Saturday, April 08, 2006
I was one of the anonymous legions inspired by the life, the zeal, the chutzpah of Maggie Dixon. It is our duty to make sure that spirit lives on.
This heartrending story is a further reminder to all of us, in the words of Tony Dungy, “Hug your kids.” Those of you who don’t have kids, hug your parents, your brothers and sisters, and your friends. Tell the people that you love, that you love them. Tell them now. Today.
Links to read further…
ESPN: Adrian Wojnarowski
ESPN: Andy Katz
Army Superintendent Lt. Gen. William J. Lennox Jr.: "In a house of leaders, she stood out. I would have loved to have 40 years with her. Her impact was tremendous." quote from…
“From the time Maggie arrived here, her enthusiastic ‘no limits’ approach earned her the respect and love of everyone,” he said. “She consistently displayed great leadership and served as an outstanding role model for those both on – and off – her team. She was a leader of character with a commitment to excellence who set the example in all she did.”
“Her joy in coaching these young women made them believe in themselves and depend on each other,” said Army Athletic Director Kevin Anderson. “Her guidance not only helped them excel here, it will help them become better, more compassionate leaders.”
Quotes from... http://www.midhudsonnews.com/News/Dixon_obit-08Apr06.htm
Comprehensive coverage at http://www.recordonline.com/
for Kaddish see... http://www.hanefesh.com/edu/Mourners_Kaddish.htm
Friday, April 07, 2006
e-mailed Saturday, March 4th, 2006 (similar versions to Senators Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Dick Burr)
Dear Senator Elizabeth Dole,
Please do not get swept up in xenophobia surrounding the Dubai port deal. As yet the objections to this deal are nothing more than vicious racial profiling. To suggest America cannot do business with a country on the basis of their ethnicity runs contrary to the founding principles of our nation.
I do not unilaterally object to a further review of the deal, but we cannot and should not send a simple message that "Americans can't trust Arabs or Muslims." It is untrue and un-American. Not to mention, unsupported by the realities of the status quo. Saudi Arabia, country of origin for many of the 9/11 hijackers, not only does a huge commodities business with America, read:oil, but they also own port terminals in the United States, already. There is no unilateral reason to reject ownership by the UAE.
Finally, a bit of common sense, should surely put this matter to rest. It is not as if DP World, which incidentally has an American as CEO, is going to replace the Coast Guard or custom agents. Members of the American government will still be running security at the ports. Not to mention, any employees DP World attempts to bring into America will be subject to the very stringent restrictions Congress and the President have put on visa approval. 98% of the longshoremen and the crane operators will be the same unionized, patriotic Americans who were operating the port under the British.
Please do not get swept up in the racist rhetoric of dangerous times. Do NOT unilaterally reject the purchase of these ports by the government of the United Arab Emirates.
Thank you for your time and concern.
On Mike Davis
John Bailen Resume
Beamer’s college records
Coach K’s career records
Terry Hutchens in the Indy Star on who Indiana should consider hiring
Larry King’s CNN interview with Coach Knight and the Texas Tech athletic director. Has Knight’s IU Basketball players graduation rates
Jerry Brewer in the Louisville Courier Journal with his take on the IU coaching search and the deceit inherent in the process these days 3/24/06
Ted Miller in the Seattle Post Intelligencer on Mike Davis final days and thoughts about IU 3/18/06
The Louisville Courier Journal, columnist Rick Bozich, 2/17/06
Rick Greenspan bio
Brad Brownell of UNC Wilmington…an 86% Graduation Success Rate (GSR)
John Beilein at WVU 67% graduation rate
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Complimentary grains of Salt are available
You cut off a tractor trailer at your own risk.
Don’t play fast and loose with the truth.
“You just don’t luck into things as much as you’d like to think you do. You build them step by step.” –Barbara Bush
There’s no sense in flogging yourself over a lost cow. Get on with the search or move on to the next cow.
“The farmer: He is condemned to working a seven day week because the five day cow has not yet been invented.” –from Man and His Future edited by G. Wolstenhome, published by J. & A. Churchill Ltd. (London, 1963.)
How often is the boss the choke point ?
Labels: Practical Advice
“If you can’t have Faith, at least have Hope. We need to Love urgently.” –Staff
“I’d rather have more days, than more hours in the day.” –Rachel J. Mandel
“Does the thought assail the mind or the mind the thought ?” –Staff
“Courage is the secret of power.” –Homer
“Their omnipresent noise corrodes every moment of contemplation like an acid. Cars have made the former beauty of cities invisible.” –Milan Kundera
“It may seem to you that you are standing still, but every day you move forward. Turn-offs and by-ways are missed. Options are reconfigured. You are choosing your path.” –Staff
“ ’Do you know what Khrushchev said about the counterrevolution in Hungary ?’ Liz shook her head. She must show interest, she must make the woman talk. ‘He said it never would have happened if a couple of writers had been shot in time.’ ” –John Le Carre
“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” –William James
“It is ideas, not vested interest, which are dangerous for good or evil.” –John Maynard Keynes
“There is nothing I would not do for those who are really my friends. I have no notion of loving people by halves.” –Jane Austen
“There is no escape from this confusion so long as the land and the creatures upon it are looked upon as nothing but “factors of production.” ” –E.F. Schumacher
“Alone in the silence, I understand for a moment the dread which many feel in the presence of the primeval desert, the unconscious fear which compels them to tame, alter or destroy what they cannot understand, to reduce the wild and prehuman to human dimensions. Anything rather than confront directly the antehuman, that other world which frightens not through danger or hostility but in something far worse—implacable indifference.” –Edward Abbey
“Waterhouse is thinking about cycles within cycles. He’s already made up his mind that human society is one of those cycles-within-cycles things. He has no hard data to back this up; it just seems like a cool idea. And now he is trying to figure out whether it is like Turing’s bicycle (works fine for a while, then suddenly the chain falls off; hence the occasional world war) or like an Enigma machine (grinds away incomprehensibly for a long time, then suddenly the wheels line up like a slot machine and everything is made plain in some sort of global epiphany or, if your prefer, apocalypse) or just like a rotary airplane engine (runs and runs and runs; nothing special happens; it just makes a lot of noise).” –Neal Stephenson
“Time past is distance traveled.” –Staff
What to do when Excess isn’t Enough”
When I looked, I was surprised to find the origin of this adage, “Everything in Moderation”, obscured and disputed. I’d assumed (1) that I’d be able to look it up. Somebody said it, and I’d find out whom and when, and go from there. Wrong. When I went one step further it appears there is agreement that Twain, in Tom Sawyer gave us, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.” This is a higher form one might argue, but not the beginning of the chronicle. However, rather than delve deeper into the argument of the origin of this aphorism, I want to discuss where it stands contextually, now, in the domain that is our milieu.
To me the place to start is the personal context. Here, “Everything in Moderation, just sounds sensible. I mean whose Mom didn’t say, “Don’t gulp.” Surely, if one wants to use moisturizing skin lotion, one wants to apply a little bit every day, or every other day, not use half the bottle in one monthly lotion session/bath/orgy. But is it all so sensible ? Another obvious instance, if one wants to start stretching or weight lifting or running, the logical thing to do is not to go all out to the very utmost ligament ripping stretch on Day 1, or try to max out your military press during one’s first lifting session, or to run wind sprints, suicides or 10K on one’s first time out in ages. Moderation. Turns out not everybody starts out with moderate stretches, workouts or runs. Moderation ? Let alone, everything in moderation ? I attest that my body feels the logic of this premise. Not just because I’ve had a tipple or two, too many, once, nay, twice, and felt the effects of my lack of moderation. (There is nothing like dry heaving to make one believe in the virtues of moderation.) I want to believe in it. I want to believe globally it is an ethic that should ripple across our lives in everything from how one manages one’s intake of vitamins, supplements and pharmaceuticals to one’s SUV and one’s position on CAFE standards, to what one eats and what it eats.
However, though I wish to assert that there could be a powerful, rippling (2) effect of moderation as a standard to live by, I would argue now the converse is also true. There is a shimmering, illusory, mirage-like effect of overconsumption so that now we are living in a time where it is very difficult to judge moderation. (3) How can one judge how much is a moderate amount of anything in an era with omnipresent advertising that has transcended from radio ads to TV commercials to product placement in original content ? (4) transcended from roadside billboards to outfield wall signage to the facades of whole skyscrapers ? How can consumption be appropriately rated from moderate to excessive ? Examining the set of globally produced items suggested above, it is all but impossible to avoid ads for these three: vitamins, vehicles, and vittles, all examples of the everpresent phenomenon of advertising. The common assertion, the underlying assumption of all of ads is one needs the product. Something is for sale. How are we to choose if we are offered an endless, mind enveloping, array of subtle and not so subtle messages and signs, all of which are trying to communicate to us about what we need, and why we need them, their product, their offering ? How are we to choose ? Let alone to choose how much. So to return to the representative types suggested above one might say, well one’s car is just one’s car and yes, one thinks some about the gas mileage it gets and how much that costs one, and how to consolidate trips and carpooling, at least with the kids, and how much the car payment is, and yes one knows one sees lots of car commercials everywhere, and one might have seen the lit up side of building with the Ford logo at the Super Bowl or heard something about ad revenues were how they are now picking the next hot car for the newest Bond movies, but surely, one hopes this isn’t the case with one’s health (or one’s food.) Certainly, with something like that, the same rules (5) don’t apply.
