3/1/03-Sat.-The surgical sites are healing nicely. I go back for stitches to be removed day after tomorrow. Having to keep the dressings dry and change them daily is a pain, but not really a big deal. The glasses don't fit right, which is a strain on the eyes and the ears, the latter because there is more stress on the points where they contact. Still, I know it's just temporary. I can always go without eyewear when it's painful.
The buildup toward a now almost certain new war with Iraq of course continues. I have mixed feelings. I've heard interviews with Iraqi refugees who say no Iraqis would want the Americans and their allies not to come, even knowing there will be many casualties, that their countrymen and women will view it as a liberation. And, now that it seems inevitable, I suppose I am thinking that, the sooner the better, as the climate there is such that warfare will be far harder in just a few weeks. Also, the ongoing uncertainty is elevating the price of oil and depressing stocks and economic conditions.
On the other hand, Bush's push for regime change and a preemptive attack in a sovereign nation, with or without consensus from the international community, is, I think, reckless, arrogant, and almost sure to be very costly. At this point I'll not even be convinced of the wisdom of his approach if he succeeds in getting a majority of the UN Security Council to go along with this war, since that body's agreement comes at the price of much economic and political arm-twisting, dissension among our allies within NATO and the UN, as well as a huge upwelling around the globe of negative feeling toward the United States, hardly the best way to curtail terrorism against us or our interests abroad. Long-term, even if everything goes just as Bush wishes in the coming conflict, not probable, our intrusion as a direct presence into the Middle East would seem to be a destabilizing factor, and our financial strength at home will be greatly undermined by having to maintain further expensive occupation forces and efforts abroad.
On the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) last night, our local station, KLRU, was airing on "Austin At Issue" an interesting interview with Michael Lind, author of Made in Texas. I'm now quite intrigued and want to purchase this work, which should help the reader understand the historical context for and present influences on George W. Bush.
Listening to this piece, I could not help thinking that in many ways it is highly unfortunate that this particular man happened to be President of the United States when the 9/11/01 events unfolded. Apart from several other less than ideal aspects of his conservative policies, Bush has, based on his background as a white Protestant southerner and a "born again Christian," come to see (and used) the conflict with Islamic extremists in terms very similar to their own view, as a modern equivalent of the medieval Crusades between good and evil, each side fanatical and convinced of its exclusive possession of the moral high ground.
I have also recently been struck by the way in which our foreign policy mirrors the simplistic Hollywood movies Bush likely saw as he was growing up and in early adulthood, productions that with great fanfare portray the Americans as heroes victoriously fighting against the world's forces of darkness. Like them, Bush shows little or no self-doubt and glosses over realities that do not fit with his Rambo-like views of things.
Despite my operations a few days ago, this past week has been most dramatic for the effects of a cold front and sleet storm here, which began the evening of 2/24 and resulted in hundreds of traffic accidents and the closing down of many roads, including for awhile over one hundred miles of our main commercial traffic artery, I-35. The associated ice and cold temperatures killed off many of our plants and rendered us house-bound for the better part of two to three days, not significantly venturing out again until Thursday, 2/27, when I took Fran out for a one-day-belated birthday brunch buffet. (She's now forty-five.) The entire central Texas region, and much of north Texas as well, was essentially shut down for over a day during the worst of this wintry weather. We simply are not able to cope here with weather that is common a little closer to the poles.
Our dog has caused us a little anxiety this week. Pepper had a new vet appointment yesterday, after for several days showing some irritation in the nether regions. But she's doing so well the doctor was talking about her cancer being "cured." He was just kidding, of course. She did have a little anal difficulty, which the vet thought was due to impacted anal glands. After he "cleared" them, there was quite a strong odor in the room. She may have a bit of a tapeworm problem too, but, if so, it's not a handicap, as she's gained a pound (and is in her ideal weight range) since she was there a little over a month ago. One segment of a tapeworm was found in her fresh stool. But, given the liver problem, the veterinarian felt there might be risk in treating her for it. He said she's doing OK, all things considered, even with the parasite. So, she's just "eating for two now."
Fran is involved in the rehearsals for the next Austin Lyric Opera performance, "La Bohème." I'm looking forward to going for the dress rehearsal this coming week, on 3/5.
