Aug. 9th, 2008 @ 01:40 am
And Happy Birthday to Me. 23, wow, I'm getting old. But this is a good birthday.
Current Music: I've Just Seen A Face - Beatles
Aug. 7th, 2008 @ 12:58 am
Hah, haven't posted here in awhile.
It feels like this month has gone by very quickly. Except for last week, time seems to be flying faster than usual. Although in retrospect, this year has gone by quickly too. A year ago I was home, still looking for a job in NY or DC, trying to get into politics so I could get into International Relations and eventually grad school. Since then I have worked at Sunlight, Borders (part time), and now FAS. I lived on my brother's couch for 3 months! Wow. It was a comfy couch. Now he's not even in DC anymore.
This month has seemed to go by fast also. Its been almost a month since July 4. Hanging out with Krisch and Klasko coming down for the weekend. Seeing the fireworks, walking around the mall. And its almost my birthday. 23. Huh. This week has also gone by very quickly, thankfully. There will be the free-every other friday lunch at work tomorrow (Thai this time). And there should be some fun, interesting things this weekend too that I'm looking forward too.
It being almost my birthday makes me think about age. There are all these stages in schooling where you go from youngest, most inexperienced to the elder, and then reset. up to 5th, 6th grade, reset. 8th grade, reset. High school, reset. College, reset.
But now by real life and eventually grad school I'm not sure there are any resets left. That makes me feel very old an very young at the same time.
Also I got my first mailed in birthday cards from family. My youngest cousins are now, I believe, 6 and 7. I remember when my 16 year old cousin was born. I'll be running out of little cousins soon,a very bittersweet feeling. Fortunately they have all turned out well so far, so I'm thankful for that. Hopefully I'll get to see most of the family when I take the first week of September off for vacation.
Phase 1: bajillion hour train ride to Boston to hang out with Kelly, Sniz, and Nancy.
Phase 2: back to NY for family and colelge buddy time.
It should be good, I'm looking forward to it.
And nothing will pass the time on the train rides like hours and hours of This American Life. Ah.
Ok, enough meandering writing for now. Time to make dinner and later clean up my floor and maybe do some GRE studying.
"Dulce et Decorum Est "
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under I green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.*
*"How sweet and fitting it is to die for your native land"
-Wilfred Owen, 1917
Whenever I am losing focus or doubting my motivations for trying to get into the security/international relations/etc sector of politics, something like this pops up.
I do have other true, honest, strong interests. Science, Astronomy, Psychology, History, philosophy, journalism, domestic politics. But something like this reminds me of what I think of myself, What impact I think I can have....
Honestly, i don't know how we can effectively fight in this conflict with Islamic extremists/whatever you want to call them considering our policies and the size of our government/military. The military-industrial-congressional complex, among the other complexes, is so pervasive and deeply rooted now that I think we are constrained. All the parts reinforce each other in pushing America towards military action during international situations. And now this is just the latest article about how financial considerations influenced contractors who also happened to be "news analysts."
All of these things reinforcing themselves, instilling a subtle militarism in society, a reluctant semi-empire, a bitter Vietnam memory, and idealogical goals all in government. How can we actually fight an enemy the right way if we are constrained by dogma, conflicts of financial interest, and overbearing idealogical interests?
....I remember in my American Foreign Policy course sophmore or junior year that when we were talking about history in the 1st part of the course we got to WW2. We touched on one point on arguments of, barring the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, did we really need to go to war for ourselves? Ignore the plight of those suffering in Europe, Africa, and Asia, but was it necessary in our own self-interest to go to war. Japan was in no condition to actually invade. They never had a chance of fully conquering China and never tried. Maybe after a generation or two they could see what the situation was. And in Europe Hitler would need years and years to utilize all of its resources to mount strong attack all the way across the Atlantic. Our isolation from these other concentrations of power helped buffer us. The ocean walls really.
But one fear of not going to war was that we would have to live in defensive culture. Surely we could defend ourselves from most any Europe-led Nazi attack because as defenders its easier strategically with air forces fuel, etc. As long as we had access to an area of natural resources in central and northern South America, combined with a recycling program we could be fairly self-sufficient with regard to war material. And the region was realtively secure to defend against enemies having to cross an entire ocean as long as we continued to develop military technologies. In that sense we may not have HAD to go to war.
But the difficult part was that we would have to become a militaristic culture. Always on the defensive, always looking to stunt any threat of attack. That ideal and culture would lead to a repressive culture, perhaps. Insular. We would lose civil liberties in the name of security. Shred the Constitution a little. Start to lose our role as a republic. A democracy.
But we did go to war, and we did win it. Then we had the Cold War. Perhaps that has led to a similar effect. A generational conflict that led us to build institutions to be secure against a strong enemy. An arms race. A culture change. Perhaps the fears of the downside of the non-WW2 entry militarism/isolation did occur, to a much lesser extent during the Cold War.
