In just five hours on Monday night, the town of Marble Falls (where we do our shopping and movie-watching) got 18 inches of rain. That's almost as much precipitation as we got in all of 2006.
Amazingly, no one died, and although there was a lot of water damage (cars shoved out of garages and into the street, the city water supply compromised, etc.), they're pretty much back on their feet now.
We got about 8 inches at our house, but thanks to excellent home placement by Annie, we're up on a hill and were never in any danger at all. The creek swelled to amazing heights and blew out the fence at the back of the property (I'll post more on that later), and apparently lightning struck either right on, or close to, our house. The breakers tripped and our internet tower got fried, along possibly with one of our phone adapters. Otherwise, though, we came through just fine. The donkeys are stuck on the far side of the creek because they're too chicken to cross where the water's low. They've got plenty to drink and eat, though, and shelter in the forest, so they should be all right. I keep an eye on them with the binoculars and am going to bring them some grain and hay today as comfort food, but they're hardy little guys.
Not having Internet access is a pain in the butt, especially when you're trying to run a business online. I dragged out our ancient, decrepit laptop to an Internet cafe in town, but it's so slow I'd be better off hand-delivering my messages.
Anyway, I'll continue regular posting once I have regular access to the net, but wanted to let everyone know that we're doing fine.
Friday, June 29, 2007
In just five hours on Monday night, the town of Marble Falls (where we do our shopping and movie-watching) got 18 inches of rain. That's almost as much precipitation as we got in all of 2006.
Monday, June 25, 2007
According to this MSNBC.com story:
President Bush was presented with a letter Monday signed by 50 high school seniors in the Presidential Scholars program urging a halt to "violations of the human rights" of terror suspects held by the United States. The White House said Bush had not expected the letter ...It's both a proud and a sad day when a group of high school students has the balls to say to the President of the United States what neither the Congress nor the media will. Suddenly the future looks just a little bit brighter, if these are the outstanding young men and women who will be running it.
"We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants," the letter said.
Sunday, June 24, 2007
I don't want to vote for Hillary Clinton. Here's why:
Having said that, I will absolutely not vote for a Republican, because I think it's crucial both for our country and their party that they lose this election, and lose big. As "The Commander Guy" said, we only get one chance every four years to pass judgment on the leadership of the President and his party. Given that, I'm happy to oblige him by telling the Republicans exactly what I think of Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, the Debacle in Iraqle, the "Unitary Executive", Presidential Signing Statements, "Heckuva Job, Brownie", ballooning federal debt and deficits, extraordinary rendition, torture, warrantless wiretaps, and the rest of the legacy foisted on us by this renegade bunch of malicious incompetents. (Yes, that statement's probably over the top, but damn it was fun to write!)
Any other Democrat besides Hillary is pretty much a shoe-in for me. Since I live in Texas and my vote's not going to count anyway (anyone with an "R" after their name has our electoral college reps all wrapped up by now), I have the luxury of not voting for Hillary if she's the Democratic nominee. I wish the primary season worked differently and I had a chance to at least influence who my party was going to nominate, but I'm shut out of that by virtue of the calendar. So I don't get a say at any level really, and thus I'm at a loss as to what to do when I'm in the booth on Election Day.
The Libertarian candidate looks like a first-class nutjob, which I guess means I'll have to look into the Green Party or something. Man, I'll feel like a whacko if I do that. I wish we had more choices somehow, either with a parliamentary system like in England, where each party gets a percentage of seats in government proportional to the votes cast for them, or just by having a greater number of viable parties. Having only two candidates with a reasonable hope of success sucks.
Friday, June 22, 2007
According to the New York Times, eldest children in a family have an IQ an average of 3 points higher than younger siblings. The higher up in birth order you are, the smarter you are. The lower down, the dumber.
However, I've just been handed this note by the Pocket Lint Anti-Defamation League, disavowing any relationship between the IQ of their members and, quote, "That one-lobed mouth breather Jeff," endquote.
So, there you have it, clearly this research must be in error, which would have been abundantly clear had any of these scientists actually met my older siblings. I'm not saying they're dim, I'm just saying they thought 9-11 was the store two blocks down from 7-11.
