There’s another skeleton hanging in the closet

Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein executed –

Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator who spent his last years in captivity after his ruthless Baathist regime was toppled from power by the U.S.-led coalition in 2003, was hanged Saturday for crimes committed in a brutal crackdown during his reign, a witness said.

I think killing Saddam is meaningless or, more probably, negative for U.S. security. Saddam in prison, Saddam in the dock–these were powerful images against tyranny. We should have arranged to have him transferred to The Hague, where he could have stood trial until he died or went insane from confrontations with his monstrous actions. Killing him does two things: 1.) Ending the examination of the Saddam regime, and; 2.) Begins a legend that was dispelled by the fact of Saddam, the beaten despot. It’s only an opinion, but putting Iraq’s past behind it would have been better served by simply leaving Saddam where he did not want to be, in jail.

Watching CNN, which is reporting the event with unbroken coverage based on very little actual information. There was a golden moment when Anderson Cooper asked the CNN correspondent how she could tell the gunfire she was hearing was “celebratory.” You know, it’s gunfire. Happy gunfire.

handshake300Then, there has been an absurd line of reporting about Saddam’s dedication to Joe Stalin. Now, he may have been an ardent admirer of another murderous monster, but when commentators appear on air suggesting that Saddam, the egomaniacal despot, had his statues made to look more like Stalin than himself, you have to wonder about the sanity of the producers. Saddam’s interest in Stalin as a model is an meaningful anecdote, but not the important explanation of Saddam’s rise to power.

Why is there not coverage of the meeting between Donald Rumsfeld and Saddam in 1983, when the United States and Iraq agreed they shared many common interests? This was, of course, after the genocide for which he was sentenced to die. Joe Stalin had less direct influence on Saddam than the Reagan Administration and Don Rumsfeld, who cleared the way for sales of weapons to Iraq throughout the 1980s. President Reagan released a national security directive (NSDD 139) that codified our support of the Saddam Hussein regime in 1984.

Saddam was a monster, but let’s be realistic about this. He was our monster, not Stalin’s, not Russia’s, not even Islam’s monster. Saddam was an instrument of U.S. policy toward Iran while he cemented his power in Iraq and, like many strongmen we’ve supported in the past, it backfired.

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Remembering President Gerald Ford: Worst gig ever

Former President Gerald Ford, Nixon’s Successor, Dies at 93 –

I supported Ford in 1976. He was a decent man and the last of the moderate conservatives who believed more in freedom than power (think Eisenhower, not Reagan). He had the worst job in American history: Succeeding a criminal of his own party into office after having been appointed by that disgraced president to succeed another criminal. Imagine stepping into Spiro Agnew’s cesspool only to find yourself buried in Nixon’s historical craphouse.

Now that Ford is dead, we’re probably going to see the reenactment of the implosion he was handed, but this time by a president who has dug the hole where he is standing. A failed war, a failed realignment of the war effort, a failing economy built on profound misunderstandings of the competitiveness of nations, and much more. Ford deserved better, but took what was handed to him with grace, much more than our current decider-in-chief has demonstrated when called on to explain his own, not someone else’s, mistakes.

Ford fought the Reaganites, disappearing into history as the neocons rolled to power in 1980. He may have been the right man at some other time, but the times were going further right, bizarrely so. Perhaps he should not have pardoned Nixon, but I suspect there were few worse alternative histories than the political warfare over the corpse of Nixon’s career averted.

Thanks, Mr. Ford, for your service.

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Merry Christmas–All grown up now

About 2:30 this morning, just after my wife and I got done setting up the Santa stuff and had gone to bed to read, our 11-year-old daughter walked into the living room and confirmed her suspicion that mom and dad are Santa. Taylor, our 13-year-old, had given up the fiction in October, finally confronting his mother with the question. Genny, on other hand, has been insisting on the big elf’s authenticity in the face of mounting opinion among kids at school that Santa is fiction.

And, so, though I feigned a “Santa’s fast and quiet” reaction when I walked into the living room, she crossed her arms and said: “You just stopped stomping around five minutes ago, you put this stuff out here.”

