Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Obama's War

Many moons ago, in a blog that may still exist in some wasted and forgotten corner of the web, I wrote that the two most dangerous terror exporting countries in the world are Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. This belief persists. While either country presents its own unique set of problems and challenges, I feel that at this particular historical moment, Pakistan proves a worthy locus of examination.

Not so long ago, Presidential candidate Barack Obama stated that he would, as president, authorize an incursion into Pakistani sovereign territory if it meant capturing Bin Laden, and presumably any top Al-Qaeda leadership. McCain pounced unflinchingly, suggesting that Obama's statement - advocating a military action against an "ally" - reflected his lack of foreign policy experience and his lack of understanding on how to deal with complex global issues.

Now, it is a distinct possibility that what I am about to say will be lost on the average American. Despite our deep involvement in South Asia, it remains an ill-understood region. A blog is perhaps not the best place for a lecture on Pakistan 101, but let it be said simply that Pakistan has been engaged in colonial action in Afghanistan for the last 15-20 years, and this has largely been at the command and control of the Punjabi military elite and everyone's favorite intelligence service, the ISI.

Afghanistan may not have become a haven for Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan may not have become a country ripe for the kind of ultra-paternalist brutality of the Taliban. Without ISI inteference, Ahmad Shah Masood may well have taken control of Kabul, and kept the opium funded warlords out. Make no mistake, the chaos in Afghanistan and the lawlessness in places like Wazirastan are no accident, but rather the result of duplicity and machination. Pakistan has held imperial ambitions on Afghanistan since Pakistan's very birth. The chaos of the last 20 years have given it its finest opportunity.

Obama has implied publicly what many won't dare speak out loud. Pakistan is not a reliable partner in trying to rid the world of Al-Qaeda. Pakistan's ambitions are solely her own. The sooner we realize this as a nation, the sooner we can stop wasting vital resources supporting corrupt military regimes in a country whose relationship with democracy is casual at best. Some support will remain necessary, particularly with regards the protection of nuclear weapons and materials within Pakistan, but this can be done with an international effort, and does not require a "special" bilateral relationship.

Staying in bed with lesser demons to get the devil out of your house sounds at best like many nights spent in hell.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The wasted suburbs

Today I made use of Sacramento public transit for the first time. A beautiful morning began with a brisk sunlit walk through downtown with my lovely partner, then onto the sac to roseville commuter bus. A quick twenty miles down interstate 80, and I emerged on the street in front of the Westfield galleria, just blocks from my office. Someone else did the driving while I read, and I even got some exercise. Brilliant.

I know that having a car means getting home sooner,which proves critical if little Cody needs a ride to ballet, or little Katie a lift to b-ball practice. I, not being possessed of little ones, have found another valuable reason for having a car in a place like Roseville. Put simply, to avoid having to experience the absolute crap land use that defines contemporary suburbia.

Above is an example of a sidewalk and setback on a major arterial. The concrete sidewalk is about fifteen feet wide, plus landscaping that pushes to ten feet in spots. Then the setback begins, fifty feet on some spots. What's the reason for this depth?Ostensibly, the size of the arterial requires such a distance. But if that is true, why not increase the greenspace, or the bike lane? I was the only one walking, and I don't need fifteen feet of sidewalk.

It has been said that suburbanization is perhaps the greatest misuse of resources in human history. Get out of your cars and start looking around, and ask yourself, is this really the best we can do?

-- Post From My iPhone

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Joe six pack is a drunk

I have, on occasion, been accused of being a hippy. No, I don't wear tie-dye t-shirts nor do I insist on the consciousness-expanding possibilities of certain pharmcopia (anymore). I don't smell of patchouli, and I can only name two dead songs, one from the 80's. Yet, I must ask the question, as has been asked before, what's so funny about peace love and understanding? Nothing really, I'm all for, um, that. I agrre with hippies and their hippy-like ilk on a number of issues. I think we should all just get along, man. I just try not to say it with a slack jaw while moving my long hair to that place behind my ears from whence it will inevitably fall again as soon as I look down to lip the bong. I like to think of it as the substance without the style.

Similarly, there are things, very few things mind you, that are said by conservatives that I actually agree with. If I may revisit the Costello lyric, what's so funny about small government and fiscal responsibility? I don't expect I will become a NASCAR fan anytime soon, or give up drinking imported beer. For me, it's all about substance not style.

So, dear reader, you may well inquire why I am telling you all of this. I imagine most of us believe ourselves to be basically moderate in our views. Sure, we might self-identify with one or the other end of the ideological spectrum. However, the so-called cultural divide tends to wither once we get some distance from the talking heads of the 24 hour news cycle and engage in everyday life.

Friends, the challenges that confront us do not require hockey moms, or joe six pack, or even liberal progressives. They require simply that we start being grown ups, being honest with ourselves and each other, while resisting the blitz of polarization and misrepresentation. It's the right thing to do.