Saturday, December 27, 2008

Life Imitates Art

Art and life often imitate one another. Bookworm sees a similarity between a New York Times photo from today's Israeli retaliatory assault on Palestinian Gaza and Michelangelo's Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica. The resemblance is striking and, I think, less than accidental, if not in actuality, then certainly not in editorial judgement.

Another affecting photo in the NYT photo essay immediately recalled for me the Girl in the Redcoat scene from the film "Schindler's List". The muted redcoat stands in ambiguous contrast in an otherwise black and white film and draws our attention to an anonymous little girl. In the cinematic arc created by Spielberg, we see the girl in the redcoat dodging the NAZIs and eventually making her way into an empty house to hide under a bed. Later, we momentarily see the redcoat on a cart filled with corpses.

The NYT photo is a muted gray caused by the dust thrown up by the Israeli bomb explosions. Very little color shows through. But our eye is drawn to an orange jacketed figure in the amorphous mass of people.

Are we supposed to feel sympathetic toward the man and those around him as we did for the girl in the redcoat? Are we to wonder what has happened to him? Is he dead? Did he survive? If a sympathetic response is intended, I simply don't have any.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Better Intel with Viagra

As if there weren't enough Muslims in the world, the CIA is handing out Viagra to Afghan tribal leaders with flaccid libidos so they can rape their child brides.

The Afghan chieftain looked older than his 60-odd years, and his bearded face bore the creases of a man burdened with duties as tribal patriarch and husband to four younger women. His visitor, a CIA officer, saw an opportunity, and reached into his bag for a small gift.

Four blue pills. Viagra.

"Take one of these. You'll love it," the officer said. Compliments of Uncle Sam.

[T]he man was a clan leader in southern Afghanistan who had been wary of Americans -- neither supportive nor actively opposed. The man had extensive knowledge of the region and his village controlled key passages through the area. U.S. forces needed his cooperation and worked hard to win it, the retired operative said.

After a long conversation through an interpreter, the retired operator began to probe for ways to win the man's loyalty. A discussion of the man's family and many wives provided inspiration. Once it was established that the man was in good health, the pills were offered and accepted.

Four days later, when the Americans returned, the gift had worked its magic, the operative recalled.

"He came up to us beaming," the official said. "He said, 'You are a great man.' "

"And after that we could do whatever we wanted in his area."
Isn't this how we got into this mess in the first place - handing out gifts of guns and Stinger missiles to Mujaheddin commanders like Osama bin Laden? We were hailed as heroes then, too. Until it backfired and we were attacked decades later. In about twenty years, the Viagra babies will be old enough to join the jihad against today's great men.

"Whatever it takes to make friends and influence people -- whether it's building a school or handing out Viagra," said one longtime agency operative and veteran of several Afghanistan tours.
Great, just great.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Wish

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thank You, El Salvador

El Salvador will withdraw their 200 remaining troops from Kut, Iraq sometime after Dec 31, 2008. El Salvador has had troops deployed in Iraq since August 2003 as part of the UN coalition force led by the U.S. and, along with Honduras, were the only representatives of Latin America to participate in the freeing of 28 million people and the toppling of a tyrant.

The majority of their work has been humanitarian like building roads, health clinics, and schools. In Iraq, even humanitarian duties are deadly; five Salvadoran soldiers have been killed and 20 wounded. From an Army once linked to death squads during the disastrous civil war, it is now one of the most respected institutions in El Salvador.

President Tony Saca said Iraqi President Jalal Talibani wrote him a letter requesting that Salvadoran troops remain. However, Iraq never followed-up on the request, so his troops will leave at the end of the UN mandate. Saca said, "We haven’t received, in recent days, any request from the Iraqi parliament or Iraqi authorities... If we had received something recently, my decision would have been to keep the troops in Iraq."

In the five years that Salvadoran soldiers have been in Iraq, they have completed 350 health, education and infrastructure projects that benefited an estimated 7 million Iraqis.

"As president of this country and as the commanding officer of its armed forces, we should be happy with our participation in Iraq," Saca said. "We have helped rebuild a large part of the Iraqi area."
El Salvador and Salvadorans should be proud of the service they've rendered and the world should be grateful that this tiny nation with so many problems of their own stepped up to help others half way around the world. Despite the 81% war disapproval, Salvadorans will eventually be happy they came to the aid of others.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Wanted: More Washingtons in Washington

Tuesday, December 23, 1783.

Possibly the most important date in American history that is mostly unknown. On that day at 12 o'clock, General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army offered his commission in resignation to the the Congress.

In the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, many citizens, high and low class alike, clamored for Washington to be crowned King of America, King George. Washington wanted none of it and resigned from public service rather than become a king, after all, freedom from the capriciousness of royalty was why the late war was fought. It was, however, expected of the victorious commander of the conquering army to take the crown. That is what nearly all victorious generals of the past had done. By refusing the crown, George Washington acted committed the single most important act by an individual citizen in this nation's history and left its fate in the hands of a civilian government.

Speaking to the President of the Senate, Members of Congress, and various other officials and guests, Gen'l Washington quietly intoned,

Mr. President:

The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulations to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country.

Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence. A diffidence in my abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which however was superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our Cause, the support of the Supreme Power of the Union, and the patronage of Heaven.

The Successful termination of the War has verified the most sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of Providence, and the assistance I have received from my Countrymen, increases with every review of the momentous Contest.

While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge in this place the peculiar Services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen who have been attached to my person during the War. It was impossible the choice of confidential Officers to compose my family should have been more fortunate. Permit me Sir, to recommend in particular those, who have continued in Service to the present moment, as worthy of the favorable notice and patronage of Congress.

