Saturday, January 02, 2010

2009: A Look Back and A Look To The Future

I can’t believe another year is already over. Heck, the first decade of the 21st century is already over, and what a decade it was! When I was a little kid, I used to figure up how old I would be when the 21st century rolled around and tired to imagine what the world would be like. I never thought we’d be living in a world of the Jetsons, Star Trek, or even Lost in Space, but back then, in the late 1960’s (and given everything that was going on then), I thought we’d be living in very different sort of world. 

Don’t get me wrong, we’ve come along way in a very short period of time, but somehow, I thought flying cars, hovercraft, and underwater cities would be a bit more common place. I thought we’d have a better grip on war, the environment, world hunger and poverty. I thought that the three areas of greatest growth would be technology (especially personal computers), medicine, and in military applications. 

I hoped there would be more global cooperation (perhaps a fully united Europe). I didn’t expect Communism to last. It stifled people’s creativity. I knew the Left would fail as well. The only way it could succeed was if the government picked up the tab, and that couldn’t happen because the government doesn’t actually have any money of its own. Its money is taken from people like you and me in the form of taxes. So, what happened?

I suppose the old maxim that the more things change, the more they remain the same. True, technology changed (actually, exploded would be a better description). We have not just personal desk computers, but laptops more powerful than Univac ever was! We have microwave ovens, dishwashers, home theater systems, keyless entries, and GPS tracking systems using orbiting satellites, DVD players, and cell phones that would make Star Trek's Lt. Uhura envious with envy! 

Thanks to technology, we have found new ways to connect globally (and in doing so, spawned our own cyber shorthand), and as a result, we seen the traditional television networks struggle and print media all but fade away. We now blog, email, Twitter, sound bite, YouTube, and Facebook our way into our own cyber reality. We have cyber games with amazing realism. But with this technology, we have lost much of the elegance and beauty of the written and spoken word. We have lost common civility, our ability to interconnect, and I think we’ve lost a certain respect for human life.

The military has (naturally) led the way into this technological wonderland. Much of what we commonly use (like the Internet itself) was developed by and for the military. But, like Alice, we have to follow wherever this rabbit hole leads. We’ve willingly accepted the convenience of all this technology, but unwittingly forfeited much of our privacy; our right to anonymity. If we can use GPS to get from point A to B, then it reasons we can be tracked just as easily. We can call anyone anywhere with our cell phone, but just as easily, that phone call can not only be monitored, but traced right back to our location. 

The same satellite technology that brings us cable can also literally peer over our shoulders and read in real time the same book we’re holding. The security technology brings us as we walk to cars is the same technology that watches us go about our private moments by peering through walls to read our body heat. It was said that under Emperor Hadrian’s absolute militaristic rule, that a virgin could walk the length of the Appian Way at night and never be accosted. People have historically happily sacrifice personal freedom for personal security. Technology has changed, but Man hasn’t I suppose.

I would have expected petty prejudices would have disappeared in the 21st century, but they seem to be alive and well. We still use our differences as wedges rather than potential resources. Take for instance our current situation in the Middle East. I though that surely after their umpteenth butt kicking in 1973, the Arabs would get over having Israel as a neighbor. Israel is fact. It isn’t going anywhere. Israeli R&D could do wonders for the economies of their Arab neighbors if only they would put down their guns and extend their hands. I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Now we have a bunch of nut jobs trying to pervert Islam because they want to go back to the 10th century and make the world one giant Caliphate, and of course, that means no Israel, no Europe, no Russia, no India, no China, no Southeast Asia, no England, no Australia, no Canada, and no America. No Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Taoism, Buddhism, paganism, or even atheism. No democracy. No freedom of anything.

But you have to hand it to these crackpots though. They’ve got chutzpah. They’ve kicked us repeatedly in Beirut, Kenya, and a half a dozen other places and we did nothing. Finally, with the indirect help of our own incompetent and often arrogant intelligence agencies, they got our attention on 9/11 (on their second try I might add). Now, we’re in quagmire and fighting their war; a war of attrition. It’s like throwing rocks at the wind. 

Yeah, we kill this or that leader, but so what? Martyrs, especially religious martyrs are cheaper by the dozen. After all, they’re murdering for God. And the best part, while they treat their women as third class citizens, hidden under black veils so the men won’t be tempted, they get 72 virgins instantly upon their death (not to mention the bonus of killing infidels). Somehow, I don’t think this is what Mohammed had in mind when he asked his followers to study and contemplate God’s message of love and compassion.

