"Where else would you go when you have an ax to grind?"

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Dubya: Still more popular than genital warts! (barely)

The latest Newsweek poll shows George W. Bush's is NOT the most unpopular president in U.S. --he is three whole percentage points more popular than Richard Nixon during Watergate.

Only 26 percent of Americans, just over one in four, approve of the job the 43rd president is doing; while, a record 65 percent disapprove, including nearly a third of Republicans...In fact, the only president in the last 35 years to score lower than Bush is Richard Nixon. Nixon’s approval rating tumbled to 23 percent in January 1974, seven months before his resignation over the botched Watergate break-in.

I know what you're thinking -- it's the war. Americans are dying and voters are blaming the president. Well, yes...

The war in Iraq continues to drag Bush down. A record 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Bush has done handling Iraq. Despite “the surge” in U.S. forces into Baghdad and Iraq’s western Anbar province, a record-low 23 percent of Americans approve of the president’s actions in Iraq, down 5 points since the
end of March.

...And no. Turns out that American voters just aren't that into Dubya anymore.

But the White House cannot pin his rating on the war alone. Bush scores record or near record lows on every major issue: from the economy (34 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove) to health care (28 percent approve, 61 percent disapprove) to immigration (23 percent approve, 63 percent disapprove). And—in the worst news, perhaps, for the crowded field of Republicans hoping to succeed Bush in 2008—50 percent of Americans disapprove of the president’s handling of terrorism and homeland security. Only 43 percent approve, on an issue that has been the GOP’s trump card in national elections since 9/11.

"But, but, but" I hear the hardcore Bushniks sputter "Voters hate congress more than they hate Bush." True enough...

If there is any good news for Bush and the Republicans in the latest NEWSWEEK Poll, it’s that the Democratic-led Congress fares even worse than the president.Only 25 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing.

...But I think the reason people hate congress is that they haven't managed to clip Georgie's wings yet. Thanks to Bush's veto power, Republican obstructionism and general gutlessness about being accused of "not supporting troops" the Democratic congressional majority hasn't done what people want to see them do. They haven't ended the war, done anythng on health care, or gotten rid of Alberto Gonzales. People hate the president and Nancy Pelosi has taken impeachment off the table.

At least George can take some joy in knowing that he isn't likely to be impeached. No matter how many people hate him, he's still more popular than his puppetmaster Vice-President Dick "Darth Vader" Cheney.

CBS News/New York Times Poll. May 18-23, 1,125 adults nationwide. MoE 3%."Is your opinion of Dick Cheney favorable, not favorable, undecided, or haven't you heard enough about Dick Cheney yet to have an opinion?"

Favorable 13%
NotFavorable 39%
Undecided 23%
Haven'tHeard 24%
Refused 1%
(cross-posted at The Galloping Beaver)

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The not-so friendly skies
How long will have to wait for the federal government to start putting peace activists and opposition MPs on the new no-fly list, just like their American counterparts?

Barry Prentice, the director of the Transport Institute at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg (quoted in the linked article) has it right:

"We're having a no-fly list because they have a no-fly list.… They want us to have one and we want to open trade with the U.S., so we're getting one."
Prentice said the Canadian government should limit the size of its no-fly list and make sure the number of names doesn't get into the thousands.
"Let's limit it to the size of a hockey team and let's kept it public," he said. "I just think this is overboard."

It isn't like the U.S. list has ever been abused by the authorities. Heaven forbid!

Ice cold assassin a cool read
Kevin Wood / Daily Yomiuri Staff Writer
Requiem for an Assassin
By Barry Eisler
Putnam, 368 pp, 24.95 dollars
The professional criminal planning one last job before retirement is a pop culture staple, as is the retired or reformed gunman being forced back into action to save a friend. Former Tokyo and Osaka resident and former CIA spook Barry Eisler uses these archetypal premises as the jumping-off point in his latest and possibly last novel featuring Japanese-American assassin-for-hire John Rain.
Like all genre fiction, the espionage thriller has its conventions, certain things the author is expected to provide. High-tech gadgets? Check. Cool, ruthless hero? Check. Exotic international settings? Check. Wisecracking sidekick? Check. Double-crossing villain? Check.
In lesser hands, Requiem for an Assassin could have been a standard-issue, cookie-cutter spy thriller of the sort that clog the shelves of airport bookshops around the world. But John Rain is not a standard-issue protagonist and Eisler, for all his respect for the convention of the genre, does not write cookie-cutter novels.
Rain is a thinking man's James Bond. While Bond's penchant for high living, beautiful women, gourmet food and flashy cars make him the most conspicuous secret agent ever, Eisler's Rain strives to keep a low profile, presenting the face of an anonymous salaryman or Japanese tourist to the world. He specializes in murders that look like accidents and is a study in emotional detachment, tradecraft and paranoia. He is constantly scanning the room for possible tails, wary of cameras, never sitting with his back to a door or going anywhere without an escape route and cover story. But is it paranoia when they really are out to get you?
In this case the "they" is Jim Hilger, a rogue Central Intelligence Agency contractor who, while still bearing a grudge against Rain for foiling one of his operations in the previous book in the series, nonetheless finds himself in need of the Japanese-American hit man's particular expertise. In order to persuade Rain, now living in semiretirement in Paris, to cooperate, Hilger and his henchmen abduct Dox, Rain's partner and one of his only friends. In order to free his comrade-in-arms, Rain must commit three murders for Hilger. Needless to say, tables get turned, plots get twisted and the body count mounts before the good guys save the world.
The Tokyo setting that figured so prominently in the earliest books of series has been replaced here with Saigon, Amsterdam, Singapore, Silicon Valley and New York, though Rain does make a brief stopover in his old hometown to recommend a few local eateries.
In addition to the emphasis on professional spycraft, Eisler has done his technical homework on all the hardware, but in the main avoids the common action novel trap of turning his books into catalogues of weapons and gear from Spies-R-Us.
What sets Rain apart is Eisler's ability as a writer to get inside the psychology of the character's almost split personality. Rain is surprisingly human and self-aware for an action hero.
In action, Rain is a cold-blooded, remorseless machine that kills without warning or emotion. But when the job is done, he hurts. Rain is a killer with a conscience and he worries about the emotional and spiritual price he has paid for all the deaths he's caused, while at the same time realizing that if his conscience causes him to hesitate at the wrong time, it could cost him his own life.
Rain recognizes the sociopath inside himself and worries that with each job, he is coming closer to turning into "the iceman" for good. It is this depth that makes the character, and by extension the book, believable and what sets Eisler head and shoulders above the pack of run-of-the-mill thriller writers.
(Jun. 16, 2007)