Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam: One Who Confronts

Saddam – One Who Confronts

In the United States, we take years to deal with the baddest of the bad – the appeals, the solitary confinement at SuperMax in Colorado, the death row in Terra Haute, Indiana. Fortunately, with Saddam Hussein, 69 (a senior citizen, no less), once he was released from U,S. military authority, the end came quickly. Hang ‘em High, a 1968 movie title reads. The New York Daily News says “Saddam Swings.” The Washington Times reads “Saddam pays at the end of a rope.” This was what they called Kansas justice in the 50s, and the news reports play like the last scene of the film Infamous. Truman Capote should have covered it.

Is seems awful to some people to gloat over this, but Saddam is certainly one of the three most wanted men in the world. The other two are Osama bin Ladem and Kim Jong-il. Saddam will join the ranks of Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot. Just before the Kuwait invasion, he had been called “the most dangerous man in the World.” No longer. Ne plus.

Nevertheless, his acts defined much of our time and our awareness of things. A lot of us were shocked when he invaded Kuwait around Aug. 1, 1990. For all the fervor of Desert Shield and Desert Storm, we scarcely imagined then where it could lead, even as the military victory came so quickly by February 28, 1991.

For one thing, it would be some years before we grasped the resentment caused in fundamentalist Islam about our presence in their lands, and about the snubbing of the warrior Osama bin Laden, whose place in ridding of Afghanistan of Soviet occupation would prove a paradox: it would pave the way for the Taliban and his own attacks against us, but it might have contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Persian Gulf War would also help set in motion the debate over gays in the military, and the explosion of the issue at the beginning of President Clinton’s presidency. For when the Army needs men, it really needs them. Forget the small stuff.

Of course, the main controversy now is over WMDs. Why did Colin Powell present the case for Saddam’s WMD’s before the UN in Feburary 2003, for us only to find soon that he did no have them? Or does he? Did he hide them in Syria? What was really going on? Scott Ritter had warned us in his documentary film In Shifting Sands that Saddam could be playing possum, and that he could try to stalemate us, just as in a chess King and Pawn ending. Yet, in the days following 9/11 and in the middle of the anthrax attacks, rumors about Iraqi involvement abounded. Is the enemy of my friend another enemy? Not always. The world has developed complex patterns of bedfellows. My own suspicion, however, is that we have not seen the last on the debate on WMD’s and Iraq. For one thing, the northern area (Kurdistan) is part of the ideal route for smuggling materials from the former Soviet Union.

Former President Gerald R. Ford -- remembering his days

Gerald R. Ford

President Richard M. Nixon resigned (and waved goodbye) on my last day of employment (Aug. 9, 1974) with Sperry Univac. I still remember driving around to various Univac accounts in New Jersey while hearing Sam Ervin and the Watergate hearings on my Pinto car radio, and I knew things would change, hopefully for the better, for me. On Monday Aug. 12, 1974, I started employment in New York City in the Rockefeller Center with NBC, the National Broadcasting Company, as a computer programmer analyst (working on general ledger systems on a Univac 1110, at the time, a state of the art non-IBM mainframe). I had wanted to move into New York City in order to develop my own personal life, with my own social connections, such as with the Ninth Street Center. The second day at NBC, I would sign a lease to rent an apartment in the historic Cast Iron Building at 11th and Broadway. But for three weeks, I kept commuting on the Blue Star Route to my apartment near Bound Brook, New Jersey.

I remember listening to Ford speak that first Monday, Aug. 12, 1974. “I am a Ford, not a Model T.” He would sometimes say some off the wall things (like a misstep when talking about the Soviets in Eastern Europe; I had an officemate at NBC with a Ukranian background and he was shocked at Ford’s stumble).

My second day in my trapezoidal Cast Iron Building apartment, early on Sunday afternoon, as I recall, in between walks to the Washington Square art shows and chess divans (yup, the gay bars were about five blocks away in the West Village), I watched President Ford come on TV in garish business color and announce his pardon of Richard Nixon. It was time to move on, he said. Indeed it was, for me especially. I think that this was Sunday Sept. 8, 1974. I had actually spent the transitional Labor Day weekend in Mexico City. I had ditched plans to make a trip to the Inca and Tiahuanoco country of Peru to take the new job and I have yet to make that trip.

But I remember the good things more. He was serious with “whip inflation now” and with deregulating many businesses, which would lead to all kinds of things, like ATMs, cheaper air fares, and may have helped set up the business climate for the PC revolution and eventually the Internet. This was a time when we feared increasing regulation because of the oil shocks and angry middle East situation, which has a monumental history since then.

