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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 It never dawned on America's generals that maybe that kind of thinking was, to put it mildly, a bit obtuse and out of date in an era where wars tend to be asymmetrical.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 x-rayed.

Meanwhile, terrorists, seeing the response the shoe-bombing attempt had elicited, were moving on in their R&D labs, having abandoned the shoe experiment.

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.
 



SAMPLES, ANYONE?

*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 strange.

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 bottles. Yikes!
 



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:

"I 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%.


To respond, contact Bernard Weiner
at: crisispapers@hotmail.com .

 



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 projects.)

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 troupe).

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: crisispapers@hotmail.com .

Thanks. -- Bernie
 

 


More Bernard Weiner's Blogs

Spring, 2004 -- Summer, 2004 -- Autumn, 2004

2005 -- 2006 -- 2007 -- 2008 -- 2009 -- 2010

 


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances