Saturday, January 2, 2010

The State of the World, 2010

It's the second day of the New Year, of the Second Decade, of the New Millennium and as the sun slowly fades in late afternoon the view from the 14th floor is nothing so much as frigid. The National Weather Service tells me it's 7 degrees (real temperature, not wind chill) in Streeterville. Having just come in from the outdoors, the Streeterville Weather Service tells me that it's colder than an Inuit at midnight on the Winter Solstice, and that's pretty darned cold.

New years always give one pause for reflection on the state of things, and new years that are also the beginning of new decades, that are part of a new millennium that hasn't really sunk in yet, well those really give one pause to reflect on the great questions of the day. Do they still call that movie company 20th Century Fox? If so, why? It's clearly the 21st century, and 10 years into it at that. That's right up there with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Utah Jazz on the absurd list. Of course the Big Ten Conference having 11 teams is also a real puzzler. These are universities for goodness sakes. Can't they count? If not, our future is in really sad shape.

On the economic front, unemployment is still running high, though not among people who read this blog. Amazingly enough, most people who read this are college graduates, many with advanced degrees. Go figure. There's seemingly no end of useless drivel that otherwise intelligent people will read to keep from having to do something that's actually useful. I seriously doubt, as well, that there is a statistical correlation between reading this blog and being employed. I'm not suggesting that unemployed people start reading my blog so they can become employed, although, they might be entertained. It's just a happenstance that many of my friends and relatives, and hopeless liberals who read this stuff are college grads and have a job. This is not likely to change, barring the apocalypse, in which case "Views From the 14th Floor" may fall by the wayside.

On the war front, the War in Iraq is still on, though I hear vague rumors that the U.S. is in the process of withdrawing troops a little at a time. I also hear vague rumors that U.S. casualties there are on the decline there. Not as many U.S. troops there to piss off the locals and get killed I guess. From all reports, though, Iraqis are still busy killing other Iraqis via car bombs and suicide vests, etc. Just goes to show that if there are no Americans left to target, there's always each other. Lots of room for enmity there, Shiites vs. Sunnis vs. Kurds who can always take on the Iranians next door if that starts to wane. Business as usual.

On the Afghan front American casualties continue. There was this whole thing about sending an additional 30,000 troops there. Get em out of Iraq. Send em to Afghanistan. The operating theory here is that a significant number of additional troops will be able to squash the Taliban and Al Qaida. (Is it my imagination, or didn't they use to spell Qaida Q-a-e-d-a?) Meanwhile the Taliban and Al-Qaida are hiding out next door in Pakistan and the Pakistani government has communicated to the U.S. that they're getting pissed off about all the drone attacks on the Taliban and Al-Qaida on their soil. Well if they'd get off their Pakistani asses and attack the Islamic extremists themselves, we wouldn't have to. Did I mention that the Pakistani government is corrupt, unstable, and prone to military takeovers, and they have nuclear weapons? What would happen if Islamic extremists took over the Pakistani government? Hmmmm. Oh boy, we have our work cut out for us there.

The boys in Washington are assuring us, however, that we'll start bringing them home a little at a time, sometime next year. I'm not putting any money on that one. That would be like betting on the Cubs to come out of their 100+ year funk and suddenly win the World Series. Possible, but not a good bet when you consider the odds. Count on U.S. military being involved in some way in the Middle East for a long time yet. Speaking of Middle East, who decides where the Middle of the East is, if the world is round? For that matter, where is East. East to me may be really different than to someone in, say China.

All of this brings up the point that, in the 21st century, 10 years into the 21st century, why are we still using terms like Middle East and Far East, that were invented by Europeans when they controlled the globe, when centers have power have obviously shifted? For the record, the Europeans have higher unemployment than we do. The Europeans are reluctant to do anything military because they think the Americans will. The Europeans don't even make the best wines anymore. Germans and Italians still make some kick ass cars, and the Italians still make some fine clothes. All in all, though, if you're looking for innovation and positive change for the world, you don't go looking in Europe for innovators. Great place to go for vacations, however.

At this point, the 800 pound gorilla in the room is Asia, and just any part of Asia. Japan bought into American and European derived modes a long time ago. We're talking about China and India. 1/3 of all the people on the planet live in China or India. They are both making incredible strides in industry, and in pollution as well. Now there's a real symbol of an advancing society. They are readying themselves to challenge the Americans and the Europeans for economic dominance and dare I say it, military dominance. Did I mention that both of those nations possess nuclear weapons, and a hell of a lot more people than we have? Did I mention that the Chinese are moving into the business of launching satellites? Did I mention that the Indians are moving into movie production and software development in a big way? In my humble opinion, not such great places to go for vacations, however. They have a way to go yet.

The thing is, with greatness comes all kinds of other stuff, like military commitments. The Chinese and the Indians have not yet arrived at this point. They still count on the U.S. and the Europeans to keep order in the larger world. There will come a time when they will be asked to shoulder their fair share of the burden. Want the U.S. out of Afghanistan and Pakistan? Guess who's right next door? China and India.

At any rate, this is the state of the world, as it stands on this 2nd day of January in 2010. Is it going to hell in a hand cart? Is the apocalypse imminent? Nah! There's still a lot of greatness in the U.S. There's still a lot to be said for our nation, our way of life. There's a lot of promise yet in the mix. We just have to keep working at it. And we have to ask ourselves, "Why do we still have land lines? Cell phones are the wave of the future, even if we're old farts who very rarely text anybody.

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