Still, it is true I always lose more at the top of the year than at the bottom. From July on I either maintain or gain, so at least I didn't really gain (or I've already lost everything I did gain).
I think I'm battling a cold. Either that or I'm sore, draggy, tired, and headachey for no reason. (Well, sore maybe because I tried to increase the workout - fish oil is helping my shoulder, and I'm working slowly back up to weight training on the upper body, but I SWEAR I'm not overdoing it.)
I have finished my thank-you cards - and if you gave me something and don't get one, it's because I can thank you this way. My family gets cards. *g*
Humorous article, and nice; and another, which isn't funny but it's just as sad...
Mr. Ford Gets the Last Laugh
By CHEVY CHASE
Published: January 6, 2007
In recent days, I’ve been bombarded by requests to comment on my relationship with President Gerald Ford. Until now, I’ve tried to say nothing — any remarks from me during the Ford family’s private time of grief would have been inappropriate.
The requests were understandable, I guess. You see, I made a reputation for myself 30 years ago on “Saturday Night Live” in part because of a number of sketches and “Weekend Updates” that I wrote or appeared in ridiculing Mr. Ford for his apparent “stumble-bumbling” (though he was perhaps the best athlete to have been president) and making fun of his presidency.
Luckily for me, Mr. Ford had a sense of humor.
I’ve often thought how odd it was that we became linked together. It’s not like we had a lot in common. After all, Mr. Ford had never been helped for any problems with “self-medication” in a facility that has helped so many throughout these past decades. And he had never been castigated by the press for such atrocities as “Oh! Heavenly Dog” or “Cops and Robbersons,” among other slightly awful films I had made in Hollywood.
But linked together we were. And not just in the obvious ways. If it hadn’t been for the courage of Mr. Ford’s wife, Betty, for admitting to an alcohol problem, I would never have received the help I needed in the early 1980s at the Betty Ford clinic, located not far from the Ford residence near Palm Springs. During my short stay there, I often saw Mrs. Ford personally surveying the clinic and generously offering a helping hand to those who were lucky enough to face their problems and, with the learned help of the clinic staff, appraise their behavior and their lifestyles.
One day when my wife, Jayni, came to visit me at the clinic, the Fords invited us to lunch. As it happened, Mrs. Ford had become so beloved and respected by many for her earlier openness about breast cancer and her alcoholism that a television network was in preproduction on a special bio-pic about her. Mr. Ford suggested that while we ate lunch, the four of us could view the videotape of various performances by actors being considered to play the part of the president.
Seated at a small table set for four in a simple dining room also containing a somewhat complicated videotape recorder and TV set were the former commander in chief and I making friendly small talk before lunch was brought in. And on all fours, literally on their hands and knees in front of the bulky and confusing tape machine, were Mrs. Ford and Jayni trying their best to figure out the wiring of the playback machine and the way the whole system worked, so we could watch the screen tests. Noting the effort the ladies were putting into getting the VCR to work, I suggested to Mr. Ford that perhaps we might help them out.
As I began to stand up from my chair, he took gentle hold of my arm, sat me back down and said: “No, no, Chevy. Don’t even think about it. I’ll probably get electrocuted, and you’ll be picked up and arrested for murder.”
We both laughed.
I’ll never forget that moment. My laughter was hearty and genuine.
Chevy Chase is an actor and a writer.
The Timely Death of Gerald Ford
By FRANK RICH
Published: January 7, 2007
The very strange and very long Gerald Ford funeral marathon was about many things, but Gerald Ford wasn’t always paramount among them.
Forty percent of today’s American population was not alive during the Ford presidency. The remaining 60 percent probably spent less time recollecting his unelected 29-month term than they did James Brown’s “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” Despite the lachrymose logorrhea of television anchors and the somber musical fanfares, the country was less likely to be found in deep mourning than in deep football. It’s a safe bet that the Ford funeral attracted far fewer viewers than the most consequential death video of the New Year’s weekend, the lynching of Saddam Hussein. But those two deaths were inextricably related: it was in tandem that they created a funereal mood that left us mourning for our own historical moment more than for Mr. Ford.
What the Ford obsequies were most about was the Beltway establishment’s grim verdict on George W. Bush and his war in Iraq. Every Ford attribute, big and small, was trotted out by Washington eulogists with a wink, as an implicit rebuke of the White House’s current occupant. Mr. Ford was a healer, not a partisan divider. He was an all-American football star, not a cheerleader. He didn’t fritter away time on pranks at his college fraternity, Delta Kappa Epsilon, because he had to work his way through school as a dishwasher. He was in the top third of his class at Yale Law. He fought his way into dangerous combat service during World War II rather than accept his cushy original posting. He was pals with reporters and Democrats. He encouraged dissent in his inner circle. He had no enemies, no ego, no agenda, no ideology, no concern for his image. He described himself as “a Ford, not a Lincoln,” rather than likening himself to, say, Truman.
Under the guise of not speaking ill of a dead president, the bevy of bloviators so relentlessly trashed the living incumbent that it bordered on farce. No wonder President Bush, who once hustled from Crawford to Washington to sign a bill interfering in Terri Schiavo’s medical treatment, remained at his ranch last weekend rather than join Betty Ford and Dick Cheney for the state ceremony in the Capitol rotunda.
Yet for all the media acreage bestowed on the funeral, the day in Mr. Ford’s presidency that most stalks Mr. Bush was given surprisingly short shrift — perhaps because it was the most painful. That day was not Sept. 8, 1974, when Mr. Ford pardoned his predecessor, but April 30, 1975, when the last American helicopters hightailed it out of Saigon, ending our involvement in a catastrophic war. Mr. Ford had been a consistent Vietnam hawk, but upon inheriting the final throes of the fiasco, he recognized reality when he saw it.
Just how much so can be found in a prescient speech that Mr. Ford gave a week before our clamorous Saigon exit. (And a speech prescient on other fronts, too: he called making “America independent of foreign energy sources by 1985” an urgent priority.) Speaking at Tulane University, Mr. Ford said, “America can regain the sense of pride that existed before Vietnam” but not “by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned.” He added: “We, of course, are saddened indeed by the events in Indochina. But these events, tragic as they are, portend neither the end of the world nor of America’s leadership in the world.”
All of this proved correct, and though Mr. Ford made a doomed last-ditch effort to secure more financial aid for Saigon, he could and did do nothing to stop the inevitable. He knew it was way too late to make the symbolic gesture of trying to toss fresh American troops on the pyre. “We can and we should help others to help themselves,” he said in New Orleans. “But the fate of responsible men and women everywhere, in the final decision, rests in their own hands, not in ours.”
Though Mr. Ford was hardly the unalloyed saint of last week’s pageantry, his words and actions in 1975 should weigh heavily upon us even as our current president remains oblivious. As Mr. Ford’s presidential history is hard to separate from the Bush inversion of it, so it is difficult to separate that indelible melee in Saigon from the Hussein video. Both are terrifying, and for the same reason.
The awful power of the Hussein snuff film derives not just from its illustration of the barbarity of capital punishment, even in a case where the condemned is a mass murderer undeserving of pity. What really makes the video terrifying is its glimpse into the abyss of an irreversible and lethal breakdown in civic order. It sends the same message as those images of helicopters fleeing our embassy in April 1975: Iraq, like Vietnam before it, is in chaos, beyond the control of our government or the regime we’re desperately trying to prop up. The security apparatus of Iraq’s “unity government” was powerless to prevent the video, let alone the chaos, and can’t even get its story straight about what happened and why.
Actually, it’s even worse than that. Perhaps the video’s most chilling notes are the chants of “Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!” They are further confirmation, as if any were needed, that our principal achievement in Iraq over four years has been to empower a jihadist mini-Saddam in place of the secular original. The radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, an ally of Hezbollah and Hamas, is a thug responsible for the deaths of untold Iraqis and Americans alike. It was his forces, to take just one representative example, that killed Cindy Sheehan’s son, among many others, in one of two Shiite uprisings in 2004.
