Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Well, not much to report. I had a nice dinner at Hyde Park last night with Don, Mandy, and Braxton. It was good to see them, and I was really happy to be invited.

Not much else. I've been feeling allergies or a cold or something coming on, so I went to bed kinda early last night.

What else? I just want to say that in terms of my political postings, and my postings about Russia and whatnot- I know I probably come across as some kind of self righteous blowhard when I write about some of that stuff, and sometimes I take a step back and ask myself what right I have to even comment on all of this public policy and foreign affairs stuff at all (I'm certainly not delusional enough to think I'm any kind of expert).
I guess I just write about these things, in the end, because I'm interested in them and because I enjoy discussion about the things that are going on in the world, even when they may not be happening right at my doorstep. I expect people to read the things that I write and to take them with a grain of salt and to know that they're just one person's opinion.
At the same time, I think part of the power of the internet is the way that it can connect people and help ideas to spread.
Another thing that keeps me writing about these things is that I think it's cool that we can apparently get Russians to weigh in on debates about things going on in Georgia, half a world away. I think it's cool that we, as private citizens, can discuss foreign policy with each other instead of just letting our leaders do all of the talking for us. Wouldn't it be crazy if one day the leaders of our countries tried to start a war, but the people refused to fight because they had already made too many friends with people on the "opposing side"?
I know, I know. I'm just a crazy hippie.
I understand that different countries have competing interests, but the more that we talk things out and get to know each other, maybe the more we'll realize that we're more alike than we thought, and the more we'll want to find mutually beneficial solutions rather than trying to blow each other up. Granted, it's a simple concept, but that doesn't make it wrong.
Given the many awful technological advances that we've made in finding ways to destroy each other, I think it's more important now than ever that we find ways to avoid going to war. But it all starts with making peace a primary goal. We need to see the pursuit of peace as a goal that deserves dedication, resolute willpower, and the ferocious support of the people on a global scale.
But once again, just crazy hippie talk.
Still, if crazy hippie talk is one of the best ways to avoid dead bodies and bombed out landscapes, then somebody help me find my Grateful Dead tapes...

In other news, LeRoi Moore, the saxophonist for the Dave Matthews Band, has passed away after developing complications from injuries that he suffered during an ATV accident. Moore was one of the founding members of the Dave Matthews Band, and he was a really good musician.
I haven't listened to as much of the DMB lately as I once did (like a lot of other people, I think I just got a little burned out on them because of overexposure on radio and television), but they really are one of the more musically talented pop musical groups out there, with members who are truly professional musicians- able to perform jazz, funk, etc. in addition to more mainstream rock (I've been playing guitar and bass since I was about 15 or 16, and the music of the DMB is still pretty difficult stuff to learn).
Anyway, it's sad to hear about a good musician passing away early in his life like that. Props to LeRoi Moore for being one of the guys who tried to include talented musicianship as a fundamental ingredient in modern rock/alternative music. Pop music needs more instrumentalists with that kind of focus. Via con dios, LeRoi.

And the U.S. just signed a deal with Poland to put a missile defense shield into that country. I guess that on one level this is an achievement, but on another, perhpas more pragmatic level, I wonder if the costs are worth it. For starters, the Russians aren't at all happy about this. They don't like America messing with the state of the nuclear arms race and trying to change the balance of power by creating this deterrent system. They also see this "defense shield" as but a first step in the U.S. placing missile systems within Poland. So the Russians essentially see this Polish missile shield as a sort of act of aggression, or an attempt to change the balance of power by the United States. In response, the Russians have threatened to invade Poland. So at the very least, this missile shield is putting additional strain on our already frayed relations with the Russians.
In addition, one of the pundits that I heard on CNN this morning was saying that the missile shield technology really isn't prefected yet, and it really wouldn't do too much to stop Russian missiles if they were to launch any kind of serious attack.
So I'm not sure what the missile shield gets us in Poland. I guess that we'll now have permission to have this system in Poland, and we can keep working on improving the technology once the system is in place (because if the shield really did a great job of stopping missiles, that would tend to weigh more heavily in favor of the whole endeavor).
Once again, going back to my crazy hippie theme, it would seem to me that the best way to shield us from Russian missiles would be to try to stay on positive terms with the Russians. I know this is more easily said than done, but there's gotta be a way. Maybe we can bribe them. We've got all these SUVs over here that no one is interested in driving anymore...

Whatever. Way too much babbling. Hope you guys are having a good one.


Anonymous said...

I was listening to the Nashville sports talk show channel on the radio this morning and who should I hear but Sigmund Bloom!

Strong work, Sigmund! Great segment today. I will listen for you in the future.

Anonymous said...

In response, the Russians have threatened to invade Poland.

Give a link to a source which says about invasion, please.

Maybe we can bribe them. We've got all these SUVs over here that no one is interested in driving anymore...

Poor choice of bribe which demonstrates your haughtiness. The only way to "stay on positive terms with the Russians" is to stop american approach to russian borders.

J.S. said...

Haughtiness? I was joking with the SUV comment. I thought Russians were supposed to have a sense of humor. Instead I get the kind of defensiveness that I normally associate with some kind of inferiority complex. By the way, I don't necessarily feel compelled to provide links in order to support everything I say on my blog (and I don't think they prove much, anyway, since there's so much ridiculous propaganda leaning one way or another on the internet), but nonetheless, here's an article quoting a Russian general who's threatening, among other things, nuclear attack against Poland because of their cooperation with the U.S..

