into farmers markets and store windows. They're out of practice. After you leave your job, the desire to get on the road with people going to their jobs fades pretty quickly, along with the desire to drink bad office coffee.

Bad weather. The funny thing is, the first thing in the paper that old people turn to is the weather report, and the last thing they'd consider is going out in the weather — bad weather, anyway. We're probably going to sit around the house in our sweats and fleeces, no matter the weather, so who the hell cares? But we care, probably so we can gloat that we don't have to go out in it, ruining our clothes, wasting expensive gas and enduring bad service in a restaurant. Instead we sit here, knowing the phone's not going to ring.

One of these days I'll get out there and use these coupons.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

So what have I been doing?

Nothing is the short answer. That's about all I've been doing since leaving my job three years ago. Selling a house, buying another, riding my bike every day, losing weight, eating well. Sorry, all that counts as nothing. Have you been writing, everybody asks. Do you have a job?

No and no. I'm living off pensions and investments and reading. I'm getting ready to write by reading others. That's what I say. Oh, yeah. And I say I've started a blog. To be exact, I've started three blogs. Two had to be abandoned because I got tired of them, in-laws were reading them and I didn't like their names. Those are all good excuses for Blogger abuse. Blogger must be filled with dead blogs containing a few half-hearted entries. It's got to be a huge electronic drawer for America's unfinished novels and memoirs. It must be a horrible mess in that drawer.

About the reading I'm doing: I'll read almost anything that strikes my interest, but what most strikes my interest is the literature on the Iraq war. I've read them all. Cobra II, Fiasco and that Emerald City one about the teeming Republican life inside the Green Zone. Yes, I've read them all, if you include Blood Money, which I'm just finishing, about the corruption and incompetence of the "rebuilding" effort in Iraq. This is the least publicized of the Iraq war histories, but author T. Christian Miller lays out the complete criminal negligence of the Bush-Halliburton program. They stole money from the taxpayers, from the Iraqis, they got thousands killed for their own profit and they shamed our nation.

If you're ever unemployed for just long enough to read one book about the Iraq disaster, I recommend this one. It's the book with the least publicized fuck-ups in it. It follows the money, unlike Bob Woodward's books, which follow his finger in the air or up some powerful person's poo-hole.

So I'm lying here, watching Iraq and the United States go down the tubes, and you know what astounds me most? The histories of this disaster have already been written. The killing, corruption and lies are still happening, and the books about it are all lined up at your local Borders. It wasn't until the war in Vietnam was over for several years that the histories came out and the lies exposed. In this war, the first, second and third drafts of history have been written and the war goes on.

And Bush goes on. But he has an excuse. He doesn't read.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I still can't believe it

A week after the election and (see headline). After six years of rule by ignorance, malevolence and indolence, George W. Bush has gone poof. Just a couple of months ago, the war in Iraq was on a great course and Bush was staying it. Just a couple of weeks ago, Rummy was doing a heckuva a job and staying, of course. Suddenly, that's all history, one of many subjects that never interested Bush very much.

Daddy Bush's grown-up colleagues have suddenly appeared on the scene to save Junior from the neo-cons who conned him into this war. The president, who never really was elected president, is revealed as the nasty, cowardly pipsqueak some of us always knew he was. Perhaps most amazingly, the day after the election network news broadcasts started referring to "the failed war in Iraq." Their correspondents on the scene have known for years that the war is a disaster, but news executives have been afraid to let them say it outright. Now everyone is saying it.

Right after the election even Bill O'Reilly told David Letterman that "knowing what we know now" about the lack of WMDs he wouldn't support invading Iraq. (Never mind that it was illegal and stupid.) Methinks the bully wasn't cowed by the facts so much (after all, when have facts mattered to him?), but by his finger in the air telling him that even Fox News viewers have turned against the war.

Bush is now in the same position Nixon was at the time of Vietnamization and Watergateization. Even Republicans have turned against him and those with senses of humor are making jokes about him. Rush Limbaugh said he was relieved not to have to carry water for the administration, so now the only water he carries is what he needs to wash down the Oxycontin. The only thing missing from this scenario is a waiting helicopter.

That takes the threat of impeachment, which isn't possible unless two conditions are met. The first is the presence of high crimes and misdemeanors, defined as any crime higher than lying about sex. The second is control by the opposition party of the House and the Senate. Hmmm.