Which brings us to now. The Cold War built up this military institution. In the past we always built up a military in times of war, but let it shrink in times of peace. In the Cold War, however, we had to keep a relatively large military fore, constantly aware. As President Eisenhower said in his farewell address: (paraphrasing) In the past people who made plowshares and tools could, in wartime, temporarily make swords and weapons of war. But after WW2 we needed a much larger scale of warfighting production. This has led to the necessary military-industrial complex. it is necessary, but we must always guard against its undue influence over our democratic government.
Hasn't this come to pass? Doesn't the military-contractor-congressional connection become so entrenched that it can hardly be rooted out? It seems to me that it stifles debate. Restricts options. Closes minds.
This leads me to wonder: how much of a democracy do we really have? Leaving alone the egregious acts of this administration, with such a complex in place, how much can the voice of the people be heard? Or even more dangerously, the people are swayed to believe what their leaders want them to believe, in order to pursue their agendas (idealogies, political motives, honest good fthe nation interests, whatever)?
What kind of government is that? Money interests are so deeply intertwined with the government on so many levels, in so many sectors, beyond the military, that I am led to question the very status of our government. Can an officially corrupt, money-interest led government on nearly all levels truly be considered a democratic republic? I know Jefferson and Jackson would reaaaallllly disapprove, but whatever we would have now is beyond their wildest predictions in any direction.
I read a book for my American Politics intro-level class back in sophmore year, I believe. In it the autor goes through the lobbyist/special interest relations with government, specifically the legislature. It is so intracate and connected to everything, this structure, that its corrosive. No, not corrosive. Things still get done in Congress, indeed more than ever in some sense. Butwhat gets done means less. It accomplished less. The gears are clogged with clutter.
But what can be done? Its nearly impossible for such giant structural change to unclog the system, realign priorities with whats best for the people, interests be damned, repercussions on elections be damned. His answer that it seems to be some sort of cataclysmic event. A gint natural disaster or a war. A big war, not a little one with a long insurgent campaign. A World War type of thing.
Well I don't see any major wars on the horizon (China's not much of a military threat and it makes no economic sense to have any sort of conflict with such interconnectiveness). So our only hope seems to be disaster. Of course, that implies lots of people and things are lost first. Cue Global climate change/warming. We may have to lose a few million people to it, but maybe we'll get our act together.
Maybe, just maybe humanity will finally more efficiently use its resources to both counter a destructive force and heal itself. Finally bring Africa and the rest of the utterly poor countries into the rest of the modern world. Live in a sustainable world. Maybe we will have to shift our priorities into a sector that does not have this money-interest dominance once we see the great major cities of the world begin to fight off flooding and sea level changes on unprecedented scales. Once hurricanes change paths as water and air currents change. As there are more Katrinas. As the Southwest in America becomes dry to the bone. As th west catches fire more and more each summer. As there is flooding a drought everywhere. As we lose ice shelf after ice shelf. Millions of species of plants and animals. As the great tropical forests of the planet wither and die by human consumption and environmental degradation The smaller island nations might be submerged, losing a population to whoever will take them.
Perhaps the greatest danger to humanity (outside of a celestial object or force impacting us) will finally force us in time to geto ur act together. To realize whats important and what great potential abilities we have.
So....our government is messed up to the core. Money in politics is corrosive, clogging, corrupting, unseemly, and immoral.
Someone ha to try to do what is right. DO things based on what is constitutional, legal, ethical, moral. Not what is profitable. I love capitalism and i know it is ver efficient if given the right regulatory structure, but our government should not be for sale.
And I want a governemtn I can be proud of. Maybe if I am ethical in government, somewhere, I can help....just a little bit. Be sensical. Not be mired in bureaucratic nonsense turf wars. Not choose financial incentives or interests or necessities over what is right and just.
Gotta start somewhere....
Maybe Plato/Socrates were right and an enlightened philosopher king ruler is the best type of government and leadership outside of small communes. But since that seems to be damn well impossible, unworkable, infeasible, and somewhat amoral, I'll take what we've got. Democracy may be the worst form of government, after all the others, but its what we've got.
And I'll be damned sure that I try to make it better. Somehow. Somewhere. I think I can help make this country better. This planet better, even in the tiniest of ways. If I think that, then I have an imperitave -no, a duty to do so. I may want to do this, but it is not a desire. It is my duty to try to help if i think I can.
Maybe then others can have fun in zero-g. Lucky.
The Washington Monthly is dedicating this issue of the magazine to stopping the U.S. policy of torture, in any form. Whether it is "enhanced interrogation", waterboarding as one technique (along with extreme sleep deprivation, exposure to temperature, stress positions, sensory depirvation), extraordinary rendition (shipping off a prisoner to another country we know will torture them despite prima facie promises not to), etc. They sought to have a united opposition to it across the political and non-political spectrum. Democrats, Republicans, neither, cleargy, etc.
Its good, you should take a look.
And I'm reminded by the 1998 film "The Seige" starring Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington. A series of terrorist attacks occur in NYC and eventually the president orders the seemingly reluctant Willis, as a general, to put the city under martial law, specficially Brooklyn where the 2 dozen or so bad guys are hiding. Denzel is the lead FBI agent in charge trying to do this in the more traditional, lawful way. He has mixed successes and after the FBI NYC building itself is destroyed by the bad guys a la Oklahoma City then the president tips towards the army.
