pink and green

I was still living in the fraternity house in 1985, so when Live Aid was broadcast, it was an excuse to throw a party and be shitfaced before the sun went down. And from what I recall, it wasn’t all that exciting to watch on TV. The big gossip/rumor at the time was that the Beatles would make a surprise reunion, with Julian Lennon standing in for his father. I don’t know if there were any rumored reunions for Live Earth, but from the parts I saw on Saturday between housework, errands, the grocery store, and the Red Sox game, it wasn’t all that exciting to watch on TV either.

Akon did his best plumber buttcrack impersonation; Fall Out Boy was kinda flat and ripe; Lenny Kravitz, sadly, looks like he’s gained more weight than I have since I quit smoking; Enrique Iglesius *is* smoking hot; I’ve had more than enough of the Police reunion already, thank you; and I’ve must listen to more Linkin Park. And finally, I managed to watch most of Roger Waters’ performance. I’m a big Pink Floyd fan, and I think Waters (right) had one of the best sets of the event. And in a bit of serendipity, I was listening to Waters’ The Pros and Cons of Hitch Hiking on the way home from work, and thought it amusing and odd that I saw at least 6 people with Dark Side of the Moon T-shirts on during the commute. It wasn’t until I was on the train and leafing through the Boston Now that I discovered Waters is playing at the Boston Garden this evening. I should follow concert schedules more closely — that is a show I would like to see. (He reportedly plays Dark Side of the Moon in it’s entirety for the second half of his show.)

While watching the concert, I also checked out the Live Earth web site and took one of those “how green are you?” quizzes. I was surprised to get rated “worse than average.” I know that having a gas-guzzling full size 4WD pickup gets me no bonus points, but the thing is over 4 years old and has less than 20,000 miles on it, so I’m way below average on miles driven. I use public transportation for 98% of my commute. I think it was the amount of air travel that knocked my score low, and I only do leisure flying, and that’s a not usually more than 6 round trips a year. And certainly, the annual heating bill didn’t help. We heat a huge house, in New England, that also uses the heating system for on-demand hot water. Our local heating fuel company loves us, to say the least.

I’m still giving myself a “greener than average” score, since the quiz didn’t take into account recycling and other small individual conservation measures. I think those add up as well, and I’ve been recycling as long as I can remember — long before curbside recycling was common. I used to haul away all my recyclables: bottles to one place, cans to another place, paper to a farm (they shredded it for bedding, and it was the only option I could find for newspapers, magazines, phone books, etc.). And for many years we’ve been taking canvas bags to the supermarket to carry our groceries home. And when we don’t take the canvas bags, it’s because we need plastic bags for cat litter or papers bags for bagging our paper and junk mail for recycling.

And given my long-held thoughts about junk mail, I think I’ve found a new cause for Al Gore (if he’s not going to run for president): how about greening up the U.S. Postal system. He could save a helluva lot of forests.

higher ground

This is some incredible stuff: the recent earthquake in the Solomon Islands (the same quake that spawned the killer tsunami) lifted the island of Ranongga up to 10 feet (~ 3 metres) higher than it previously was.

In other words, everything around the island that was previously under up to 10 feet of water is now pretty much no longer under water at all — including some of the most gorgeous coral reefs in the world, which are now drying up and crumbling. Shorelines in some areas are more than 200 feet (~70 metres) further out to sea. Both sad and fascinating at the same time.

all in the family

Years down the road the George W. Bush administration will be but another chapter in the country’s history. The basic history books will devote one chapter to George W., and that chapter will hit all the big news: 9/11, terror, driving the Taliban out of Afghanistan, the failure to capture Osama bin Laden, the invasion of Iraq, the embarrassing movement to ban same-sex marriage, the response to hurricane Katrina, Iraq slipping into civil war, Afghanistan slipping back into chaos … it won’t be a pretty chapter.

But will history see the bigger picture? The main characters in this current chapter are all just people like the rest of us, with personal and/or professional relationships with the others. And there are complex personalities at work.

If seeing the bigger picture interests you at all, I highly recommend Andrew Sullivan’s Sunday Times article on the Shakespearean scope of the Bush political family. Sullivan has fashioned an incredibly astute big-picture analysis of the personalities involved. He reminds us of the bitter history between Donald Rumsfeld and the current president’s father, former president George H.W. Bush. It’s a story of George W. Bush who both deeply admires, and deeply resents, his father — for a variety of reasons. A new act in this story is now unfolding with the nomination of Robert Gates to Defense Secretary and James Baker’s Iraq Study Group looking at US options in Iraq. Gates and Baker are two of the closest friends, advisors, and allies, of the first president Bush.

There are dual tragedies unfolding here. For Bush II, he’s been forced to fire Rumsfeld (his father’s old nemesis) and he’s bringing his father’s advisors in to try to sort out this mess. History will not treat his stewardship of the country kindly, despite the fact he bested his father by winning (and yes, I use the term loosely) a second term. Bush II also wasted an historic opportunity post-9/11 to unite a broad international coalition to combat terrorism in a smart, multilateral manner. These are tragic failures. Bush I doesn’t get off the hook in this story either. He lacked the balls in 1991 to take out Saddam Hussein at a time when we really would have been widely welcomed as liberators in Iraq. Had Bush I possessed a little more fortitude in the first Gulf War, we wouldn’t be in the perilous situation we find ourselves now.

I was discussing this with Marlin at dinner a couple weeks before the election, and I remembered blogging a news story years back that that is very revealing. It didn’t get much exposure at the time. In a nutshell, one of the first priorities US troops had in Baghdad immediately after the invasion was to demolish an intricate tile floor in a hotel lobby. Yes, while Saddam’s conventional weapon stockpiles were being looted by Iraqis — who are now using those same weapons against US troops — some of the too-few troops we sent into Iraq were hammering and chiseling a tile floor. A tile floor with George H.W. Bush’s portrait on it.

There is no better illustration of the personal and selfish motives involved here: George W. Bush wanted to please his father by removing the insulting floor Saddam had installed. George W. Bush wanted to better his father by ousting Saddam from power. Mission accomplished, on both counts.

A portion of the AP story is excerpted below. I also found this Google cache of the story, and the full version is available for a fee from the AP archives.

Soldiers Liberate George H.W. Bush Doormat

By CHRIS TOMLINSON, Associated Press
9:17 p.m. PDT Saturday, April 12, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – There was a bit of unfinished business left over in Baghdad from the 1991 Gulf War. The U.S. Army has taken care of it.

At the Al-Rashid Hotel, President Bush the elder – father of the current American chief executive who ordered this year’s invasion of Iraq – is a doormat no more.

U.S. soldiers visited the battered Al-Rashid on Thursday night wielding hammers and chisels, and dug out the intricate tile mosaic of the former president that was used for years as a state-sponsored insult.

In its place, they laid a portrait of Saddam Hussein.

“Everybody walked over it and wiped their feet on it,” Lt. Col. Rick Schwartz, the battalion commander said. He left the Saddam portrait behind, on the ground for future use.

Taking shoes to the face is not exactly a compliment in any culture, but in the Arab world it’s a particular slam. Pointing the soles of one’s feet at someone is a grave insult.

So the notion of thousands of Iraqi feet trudging over the patrician features of George Herbert Walker Bush was particularly appealing to Saddam’s regime, humiliated by Bush during the 1991 Gulf War to free Kuwait from Iraqi invaders.

Saddam personally picked the Al-Rashid for the insult to Bush senior. The hotel was heavily trafficked by foreign guests and the base of operations for journalists during the 1991 war – and the place where, on the night of the first American air strike in January 1991, Arab guests huddled in the basement and shouted “Death to Bush.”

The mosaic, an unflattering portrait of Bush with his teeth bared in a scowl, was installed later in 1991 right in the Al-Rashid’s doorway complete with a caption in Arabic and English: “Bush is criminal.”