An old friend of mine died recently. Well, I mean he wasn’t an “old friend.” He was in his late 70s (which I think still qualifies as “old”) and he was a friend, even though I was privileged to know him for only five or six years. Still, his passing leaves a pretty big gap in my life, and I think I know why.
John was a dabbler, a sort of Renaissance man, if you will. And you just don’t see a whole lot those around anymore, not in this age of narrowly defined interests. He was a courtly man, a retired cab driver who thought of himself as an artist. He was an accomplished painter. He could sculpt. He wrote poetry, which wasn’t very good, and prose, which was top notch. He played some classical guitar and fooled around with the piano. He was a lifelong scuba diver who hunted abalone up the coast and had once been a competitive swimmer. He traveled the world several times over. He spoke a couple of languages. He was married three or four times. (He never got the hang of domesticity apparently, but he always spoke fondly of his exes.)
He was one of those larger-than-life guys who always made you smile when he hove into view.
But he never learned how to use a computer. What’s more, he never had any interest in learning. For John, life existed “out there,” not on a screen. He never owned a cell phone, or any phone, for that matter. Didn’t have a TV. Probably never heard of an iPod. But he was one of the most interesting people I’ve ever known.
This story caught my eye because I’ve known and still do know a few people that remind me of John. The ones I know don’t reject technology , but they do pick and choose. All being individuals and individualists they each seem to have a a personal criteria for technology that they feel they can master and does not take too much control of them. One of them is a bit of a net addict, but he watched very little television and could careless about the newest movie release. There is a price we pay for the age of hyper specialization and every new technology. Remember Spencer Tracy as Henry Drummond in Inherit the Wind where in one extended dialogue he mentions how the telephone enabled faster communication, but at the expense of privacy. I can’t help but admire the folks that see technology as a buffet and they’ll only take what they need, not all that they could have.
The central premise of the ISG report is fatally flawed. It proposes to support an Iraqi government that doesn’t exist, and to strengthen an Iraqi army that is not a national army but an array of sectarian and ethnic militias.
It proposes to withdraw perhaps 70,000 to 100,000 US combat forces by early 2008, but to quadruple US trainers and other experts to strengthen the Iraqi armed forces. Problem is, those Iraqi forces are nearly entirely made up of Shiites and Kurds, including tens of thousands of Shiite militiamen and Kurdish peshmerga forces. That means that strengthening the Iraqi army simply bolsters two sides in a three-sided civil war. (Incidentally, nowhere in the Iraq Study Group report do the words “civil war” appear.) Baker and Hamilton say: “The primary mission of U.S. forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi army.” But they don’t even try to explain how that might work, since the Iraqi army is utterly broken and filled with sectarian and ethnic loyalists.
Officially, at least for the next couple of months we stand at the edge of a fissure. Not the one between Democrats and conservatives, but between Bush Sr. more realistic world view(Baker-Hamilton are Bush Sr surrogates) and the neocons. Of course the rapid Right that has reached full bloom under the
Rove-Cheney Bush presidency think they’re the only ones that know how to drive the car even if it is off a cliff. Its interesting to see at least a couple of the more rabid wing-nuts try to sell all of this as some kind of Democratic surrender to the jihadists. There were no Democrats on the Iraq Group panel. So yet again Democrats are supposedly the puppet masters that pull the strings that make Republicans do the things they do.
Summary: Media Matters for America has identified six findings in the Iraq Study Group’s report that major news outlets have largely overlooked. They include: that the Pentagon has significantly underreported the extent of violence in Iraq, that U.S. officials possess little knowledge about the sources of the ongoing attacks, and that the situation in Afghanistan has grown so dire that U.S. troops may need to be diverted there from Iraq.
Well come on. Bill, Meredith, Katie, Brit, Matt and the like all have their little castles in Connecticut to manage. They can hardly be expected to waste their time on research and actual reportage.
“I lose my temper, but it’s all over in a minute,” said the student. “So is the hydrogen bomb,” I replied. “But think of the damage it produces!”
“The great thing about irony is that it splits things apart, gets up above them so we can see the flaws and hypocrisies and duplicates.”
David Foster Wallace