A number of years ago (at least a couple decades), I made a metaphorical mark in the sand where my girth is concerned. My waistline was not to exceed size thirty-six. To this end, I have never bought trousers of any greater size around the middle than that. My father is the example I look to of what may happen if one lets such things get out of control. Though as thin as I was in our early twenties and my height, he weighed half again or, for a short time, even twice what I do, and his pants advanced with his age to such vast proportions that sometimes two of his grown sons could have fit into them, sharing the waist and each taking one leg.
Lately, with my retirement plus a few minor infirmities leaving me less active and with more access to convenient vittles, the paunch has been creeping up. Last month I bought some new "comfort jeans." As usual, they were the required size thirty-six. But, this time, they were decidedly uncomfortable. So, I am taking strong measures: increasing my exercise to the equivalent of four miles (no longer the previous two) of walking a day and/or otherwise doing sufficient vigorous activity to fill at least a full hour and a quarter daily. Meanwhile, I'll also be watching more closely what goes in!
3/3/03-Mon.-Got started this morning at 8:30, with a cross-town commute. We were enjoying a light rain. The traffic was horrendous. Just before finally reaching my dermatologist's parking lot, I encountered a major accident. At least six emergency vehicles were on hand, their lights flashing. A sedan, its front cab section crushed, lay upside down straddling two lanes. The occupant(s) had apparently already been retrieved and carted off. I got in for my 9:30 appointment with five minutes to spare, cutting it closer than I like.
The visit with the doc went well. I'm due to return in five more weeks. I hope as well within the next couple months to wrap up for now final appointments concerning prostate and thyroid conditions, and then to begin efforts to get some type work, if only temporary, part-time, and/or entry level. We'll see.
The equity markets being so unprofitable lately and Fran's income below earlier expectations, I'd be more comfortable with earnings of about $15,000 or so a year for awhile. Don't know if this is feasible, given my age, physical ailments, and a likely adverse reference from my most recent regular supervisor. But I feel I have more to offer employers and that they would certainly get good value for their paycheck money, notwithstanding a vindictive boss' assessment.
If necessary, and for at least $25,000 a year, I'd be willing to take a job in another city. Would also consider starting my own small business, though this is riskier and would not be my preference. Heck! If it paid enough, I'd even take a job that required wearing a coat and tie!
Before heading home again, I went over to the Barton Creek Square Mall and walked nearly four miles.
Most of the rest of the day would have been spent working with Quicken to record tax-related transactions. But I'd forgotten that this evening I'm to receive my long massage. Alright!
Frances is helping with the collecting and organizing of the last few mutual fund buy and sell statements, from their hidey holes where placed in the dim dark past. She and I are expecting to finalize our records and get them to the accountant (for his preparation of our official tax return) this week.
I also did a little more exercise plus my meditation regimen and answered an e-mail from a pen pal in Slovakia.
3/7/03-Fri.-Just turned our 2002 tax records over to the accountant. Celebrating with coffee and a donut at the new Randall's near his home office. I had taken Pepper on a two-mile walk earlier. Will wind up the day's exercise a little later.
My brother, Allen, just back from another few days' visit with his pregnant internet-met wife who's still indefinitely in Ecuador, sent an e-mail last night. During the sleet and ice days late last month he was driving to work, misjudged the safe distance to an SUV stopped ahead, and plowed into it, totaling his tiny sedan vehicle and leaving only a small paint smudge on the SUV's rear bumper.
He says he was also distracted by noticing in his rear view mirror, just before the accident, that he'd forgotten to shave. As Fran points out, on the Myers-Briggs "S-N" scale, he is about as far over into the "N" extreme possible for someone who's still functional. Allen basically lives his life based on preconceptions or assumptions about how things are, not bothering much with actual reality checks. Well, we all have our eccentricities, some a little more so than others. His car insurance rates must be high. Allen's had many vehicular mishaps through the years.
When I think about his situation, though, I realize that this is just how many millions of folks live, making do and muddling through, with precious little planning or long-term commitment to chosen goals. Am I really so different?
Fran is convinced that his newest marriage will not work out and that, overall, Allen is a loser. Yet he has a well paid professional job, a number of friends, a reasonably interesting life by some standards, and - always assuming his current, complicated domestic status eventually resolves itself well - he has also accomplished two of existence's basics, leaving his DNA to a new generation and having the satisfactions and challenges of fatherhood.
