Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Things We Make Our Kids Do

This Memorial Day weekend, I'm looking at the news of the day. The British Petroleum Oil Gusher continues in its 40th day a mile deep in the Gulf of Mexico with no end in sight, and the dollar cost of the Afghan and Iraqi wars now exceeds ONE TRILLION dollars. Civilian deaths in those two wars are estimated to be between 100,000 and 800,000. The very fact that it is so vaguely tabulated says something about the war's very nature. US military casualties exceed 5,000 killed and about 35,000 seriously wounded. President Obama has pledged to get out of Iraq and is being pressured more and more to do the same from Afghanistan. The things we make our kids do.

My Dad and his brothers were in the Navy in WW II. One uncle saw action and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. I don't remember about my Uncle Benny. My Dad was stationed at Morro Bay in Northern California and used to tell us kids about marching his night duty along the Pacific Ocean shore watching for Japanese submarines. All three brothers survived the war. Some wars do make more sense than others, unfortunately. The things we make kids do.

I did a bit of research and found that approximately 1,300,000 American soldiers have been killed in all our wars since the Revolutionary War. About half of those were killed in the Civil War, appr. 400,000 US Soldiers were killed in WWII, 50,000 in South Vietnam, with the remaining 200,000 killed in all the other wars combined. Mostly kids, I suspect, forced to do what kids shouldn't have to do. Optional wars seem to me to be a bad idea.

We keep beginning things we can't control, creating problems that are beyond our capacity to solve.... Unequivocal victories are few and far between these days. Unanticipated consequences are the norm. Maybe what is in common between these two items in the news this weekend is our hubris, our arrogance. We think we can start wars and manage them to successful conclusions. We think we can dig oil wells a mile deep in the ocean and we are smart enough to thwart catastrophe. Eleven young oil workers died on that platform.

The unstoppable oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico seems to work as a metaphor for our inability to stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Hubris tells us we can "manage" these wars -- we can't; they take on a life of their own; hubris tells us we can explore and drill for oil in places we can't even go -- we can't; they take on a life of their own. Just as the oil washes up on our shores do the fallen arrive home to their grieving families.

So on this Memorial Weekend, let us remember all those young kids who gave their lives for all the reasons that politicians come up with. I'm pretty convinced that the best way to end these wars is to stop fighting them. Our kids go bravely where and when they are told. Let us do a better job of deciding where they should go.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ich bin ein Arizonan

"Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall." - President Ronald Reagan

"Build the dang fence." - John McCain

"Ich bin ein Berliner." -John Kennedy has become "We're all Arizonans now." Sarah Louise Palin

Times have certainly changed. John McCain has changed from Maverick war-hero independent thinking pragmatic centrist to sycophantic Tea Party chasing weird guy hanger-onner from Arizona. Sarah Louise Palin (anagram - Lush Paranoia Lies) has morphed from unknown Alaska right-wing small-town small-time politician to nationally known opportunist uber-rich celebrity hack, ultra-right-wing, incoherent, inchoate Tea Party anger spokesperson that even Alaska doesn't want as a future President. Someone else writes books for her and she gets rich..... The corporate and Fox News organized, financed, and sponsored Tea Party conglomeration of disaffected angry at everything and everybody is perceived as a populist grass roots movement. The right wing media machine is running at full BIG LIE speed and the "lamestream" media (great phrase coined by SLP) passively reports and, therefore, promulgates the repeated misinformation spread by FOX and Friends. Glenn Beck gets rich with his loony shtick. What a country!

But it is contradictory anger: anger at TARP and bailouts of financial institutions and auto companies is accompanied by filibusters against fixes of the problems. Conservative right wing Republicans are now targeted by Tea Party candidates - to replace with even more conservative righter-wing Republicans. Be careful about how much anger you try to stir up would be a message the Republicans might heed in the future. Constitutional Rights are selectively embraced and/or rejected -- i.e., We should be able to sell terror suspects on Watch Lists and No Fly Lists weapons and explosives, but we shouldn't be required to read them their Miranda Rights after they are arrested for their crimes. And we should be able to imprison American citizens without charges for as long as we want........

Dr. Frankenstein's monster and Oppenhemier's famous prophecy come to mind: "We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita; Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty, and to impress him, takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.' I suppose we all thought that, one way or another."

So, as we head down the Alice in Wonderland rabbit hole to the Tea Party, I guess we'll see in the election cycles ahead whether the Ouroboric, snake eating its own tail, "epistemically closed," extreme right-wing devours itself in its undifferentiated "infancy experience" unfettered by the attempt to actually make something work fizzles out or gains strength.....or whether cooler pragmatic heads prevail. President Obama has always struck me as the adult in the room......

