April 30, 2010

The sensation of perceiving light:

Soft touch; electron
At the speed of light
Alights on my retina
Activating the right
Sensors, telling my
Sensory cortex that
Something different
Has happened.

Darkness is nothingness
But the sensation of this
One electron tells me
All I need to know
About somethingness.

April 27, 2010

Spring of 2002, I was against the war way early.

War Without a Face: Myopic Republican Thought

In any argument, there are almost never two clear-cut sides with clearly defensible viewpoints. What we think is held in our minds as the truth, and it’s hard to corrupt the truth in my head, or your head. Most of the time, we see a spectrum of varying shades of gray, no matter what the issue. The right combination of words can make rape seem not bad, or slavery an economic boon to a country.
The common thought is that there are two schools of thought pertaining to our current conflict against “Terrorism.” You are either a war-mongering hawk, or a peace-loving dove. No matter which you take though, its not as simple as good versus bad. Now that we have relatively displaced the foreboding Taliban in Afghanistan, we are at a crucial crossroads in the path that we are going to take. The common consensus in the media is that our policy will lead to some sort of assault on the Iraqi dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, and topple his evil empire in the Fertile Crescent. Sentiment lies against him, but we must question the idea if we are to be kept in the belief that this war is truly a war against terrorism, and not a resumption of draconian republican foreign policy. The initial idea of the war on terrorism was to ensure that the free peoples of the world could live their lives without fear. If we are to stay the course, Iraq isn’t even a plausible target.
The media has been consumed with the thought of who should be next. In my view, America had grown weary of the populist approach to life, and are reverting more into the “normalcy” of the culture we were living until September 10th. The iron is cooling, and our policy makers must make some move before they lose all momentum in their efforts. I have examined articles from two highly consumed news magazines, Newsweek, and U.S. News & World Report. Both are not the most highly respected venues for academic discourse (McCommentary), but common Americans look highly upon them.
The author for Newsweek, Christopher Dickey, supports military action against the Iraqi dictator, but warns; “The Russians and American's European allies are openly skeptical of media reports that attempt to link Saddam directly to the events of September 11. Most of Washington's partners in the coalition fighting terrorism have warned against opening up a "second front" against Iraq until Al Qaeda is finished.” Even the hawks realize the problems that will arise from redirecting our objectives, but they still don’t understand the fallacy in thinking that we are sole arbiters of the direction of the winds of change. The article speaks of the inevitability of an attack, which may or may not be supported by the American people, but the question in my mind is “Would this push be there in the absence of September 11th?”
The other side of the coin is that America’s forces should remain perusing terrorism, especially those cells that can be tied to the ghastly attack on our soil. There is a litany of other places that the Al Qaeda forces could find refuge. “Somalia is perhaps al Qaeda's best option, given the country's continued lawlessness. Although a government exists in name, most of the country is ruled by warlords. Some might be bribable. Al Qaeda also has a long history there, having trained some of the militants involved in an attack that killed 18 U.S. soldiers during a 1993 peacekeeping mission. More recently, the group has reportedly run training camps there.” (U.S. News & World Report) Other possible refuges for these men include Indonesia, the Philippians, and even some fingers have been pointed at reform-minded Iran. The key argument of this article is that in any case, “Even Iraq is implausible, as Saddam Hussein is unlikely to forfeit the progress he has made in chipping away at the decade-old sanctions regime by taking in America's most wanted terrorists.”
On cannot help but feel a loss of direction after we defeat the enemies with a face, and the route that will be taken will not be determined by academics in ivory towers, but in the trenches of “undisclosed locations.” We are fighting a war on terrorism, one that is ostensibly meant to allow the American people to return to normalcy. Now that we are approaching this normalcy, licking our wounds and seeing the perpetrators of the horror being routed in their own land, do we really need to expand the conflict? If it is to renew old rivalries, it is not a just fight. Saddam was the face of terror, of oppression in my childhood. The propaganda machine is trying to do the same to my little brother. Saddam may be this generation’s embodiment of evil, but he was not the one directing those who hit our buildings, our hearts.
When it comes to the thought of a war with Iraq, I remember something that my father told, after returning from Operation Desert Storm: “Someday, you’ll be fighting a war to get rid of this sicko.” I remember his words; I remember the fear it struck in my heart.

April 20, 2010

On _Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders_, by Jason R. Riley

I usually consider myself pretty far on the left edge of the political spectrum, if you can view it as linear. I am for more open borders on a humanitarian basis. I cannot fault people whose only crime is to want a better life for their family. Once here, roots are casts and children are had, making the situation even more difficult. I have long had a tongue in cheek argument supporting open borders from the right side of the spectrum: Capitalism needs growth to survive and in the face of declining native births, the only reasonable solution is to import the growth we need. A secondary facet is that the market will fill a labor vacuum, no matter how difficult we make it and pushing this mechanism to the edge of darkness creates incentive for inhuman conditions on a black market.

In _Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders_, Jason R. Riley takes my argument and expands on it and makes a sound market-based argument for many of the same conclusions I draw from a left perspective: make legal immigration easier; create a guest-worker program; ease the already-here but illegal population out of the shadows. Here in this book is a kind of conceptual aphasia (eg. The minimum wage and unions are bad, G. W. Bush and Reagan have largely redemptive qualities) that takes the market-based approach and runs with it. I have trouble passing along a book whose entire line of reasoning I disagree with and at times find somewhat insulting, but I find it interesting that we can come from such different places and support the same overall solutions to a ‘problem’ based on conflicting spoken and unspoken ideals.

To be fair, the book was completed just before the economy stepped off the ledge. There has been significant return to native countries. So far, the best check on illegal population has been recession, and I doubt that even the most hard-core nativist would argue for slowdown to keep people out of the country. Most likely this current downturn is temporary, so I think the larger argument holds up from both sides. In the end, no matter which path you take, we should let ‘them’ in so that someday they will be us.

April 17, 2010

On the Fifies

I write this to tell anyone that is interested that David Halberstam is a fine storyteller. This is true. You will like his books. There is nothing I know to say otherwise. I think knowing this is important, especially if you have not yet opened up a book of his yet.

You see, the 50s is my second book of his, and the same general rule applies. David Halberstam is a fine storyteller, period. However, this is both a pat on the back and a critique. He tells great stories based on the people living the stories he tells. The shame is that his gift is limited. A reader of this book may know some of the big events that happened in the 50s and the people associated with those events, but they will not know what it was like to live those events.

I like Halberstam’s books. They work, but.. But. He writes biographies. This may work if they were not expected to be histories. Individual men (and they are mostly men) are profiled and what they do are profiled. They make actions and they do things that have an effect in the culture. The shame is that they build walls around the world. I have no idea what it was like to be a person in the 50s based on the book. I know, on some level, what happened but I am not that person.
Buy the book, by all means. He does a good job of bringing you in. I am glad I read the book and learned all he brought forth for me to learn. I just wish there was less a focus on people and more of a cultural criticism of the people and the time covered in the book. My own facile view of the time is based on the television shows of the time. These are dealt with much too late in the book to really view the considerations I care about. I wanted to compare reality versus the television shows that granted the best view of reality I knew. Halberstam shows that the visual culture is far removed from reality, but I hoped to engage that much earlier. That necessary and important social criticism does not happen until chapter 34 (pg 508).

Overall, I would recommend this book, as I would the entire author’s work, but I would recommend that you explore more works for context of the period and the