What's goin' 'round and comin' down...
February 21, 2008
What's the dilemma? It is a dilemma indeed, in the truest sense of the word. Hillary Clinton vs. Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States. I apologize in advance to any Republican-leaning readers who may feel there is any other choice. For me there isn't, and the rest of this is based on that belief.
I first became aware of Hillary Clinton in 1991 -- during Bill Clinton's primary campaign. I'd never heard of either of them, but when I heard about Hillary and her history, I started paying attention. Hey, she was at Wellesley when I was at MIT. I knew a few Wellesley girls, but alas, she was not one of them. That's not the point though. When I read about Hillary's commencement speech at Wellesley, I knew this was a woman I respected.
Her subsequent history only added to that respect, and so frankly, when I started supported Bill Clinton in the pre-NH primary season of 1991, it was as much because I trusted Hillary's judgement in this guy as because I had any reason to know what to expect from Bill.
After Bill Clinton was elected, I fantasized about Hillary succeeding him after his eight years -- 16 years of Bill and Hillary! Wow! Ok, so that didn't happen in 2000 or 2004 -- most unfortunately, but that's a rant for another occasion. So now it's 2008, and the time is ripe. The Republican incumbent is totally discredited (with historically low approval ratings), and no incumbent President of VP running.
And let's be candid. Would I be thrilled to help elect the first woman President of the US?? Absolutely! I think she would do a great job -- better than Bill, most likely.
But... the times don't stand still. As Bob Dylan said in the early 1960's, "The Times They Are A-Changin'", and so they are here in 2008. And somehow, this guy Barack Obama has appeared on the scene.
I saw his speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, and I was blown away. Obviously not because of any pre-existing hype. I'd never heard of him, and few others had either. I thought it was premature when he announced his candidacy for the nomination last year. I mean, he's only held a national office for a short time. I watched the Democratic primary campaign for some months without making a choice, but late in 2007, I decided it was time to make a commitment. I sent a donation to Hillary's campaign and put her bumper sticker on my car.
So sometimes we have to change our minds. Sometimes our minds must change as new information and evidence comes in. As the NH primary approached, I saw more of Barack Obama. And not only my mind but my gut began to shift. It helped that he did well in Iowa, because I began to pay more attention. I began to hear someone who was speaking of a vision that transcended party and region and race and gender. Sure, most of the candidates talk about unity and coming together, but it's usually just lip service. I began to get that Obama could be the person who energizes and inspires millions who have felt for decades that the whole political system is ignorant of them and irrelevant to them. I began to feel that Obama could inspire a sense of belonging to country and nation that we have not had for decades. And I began to believe that this -- a coming back together of the fractured sense of ourselves as a nation -- was of the highest importance, and that it trancended all the usual nitty-gritty of political debate.
As the days and weeks went by, moments of revelation and epiphany continued to occur for me. I saw both Hillary and Barack at an event the Friday before the NH primary. I saw Barack at a rally the next day. I saw his speech the night after the NH primary, where he began (I think) the theme of "Yes, we can." I was in tears.
Last week, there was a vote in the US Senate about giving indemnity to the big phone companies for cooperating with secret Bush administration orders to spy on American citizens. Barack voted against indemnity, McCain voted for indemnity, and Hillary was not present. That was a huge thing, IMO, because it shows who is really ready to stand for change and against the go-along, get-along, do-it-in-secret status quo.
And just a few minutes ago, I turned on the TV in the middle of yet another debate. At the moment I happed to tune in, a panelist was asking the candidates for their views on Cuba, now that Fidel Castro has stepped down. The question was directed at Hillary -- would you talk to Raul Castro or whoever the new leader of Cuba is. I'm sorry to say, she simply repeated the tired cliches of the past 50 years. "No, not until there was this that and the other. A 'presidential' meeting has to be preceeded by this, that, and the other." In other words, when they agree to our terms in advance, then we'll negotiate.
Barack then got to respond, and it was a breath of fresh air. He simply said, "yes". Yes, he would negotiate with whomever, in whatever country. To me, this kind of attitude and thinking is light-years ahead of what we usually get from our political leaders. It is also what I learned in my travels -- that you simply say "yes" when it comes to *talking* with anyone. Anyone.
Btw, my views on Cuba have been "on the record" for over a decade. See http://www.opost.com/outpost/roundup7.html delivered on the radio as well as the web in November of 1996.
And I'm sad. Really sad that Hillary has not risen to the occasion. That her campaign is attacking Obama with trivial things like using Deval Patrick's words (come ON, already!) or being just a speechmaker. Yes, Barack can speak. And inspire. And that's no small thing. It is long past time that progressive and liberal thought had a spokesperson who could let people feel it as well as think it.