Help, I've fallen off the Coffee Party "civility pledge" wagon again. I need a Coffee Party sponsor.

Regards, Bud

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Muslim Immigrant is Hero in Times Square Bomb Attempt

A few observations on the Times Square attempted bombing: President Obama's focused strikes against the Taliban and Al Quaeda appear to be degrading their capabilities to the point that we are seeing the 3rd and 4th string players in the game. As a Nebraskan remembering the glory years of the Bob Devaney and Tom Osborne years when NU would be ahead by 40 points in the middle of the third quarter, players off the bench would get playing time. There'd be a field full of "I wonder who that is" players doing their damndest to impress the coaches with their spirit, spunk, and abilities. Parents of these players would root them on enthusiastically while they sometimes excelled and sometimes stepped the wrong way, blocked the wrong guy, fumbled the ball, got the snap count wrong, etc.,etc., etc.

The latest terrorist attempts, the Times Square event and the kid on the airplane a couple of months ago who set his underwear on fire, seem to fit into this category. US forces have so targeted, pursued, and Predator droned them, that we are seeing their 3rd and 4th string players toward the end of the game. Incompetent amateurs who lack the training and experience of the earlier players have been unable to carry out their planned attacks. Lucky for us? Yes, of course, but credit President Obama's focus on the actual terrorists this last many months. George W. Bush's approach to terrorism -- Hey, let's invade Iraq -- left the door open to Al Quada's devastating attacks in Malaysia, in Mumbai, in Kenya, in London, in Spain, etc., and helped organize Al Quaeda to infiltrating Iraq and fomenting a brutal civil war there.

One difference in my analogy, though, is the Underpants Bomber's parents were not rooting for him. They, in fact, alerted the US Embassy of their concerns that their son was "radicalized." I haven't heard about the parents of the Time Square Bomber, though. I hope they are not among those rooting him on.

Another thing, the citizen who alerted the police to the explosive device in Times Square was a Muslim immigrant trying to make a better life for himself in the US. Let's not forget that...... People risk their lives to come to the United States because the US has more opportunity than most of their home countries.

Other topics:

Homophobia -- Have you noticed that the more rabidly anti-gay and homophobic politicians are, the more likely they are to have unresolved "issues" about their own sexuality? My advice is: be who you are. You'll save everyone a lot of heartache and trouble. George Rekers is the latest in a long line of troubled souls spreading their tormented visions and hypocrisy to others.

Bill of Rights -- The Republicans can be pretty selective about these rights -- Gitmo where it's okay to imprison people for years w/o charges (President Obama, too); warrantless wiretapping of US citizens; efforts to undo Miranda rights for people arrested in US jurisdiction including US citizens. But try to prohibit sales of weapons and explosives to terror suspects on FBI watch and no-fly lists, and the 2nd Amendment zealots go bonkers..... Their position appears to be we will sell terrorists weapons, but we don't have to read them their rights after we arrest them......

And another thing, in the "good old days" many of the people who were spouting "My Country, Right or Wrong" are now plotting the overthrow of the government in Christian or other militias. Whatever happened to that sentiment? When the Republicans are in power, any criticism of the President borders on unpatriotic behavior to be attacked. Now, criticism of President Obama is not premised on any particular program or policy: anything Obama does is subject of coordinated media driven right-wing (Faux News, Limbaugh, Palin, Beck, Karl Rove, etc.) campaigns against it. Oh, for the good old days! Ever notice that Karl Rove and Karl Marx have the same first name?

Next, what's with Florida? - Marco Rubio, Republican candidate for Governor, son of Cuban exiles, now says send all illegals back including American citizen children of illegals. Republican Governor Charlie Crist is run out of party by the rightest of wingers and Tea Partiers, and an anti-bestiality law has been introduced twice now and rejected twice now by Florida's Legislature..... What does all that add up to? Hmmmmmm.

And finally, a comment on the stability of the American financial system. A leading theory on the 1,000 point stock market plummet this last week was that someone typed a "b" instead of an "m" in a purchase or sell order causing computer stock trading systems to run wild. Skynet, anyone? Hardly builds confidence in the system.....

Bud Cassiday

ps. DNA researchers have now determined that we all carry a bit of Neanderthal genetic structure in our heritage. I always thought my Uncle Benny looked a bit Neanderthal. Now, I know why. I guess those Homo Sapiens were always on the look out for a party.......