Thursday, October 16, 2014

Competition!

An unfair competition for people’s attention is underway in the media:

All consuming:  Every last detail having to do with the three Ebola cases in the U.S.
Eliciting a yawn:  The thousands of people dying in Africa.

All consuming:  Every last detail about NFL players being arrested/accused of something.
Eliciting a yawn:  The NFL culture that spawns such behavior.

All consuming:  Whether the Democrats will retain control of the Senate.
Eliciting a yawn:  The midterm elections in general.

All consuming (at least in California):  The drought in California.
Eliciting a yawn:  The environmental reality behind it all.

All consuming:  The daily ups and downs of the stock market.
Eliciting a yawn:  The overall state of the economy.

All consuming:  The latest ISIS beheading.
Eliciting a yawn:  The societal pathology that is the breeding ground for ISIS.

All consuming:  The scandal du jour, be it political, celebrity, business, etc.
Eliciting a yawn:  Good works being done quietly by well known people. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Go Giants!

Again, the Giants are defying the smart money, odds makers and who’s best on paper.  Like they say, the game is played on the field, not on paper, so we should know better.  A repeat of 2010 and 2012?  Possible.  But whatever happens, they’ve done themselves and the city of San Francisco proud.  Go Giants!

On the subject of sports, a different kind of example in Turin last Sunday when Juventus hosted Roma in a Serie A clash to determine who would stay undefeated and stay on top in Italy.  I was traveling when the game was played, so I watched a rerun the other day.  These were two very good teams who played a mean-spirited, ugly game.  Why?  The referee lost control of the game early and never regained it.

Gianluca Rocchi is supposed to be one of Italy’s best.  Didn’t look like it Sunday.  Three questionable penalties given.  Allowing players to go too far and then waving yellow card after yellow card in a futile attempt to impose order.  Finally, tossing two players out with red cards.  A beautiful strike near the end by Bonucci which gave Juve a 3-2 victory was overshadowed by Rocchi’s incompetence and petulance by players on both sides. 

It could have been a hard-fought, aggressive display of excellence on the pitch.  It wasn’t.  It was ugly.  Shame on everyone involved.


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Ludicrous!

Ludicrous is defined as “something so foolish or unreasonable or out of place as to be amusing; ridiculous.”

It is ludicrous to think that had the US intervened in a limited way in Syria a few years ago it would have made a difference.  One, compared to Assad and the Sunni extremists like Al Nusra there were few good guys to align with.  Two, we weren’t sure who those good guys were.

It is ludicrous to think that a few Americans combined with bombing will be enough to turn the tide in Iraq.  We were there for years, trained their army, spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives, and when we left they didn’t have the ability or the will to deal with their own problems.  Nothing we do now will change the basic equation: they need to own their situation.

It is ludicrous to think that Afghanistan is going to turn into a democratic country.  Those who say it is a mistake to pull out and if only we’d keep a presence there then everything would turn out OK are forgetting history and common sense.  Accept it, guys.  We can’t fix it.

It is ludicrous to think that if only America was a more aggressive leader on the world stage other countries would respect us more and therefore pay more attention to what we want.  If there is an overlap of self-interest then we can have a productive partnership.  If there isn’t, forget it.

I was in Sicily recently.  It is just as ludicrous to think that Antonio, the Mafioso down at the end of road, will change his localized world view and become a global citizen as it is to think that the United States of America is living in a world in which we can have our way.  That’s a ludicrous pipe dream, true maybe back in the middle of the 20th century, but a ludicrous fantasy today.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The More Things Change, etc.

I've been traveling for the past two weeks, in touch with the world, but not focused on it.  So what's new?  Not much I'm not surprised to say.  I've seen this phenomenon before.

Go away for a while.  Take your attention off day to day happenings and when you return to catch up you find there's really not much to catch up on.  Trouble spots around the world are the same.  The same people are killing the same people.  Problems at home that we're intractable are still stuck in neutral or have become worse.  So welcome to the way it is.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Piling On!

A cottage industry is defined as a small and often informally organized activity.  Criticizing Obama has become a cottage industry on steroids.  It may still be informally organized but it’s certainly not small.  Maureen Dowd is obsessed with it.  Fox News is on it 24/7.  The think tankers have jumped in.  Politicians on all sides have added their infinite wisdom.

Tom Friedman is the only voice in the crowd who consistently stands apart from the sound and fury and takes a reasoned, sensible approach when analyzing what’s going on in the world.  He points out how complicated it all is and argues for calm, long-term thinking.  He is not an Obama apologist, but he is sympathetic to the argument that there are no easy solutions and precipitate action in the name of ‘do something’ is dangerous foolishness, not leadership.

I can find plenty of reasons to criticize Obama as President, both at home and abroad.  Certainly he has not communicated with the American people in a way that they can resonate with his thinking.  But much of the anti-Obama rhetoric is driven by spoken and unspoken political expediency, American exceptionalism, ideology and racism.  No way can he win with that crowd, so I make a distinction between justified and unjustified criticism.

Like it or not, and too many Americans don’t like it, America can’t control the world.  Too bad for us, but that’s the way it is.  This will be more obvious as the 21st century continues to unfold.  The anti-Obama mantra is that he wants to win by ‘leading from behind,’ and that isn’t the American way.  Our job has always been to lead from in front.  What too many people fail to recognize is that it is fruitless to yearn for a return to past glories, to want it to be the way it has always been.  This is, indeed, a new day.  Our wisest course is to see the world the way it is before it is too late.

Piling on Obama isn’t going to make this happen.

I'll be traveling for the next four weeks and may not be posting regularly.

Monday, September 01, 2014

What I've Learned Recently!

Some things I’ve learned recently:

There are no trashcans at Burning Man.  Those who attend clean up after themselves – and apparently do a great job of it.

Tens of thousands of (mostly) young people attend events to watch gamers play against each other.

A related item:  Colleges are beginning to award athletic-type scholarships to top-of-the-line gamers.

Medicare costs are going down, not up.

How huge underground caves are created.  (Look it up if you’re interested)

That the Roman Empire and the Han Empire in China were at their peak at the same time (200 BCE to 200 AD) and were similar in many ways even though they were barely aware that the other existed.

The older you get the more happiness you get from ordinary experiences rather than extraordinary ones.  (I probably would have guessed this was so, but never thought about it.)

College football as big business is not a new phenomenon.  It was rampant 100 years ago.

When to eat sushi with and without chopsticks and when to dip it in soy sauce.