Actually I'd say 3 IQ points is probably on the low side. What they don't tell you is that the lost intelligence is due to an unending stream of wedgies throughout the early developmental years. They also ate all the good food before I could get to it so I was undernourished. And ... um .... I'm sure there are other reasons too, but I lack the IQ to think of them. Maybe I'll call my brother and he can tell me.
I hope you will join in me in marveling at the irony of seeing this cover arrive in the mail on the very same day I wrote a post about lesbian farm animals:
I'm not saying these two women are necessarily lovers, but they are shopping while scantily clad in nightgowns. I doubt that's what lesbians do on dates, despite the best efforts of the pornography industry to convince us otherwise, but it does give one pause. And to be perfectly clear, I wholeheartedly support the right of women everywhere, gay or straight, to shop while wearing lingerie. That's a trend I think we can all get behind.
Of course it's possible those are sun dresses, but then how do you explain the lack of footwear? No pet owner in their right mind -- especially one with a dog who, from the look on its face, is about two seconds from bringing all new meaning to the phrase "explosive diarrhea" -- is going to scamper around without their shoes on. That's just asking for trouble.
I make no assertions one way or another about the sexual orientation of the dog, but he or she certainly doesn't look happy to be there with the lingerie twins. I would bet it's because of where they're shopping -- if you look closely I think that's a dancing Spock from Star Trek on the tie behind the couple. Clearly, the dog's outraged because everyone knows Spock's shirts were "Cool and Calm Except for McCoy" science blue, not "Shoot Me First" security red.
Naturally I've ordered one for the ranch. I think the donkeys are going to look great in it, even the lesbian ones.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
It's the first day of Summer, and apparently a young animal's thoughts turn to love ... Sapphic love, that is!
I'm home all day now working on the project so I end up keeping an eye on the animals a lot more often. And apparently, two females who are in heat will often ... er, let's see, how to word this on what is ostensibly a PG-rated blog ... imitate the mating habits more usually seen involving a male and a female.
The donkeys are doing it. The dogs are doing it. And I'm not sure, but I have my suspicions about two of the barn swallows.
I was a bit shocked the first time, but at this point it's sort of become old hat. I know for the dogs it's a dominance thing, but I'm not sure what's going on in the donkeys' minds. Or whatever other part of the anatomy is concerned. The saddest thing is when one of the full-sized jennets "introduces herself" to Charity, the little miniature female. That brings all new meaning to the phrase "She ain't heavy, she's my sister".
I don't have any large metaphysical insights to draw from this. It's just weird. But lesbian donkey sex is certainly not something I ever thought happened back in the full-time computer nerd days.
Well, ok, there was that one ill-advised Google Image search, but you can't prove that without an FBI wiretap!
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
Did you know you can be arrested and sent to prison for videotaping a police officer, even if it's to protect yourself from false accusations?
Randy Radley Balko, a libertarian-minded columnist for Reason Magazine and FoxNews.com who I like a lot, has a column today documenting some of the recent arrests for this "offense". He makes the excellent point that the police are public servants, and since we're the public, we should have the right to hold them accountable with videotape evidence of their actions:
Earlier this year, Iraq war veteran Elio Carrion was shot three times at near-point-blank range by San Bernardino, Calif., deputy Ivory Webb. Carrion was lying on the ground and was unarmed. Video of the arrest and shooting, however, was captured by bystander Jose Louis Valdez. Webb since has been fired from the police department and is on trial on charges of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm. The video is the key piece of evidence in his trial.
While it's possible that police and prosecutors would have believed Carrion's version of events over Webb's even without the video, it seems unlikely.
The price of liberty is constant vigilance. I'm glad people like
(I don't know how in the heck I got "Randy" originally. Duh.)
When you think of great movie henchmen—in other words, villains in the service of other nastier, most likely stupider villains—you probably think of guys like Goldfinger's Oddjob, Jack Palance in Shane, or Art Garfunkel.
How can you not read that?!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
This is in response to a comment by GeoPoet in an earlier thread, here. If the rantings of an evil atheist about religion are going to scorch your ears, you'd probably better not click the "More" button. No, really, stop right there. Don't click that link! Don't --
D'oh! Oh well, you were warned.