Oh yeah, there is one more condition. You can't have Dick Cheney as vice president. So put them both on the same impeachment ticket. After all, why impeach the ventriloquist's dummy without impeaching the ventriloquist? President Pelosi. The first woman president, the first Italian American president and the first San Franciscan president. It sounds good to me.

How come it took so long for nation to wake up to the pathetic reality of George W. Bush? Or is it that this is all a dream? Don't wake me while it lasts.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Living like a Republican

Vote Democratic, live Republican. That's a line credited to Joseph Alioto, the late mayor of San Francisco who lived very well indeed. (Of course, he said that back in the days when the Republican image did not include chewing tobacco.) Nowadays, a lot of us who vote Democratic live Republican. Let us count the ways.

Some of us play golf, the game having undergone a certain democratization in recent years. Still, if you want to join a country club, remove the "Impeach Bush" sticker from your car. The ratio of Dems on the greens is approximately one in every two foursomes. (The number of Greens on the greens is approximately zero.) Count me out because of the very Republican clothing.

Many of us drive ritzy cars, usually foreign, though. Remember the days when Republicans drove Caddies and Dems drove Chevys? Now Republican get-out-the-vote campaigns target owners of Chevys because they're 99 percent Republicans. Cadillac owners can be counted on the get to the polls themselves, generally to vote Republican, if they don't crash into a farmer's market on the way. By the way, always innovative Toyota took the lead from Volvo in Republican-free cars by producing the Prius.

Democrats mostly eat better than Republicans, and often expensively. Republicans are still eating steak, but in the closest thing they have to an election strategy, Democrats are letting them take the lead in artery cloggage. The last red-meat-eating red-stater should be dead when about the time the Dems have a viable candidate for president. The latest survey shows that 78 percent of Republicans think "extra virgin" has something to do with abstinence education.

Now here's the rub. Unlike our New Deal-era forebears, most of us Democrats are invested in the stock market, even if it's only through our generally inadequate 401(k) plans. That means we have an interest, however small the interest, in Republican tax cuts. Most of the tax cuts have benefitted the very wealthy, but down here below the median income family, a few of us are living in the classic Republican manner. We're coupon clippers, in the old sense of living off investments. And also clipping coupons for specials at Walgreen's.

I ought to love Bush and his Republican henchmen. Most of my income comes from investments, and although small, it either is tax-free or taxed at only 15 percent. I'm a Democrat who is a Bush profiteer. But I'm voting Democratic anyway. Even if it means higher taxes, it also means the other inevitable will be less of a worry for American troops in Iraq. I'm tired of all of us being trickled down upon.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

The inheritance that hinders retirement

Before I retired I was nothing like my father. I didn't have the same confidence, arrogance or skill set. I couldn't keep a neat desk, administer a university or understand superconductivity. Now that I am retired, I have become my father. The one I had after he retired. It's frigging scary.
I'm happy doing nothing but sitting in front of a TV while reading a book, just the way my dad did until the day he died. Like him, I enjoy going out in the morning for coffee to prepare for a hard day of reading, warming up with a New York Times and maybe a Wall Street Journal. I check the stock market to see if the nation is still financially alive, something neither of us ever did when we worked in different sectors of the nation's economy. I lust after fancy cars even though I really have nowhere to drive anymore. Unlike my dad, I don't buy those cars because I don't have as much money as he had.
Actually, I could have bought a Beemer instead of a Suburbaru, but my wife has a magical way of exercising vetoes. Debby merely invokes my dad's name, ""You're becoming Bob."
That straightens me right up. Fortunately, I have a few ways to assure myself that I haven't become a replicant of retired Bob. That is, I'll think of a few, and I do have time.
Bob never had a blog, that's one.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Small world made smaller

"Pluto is dead," said a guy at Caltech. By astronomers' vote, it's no longer a planet, but a dwarf planet. And, we suppose, Mickey's pet is now a dwarf dog, making eight dwarves in the Disney firmament, which doesn't seem right. I just like the phrase "Pluto demoted," which appeared in headlines across the nation after the astronomers' referendum.
Man, do I know how that little planet feels. After a quarter of a century as a columnist filling blank space at the furthest reaches of American journalism (the joke theme-park towns of Orlando and San Francisco), I was essentially fired. Well, I managed to get a buy-out, which in journalism is like being paid to get in one of the Titanic's lifeboats.
So no bitterness, not all the time anyway. I was given the opportunity to enjoy retirement before 60 — and write about it as a dwarf columnist.
That's what a blogger is, right?