Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam executed

Finally, at long last, a troublesome Islamic head of state has been executed by those who toppled him. What has changed? Likely, not much has changed as the violence has continued to steadily escalate and costs the lives of scores of Iraqis and Americans alike each month. The Iraqis, obviously, are suffering the worst of the bloodshed and in a land of long memories, that cannot be good for those of us who have nearly reached middle age who would like to see a more peaceful world emerge. Unfortunately, total peace will never be achieved by less-than-supernatural means, nor will it be achieved by Armageddon-esque religious frenzy and a neurotic reliance on what one has learned in Sunday school for divining the future and acting to insure such an outcome.

Hurrah! Americans finally have the head of the man so many decided would make a great scapegoat for all the world's problems after the unimaginable disaster suffered in 2001. Saddam was no saint, but he wasn't a religious fanatic. He was a power fanatic who threatened the region's stability, but the old stability is certainly preferable to the ulcerative crisis we now have on our hands. Watching the video footage of the last moments of Saddam's life weren't the least bit satisfying for all the harm caused by his past invasions of his neighbors and resulting disastrous neo-con idea to invade. All I saw was a man going to an imminent death whilst the executioners casually prepared his neck for the break. The Islamic way has certainly prevailed upon Saddam, hated and beloved for allowing the U.S. an opportunity to rationalize an all-out invasion and the pitiful attempt at defending Iraq from the American force; beloved by many Sunnis as the symbol of the last days of their faction's control of the military and the government. Perhaps more violence will result from Saddam's death, but at least he's easily forgettable, since he failed to defend his nation diplomatically or militarily and thus suffered the failure's accustomed fate in Islamic politics.

As Joseph Campbell described the cultural and religious dynamic of "vegetative" societies, such as jungle culture's human sacrifice bloodlust: More death equals more life. Where a carcass decomposes, a new plant life springs forth. Sad analogy, but certainly the only possible connection to make. Unfortunately, no one seems to have complete control of what springs forth from the fertilization provided by that carcass. A more dangerous, less rational life might spring forth and ravage the land. A more vindictive, more organized, more capable, more ruthless leader might emerge from this Iraq fiasco. So far, the only possible outcome with the current circumstances is for the emergence of yet another ruthless strongman with more ambitious subordinates as Saddam when appointed vice president to Pres. al-Bakr. Al-Bakr likely was killed by Saddam in 1982. Saddam was killed by al-Maliki's, the Shiite "leader" of Iraq, government propped up by American forces. Good riddance, Saddam. I hope your ouster, capture, conviction, and death don't raise yet another martyr for the Islamic world to rally round.

The world will never sicken at the image of a human death. With all the talk I've heard from other ordinary Americans who really pay attention to the world's events, I have to believe we get the murderous society we deserve because deep down, we don't really care about other people in our own nation, much less the murderous suffering of the poor folks in Iraq who are being kidnapped, blown to bits, beheaded, shot, or sliced and diced in the disarray that plagues Iraq. The U.S. is THE MOST DANGEROUS society in the industrialized West. Our murder rate is comparable to South Africa's 2o,000 homicides per year. We should be embarrased by our lack of civility. Perhaps a move toward more civility in government in the middle east will someday emerge from folks who are downright tired of random and concerted murder and mayhem. I see that sort of sentiment also encouraging a more brutal dicatatorship akin to the Taliban emerging in places we'd never believe could descend into such a radical existence and folks gladly retreat into the shadows to acquiesce to such a government because it manages to impose a sense of order on the chaos, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan with help from ISI and Pakistani troops. Is a nation so incapable of solving its own social ills capable of providing comfort and stability for the ordinary Iraqis whose minds must be swayed to cease taking part and acquiescing to the violence before anything will change. Diminishing a will to fight can't be achieved exclusively through force of arms. Changing minds is crucial.

Let's hope a bloodier wave of violence doesn't result from this execution.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Don Elkins leaving NW AR

A word about the departure of Don Elkins for greener pastures on the east coast. Don arrived in this market to anchor the new newscast on the NBC affiliate in town and he brought with him an air of dignity in a market offering Craig Cannon and Bur Edson as anchors for the ABC and CBS affiliates. I was really eager to see if another competitor could shake up the broadcast news in the area. I have remained as a normal watcher of the KNWA newscast despite the decidedly unprofessional turn witnessed of late with the sports jock takeover of practically the entire newscast. Granted, KNWA never did shake up the market, but Don Elkins did manage to shake up the way NW AR was represented politically in the blogosphere. The blogosphere in the area still predominately is polluted by right wing hacks and wackos, but Arkansas Tonight was a beacon in the stultifying "conservative" worldview shared by a majority of voters in the area as Holt's embarassingly large margin of victory proves for Benton County especially.

