Bernard Weiner's Blog -- 2009
December 28, 2009
Fighting the "Last War"
Large institutions cannot make swift changes, about anything. First of all,
institutions like certainly, regularity, dependability -- they're not very
amenable to spontaneous action or re-thinking their approaches as they act.
As a result, large institutions -- for example, government bureaucracies --
tend to stultify, ossify, calcify. You get the picture:
They don't like to move forward. They keep looking backward, repeating what
they think worked before, in the vain belief that what worked before will
keep working, regardless of changes in circumstance.
It's a truism that generals are always fighting the last war. Case in point:
The U.S. invading and occupying Iraq in 2003 with a huge armed forced (heavy
on tanks and fighter jets) designed to do battle with a similarly armed
force. It never dawned on America's generals that maybe that kind of
thinking was, to put it mildly, a bit obtuse and out of date in an era where
wars tend to be asymmetrical. (That is, it's not uniformed army against
uniformed army anymore. It's guerrillas and insurgents and angry populations
that are fighting you.)
TERRORISM ON AIRPLANES
Another example: reactions to terrorist plots on commercial jets.
A few years ago, a passenger attempted to set fire to some explosive powder
in a his shoe. He wasn't having any luck doing so, and passengers quickly
jumped him. Even though the attempt did not, and probably could not work in
the real world, and because of rumors of mini-explosives, suddenly all air
passengers were forbidden to bring bottles of water on a plane (or anything
in a tube larger than 2 oz.)* and had to remove their shoes and have them
Meanwhile, terrorists, seeing the response the shoe-bombing attempt had
elicited, were moving on in their R&D labs, having abandoned the shoe
And so we come to last week's attempt by a Nigerian passenger to explode
some powder strapped to his leg just prior to the plane's landing in
Detroit. Again, a botched experiment, with passengers jumping the guy.
The reaction? Or rather the over-reaction?:
Within just a few hours, new policies were in force, with little thought to
their impacts on passengers, airline and airport operations and schedules,
and common sense. For example, now passengers are confined to their seats
during the final hour of a commercial jet's flight and cannot have any of
their purses or carry-on bags near them (they must be stowed in the overhead
compartments), they can't have pillows or blankets, and they can't go to the
toilet without getting what amounts to a hall pass from the school monitor.
No doubt, would-be terrorists will be moving on to further refinements of
their attempts to bring down another airplane, but they probably won't be
trying the syringe into the thigh-powder experiment anymore. (Or, if they
do, they will do the set-up before the hour curfew begins.)
PRAY FOR STRONG BLADDER MUSCLES
Of course, the TSA and airlines will still be fighting the last war, so to
speak, by keeping people with potential thrombosis problems sitting in their
seats, by keeping passengers with weak bladders from visiting the toilet, by
keeping people who are chilly without their blankets from keeping warm, etc.
It's easier to disrupt airplane traffic and keep passengers inconvenienced
on long flights than to figure out how to detect would-be bombers and their
explosives at the security area before they get on the planes.
*A funny story about unintended consequences of these airline regulations:
I was in transit at London's Heathrow Airport two years ago, standing in
very long, snaking line leading to the security-inspectors. As several
hundred of us in-transit passengers moved closer to the security area, we
had to step over discarded bottles of water, shampoo, medications, etc. Very
As we entered the security area, there were employees wearing sandwich
boards that listed the rules of what could not be brought onto the planes.
Along with the verbiage were actual bottles of water, shampoos, and such
taped to the sandwich board -- examples so that foreigners who might not be
able to read the English text might be alerted as to what was prohibited.
I saw several thirsty passengers, presumably foreigners, walk up to the
sandwich-board employees and try to buy their displayed water and shampoo
THE END OF PRIVACY
Already, there have been reports of stewardesses barging into toilets while
passengers are inside doing their business, because the flight attendants
thought "too much time" had elapsed and were suspicious.
A few days ago, a plane landed and taxied to the end of the runway, where
phalanxes of police surrounded the jet -- because an innocent Nigerian
passenger, suffering, shall we say, internal difficulties, had taken a long
time in the toilet. God help you if you're constipated!
I say: Why not just go straight to nude flights, with videocameras in the
toilets, and have done with it?
Everyone wants, above all, a safe, secure flight. But surely there are
excesses being carried out, based on the "last war" tendency, that are
causing untold delays and discomforts and over-reactions on the part of
security personnel. It's time for some common-sense to prevail in the
bureaucracy. Or, in American politics, is that too much to hope for?
MATALIN STEPS IN IT
Finally, on the topic of terrorism, here's a stunner. One expects Republican
ideologues to lie and deceive -- it's what they do. But rarely do they do it
in such a self-defeating way:
I'm referring to the following statement on national TV the other day by
Mary Matalin , who a former aide to then Vice President Dick Cheney:
was there. We inherited a recession from President Clinton and we
inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's
history. And President Bush dealt with it. And within a year of his
presidency at this comparable time, unemployment was at 5 percent. And
we were creating jobs."