And maybe, just maybe, the energy that can come from the millions who have given up their power over the past decades because of disenchantment with 'politics' and the political system will be awakened, and they will be what really brings about the long-overdue 21st Century.
You see, it looks to me like that's what the country desperately needs right now.
February 2, 2007
On the front of the Globe this morning I see the picture of the two 20-something guys now charged with planting the devices, and I like them immediately. I think its cool that they refused to answer all the "serious" questions from the press, and instead said they would only talk about hair.
Suddenly, it feels like the '60s again! People are talking about a 'generation gap'. The "over 30's" just don't "get it".
It does seem like all of the "over 30's" in any position of societal responsibility or authority are condemning this prank as irresponsible and not to be tolerated in "our post 9/11 world". Me, I think the over-reaction was the stupid part and should not be tolerated.
All the suits run around saying that "every thing changed on 9/11". Well, if it did, is wasn't for the better. It was for the worse, and it goes way beyond the people that were killed and the buildings that were destroyed on that day. The terrorists wanted to attack our society, not just the buildings and some people. They wanted us to become more like Afghanistan under the Taliban, and we have. Freedom has diminished. It became politically verboten to criticize government policies, including our mad rush into Iraq now belatedly seen for the mistake it was. Big Brother was given lots more power to spy on us, all because "everything changed on 9/11".
Well, eventually we will wake up and realize that whatever changed on 9/11 was what we chose to change, and that what happened was that we gave up our power out of fear. Perhaps if we had had a few national leaders with real wisdom and perspective, it would have been different. Regardless, nothing changed on 9/11 that we can't change back when we choose.
Meanwhile, I'm cheering for the 20-somethings. I hope they continue to stick it to the pompous pols and pundits. Maybe after while, people will realize that we've put ourselves back into "fallout shelter" mentality like in the 1950s, and it's time to come back out into the daylight.
January 13, 2007my home page. For me, the words are not some distant or dissonant vision. Consider:
imagine there's no heaven
it's easy if you try
no hell below us
above us only sky
That is exactly what I imagine and what I already believe. I consider both concepts -- heaven and hell -- as not serving us. This life is it, folks. It's not a dress rehearsal.
imagine there's no countries
it isn't hard to do
nothing to kill or die for
Why should it be such a fantasy to die for one's country?? Or even to kill for it? That whole mindset comes from a kill-or-be-killed view of the world as a jungle. John Lennon suggests we imagine growing beyond all that.
and no religion too
imagine all the people
living life in peace...
I can easily imagine a world without religion, and I would love to have such a world -- because that would mean a world without most of the wars of the past two millennia. And without crusades -- either the original ones or the many things that have been likened to them since. Without Inquisitions. Without people who will commit suicide and take thousands of people with them by flying airliners into buildings. Without people who feel justified in murdering 'infidels'. Without people who murder doctors who perform abortions because 'God' told them to. Without people who withhold medical care from their own children in the name of 'faith'.'Religion' doesn't have to mean all these things, but it usually and traditionally has meant exactly that. So John Lennon simply asks that we imagine a world without any of the dogma, intolerance, and violence that is what religion has mostly been about.
you may say i'm a dreamer
but i'm not the only one
i hope someday you'll join us
and the world will be as one.
For me, imagining the world as one is the only way to have a positive view of the future and the destiny of the human race. It is, in fact, the view that I have. So long as there are divisions based on country, religion, ethnicity, or race, there will be violence and hatred.I look at history and I see that we have made a lot of progress in the past 2000 years. Really we have. Things are getting better over the long term, even if there are terrible exceptions along the way. That progress is because we have been eliminating the divisions and the things that go with them. It is because we have been moving toward that day "when superstition shall no longer enslave the mind nor idolatry blind the eye." It is because we have been "replacing ignorance and fear with awareness and love."
May we continue.Post comments.
9/11 ReflectionsI'll always remember the moments of shock on 9/11/01, just as I'll always remember 11/22/63 -- the day JFK was murdered. No, 'remember' is not sufficient -- I'll always have a clear picture, engraved in my mind, of the moment when I learned what was happening.
Ironically, on 9/11/01, I was intending to go flying -- to fly my own plane down to Cape Cod to see a friend. Had I left a little earlier, I might myself have been in the air when the order came down to close the entire US airspace and for every plane aloft to land immediately.
So I was still home. I remember turning on the TV, and almost immediately seeing the airliner fly into the WTC. At that point, it was a replay -- the event has already happened. But it burned into my memory like I was there and seeing it live.
As I learned a little more about what had happened, I thought, how could it be possible?!? As a pilot, I knew that no pilot would fly his plane into a building, even with a gun to his head. Thus I knew, even before the news reports figured it out, that the pilots had been overcome and somebody else was in control of those planes.
