Monday, July 28, 2008

The American Family

The great divide in politics and overall civility in America, fueled by the incendiary properties of instant communications, i.e., the Internet, would have many conclude that our society is on the brink of collapse. It is an argument that, to be certain, is difficult to refute. Click on any given message board and witness the viciousness with which people tear one another apart, and you'll see what I mean. Yes, I have engaged in this practice personally. So what does it all mean? Are we ready to flee as the walls collapse behind us? I think not, and here's why...

For one thing, the attacks of September 11th, 2001 were a shining example of what our people are made of when we are pushed to our limits. Despite our in-fighting and constant accusations of racism against one another, we pulled together that day and saw nothing but a fellow human in need and helped that person without reservation. There were no ulterior motives and no preferences, we just helped one another. I have also seen words of encouragement and consolation in difficult times shared between sworn enemies on those same message boards. Humanity, at least in western culture, is alive and well.

What of the Middle East and our Muslim counterparts, then? We're all well aware of their worst moments, but what about their best moments? To be fair, we have not been treated to too many of those. We have not seen massive, press-covered rallies by "moderate" Muslims denouncing the violence perpetrated in their names. We have been deprived of anything remotely resembling a sound condemnation of the tactics employed by those who share the religion. Are these moderates too intimidated to exercise their authority over the crazies to speak out publicly? My theory says no. Be prepared...

I had sincere reservations over publicizing these thoughts, but I ultimately decided that they were better for society if exposed to the light of day. Let me know if you agree.

I have always been perplexed at the absence of suicide bombings in places like New York City and other large cities. Logistically, such attacks are virtually impossible to stop. Why then have they not happened? We know that jihadists would love to inflict such terror on our populace and yet, they have as yet to even attempt it. Certainly any member of a group that would gleefully kill themselves in the hopes of taking out as many Americans as possible would not be deterred by law-enforcement. What would be the fear if the perpetrator was dead after the act?

Family. See, these cells come here and must develop relationships in order to blend in with society, and even a bomber leaves people behind. Couple that with the fact that many moderate Muslims living in America like their new home (even if they view the new place as a hot bed of decadence), and what we have is a recipe for deterrence. But again, what could deter a bomber from...bombing?

Here is my theory in a nutshell: One thing about Americans that is widely presumed (and to a lesser degree, KNOWN first-hand) is that we are wild and crazy. Sure, we exercised incredible restraint after 9/11, but does anyone doubt the reaction of your garden variety country boy if we had delis and pizzerias across the country being subjected to daily bombings and carnage? There would be signs posted everywhere declaring open season on Daffy al-Duck.

So I maintain that our moderate Muslim population, while not being as outspoken as I'd prefer regarding terrorist attacks, has been instrumental in thwarting the insane notions of anyone who may have been harboring thoughts of granduer by jihad. Have they been doing so for selfish reasons? I suppose, but don't we all perform in the same manner? Nevertheless, I'm not concerned with motive in this regard, just results. Perhaps as the frightened among the moderates get more acclimated to the American way, they will begin to dilute the pool to a point that they actually learn to love America. I know I do.


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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Confounding Rhetoric

It has become increasingly difficult for the average person to discern any semblance of rationality emanating from both politicians and scholars these days. The things they say in the interests of themselves leave one scratching one's head with increasing frequency. Perhaps most irritating is the notion that they obviously think us so dimwitted that we cannot see the hypocritical dialogue for ourselves.

For example, our politicians began setting aside large portions of land for "preservation" a few decades ago because the environmentalists wanted to protect the flora and fauna from man's destructive ways. Oddly enough, these same people didn't seem to give a fig about the indigenous species of say, Saudi Arabia. Apparently it was just a-OK to destroy the Saudi's environment so long as we could still drive and heat our homes without rankling a few caribou.

When the Arab Oil Embargo hit, Congress' knee-jerk reaction was to release oil from our reserves to lower the rapidly increasing cost per barrel. Today, certain members of congress are making the same pleas, even while they deny that the spiraling costs have anything to do with supply. The question is, then; how will increasing supply ease the cost if supply and demand has no bearing, as they claim? And why won't harvesting our own oil do the same, if we can flood the market with crude?