I'm specifically reminded of one scene. After they capture some bad guys, Willis shows one to Denzel. They are in an old baseball stadium in Brooklyn where they have hearded thousands of young to middle aged Arab/Middle Eastern men and penned them in cages, trying to find the bad guys among them. None of the bad guys are found that way, mind you.
Well in this scene the bad guy, Tariq Husseini is stripped naked and handcuffed to a chair in a restroom. He has been questioned by the army and a CIA agent who has been around the whole film to help, played by Annette Benning.
Willis and Benning, after getting nowhere begin to talk about using harsher methods of questioning to get what they are asking. Here Denzel's character responds:
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Are you people insane? What are you talkin' about?
General William Devereaux: The time has come for one man to suffer in order to save hundreds of lives.
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: One Man? What about two, huh? What about six? How about public executions?
General William Devereaux: Feel free to leave whenever you like, Agent Hubbard.
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Come on General, you've lost men, I've lost men, but you - you, you *can't* do this! What, what if they don't even want the sheik, have you considered that? What if what they really want is for us to herd our children into stadiums like we're doing? And put soldiers on the street and have Americans looking over their shoulders? Bend the law, shred the Constitution just a little bit? Because if we torture him, General, we do that and everything we have fought, and bled, and died for is over. And they've won. They've already won!
General William Devereaux: Escort him out.
And later after Denzel and Annette have actually stopped the last bad guy, who was their informant the whole time, Denzel's character goes with the FBI to the army headquarters to say that its over. Willis doesn't quite believe them and is reluctant to give them anything, any credit, etc. Denzel is also there to arrest Willis. He actually has a signed warrant from a judge and everything. Its because of the torture. Because doing such things is illegal. Here's that dialogue:
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [to General Devereaux] You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to a fair trial. You have the right not to be tortured, not to be murdered, rights that you took away from Tariq Husseini. You have those rights because of the men who came before you who wore that uniform. Because of the men and women who are standing here right now waiting for you to give them the order to fire. Give them the order, General.
General William Deveroux: Do you think that I would hesitate to kill you, or every Federal Agent in this room, if I thought it was in the best interest of my country?
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: No, no, no, you wouldn't hesitate, I know that. But they might.
[motions to soldiers in room]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: [pause]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Give the order. Make murderers out of these young kids, give the order.
[Deveroux is silent]
Anthony 'Hub' Hubbard: Give 'em the order, General!
General William Deveroux: [Over his shoulder] Stand down, Sergeant.
I still like this movie for these scenes. But I never could have thought that it would essentially come true. Thats what terrorism is about. Making your opponent fear you so much that they overreact, constrict themselves, hurt themselves, waste valuable resources. Like WIllis said, if you do this, you're doing what they want. Then they've won. They've already won.
Well it seems like Obama has a real real chance of beating Hillary. Woo.
We'll see what happens in the coming months, but regardless of who wins it is becoming clear to me that whoever is ur next president: McCain, Hillary, or Obama, America is royally screwed. No, I don't mean those candidates are all bad for America In fact any one of them would be an immense improvement over this idealogical, irrational, inept, corrupt, overreaching, criminally negligent, torturous, war criminalizing administration. Simply put, no matter who get the job, the Bush Administration has done so much harm to our national standing, defense, and economy as to seem to really push us from the 90's- superpower/uni-polar era/interlue back into a descent (or ascent) of multi-polarity. For the non-International relations readers (as if I have any readers at all other then maybe Kelly and Pat every now and then) that means from one superpower to a bunch of great powers. Or a few. Just because we may not remain THE superpower per se does not mean I think we'll not be the most powerful nation on the planet both economically and militarily. But here, let me explain what the next administration and what our nation is actually going to be facing. Its not too pretty
(Video clip of Clinton explaining that she can better withstand Republican attacks because she's been vetted, there are no surprises, etc.)
Stephen Colbert: "That's exactly right. For 16 years Hillary Clinton has been pounded, has been attacked, has been barraged, has been mercilessly pummeled by her enemies. She is a walking, talking, breathing target.
What better place for Americans to put their fragile hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow?
It's the exact same reason, folks, that I store all my fine china on Evander Holyfield's head."
When I first saw that I thought...thats just perfect.
And now that the strike may soon be over it will again be consistently excellent instead of merely consistently super great again. Ah.
The title is the kind of thing my former roommate Jonlewis would say. Suffice it to say he is not a fan of hippies.
Current Music: A probable scammer calling my cell
I thought I was up to bat, but now it looks like I got to the field after the game ended. Shoulda caught that sooner. Damn. Well, now I'll just wait to confirm it and then try to find a new hbg. There are plenty of fish in the sea...except when we're overfishing. I better get moving on that then.
btw, Damn. Ugh.
I'm not crying...
Current Music: The Fool on the Hill, Beatles