As things stand currently, arguably he could wind up having a more meaningful sojourn through this world than I, just doing it, as we all must, his way.
I think of the recent Jack Nicholson film, "About Schmidt," who one day finds himself retired but without fulfillment and having few inner resources for dealing with that predicament.
Once again I ponder the pros and cons of a return to work. I enjoy very much simply being able to "kick back," with few external encumbrances. And, given my experience last summer, I recognize that the process of finding and keeping employment I do not really want will doubtless have its own imposing hurdles and humiliations. Yet John Templeton, the well known value investor who - being fit, involved, and alert at age ninety - has some authority for his expressed views, states emphatically "Retirement is a form of suicide." I look at the examples of my dad and father-in-law. After retirement they seemed to withdraw and to then suffer from diminished connectedness with others and loss of both adaptability and vitality. How much of this was inevitable anyway from the aging process? Who can say?
Changing topics, there's an intriguing short article in the latest issue of "Scientific American," (see Michael Shermer's [Skeptic] "Demon-Haunted Brain," page 47), about how recent evidence shows that apparently "out-of-body" and "near death" experiences, like those of religious exaltation, ghost visitations, and being kidnapped by aliens, are natural, brain-related phenomena, much as we'd like to believe otherwise. The meditator may achieve states in which a sense of unity with all things and separation from the bounds of the body are common, but these, as Zen masters would point out, are all simply "makyo," illusions, and thus distractions.
Fran is performing tonight in the orchestra for Austin Lyric Opera's production of "La Bohème." I attended Wednesday night's dress rehearsal and, despite a few time-consuming difficulties that made for repetition of certain scene segments, found the evening thoroughly enjoyable. It is a beautiful and quite moving opera with great music! This from someone who normally falls asleep in the dark back rows of a theatre (if he attends the performances at all). I suppose the medium may be growing on me. But it could also be that this particular work is stellar.
To get a better handle on my "love handles," as mentioned earlier I'm now walking about four miles a day. So, I was over at the nearest mall for this purpose the other day when I had a call of nature. I stopped in at a "head" close to the so-called "food court," about eight fast food establishments packed in together on the mall's second floor, with a large common adjoining dining area of tables and chairs. As I went into the bathroom I noticed that the first partially enclosed (but with the lowest 10 inches or so exposed) sit-down stall was occupied. The legs that protruded out from the toilet vicinity were huge, giving the impression that the connecting hams must be similarly massive. Directly in front of the commode, on the bare floor tiles, was a large "to go" container or "doggie bag" which was open, revealing a couple submarine sandwiches, each about sixteen inches in length. Also on the tiles was a huge soft drink cup, probably of at least a quart capacity, though it looked larger. Do they come in sixty oz. sizes?
With some misgiving, I took the only free stand-up space (urinal), which happened to be right next to this closed stall. My concentration on the task at hand was significantly diminished by the loud groans coming from the space in question. They sounded as one would imagine from the giant of Jack and the Bean Stalk fame, were he sitting there engrossed in such grossness.
After a few moments, the stall's occupant asked me the time. Fresh from getting my watch battery replaced, I said it was 12:16. "Oh, Lord!" he responded. He thanked me for giving him the time and then, following a couple more bellows, as I was making "Can you believe this!?" eyes at the person standing at the wall next to me, he added, "Word of advice, fella. Don't eat two large pizzas and a bucket of fried chicken at the same time. It'll cost ya in the end."
"Alright, thanks," I replied, and left hurriedly so as not to be heard as I began uncontrollable howls of laughter.
3/8/03-Sat.-The hard freeze that stayed with us for a couple days, along with sleet, toward the end of last month destroyed a number of our plants. Fran and I both were careless in particular about not protecting a spectacular patch of aloe we'd been growing for about sixteen or seventeen years. Now we feel rather badly at the loss. Only a fraction of them have survived, and with much damage. While we're here, they'll never again look as good as they did.
A number of times since my brother, Ralph, was diagnosed with and died from a malignant brain tumor, others of my siblings and I have been quite concerned over our own signs or symptoms that might also represent terminal cancer. The latest for me is an essentially black smudge of discoloration under the skin surface on my lower lip. It covers an area about the size of the end of a pencil eraser and appears to also have roughly equal depth. I feel a little silly reporting it to my dermatologist, for it could be something as benign as a previously unrecognized blood blister or an oral melanotic macule, the lip equivalent of a large freckle, requiring no treatment. On the other hand, it might be an early malignant melanoma, which, if not treated soon, would have a dismal prognosis. So, Monday, first thing, I'll be on the phone to the doctor's office. Whatever it is was not seen yesterday, but today is so apparent that Fran and I each separately noticed it this morning.
