A nice way to stay in touch with loved ones, and a convenient way to share my opinions without having everyone just walk away...wait a minute, where are you going? I wasn't finished..

Monday, October 30, 2006

Delaney, Bonnie & Friends - Comin' Home

A trip back in time. These folks hooked up for a tour back in the early seventies. They rocked, but they did so much dope Joe Cocker had to drop out of the tour early, and is still recovering. Leon Russel was there too. Score yourself some trivia points if you remember Bonnie got a gig on Roseanne Barr's TV show twenty-five years later. I don't think they let her sing.

Right angles

I turned a corner at work today and started down a hallway and all the right angles jumped out at me, floor, ceiling, ceiling tiles, light fixtures, doorways, windows.
Everything was sharp lines and not too friendly. Not scary, but unnatural.
Was it in Zen and the Art of Motorcyle Maintenance the man said nature doesn't feature straight lines? Even the horizon curves. Recent pretty fall days may have lulled me into a comfort zone. I drive a pretty route to work and home again, maybe I'll ty to relax and enjoy it.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Cogent comments

Knowlegable comments from this site

At least from the US Neo-Con perspective the political goal of the strategy was always about the end-state shape and position of Israel. I don't really give GWB credit for imagining that political goal, but he willingly bought into it.

Ever since President Jimmy Carter negotiated the Camp David Agreements, one version of the end-state settlement of the political borders of Israel have been clear -- a series of bi-lateral treaties with near neighbors, First Egypt, and then during the Clinton Presidency, Jordan, and Clinton worked on Syria to the point of just a hundred yards or so of border lands. Lebanon was temporarily settled with the exception of the Sheba Farms and a few other minor areas, but it lacked any real economic basket. At one time these were the outlines in Camp David, then they became Oslo, and at the end of Clinton's days they were Taba. The problem is -- the Neo-Con's hate it, as does the Israeli Right, and no Palestinian Leader, Arafat included, was prepared to present it as a political settlement, as the Hamas Faction would (and has) promised civil war as a result.

Where does Iraq fit into this? -- well, during the Saddam days it was a Sunni controlled and highly militarized state that supported the Palestinians who are also predominately Sunni. Arafat supported Saddam during the first Gulf War, and Saddam supported Palestinians who took violent action against Israel. I don't claim Saddam and the Palestinians have great love for each other -- but they have long had a coalition of interests in the ancient dispute between Sunni and Shias and thus the line-up within various Middle East regional coalitions. In the 20th and I would imagine the 21st centuries, part of the ground of contention between Sunni and Shias is who materially supports the Palestinian cause vis a vis Israel. Military defense, or at least the capacity to defend against Israel, if not the willingness to spill blood, is currency in this Sunni-Shias competition. Saddam's Iraq was understood as the Arab State most likely to take on this project -- and I would contend this is the deeply buried WHY behind the 2003 Invasion and taking down of Saddam's regime. That is probably the ultimate reason why Breamer's first actions were to eliminate the Iraqi Army and the Civil Command structure. The idea was to move Iraq off the table as a potential partner for Palestinians, and any other faction that potentially threatened Israel as expanded into the West Bank territory at the expense of the Palestinians. In this respect and from an American perspective, this is the anti-Camp David, anti-Oslo and anti-Taba grand plan.

I actually doubt if Oil was a leading element of the design -- it was more like frosting on the cake, a way of doing this strategic surgery cheaply, and then selling the oil to pay for the project's costs.

So what went wrong? First of all, I don't think we have actually had the open and honest American Debate about our own National Interests. Is a "Greater Israel" from the Jordan to the sea really a strategic American Interest? -- or is a political settlement creating a viable Palestinian State perhaps semi-integrated in economic terms with Israel (as understood in Camp David, Oslo and Taba) much more in our overall interests? How does either construction "fit" with national interest positions on the part of the states in the neighborhood work? (in effect, does it fit with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria's understanding of their interests?) Can it be done somehow without upsetting traditional Sunni-Shias balances in the region? (that conflict is 1400 years old, and probably should be assumed to be underlying for the next 1400 years.)

Our American public discussion of Iraq suffers terribly from the failure of our political leaders to present us with an honest and clear description of Iraq. My guess is they barely understand it themselves. (I think it was the Times that recently started asking Administration leaders to sketch out the difference between Shias and Sunni -- and most flunked that basic test.) We really don't understand Iraqi complexity -- a society that includes Family, Clan and Tribal loyalities as essential birthright, a society with ethnic and linguistic divisions -- Kurds are not Arabs, Arabic is not their first language, but most are Sunni, and yes, in addition they have tribal divisions. And yes, their ethnic cousins also live in Syria, Iran and Turkey, and ultimately they hope for their own inclussive, ethnically defined state. The Iraqi Shias are Arabs, and speak Arabic, yet by religion and religious institutions, are linked with Iran. Politically, they have never been linked. The border of the Ottoman Empire was the current border of Iran-Iraq. Historically they have a far stronger link with Shias tribes in the NE corner of Saudi Arabia, and the Shias Saudi's are an oppressed minority faction.

