Sunday, December 26, 2010

All In

What a week it has been:
Democrats, pundits, and the gay community are all cheering the legislative successes of the Christmas season.
The celebration marking the end of DADT arrived right on time. Answered prayers, a Christmas present, timed to correspond to the birthday of the Prince of Peace, gays, lesbians, bi's and tranies, have won the right to fight along side their straight brothers and sisters. Now that Spartan lance can be used to advance the forces of US military might the world around. (In the name of historical accuracy remember that Sparta waged war on Athens because it feared the spread of Athenian democracy.)

I say let's seize the day. When the forces of egalitarianism are on a roll, and the honor of being a soldier in arms has never been higher, let's organize to extend to those repeatedly denied, the opportunity to join the fight. I have never understood the arbitrary age of 18 as being the minimum acceptable for admission into the armed forces. In this age when any 10 year old possesses the hand eye coordination to dominate "Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare" the video game, it is obvious that represents a transferable skill for modern warfare, say drone missions. Let's stage a competition for those younger men and women who want to compete and the prize will be enlistment.

As a senior with so little life left to lose I think that it is a fitting and proper that my, most selfish gen, give back service for the gifts we have enjoyed. The best of us are tactical, and in many cases the health services available to us on mission exceed those in our local community. I want to be able to join.
I don't want to overlook the most egregious of the sins of recruitment omission. Our physically challenged brothers and sisters have proven their metal in Special Olympics and everyday feats of overcoming barriers to access. This is a military that fights with its minds and as long as a citizen is in his right mind I believe we can accommodate their desire to be treated as whole citizens. Dismembered Vets who are heard every night expressing a desire to return to their units abroad should be allowed.
Maybe no person deserves the right to re-up more than the abused Vietnam veteran. No one thanked him for his deployment at the time. This is his chance for redemption. We will respect him for his service.

Ironically, the only peace protest this week was conducted by Veterans for Peace

More at The Real News

This was the week in which Civil defense forces in Seoul, Korea ran drills shutting down the city and moving tens of thousands of citizens into bomb shelters. Their political leaders are heard to say they want to fight the complacency of the average citizen re the prospects for a confrontation with the North.
This was the week of the START treaty approval. I hope you got a chance to listen to a piece of the so-called debate. Naysayers were not going to allow Russians to limit our tactical nuclear war machine, our missiles on rails, or in any way inhibit the effectiveness and battle readiness of our nuclear warheads and their delivery systems. They won. Here is a summary of the treaty
The UK Guardian has an analysis of the numbers of nuclear weapons in the world and who has them.

While the START treaty was being debated Americans were told of the survivability of a nuclear war and, contrary to popular belief, we are instructed to stay home, hide in the basement and stay off the highways.

Wired Magazine published a piece ‘Regional’ Nuclear War Would Cause Worldwide Destruction that contains a realistic study of the consequences of a limited nuclear exchange.
Here is another conclusion from a study by the American Geophysical Union of the effects of a very limited nuclear exchange: Cooling from a limited nuclear exchange would create two to three consecutive "Years Without a Summer", and over a decade of significantly reduced crop yields. The authors anticipated that the smoke in the stratosphere would partially destroy Earth's protective stratospheric ozone layer as well, but did not model how large of an impact this would have. Clearly, even a limited nuclear exchange could trigger severe global climate change capable of causing economic chaos and widespread starvation.

We have something like a dry run in the aftermath of the "accident" at Chernobyl.

Nobody has a better take on this then Randy Newman

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Gift

The grand guy is 5 today. The event occasions a lot of thought. C and I are starting to contemplate the final gift, the legacy we can leave the family.

We take all too seriously the probability that whatever cash we might have will be inflated away. That belief results in the avoidance of toys, and diversions as gifts. Coming off the Chanukah round and heading into the Christmas season it is hard to maintain some kind of reason in the face of the buying tide that engulfs us all. An idea becomes obvious; we can't fritter away what we have on junk.
We want to set a serious tone about values. We are trying to define wealth, imagine what it might consist of going forward, and endow the family with the ways and means to help secure their future.
The best gifts I received as a child (excluding the Rawlings PM7 baseball mitt) were those certificates, shares of stock, (1000 shares of USAir grandpa bought at $3, for my Bar Mitzvah) that sat undisturbed in the desk drawer and quietly accrued value until we sold them, at $33, to pay off college loans. We were lucky. The market has been a storehouse of wealth. I have no such confidence going forward. No shares for Westley.

The gold bugs have replaced paper for a hard currency. All well and good. But the fact is that for gold to be of value it must be exchanged for a consumable at the end of the day or it remains no more than a symbol. No bars for Westley. We could contribute to a college fund which of itself reinforces the horrible and disproportionate inflation that is tuition. No 529 for the boy.

We recently returned from a visit to the children during which time the family were guests at a friend's birthday party. We talked about it on the long drive home. We sense the pressure to engage the kids in a memorable experience. In this case it was a bowling party. They had a ball. Conversations with the parents during the party, getting to know them a bit, revealed that most of the 15 moms at the party are members of a reading group. The men were heard roaring and lying the way their dads did before them. They have figured out how to be together at times of no import. There is no evidence that they congregate to contemplate the big issues of the day. They appear to pursue their hopes and dreams within the privacy of their separate homes. Their fates are going to be determined independent of one another.

I have spent my entire life in pursuit of the promise of community. I have failed to find it. From the early shock of my high school fraternity deciding to black-ball my friend and my resignation because of it, to the ultimate, and finally acceptance of the truth that self interest trumps community every time. I wonder if this "truth" is one that is a by-product of wealth. As one acquires more money it seems the most obvious way to express it is to buy the house on the hill,"top out of sight", the furthest one can get away from ones neighbors. Clearly the owner doesn't believe that he will ever need them. One wonders how this will play if and when times get tough.

I think the family needs a fall back position. If this were a suggestion that they ought to form some kind of commune, get in front of the curve, I would be tolerated and dismissed as the unreconstructed 60's refuge that I am. But, what if the project was something more immediately practical, useful, and without the stigma of group grope?

My children contemplate vacation destinations. My son hunts with friends. My grandson attends day camp all during the summer. How would they respond to the idea that they build a camp for themselves. Not a second home, or a getaway but a camp in the woods shared by any and all of their friends who want a piece. Hopefully the place will never have to be more than a retreat. But if/then they have it. They will have learned to work together. They will have shared basic skills. Here's the deal.

Our gift to Westley, his parents, and their friends, is to match any amount that other friends and/or their parents are willing to put up to buy such a place. A hypothetical might be that Max/Rachel share this idea with 20 friends. 10 friends want to pursue it. They identify a 20 acre parcel in the near woods that is private and affordable. They split the price ten ways. Our check is in the mail

Happy Birthday