I went for a walk before 9 AM, and Frances and I went out for brunch, then took naps.
Today I also began looking at job openings and considering possible next vocational steps.
The meditation yesterday was very pleasant.
3/9/03-Sun.-In a dream last night (Phil's Place) I mentally switched "Cantonese" and "Congolese," and then in the sleep imagery created what I thought appropriate in idealized context for a Congolese scene. Interestingly, three hours later I tuned in one of the morning talk shows and found myself watching an interview of "'Congolese-a' Rice," our current National Security Advisor.
Fran's gone to participate in this afternoon's opera performance. I've taken a nap and completed my daily exercise plus meditation regimen. I have a new "friend" on my main walking route. Though a high privacy fence separates his yard from the roadway and sidewalk, and often none are about but he and I, from three blocks away(!) I can hear him begin to bark upon my approach and see the tiny speck that is all I see then of his head as this hound peers over the top from a platform his owners have given him. He seems to really enjoy these encounters and keeps up the hearty alarm until I'm well out of sight in the other direction.
We're experiencing one of our warmest days of the new year, with temperatures in a range that, in "civilized" countries and climes would be considered normal for the middle of summer. Ironically, we were predicted to have, and very much looking forward to, a new cold front arriving today.
A few weeks behind my neighbors, I've done my first mowing of our front and back yards for 2003. The grass was eight inches high in places. I watered the big potted asparagus fern we have out front and disturbed a young anole there.
This evening Fran is to receive her latest long massage, while a "sexy, sophisticated, action movie," "Out of Sight," is playing on the VCR. Who knows to what extremes of relaxation the pressing of her flesh may extend?
3/11/03-Tues.-We awoke to a foggy morning. Went for a two-mile walk. Nice visual effects and pleasant temperatures.
Later I did some errands, including washing my car for the first time in about four years. For a 1988 vehicle, it looks surprisingly good now. It's starting to leak oil, but generally seems to still be running well.
I have an appointment for this coming Friday (3/14) to have the lip lesion checked out.
Tomorrow night we're looking forward to getting together with Glenda and Matt, at Macaroni Grill, to celebrate her upcoming birthday.
During today's after-dark walk, Pepper and I had twenty-one deer sightings!
Had a good laugh tonight on hearing that Republican Congressmen have introduced a bill that would outlaw the use of the word "French" in connection with common foods here, like French-toast, -fries, and -bread. This because France is not going along with George W. Bush's fixated, come what may, "preemptive," messianic, irresponsible, and hare-brained war on Iraq when containment would do the trick and anyone can see we have a double standard, supporting Israel right down the line after it has repeatedly flouted the UN and developed weapons of mass destruction, yet planning on attacking Iraq, even without UN approval, ostensibly because it has violated UN sanctions, and despite the fact that inspectors are now achieving positive results, but saying they need more time. The really imminent threat, North Korea, is, by contrast, being ignored. And it seems the "war on terrorism," the "nation-building" we started in Afghanistan, and efforts at "homeland security," are now getting second fiddle. Interestingly, Bush was given thumbs down on a new war with Iraq by his military advisors. But of course, they are realists, something few would accuse Bush of being.
Unfortunately, this is not really a funny situation. Many people will lose their lives in Bush's war, and the Humpty Dumpty of relative stability in the world will not be put back together again once all the consequences of his arrogant approach to foreign policy come to fruition. Nor will our leadership of the democratic world be anymore taken for granted. Meanwhile, even if everything goes just as marvelously as the attackers hope - which never occurs in war - our country will be facing trillion dollar federal deficits, compounding the effects of huge state and local budgetary shortfalls, for decades (when we might, instead, have been enjoying surpluses). These will create a tremendous long-term drag on the economy and on investing results and greatly limit our nation's capacity for dealing positively with several major domestic problems such as health care, the environment, Social Security, education, worn out or inadequate infrastructure (rail lines, dams, airports, bridges, nuclear plants, and so on), and Medicare.