I also recall the New York City financial crisis. There was first the transit crisis, with a fare increase to 50 cents on September 1, 1975. The financial crisis led to talk of complete chaos. I recall the New York Daily News (or was it the Post): “Ford to City: Drop Dead!” But then the Teacher’s Union stepped in and helped reach a settlement.

In those days, the Gay Activists Alliance of New York met in the “Firehouse” at 99 Wooster Street, and gay bars were thought to be Mafia bars. (They really weren’t any more.) Legislation to bar discrimination was being debated, and I remember the debate in the newspapers about gay firemen, and the intimacy of a real firehouse, a foreshadowing of a heated issue twenty years later about gays in the military and “don’t ask don’t tell.”

We hadn’t even imagined AIDS yet, although Randy Shilts (in And the Band Played On) would start history with the Tall Ships weekend of the country’s bicentennial of July 4, 1976, when Ford was still president but soon to lose to Jimmy Carter.

Those were the days, my friend. But they did end. Oh, to be just 31 years old again.

(Note: sorry for the dyslexic spelling in the topic name "Forward" that I caught today. Actually, the phrse does make a little ironic sense. The picture is taken in Greenwich Village in New York City, near Julius's. Where in 1975 or so "Bugle Boy" was popular jute box music, where there are brone dachshunds on the floor, and where there are pictures of all the winning Yankee teams.)

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Rural location make be safer from WMD's for companies

Alec MacGuiness has a disturbing story “New Rural Sales Pitch: Work Outside D.C.’s Fallout Zone,” in The Washington Post, on Dec. 26, 2006, maintaining that the smaller cities and rural areas of the Virginia Shenandoah Valley are beyond the reach of radioactive fallout in case of a major WMD attack with nuclear or dirty materials in the immediate Washington DC area. Link is here. (It may require a Post online subscription.)

In June 2004, the area had a televised dress rehearsal of evacuation plans, and much has been made of the “rainbow colored” threat levels of Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, and Blue. The national level has been viewed as Yellow or above since 9/11, with specific areas (including DC and NYC) and some sectors (aviation, cargo) at Orange.

Small town real estate used to be touted (back in the 70s and 80s) as a shelter against economic collapse, and those dire predictions (often based on religious ideas) have never come true.

Movement away from major cities into distant suburbs accelerated from the 60s through the 80s, sometimes (as in southern cities like Dallas) partially motivated by racial concerns. In the 90s, urban living has boomed, with empty nesters and a socially more open society. A security driven move to the countryside (almost following Mao’s ideology in China) could return society to much more emphasis on the nuclear family, but the availability of the Internet and telecommuting makes rural location much more potentially appealing to companies than in the past. Some software companies, like WordPerfect and FoxBase, used to located in smaller communities.

In August 1997, just before I moved to Minneapolis, I visited the Greenbrier resort and congressional shelter at White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. There are smaller facilities in other areas, ranging from Mt. Weather on the near Blue Ridge (between Routes 7 and 50) in Va, to other areas in Maryland and Pennsylvania. In the early 1950s, as the Cold War heated, there were actually some debates as to whether the nation’s capital should be in the Midwest.

Today, however, in a world with assymetric threats, there is no real use for "duck and cover."

Picture: Mt. Rogers, southern VA, about 5700 feet (meadow at 4400 feet)

Note capabilities of new blogger

I did take the tour of new blogger, and noticed a couple of features that may come in handy to me later. One of these is easier RSS feeds and self-syndication.

The other feature that I noticed is potentially important in the future, the ability to restrict the audience to specified email addresses (or perhaps later, with other parameters). I do not plan to use this right now. But I can see how in the future it could become necessary, given future employment situations, as I have discussed on other blogs.

When material is sensitive or provocative, some people think that it should be kept to a limited audience. We see this issue already with COPA, with which I am already involved. I can certainly see that with international and religious issues, it could be appropriate.

Nevertheless, what is happening to our value of open free speech?

I have this issue developed further in a New Years Eve editorial on another blog, here.

New blog on international issues

I have opened a new blog today with the New Blogger on international issues. Global issues, such as global warming as so well demonstrated by Al Gore's book and movie "An Inconvenient Truth" can affect individual freedom and the capacity for individuals to control the course of their own lives, with some independence of the personal needs of others around them.

One key observation is that a global or national calamity can force blood families to become more cohesive than many of them have been in the past few decades of modernity. This is a major issue underneath the religious ideology in today's struggle with radical Islam.

This blog was written with Google's new blogger, out of Beta. I am not sure if the profiles will be consolidated later. In the meantime, you can find all of my other blogs by going here.