The day after Casey Sheehan’s slaughter, Dan Senor, the spokesman for the American occupation, presided over a Green Zone news conference promising Mr. Sadr’s woefully belated arrest on a months-old warrant for his likely role in the earlier assassination of Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a rival Shiite who had fiercely opposed Saddam. Today Mr. Sadr and his forces control 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, four government ministries, and death squads (a k a militias) more powerful than the nominal Iraqi army. He is the puppetmaster who really controls Nuri al-Maliki — the Iraqi prime minister embraced by Mr. Bush — even to the point of inducing Mr. Maliki to shut down a search for an American soldier kidnapped at gunpoint in Sadr City in the fall. (And, you might ask, whatever happened to Mr. Senor? He’s a Fox News talking head calling for a “surge” of American troops to clean up the botch he and his cohort left behind.) Only Joseph Heller could find the gallows humor in a moral disaster of these proportions.
It’s against the backdrop of both the Hussein video and the Ford presidency that we must examine the prospect of that much-previewed “surge” in Iraq — a surge, by the way, that the press should start calling by its rightful name, escalation. As Mr. Ford had it, America cannot regain its pride by refighting a war that is finished as far as America is concerned and, for that matter, as far as Iraq is concerned. By large margins, the citizens of both countries want us not to escalate but to start disengaging. So do America’s top military commanders, who are now being cast aside just as Gen. Eric Shinseki was when he dared assert before the invasion that securing Iraq would require several hundred thousand troops.
It would still take that many troops, not the 20,000 we might scrape together now. Last month the Army and Marines issued an updated field manual on counterinsurgency (PDF) supervised by none other than Lt. Gen. David Petraeus, the next top American military commander in Iraq. It endorsed the formula that “20 counterinsurgents per 1,000 residents” is “the minimum troop density required.” By that yardstick, it would take the addition of 100,000-plus troops to secure Baghdad alone.
The “surge,” then, is a sham. It is not meant to achieve that undefined “victory” Mr. Bush keeps talking about but to serve his own political spin. His real mission is to float the “we’re not winning, we’re not losing” status quo until Jan. 20, 2009. After that, as Joseph Biden put it last week, a new president will “be the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.” This is nothing but a replay of the cynical Nixon-Kissinger “decent interval” exit strategy concocted to pass the political buck (to Mr. Ford, as it happened) on Vietnam.
As the White House tries to sell this flimflam, picture fresh American troops being tossed into Baghdad’s caldron to work alongside the Maliki-Sadr Shiite lynch mob that presided over the Saddam hanging. Contemplate as well Gerald Ford’s most famous words, spoken as he assumed the presidency after the Nixon resignation: “Our Constitution works; our great republic is a government of laws and not of men. Here the people rule.”
This time the people do not rule. Two months after Americans spoke decisively on Election Day, the president is determined to overrule them. Our long national nightmare in Iraq, far from being over, is about to get a second wind.
And just because I've been trying to get my butt writing again, I am going to include a general overview of my world:
General world info: Mostly a parallel Earth, with only a few slight changes, most notable of which is, of course, magic works. And many people know or are at least aware that it truly existed once, as one of the sciences. Select people know it still works, or may even know a true Mage. As Judeo-Christian mythos (fear of witchcraft and magic) spread and gained power, it served to oppress mages/magickal families, driving them into secrecy and hiding. Eventually the complete suppression of magic as a science followed, which included the systematic destruction of magickal creatures (including werewolf families as well as vampires, leprechauns, and other human/spirit creatures both benevolent and not). In-depth magickal studies indicate werewolves were driven to extinction in the Great Werewolf Massacre of 1478, although this isn’t strictly true – many European werewolves sought shelter in Ireland, where they were welcomed and integrated into native families; the Judeo-Christian ideals didn’t initially reach much of Asia, Africa, or the Americas, where native werewolves continue to exist today, although they are just as secretive as mages. Vampires, likewise, went underground, especially the “true vampires,” the benevolent vampires who co-exist with their human families and friends as protectors and retainers; of course even the renegade vampires, the “in-betweeners,” as well as the “nosferatu” monsters, live in hiding, as well. Since most “leprechauns” (luck spirits) and other such magickal creatures are actually born into magickal families and thus are relatively easy to keep secret (many leprechauns usually don’t even know that’s what they are – and of course, only Irish families really use that term, although it’s a quick and easy way of explaining what luck spirits are. No pots of gold or short green guys, but good luck tends to follow them, especially their loved ones, through life; a few highly attuned leprechauns can be able to grant wishes, but that is exceedingly rare).
Drat. I haven't uploaded the Box of Kittens icon.