I remember the disbelief as I saw on TV the collapse of the first tower -- this was live now, the news reporters were as dumbfounded as me. It was this sudden tsunami of dust and blackness, and then -- no tower. Wait. No. I can't grok what I am seeing.
To this day, my anger seethes at the destruction of the towers. Yes, I know in our culture it is expected that we morn the loss of life more than the loss of property... But for me, the towers were the life work of thousands and thousands of people. Figure it out -- how man wo/man hours did it take to build those towers? Believe me, it can be measured in thousands of lifetimes. Maybe it's just me, but if someone were to obliterate my life's work, that would be like killing me -- not just now, but 40 years ago.
Then too, as an engineer and a pilot, I can never stop looking at what we did wrong and how mistakes were made in some past event. Believe me, every airplane pilot studies crash reports. Sound morbid? Sorry. We can't each make all the mistakes once ourselves to learn about them; we have to see what went wrong before and learn from that.
On that very day -- on 9/11/01 -- as I heard the early, fragmentary reports -- I thought, as a pilot, it is absolutely not possible that pilots would have flown their planes into a building. I knew instinctively -- before the news reports had pieced together what happened -- that it was a different scenario -- the planes must have been commandeered.
So how was that possible?? Why didn't the pilots and passengers resist and fight? How the hell could several hundred people have been controlled and killed by 3-4 guys with nothing more than BOX CUTTERS??? The answer is, that's what we were taught and told to do before 9/11! Go along, don't fight back, try to negotiate, stall for time, leave it to the authorities. Well, that doesn't work when your adversary is unequivocally intending your death or their own or both.
I have said repeatedly since 9/11/01, that by the middle of that day, we had already learned enough to prevent another one. We didn't need Afghanistan, or Iraq, or the 5 years of shit that's been done in the name of homeland security since then. How do I know? Because the 4th airliner never reached its target. Because enough extra minutes had elapsed that the passengers on that 4th airliner found out through use of their cell phones what had happened in NY and DC, and they did rise up and they brought that fucking plane DOWN -- sacrificing themselves rather than let the bastards fly it into another target.
So, while we're saluting heros on this day -- the cops, firefighters, EMTs, and ordinary folks who did heroic things at the WTC on 9/11, I want to salute the people on board United flight 93 who 'got it' -- who learned fast and acted and saved who-knows-how-many other people and buildings from death and destruction. If I could have been anywhere today to participate in a 9/11/01 memorial, it would have been in Shanksville, PA, at the site of that crash, to honor the very first people in history who truly understood what post 9/11 America was really about.
Getting Out of IraqIt's depressing to say but true nonetheless. The sound of voices saying the Iraq war was a mistake has grown quite loud, but voices speaking a plan for what will work in the future are still hard to find. I will attempt some speculation on the subject, while at the same time noting that I am not 100% sure of anything. I think it is actually important not to be 100% sure. This point was made to me several years ago by John Buehrens, former President of the Unitarian-Universalist Association, who travelled to Iraq on the eve of the war, and spoke about his observations around the country.
This is the challenge: to postulate two or more potential courses of action, and try to estimate what the result of each would be. This may be my engineering mind at work; I get that some people do not approach the situation that way. Other ways to approach it that I notice are:
I. Stay on the current course. As best as I can tell, the current course is defined as "keep a military presence in Iraq until a democratic government is established and firmly in place." What I forecast as the result of keeping a military presence in Iraq is:
II. Announce a reasonably short timetable for the complete withdrawal of US military presence, and then do it. This timetable should be determined only by the logistics of a safe withdrawal; nothing else. It is somewhat harder to forecast the exact result of this, but in general I believe it to be likely that:
Yes, we lost. And last I looked, the world did not come to an end. The dominos did not all fall and the whole world become communist. The Viet Nam war probably extended the life of the now-defunct communist empire by keeping America as the military threat to rally against. Just like now. Oh, and after enough time had passed after we left, Viet Nam became the fairly decent world citizen it is these days.
So that's my assessment of what would happen. Of course, no one ever really knows for sure, so we tend to fall back on all kinds of non-pragmatic reactions and rhetoric. I say none of those arguments are absolute or pursuasive. One of them -- the perception that the world will think badly of us if we pull out is especially bogus. Let's face it. Much of the world thought badly of us when we went in, and that didn't stop us. It won't be any worse if we pull out, but it will help if we acknowledge a mistake and try on a little humility.
Let's bring honest and democratic elections -- to America!
There has been a lot written about the risks of the new wave of
electronic voting systems, and with good reason. But let us not
forget that any such system is just a tool. The Republicans
didn't need Diebold machines to hijack the 2004 election -- they did it
in various old fashioned ways.
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