Elkins was unafraid to label himself moderate and looking at his links, he's harbored a more liberal viewpoint as well on his Arkansas Tonight radio show and blog. NW AR needed that kind of fortification for those of us who are now full-fledged Democrats who previously had voted for Republican candidates until 1992, when I voted third party until the 2000 election when I latched on to Gore's campaign and decided to call myself a Democrat and campaign for Democratic causes from that cycle forward. I would like to personally thank Don for his work to increase the level of debate as opposed to amping the level of demagoguery which so often drowns out reasonable arguments and queries about real issues and the reality of the candidate's capacity to serve well. He will not be replaced any time soon, as we will lose the brevity of reason on KFAY before they turn the keys over to the RNC hatchet opinionists for 20+ hours each day. The moderate and left-leaning folks in our community will be losing a leader in the community and a voice of reason within the media community of this region which is decidedly pro-GOP.

Good luck to Don and his family as they leave one of the most wonderful regions in the nation to live. You've done some good things for our community and I don't believe we'll realize how important you were until you're gone. KNWA produces a terrible newscast without you and I fear that KFAY and the NW AR blogosphere will be so much worse without your presence in this community. God bless.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

End of year/holiday season ramble

The end of 2006 is ahead. Certainly the year has been both memorable and forgettable. Personally, the latter half of 2006 has been very good to me from a professional perspective, but the year in the political realm has been very forgettable for the upsets that seem to loom larger by the hour, yet the elections of 2006 were satisfactory. Unfortunately, the Democratic sweep was precipitated by dire, unfortunate circumstances for America and the world body politic. A generation of destructive warfare of varying degrees has been unleashed by 9/11, the Afghan War, and the ill-conceived Iraq invasion and rapidly deteriorating expectations for the occupation. What is to become of this world if some things don't start working in favor of relative peace and calm? I really don't care to ponder such disasters as seem to loom over the horizon if great leaders don't soon emerge who can lead us through these crises with satisfactory endings.

Needless to say, Boy George is NOT that leader. Dubya is so far out of his element, it actually hurts to watch the so-called "leader of the free world[what's left of it]" stumble and bumble so horribly. It's embarassing as an American to believe that my fellow countrymen elected this man twice. Fortunately, we ARE fellow countrymen who know better than to destroy our nation over political/ethnic/religious disagreements that usually get no worse than some hurt feelings or a bloody nose instead of carbombs at a shopping center, department store, or any other gathering place. I am thankful we Americans can set a high standard for political discourse within our borders (except, of course, for our violent society--most violent in the "free world") while making such poor decisions on how to conduct the "war on terror" internationally. The U.S. has more often been on the "winning" side of some of the bloodier wars of the past 100 or so years because we quickly surmised the need to fight the battles with guns AND diplomacy. The Cold War would have been a failed enterprise had the U.S. not begun the post-WW II global intervention with the Marshall Plan and MacArthur's brilliant command of the Japanese occupation that provided us a valued ally for peace and prosperity for generations. Bravo to American policy makers for reaching out to Vietnam, a possible valued ally to check China's ambitions. Vietnam couldn't possibly withstand a full-fledged invasion force with ample reserves if China were to ever feel the need to cross into Vietnam as its half-hearted invasion of 1979 merely to prove a point to the Kremlin and newly its unified ally Vietnam. Yet, Vietnam could become another friendly presence in eastern Asia for the U.S. The only downside is there's yet another Asian country with subsistence wages to undermine American manufacturing. What's going to happen when Chinese companies enriched by the efficacy of Wal Mart to bully its suppliers to manufacture in China decide to make bids for companies like, God forbid, Wal Mart itself? What happens if China pulls the plug on financing of the American debt that most certainly includes the war effort? How did we put ourselves in such a pitiful position?
2007 must be better than 2006 or else we're in for a global catastrophe the likes of which we've never endured at any point in history, since atomic weapons that seem to be so easily acquired these days by practically any country including an impoverished militarist nation like Pakistan. It's not healthy to dwell too much on troubling political futures. The holidays and the end of the year have always been a time when I find myself remembering the past and those who have died who had a part in my life. The older one gets, the more folks to remember in that way each year. Besides, we're all born dying and nothing about that will ever change. When I was a child, my family would gather for my father's family a week or two before Christmas and my mom's family on Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Day was always my mom's family who hosted the gathering we attended. Today, I have very little to do with extended family because it's not a good idea, plus I didn't care for too many of my cousins, aunts, or uncles. It's difficult enough to deal with my own family and I rarely attend holiday gatherings because I live rather far away and I have a busy life. I live a private life and I don't care for too much intrusion from family members.
Over the past 5 years, I've learned of the deaths of some of my closest friends from the grades. I long ago left my hometown as thousands over the past 2o+ years have fled the Arkansas Delta region. Life in the Mississippi River valley just cannot be as satisfying as living on the Ozark plateau and I plan to never return to my home county. Folks must learn to live well. Only get one chance at it. I work long hours with intense pressure at times, but I've learned to enjoy life at least in the Sisyphean sense(push rock up hill, rock rolls back down hill, Sisyphus pushes rock up hill again endlessly; yet he's still able to smile--Camus). Albert Camus posits that the fundamental question humans all must answer is whether to commit suicide. Life is worthy, in his view, of living because to believe or act otherwise would be complicit with the worst evil of humanity, death. Life is a struggle against death and essentially, we should all act in accord with a love for life affirming life, not defiling it. Death is efficient enough to do its own bidding-it doesn't need humanity contributing to death of fellow humans. These days, the so-called pro-life, pro-gun, pro-war faction has done more to defile life than affirm it in our nation and across the globe. I'm not the type of person who wants to curb gun rights any more than the next guy or who doesn't our enemies to be stopped militarily if at all possible, but trying to bring about the end of the world by preaching a political doctrine of war as some sort of religious observance is the height of insanity. Americans should know better and believe better than al-Qaeda or Taliban sympathizers or the neurotic mahdi-expecting Shiites of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. Americans are better than violent theocrats in the Islamic world. Let's keep it that way.

