Friday, January 31, 2003

Fellow bloggers,

It's been fun reading today's posts. I miss seeing all you guys.

I'd like to put a little (and I stress the word "little" here) historical perspective on a couple of the issues that have been raised. These are not statements of opinion. I'll get to those later.

I'll start with Brook's memory of a mild night at Melubro. It reminded me that the turn of many centuries has been accompanied by a sense of apocolysm, usually fermented by religious hardliners. Somehow, they got it in their timetable that each turn would mark cataclysmic events, which they hoped would bring them closer to the diety. Revivalist sentiment was always strong for the years proceeding each '00 -- conservatives worked to control the social agendas, and many blind souls were made to see. All the better to weight down the collection plates. And of course, nothing truly Apocolyptic ever happened (in the Biblical sense, anyway).

We were all fortunate enough to grow up in the late 20th century, where the rapid rise of technology met squarely the predictible return of the revivalists -- and we got bonus points for the Millenium. From the world wars and the Holocaust to the cold war, we've been building toward something like a self-fulfilling prophecy. I think Brook's question about the dominant myth is appropriate, but the other possible factors she brought up are resonant as well. While the thought of an "Armageddon" may sound hopeless and ridiculous to many of us on the blog, such moments have been greatly desired by many others. Those on the religious right, trained for goosestep behind Republican administrations that have cowtowed to its fringe, believe George Bush is the right man for this era, and would not even consider his possible role as antichrist (I slipped into opinion mode there). People frustrated by the presidential election and those the administration chose to lead key departments (justice, defense) may fall into another category Brook mentioned, "maybe nothing matters and whatever Bush Jr. does, there ain't shit we can do about it." (Which reminds me, did any of you notice that for this State of the Union Address, John Ashcroft was the cabinet member squirreled away in a discreet location? If I were a praying man, I would have gotten down on my knees and begged that the Capital would not be attacked Tuesday night, because we really haven't seen shit).

I read Frank's letter with a lot of interest. A couple quick thoughts on it: First, the U.S. Patriot Act has a built-in sunset clause, and we should all keep an eye on that date (I can't remember it off the cuff) and plan to make sure our leaders do, as well. Constitutional crises have been around for every major American war since the Revolution. My personal choice for the hall of shame is the Japanese interment camps, though on second thought, the Trail of Tears was way fucked up, too. So far, the closest we've come to that since Sept. 11 is racial profiling of Muslim churches, a feat recently accomplished by the FBI. The Pentagon's attempt for passage of the Total Information Control bill(or something so-1984 like that), appears to be in trouble now, with bipartisan worries about its infringement on Americans' privacy. House Speaker Dennis Hastert himself has said he doubts it will survive. Good for him. That's not to say that Justice won't try an end-around.

Frank also made interesting points about how the administration has discouraged dissent. The good news on that is that Bush used it during the midterm elections to fight Democratic candidates who had sided with him on both international and domestic issues. The general election survivors are now pissed, realizing they were had by Karl Rove and the boys. Seeing that they still have enough votes to not only prevent 60-40 passage of key Bush legislation, but also override vetos, they are acting as though they have balls, vowing not to play with Georgie any more. And with primaries in sight, potential Democratic candidates appear willing to break step with the predominant rhetoric and hit Bush in what is for now his weakest spot, international affairs. This is a president who for years has prided himself on tackling one issue at a time, and now he is faced with at least five that should resonate in the campaigns. It will be interesting to see how he handles them.

But all that is down the road. Now we have Dubya increasingly talking loud and carrying the big stick. In one sense, there is good reason for it. America's traditionally opportunistic approach to foreign policy in the last century created many enemies who at last found a charismatic and financially able leader in Osama bin Ladin. (By the way, whatever happened to that guy?) Our coddling of Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war also helped create and feed a beast. Unfortunately, I don't think there is any doubt that he is dangerous to us. Now the question becomes, how do we deal with the mess we've made? What we have done for a decade now is remain basically at war with Iraq, patrolling the no-fly zones and engaging Iraqi aircraft and land stations on a regular basis. This guy wouldn't dare go beyond his borders at this point. He knows it would be career suicide, and even he knows he's got a pretty good thing going for himself these days -- he's well protected by bodyguards, can fuck or kill anything he wants in his own borders, and makes money selling oil on the black market. The issue that Bush brought up the other night -- accusing Saddam of making nice with al-Qaeda, is frightening if true. So the game goes on -- rush in without international support, and the already troubled economy tanks further, more lives are lost, Israel takes at least a couple hits from ballistic missiles loaded with chemical weapons (Patriot missiles did not work the first time around), and extremists around the world find yet another reason to hate our fucking guts. Go in with international support -- and that's a bigger problem than the last time around, because the administration's unilateralist leanings have alienated us from just about everyone except Tony Blair -- and most of the downside still comes our way. Do we prefer our pancakes with elephant shit or donkey shit?

I don't really think we're looking at Armegeddon or anything close. But something wicked is definitely going to happen, and we'll never really know jack-shit about the people who will suffer the most. It is definitely time to reasses our diplomatic position with the big Middle-Eastern oil producers, particularly in Saudi Arabia, whose leaders have for years played the game of "pay off the Imams and let them run the schools and teach propaganda," in exchange for the shieks' security and continued financial dominance.

Let's all hope we can find some visionary leaders we can vote for, guys who don't screw the pooch so badly in the general election campaigns (sorry, Mr. Gore) that they leave themselves open to the kind of unbelievable monkey business that took place in Florida, or subject to having their potential voters taken away from them by unelectable third-party candidates.



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