Some who know me may think I’m referring to the Clemson Tigers in their quest for a first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference title, but no. (The Tigers haven’t been to the ACC finals longer than I’ve been alive, so it was great to see them get that far; and though it would’ve been terrific to see them win, it just wasn’t to be. And not because of their defense.)
No, this post refers to a new Anti-Candidate position posted in the “General Interest” forum area today, the Anti-Candidate Position on Defense:
National defense is the paramount responsibility of the government, the key thing that people cannot do for themselves.
Contrary to the best intentions of diplomats and the most pleasant dreams of optimists, the world remains a dangerous place. So we agree with Sun Tzu — Master Sun — that, in the opening words of The Art of War, “War is a matter of vital importance to the State; the province of life or death; the road to survival or ruin. It is mandatory that it be thoroughly studied.”
There’s more, of course, and there’s also the overall Anti-Campaign thread.
As one friend wrote us yesterday, “We’ve got quite a candidate/potential candidate field for this election. It’s a shame the United States public doesn’t have anyone it can truly trust and for which to vote. Another barren election-scape….” And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we have the Anti-Campaign.
Read a fantastic article earlier this week on the state of journalism, and how what we see on television (and, so far as I can tell, what we hear on the radio and read in the paper) is often “trivia framed as Truth.”
The article is Journalist-Bites-Reality! by Steve Salerno, and it includes these encouraging facts — indisputable facts — that no television, radio, or newspaper report will tell you outright:
– The current employment rate is 95.3 percent.
– Out of 300 million Americans, roughly 299.999954 million were not murdered today.
– Day after day, some 35,000 commercial flights traverse our skies without incident.
– The vast majority of college students who got drunk last weekend did not rape anyone, or kill themselves or anyone else in a DUI or hazing incident. On Monday, they got up and went to class, bleary-eyed but otherwise okay.
In news, however, everything is a crisis. (I wrote about this phenomenon a few years ago in my Ornery American essay, “The Redemption of the Vietnam War?”) And, thinking along those lines, this excerpt particularly speaks to the phenomenon of concentrating on relatively rare negative incidents to cast aspersions on large, difficult, complex endeavors:
For all its cinema-verité panache, embedded reporting, as exemplified in Iraq and in Nightline’s recent series on “the forgotten war” in Afghanistan, shows only what’s going on in the immediate vicinity of the embedded journalist. It’s not all that useful for yielding an overarching sense of the progress of a war, and might easily be counterproductive: To interpret such field reporting as a valid microcosm is the equivalent of standing in a spot where it’s raining and assuming it’s raining everywhere.
I think, for the sake of my sense of well-being, I will start inverting all the statistics — and maybe some of the stories — I encounter in news reports.
The article Magical Thinking by Matthew Hutson (Psychology Today, Mar/Apr 2008) brought to mind my short story, “The Rocket Seamstress.” This passage from the article especially reminded me of Jelena Olenek, the Russian grandmother who is the main character of my story:
People who truly trust in their rituals exhibit a phenomenon known as “illusion of control,” the belief that they have more influence over the world than they actually do. And it’s not a bad delusion to have—a sense of control encourages people to work harder than they might otherwise. In fact, a fully accurate assessment of your powers, a state known as “depressive realism,” haunts people with clinical depression, who in general show less magical thinking.
Jelena’s magic makes the mighty Russian rockets fly, but there is every possibility that her magic is only a personal delusion. From this magazine article, however, we may get the idea that Jelena is mentally healthier than her relatives who don’t believe in her magic or any magic.
“To be totally ‘unmagical’ is very unhealthy,” says Peter Brugger, head of neuropsychology at University Hospital Zurich.
“The Rocket Seamstress” was originally published in Zahir. It’s now available from Anthology Builder.
An old boss sent me this link to a brief video of Senator Obama declaring how he would reduce our nation’s readiness. I put a thread in the Space Warfare Forum about one of his comments, but here I’d like to address his naive comments about nuclear weapons.
(First, I find it appalling that he would “institute an independent … board to ensure that the Quadrennial Defense Review is not used to justify unnecessary spending.” In other words, plainly he does not trust the military, even in the person of the Secretary of Defense — whom he would appoint — and other appointees — whom he would appoint — who would oversee the QDR. But, in his defense, there’s no reason he should know much about what the QDR is or how it works, since he hasn’t been in the Senate very long. And by all accounts, considering how little work he accomplished there, he actually wasn’t in the Senate as long as he’s been a Senator.)
Now, the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons.” To use an overworked but still apt analogy, good luck putting that djinn back in the bottle.
