Friday, December 29, 2006

Random Thoughts

These are some of the thoughts floating through my mind today:

They’re going to kill Saddam Hussein today or tomorrow or sometime soon. I don’t care whether he lives or dies. I do care that they’re going to kill him. I can’t get past or behind state-sponsored murder. I keep visualizing the hanging process. It makes me nuts.

On a more cheerful note, I’m very happy the Giants signed Barry Zito. It’ll make this coming season a lot more interesting.

On a less cheerful note, it seems clear that Bush and his buddies are going to raise the number of troops in Iraq. The PR people are hard at work preparing the public for confirmation that this will be the strategy. It won’t work guys. It won’t work. Call it a ‘surge,’ or a ‘redeployment,’ or a ‘new strategy,’ or whatever. It is throwing another bad idea into the mix of bad ideas.

Speaking of troops – I know that many of them are positive about the war, but it sickens me to hear about the thousands of young men and women who are being wounded, many grievously. Ten thousand is the latest number I’ve heard. They may not want me to feel sorry for them, but I do. What a waste.

Tom Brokaw did a show on illegal immigrants the other day. He focused on an area in Colorado between Aspen and Vail. There is a boom in construction there. The boom is totally dependent on having workers to get the job done. Most of the low-end workers are Mexicans using phony documentation. Without them the economy will go down the toilet. No one has come up with a good solution – including me.

I had a brilliant result in my Fantasy Football (Soccer) games in England on Tuesday. For the season, which is now half over, it moved me up into the top 2.6% of teams competing. I am currently #29,684 out of 1,149,953 in the game.

Our traditional Holiday Dinner for Sandra’s family is today. It will be the 29th Annual Dinner. One feature will be saying how we did on the resolutions we made a year ago and letting people know what our resolutions for 2007 will be. I accomplished what I said I’d do in 2006. One of my new ones will be adding to this Blog at least once a week.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera has launched an international English language channel that can be seen in the U.S. Except it can’t.

I guess if you have access to an overseas satellite that carries the channel you could see it. But in this country almost all of us get our TV through cable systems or satellite providers like DISH and DirecTV. And it is my understanding that none of these American communication outlets will offer Al Jazeera, even for subscribers willing to pay a hefty monthly fee for the privilege.

The reasons are obvious. Al Jazeera is said to broadcast the news through an Arab and/or Muslim prism. It is said to be anti-American. It is said to be sympathetic to the terrorists. Etc. Etc.

I say, “So what?” Are we so fragile or fearful that we can’t bear to hear a point of view that doesn’t agree with ours? I guess so. Are our business leaders so afraid of commercial or government reprisal that they can’t risk putting Al Jazeera on the air? I guess so. Is it better to hide our heads in the sand (and Arab desert sand at that) rather than endorse free speech for those considered to be the enemy? I guess so.

I doubt I’d sign up for Al Jazeera even if it were available. I’m just not interested enough. But I’d like the choice. I’d like to be able to say ‘no’ rather than have the thought police tell me ‘no.’

Isn’t there something in the first amendment to the Constitution about freedom of expression? Or am I remembering wrong? Well, it could be argued, Al Jazeera is free to express itself. Just not here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

No Guts

The reason George Bush won’t make any serious changes in his approach to Iraq or anything else foreign or domestic is because he doesn’t have the courage to admit that he’s made a mistake. It takes real strength to acknowledge you’re wrong. He doesn’t have that kind of strength. He doesn’t have the guts.

He can talk tough, or at least say the words. But even with his tough talk, bluster, “I’ll get ‘em dead or alive” approach he isn’t convincing. Why? Because he doesn’t have the strength of character to convince the listener that he means it, that he can back up his bully pulpit with action. He’s a faux bully. He doesn’t have what it takes to really bully. He doesn’t have the guts.

He’s not dumb, so he shouldn’t be underestimated. He’s street smart from a distance. That is, he can tell others what to do, especially when the task is inconvenient or unpleasant. But don’t expect him to step up and do it. He doesn’t have the guts.

He doesn’t have the guts to be compassionate. Is he believable when he says he feels for our soldiers and their families? No. Is he believable when he expresses concern for the downtrodden or underprivileged? No. Is he believable when he struts his strut – coming onto a stage, reviewing the troops, heading out to his helicopter? No. He doesn’t have the guts to be comfortable in his own skin.