I point these out because I get the impression, wrong perhaps, that there doesn't seem to be much attempt at balance in your blog any more.
I believe we have a fundamental misunderstanding here. The purpose of this blog is not to "be balanced", whatever that means. The purpose of this blog is not to "convert" anyone to atheism, as if that's even possible. It is not to give all religions a chance to have their say. It is not to let all atheists have their say. It is not to give every political party a chance to make their case or to examine every side of every issue.
The purpose of this blog is for me, a discreet individual living in a certain place at a specific time, to talk about my life and my thoughts. I live on a ranch in the middle of Texas, surrounded by animals, while working on Internet entertainment software and drawing super-heroes, surrounded by deeply religious Republicans while I am a liberal Democrat and atheist. So that's what I write about.
The purpose of this blog is for me to write about what I know, about what I experience, about what I believe. I don't write about life in the Australian outback, because I don't live in Australia. I don't write about life as a Hindu because I'm not a Hindu. I don't write about how from one point of view George W. Bush is the greatest president in history, because I don't believe that -- I believe he's an insufferable oaf who has done incalculable damage to the country I love. Writing anything else would be not only very difficult since, as I said, I don't know anything about it, but it would also be a lie. And while I freely admit I make mistakes, I don't lie.
If you're interested in any of those perspectives, I would encourage you to use Google Blog Search to go find a blog that writes about them. That's the whole point of blogging, so discrete and previously hard-to-find voices have an outlet. Trying to turn this space into some kind of bizarre "fair and balanced" newsroom would be as farcical as it would be impossible. Expecting me to write stirring defenses of theism is a waste of expectations, because I'm not a theist and my goal isn't to convince or sway anyone -- it's just to write about what life is like from my own point of view. That's it.
However, I feel there is a need to give the whole picture to those who get a biased picture of the joys of atheism, especially relatives reading this blog.
What you're really worried about, I think, is that someone reading this blog might, just possibly, come to the heretical and horrific conclusion that at least one atheist in the world is not, as they were taught in Sunday school or by their parents, evil or horrible. That at least one atheist is a good person, a nice guy, who loves his family and his animals and who wants to help make the world a better place. That atheism, at least for this one guy, doesn't mean Doom. Not with the goal of "converting" them (whatever that means), but just so they can learn some tolerance, some critical thinking, some awareness that unexamined bigotry -- even if fed to them by a well-intentioned parent -- is not just foolish, but harmful.
Ultimately, holding a specific, individual life up for examination, warts and all, is the only way to defeat bigotry. And at the end of the day, that is the purpose of writing about atheism from time to time in this blog; to refute the bigoted tyranny of the majority with the simple reality of my life and my existence.
Although no one else who reads this blog likes poker, I just had to post a classic line about Phil Hellmuth (aka "The Poker Brat") from the World Series of Poker this year (note how Hellmuth talks about himself in the third person, which I believe was also one of Napoleon's habits):
After Vrabel stole his blinds for the second time Hellmuth said, "Keep stealing. They steal and steal and steal and before you know it, Phil Hellmuth has all the chips. It happens every day. They keep coming trying to take down the best int he world and they end up going broke. You're playing against a world champion."
Vrabel ignored Hellmuth's barbs and jawed back."This is pretty cool. I'm playing at the same table as the greatest player in the world. This is something I'll tell my grandkids. Of course they'll say 'Who is Phil Hellmuth?' because by then everyone will forget about you."
For the uninitiated, Phil Hellmuth actually is the greatest Texas Hold 'Em player in history, as he won his record eleventh overall WSOP bracelet this year. He's also an unbelievable prima dona, given to bratty outbursts berating other players and exulting in his ability to (in his own words) "dodge bullets, baby!". He's essentially the John McEnroe of poker, as legendary for his temper as his ability.
I gotta give Vrabel credit, though, that was a great line. I look forward to seeing it on ESPN when they finally get around to airing the event.
(Thanks to Pauly at the Tao of Poker, who's once again doing an amazing job covering the WSOP, for the quote.)
"What," I asked myself while the plane taxied down the runway for takeoff, "do I do now that I don't pray any more?"