As one who actually did grunt work in the field of nonproliferation (on the space technology side), I’m all for halting the spread of nuclear technologies in order to keep tyrants and crackpot ideologues from getting nukes. But what’s this happy horse manure about “hair trigger alert” and deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals? Perhaps it’s a good thing that a career civilian like the Senator doesn’t know about the safeguards in our nuclear command and control system, although it sounds as if he doesn’t believe they exist — or perhaps doesn’t trust them. But it seems almost shameful that someone who wants to be the Commander in Chief should be so unaware of how thin our nuclear arsenal has become over the last few years, as we’ve taken weapon systems offline (e.g., Peacekeeper) and not replaced them, that he would wish to cut it even more.
This is dangerous enough rhetoric, but I shudder to think how dangerous the world would be if he got the chance to put his ideas into action.
Which of my high school friends came up with that phrase, which we repeated at some point in almost every class? I think it was either Joe or Shawn, but it was so long ago I’ve forgotten the source. How long ago? In those days, many of us carried pocket knives — from Barlow, Boy Scout, and Swiss Army knives to more exotic blades like butterfly knives — to school without fear of reprisal; and not too many years before, an afternoon hunter could keep his shotgun in his locker during the school day.
But enough reminiscing.
What brought to mind that mantra of frustration? I thought of how sharply it contrasts with a Boston Globe article I read yesterday: “The joy of boredom,” by Carolyn Y. Johnson.
As [Richard Ralley, a lecturer in psychology at Edge Hill University in England] studied boredom, it came to make a kind of sense: If people are slogging away at an activity with little reward, they get annoyed and find themselves feeling bored. If something more engaging comes along, they move on. If nothing does, they may be motivated enough to think of something new themselves. The most creative people, he said, are known to have the greatest toleration for long periods of uncertainty and boredom.
The usefulness of boredom, in spurring us to explore new possibilities, makes sense. It seems that a key factor is what we find rewarding. I slogged away for years at writing THE ELEMENTS OF WAR, “with little reward” except my own satisfaction; frankly, it’s brought more than its share of disappointment (q.v. my entry yesterday). But the same is true for most of my writing. The internal reward keeps me going, even if the pursuit becomes difficult (and yes, boring).
Sometimes that internal reward is barely enough; I hope for more. I keep writing and sending out stories, etc., in my arrogant belief that they have worth beyond the confines of my own mind. So far the world mostly disagrees, so I labor — I slog away through the boredom and doubt — to prove the world wrong.
Boredom sets in … and I write.
If I weren’t ill, I would’ve found something else to do than reading so deeply into the classified ads today; but then I wouldn’t have found this gem on p. 14F of today’s News & Observer:
Evolving out of the evolutions (integral to each other) of Democracy (where every voice counts), Philosophy (where every action counts) & Love (where every love counts) .. is the word ‘surgeonsoldier.’
I haven’t quoted the whole thing, and I won’t, for the simple reason that it’s too confusing and convoluted to carry much meaning … which leads me to suspect it may be a code of some sort, intended only for those who know what it means.
This may be paranoia. Or it may be prudence. As my dad says, “Pay your money and take your choice.” I’ll take the latter.
It just seemed odd, so I dug around a little online: I found a similar item from last Sunday in the Google cache of the N&O, and one from 2004 in the classifieds of the East Carolinian. Last week’s N&O item quoted the East Carolinian item, including reference to “The Day … we ‘n 10 milyun [sic] surgeonsoldiers … proceeded to Bagdad [sic].” Today’s is even more cryptic, with its inclusion of a postscript to a mysterious “Report #389 (News Argus 11/05/00).”
What does it mean that “He returned to the mosque accompanied by 10,000 doctors … to begin the warming of the Cold Peace”? I have no idea. I just hope it isn’t what I’m afraid it might be.
As I type this, it’s not even 9 p.m., and I feel the need to go around the house and change all the clocks already.
Partly this stems from many years ago, when we showed up at church an hour late because we forgot the time change. Partly it stems from my own creeping forgetfulness.
What makes this annoying is that the change isn’t happening when it used to, but we have a nifty alarm clock that knows when it’s supposed to change and make the switch automatically. So, since Congress decided that it’s better to change the clocks earlier in the calendar, we’ll change that clock tonight only to have to change it again whenever the clock thinks the time has come.
Oh, the wonders of technology.
One of my favorite quotes, among all the quotes I keep handy, is a Robert A. Heinlein passage from his “Notebooks of Lazarus Long,”
A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.
I often think of that quote with respect to my somewhat schizophrenic approach to life; that is, my tendency to move from topic to topic, the way a bee moves from flower to flower, stopping only long enough to collect what I want and then moving on. I might examine something in depth for a little while, but eventually I will leave it for another interest or another project. And if I have a mental honeycomb to which I return, in which I try to produce something of worth out of the bits I’ve collected, I must admit that its output has been poor and its product too often unpalatable.
At times I think it might be better to have specialized, to have developed some level of expertise, to know a lot about a little instead of a little about a lot. Then I think that perhaps the world has enough experts, enough specialists, and being a generalist is not so bad.
Or maybe I’m just rationalizing my lack of focus and resolve.