And before you get too self righteous about America getting involved with COMPLETELY INDEPENDENT COUNTRIES (who have every right to make their own decisions), let's talk about the time that the Soviet Union tried to park a bunch of nuclear missiles right off of the coast of Florida. At least the system going in in Poland is a defensive system and not something designed to launch a preemptive attack.
Sorry to be haughty, but Russia doesn't have any right to dictate whether or not the U.S. can implement defensive systems inside the borders of cooperating ally nations.
To be honest, I wish the U.S. hadn't put this missile shield in Poland (especially not right now when tensions are high), but I firmly believe that Russia has no right to be telling its neighbor nations what to do- especially when no one is threatening to attack Russia.

J.S. said...

That link didn't copy correctly- let me try again:

If that doesn't work, just search for recent comments by Russian General Anatoly Nogovitsyn on your search engine, and you should be able to find what I'm talking about.

Anonymous said...

let's talk about the time that the Soviet Union tried to park a bunch of nuclear missiles right off of the coast of Florida

Let’s. “The Cuban missile deployment — the first time Soviet missiles were outside the USSR — was a response to U.S. nuclear missiles in Turkey.” It was a response!!! Does someone in America want history to repeat itself?

a Russian general who's threatening, among other things, nuclear attack against Poland because of their cooperation with the U.S..

First, an attack, not an invasion. Second, it is a military law: if someone points a gun at you, then you do the same thing. Just in case.

Russia doesn't have any right to dictate whether or not the U.S. can implement defensive systems inside the borders of cooperating ally nations

Russia does not dictate anything, it informs that it does not believe in purely defensive nature of these systems and therefore will try to take measures in order to restore the balance broken by these systems.

Anonymous said...

Want to try to express myself clearly and unemotionally.

If America wants to control Iran, then it should take measures which affect Iran only. American military installations in Poland decrease military potential of Russia which means that Russia will less effectively restrain other countries from decision to attack it. That is a threat to the safety of my country, as I see it.

Today America is quite friendly to Russia and promises that these military systems will not be used against it. But USA may change their attitude tomorrow. And then these “defensive” systems in Poland become a weapon against Russia. Of course, this is the worst scenario, but let’s appeal to history: Soviet Union left GDR and got America’s promise that NATO will not expand. Since 1990 many countries, which border on Russia, entered NATO. Quite often it happens this way: USA change the regime in a country (or participate in the regime change) and then the country wants to join NATO. It looks as if Russia is being encircled. May one call it a cold advance?

Just try to think as if you are a Russian. Would you be happy with what is going on?

J.S. said...

I agree that I probably wouldn't be too happy with the U.S. putting a missile system in Poland if I was a Russian, and to be honest, even as an American, I have been strongly questioning why we were putting such a system in place in Poland. However, even though Russia may feel justified in its invasion into Georgia, most of the rest of the world sees that invasion as an act of aggression, and now those who are distrustful of Russia here in the U.S. will use this invasion as an excuse to say that Russia never should have been trusted and that it will always be a nation which seeks to expand its borders and its influence through military aggression. Personally, I don't really believe this, but there are those in the U.S. who do not want to trust Russia and who will say that the recent activities by Russia are the exact sort of reason why we need a missile shield to defend ourselves (in addition to defending ourselves and Israel against Iran).

To be honest, many Americans are paranoid even when they don't really have a reason to be worried. But when they see Russia's tanks rolling into other countries, they believe that Russia is fulfilling their worst fears, and they will insist more strongly than ever upon things like missile defense systems to defend our country and its allies.

As for the decision of other countries to join NATO, I understand, perhaps, why Russia doesn't like this, but that is not the decision of the U.S. alone. It's hard to blame these countries for wanting to protect themselves by joining a defensive coalition given what's just happened in Georgia.

What Russia sees as a threatening advance toward its borders by America, NATO sees as a defensive move by nations who fear Russian invasion.

Maybe we all just need to cool down again for awhile and focus on building positive relationships rather than falling back into our old, cold war mindsets (which is easier said than done- I grew up, as a kid, truly fearing that a Soviet nuclear attack could wipe us all out at any time. I was raised at a time when we thought of people in the Soviet Union as enemies that were determined to destroy our country. I much prefer to think of the Russians as friends and hopefully allies. As I've said before, Russia seems to be a fascinating country with a rich history and culture and I'd like to visit it someday. Each country wants to feel secure in its own defense, but we must be equally detemined to preserve the peace and to maintain good relations).

Anonymous said...

Your latest post made me certain that I should direct my anger to some McCainiac, but not to you :) You are reasonable man, diplomatic and open-minded. I wish I could say smth about American culture but don't know much of it, though love to read O'Henry stories :)

On some detailes I still disagree with you but you are completely right about one thing - we should cool down a little.

J.S. said...

Thank you for the nice words. I've enjoyed speaking with you as well.

There are many people in the U.S. who have been disappointed and frustrated with the way that President Bush and the Republican leadership have led our country over the last eight years. When you see arrogant American leaders on television who seem not to care about the opinions or attitudes of people living in other nations, please just try to remember that their arrogance isn't felt by all Americans. Many, many people in the U.S. just want America to be a responsible, respectable member of the international community. Hopefully in this next election we can vote some leaders into power who understand that the first step in being an effective international leader is being a good neighbor.