I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act of my Official life, by commending the Interests of our dearest Country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the superintendence of them, to his holy keeping.

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.
From a simple desire to return home for Christmas dinner and having had enough of public service, George Washington handed in his resignation and within hours was on his horse headed for hearth and home. We need more Washingtons in Washington today.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Bit of Peace and Taste of Christmas Come to Iraq

Army Gen. Ray Odierno, ranking commander of US forces in Iraq, spoke with the APs Chelsea Carter Saturday saying he will make a decision about US troop deployments in early spring following the January provincial elections. He reckons the two month time period will allow time enough to deal with any violence that may flair up and ensure that those elected to office can actually take office. The time is also needed to redeploy troops to southern Iraq to replace the departing British troops.

According to an Iraqi military official, violence has dropped precipitously across the entire war ravaged country. It's not exactly peace, but the level of killing has "returned to pre-war levels" and that's got to count for something.

In 2006, U.S. forces tried to hand over security in parts of Iraq to security forces only to have them collapse in the face of sectarian violence and insurgent attacks.

Iraqi forces are responsible for security in 13 of the 18 provinces, with coalition forces available for help if requested.

There has been an 86 percent decline in violence this year from last year, Iraqi army Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta said Sunday. Attacks have dropped from 180 a day last year to about 10 a day this year. He also said rates of killings had declined to below pre-war levels, about one per 100,000 people.
Too bad the good guys aren't winning the war. If we were winning the war then Iraq might be able to publicly celebrate Christmas with Santa Claus and a large poster of Jesus Christ in Baghdad on Sunday.

Oh, wait! For the first time ever, Iraqis did publicly celebrate Christmas with Santa and Jesus on Sunday without violence, bombs, and killing. The celebration was sponsored by the Interior Ministry and was cordoned by armed troops.

The event takes place in a public park in eastern Baghdad, ringed with security checkpoints. Interior Ministry forces deployed on surrounding rooftops peer down at the scene: a Christmas tree decorated with ornaments and tinsel; a red-costumed Santa Claus waving to the crowd, an Iraqi flag draped over his shoulders; a red-and-black-uniformed military band playing stirring martial music, not Christmas carols.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq's many ethnic and religious groups -- Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite -- hold their hands aloft and sing "We are building Iraq!" Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.
Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf said, "All Iraqis are Christian today!"

Oh, wouldn't that be nice... no Muslim terrorists to spoil a perfectly good day ever again.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

From Aussie Iron Ore to Toyota Corolla Sold in America

Globalization has been coming since ... forever. The first time one guy from over there traded with a guy from over here, globalization has been coming. Every act of trading has been one more baby step on the way to globalization.

PARADE Contributing Editor Simon Winchester wanted to find out just how intertwines the world economy really is, so he followed iron ore from Earth to final product.

At an iron-ore mine in western Australia, I once stood and watched as a young man worked an excavator to claw bucketfuls of deep-red ore from the ground. For a project, I wanted to follow the ore on its journey from raw material to finished product. So I went on a train that took it to a port, then traveled on the Chinese ship that carried it to Japan. There it was refined into steel ingots, which were sent to a factory outside Tokyo and fashioned into a Toyota Corolla. Next I got on a mighty ship carrying thousands of Toyota imports across the Pacific Ocean to Seattle.

The car made from my ore--small, red, sporty--was unloaded in Washington and put on a truck. I rode with it to a dealer in San Francisco, where I bought the car. Then I drove it to a port and put it, and me as well, onto a Norwegian passenger liner bound for Australia. Ten days later, I unloaded and drove the car to the cliff face and to the young excavator operator.

"Here," I said to him, pointing at the car. "This is what your bucketful of iron ore made." He was astonished. Astonished that I had come back to see him. Astonished that his pile of ore had been made into a car. But most astonished of all to learn that so many people--Chinese, Japanese, American, Norwegian--from so many countries had been involved in the process. "I guess we are all linked," he said. "Even if we never think we are."
That's a happy ending, but there is always a cloud in the silver lining. The Earth isn't really getting smaller, in fact, it's actually getting bigger by nearly 40,000 tons of cosmic dust deposited on the planet every year. But the world certainly is getting smaller by improved real time communications, material exchanges between entities that depend upon trade with far flung locales. I work for a company that makes battery chargers for communications stations requiring self-contained power. Our power supply units are made in Taiwan and Italy without which we do not have a product to sell. Globalization effects me directly.

Along with raw materials and products come ideas both good and bad. Physicists in Chicago can conduct experiments in Switzerland without leaving home. Terrorists can likewise kill hundreds of people halfway across the world without leaving their camel skin tents. Without globaization, science collaboration would not take place and Muslim killers would only kill their own.

Globalization effects all of us in America and everyone one else around the globe. Winchester writes,

Almost all events, no matter how far away, have an effect on us. Upheaval in Bolivia? That could mean a shortage of cellphone batteries down the road. (Bolivia has the world's largest reserves of lithium, vital to small batteries.) War in the Democratic Republic of Congo? We may have to produce fewer jets, since Congo is a leading exporter of cobalt, a metal crucial to jet engines. More dramatically, if the conflict heats up between Pakistan and India, then nuclear annihilation threatens, since they both have atomic weapons. And yet how much do most Americans know about Bolivia, Congo, Pakistan, or India?
And lots of other stuff, too. From Tanzania comes tanzanite which is the metal in every cellphone that makes them work. From Central America we get bananas that give our bodies potassium so we can work properly. From Pakistan we get clerks for our 7/11 stores and gas stations. Globalization is here and it's here to stay. We've come too far to quit now.

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.