Whoops! What’s horrifying is, if anything it’s worse. (6) Not only are the big pharmaceutical companies pouring literally billions into their advertising budgets, they are adjusting their Research and Development (R&D) budget allocations to match their sales. So when Viagra and Propecia are what Financial Accounting tells the boss is selling, the boss then tells the R&D boys to pump out more impotence and baldness drugs. These new products will, of course, need to be accompanied by new ads to tout their virtues, match them to our needs, the drugs availability helping shape social norms and inadequacies and through them, feeding back into more sales, more R&D allocation changes, back into more ads and back into more consumption. Bad news; this is far from the only malevolent loop in the vicious cycle. The pharmaceutical companies attempt to influence the doctors’ prescription decisions, wining and dining them with everything from catered lunches to weekend jaunts to the Caribbean, to scads of free product samples encouraging them to conspire in hawking their product. The sophisticated experts who one might wish to presume have more wisdom than thyne own self are quite literally being wooed in an effort to “inform” them, for which read: influence their opinion. This is not to argue that there are not many good doctors out there who have expert opinions and their patients’ bests interests at heart when they prescribe medication. It is, rather, to argue that the system is such that distinguishing who these people might be is very difficult, not just for the lay person patient, but even as one of the doctors who participate. How would a doctor evaluate, “Am I complicit or are each of these conferences truly important to my continuing professional education, even if they are held exclusively in warm weather places…and hey, every other job has its perks…” Meanwhile Johnny and Jane Average are sitting at home gazing at the boob tube developing perceived needs from watching mad commercials, (7) followed by visits to the doctor asking, “What about this drug for me ? I have this need.” For those of you Johns and Janes who say, we don’t watch the commercials, note the drug companies (8) are advertising everywhere along the way. Take the NASCAR track where a potential John & Jane might drag their ass on a weekend to watch him some bumpin’ and grindin’ of a sort they’ll never get do. How many times does Johnny watch the old Viagara car go round underneath him over the course of three hours ? [anywhere from 200 at Daytona to 500 at Bristol.] Advertising, while watching what is supposedly original content, a sporting event, outcome not predetermined. (9) Hey, and if he gets some Viagara, the thought is, at least there’s a certain kind of bumpin’ and grindin’ he and the missus can do later. The drug companies advertise to the potential patient, consumer, at the track, on the way to the track and again at home later on the sports news. These product hawkers also market directly to the specialist John and Jane might consult with about their health needs. Are there lines ? How blurred are things ? What is distortion and what it is information ? What is branding and what is subliminal omnipresence ? And meanwhile, how is one to choose how much of what we need.
Not just the setting and the scene, but the consumptive play’s presence everywhere, even the leads, the successes, offer another perfidious influence on our choices. Think of that Viagara stock car, (10) was it as much of an advertisement for that product or more Rafael Palmeiro himself, hawking it in the ads ? Here he was, pre-fall, a virile homerun god, a batsman extraordinaire admitting he needs, and/or uses supplementary product help for the personal wood. What verification!! How could Average John’s not need it, if Palmeiro needs it ?
Are athletes in the ads the limits of the imprimatur on our cultural domain ? Or is there an even deeper sanction being given these drugs and the ethic of over-consumption by the athletes who use them to supplement their on field performance ? Palmeiro, ironically can once again serve as an example, along with McGwire, Bill Romanowski, Todd Sauerbrun, the paradigmatic Barry Bonds and the fallen Ben Johnson. How much more convincing does Johnny the fan need, (and/or worse his son or daughter) than if they see the highly paid professional athlete does not just advertise the legal among these augmentation substances, but uses the less than legal to enhance their athletic accomplishments ? (11) As a society how can we deny the connection between a lack of moderation on the one hand and the results of fame and fiscal success on the other. (12) Please don’t think this is somehow a gender dominant problem, imitation of the excessive behavior of the celebrity, simply because my examples are male athletes. How far has this message and methodology traveled, this idea, that if it works for them, regardless of the side effects, the rewards out weigh them. How could the question be anything but, “Don’t I need it ?” Youth looks at where their immediate role models, and where one might want to be, and it is not surprising they would do almost anything to be the star. The popularity of diet drugs, the prevalence of anorexia and other eating disorders in far too many young women, and the notoriety and success of shows like “The Swan” are part and parcel of the same continuum. (13)
How is any consumer but especially, the young aficionado, the young potential customer, to have any sense of what to choose or how much of something might be too much ? At what point can they see that risks outweigh the rewards ? I fear that there are legions of young slim shadies around thinking that the lives led by Jose Canseco and Tony Mandarich were far more financially lucrative and garnered way more air time than that of their high school teacher, not just from their on the field endeavors, but also from their endorsements. How can a message of the virtues of moderation be communicated into this consumptive din ? How can we make it clear that Canseco, Mandarich and the like are lottery winners. Literally, statistically. They are not representative of the mass of our culture’s performance enhancing drug users. Most people who take legal and illegal performance enhancers and supplements don’t go on to become star athletes. Similarly, most people who take piano lessons don’t go on to become concert pianists. Supplements don’t change the equation that much. They don’t make the ordinary into supermen, the make the great into the extraordinary. So Bonds, Canseco, Palmerio, Ben Johnson, et. al. are (hopefully) not representative of the majority of professional athletes who made it on hard work and their natural gifts. But these forged heroes and their ilk, are certainly not representative of the majority of college athletic stars, let alone high school athletes, let alone high schoolers. In an overconsumptive society we must always combat the presumption that, “Everybody’s doing it.” How many steroids are bad for you ? How much human growth hormone ? What about amphetamines ? At what point does overconsumption become health harming ? Life shortening ? Fatal ?
We know lots of youth are experimenting. New Jersey’s most recent study found over 6% of high school youth had taken or were using steroids. More interestingly for the direction we are driving herein was that use was more prevalent in suburban schools, where the money to purchase these illegal products, the money to have personal trainers, and to join health clubs, where these products could be purchased was more available. The resources necessary to consume encourage the consumption. (14) If you’ve got it, spend it. Macro-economically this broad based trend can be found in American’s declining personal savings rates, and massively increasing debt burdens. (15)
But the purpose of this diatribe is not simply to bemoan that Americans aren’t saving very much money or that too many kids are doing steroids, rather it is to show that these are but, two, not so isolated impacts, across the whole terrain of our society caused by our inability to judge and endorse moderation. Heart disease is epidemic, in large part because of consumptive, immoderate, eating choices. Obesity is part and parcel of the same problem. Some studies show that obesity is directly or indirectly responsible for up to 9% of the total health care costs in the United States. (16) Films like “Super Size Me” bludgeon us with the reality of our lack of moderation. Fads that are illusory improvements, but, in fact terrible for our bodies and our culture sweep over us in waves of excess, from Fen-Phen dieting, to baseball players munching pseudo-ephedrine tablets to improve reaction time. (17) Somewhere at the root of it all is a fundamental dissatisfaction with ourselves that cannot be satiated by external products, things we can consume. We must see and do, not be and devour.
But back to the question of where to draw the line. Who is to judge ? And how is one to judge moderation in this world, personally or globally ? How and/or can we resist advertising ? One can’t know for sure, for all outcomes, quite literally, there is always going to be research coming out on the impacts of all products, all things, on all individuals and our domains, large and small. (18) Globalism presages a world where it will not be possible to process the glut of information rushing at and over us, even good summarization becomes much more difficult. Something is lost in the act of summary. (19) Perhaps, it is not possible to argue for scale. If not all can be understood, all evaluated, perhaps things must be judged in relative terms. If so, does this re-point the cautious observer of the weathervane back in the direction of moderation ? If one cannot be sure, at least one can be moderate ? This might be the basis of an argument for not eating meats from animals injected with steroids or growth hormones. Even the food chain is global. One can’t know all of what one is ingesting environmentally, so in this situation, where one does know, one can avoid or only very moderately consume, what one suspects to be malevolent. (20)
But it is still quite difficult to personally set a standard for moderation. To take one supersocially present example, there are worries about excessive cell phone usage. (21) What is the long term health impact of holding this radio transmitter that is receiving signals up to the side of your head ? Both are electrical appliances, giving off and receiving signal. Who knows ? How would one ? Even if one had lots of statistical data available about the impacts of long term cell phone usage by a certain sample of people, how might one judge what is moderation for oneself ? This is especially pertinent in a world where the norm for (over)consumption, of cell phone usage went from: not at all, nobody had one, to not at all, except for emergency professionals who really need it, well, and landscape contractors and dispatchers who really need it too, to well, all business people who really need it, but certainly not everyone and everywhere, well, maybe homemakers with kids should have them too, after all, there are circumstances where they could really need it, and well, what about single mom’s, surely if married homemakers really need it, single mom’s will need it even more, and what about their kids, how will they be able to keep tabs on their kids without giving them phones ? What if they get lost or if Mom’s car breaks down or they just want to go play at Susie house ? And well, what about marrieds without kids, but with aging parents ? Surely, their parents are as valuable to them as somebody else’s children. What about plain old marrieds, without kids ? What if they just really need to get in touch with each other ? What about single, no kids, individuals with aging parents ? Or the un-married with no kids, no aging parents, but who work and have to drive there ? They could break down.
Then the where, a whole different gradient for decision calculus. Well, ok, cell phones around enough that one can be on them in restaurants, but just not the fancy ones, and the car, the car was always cool, ‘cept now it has to be hands free. Now how often does one see or hear someone on a cell phone in movies. How aggravating is it ? Is it aggravating ? (22) Old people, too, their cars break down, just like anybody else’s and most of them aren’t changing a flat. Just because they were late adopters of the technology and don’t know how to use half the functions, they still gotta have their cell phones. And well, if you can use it in the car, and at most restaurants, and just about any coffee house, why shouldn’t you be allowed to use it on the train, in the street, and soon on a plane. (23) This isn’t about the din or is it ? (24) Or the dangers of multitasking in a fast moving public sphere while on the phone ?
Does anybody remember the signal, the radio transmitter being held up to our heads, that was no great problem, at presumed scale level one of cell phone use. There is no evidence this radio transmitter has unintended consequences. But has anybody studied it at this scale, with this much signal and this many signals and this many people, for this many years ? And even if they had, how is one to judge what is moderate cell phone use, personally ? Which people and what model did they use ? What were the other relevant environmental factors ? And how many minutes does that mean it is safe for me to be on the phone, daily ? monthly ? yearly ? in a lifetime ? And what’s the cost calculus on minutes and usage, financially, as in, how much is one paying for one’s phone, daily ? monthly ? yearly ? For socially, we know assuredly this question is asked far more often than, what is the health impact of my using this many minutes in a lifetime. What is the best deal, what is the most economical ? What is too much money or too much radio signal ? Once again in our cultural milieu the trumping of the Benjamin’s over all else as the measure, including moderation, is revealed. (25) Yet, via advertising we can make clear we know of money’s clout and can satirize ourselves, witness the Sprint-Nextel commercial featuring the all powerful executive in the humongous windowed office with minion close at hand discussing cell phone plans, “Just my little way of sticking it to the Man.” The minion, objects, “But, sir, you are the Man.” (26) At least if we can laugh at ourselves culturally, can mock our failings, and our priorities, we must be making some progress, right ? Yet it is still an ad trying to sell one something. I cannot judge the breadth of it all, but globally, I worry. While for individuals, personally, I am more hopeful. This is where this piece began, the personal context. Surely, everything in moderation is hard to judge, but at least there must be some practical jumping off points to start from.
The examples used to ask about our likelihood of being moderate in the personal rather than global context, were things like moisturizing lotion, stretching and running. Here one hopes moderate collides with and assumes the meaning of sensible. Trust one’s body and do right by it. With lotion, more or less follow the instructions on the container, but use the dryness or oiliness of one’s skin as a corrective guide. With stretching, if it hurts don’t do it. One should feel a gradual warming. One should have a moderate feeling of stretch, not a sharp, acute, painful feeling of stretch. With running, if one’s heart or lungs feel like they are going to explode, walk for a bit. Don’t stop. Don’t give up running forever. But take a slower, more moderate spell, before trying to run some more again, be it later that hour, later that day, or later that week. Trust one’s body. It is a sack of signal receptors and transmitters that create a feedback loop between cells, nerves, spine and brain.
If it is hard to be moderate personally, there are some interlinked virtues which make it easier. Consistency for one. It is far easier to be moderate if one is consistent. Regularly apply the lotion, stretch, run or weight lift and each session will be easier and easier on the sack o’ cells that is you. Only time compression, the overconsumption of time, by work and activities, makes it seem as though consistency is harder than extremes. It is in fact easier to exercise moderately three times a week, forty eight weeks a year, than it is to get straight off of the couch and run a six minute mile or bench press 225 lbs. thrice. The illusion of time compression and immoderation run together, if one can feel comfortable doing a little less, thereby implementing moderation in one’s choices, one will find one’s time is more open and available. Therefore one is less squeezed and less compressed, as dictated by one’s conscious choice to do less. Consistency allows one to err on the side of caution, because one knows one will do it again soon. This positive habit formation means one does not have to do one’s exercise or activity, each time, to an extreme. One will be right back at it again soon. (27)
Perhaps recalling Mark Twain, “Everything in moderation, including moderation,” it is for us to recognize with our human fallibilities, that is all one can do. One cannot preach perfection, only cognizance. Excess can be both painful and fun. To deny that fundamental fact is to lose the argument by failing to address the underlying reality. Excess may be dangerous, even deadly, even the first time. There are absolutely no guarantees. (28) However, by looking at the downsides or cons of immoderation, one can see through negation, what one does not want to do. Lack of moderation with booze is called problem drinking or alcoholism. (29) A lack of moderation with gambling or drugs is called an addiction. The very word addiction, placed in opposition to moderation, helps one see the evident virtues of moderation. If one is going to indulge in excess, do it rarely, thoughtfully and cautiously, not daily, haphazardly, and unconsciously. Exercise moderation daily and consciously in as wide a range of activities as you find possible. (30)
1. Make an Ass outta Me. Butt know that it must be a saying that has been with us for a while for me not to be able to firmly plant its roots with relative ease.
2. With ripple I want to make clear that the pebble in the pond analogy works on both levels and that through the personal the transition is made to the global. So moderation should ripple through the pond that is our own life, applying in many contexts and arenas. (Everything in moderation ? Selected examples will dot this essay, but I welcome the broadest possible discussion of how to apply moderation as an ethic in our own lives.) This application of moderation to wide array of lifestyle choices and behaviors in individuals lives should precipitate a virtuous circle of moderation, where each person’s moderate choices make it easier for the next person to be moderate, mitigating fears and false competition.
3. Personally or globally.
4. Those of us who grew up in the 1970’s and 80’s can clearly remember an era when product placement was considered improper, if not unethical. So that, if somebody on your favorite sitcom, wanted to drink a beer, we all looked at a can that said “Beer” on the side, not Heineken. I also saw fascinating article on current efforts to market to college spring breakers, taking product placement to the hotels and literally encouraging the kids to steal the towels and such. “Companies such as Coca-Cola, Unilever and Paramount Pictures have stamped ads on hotel room staples from pillow cases and shower curtains to room card keys and door knob signs…’You want to come up with content cool enough that they will want to steal it.’ says William Gelner, group creative director at Axe ad agency BBH.” story by Laura Petrecca in the USA Today, 3/20/06, sec. B, p.3.
5. For “same rules,” read: “the status quo’s flawed superstructures,”
6. I’m not even going to get in to the perverse incentives for overproduction and overconsumption in farm subsidies.
7. Presuming they’re not watching on cable DVR or mad channel surfers.
8. The drug companies are just one example. Advertising by all companies in almost all industries is everywhere. The drug companies are not necessarily more guilty, I am singling them out here to make the point that advertising influences our collective decision making process on many levels, not just for beer and the dish detergent, but for much more fundamental choices, like health. Did he just say there were more important choices, than beer ? Nah, he couldn’t have, not AjM, I’d never believe it…
9. For NASCAR, well mostly, not pre-determined.
10. Those of you who had no idea Mark Martin once drove a #6 Viagara stock car will have their answer to this question immediately.
11. Steroids, Human Growth Hormone, Blood Doping, Amphetamines. Heck, they even had United States fighter pilots getting hyped up pre-combat on various amphetamines. Fortunately, that too appears to be undergoing a rethink, since AmericaN planes accidentally bombed some poor Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan.
12. Pam Anderson’s breast implants might be perceived in the same manner.
13. This is not to deny nor to minimize the steroid problems of young female athletes or the eating disorders and body image problems of young males.
14. Nationwide, an estimated 325,000 teenage boys and 175,000 teenage girls are using steroids, according to a recent study by the National Institute of Drug Abuse.
15. “The personal savings rate used to be 10 percent of disposable income from 1974 to 1984, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It fell to 4.8 percent by 1994, and was negative for all of 2005. As of January, the personal savings rate was minus 0.7 percent.”-ABC News from
www.abcnews.go.com/Business/wireStory?id=1688390 “Make no mistake: The statistics are ugly. As a nation, our borrowing is growing as fast as our wealth; we are loading up our kids with college debt; and we are continuing our spendthrift ways into retirement.”- Jonathan Clements, in The Wall Street Journal see www.clarioncontentblogspot.com for the link.
16. Esquire 04/06, pg. 108
17. Is there a connection to lemur like buying of tech stocks and other (avoidable? Housing?) bubbles? Moderation or the lack thereof and a connection to get rich quick thinking…I need a game theorist to tell me exactly where pyramid schemes fit in here.
18. Not to mention the exceptions to the rule and studies biases. It should be noted too, that one hopes we continue to live in free societies that continue to produce copious amount of less than totally biased research.
19. Especially as the function of summarizing is increasingly assumed by technology.
20. In the interest of full disclosure, I definitely eat meat, not all of it steroid and/or hormone free.
21. Cell phones (like the pharmaceutical companies) are just one example, picked because they are ubiquitous and the pace of their transformation from nowhere to everywhere was so rapid, like cars and so many other technologies before them. Cars now seen over a longer time frame are an instructive example because their widespread use happened so quickly scaled in a geological chronology. Cars became widespread long before emissions were fully understood. Cars had a global ecological impact long before comprehensive studies on such impacts could be completed. (One of cars side effects now is surprisingly likely to be the way in which cars impact is most relevant to our grandchildren.) The same might or might not hold true for nuclear power, cell phones or half a hundred other things, including food and drugs. “Tort law doesn’t seem to me to be a big help to ya, if what ya ate, or what ya took, already done killed you.” This is not to argue we should give up our cars or lawsuits, rather that we should approach their use with moderation.
22. It seems to me there is a link between overconsumption and civility or I should say, incivility, lack of politeness, decency and standards. All the way to and through things like cheating and grade inflation.
23. The plane as a quiet sphere is still theoretically up for debate and you can hope it is not soon to be taken over by the personal cell phone, though you can ride planes that are already equipped with seat back phones.
24. Prolonged exposure to loud noise leads to increased heart attack and stroke risk according to Dr. Mehmet Oz in 03/06 Esquire pg. 100.
25. The benefits of such studies, while theoretically possible are down the road. This does not mean they should not be undertaken. Studies and all knowledge in the public domain should come with
a grain of salt, take the studies of cigarette smoking as one guide. Or the many things we have heard one study pronounce good for you one year, only to have another study warn of the dangers of the same thing X quantity of time later. Recall, too, that studies are expensive and Money trumps. Look at the deleterious effects of negative studies on an industry from smoking studies on tobacco to Atkins opinions on carbs, it is at least questionable who is incentivized to do what if any studies. Always look for bias.
26. The commercial is on-line at http://ad-rag.com/commercials.php
27. This is NOT to argue that one should never go all out, or that one shouldn’t, as much as possible, ALWAYS do one’s best. This is not the same. Doing one’s best is an obligation that is not undermined by a moderate mindset. To try to do one’s best without hubris, is one guidepost.
28. Inherent circularity of this statement, “There are no guarantees, including this one.” A point addressed in Gödel, Escher, Bach by D. Hofstadter, among others, perfect illustrates why one should arc, augur, bend one’s behavior toward moderation as often as possible, but also why one should not flog one’s self for failure to achieve perfection.
29. How many drinks a day does it take to make you an alcoholic ? It is different for each and every body. In theory, only the individual in question can tell you for sure. But trust your instincts. If it is your body, it should be pretty darn close to self evident. For stretching, you only have to slow down and listen to hear your body more clearly. Alcoholics often have very strong self awareness and they know how many drinks at any given moment makes them an alcoholic, even if that number is as low as…one more drink at any point during the rest of their life.
30. It is important to evaluate the ideal of everything in moderation with a minimum of blame assessment. The dominant paradigm is consumption and in fact, overconsumption, look at America’s bulging landfills, for one more example. One can encourage people to resist the dominant paradigm and support morally, emotionally and financially those who do, but one has a limited amount of room to critique the mass who follow the existing paradigm. These are the rules of the game as they were taught. They are only trying to do the best by what they know, they cannot know what they do not know. So to spread the message without arrogance is the mission, without a claim to coming from a place of superior knowledge, but rather coming from alternative knowledge. To recognize that there are many other individuals and organizations fighting similar and parallel struggles, from slow food movements to simplicity advocates, from Yoga to the Falun Gong, is to be heartened and heightened. The overturning of the paradigm will rock existing structures. A simple, moderate first step might be recognizing the 100 meter dash, the timed mile run and the long jump are not records that will continue to be endlessly lowered. But that is for another article.
Monday, April 03, 2006
Heaping spoonfuls of Salt recommended
American League East
1st New York Yankees - The signature of my baseball confusion. Early Steinbrenner I could not and did not like them. But, the Jeter era…
2nd Toronto Blue Jays - Trying, in an upset, to prove Toronto is not a small market.
3rd Boston Red Sox - I was rooting for the caught from behind on the last day of ’78 Red Sox, but not for the 2004 Curse breaking Red Sox??! Note, I lived in four different states between 1976 and 1981. But more importantly sometime between 1981 (the first strike) and 1987-89 (the beginning of homerun inflation) Baseball underwent a subtle paradigm shift and my level of loyalty and interest, at first confused, gradually has never been the same.
4th Baltimore Orioles - Guess Palmeiro, Sosa et. al. weren’t the answer. Poor Miguel Tejada, a heckuva a player.
5th Tampa Bay Devil Rays - Should be contracted.
National League East
1st Atlanta Braves – Yes, again. A most remarkable streak.
2nd New York Mets – Finally somewhat likeable. Go Omar Minaya and Willie Randolph!!
3rd Philadelphia Phillies – Phills fans it could be worse. You could be the Pirates.
4th Washington Nationals/Montreal-San Juan Expos – What’s not to like about a team that was originally named after their stadium ? The Franchise most screwed by the ’94 strike.
5th Florida Marlins – Should be contracted. Florida is for Spring Training.
American League Central
1st Cleveland Indians – Over the past 15 years has there been a better baseball town ? What happened to the place they used to call, “The Mistake on the Lake ?”
2nd Chicago White Sox – Talk about an outta nowhere run to the championship. You wouldn’t have seen them in my predictions for last years playoffs.
3rd Minnesota Twins – If Minnesotans want baseball and they want to live there, they ought to pull down the Dome and make’em go back to playing outside. Enjoy Minnesota.
4th Detroit Tigers – Take heart in the Pistons excellence Detroiters.
5th Kansas City Royals – A travesty.
National League Central
1st St. Louis Cardinals – There like the Braves and the Yanks in this new era, isn’t that right ? Just pick’em every year ? Incidentally, how much fun has it been to watch Jim Edmonds play centerfield over the years…
2nd Houston Astros/Colt 45’s – I, for one, hope Clemons comes back. And I really, really hope he’s never done performance enhancing houha.
3rd Chicago Cubs – If the two Sox and the Cubs go Back-to-Back-to-Back, you are allowed to start officially worrying about the impending apocalypse.
4th Milwaukee Brewers – Will underachieve versus slight better than meager expectations. How’s that for a fun season Brewers fans ?
5th Pittsburgh Pirates – Another year desecrating a once great franchise.
6th Cincinnati Reds – Opening day should be a weekday afternoon home game in Cincinnati, a day before any other games are played. If it wasn’t for the miracle sweep of ’90 over the steroid pumping Bash Brothers of the A’s, it’d be going on 30 years since the Reds won anything!!
American League West
1st California-Anaheim-Los Angeles Angels of Eastern Orange County – Still miss Mr. Autry.
2nd Seattle Mariners – Ichiro. Now contemplate.
3rd Oakland A’s – Moneyball doesn’t work without pitching ? Does the pitching hold up ? Does anyone on the East Coast see any games played in the Pacific Time Zone to find out ?
4th Texas Rangers – Was any franchise more complicit in their players steroid use…
National League West
1st San Diego Padres – Is there a better meteorological climate to watch baseball in the whole world ? Rest assured if you lived in San Diego you wouldn’t mind if they won the division with an under .500 record either.
2nd Los Angeles Dodgers – What an interesting bunch of signings. Sort of reminds on of the mid 80’s Yankees of the Steve Kemp era. 80 wins would be a surprise. Hooray for Hollywood.
3rd San Francisco Giants – Bonds will overshadow their season.
4th Colorado Rockies – The stadium and town where steroids are least needed.
5th Arizona Diamondbacks – Should be contracted.
New York Yankees vs. Chicago White Sox
and Cleveland Indians vs. LA/California Angels
San Diego Padres vs. St. Louis Cardinals
and New York Mets vs. Atlanta Braves
Winners: Yanks, Indians, Cards, Braves
New York Yankees beat the Cleveland Indians
Atlanta Braves beat the St. Louis Cardinals
New York Yankees vs. Atlanta Braves
…finally moving on to…
Tiger wins the Masters. I know it’s chalk. Hey, I love to watch the greatest player of this era and possibly any era, play well.
Romano Prodi will be a less dramatic shift in Italian politics from Silvio Berlusconi than Angela Merkel has been in German politics from Gerhard Schroeder. Unlike Schroeder to Merkel, Prodi’s change will be more style than substance.
92% plus of United States Congressional incumbents will win re-election.
Saturday, April 01, 2006
Dear Mr. Rick Greenspan,
I address you directly because I presume you will have much to say and possibly final say (1) on the hiring of a new men’s basketball coach. I hope you consult students, staff, athletes, faculty and alumni.
As an alumni, class of 1994, I was very disappointed with the way in which Coach Knight’s dismissal was handled. I did not feel that the “Zero Tolerance” policy was a credible path. Action had to be taken one way or the other at the time and the leaders of our fine institution took a stab at a spineless, politically correct compromise that took a stand on neither side. This error left them compromised, for the players recognized this duplicity for what it was, and were ready to revolt on Coach Knight’s behalf. Emergency measures had to be taken was the cry that went up, from an institution far from united on whether or not Coach Knight’s dismissal was a good idea. Mike Davis, an untested assistant was cast as that emergency measure. It was always going to be a very difficult task to be the successor to Coach Knight, it is the nature of the beast, (2) look at the immediate successors to Dean Smith or Ray Meyer or John Thompson or Norm Stewart. So into this very difficult situation was thrust, the overmatched, never been a head coach on anywhere close to this big of a stage, Mike Davis. His position already compromised with the alumni, the university power structure and the players by the abysmal manner in which Coach Knight’s discharge was handled. (A faux second chance, followed by a Galileo-esque judge and jury finding and firing.)
Mike Davis at this disadvantage, got off to a remarkably good start, albeit with Coach Knight’s players. But by two seasons ago now, things had clearly gone sour for him and he should have been let go. Then when the griping about the difficulty of the schedule occurred, and Indiana gave in and stopped scheduling traditional rivals like Notre Dame and Kansas, this was a dangerous compromising of our principles and standards, which were already damaged from Coach Knight’s firing. This should have been the time to examine what paths Mike Davis was leading us down. (3) Once again, it was not clear why the institution was not showing the structural strength to make a change when something obviously was not working, when something was obviously amiss.
This was not Mike Davis’s fault. Nor does it make him in any way a bad human being that he was not ready to coach at Indiana. An Alabama pedigree ? Wimp Sanderson, C.M. Newton ? Alabama is on the list of programs with the most NCAA tourney wins without ever making it to the Final Four. Yes, Indiana was backed into a corner by Bobby’s abrupt termination, but it was a corner of their own making. I say their when I could say our because, you were still in the Missouri Valley then, and I failed to weigh-in, other than the verbal haranguing of friends and fellow alumni. (4) Over and above the idea that a Alabama background isn’t an end all be all college basketball CV, Mike Davis was wrong for the program because he did not understand and has subsequently impugned the touchstone of Indiana University basketball, our integrity and our education first mentality. Bobby Knight’s legacy had no higher honor than this, Indiana University basketball turned out ethical humans, almost all of whom graduated, all of whom attended real classes alongside the rest of the student body and participated in the undergraduate experience. This was always what separated Indiana from the Kentuckys and Michgans of the world. This is what allowed us as Indiana alumni to hold our heads high. A win with honor is the only win. Sure Michigan’s “Fab Five” might have out performed our “Magnificent Seven” on the court, but Michigan paid them. Years later we were not giving back wins, lowering banners like they were. They cheat, we don’t. They have paid pros. We have student athletes. It was that simple. Bob Knight was our Joe Paterno. Integrity and honor were (and hopefully are) at the core of our institution, its value system and our athletic programs.
This is why you have such a great responsibility with the next basketball coaching hire. Mike Davis was the first step on the slippery slope to becoming a Jim Harrick U. Indiana is not supposed to be the kind of institution that recruits the Josh Smith’s of the world. We do not want young men who have no intention of attending class, spending four years in school and attempting to graduate. Please don’t call this naïve, unless you want to pay the student athletes, like universities pay the people who do the maintenance in the arena. There was and is a simple distinction between students and employees of the university. It is that students attend and complete classes at the university with the intention of obtaining a degree.
It was not a coincidence that Indiana was never on probation under Coach Knight’s leadership, while Kentucky was repeatedly in hot water during that same period. No coincidence. When you see the kind of kids Coach Knight is recruiting to Texas Tech and the JamesOn Currys of the world following Eddie Sutton and Son to Oklahoma State, it is not an accident of fate. It was and is about right intention, integrity, morality, sticking to and practicing what you believe is just and honest. (5) College athletics represents a bully pulpit, a window on to the impressionable youth of the world. Indiana University owes it to itself, the state, our alumni, its players, coaches, and fans to take that responsibility seriously. Character education is a fundamental part of the job.
One might say, Josh Smith was an exception, what would one say then, about another Mike Davis era recruit Bracey Wright ? A young man who served neither his own nor the university’s interest with his disregard for his senior year. Where was Coach Davis or somebody from within the program to advise this kind of kid, a young man entering the world without a degree, with more moxie than sense. If he was beyond guidance, what was this kind of individual doing at our at educational facility there in Bloomington ? Please do not even for a moment allow the excuse that everybody else is doing it to cross your mind. Standards are your own, and when the time comes to stand and be counted, Indiana alumni want to be able stand on the side of doing it right, with the John Woodens, and as far away from the Jerry Tarkanians and O% graduation rate, Bob Hugginses as possible. If I have children, I want to be able to proudly point out Indiana’s student athletes to them. (6)
Now that we have hit what we hope is rock bottom, no NCAA tournament appearance in two of the last three years, disappointing graduation rates, a coach who was on the verge of having a stress related breakdown midseason, people intimating that race was at the Indiana’s of this decision, (7) which thankfully Coach Davis himself refuted, I am very gladdened to hear that you are proceeding slowly and consulting widely in your search for a successor to Coach Davis.
The next coach does not have to be an Indiana Alumni, nor does this coach have to have a Bobby Knight connection. What this coach has to have is integrity, honesty, strength of character, and a winning mentality. When Coach Davis says Indiana needs one of its own he indicates he continues to misunderstand the priorities of real Indiana basketball fans. Honor was always the touchstone of the state of Indiana’s basketball, first and foremost, through its top to bottom everybody’s in it high school basketball tournament where participation of all comers large and small was a higher value than the all mighty dollar. (8) Other programs have their centerpiece, Kansas can claim the invention of basketball, UCLA the national championship tradition, North Carolina, Michael Jordan and quite a bit of other glory. (9) At Indiana we have Coach Knight, maybe a dash of Isaiah, a whisper of the last undefeated season and more than anything else our integrity. This is our most precious thing to defend, our hard earned, easier to blow than to fix, squeaky clean reputation. It is not an accident that there are not names on the back of the Hoosiers jerseys, to be a Hoosier means to represent a value set that says no man is bigger than the team, and you sing, not applaud, during the national anthem.
When one looks around the country at the way other programs are being run, there is one head and shoulders above the rest in operating with a combination of institutional integrity and on court success, not coincidentally it is being run by a member of the Bobby Knight coaching tree. Mr. Greenspan, I am not thinking Iowa City, but rather the Bull City, Durham, North Carolina and Coach Mike Krzyzewski. Coach K runs his programs with the highest of standards and turns out class after class of solid citizens. Unfortunately, I think he is unavailable. Symbolizing the kind of dangerous erosion that has already reached edges of our program weathering our assets, Coach K’s lead assistant, Johnny Dawkins would probably rule himself out as well. (10) I read talk about Randy Wittman and Steve Alford, nice men, neither of whom I find inherently objectionable, but I think to go with either of them would be to prioritize the alumni over the students. The incoming students do not want a candidate who represents the past rather than future of the program. Coach Knight was a young man and a brave outside the box choice when he was hired. Indiana’s previous six or seven years prior to his hire had seen few successes. We find ourselves in a similar scenario. We need to employ similarly creative thinking. We need never to lose track of our integrity, honor first, mindset.
Those two thoughts in mind, may I humbly recommend placing a call to Jay Bilas. Obviously, Jay Bilas does not have a brilliant coaching resume, what he does have is a very high profile to recruits. He, equally importantly, has a long history of public statements about his morality, ethics and principles. Further, he has been steeped in the winning and winning the right way tradition of Duke. He has consistently taken the high road in his public persona. Going this far a field for a coaching hire requires having some patience with the person after you bring them into the program. We need to recognize that if we are setting off in a different direction and course than the one Mike Davis was leading us on, that it may have to get worse before it gets better. The Indiana University community needs to know that going in, to stick with our choice and get the program righted for the long hall. Another sign of good character, both in individuals and institutions, is perseverance. Please focus first, whomever you decide to hire as coach, on getting the right kind of student athlete in our program and then, secondly, on the W’s. If we get the right people in place, teach and support them, the W’s will come. One reason Mike Davis’s teams were so up and down was a lack of a foundation. A lack of teaching be it in the fundamentals of executing a half court set offense or setting a screen. (11) These kids played an entire half against Wisconsin this season without an assist. What kind of teamwork were they learning ? They could not run an out of bounds play. This was always Mike Davis’s greatest failure, his failure to teach. The team over and over could not execute the basics. He seemed a decent man. He might have even been a kind and moral man, I could not say from afar. But I can tell you his teams and his players were not well schooled and they did not get better over time. Look at his first star recruit Bracey Wright’s declining scoring averages and declining shooting percentages over his career. Unfortunately, Marco Killingsworth road the same rollercoaster in microcosm this season. We need a return to the Coach Knight tradition of a teacher and leader of young men. (Mind you, he does not have to be a Marine Drill instructor in Coach Knight’s mode, but one has to recognize that the Marines and Bobby’s first stop, West Point, have turned out quite a few good men and women over the years. I am quite confident as their former Athletic Director, you are familiar with United States Military Academy’s athletes.) Please give our next coach enough time to build a foundation. Remember that Coach K was 38 up and 47 down in his first three years at Duke. Frank Beamer, a man who just took a very strong stance on the side of character when he booted Michael Vick’s younger brother to the curb, was 24 wins, 40 losses and 2 ties in his first six seasons running the Virginia Tech football program. (12) I think a man of Jay Bilas’s character and background could/might/would lead Indiana to a level of success probably somewhere between that achieved by Coach Krzyzewski at Duke and that of Coach Beamer at Virginia Tech. We can’t hold any coach to unreasonable winning statistical expectations. High winning percentages and long tourney runs are good, but our first standard must be about character and education. Success at Indiana University will not be measured on the scoreboard alone. Let’s bring on Jay Bilas, he gets that concept.
Please Mr. Greenspan, regardless of the particular individual selected, emphasize morality and education first in our next coaching hire and all else will fall in line. Even we do not go back to winning NCAA tournaments our alumni can go back to holding our heads high. We can only aspire to be Duke, but rest assured your honorable alumni would rather have a program like this year’s Army women’s basketball than the UNLV men’s basketball of years past.
IUB Class of 1994
PS. If Jay Bilas says he is unavailable, stick with integrity first, teaching coaches, who graduate the great majority of their players. Consider John Beilein of West Virginia or Brad Brownell of UNC-Wilmington. Just as good or better, if you can do the due diligence to find a minority candidate, other than Johnny Dawkins, who meets these standards, hire him or her.
1. It is speculated Indiana’s President will leave in two years. See http://www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20060217/COLUMNISTS01/602170435/1005 The Louisville Courier Journal, columnist Rick Bozich, 2/17/06.
2. It is just generally very difficult to succeed greatness on the athletic playing fields (and in many other professions.) The 20/20 hindsight, grass is greener on the other side gets’em. People’s nostalgia and memory of the predecessor is almost always better than the new status quo. (exceptions to every rule.) My paradigm example as a kid was Ray Knight trying to succeed Pete Rose in Cincinnati. No matter what he did, he couldn’t measure up. In the end he had to leave and find his greatest success elsewhere.
3. More likely this should have been the second or third time to institutionally examine what paths Mike Davis was leading Indiana down. But it is not surprising that people were blinded by the bright light of Coach Davis leading the Hoosiers to play in the championship game.
4. I am weighing in with an opinion now because I hear Mr. Greenspan is seeking opinions. I have undertaken with this project an intention to write when my opinions, feelings and beliefs converge to feed a sense that something is relevant, at least to me. http://www.taylormali.com/index.html
5. At minimum living by the golden rule. Trying to live by an ethic that says I will give back as much or more than I take out of the whole.
6. At the moment I have a family full of cousins of all ages who have graduated from Indiana University.
7. Indiana Media Relations website quotes Coach Davis, “I definitely want to clarify what I mean by one of their own because I heard someone thought it was a black-white thing. It definitely isn't a black-white issue.” http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/2974.html This is not to argue that there are not some racist Indiana basketball fans. Nor is it to deny there is a long history of abysmal racism in the state of Indiana, not even that far geographically down the road from Bloomington, itself. But sources wider than Davis deny a link to racism in this decision, African American columnist of the Kansas City Star and ESPN’s The Sports Reporters, Jason Whitlock. http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=whitlock/060216
8. The almighty dollar having since won out here, too. Indiana just last week finished its sectional basketball championships, which though they include all comers, divide the schools by criteria and do not ultimate play them all off, the way they used to do (as famously depicted in the movie Hoosiers with ole’ Gene Hackman and an under appreciated Dennis Hopper role.)
9. Duke, well as Pete Gillen would say, “Duke is Duke and they’re on TV more than “Leave it to Beaver,” reruns. Inside joke for Clones.
10. Johnny Dawkins has high hopes that some day down the road he gets to move into Coach K’s seat.
11. The converse of this, a super solid grounding in the fundamentals, the basics, is one reason why Bobby, Dean, Coach Wooden and Coach K’s teams were/are so consistent.
12. Beamer stared down the idea of Michael Vick’s future bequests to the university and did the right thing, eventually.
The United States and Israel should recognize Hamas’s recent victory in the parliamentary elections in Palestine as an opportunity to make a lasting peace. Clearly Hamas’s past actions, methodologies, and its charter’s blanket rejection of Israel’s very existence all work to make this opening less obvious than it might otherwise be. While, Hamas’s election is the key, and the rest of the moment is ripe: George Bush’s vitriolic support of Democracy as the road to change, and its relative ineffectiveness in pacifying Iraq, as well as, the domestic political circumstance in both the United States and Israel. The ground is fertile, but this could be a point of divergence, too, for in opportunity lies risk, one only has too look at the fallout of past failures, most recently Arafat-Barak-Clinton, to know that dashed hopes are explosive. This moment is a fork in the road, too, because in inaction lies a path of great danger. Hamas’s victory left to take its own course, while the rest of the explosive stew in the Middle East continues to simmer is courting further disaster. George Bush the II has made Democracy and Liberty in the Middle East a focal point of his presidency. (1) Already America and the West are undermining this stance by holding the stick of an aid cut to the PA over the heads of a democratically elected Hamas. All but tacitly admitting the value chart indeed, prioritizes Cash over Democracy. Well, any campaign donation accepting American politician could hardly deny that. However, America needs to not only withdraw the immediate threat of an aid cut and respect the democratic process, that our own emissaries certified as a legitimate and largely fraud free election, but then follow up by reopening the peace process, which has long since veered off the road map, recognizing that the big picture is much more important than the short term. Hamas’s election, followed in rapid succession by Israeli elections and the United States congressional elections and then the run up to the campaign of 2008, must be seized as the best conjuncture of events for making peace in many years. (2) Whereas an aid cut, following a legitimate election, highlights American hypocrisy when it comes to democratically selected governments America does not like threatens to undermine American policy from the Mediterranean to the Hindu Kush.
First Hamas, and why they are crucial. Hamas is arguably the most hardline Palestinian group/faction/political party. When trying to make a lasting peace deal, in most contexts, it is essential to have the most hardline group on board for a multiplicity of reasons. Initially note, this will be an opportunity to negotiate directly with Hamas, rather having to find a way to get Hamas to buy into an agreement negotiated by someone else. If they are directly involved in the process of negotiation, and something is agreed upon, they are thereby much more likely to abide by the agreement. (3)
Before negotiations with Hamas can begin, Hamas must accept the existence of Israel and the reality of a two-state solution, else there is no negotiation. Israel can be brought to the table without this. Hamas can cast this as a huge concession on its part. If Hamas can accept that pre-condition, Israel must accept that it cannot neither demand Hamas disarm, nor that Hamas completely renounce violence, as pre-conditions to opening negotiations. Hamas’s position will be, Israel is not going to unilaterally disarm nor renounce violence as an option, so it can’t be asked to do so. The Israelis can parade this as a huge concession on their part. The American administration must make even this first level of agreement happen because there will be an element of resistance on both sides to meet at this level of pre-conditions. America must emphasize these positions are all but self evident to any who accept a two-state solution (which hopefully both actors do.)
Any two state solution has to accept the existence of Israel. Any two state solution has to accept that the leadership of Palestine will be armed. America must present these positions as something that is de facto known by outsiders. This would require some internal movement by the American government, if not on the rhetoric, at least its on the formal characterization of Hamas. America can cast this as its concession, demonstrating its commitment to and belief in Democracy and the process. Hamas was legitimately elected, it can therefore be given the opportunity to reform. It can be give the opportunity to show it can govern and be a valid dealing partner. (4) America saying just this, alone, would give it a foreign policy credibility chip, matching deed to word, leveragable everywhere from Iraq to Afghanistan. Sadly America is much more likely, at this point, to be on the side of the dictators and strongmen from Mubarak to Musharraf, from the House of Saud to the Emir of Kuwait. If the Bush administration truly wants to change the tone and put its policy behind its rhetoric about Democracy, Hamas is a linchpin opportunity.
If Hamas can be involved in a process of peace negotiation, they will be incentivized to stop the worst or as many of the terrorist bombings that they can. Responsibility for the success of the negotiations will be, at least in part, laid on Hamas because they are one of the parties at the table. This gives them motive to succeed and at least initially, to continue to deter violence, as they have under the truce that has held for most of the last year. As primary negotiators they will have even more cause to hold their fire. Because Hamas was among the worst provocateurs in the past, their co-option in the process will be crucial to its outcome, both in terms of momentum building and long term success. It is important for all parties involved to remember that due to the nature of the deterioration of authority in the Palestinian territories, even Hamas will not be able to stop 100% of the violence. There will always be outliers, the mass has to drive them forward. The mass of the Israeli, Palestinian, American, and world populations, which hopefully, would like to see a peaceful two-state solution have to actively participate in pushing the process forward if only through moral support.
The Israeli’s history gives them some insight into and awareness of the logic that says the best deals are often made with the hardest of characters. Israel has had to have some of their hardest characters in power for them to find enough security to negotiate. Only a real ex-soldier, a true hero like Rabin could offer the deal he did, at the time he did. Only Sharon, the settlement guru, could unilaterally withdraw from Gaza. Men who had already proved their credentials as the toughest of the tough, the hardest of the hard, these men have the latitude. This is why Arafat was always going to be a failure as a negotiating partner, he could never go the distance. He didn’t have the credibility with his own people for the final deal. His corruption and co-option was widely known, however posthumously deified he might have been. There are many examples of peace deals that have not worked when the secular (5) dealmaker negotiating on behalf of the people can be removed for a more true believer, a more accurate (6) representative of the will of the people. Hamas, very close to being the hardest outfit, certainly the biggest hardline group in Palestine, faces no threat of a “more true believer” appearing on the conservative side of the horizon, and appealing to the populace to adhere to a harder line. They are the hardliners. The Israeli experience and Mossad mentality recognizes that this makes them the optimum deal partner.
The next reason to argue that Hamas is the ideal partner for Israel to negotiate with is their lack of domestic corruption. Hamas’s very nature discourages corruption and duplicity. They see themselves as strict people of the book. Their beliefs forbid corruption. (7) America has to seize on this perspective, and George Bush with his moralism and Evangelical base is ideally positioned grab this theme. If Bush can even begin to break Hamas away from what he terms, the “Evil” Islamists, he will have made tremendous strides in defusing the portents of an inevitable, impending clash of civilizations. Islam is not going away. America and the West have to find a way not to set themselves at odds with Islam permanently. Much like Hamas, George Bush, himself, is an opportunity, only a strong, hawkish American president could get away with this type of concession, that Hamas could be a negotiating partner. Only a Hawk could browbeat the Israelis into coming to the table with Hamas. Al Gore could never have had negotiations with Hamas, too much of the American defense establishment would have seen it as a surrender and the Israelis would have wondered about the physical manifestations of his support. Nobody since R. Reagan has had the truly Hawkish credibility of George Bush the II. (8) If he says America can communicate with and rationalize with a forthright and non-duplicitous Hamas to find a two state solution, this is unlikely to be undermined by more hardline American Hawks. (Though some to his right in the media and Congress might squawk about dealing with Hamas, he, Cheney, and Rummy hold the hole cards of their fierce warmongering.)
Hamas is also an advantageous negotiating partner for Israel and the United States because it is not tainted by past treaty failures. This is why the United States, Israel, and less importantly, Abbas and Fatah, should not press too hard to have Hamas accede to all agreements already signed. Hamas should tacitly abide by them, but all parties involved in the negotiation should leap at the opportunity presented by Hamas coming to the table with a blank slate. Even if, as is likely, the agreement ends up looking substantially similar to Arafat-Barak-Clinton A clean, hardline credentialed Hamas is much more likely to be positioned to be able to successfully present that treaty to the Palestinian people and the Arab street at-large.
It is important to contextualize the success that just bringing Hamas into the negotiating process would mean. As outlined above, bringing the hardest party into negotiations has advantages of its own, however the advantages of having Hamas on board for the process do not end there. This is in part because the process is likely, whomever the negotiators are, to be somewhat lengthy. (9) If Hamas is on board for lengthy negotiations this ought to build momentum for the success of these negotiations. Recent statements by Hamas spokesmen are inconsistent if not incoherent. This, incidentally, is blowback from Israel’s policy of targeted assassinations of Hamas leaders. Hamas is much less factionalized and divided than either Fatah or the current PA. Incrementalism in semi-successful negotiations builds on itself. That is to say a period of calm, builds a foundation for more calm, a virtuous circle. As stability takes hold, opportunities for Palestinians to get jobs, escape poverty, and turn around their economy become more plentiful and more realistic. The more things turn around and the better conditions become on the ground, the greater stake, the more incentive the average citizen has to wish for and accept peace. The more Hamas is credited with laying the foundations of the success, the more incentive, perhaps more importantly, the more latitude they have to negotiate. Likewise, the more credit the Bush administration can claim for these achievements the more capital they have elsewhere in the Arab world. Stability builds upon itself. The more stable the future Palestinian state is, the less difficult and more feasible it is for the EU, Japan, the UN, the Arab states, the Muslim community at-large, and others to deliver and administer their aid projects in the territories. The more successful the delivery and outcomes of these programs the more opportunities for the Palestinian people to escape abject poverty and desolation, then the more reasons for them to be opposed to disruptive random violence. (perhaps even actively pro-peace.)
Hamas’s reputation for incorruptibility and the argument about the virtuous circle of stability bolster each other. If stability takes hold Hamas is much less like to derail it via fraud and sleaze. If Hamas is more efficient at delivering healthcare and education, as is hoped based on their experiences as an NGO (Non-Governmental Organization,) this too, will de-incentivize violence. When there is hope for the future, who wants to become a suicide bomber ? It is only in situations that seem hopeless and intractable that fertile recruiting grounds for such horrors can be found. (10) If Hamas is a better deliverer of healthcare and education; and they are backed by, or at least not disrupted by America and Israel, and the rest of the world is able to much more efficiently deliver economic aid and trade assistance to the proto-Palestinian state, might this not offer an opening for Palestinian institutions from courts to clinics to schools to improve ? More domestic stability and more outside support, commingled with less internal and external disruption would put a much bigger microscope on these institutions and remove much of the excuse for failure. This, combined with Hamas’s hopefully well earned reputation for competence, and their religious beliefs, offers an excellent opening to massively upgrade these institutions. It is important for the West to understand that this upgrade must be centered around honesty and consistent application of the rule of Law, all but regardless of what fundamentalist Islamists’ interpretations of the Law might be. (11) The West must prioritize honesty and consistency above trying to get Hamas to agree to its conceptions of human rights. (12) Here again, though, the conclusion must be that Hamas represents an opportunity the Fatah did not, certainly not under Arafat and even less so under the fractious, factionalism that has followed his death. Further, it must be recognized that all of these opportunities taken together feed back into incentives to make a once and for all peace with the Israelis.
Now, what about those Israelis, and why did the introduction of this paper insist that their elections, too, are an opportunity ? The obvious inclination might be to see the departure of Sharon from the stage as creating a vacuum or propensity for failure. Conversely, even Sharon recognized he had advanced the process about as far as he could from the rubric of the right, and the next stage was going to have to proceed from the center. With Sharon rapidly disappearing in the rear view mirror, and Bibi Netanyahu hopefully undermined by past failures, the opportunity for the Israeli electorate to move to the center is unique. Polls consistently show the mass of Israelis want peace and accept the idea of a two-state solution. It does not seem possible that if Likud were to win the election, that they and Hamas would be able to avoid provoking each other, antennas would be too sensitive, sparks too likely to flare. No, the hope of the Israeli election lies with the people, and the premise that the mass want to make peace. The ideal scenario to export this Will of the people to the negotiating table would be a Grand Coalition of the Center, perhaps a Labor-Kadima-Shinnui combination, or even one that involves two or all three of these parties in a tie-up with Likud. As long as Likud does not govern solo, or with the exclusive backing of the religious parties. The middle must be represented. Whomever is the head piece, the value of the middle being represented lies in the mass of the Israeli people supporting a peaceful, two state solution. This Will might best communicated via a grand coalition rather than an individual spokesman because it is the group Will pushing the process, rather than the people being tugged along by a single individual. The power of the Center is an opportunity for the Will of the people to lead. This seems especially likely with Sharon off stage, because there are no other equally grandiose figures available. (13) A centrist government or a grand coalition will have the same blank slate advantage Hamas brings to the table. Its credibility rather than being rooted in bringing the most hardline group/faction/political party with it, will be based on the big tent, bringing the mass along with it. This will leave it vulnerable to disruption by more hardline elements, but the argument and the hope will have to be that, in Israel, these groups/factions/political parties are much more marginalized, ineffective and unpopular than in the territories. Israel’s elections are this week and there is a distinct possibility of such a close outcome that final governing arrangements will not be made until mid-April.
By that time campaigning in the United States midterm elections will be underway. Bush and his party are, of course, under siege from all sides. Desperate for an accomplishment of any kind, especially in foreign policy, with violence still plaguing Iraq and massive failure still looming, the chit of beginning an Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiation process would be able to be brought to the larger Middle East theater. This would generally play favorably in the American electorate. The opening of a peace process between Israel and Palestine has important American electoral constituencies: Christian Evangelicals, an essential part of Bush and his party’s solid base, and American Jews, a more diverse group, sometime swing voters and big campaign donors. Bush would benefit both on the world stage and directly with the American voting public by beginning this peace process. He, like his father before him, has longed to go in this direction, only to be deterred by the fear of failure. In spite of this fear, he and his thinkers, Rummy and Rice, must recognize the benefits of simply starting the process. America could earn political capital from Brussels to Saudi Arabia, from Paris to Pakistan. Though Mr. Bush says it is not his concern whether he is loved, he would rather be right, but wouldn’t he, (wouldn’t anyone) relish the opportunity to be both ? A modicum of flexibility would give him a better chance of being heard out elsewhere. He and his policy makers have to understand just a little bit of success and likeability would give him much more play to operate within on other foreign policy concerns. Furthermore, Bush, by this point, has to be thinking of his legacy. Perhaps even as jaunty and confident as he appears, Bush is fearfully looking at: on-going violence in Iraq, spiraling deficits in America, growing trade imbalances, sunset provisions on his tax cuts, failure to reform social security, massive increases in defense and discretionary spending, a huge prescription drug entitlement program, and wondering, if not worrying, what his legacy will be. Well, what bigger chance to burnish the legacy for a man who considers himself a Born-Again and came to the Washington stage considered a foreign policy neophyte ? If his hero Ronald Reagan won the Cold War and vanquished the USSR, (14) maybe George Bush the II can be the man who will be remembered for making peace in the Holy Land. (15)
Sarcasm aside. The moment is ripe, in America, in Israel and most especially in Palestine because of Hamas’s election. It will be tricky. There are many potential pitfalls. America has to get the parties to the table. Before and after negotiations begin there will be moments of violence. There will opportunities for all actors to stray along the way. But the ground is fertile, if Hamas, the most hardline Palestinian group, the rejectionist of the past, can be offered a stake in the success of the process., the process can be given legs. Though among the most bloody, Hamas, the least tainted by domestic corruption is change, a chance, a new opportunity and moreover, an entrée into reversing the entire momentum of the seemingly inevitable slide into the conflict of civilizations. (16) It is essential to recall that the majority of the Israeli, the Palestinian and the world’s populations all want peace in this place.
See below for the basis of the outline of a deal:
A Palestinian state in Gaza and 90-95% of the West Bank. Palestinians would have control over their own borders and armed forces. A shared capital in Jerusalem under tri-party control of Israel, Palestine and the UN, possibly modeled along the lines of the Kosovo administrative authority. UN supervised Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount. UN supervised Israeli sovereignty over the Western Wall. A right of return to the new Palestinian state, but not Israel, and/or economic compensation for Palestinian refugees. A truth and reconciliation committee to examine unlawful actions and atrocities committed by both sides during the past forty years.
The Palestinian state on 90%-95% of the West Bank presumes some Israeli settlements stay. It also presumes some sections of the dividing wall are torn down and/or repositioned to the Palestinians geographical and agricultural benefit. (Even if mostly for symbolic value. Even if both sides spout their own wildly different rhetoric about what this tear down and repositioning mean.) Also this agreement presumes a fair division of available water resources. Also presumes recognition of Israel and its right to exist in perpetuity by a Palestinian state, and a ceasefire-truce declared and accepted by both states. (gradually building from CBMs (Confidence Building Measures) implemented during the negotiating process.) Also, it presumes full Palestinian membership in the UN, and the usual prerogatives of statehood from issuing passports, to border controls and taxation.
1. Let us be afraid to say he has made it his Crusade. One hopes his thinking isn’t in that mode.
2. Since Rabin ?
3. The Hizbullah parallel does not work because they never governed alone. Fatah should be dissuaded from joining in a coalition, because for the benefits to truly accrue from Hamas’s election they have to be solely responsible for their policy decisions, their governance and the outcomes. Hizbullah has never been there. Hamas cannot be allowed to rule, but lay the blame for their failures, esp. in interactions with Israel on Fatah, because Fatah is being made to manage the direct contacts. A Hamas-Fatah coalition of this sort could undermine also all the claims of Hamas’s relative advantageousness that are made herein.
4. Almost seems like by rule they must be given this opportunity ? Or have all those rules gone away, with rules like feeling bound by the Geneva Convention ?
5. Bureaucratic, technocratic, materialist all could be substituted for secular in individual contexts.
6. Could also say articulate or shrill or demagogic.
7. Death to people who accept bribes, and such.
8. He has put American boots on the ground and America’s boot in the world’s ass. (not to America, nor the World’s benefit.)
9. Goal would be to wrap it up just before Jan 2009, when Hillary or John McCain takes power. Or Jeb Bush…
10. See: how bad things had to get in Chechnya before they turned to suicide bombing.
11. The Catholic church and numerous elements of Western society vehemently disagree on matters one or both parties consider life and death without annihilating each other. The West in recent decades had tried to take a similar stance with parts of Islam, but lately this approach has been out of vogue. The Empire has been promoting a doctrine that argues about the backwardness of certain Islamic beliefs and asserts their need to change, from Turkey’s admission to the EU to Saudi Arabia’s female drivers. Yet the Roman Catholic church continues to fail to admit women to the priesthood, and gays to the Church period, with nary the same official State attack. The Western apparatus has to rethink it’s attack on the mores of Islam, for now, except in instances of physical cruelty and or endangerment—heck America, all but alone of Western countries, has the death penalty and yet maintains civilized relations with many states that consider the death penalty barbaric cruelty.
12. This notion could be beneficially cross applied to Iraq and Afghanistan. Rule of Law and the economy first, with a baseline conception of human rights. More discussions about human rights as their economy improves and they reap the benefits of consistently applied law.
13. Whether Israel and America like it or not, for a significant number of Palestinians, Sharon was an as objectionable figure as they found Arafat. Sharon’s past deeds and personal history had made him too divisive, an impossible peacemaking partner for too many Palestinians.
14. Though we’re slowly seeing how overclaimed that hype was…
15. As it might be put in what some people receive as semi-secret coded language.
16. The author recognizes the unlikelihood of the Bush administration, Israel or Hamas moving things in this direction, re-starting the peace process. He simply wishes to argue that a viable opportunity is presenting itself at a critical time in Western-Muslim (16A) relations. It is just possible the people, on all sides, who support peace could assert their authority.
16A. Western and Muslim are used as a pair here though one is a cultural shorthand and the other is a religion in an attempt to capture the broadest possible sense of this conflict. One cannot homogenously classify all Muslims as of the same mind anymore than one could classify all Westerners as of the same mind.
Why am I writing this ? The question for some of the people who have known me for a long time might be, why am I only now writing this. Either way it seems only appropriate to address purpose upon inception. (1)
So here goes.
First, I have something to say. My parents, a couple of original do-gooders convinced me early that I had a duty to it. A successful, but self indulgent existence was far from good enough. Mitzvot were an obligation. (2) I also spent many years in my youth listening to one of my grandmothers tell me that it was going to be up to my generation to change the course of the way things were going in this world. I had and have nary an idea as to how she conceived we might accomplish this, but at the time she didn’t seem the least bit troubled that she didn’t know either. Suffice it to say, I feel an obligation to be the best me I can be.
The second part of the answer is I believe now is an important time in our history as a planet. I have to qualify that, [and get used to that phrase if you’re going to stick around, because I have to qualify it, ad infinitum, ad naseaum.] I want to be able phrase now in, if not geologic terms, at least large scale time frames. Time frames big enough to say that when I started writing this material as kid in the 80’s, it was an important time in the history of our planet and our particular species.
Be that as it may, and depending on which version you’ve heard, anywhere from 5 to 10 years behind schedule, now is an important time in the history of our planet and our particular species.
I have Spoke at and with a lot of you, some of you for a long time. Your patience and forbearance has been a blessing. And those of you who actually listened, well I don’t know if it was you’re nuts or it was your guts, that got you through it, but thank you. Thank you. It’s been a long journey. I’ve met a tremendous variety of folks from north Jersey-where I grew up, to Indiana-where I attended college, to the West coast-where I sojourned in California for nearly four years, and finally the last eight years, whilst I have lived in the South, around and about Durham, North Carolina. All those people, all of you people, affected me. Those places shaped me. The Rents first and foremost, with their Love and support, and then onward from there, my siblings, my oldest friends, the kids who beat me up in elementary school, and then skipping around and just plain skipping: Bloomington, people of the Peninsula, policy debaters, the Southerners, B.C. Mexico, the winter at the Ocean, the winter of Mine Hill. You and it has all shaped me. Take some blame America, and most uniquely Jersey, for the results.
Not only have I met a bunch of you, I have talked to a slew of you, too. Thank you so much again to the many who have graciously listened to me and given your own ideas. Whence I spew them forth, please advise if I fail to give Credit or shriek disavowal, whatever’s your pleasure, it won’t be held against you. These are but my opinions.
To underline that, I would cite from Eric Hoffer in The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements “the explanations---all of them theories---are in the nature of suggestions and arguments even when they are stated in what seems a categorical tone…[he cites Montaigne]… ‘All I say is by way of way of discourse…I should not speak so boldly if it were my due to be believed.’ ”
Please cross apply his dictum herein. Those of you who know me well, might put it in even more succinct, direct and/or euphemistic terms. These are but my opinions.
But let us head another direction for a moment, the why ? Why? And why this project?
By way of explanation on the road to why, first, what. It’s a newsletter in the form (3) of a pamphlet, each issue in a Thomas Paine-Patrick Henry mode of call to action, structured in an early 21st century “Poor Richard’s Almanac” model, tempered by a post-Gandhian knowledge that the first moment of violence in the name of a Cause undermines it, most likely irreparably.
It is called Clarion Content. I am going to publish a monthly hard copy that will also be posted on the web, for now as a blog, comment at www.clarioncontent.com The hard copies will be for fuddy duddy fiends like me. This is Volume I, Issue I. The layout and format is lousy for now, but hopefully it won’t always be like that. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to request a hard copy. (4) Or go ahead and print it out, but know I wrote it. I am open to negotiation on the appropriateness of intellectual property rights.
There will be no pics for now. I dream of pics. I have nightmares with computers. Maybe some day.
Links, maybe some links to stuff I find interesting. (5)
Ads ? Still under review. (6)
It is, however, called Clarion Content and I was supposed to getting around to Why. Content is easier. Simply, there is a whole bunch I have to say about American policy and American culture. I’ve pretty well talked some ears off about it. It is time to write it down.
The format is one Foreign Policy essay per issue, one Domestic domain essay per issue and one other vaguely cultural essay per issue. There will also be a permanent section that will accept contributions. (7) Hopefully I will be able to keep the collective back file on line. Only newbie pieces, mine or yours, will appear in the hard copy issues. On the website there will be a section for your editorial, critical, bloggian feedback. Occasionally between issues I may spew on the site, short pieces that don’t make the paper due to timeliness, continued relevance, etc. In each issue there will be a few “Swipes, Thoughts, & Pithy, F*rging Sayings from the Singularity.” If I don’t have it appropriately attributed, help me, don’t hate on me. It is all a collective endeavour. There will also be stuff, “In the Manner of Practical Advice.” Maybe even predictions. Large grains of salt are highly recommended for the well hydrated.
This first issue will be some what longer simply because I am laying the groundwork, so bear with me, I promise I won’t always be such a windbag. [Ha.]
That is the Content. (8)
Why then the Clarion ? Because a Clarion call is a call to action, and now is the time. My gut feeling is something like, “What the ***k, over ?” “Do you copy ?” “Can you read me ?” Did we notice 9/11 and did it makes us more angry or sad ? Is retribution the best answer ? Even if it were, are we getting the right people ? Are we, each of us, doing all we can to minimize the collateral loss of life ? (Which is probably a phrase that should be banned as an unreasonably cruel oxymoron, that is, any use of collateral where the damage is loss of life, seems to me Death can never be collateral damage to the being it happens to.) How can so many say that they feel that something is vaguely wrong, something is not going well with the planet, even in the face of seemingly the greatest economic times, and most technologically advanced age humanity has ever known ? (9)
We Americans have no real scarcity, yet there is a sense something is wrong. Is it environmentally out of whack ? Species are getting whacked. Or is it the Golden Rule conundrum ? Underlying Karma ? The way we struggle to do unto others ? Or a general incivility ? Or an inability to be decent to each other ? Is it fear ? I will not tell you I have the answers, only that I firmly believe we have to forthrightly address these and many other questions. (10)
What about the War ? So many fewer military personnel and so many fewer innocent civilians are getting killed both proportionately and in absolute numbers than have been in wars past, (11) yet America cringes and looks away. The state won’t even let the media show the coffins retuning draped in the stars and stripes. Americans (12) see footage of wounded Iraqi women and children on the TV, but not in numbers nearly as large as we see Survivor and the Olympics. Why ? How long would the Colonials (13) have stayed in Nam and how many more people would have died, if TV hadn’t brought the horrors of war home to the living room ? For a while the cable news networks were running a list of the American casualties of the week at the end of programs. Tremendously sad, but somehow dehumanized by the medium, it was more like a sports graphic than anything reverent.
Now questioning the War is trapped somewhere between exploitative and un-patriotic. Ick. Dissent is not un-patriotic. Dissent is often your highest civic duty, in a Universe where your first duty should never be to the State. Where were the dissenters when the State decided it was a good idea to put Japanese Americans into internment camps ? Where were the dissenters when the State sent the Cherokees down the Trail of Tears ? Do you think there were absolutely none or were they just hushed down by the tyranny of the majority ? I believe in the value of alternative sources. (14)
I fear my own radicalism and seek to temper it, anticipating your laughter and disdain, but I cannot be still. I will not tell the lie that I live or have lived the ideal example. My conception of the Universe includes a maximum of one perfection.
We need a groundswell, quick before its too late. We need to stop the presumption of de facto rule, individual ineffectiveness and stasis. “These people are in charge and we don’t have any say. We can’t do anything. It does not matter whether or not I vote, or get involved. Things are inevitable.” This rant/gripe is interlinked with the pervading sense that the World has permanent, insolvable conflicts. Be it Palestine-Israel, the Balkans, the Congo, Sudan, Cyprus, Taiwan, and throughout the former Soviet Empire. Let us seize the other side. Peace and harmonious existence is possible. Not inevitable, but not unachievable, unless we fail to strive for it. (15)
Are things moving or are we stuck in the mire ? Can we learn from our human story ? Are these grudges that will never be resolved ? Are these ancient conflicts of a world that faced the kind of resource scarcity that is no longer present ? Every year that passes with millions starving or unable to have access to clean water is all of our disgrace. There is no doubt something we can give up, governmentally, personally, institutionally to address this issue. We don’t have to give up everything, but everybody has to volunteer to give up something, and then actually give up something. What gets us now is the Nimby-ism and the depersonalized anonymity. There is implicit agreement that we should all give something up, but a generalized feeling of why can’t it start with them or the Jones’s, why does the budget have to be cut for my activity/project/subsidy (16) instead of theirs.
Do we want peace with our fellow Earth dwellers or the ability to keep holding onto our particular grudges ? Do we have to win ? Does the other side have to lose ? Does anybody win ? Are these absolutes the only way out ?
The status quo’s seeming resource scarcity is really distribution problems. It is all about how we share what we’ve got. I won’t advocate a utopian everybody is equal=equal=equal dream, (17) but rather that which no one seems opposed to, shelter and food for everybody. Ask around, it is very hard to find anyone opposed to that goal. After we have food, shelter and clean water for everybody, we can work out what’s still wrong with Health Care distribution and the concomitant population problems and resource pressures that might bring.
Skipping around and just plain skipping: thoughts on a nowhere near comprehensive list of issues that the Clarion will cover: Free trade and farm subsidies ? Estate tax ? American Tort Law ? The nature of competition ? Time compression ? Free play ? Freedom of information ? Access there to ? American Foreign Policy and Diplomacy ? Immigration ?
Eliminate the news summary and the scroll across the bottom of the screen.
Of course, I hope to stir your response and reaction.
If the big topics fail, I am going write about Sports, too. (18)
I must give some explanation of my grammar, or lack thereof, and my word usage. (19) I believe in the supremacy of meaning and the malleability of both grammar and vocabulary. I am willing to accept grammatical objections, much as I will accept policy ones, but I ask for similar leeway to defend my grammar. In my view, the rules of usage, like the rest of the world, are not fixed, but rather live in the world and evolve, and thus are eternally a matter open to debate. (20) My highest duty is to communicate to you, not to obey one objective, static set of rules about how it is appropriate to do that. It is between us to establish the dialogue and the understanding, the standards and the lack thereof. Again, I accept criticism. I believe in it. Look back at the Hoffer quote and know I reserve the right to be wrong and revise. I apologize in advance. Not only in my policy and my grammar, but my words, too. We. Me, writer. You, reader. We can use context to split up the task of forming the cloud of meaning that envelopes every word. (21)
As to the policy evaluation, I have certain core beliefs that I will share with you across time, but for the details, a Keynes quote that embodies my stance, “When the facts change, I reserve the right to change my mind.” These are my opinions in the here and now, but I reserve the right to grow, evolve, and change, and as all does, and as I do, so will my opinions and feelings. (22)
So the why’s of doing it---remember, it is about I have something I want to say. I recognize that once I put it out in the public sphere, I no longer own it. I cannot control your reaction to it, your opinion of it. I can only control my own imperfect expression of it and what happens to it thereafter is up to everyone else. Even if its only to put it in the circular file, the dustbin of history.
Its fortitude and value is all about you. Alone I scream soundless into a fierce wind. Spray binary numbers onto a chip doomed to decay. Together we can ride the wind or the fiber optic cables, we hold the power to accelerate and accentuate, with our collective voices. Your efforts alone ultimately are the key to a different future for each of us. Be kind first.
1. Even before form.
2. Not that you could tell by my behavior thus far, though I have been more cognizant of it and working harder at it in recent years.
3. Forgive me if my formatting sucks. Send help.
4. I will never, ever give anyone your information without your express, written permission. I and the Clarion Content will never sell our subscriber lists. We are unlikely to turn them over to a government, unless they personally violate the Geneva Convention on our ass, in which case, I make no promises about how I might respond to torture. Tongue hopefully in cheek rather than tethered to a wall. Write me personally with your thoughts, too, I would not assume anyone’s comments were for publication without their clear consent.
5. I may not know all the why’s and where’s of these leads, nor does a link constitute an endorsement, but I want to stimulate the conversation.
6. Feel free to weigh in with an opinion here.
7. Submit any time, early and often. I am looking for name suggestions for the Foreign Policy, Domestic Domain, and vaguely cultural other essay sections. The names I have given the sections in this issue are on a trial basis.
8. Please stop me or at least cry out, when I sound too arrogant or the Content reads like my personal diary/journal.
9. This was the case even prior to 09.11.01
10. Something that helped crystallize that thought for me from a poem by possible genius, Taylor Mali, “Declarative sentences - so-called because they used to, like, DECLARE things to be true as opposed to other things which were, like, not -have been infected by a totally hip and tragically cool interrogative tone?… What has happened to our conviction? Where are the limbs out on which we once walked? …I entreat you, I implore you, I exhort you, I challenge you: To speak with conviction. To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it.” Excerpted from, “Totally like whatever, you know?” Available at http://www.taylormali.com/index.html So speak up.
11. See the first chapter of Zbigniew Brzezinski, Out of Control “The Century of Megadeath.” A scary read, it should be obligatory for high school social studies students. According to ZB hundreds of millions died in and because of war during the last century. Amazon has it, he was of course, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Adviser among other things.
12. I say Americans throughout because I am one and because these are the people I know best. I have traveled relatively widely in the US, but I have not traveled so much in the World. Yet.
13. Make no mistake America is playing a colonialist role, if not absolutely, at least to the eyes of a significant portion of the world audience. Senator John McCain has been heard to liken American forces in Iraq to the British in Malaysia. A sadly apt analogy, if American believes it is somehow going to occupy Iraq until Iraqis are mature, passive and docile enough to govern themselves. This kind of paternalism can come to no good end. America has to find a different better mode and model for interaction.
14. I equally firmly believe in reading some of those with whom you disagree.
15. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, “Keep in mind that the essence of your prayers is the faith you have in them that they will be answered.” While I recommend prayer, I am not in any way telling you, who or what to pray to. Or that you have to pray at all.
16. I go back and forth on this one, but since I am going to use it I will try to explain it. It being my use of the slash /. There are places where I prefer the slash to the comma. I say I go back and forth, because I can’t decide if it is such personal grammar as to be an inferior choice or if it is a good way of communicating. Where I like the slash / is when I want to emphasize the substitutability of certain words, not to say that they are synonymous or work equally well, or combine best to express the meaning of the thought as when using the comma. Rather, the slash to separate several words, is used where each word represents an individual case/state/situation that is possible in that locus.
17. It is silly to attempt and impossible to write a comprehensive list of influences, though, I would happily spout them for hours, and still not have a complete list. I have read Hardt & Negri’s Empire and listened to the Beastie Boys quite a bit. E.F. Schumacher has also crossed my path. At Amazon H & N’s Empire
http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0674006712/sr=1-1/qid=1143924954/ref=sr_1_1/102-8493971-2353718?%5Fencoding=UTF8&s=books More Amazon, E.F. Schumacher… http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0060916303/sr=1-1/qid=1143925045/ref=sr_1_1/102-8493971-2353718?%5Fencoding=UTF8&s=books
18. In fact, no matter what, I will probably write about Sports, because it is a passion of mine.
19. Some would argue I just have lousy grammar skills. A case could be made. I suppose you have already noticed my capitalization. I have broad a standard for proper nouns.
20. On this view see Jacques Derrida, exactly where, well that would be in contradiction/opposition/discord with the point. www.google.com for many interesting links or your local university library for the texts or if you got the pennies www.amazon.com
21. Word meanings are not fixed for eternity, but rather shift and change. They change via and in, both, (small and large) contexts and settings of their usage. Word meanings vary for whole cultures and amongst their endless, small clique, sub-cultures. Essays on the pernicious influence of MS Word spelling and grammar check are forthcoming.
22. I have already been utterly wrong many times, and that was just this week. It may not have been the last time. Please note that I have to be irreverent, because I believe respect is earned, kindness is freely given, and humane treatment is an obligation.