So, if I’m so smart, how would I fight these guys you ask? Simple. First, I would make energy independence a national priority. Let them eat oil. I would stop exporting everything to any nation that harbors these murders. Yeah, I know innocent people may suffer, and that could in the short term increase their ranks. But I would make it known to the people in these countries why we’ve turned off the charity specket. 

I would provide material and tactical support to groups willing to doing our dirty work (be it killing terrorists or removing pro-terrorist governments). Take care of your friends and severely punish your enemies. I would dedicate Special Forces to go after high value targets anywhere they run. And I can assure you, there would be no need for trials.

Another thing, I never in my wildest dreams growing up think that one day in the future I would be writing about America being invaded. But here I am writing about millions of illegal aliens coming across our borders and, despite Americans being on verge of revolt, Congress has all but blown us off.

 In fact, Congress has been ignoring us for quite some time now numerous issues like billion dollar bailouts, executive pay raises and bonuses, Clinton’s impeachment, gas prices, healthcare, not making English our national language, jailing border patrol officers for doing their jobs, and higher taxes to pay for all this pork. 

To be sure we get the usual platitudes from both parties, but no real action, and who is to blame them? Congress has gerrymandered Congressional Districts to the point where it is virtually impossible for an incumbent to lose no matter how crooked they are (in fact, there are fewer turnovers in the US Congress than in the old Soviet Politburo. And you think it’s because they’re doing such a fine job?). They’ve repeated ignored our demands for term limits and serious campaign finance reform. It’s kind of letting crooks set their own prison sentences.

But change may be on the way in the form of Tea Parties. People all across America are sick and tired of being sick and tired. They had enough of the Left wing big government neo-socialist Democrats and they’ve had enough of big government Fundamentalist religious zealot Republicans. The Tea Party movement is comprised of disgusted traditional conservative Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents; people who want to get back to what our Founding Fathers intended. 

In fact, Independents now represent the largest voting block in America while the number of registered Democrats and Republicans (especially Republicans) fall to record lows. Many historians and political scientists have commented that America has never been this deeply divided on so many basic issues since the years preceding the Civil War. We may just be witnessing the political realignment of the United States. (it will be interesting to where the beltway roaches run if that happens).

So, what does all this mean to folks like you and me? Personally, I think technology can be a wonderful tool, but it’s just that---a tool. Look at the incredible advances in medicine and science. We’ve eradicated numerous diseases. We’ve extended lives. We’ve improved the overall quality of countless lives. 

But in doing so, we’ve often overlooked the consequences of our actions. Just because we can do something, should we? Does extending a life also improve the quality of that life? Should facelifts, wrinkle removals, and tummy tucks replace the natural grace of aging? Just because we can manipulate DNA in the womb, does it benefit the child’s life or are we just creating a “designer baby”? It seems to me that while our knowledge continues to increase, our wisdom woefully lags behind.

I think we should cut out the graphic violence on TV, in the movies, and more importantly, in video games. It only gives the illusion that life is cheap. Real guns don’t come with a reset button. I would like to see a return to the classics which emphasizes human interaction, such as music, art, theater, and literature. Maybe we should have a mandatory high school class in etiquette.

We need to reign in our government. Our politicians (and that includes our judges) are out of control. They are drunk on money and power. They’ve forgotten who they serve. It’s our money they’re spending so freely and we’ve only lent them the power to act on our behalf, not to enrich themselves and set up petty kingdoms. 

Our Founding Father set out to create a democratic Republic, not an Oligarchy. Benjamin Franklin once famously quipped, after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, that they had given us a country to keep, if we could. My question to you is this: Is it too late or have we lost our country?

As for me, I suppose I’ll keep writing my little blog as long as there is someone willing to read it. Freedom is never free. It always requires vigilance. I doubt I will ever stop shouting from the mountain top. Besides, I like tweaking the noses of our arrogant officials and those in the media.

Poll Results

Our latest poll asked you what you thought of Obama’s proposal to send more troops to Afghanistan. 33% of you thought we should maintain our current level of troop commitment. 16% of you thought the troop increase was justified. However, everyone else said “no way” and thought the additional troops were not only unnecessary, but thought we should be bringing our troops home. 

I have mixed opinions on this. The bad guys are rebuilding in Afghanistan. If we maintain our current level of troops, let alone start bringing troops home, we run the risk of losing everything we’ve been fighting and dying for. On the other hand, we had no business in Iraq. Ben Laden and his henchmen weren’t in Iraq. They were in Afghanistan. That’s were we should have been in the first place. Now we’re stuck fighting two wars. 

I think we need to pull out of Iraq and redeploy in Afghanistan. The Iraqis have had more than enough time to get their act together. It’s time for the Afghans to fight their own battles.

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