The Invasion of Grenada
On October 25, 1983, the United States invaded the tiny Caribbean nation of Grenada ("Operation Urgent Fury"). The 1,500-strong Grenadian Army, along with 600 Cuban allies, were considered such a strategic threat to the Imperial Power that Ronnie Reagan sent in the Marines, lying through his teeth to his erstwhile ally Margaret Thatcher all the while.
Lest we forget: opposition to the power will be crushed ruthlessly no matter how petty it makes the power look.
We were in a local diner the other night. It is a place that markets itself to a younger transient market, looking for fast food. My wife and I did seem a little out of place. Perhaps that is why we sat near the back, away from the door. Anyway, the point is that the restaurant was playing the radio as its background music, and the music was classic pop and rock from the 1960s. I knew every tune, and the lyrics to most. The music was ours -- and forty years old or more!
I tried to imagine sitting in a coffee bar in London in the mid 1960s and listening to recordings of tea-dance music from the twenties. It never happened and never could have happened. In those days, we were still obliged to listen to the occasional Frank Sinatra or Perry Como tune; but they were from the 50s, just a decade before. Some of us reached back and appreciated the big bands of the 40s. But even that was twenty years or less before our time. Listening to 40-year old music would have been unthinkable. But today it is standard.
This reverie was triggered by a story in today's Boston Globe: "Some like it hot: how boomers' failing taste buds are shaping the future of American food." The article describes the increasing use of increasingly hot spices. Then asks the question:
"Why is hot so hot? The conventional explanation is that the nation has an increasingly adventurous palate. Immigration and prosperity have made Americans more sophisticated eaters, pushing wasabi peas into the mainstream, along with chili-Thai lime cashews, cayenne chocolate bars, and other high-octane combinations.
But some food scientists and market researchers think there is a more surprising reason for the broad nationwide shift toward bolder flavors: The baby boomers, that huge, youth-chasing, all-important demographic, are getting old."
You bet we are!
"Increased spiciness is just one of many ways the wealthiest, most influential demographic group in US history is changing how we eat. Market research shows boomers have helped drive consumer demand for organic foods, grab-and-go foods, nutritionally enhanced products, and fresh local produce.As boomers continue to age, they will almost certainly keep reshaping the American foodscape, ushering in the same kinds of changes they have brought to sectors of the economy as disparate as music and mutual funds. And as restaurants and food manufacturers come to terms with the surprising new preferences of older palates, their influence will affect what we see in stores and on menus for years to come."
It is an irony -- one that should have been forerseen by anyone with a single working neuron, but an irony nonetheless -- that the generation that made a fetish of youth and of distrusting age have become the dictatorial arbiters of taste; and a taste built entirely of their own nostalgia and failing bodies.
We should all have been shot on our thirtieth birthdays.
The Normalization of Totalitarianism
Do you ever watch "Without A Trace"? Every week, Anthony LaPaglia (Agent Jack Malone) and his crack crew of FBI investigators track down people who have been reported missing by relatives or friends, solving mysteries and crimes as they go.
In other words, an adult American crime-free citizen decides to go silent for a while. By having someone report them as "missing", this apparently gives the FBI the right to tear that missing person's life apart: tracking bank accounts, credit cards, travel records, phone lists, interrogating friends and colleagues, interviewing doctors and psychiatrists. And we cheer on their successes .
By what law can they do this? Is a judge supervising them? Isn't this the basest form of warrantless surveillance?
We applaud Jack Bauer in "24", as he uses whatever form of interrogation technique (i.e., torture) that he feels is required to obtain the information he thinks he needs. The last Bourne movie was about nothing but the government's abilities to track individuals anywhere in the world. Wherever we turn, there are attractive images of lawmen breaking the rules to ensure that "justice" wins in the end.
As Chomsky and Herman's "Propaganda Model" of media shows, this is the normalization of totalitarianism. If we accept -- neh, applaud -- these illegal actions on entertainment TV, we are more inclined to accept them in real life. This is a not an accident. This is what they want to see happen. This is what they need to happen if their plans for control are to be accomplished.
We need to fight back. Write to each network and studio and ask them to explain how the law enforcement officers in their series and movies can operate so wildly outside the laws required for you and me. Write, and write again. It is the least we can do, to show that we care about our loss of freedoms.
It's A Good Day to Smile
A Plan To Attack Iran
The wingnuts in the Bush Administration -- and outside it -- have clearly determined that an attack on Iran is required. Norman Podhoretz (now Giuliani's foreign affairs mentor) almost demands it. Bush in his press conference today talked of World War III. They have just 15 months to get this done, though, before the next Democratic President sweeps into office.
But I don't think Bush will have the balls for it. I think he will worry about his historical place, having already weakened the US military through his commander-in-chief blunders in Afghanistan and Iraq. But I think he still wants to attack Iran. A quandary, unless ... Bush resigns and allows Cheney to run the balance of his term.
Cheney, of course, has nothing but a negative legacy to protect, so why would he worry? On Day One he moves his furniture in, on day two he sends the Marines and the bombers into Iran.
Vancouver, East To The Fraser Valley
"A nightmare with no end in sight."
How about this as a headline in the Stars and Stripes newspaper's Middle East edition:
How about this as a headline in the Stars and Stripes newspaper's Middle East edition:
"Sanchez, former commander in Iraq, calls war 'a nightmare with no end in sight'."
The story is about a speech given by retired Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to a convention of military
journalists on Friday. Sanchez commanded U.S. troops in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004. His speech continued:
The story is about a speech given by retired Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez to a convention of military journalists on Friday. Sanchez commanded U.S. troops in Iraq from June 2003 to July 2004. His speech continued:
"From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power."
Changes in military strategy will only “stave off defeat,” he said. When asked why he didn't speak up when he was in power, even after he realized "there were serious challenges to the U.S. military’s
strategy in Iraq", he waffled:
Changes in military strategy will only “stave off defeat,” he said. When asked why he didn't speak up when he was in power, even after he realized "there were serious challenges to the U.S. military’s strategy in Iraq", he waffled:
"The last thing that America wants, the last thing that you want, is for currently serving general officers to stand up against our political leadership ... I think once you are retired, you have a responsibility to the nation, to your oath, to the country, to state your opinion."
I must have it wrong. I thought the taxpayers paid good money to these generals specifically to state their military opinions and to live up to their responsibilities to the nation -- not to any particular Administration.
Still, it is a sobering headline for the troops to read in the armed forces' classic newspaper.
Beep, beep, beep.....
I was just a few weeks away from my 8th birthday when my father sat me on his knee specifically to listen to our old radio spit out some strange sounds -- "Beep. Beep. Beep." Even through the static we knew we had never heard the like of it before.
On October 4th, 1957 -- just fifty years ago -- the space age began with the launch by the Soviet Union of Sputnik, the first man-made satellite. I'm sure the surprise in the US was far greater than we felt in Europe. We Europeans were already terrified of the power of the grey beasts just a few hundred miles to the east of our cozy nest in West London. It seemed to many that Russian tanks could overrun Europe at any moment, and the technological genius of Sputnik simply confirmed our anxiety.
But again, there was always that secret spot inside that reveled in the fact that a European power had beaten the Americans into space. And for my socialist grandfather and his cadre of friends, it was yet another sign that the Workers' Paradise was superior in every respect to the Mickey Mouse- and Doris Day-loving capitalists.
In the end, I'm sure this had little to do with the ultimate end of the Cold War. The costs of the space race were minuscule compared to the economy-shuddering trillions spent on the arms race by both sides. But without Sputnik and all that followed, we would be a very different and more distanced world today.