He’s now saying that so long as he is President we won’t lose in Iraq. Which means he’ll hand the mess over to the next administration and then claim they did the losing. It’s a transparent ploy that some people will buy into. Yet, I’m convinced he honestly believes what he says. He can’t cop to the real truth because he has so deluded himself into believing an alternative truth, one that is impermeable. He doesn’t have the guts to face the real truth.

Finally, God is on his side, he says. He is doing God’s work. Since we’re not in on his private conversations with God we have to take his word for it. Since we don’t have access to all the secret information that flows to him, from God, the Pentagon, the CIA, wherever, we should take his word for it. Do we have the guts not to believe him? The answer today is a resounding ‘yes.’ Regrettably, the answer when it really counted was ‘no.’ Shame on us for not having the guts.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Decline

Recently, I had a vague recollection of writing something when we invaded Iraq. Sure enough, I searched and found that I wrote the attached note on March 20, 2003, the day of the invasion. Unfortunately, almost four years later, no re-write is necessary


I don’t remember when I realized that the rise of the American Age was over and the decline had begun.

It could have been in the late 60’s, when I heard from Indian students that they considered us to be old and passé – not still young and vibrant, which was my lifelong image of us.

It could have been in the 70’s, when our power didn’t prevent us from being kicked out of Vietnam, or when political immorality forced a president to resign.

It could have been in the 80’s and 90’s, when greed and disdain for the world around us seemed particularly in vogue.

I know I didn’t feel that way in November 1963, when I saw thousands of Indians line up to sign condolence books to honor John Kennedy. Why are they doing this, I asked myself? I concluded that he, and by extension his country, stood for hope, a brighter future. And we seemed willing and able to take the lead in making that future real.

Now I see that the seeds of decline have always been there. They didn’t come into existence as a result of an event or because I happened to notice them. They are inevitable. Why? Because unless we are a different species than all who preceded us, which isn’t likely, at a fundamental level we behave like our ancestors.

Our means of expression do change. The dynamics change. The specifics change. But how as a group we behave when we have power hasn’t changed.

There is no question that the 20th was the American Century. We were preeminent. We still are. We’re the only super power. And we’ll remain that way for a while. But at the end of the 21st Century, people will not call it an American Century. By then it will be obvious that the seeds of our decline have borne fruit.

And we won’t even have a place in the top rank of groups that have been preeminent during their time. The Romans did better than we will do. So did the Greeks. And the Assyrians. And the Persians. And the Ottomans. And the Mongols, etc., etc.

The Egyptians lasted much longer than the rest, but they handled it differently. They were strong enough to protect themselves but weren’t preoccupied with conquering others and expanding. Even with that difference, in the end they grew weak and lost their place. But we’re not following the Egyptian way.

We, and the others who used their power like we’re using ours, are like tragic figures in a Shakespearean drama. We’re strong – and we have a fatal flaw(s). Arrogance. Hubris. What difference does it make what others think – we’re right. We have a Divine Right. A Messianic calling to protect ourselves from evil ones – by doing evil. Greed. A voracious appetite for resources, and too bad about others who are too weak to get theirs.
Etc., etc.

To those of you who are cheering in favor of our policies and the use of our power: your cheers won’t help.

To those of you who are upset about what we’re doing: your tears won’t help.

So, then, is it totally hopeless? At the American Empire level, i.e., saving it or changing it – yes, it’s hopeless. The best that will happen will be marginal improvements. The scenario is already written. We won’t see the end during our lifetime, but the end is inevitable.

At the individual level, it’s not hopeless. We can love our family and friends. We can be gentle and kind with our relationships. We can live our lives with personal integrity. We can reach out to others when we are called to do so and perhaps make a difference in their lives.

We can choose not to engage in the meaningless sound and fury that surrounds us. I was going from channel to channel last night to see if I could find any real news. It was like an unending parody. On every station people were yelling at each other. About how to behave as a spouse. About basketball teams. About the Oscars. About war and peace. Finally, I realized what I could do – hit the mute button.

So, everyone, enjoy the silence.