I used to travel quite a bit for a job I had, six weeks a year on average, and for all of those flights I prayed on every takeoff and landing. I'd make the sign of the cross and silently form the words:
"Dear Lord, please see this flight and all those upon it safely to its destination. If it should come to pass that any of us should die before we touch down, please take care of our family and friends and let them know that we love them. If we should live past the landing of this plane, please help us walk in the light and be good to each other. Amen."
It took me a while to get the wording right, although I suspected that God would get the idea no matter how clumsy my phrasing. I didn't want to sound like I was telling God what He ought to do, but I also didn't want to blame Him if anything should happen. I didn't want the focus to be on me or my own selfish life, but on those I cared for.
I found the ritual calming and comforting. I wasn't sure, even then, that there was anyone listening or, if there was Someone, that they cared. But it made me feel better. I'd made peace, even if just in my own mind, with how I felt about the people in my life. I'd come, at least in a small way, face to face with the possibility that I could die in the next few hours, and with that acceptance I was able to let the fear go.
But on this most recent trip, I realized that I could no longer engage in that comforting ritual. I didn't believe in God any more. So what do you do when you don't believe in God and you're afraid, in a position where you used to pray?
Personally, I closed my eyes and concentrated on breathing slowly. I cleared my mind of distracting thoughts (like that baby crying in the seat behind me). I thought about the prayer I used to say, and realized that what mattered to me about it was focusing on the people in my life. So I brought them up one by one and asked "Are there things I've left unsaid to them? Is there anything I wished I'd done, but didn't? Do they know I love them?"
The answers varied depending on the person, of course, but overall I thought most of them know I loved them. I knew I'd been honest with them and as good to them as I know how to be. I promised to myself that I'd keep trying to be the best husband, son, brother, uncle, and friend I could be. To make the world better, even if only in a tiny way, as often as I could.
For me, letting go of my belief in a divinity has helped me focus more on humanity. To keep in mind that our duty is to each other, not to an invisible force in the sky. I know it's not that way for everyone, or even for most. Theism is, for many, a means to the same end, a way of helping them open their eyes to the other people around them even while focusing on the divine.
When I think of those people -- like my family, and some of my more religious friends -- it makes me happy. I don't much care what excuse people use to be good to each other, whether it's religion or atheism or philosophy or fear or simply good old fashioned human kindness. I'm just glad they do it.
After I opened my eyes and the plane was in the air, I smiled. I felt at peace, ready for whatever destination we were headed towards, and even happy for that baby crying in the row behind me. His mother was being good to him. May we all be so lucky.
Sunday, June 17, 2007
This is our dog, Flash:
He weighs 110 pounds, has wolf in his bloodlines within the last few generations, and has been carefully bred as a representative of a new, but distinguished, breed of dogs.
These are the rescue puppies we have on the ranch, Cookie and Oreo:
They weigh maybe 20 pounds put together, apparently have ferrets somewhere in their bloodlines in the last few generations, and are completely random mutts.
Naturally, Flash is afraid of the puppies.
Sometimes it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.
Or maybe Flash is just too refined to want puppies licking his face all over. We pretend that's the case anyway, as his dignity would be far too wounded by the suggestion that he's a gutless coward.
Friday, June 15, 2007
I've alluded in the past few months that I had a Big Announcement, and today, I can finally make it:
The HeroMachine (and yours truly) have been bought out by UGO Networks, Inc.! I am now working for them full-time as a consultant continuing development on the HeroMachine application..
It's funny, when Annie and I were talking last year about what the ideal situation would be for HeroMachine, I said I'd want three things. First, I'd want a company to buy the program for a chunk of change, so I'd see some kind of tangible, immediate, real-world validation of the years of work that went into it. Second, that said company would be one that understands super-hero entertainment and its fans, and which had the resources to make the program better and better all the time. And finally, the chance to continue working on HeroMachine full-time.
In a stroke of great fortune, UGO has made the dream come true right down to the smallest detail. We have a good history of trust and respect (they're the company that's long hosted the free version of the software), and on top of it I like the guys there a lot -- they're a great group, very honest and authentic in their love for all things gamer related. They're based in New York City (hence my trips there over the last few months), which I thought would be a deal-breaker, but they very generously have allowed me to work right out of my little house in Bertram as a consultant, so that's just about perfect.
