January 11, 2007

I am breathing, yet I feel no sky

Lynda Pogue, Source, 2005

* Molly Ivans. excerpt:

"President Bush is right to recognize that U.S strategy in Iraq is not working and to seek a different policy. He is right to insist that the United States cannot afford to abandon the mission and to reject calls for an early withdrawal. But the new plan for the war Mr. Bush outlined last night is very risky. It envisions new missions and dangers for U.S. troops and counts on unprecedented military and political steps by the Iraqi government. The plan is likely to cause a spike in U.S. casualties, while the chances that it will stabilize Iraq are far lower. Moreover, Mr. Bush appears prepared to embrace this approach despite strong opposition from Congress and the public -- setting up a conflict that in itself could hurt the war effort.

"The president could have adopted a course that would have attracted broad support domestically and from Iraqis. That was the strategy -- outlined with small variations by U.S. military commanders, the Iraqi government and the Iraq Study Group -- that called for an acceleration of training of the Iraqi army and a gradual handing over of responsibility for fighting insurgents. The U.S. military presence would have decreased in the coming year, but enough troops would have remained to prevent the government's collapse, strike al-Qaeda and prevent intervention by Iraq's neighbors.

"Instead, Mr. Bush has chosen to increase the number of Army troops and Marines and to broaden their mission. U.S. forces will be asked to pacify Baghdad in conjunction with Iraqi army and police units. Two attempts last year to stop sectarian war in the capital failed; the president says this effort will be different because more U.S. and Iraqi troops will be involved and because Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government has promised to prevent 'political and sectarian interference.' If the plan proceeds, we hope U.S. forces succeed without heavy casualties. But even if they do, the victory will be temporary. U.S. forces cannot sustain the planned "surge" for long, and Baghdad will not be truly pacified until Iraqis can enforce the peace."
"Mr. Bush decided against the consensus strategy favored by the Iraq Study Group because he believed it would not prevent sectarian war from escalating. That may be right. But the president's policy poses a different danger: that Iraqi troops and Iraqi leaders won't deliver on the steps expected of them during what must be a relatively short time, even as American soldiers fight to secure Baghdad -- and, almost certainly, die in larger numbers than before. It also means launching a mission that -- until now, at least -- has not had the domestic support that should accompany the commitment of troops to battle.

"If the United States is not to abandon Iraq to its enemies, the U.S. mission needs to be sustainable, in both military and political terms, over the years it may take Iraqis to stabilize their country. Mr. Bush is betting that a boost in U.S. troops and aid can accelerate that process. If he is wrong, a continued American presence in Iraq may become untenable. The president must do more to persuade the country that the sacrifice he is asking of American soldiers is necessary. And if Iraqis do not deliver on their own commitments in the coming weeks, he must reconsider his strategy -- and suspend the U.S. reinforcements."

-- related: "George W. Bush spoke with all the confidence of a perp in a police lineup. I first interviewed the guy in 1987 and began covering his political rise in 1993, and I have never seen him, in public or private, look less convincing, less sure of himself, less cocky. With his knitted brow and stricken features, he looked, well, scared. Not surprising since what he was doing in the White House library was announcing the escalation of an unpopular war." -- Howard Fineman

* Love song to silver jews.

* Neil Pollack explains how marijuana improves the parenting experience. excerpt:

"My 35th birthday was approaching, and I needed to get myself a present. So I went vaporizer shopping online. I found a website for a sleek, gorgeous ceramic contraption called The Silver Surfer. New terms entered my stoner lexicon: 'heat source,' 'mouthpiece,' 'whip,' 'wand.' It would be the greatest present I’d ever give myself. No more apple bongs for me. I had to consume my THC wisely. I was a dad now.

"I’m a man of few vices. Alcohol doesn’t appeal to me, except in very limited quantities. I don’t play a lot of cards or smoke cigars, and I’m really not that into porn. My naughtiness all goes into the herb, and it’s as low-level as naughtiness gets.

"Before my son was born, my hobby went like this: When I had weed in the house, I’d do it a lot, and when I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it at all. I could go two months without it, or go two months with daily use. Usually, it moved in cycles. It never really occurred to me to give it up just because I’d become a parent. It didn’t even occur to me that anyone would expect me to give it up. If anything, parenthood meant that marijuana became a larger part of my life. Whereas before the boy’s arrival I’d often leave the house after 9 PM for a party, or a bar, or a movie, now my social life had contracted. By the kid’s bedtime, I’m often exhausted, and even if I’m not, babysitters run $10 an hour these days. A hit off the Silver Surfer and a night of Turner Classic Movies has become, for me, an acceptable middle ground.

"Then the morning comes, and I have responsibilities. I don’t Silver Surf when I have to drive Elijah somewhere, I don’t do it when I’m going to be alone with him for any extended period of time, and I’m very rarely baked before sundown. Since all that put together comprises 97 percent of my parenting time, there’s very little crossover with the weed. Occasionally, I’ll be stoned at the wrong moment, which will lead me to misjudge children’s entertainment, like the time I told my wife, 'Dude, 64 Zoo Lane is so trippy.' But as far as I’m concerned, weed, in very limited quantities, just improves the parenting experience. Everyone knows that TV is better when you’re high.

"Anyone who says it’s impossible to be a stoner and a parent has either never been a stoner, or never been a parent. The dominant attitude among stoner dads—and moms—goes like this: Consuming pot is something, like watching college football or masturbating, that you used to do all the time, but now will do only if it’s convenient and appropriate to the moment. Still, there’s a kind of secret, unspoken society. I’ve been to many backyard family barbecues where another dad and I will discover that pot is a shared habit. The discussion will quickly veer into the familiar. We discuss our favorite varietals. We recount great pot-smoking moments of our past."
"... Parenting, rather than just being a natural, if challenging, byproduct of biology, had somehow become a sacred act. And smoking pot was a violation of its sanctity. Well, I never bought into that, and I’m not alone. Society is right to demand that parents treat their kids with respect and love, and provide them with food, clothing and shelter. But sainthood shouldn’t be a requirement.

"In a perfect world, or at least a better one, smoking pot would not carry any cultural meaning at all. My casual little habit doesn’t prevent me from fulfilling my parental duties, and no matter what DARE and the DEA might say, it has little or nothing to do with the crack epidemic or the spread of crystal meth. I think that weed should be legal, and I’m not going to lie about that to my kid if he asks me. Someday I’ll have an intelligent conversation with him about the pros and cons of legalization, and about the politics of prohibition. But he’s not ready for such a conversation yet. "

* "Judges, Policemen, Critics. These are the real Lower Orders, the low, sly lives,whom no decent person should receive in his house." --WH Auden


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