Did Matalin really think that nobody would remember that the 9/11 terrorist
attacks happened nine months into George W. Bush's presidency?
Blogger Atrios sums up her lying idiocy:
Obviously the real
obscenity is that 9 months into Bush's presidency, after Operation
Ignore, he inherited the WTC/Pentagon attacks, but she's even full of
shit on unemployment. It was much better than it is now, of course, but
5.7%, rising eventually to 6.3%, isn't 5%.
December 15, 2009
GETTING BACK MY POLITICAL GROOVE
It's common knowledge that long-term
marriages can benefit from vacations, sometimes even separate vacations. You
go off, enjoy yourself doing non-regular things, and come back refreshed,
often seeing the lay of the land in fresh ways.
The same is true with taking a break from
websites and blogging.
I've been off political writing for nearly
nine months -- a vacation, as it were, from keeping up with the daily,
nitty-gritty details absorbing the D.C. Beltway -- and now I'm easing my way
back into trying to make sense of what passes for political discourse in
America but which more and more resembles the theatre of the absurd. (In
case you're wondering, my "holiday" was filled mostly with creative art
So, over the next few months, this
political junkie will be offering my (I hope) refreshed findings on how
America got to this sad pass and what can be done about moving it in more
rational, successful, moral directions.
I'm also considering using this renewed
blog space as not only a place to discuss the political news of the day but
also to let readers in on the "other side" of me. I'm contemplating
inserting some of my better photographs and texts of my most recent plays.
In some cases, there might even be an overlap:
Since lately I've been writing
politically-themed plays, putting those scripts in the blog -- or at least
linked to in the blog -- makes a certain amount of sense. Plus, who knows? A
producer or activist group might actually find them interesting enough to
present them in their home communities, be they in Berlin or Boston, and
thus stir up thought and discussion.
I have three such scripts -- all of which
have been presented in public performances here in the Bay Area -- under
consideration: "Good Eye" (about a photographer who inadvertently captures
an image the government wants to keep secret); "The Big D" (set a year from
now, the recession/depression and the choosing up of revolutionary and
counter-revolutionary sides); and "Playing for Peace" (a drama and comedy of
romance, religion, politics inside a joint Israeli/Palestinian theatre
I hope to have the scripts (or links to
the scripts) up on this website some time early in the new year.
PEERING AT GLOBAL WARMING
As I listen to anti-science
"conservatives" express their doubts as to the reality of global warming,
I'm reminded of that old saying, updated: "Who you gonna believe, Sarah
Palin or your own lying eyes?"
A few years ago, I decided to travel to
Alaska to see the glaciers while they were still available to be seen;
several months ago, I was hiking in the Swiss Alps and saw the glaciers
there. In both cases, as locals were quick to verify, it was clear to all of
us viewing the spectacle (and comparing what we were seeing with satellite
photographs from 1970 and earlier) that the glaciers were pulling back
significantly, joining the fastly-melting ice shelves in and near the Arctic
and Antarctic in speeding up the rise in ocean levels.
The other day on the network news, there
was a story about residents in low-lying islands off the Louisiana coast
having to move their community to the mainland because global warming was
raising sea-levels even in their tiny part of the world. Some day not in the
distant future, surfers will be hanging 10 over Iowa, so to speak.
It seems all that it takes for far-right
"conservatives" (read: close-minded rightists) to close their eyes to what
the rest of us are looking at is a winter storm dumping ice and snow on
their lawns, and so they accept what their rightwing political and religious
leaders tell them about the "hoax" that supposedly is global warming.
But insurance companies are doing their
own studies about what the costs will be to them as the oceans continue to
rise, and the Pentagon is classifying climate change as a "national
security" matter. When that is happening, you know that eventually even the
rightwing lunatics will have to recognize the reality we all face in the
world that is heating up as we speak.
But the name of their game is to delay,
delay, delay, so that the right-wing's mega-corporate sponsors can continue
to make big money in the absence of governmental regulation of their waste
into the air and water. Greed over goodness every time.
We may all choke on the air we breathe,
get cancers from the water we drink, die from melanomas as a result of
unfiltered sunshine, face the oceans pouring through our downtowns -- but
unfettered capitalism will triumph. It's enough to make one cry in sorrow
for the pettiness that passes for politics in the 21st Century.
OPEN FOR BUSINESS & E-MAILS
Since The Crisis Papers has been on hiatus
for most of 2009, we'd love to hear from you, our readers, to let us know
that someone is out there once again listening and reacting. Contact us at:
Thanks. -- Bernie
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