Anyway, that's the big announcement I've been hinting at. Thanks for being so patient with the oddness (well, more odd than usual, anyway). I am very, very happy that this opportunity has become available, and every morning I wake up, sit down at the computer, and while I start to work I think to myself "I'm getting paid to draw super-heroes all day. Pinch me!"
Life is good!
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
The next pasture over from our place is home to four horses who are all in terrible shape. Their owner lives in Austin and rarely (if ever) comes up to take care of them, assuming I suppose that all they need is whatever grass nature sees fit to put inside the fence. Here's the result of that kind of neglect:
Annie has contacted the county sheriff before to report the abusive neglect, but they did nothing. She tried again, with the same result. So this time we used the power of the Internet, posting some pictures along with a request for people to call the county directly to Craig's List.
At least ten different people called Animal Control on behalf of these horses, and the responses they got were illuminating. Half were told there'd never been a complaint before, which we know is a lie because we've complained. The other half were told the case had been investigated and they were just "old horses".
That is not an old horse, that is a starved horse. You should not be able to see the ribs and the hip bones like that unless an animal is in the last stages of death; he's barely more than skin and bones. Plus, one of the four is the filly of another, so clearly that one isn't ancient. We've seen these horses over the course of the last two years go from reasonably healthy to skeletons, and all the while the public agencies whose job it is to look after their welfare have failed to do much of anything.
A few hours after the calls started rolling in to the sheriff's office, the owner showed up and was frantically shoving grain through the fence. He's an attorney and apparently, law enforcement sticks together. I can imagine the panicked officer getting his buddy on the phone, telling him he better figure out something quick because other people were starting to notice.
The Good Ol' Boy Network only goes so far.
On the one hand, it's good that the guy gave his animals, finally, something to eat. On the other hand, when you've got horses in conditions this dire, giving them too much grain at once can make them colic and die. I'm sure he's only going to be paying attention long enough for people to take the heat off, and then the horses will be right back in the same spot -- starving, alone, and with no one to look out for them.
Except us. We'll be watching, and now, thanks to the power of the Internet, hopefully the rest of the world will be too.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I would wager there are no other Spurs basketball fans reading these words, so I will mercifully continue the discussion of the NBA Finals after the jump.
Note: The original post had identified the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame building as Cleveland Arena. I plead blindness brought on by how ugly the building is.
I've been working on the HeroMachine expansion pretty much non-stop for the last few weeks. I took a brief break a few days ago to create one character using the old items, and the same character (or as close as I could get) using the new ones, to see how they'd compare. Here's the side-by-side, new stuff on the left and old stuff on the right (as always, click for a larger version):
Once you graduate from school, you don't get graded any more. There aren't tests whereby some objective third party can pat you on the head and say "Yes, officially you have acquired at least a bit of new knowledge and skill." You just plug along, studying and striving, hoping you're learning something along the way. It's gratifying to take a look at something like that image, and to realize that yes, you are in fact getting better.
I have a lot further to go, of course, and I don't doubt that in another five years I'll look back on this set of drawings and want to hurl, like I do for that long-ago Jeff's work. But for now I feel pretty good.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of Loving vs. Virginia, the Supreme Court case that legalized interracial marriage in the United States.
Read that again. Just forty years ago, it was illegal for a Black person and a White person to get married. I'm only 38, my wife's only 42, and I have a sister who's over 50. Within our lifetimes, racism was enshrined in the laws of many states, and not yet considered unconstitutional by the federal government.
Just one year after "Loving", Kirk and Uhura shared the first interracial kiss in television history. Think about that -- at a time when this program about the progress of mankind in the future was airing, it was illegal for two human beings who happened to have different skin colors to marry each other. I daren't think about what would have happened to Spock's parents, a human and a Vulcan, contemplating a union in that kind of environment.
In some ways it's hard to imagine what people were thinking back then, how such blatant hatred and racism wouldn't inspire automatic revulsion. And yet, something like 20% of Americans still think it is wrong for whites and blacks to marry. Who can defend such bigotry? Let's turn to the very words they themselves wrote to find out. Judge Leon Bazile said in his original judgement:
In this State marriage is treated as a civil contract, but it is more than a mere civil contract, it is a public institution established by God himself, is recognized in all Christian and civilized nations and is essential to the peace, happiness, and well being of society. * * *"
"* * * The right in the States to control, to guard, protect and preserve this God-giving, civilizing and Christianizing institution is of inestimable importance, and cannot be surrendered, nor can the States suffer or permit any interference therewith.