Moving on, we also have members of the left claiming that in order to save ourselves from Global Warming, we have to implement radical and painful changes in the way we live, as well as to our economy. When they are confronted with conflicting evidence, they claim that virually everything is because of Global Warming. Cooling, warming, more rain, less rain, fewer storms, more storms, etc. The position is, how shall I say, very convenient.

So now, with his European tryst with the worldwide media mercifully over, we have a man who wants to be president of the United States making statements that clash directly with previous statements and positions he has made and held. His certitude a year ago that the surge had no chance for success notwithstanding, it's his reason for believing so is what's pertinent. He said, unequivocally, that sending in 20 to 30 thousand more troops would only increase the level of violence in Iraq and that the only option was for us to leave, and leave quickly. He was dead wrong.

Now, back from the love affair abroad, he tells the people that things are looking pretty good in Iraq but that Afghanistan needs help. How does he propose that we make that situation better? You guessed it; more troops!

Color me confused. And confounded...


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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A Necessary Glimpse Of Stark Reality

We've probably all been there at one time in our lives. Staring intently at the screen, on the edge of our seats, as the Good Guy glares down the barrel of his raised gun at the Bad Guy, who repeatedly demands that the Good Guy drop his weapon. In grim futility, we yell at the screen, beseeching the Good Guy to not do it!, but he eventually lowers his gun and dejectedly tosses it aside a mere second before the Bad Guy puts a bullet through the head of the Good Guy's loved one, tosses her lifeless body to the ground and splatters the guts of the Good Guy on the pavement.

The Good Guy's motivation was clear and even understandable to a degree. After all, he did what he thought was the only thing he could do to diffuse a tense situation in which hung the balance of his love's life. We, the audience, knew all along that the situation was hopeless but were powerless to persuade the actor on screen of such. He just couldn't hear us. Sure, the hero recuperates and seeks out those responsible for his loss and necessity for healing, but he has lost any reason for living save for vengeance. So much for fantasy; let's deal with reality.

Barack Obama is much like the hero in the film in as much he can't hear our plaintive cries nor understand the gravity of the peril. But he will gladly toss our weapons aside in the hopes of assuaging our enemies. Fortunately, he has not as yet attained the role of the "hero". He is, however, trying mightily.

The danger lies in the initial days of a Presidency, and one article points out the dark possibilities eloquently; it was written by Floyd and Mary Beth Brown and it casts a glaring, bare flourescent light on an Obama win in November and what it could mean. An excerpt:

On the night of January 20, 2009, a new commander-in-chief will leave the inaugural podium, parade, and festivities for the Oval Office. A national security staff ready with the first "threat briefing" will join him there. On his desk, they will place a thick binder of reports, each focusing on real or emerging threats on our national security. In the quiet of the Oval Office -- in the presence of these stern-faced, deadly serious briefers and advisers -- Barack H. Obama, should he be the next president, will come face-to-face with reality.

To reconcile my analogy, here is another excerpt from the piece:
The USS Gerald R. Ford, an aircraft carrier, is now under construction in Hampton Road, Va. It will be ready to join the fleet in 2015, replacing a carrier launched 47 years ago. Do we know that the USS Ford will be needed in 2015?

No, we do not. But can we afford to bet against it?

Obama thinks so. According to his own campaign literature, he is willing to let the USS Ford, and many more of tomorrow's defense technologies, rust at the pier.

For anyone who fails to see the relevance, we simply cannot afford a Commander in Chief who believes that we can toss our weapons aside and expect to reason with any given number of madmen who still hold theirs. They will surely kill everyone we ever loved if given the opportunity. And we won't even have the potence for revenge. If this is referred to as "cowboy diplomacy", I'll take it over cowardice and appeasement any day.


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Thursday, July 17, 2008

America Is Still Melting In The Pot...Or Is It?

The great American experiment has been chugging along for over 200 years and it has, for the most part, been a successful endeavor. The Great Melting Pot has produced some amazing people in its relatively brief history. Sometimes, however, when too many ingredients are poured in too rapidly, the fire beneath becomes overburdened.

Through most of the 20th century immigrants to America eagerly leapt into the pot and willfully allowed themselves to become part of the mix, revelling in their new-found home and enthusiastically embracing its culture. Then something changed near the end of the century; new additions began to cling to the side of the pot in an attempt to retain some of their original composition by not submerging themselves fully into what I call the stew. This corresponds to the emergence of hyphenated nationality labels. "Whatyouwill-Americans", e.g.

The stew began to change with these new ingredients being added, even more so than it should have. The flavor was always in flux, true, but the basic composition of the stew was always about a mixture of components. I am at a loss in explaining this change.

Yes, the flavor changes with the ingredients of a stew, but the stew remains relatively unchanged in appearance. This is because everyone cooks down to a common broth. There is change, but the change is so gradual as to be nearly imperceptible. That is, so long as one of the ingredients doesn't thrash about, wailing, as it loses its core identity at the boiling point. One must agree that such an occurrence would be most noticeable to the cook.

Up until the latter part of the 20th century there were no reluctant ingredients being poured into the pot. Sure, they still hit the plate as either orange carrots or white potatoes, but they all shared the plate without quarrel. It was a stew from the "pot", and all were equally consumed without prejudice (3-year-old-racist-picky-eaters notwithstanding). Now we have the ingredients demanding special privileges and prominence on the plate.

To really throw a wrench into the mix, pomegranate has insisted on not only being added to the stew (something which, to my knowledge at least, is unprecedented), but has demanded even further that it be highlighted on the menu. Outrage, I say.

I think the cook needs to turn up the heat and use the ladle to clear the sides of the pot, stirring frequently. We need a common identity once again in order to survive.


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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

An Exercise In Logic (And Why No One Should Vote For Obama)

Forget all the vitriol being spewed by the left regarding racist reasons for shunning Barack Obama. Many on the right are convinced that he's a muslim who should never occupy the White House, while being derided by those on the left for harboring such thoughts. Personally, I have seen enough evidence to make me skeptical, but that's just me. I'm not the one who counts, though.

One argument raging between the denizens of opposite ends of the ideological spectrum is how we view muslims in general. The right insists that they are, by nature and belief, inherently dangerous and therefore not to be trusted. The left corrects the right all the time, pointing out that islamophobia is a sickness, and that we should learn to accept muslims. The key to the argument is this; the reasons that radical jihad happens is because we anger the sensibilities of muslims and that we would be wise to tone down whatever behavior makes them mad in the first place. Oh yes, and learn tolerance.

Let's examine these views. Conservatives will never vote for Obama, not because he's black, not because they think he's a muslim, but because he's just too damned liberal. That much is pretty obvious, at this point. So here is why Liberals should not vote for him.

Say what you will about the Christian Science Monitor, but it is undeniable that they understand religion, and they have a great point; since Obama was indisputably born to a muslim father, the likes of Osama bin Laden will forever view him as a muslim. Know who the muslims hate more than "infidels"? Apostates, those who were "lucky enough" to be born muslim and then shunned Allah's "benevolence".

This makes it obvious, by simple deduction, that Liberals should avoid angering jihadists by not voting for Obama, an apostate that muslims will feel they have every right to kill.

Or, simply wait to see who his running mate is, and then vote for that person, because we know they won't vote for McCain anyway. But I think that they should just refrain from pissing off al Qaeda, period, since that has long been their mantra. Libs, practice what you (forgive the pun) preach.


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Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Dog's Life And The Answers We'll Never Get

Unless I find Goliath, that loveable but extremely poorly animated pooch from the old show, Davey & Goliath, I have questions about even my own dogs that will forever remain shrouded in mystery.

Sometimes things come at you when you least expect them. I was out back with my three dogs (two Dachschunds and a Rhodesian Ridgeback/Chow mix), and they were happily prancing around the backyard peeing on one another's previous pee spots. (Just one thing I have always been curious about). But another thought occurred to me while I was lazily watching them, especially concerning the Dachschunds. My backyard is about two thirds of an acre which, to you and I may seem small, but to a really small weener-dog, it must look like Rhode Island, and I was thinking, "How can they traverse an entire state, albeit small, and still have pee to yield"? Hell, I can blast right through both Maryland and Delaware without the RS (Rest Stop) thought ever crossing my mind, but I am usually travelling much faster than even Malibu (the younger Dachschund), who moves faster than physics allow for a dog a mere 6 inches above sea level.

The three of them patrolled the entire state of Rhode Island and found exactly where the other two had peed, and then mustered enough urine from wherever it could possibly have come to "stamp out" the two who came before them. Since I was bored, which is precisely why I was sitting there idly watching this bizarre spectacle in the first place, I started dreaming up an Interview With a Dog. I've got questions, dammit.

I really want to know, first and foremost, why dogs feel the need to pee on plastic, wherever they may find it. I have a chiminea that I cover with a giant plastic bag to keep it from the rain, and where do you think the little buggers pee? I mean, with Rhode Island stretched out before them, they pee in the driveway?

Then I need to know why they must pee on the other dogs' pee. It's not like it's an accident. I sat there and watched the Columbo routine unfold before my eyes. They are seeking out the spots! Call me kooky, but I think I saw the Papa Dachschund smoking a cigar and scratching his eyebrow. Maybe I just need sleep.
Any three of my dogs will bark like they intend to kill when they hear the slightest noise...but when they're either peeing or pooping, they react as though they were shot if a neighbor-kid's balloon pops.

Why, Fido, oh why do you consider cat feces a delicacy?

And why do you love me so much that you feel the need to kiss me right after a feast?? And then you wonder why I feed you late? It's because I've been hugging the porcelain throne.

I have so many questions that Davey never asked when given the chance. That little SOB!


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Another Glorious Day Free Of Caesar

Tomorrow is Independence Day, commemorating the day that a new nation on the Earth embarked on a journey that would change the world. A big nation with a tiny population, and much turmoil ahead, unbeknownst at the time. The day has deep meaning for Americans while other nations care little of it, despite the impact it has had on their lives, as well. And the turmoil we have endured, I might add, would have torn most fledgling nations asunder, but our fabric has proven too strong, to date.

Prior to the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Jefferson, there had been other nations and kingdoms of the Earth who may have achieved civilization much earlier than did we, but those civilizations were nonetheless governed by a ruler; a king or some other form of benevolent monarchy for the fortunate, or a despot or tyrant for the less fortunate.

We modelled our form of government loosely after ancient Rome, with a senate to legislate, but that system would have been worthless had the Founders not had the foresight to limit the powers of the Executive Branch. What good is a senate if it's terrified of a Caesar?

With this in mind, July 4th is about more than our own independence from England. It is about the brilliance of those who secured it and what they have created here, that being, a nation whose chronological mark is but a fraction of recorded history while simultaneously being a model for freedom-loving people everywhere.

With tomorrow so close, I will leave this alone, as I have more to say regarding the stewardship, or lack thereof, that our countrymen have demonstrated in the short time we have been the beneficiaries of this great land. So enjoy yourselves tomorrow and try to reflect on what we truly have here. Perhaps, after said reflection, some will realize that it is much too precious to let slip away.

Happy 4th Of July.


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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Thrust Into The Matrix

As a boy and then as a young man, I was full of ideas and ideology. I knew what I knew, and I knew it was right. At least I was 99% sure of it, but there was always that 1% wiggle room that would cause me to consider (albeit briefly, depending on the strength of the argument) an alternative version of what I knew to be the truth. There was a time when I would listen and then decide the veracity of what I'd just heard, or read, as the case may have been.

As I got older, I held fast to those beliefs and subsequently bolstered them with what I was convinced was an inate ability to persuade others through pure reason. In other words, I felt that there were others who were much less anchored than I was in my core beliefs, perhaps through apathy, and if only I could use the right language and tone, they would have no choice but to see my side of an argument or maybe understand it. Prior to the internet age, it was a fairly successful endeavor. As Viki from I, Robot would say, my logic was infallible.

Now, as a post-quadrigenarian who has seen what instant information inflicts on the populace, I am more convinced than ever that we have been thrust into something resembling The Matrix, another imaginary conjuring of some author and a follow-up from Hollywood. We are all "experts" on everything now, and our alleged convictions are cemented in an equally alleged certainty that the sources we choose for our information are infallible. The result is that future debate is reduced to a primal contest over where we "learned" what we claim. Logic and reason become sad casualties in this war.

Forgive me for this self-indulgent lamentation, but I feel that I have been obsoleted. I feel that I am fighting a "war" with vastly out-classed weapons. Mine were effective once, but are no match for the new ones, which are much more efficient acumen-killing machines, but ones that require much less skill to accomplish the goal. More fire power, less thinking. "My source is better than your source". And so it goes, while ideas are more and more sequestered, with no chance for any modicum of reconciliation.

For the record, I know with 100% certainty that these words will be assailed by my detractors as a "shield from hard facts". They will have missed the entire truth of this exercise, predictably. They will shun me and plug back into the machine, as I sadly shake my head.


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