3/13/03-Thurs.-Called the dermatologist's office this morning and explained that the lip lesion has now all but disappeared. They cancelled tomorrow's appointment and said, unless the situation flares up again beforehand, the doctor can wait to take a look at this latest area of concern at our previously scheduled follow-up appointment, on 4/9.
We're enjoying good weather lately. Today the temperature got up to the mid-eighties (F). Tonight it is expected to drop about twenty to twenty-five degrees from there. This is a little warmer than I'd prefer, but relatively pleasant overall.
Fran took this sunny day opportunity to give Pepper a close haircut for the first time in about six months. From her wooly-bear winter look she now is sleek and muscular in appearance and still seems quite fit for an old dog with terminal cancer!
Glenda and Matt met us last night, as anticipated, for the celebration of her birthday. (We had a great time, finishing up delectable leftovers today.) They are planning for and looking forward to a group flight to Buenos Aires later this year, to participate there for several days in a Tango workshop.
I did four miles of walking at Barton Creek Mall this afternoon.
This morning, Fran came in and got me away from the computer to see a couple interesting natural phenomena. First, there was a really cool kind of fungus (in one of our front gardens) that neither of us had seen before. She pointed out how its white parts, like a thick spider web, had grown up inside a kind of "bowl" out of the ground, how one example was older than another, and so forth. She took pictures of course. Second, there were about seventy sandhill cranes (big birds, standing four to five feet tall [or about 1.3 meters], with an eighty inch [or 2 meter] wingspan) flying over, most quite low and close, to begin with, and circling, their calls loud, almost right above us. Frances managed then to correctly predict they must be spiraling not to find a place to forage or rest, as we'd initially thought, but rather to use the lift from an updraft to gain greater elevation, and so save themselves from all the extra flapping if they'd had to do it under their own power. Sure enough, within a very few minutes they were much higher, expending very little effort in this achievement, and, seconds later, having quickly formed a couple huge "V's," they were heading on to the northwest again. This was a rather neat observation!
3/17/03-On this St. Patrick's Day, our president is scheduled to address the nation tonight, expected to tell folks why we can attack Iraq, and soon will, despite the United Nations, and most citizens around the world, not agreeing that such action is legitimate or necessary at this time. Never before in modern history, I believe, has the U.S. gone to war against a sovereign country with so little basis for it. In the last century or so, we've also not invaded an independent state with so little support from the global community. Indeed, this president seems to feel international diplomacy is only a necessary evil, but not one with which we should deal very enthusiastically.
Fran and I saw a very intelligent, concise interview last Friday, on "NOW," with Bill Moyers, that excellently addresses the issues of the upcoming war.
On a new topic, over the weekend I was distressed to see we're being "eaten out of house & home!" That phrase, though it seems rather redundant, does convey the anxiety of realizing that hundreds or perhaps thousands of ants and/or termites are, like the seconds' nibbling away of one's remaining existence, stealing lots of little bits that together once made a great whole.
Here in "the South," the climate encourages quite voracious and aggressive forms of home wrecking. Some of the termites (Formosan) can even drill through concrete foundations to get at the tasty wood inside, while carpenter ants are everywhere and usually, this time of year, are seen to fly to their choice of vulnerable places. Once established, they create tunnels a half-inch (about 1 1/4 cm) in diameter, and can continue their excavations unchecked till a previously solid framework one day collapses or a tardy inspection at last reveals their presence to the horrified homeowner. Over this weekend we've discovered two colonies of wood-tunneling ants in our most prized real estate. Yikes! Earlier we've had three termite infestations.
Nature abounds here, though, and not always so alarmingly. We've numerous birds. Many of them are now engaged in pleasant or interesting musical, mating, and/or territorial behaviors. On or about our little 1/3 acre oasis of semi-wild areas (relative to the barren, near monocultures of most of our neighbors' landscaping) we also have birds of prey, of course. Last night, a hawk landed about twenty feet away, but then, catching sight of me, took off and gracefully flew on. We have a screech owl around at times as well.
Meanwhile, I continue to wonder "what to do when I grow up" and how best to go about it. In view of limited economic and investment prospects, but with most of my medical problems apparently coming to resolution for the time being, it may be best for me to go ahead with another attempt to acquire at least part-time work. With combined humor and common sense, Frances and I tried to brainstorm viable or fun options today. The results were not altogether very practical or hopeful, but at least provided some good entertainment during a scrumptious brunch at West Lynn Cafe, one of our favorite restaurants.