And of course later Judge Bazile wrote:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races showes that he did not intend for the races to mix.
Does that sound familiar to you? It should. It's the same exact "reasoning" used to justify the enshrinement of homosexual bigotry in state laws today. I wish our generation had the sense to learn the lesson of Richard Perry Loving and Mildred Delores Jeter, that extending the protection of marriage to two people sincerely in love and committed to each other can only make the institution more secure, more profound, more valuable to our society.
Will our children look back forty years from now at this period in time and wonder how we could have lived with ourselves, how people could harbor such irrational hatred of two people in love?
I fervently, earnestly, and with all my heart hope so. Today we celebrate the victory in one battle of this long war for freedom, even while we fight on a new front. Bigotry and hatred may change the masks they show the world, but hopefully there will always be those who, like Loving and Jeter, stand up and call it for what it is.
Happy Loving Day, everyone! Now get out there and love someone, dammit!
Friday, June 08, 2007
I'm told that when she was younger, my sister Diane had two lists: "People I Hate" and "People Who Hate Me". God and my brother Johnny were at the top of both lists. I'm pretty sure she's gotten over it at this point, but I always think of her when I read this strip.
My most enduring personal memory of my sister is of her dragging me out of bed at two in the morning when she was bored and wanted to play cards. The fact that I was sleeping and didn't want to play cards was irrelevant -- her usual
Groggy, bleary, barely understanding the rules to "Battle" she taught me, I staggered through an hour of "play". Finally she laughed and told me she had played the same ace, the exact same card, seventeen times in a row. "I've been cheating the whole time and you didn't even notice!" she howled, hooting and pointing. She assumed I was an idiot, never even guessing that my true motivation was utter indifference to cards and an all-consuming desire to return to sleep.
Humiliated, abused, and cardless, I was finally permitted to go back to my bed, but the memory stuck.
I've got news for Calvin -- the person out to get him isn't God, it's my sister Diane. If he's lucky Hobbes will hide the cards before she gets to them ...
I have just learned of the first sign of the coming of the Apocalypse: Dolly Parton singing a country version of "Stairway to Heaven".
Apparently this happened in 2002 and I'm only just now becoming aware of it. I don't know how Rapture's held off this long, but I'm not taking any chances -- I'm packin' up the animals and headed to church, because if there's any rational definition of Hell on Earth, surely this is it.
Thursday, June 07, 2007
The media today were shocked -- shocked! -- to learn today that rich white people are treated differently from everyone else in the criminal justice system. Shocked, I tell you!
What's next, using the power of your fame and bankroll to beat a murder rap? Sheesh.
Sunday, June 03, 2007
My last name is hard to spell and pronounce -- it's "Hebert", and pronounced "A-bear". I've gotten to the point where I don't bother pronouncing it at all if I know it's going to need to be spelled because it just confuses people. But I've now witnessed the worst mangling I've ever experienced on a subscription to "Scientific American" my wonderful Aunt got me for my birthday:
That's just epically wrong. But I guess you don't become the premier popular science magazine in the world by doing things halfway. Bravo, "Scientific American", bravo!
Fareed Zakaria has written a great column about what America can do after Bush leaves office to get the country back on the right track internationally. I'll post some excerpts after the jump, but I agree with virtually every word in the essay. Really good stuff.
Having spooked ourselves into believing that we have no option but to act fast, alone, unilaterally and pre-emptively, we have managed in six years to destroy decades of international good will, alienate allies, embolden enemies and yet solve few of the major international problems we face...
This distinct American advantage—which testifies to our ability to assimilate new immigrants—is increasingly in jeopardy. If leaders begin insinuating that the entire Muslim population be viewed with suspicion, that will change the community's relationship to the United States. Wiretapping America's mosques and threatening to bomb Mecca are certainly a big step down this ugly road...