Shocked! she said, that we would eat the cookies and feed the carrots she left for Rudolph and the other reindeer to the guinea pigs rather than tell her the truth. Then she realized that it was mom and dad, not Santa, who had defied the rule against video games a couple years back and given an XBox that we still don’t like today. Her last note to Santa went into the scrapbook of momentous documents while she was uncovering years of deceptions.

This was not a teary transition. Genny benefits from her brother’s taking the lead. He had been working hard to keep the story going for his sister, but said we were pretty loud and that he couldn’t keep her distracted upstairs.

She’s a pretty empirical kid, who had to find a piece of red thread on the fireplace mantel one year to sustain her belief this long.

The toys, apparently, are not quite so special when not delivered by sleigh, but she got over it. While playing with a new toy on the floor–about 3:30 in the morning now–Genny looked up at her mother and said, “Don’t tell me the Easter Bunny’s not real, too?”

We assured her that as long as she lives in our house and believes in the Easter Bunny, he’ll keep coming.

Merry Christmas from this heathen household to you and yours.

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Bird flu is coming, probably in 2007

BBC NEWS | Health | Flu ‘could wipe out 62 million’:

A global flu pandemic could kill 62 million people, experts have warned.

The 1918 pandemic claimed 50 million lives, and experts in The Lancet predict the toll today would be higher than this, despite medical advances

Folks, I just spent three-and-a-half days in the dark. We never expect what is coming next when nature is concerned. For several years, I’ve been writing about the emergence of the Avian Flu, (H5N1), something that has been clearly seen and repeatedly discounted. The thing to keep in mind about the report that up to 62 million could die is that this will likely be in poor countries.

The United States must mobilize to save these nations from the ravages of the flu in order to rebuild its international reputation and out of human decency itself.

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John Edwards has a reality campaign

Call it Reality Campaigning—very different from reality TV, because this is about transparency–Senator John Edwards has a campaign vlog.

Daily Kos :: Comments Plane Truths: (Following) John Edwards Webisode One: The thread on this show has turned to my “question” to Senator Edwards at Gnomedex…..

This is an excellent exchange and not really a question.

That is the summary of my life, exchange and not really a question. Very flattering to be pointed to in this way, incredibly good to see Senator Edwards going for transparency in his campaign in such a fundamental way.

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Rep. Virgil Goode: UnAmerican – CNN Political Ticker:

A Virginia congressman who said in a letter to constituents that without immigration reform “there will be many more Muslims elected to office demanding the use of the Koran” won’t apologize for that and other remarks, the congressman’s spokesman said Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Virgil Goode’s letter also warns that without immigration reform “we will have many more Muslims in the United States.”

Apparently, Rep. Goode has not read the history of the United States or its Constitution, which are rampant with stories of and clauses protecting people different from everyone else. It’s what makes this country great.

His objection that people wishing to be sworn into office on the Koran is simply close-minded. George Washington could have chosen to be sworn in with his hand on a copy of the Constitution and that would be tradition. There is no requirement in the Constitution that a Bible be used, nor prohibiting any other book or document. It’s a free country, Rep. Goode, why do you want to change that?

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Well, that blew, and sucked

IMG_3911.JPG Just back after three and a half days without power due the storm in the Northwest. Our place was among the last 5,000 or so that Tacoma Power reconnected, because we’d had three or four trees down within a few hundred feet of the house, all conveniently across power lines and not homes. Here are the two photos I took before the camera went dead (note to self: Keep the camera battery charged.)

The power workers did a great job getting three quarters of a million homes back online (about 240,000 are still in the dark), and continue to do work at an unbelievable pace given the cold. Did I mention that after the power failed, temperatures dropped into the 20s? Needless to say, we moved to a hotel and contributed to the Red Cross, which has opened shelters across the region.

These are thumbnails that can be enlarged by clicking.

You can see how much fell where trees didn’t come down. It was like a conifer slush two feet deep around my car.IMG_3912.JPG