On the slightly more practical than not end of the spectrum, for instance, we decided I might take an entry level job as a security guard, a hotel desk clerk, an attendant for the elderly or disabled, a retail cashier, an assembly-line worker, or a book store stocker.
However, on the more creative (if fanciful) end of the spectrum, we thought of my being: an agent for Fran's live music group (The Baltic Buzzards); a freelance writer; a pet sitter (in other people's homes); an artistic painter, a professional listener ("Talk to Me"), or a value stock tips seller. Reminds me of a book that was popular here a decade or so ago, Do What You Love. The Money Will Follow. We figured out that means the money will follow so far behind that you'll probably never see it!
Well, realistically, at the moment I should be glad just to get and keep any job at all that involves twenty to forty hours of work a week.
Tomorrow we were to have the closing on our refinanced home loan. It still might happen then, though there is only a slim chance. The mortgage company is not cooperating. So the title company now says it looks like too little time is left, that the closing must be rescheduled. Apparently the lender has had everything they needed for a month, yet has not provided the title company with the basic records required to prepare the closing. None of this is surprising. It has been par for the course in all the real estate closings in which we've been involved. It seems that the incompetence and atrocious service of mortgage companies are exceeded only by those of health maintenance organizations. I suppose government offices would rank third worst in this kind of "axis of evil" list.
3/22/03-Sat.-Since the last entry, the U.S.-led war on Iraq has begun, and we have had a successful closing on our mortgage refinancing. Fran has also gotten almost all of the gardens and ponds cleared out, removing most of the old, dead growth, from the prior year, and the winter-damaged plants. And we have, just last night, completed and uploaded the online version of our monthly family-and-investment newsletter. We all seem to be in relatively good health and spirits.
I've been watching or listening on the radio to a lot of the war coverage. My recent pen pals have tended to write less often, perhaps themselves preoccupied with the geopolitical situation. I would not be surprised if one or two of them are out marching and chanting in fruitless attempts to stop the conflict, while one or two others are satisfied that the battles seem to be progressing apace toward their inevitable conclusions for the Saddam Hussein regime and for American domination of the country and region.
I find I have mixed feelings and complex thoughts about the whole war situation. I can appreciate the short-term gains for most involved in seeing a war-driven change that ousts Saddam and his brutal dictatorship. Our equities portfolio is also a beneficiary, up close to 10% in the past week and a half.
Yet, as when playing chess, it is helpful to have a sense of history, of the whole board, and not merely the current array of the pieces, but of the moves that led up to this point, and those likely to occur from here.
The Islamic world, comprising now well over one billion people, in multiple nations around the globe, and even including such a significant minority in the U.S. that within a few years, assuming current trends are not curtailed by the "war on terrorism," they will surpass the number of persons here of the Jewish faith (a transitional development with no doubt interesting domestic political ramifications), has been rocked by five overwhelming influences or sets of events in the last eighty years or so (four generations).
They are all interrelated in various ways with the larger geopolitical situation, most notably a tendency for nations and peoples to seek advantage over, gang up on, undermine, compete with, or overcome the current most dominant power, defined as the single nation, empire, or culture most threatening to the others' peace and stability (Italy, Greece, The Catholic Church, China, Britain, Spain, Islam, The Austro-Hungarian Empire, The Soviet Union, Japan, The Scandinavian Vikings, Communism, France, Portugal, Egypt, Persia, Nazi Germany, and so on, all having been in that [tending to be subverted] role at one time or another). The last such set of events or influences has just occurred or, rather, is ongoing, and it will shape the world we experience, especially so for Arabic/Moslem nations and peoples, over at least the next (fifth) generation.
1. The collapse, in the early 20th Century, of the Ottoman Empire.
2. The decision by the U.S., under President Harry Truman in the middle to late 1940s, to have as one of its primary strategic objectives the maintenance of control over the Middle East sources of oil, a decision partially implemented with the encouragement we provided the Zionists for the creation of Israel, and with the steadfast and virtually complete subsequent support we have provided for that ally's survival and expanded power in the region, especially following the 1967 war, in which Israel greatly expanded its territorial control and military influence in the Middle East, and the successful development by Israel of nuclear weapons of mass destruction, in violation of U.N. agreements, giving it hegemony, so long as it maintained supremacy, in the region.