We will never be able to prevent a small group of misfits from planning some terrible act of terror. No matter how far-seeing and competent our intelligence and law-enforcement officials, people will always be able to slip through the cracks in a large, open and diverse country. The real test of American leadership is not whether we can make 100 percent sure we prevent the attack, but rather how we respond to it. Stephen Flynn, a homeland-security expert at the Council on Foreign Relations, argues that our goal should be resilience—how quickly can we bounce back from a disruption? In the materials sciences, he points out, resilience is the ability of a material to recover its original shape after a deformation. If one day bombs do go off, we must ensure that they cause as little disruption—economic, social, political—as possible. This would deprive the terrorist of his main objective. If we are not terrorized, then in a crucial sense we have defeated terrorism...
To recover its place in the world, America first needs to recover its confidence. For those who look at the future and see challenges, competition and threats, keep in mind that this new world has been forming over the last 20 years, and the United States has forged ahead amid all the turmoil. In 1980, the U.S. share of global GDP was 20 percent. Today it is 29 percent. We lead the world in technology and research. Our firms have found enormous success in new markets overseas. We continue to generate new products, new brands, new companies and new industries...
Perhaps the most hopeful sign for the United States is that alone among industrial nations, we will not have a shortage of productive citizens in the decades ahead. Unlike Germany, Japan and even China, we should have more than enough workers to grow the economy and sustain the elderly population. This is largely thanks to immigration. If America has a core competitive advantage, it is this: every year we take in more immigrants than the rest of the world put together...
I have no magic formula to stop Iran from going nuclear, nor to change Iran's regime. But the strategy we have adopted against so many troublesome countries over the last few decades—sanction, isolate, ignore, chastise—has simply not worked...
At the end of the day, openness is America's greatest strength. Many people on both sides of the political aisle have ideas that they believe will keep America strong in this new world—fences, tariffs, subsidies, investments. But America has succeeded not because of the ingenuity of its government programs. It has thrived because it has kept itself open to the world—to goods and services, ideas and inventions, people and cultures. This openness has allowed us to respond fast and flexibly in new economic times, to manage change and diversity with remarkable ease, and to push forward the boundaries of freedom and autonomy.
Our openness, our adherence to the rule of law, our dedication to the idea of liberty for all, these are not weaknesses as George Bush, Dick Cheney, and their Republican cheerleaders would have us believe. They are instead the core of our strength, the very things that make us admired by the good and hated by the evil. That is why Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, torture and war, walls and fear-mongering, illegal wiretapping and the Unitary Executive, are such bad, impractical, foolish, misguided and dangerous ideas. We have shrugged off the mantle of Superman, fighting for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, and assumed the guise of The Punisher, looking to the barrel of a gun to solve all our problems and scorning the very principles that made us great.
We can do better. We must do better. And I think Zakaria is dead-on about how we go about doing that. I strongly encourage you to read the entire original article in its entirety.
Saturday, June 02, 2007
Yesterday I turned 38 years of age, which means I'm not old yet but I can see it looming on the horizon like a brick road on the highway of life.
When you turn 30 it's not a big deal, you can still think of yourself as in your (very) late 20's, which is still in your prime. As the 30's go on, you keep holding onto that idea of yourself, until you hit the tipping point at 35. But then, hey, 35's halfway, that's just as close to the 20's as it is to the 40's, so no big whoop, right?
Then you sort of stop thinking about it for a few years, because 36 and 37 are still closer to 35 than to 40, so in effect you're still really only halfway between 20 and 40, so why not just think of yourself as still in your late 20's?
But that changes at 38. The relentless march of math means that you can't pretend any more, 40's sitting there just two years ahead of you, waiting to jump on you and pound your ass like that bouncer at the strip club when you got too rowdy at the bachelor party.
All of my siblings are at least 4 years older than I am, so they're past the 40 year mark. That makes it fun to tell them "Just two more years till I'm old!" Proving, I guess, that no matter your age you're always the little brother, ready to be a brat at the drop of a hat.
I don't really think of 40 as old, of course. Not any more. I did when I was younger, but I'm learning that the older you get, the further away old gets. I'll wager that I could be sitting on the porch at 90, thinking "Thank goodness I'm not 110 yet, now those buggers are old! Oh drat, I wet myself again."