I really don't have a clear idea of how to sort this all out -- I do know I have a far greater appreciation of Gertrude Bell today than when I first read Janet Wallach's biography of her perhaps eight years ago. Ultimately of course she helped create a Constitutional Monarchy, backed up by a strong Sunni Military culture, an Iraqi version of Sandhurst, and a weak representative government with few powers. At the beginning of the 20th century she found it impossible to find persons or institutions that could cross tribal and ethnic and religious cultures -- and I would suggest that Bush's little experiment with "Democracy" as he understands that term, is equally inapplicable today. Until institutions are available that have meaningful civil society values on offer, it is irrational to expect people to "vote" across tribal, ethnic, linquistic and religious lines. In effect, the Marxist idea that bourgeois political organizations represent, in part, the substitution of class interests for place and status ascribed at birth -- is a useful concept in understanding why this kind of Democracy Building is unlikely to succeed. But given that the Bushies don't seem to know the difference between Shias and Sunni -- I highly doubt if they paid much attention back in college days when Political Science class included the fundamentals of Marxist Class Analysis. The Soviet Union may have been an ultimate bust, but many of the underlying Marxist concepts remain quite useful. I simply cannot think of any society in history that was once a complex tribal structure, that then created directly something we would recognize as a Democracy, without first evolving a class system based on life choices, education, merit, opportunity, etc, and not birthright ascription of place and status. It is the ability to make political choices (vote) based on interests that stem from achieved class that in the end makes democracy as we understand that possible. In reality it is our American inability to sustain a fairly sophisticated conversation around such sociological, historical and political concepts that allows for the space in the public square to be occupied by the essential idiots that brought us this war and the problems we now face. We've shown ourselves as unable to loudly critique the Armageddonists, who wish to base Foreign Policy on a sectarian interpretation of Scripture, We can't talk honestly about US National Interest vis a vis Israel, We elect a President we want to have beer with instead of one who knows the fundamentals of international relations, diplomacy, and the very cautious use of military power, we allow the political spokespersons, media and pundits to totally confuse religion and politics, and treat membership in a party as a matter of "Faith" and not of clear interests and choices.

So why are we surprised Iraq turned out as it did?

I was interested inthe posters reference to Gertrude Bell, one of the British Arabists who at the end of World War I brought to bear knowlege and wisdom endeavoring to superimpose national states on tribal cultures, a fascinating woman.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Stanford Game

Saturday was a strange day. Good thing the weather was beautiful and we won. Otherwise I could be a little bummed. First of all, we got a late start. I'd told Lou that we should leave around eight AM, so he shows up around ten, then the expressway's a mess so we get to South Bend around a little before one, Chicago time, then we park and walk to campus. I knew that travelling west to east you lose an hour, but I got confused and turned it around in my head. Maybe my subconscious was protecting me from freakking out. So, I was surprised to realize it was 2:40 South Bend time and we had missed the kick-off.

We got to our seats in time to see the first touchdown, a completion to Samardzjia which capped a long drive. Three more touchdowns, one each by McKnight, Walker, and Carlson and one field goal gave ND 31 points. Sranford got 10, one on a touchdown pass that I think should have been called back because the Stanford receiver pushed off the d-back at the goal line. But except for dropped passes Stanford would have scored earlier, So the final score was pretty representative of the play of the game.

After the game we went to the bookstore to pick up a birthday present for Malachy.
The tradition tee shirt wasnt avalable in toddler sizes so I got him a child's small which he can use as a night-shirt. I also selected an Notre Dame Athletic Dept Football tee shirt which will fit him better. We also picked up a few personalized ND shot glasses, one for "Andy" one for "Lou" and one for "Sue", since they didn't have a "Janett".

Having missed out on the campus walk around, I thought dinner at the South Dining Hall would be a nice thing, but of course it wasn't the same as I remembered it.
First of all it was $17.50 for a "candle-light buffet". And then, the old caffeteria line was gone, and the "renovated" dining hall featured islands for different kinds of food-none of which would you would have chosen to spend $17.50 for, and it was terribly crowded.

Being at the game was nice, but to tell the truth, I'm happier watching on TV at home.

Ooops, Janett's calling. I have to go now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Happy Birthday to me

Last week I celebrated my 61st birthday. Steffy and Mark hosted a party. Janett prepared Russian Pie made with layers of sauteed cabbage, cream cheese, mushrooms and hard-boiled egg sliced up, all baked in a pie crust. It was this recipe that introduced Janett to taragon. Yummm, And strawberry shortcake for dessert.

We played Settlers of Cataan (sp?)after dinner, but I kind of eased myself out of the game after fifteen minutes because I was doing so badly. I received nice gifts, several several bearing the Notre Dame logo, including a Jeff Samardzjia game shirt.

And this week Lou and I are going to the Stanford game. Weather forecast is 70 degrees and sunny, just liked I'd hoped - except for not being undefeated. I'll report on our trip next week. Who wants to lend me a camera?

Maybe, I'm not posting much because I'm in suspense awaiting the bad stuff I said was coming. I guess it was postponed til after the elections.