Note that when Israel thus thumbed its nose at the international community, but it served our interests to look the other way, we made no complaints to the U.N. and did not seek regime change.
3. The rise of Islamic Fundamentalism, particularly, foremost, of Khomeini of Iran, with similar Moslem extremist influence spreading rapidly elsewhere in the Moslem world, to the extent that, no matter what George W. Bush says, the West is not truly for greater democracy in the Arabic and Moslem nations, for fear one after another would vote in Islamic Fundamentalists such as now rule in Iran.
Interestingly, when it seemed to suit our political and strategic interests (see #1 above), we were perfectly willing to support dictator Saddam Hussein, at the time against the more democratic Islamic Fundamentalists then in charge of Iran, and even to look the other way when he used weapons of mass destruction, some of which we helped provide him, against them and others.
It may be reasonably argued that in some ways the rise of Islamic extremism follows at least indirectly from the frustration of Moslem peoples with a status quo dominated by the U.S.S.R., the U.S., and our quasi-colonial state, Israel, that excluded them from real power or control over their own destinies.
4. The fall of the former Soviet Union in the late 20th Century, following both an arms race, that the Soviets could not win, and the emergence of Moslem extremist and independence movements, particularly, but not exclusively - though most successfully - in Afghanistan.
Note that, again when it suited our strategic and political interests, against the power in the world that then most threatened geopolitical peace and security, the U.S.S.R., we were quite willing to support Osama Bin Ladin, along with other Islamic extremists fighting for Afghanistan's freedom from Soviet control.
The power vacuum left by the collapse of the Soviet Union has encouraged many other independence and/or democracy movements, largely led by Islamic extremists, as for a Palestinian state, an independent Chechnya and Kurdistan state, a democratic Egypt and Saudi Arabia, etc.
Note that, after the fall of the U.S.S.R., the remaining most dominant power most threatening to other nations' peace and stability was not Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or any other so-called "axis of evil" states George W. Bush could name, but the United States of America. Nonetheless, most nations were willing for awhile to give us the benefit of the doubt, so long as we maintained our treasured democratic and human rights principles, our separation of church and state, and our respect for international coalition, and relatively even handed, approaches to solving the world's major problems. These conditions having been largely abandoned by the George W. Bush administration, we shall now have to face increasing dissension and conflict over our high-handed ways of doing things.
5. The successful 9/11/01 terrorist attacks on the U.S. and, more importantly, our response to them, of dispensing with cooperative international strategies and with civil liberties, of assuming a new, first-strike or preemptive attack policy, of embracing assassination and regime change objectives in dealing with certain sovereign nations, and, most significantly, of waging war on Iraq, ostensibly based on our religiously stated objectives and values, but really in support of our oil and security interests, and despite the democratically expressed wishes of most peoples and nations of the world, particularly of its Islamic and Arabic citizens.
Note that when the dominant power of the day, Britain, attempted to impose its will on a much smaller, upstart new state, the U.S., the outcome was not the foregone conclusion one might have expected, and that the "old Europe" country, France, so easily dismissed in recent international negotiating skirmishes, seeking to undo the then major super power, saved our bacon! It is grotesquely ironic that recently we have had the gall to lecture France on how they should approve our intentions in Iraq, no matter what, because we saved their asses!
Whatever happens now in Iraq, the way it is coming about will work to the detriment of the U.S. and will further encourage other peoples and nations of the world to combine their resources and influence at our expense. Extremist groups and states, for instance, all lumped together in our Bush rhetoric as "terrorists," will tend to work now more closely in their common defense against a perceived universal threat.
Peoples who might have been otherwise our allies or moderates, especially among followers of Islam, will see our disregard for national sovereignty and individual rights and freedoms as a justification for undermining us in a much more immoderate manner.
Meanwhile, nations feeling themselves threatened in other ways, noting our disregard for international agreements unless they suit our interests and our policy of preemptive strikes when it seems in the short-term to serve our purposes, will be encouraged to behave that way themselves.
Our policy now seems to be to attempt to crush reform, independence, and extremist movements alike as terrorism. But, willy-nilly, the world is changing. Those who advocate only the status quo, maintained primarily by force of arms, shall inevitably be themselves changed, by force of arms. When conventional means are unavailable to our enemies, they shall certainly have recourse to unconventional ones.
All things considered, the world is now a far more dangerous place than before we decided to abandon diplomacy and to "preemptively" attack Iraq, an Islamic state that did not imminently threaten us. We shall surely win this war, in the short-term. The repercussions, though, will be ominous and long-term and most definitely not in our ultimate interest.
Ah, how I do go on!
Later. I got about four hours' sleep last night, but went walking early. To celebrate finishing the newsletter, Fran and I went for brunch to Buffet Palace. Took a nap this afternoon. Then was feeling strange and very depressed for quite awhile, even during and after another walk and doing my meditation. Everything just seemed to add to it. The birds in the trees seemed so sad, the kids playing in the neighborhood too. The sky was a depressing hue. My body felt old, and that was really depressing. Eventually this mood went away. The wonder is that we ever feel really good about things! There are, after all, so many depressing stimuli and circumstances. I suppose, though, it is a matter of biochemistry.
Fran has no deficiencies in the endorphins area and seems, as she says herself, to average about 8 out of 10 on a happiness scale, with 10 being tops (uncontrollably blissful, giddily dancing around and laughingly joyous), but says she definitely makes it all the way to 10 at times.
In my family, there is, however, some lack in this regard. My mom, I, and at least two brothers have (or have had) problems with overdoing the consumption of alcohol. So have lots of folks on my mom's side of the family, among my more distant relations, an uncle, aunts, a grandparent, and so on. Too bad one cannot just take a happiness pill, full of endorphins, that offsets such a deficit, with no side effects, just as I now take an innocuous little tablet to supplement a dysfunctional thyroid gland.
A little while ago this evening I called my mom to chat. I usually check in with her about every week to ten days. She's getting on, and I just want to make sure she's alright and not too lonely, etc. She answered the same way she had when I called a few nights ago, that she'd rather finish watching something on television than talk. It was obvious she'd already gotten a little high from too much drinking.
Tonight I'm enjoying seeing "Good Will Hunting" again. It's on TV. Despite the commercials, it's a relief to be seeing something other than the latest war commentary and pictures.
3/27/03-Thurs.-This morning I went to an employment agency for the first time since I'd retired, looking for just about any desk job I can do that pays at least a little better than minimum wage. Even at that, the staff was not encouraging. They wanted to know if I were willing to relocate. I think I am safe in having replied that I would, but only for a good professional position. I've a new appointment there next week.
I had a light lunch at Black-Eyed Pea and then did my walking exercise over at Barton Creek Mall.
I believe in the importance of access to as much journalistic information as we can have, but am not too sanguine about the independence of the media. In its absence, many points of view are better than just one or two. Thus, besides the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), National Public Radio (NPR), the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), and all the commercial sources with their reporters imbedded with (not to be confused with "in bed with?") the U.S.-led coalition forces now attacking Iraq, it is good to know that the popular Arabic/Islamic network, Al-Jazeera, is also going to be available online in an English version.
For the present, though, folks in this country who object to this primarily Arabic language resource and what is shows (the merits of which one cannot judge if it is unavailable) are apparently bombarding the Al-Jazeera online site with e-mails in order to block it from functioning. Their efforts are effective. They remind me of the racist measures too often taken by this country or its citizens during World War II.
Unfortunately, angry accusations between Al-Jazeera and other broadcasters, such as BBC, do not shed much light on how well the respective media outlets are providing a balanced view of the current war.
To me, it seems we in the West desperately need more, not less, understanding of an Arab or Islamic outlook. Al-Jazeera, particularly in English, would seem to be an excellent way of beginning to acquire such a better knowledge of another culture. We might even be surprised to discover that over one billion people who call themselves Moslems or Arabic are not in fact evil devils.
3/31/03-Mon.-There's not too much going on here now. Fran and Pepper had a rollicking good time on their walk this morning, seeing several deer and giving chase.
I have begun the application process for a temporary job involving reading and scoring test entries. No idea what chance I have to obtain this latest attempt at employment, but I'll see it through as best I can.
For thoughtful readers, a relatively new site of interest is "Poets Against the War." We hear so much on the airways in faithful following of our leader's pep rallies for his version of pacification of this pearly world. Here is an alternative set of views by people who are at least equally true patriots.