America's new leadership of next year or the end of Dubya's failed presidency must seek real diplomatic solutions as well as the use of force to succeed. Merely continuing a fight in Iraq without seeking opportunities to lower the desire to fight amongst the folks whom we are killing and those who are killing our people and the people of Iraq is a fool's choice. Dubya sought to improve or cement his father's stature for posterity by running for president and boy has he succeeded. HW looks a whole lot better about his decision not to push toward Baghdad in 1991, which turned out to be the wisest decision by an American president in many years. Hopefully, the sinister figure of Bush's Florida "victory" in 2000, James Baker, can take control of the Dubya White House and stir the boy dunce to pull his head out of his posterior and allow smarter people(or at least less cavalier) than Rove, Cheney, or Rumsfeld to run his White House. I really think James Baker is an easily reviled figure, but he certainly has a decent track record despite some of the dirty dealing of HW over the years and his dirty family past.
Houston Nutt saved his job as Razorbacks head coach by riding the back of McFadden and some imaginative input by high school coaching whiz Gus Malzahn. Hopefully, Damien Williams decided to leave because he wants to explore other areas of the country and not because he didn't get the ball enough. Unfortunately, I believe it's merely the latter and that makes him a selfish kid who can't be happy for his team's success and his blocking prowess which made him rather important to our offense. Damien dropped his share of crucial passes, so it's not as if he wasn't given chances to have a bigger impact and get more throws his way. He's a 19 year-old freshman, so he's entitled his mistakes whether the mistake was decommitting to Florida and opting for Arkansas or leaving the Hogs for another team is to be determined. If he plays on another SEC team, I hope a Hog defender gives him a proper greeting several times, but I wish him no injury or ill and I hope he finds what he believes will make him happy.

Congrats Coach Nutt. You did a fine job this year. I hope an improved Mustain who has uncanny accuracy throwing the football will take the job from a woefully inadequate Casey Dick. Dick's accuracy is just a shade better than Robert Johnson and that's not good enough for consistent SEC success. McFadden is a special player and he deserves an effort from his team to earn him another chance at the Heisman next year. These Hogs are tough-minded kids and I would like to see them finally break through and win the SEC championship game next year. Mustain shouldn't get so upset about the future. He wasn't ready for a 12+ game schedule among some of the stiffest defenses in America. If Dick had not been injured in summer and fall, he would have started every game this year. Mustain has had a taste of big-time football and he'll build on that for next year. These children might be incredible physical specimens, but they're still children learning to live successfully in society, so upsets and mistakes will occur.