December 29, 2006

After an embarassingly shabby show trial, Saddam Hussein may go to meet his maker on the morrow, and Josh Marshall has a good overview as to what it signifies:
The Iraq War has been many things, but for its prime promoters and cheerleaders and now-dwindling body of defenders, the war and all its ideological and literary trappings have always been an exercise in moral-historical dress-up for a crew of folks whose times aren't grand enough to live up to their own self-regard and whose imaginations are great enough to make up the difference. This is just more play-acting.

These jokers are being dragged kicking and screaming to the realization that the whole thing's a mess and that they're going to be remembered for it -- defined by it -- for decades and centuries. But before we go, we can hang Saddam. Quite a bit of this was about the president's issues with his dad and the hang-ups he had about finishing Saddam off -- so before we go, we can hang the guy as some big cosmic 'So There!'

Marx might say that this was not tragedy but farce. But I think we need to get way beyond options one and two even to get close to this one -- claptrap justice meted out to the former dictator in some puffed-up act of self-justification as the country itself collapses in the hands of the occupying army.

Marty Peretz, with some sort of projection,
calls any attempt to rain on this parade "prissy and finicky." Myself, I just find it embarrassing. This is what we're reduced to, what the president has reduced us to. This is the best we can do. Hang Saddam Hussein because there's nothing else this president can get right.
Putting Saddam on trial was always going to be hard; the more internationally-legitimate tribunal at The Hague for Slobodan Milosevic lasted four years, and was as much a debacle as the Hussein "trial", ending only because the former dictator died. Obviously, though, there is no a way a fair trial could have taken place in Iraq, and the fact that they're still debating whether the execution should be televised is an indication that only the names of the rulers have changed.

December 28, 2006

Blogging will be intermittent the next two weeks, as I cruise to Hawaii aboard the Island Princess. First night's weather made for a very rocky passage, but it's settled down enough for the crew to allow people on deck. It's five days there, five days in the islands, and five days back, so I'll see you after the new year....

December 26, 2006

Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the U.S., has died. Our nation was lucky Ford was vice president when Nixon resigned. He represented a brand of conservative Republicanism that seems quaint today: hawkish on foreign policy, moderation on hot-button issues like abortion, and adherence to economies of budgeting that would seem naive to the Cheneys and Bushes of the world. The Republican Party that Ford joined in his youth still identified itself as the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, and viewed support of civil rights and the E.R.A. as part of its birthright. Goldwater, Nixon and the Southern Strategy would alter the party beyond recognition; by the time he became President, he was already out of touch with much of his party's base, and 170 of the electoral votes won by the Democrats in 1976, and 143 of those won by the G.O.P., were captured by the other party in 2004.
In light of yesterday's Christmas traditional between the Lakers and Miami, I wonder if it's time to do a post-mortem on the trade between the clubs two years ago, the one that basically created the rivalry. At the time, it seemed like a desperation ploy by the Lakers, a move to dump one of their stars because of his incompatibility with another star. But over time, it's beginning to look like it has the makings of one of the most one-sided trades in history, but in favor of the Lakers. In exchange for an injury-prone, declining athlete at the tail-end of his career, the Lakers obtained one star (27-year old Lamar Odom), one potential star (24-year old Kwame Brown, who has thrived under Phil Jackson) and a 20-year old rookie with impressive offensive skills (Jordan Farmar). Plus, they freed up a bunch of room under the salary cap, and are clearly a team on the upswing; no prolonged decline, followed by a slow retooling while Kobe ages, for them.

The Heat won a title with Shaq, of course, and on those occasions when he's healthy, he can still play like one of the top centers in the NBA, but last year's Heat was more Dwyane Wade's team, and there's no way the Lakers were going to win another one with Shaq on the inside if he couldn't lead a team that had Kobe, Gary Payton and Karl Malone to a title three years ago. Trading O'Neal allowed the Lakers to resign Kobe, and break up what had become a dysfunctional relationship. Kudos to Mitch Kupchak and Jerry Buss for making a ballsy move when they had to.