Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Enhancing Control of Manpads

I swear as God is my witness that I received the following text via email from the US State Dept:
U.S.-Russia Arrangement on Cooperation in Enhancing Control of Man-PADS
Some of the highlights of this email include

One goal of this Arrangement is to facilitate the destruction of MANPADS that are obsolete or otherwise in excess of legitimate ... requirements. This Arrangement also will allow the two countries to share information about MANPADS sales and transfers to third countries.

Mutual assistance in destroying excess and obsolete MANPADS through an exchange of information on the methods and means of destroying them as well as through the provision of technical and financial assistance in carrying out their destruction.

The exchange of information on controlling MANPADS, including improving measures to enhance physical security and the taking of inventory, and control during the production, safeguarding, transfer, and destruction of MANPADS and individual components thereof.

Further mutual coordination on preventing the global proliferation of MANPADS.

This Arrangement represents a significant step forward in our strategy to coordinate efforts in countering the global proliferation of MANPADS. It serves as an example of what the United States and Russia can accomplish by working together on such vital issues.

I wonder if they have wings....

Now if only the US and Russia could work together to end terrorism. Or poverty. Or slavery. But I guess it's their time of the month.

Monday, February 21, 2005


I know if I don’t post something soon my big sister is going to call me (probably when I’m trying to nap) to confirm that I’m still alive. I am still among the living, even though two suicides have encased this weekend like tragic parentheses: Zane Vaughn, a local high school math teacher, and Hunter S. Thompson, gonzo journalist.

Mr. Vaughn, whose face dis/graced the TV on the 5s, was arrested for allegedly soliciting a 14-year-old girl via the Internet. When he arrived at the hotel, instead of the girl, the police officer who had posed as a 14-year-old girl on the Internet was waiting. After posting bail—and after at least ten “updates” of the story in the course of a couple of hours on one local channel alone—he checked into a motel and killed himself. There’s something seriously wrong with police officers posing as children, trying to lure adults into criminal activity. There’s something seriously wrong with the media smearing this man’s name and face all over the airwaves without so much as a question of guilt. And then to feel pushed to actually commit a crime—suicide—in order to free yourself from the situation. Ugh!

I’m reading Miller’s The Crucible now. Mr. Vaughn’s situation reminds me too much of the witch-hunting of early Salem. I don’t want to live under a theocracy where so-called intention is just as damnable as action.

God bless Hunter, a fiery Aztec god of writers who rises from the ashes of American hypocrisy. Rest in peace. Blah blah blah.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Please use the word “metaphor” in a sentence…

Last night I made the mistake of showing the most recent film version of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies to my Government II class. Well, the real mistake was in asking them to analyze the film, particularly the final scene when Ralph is being chased by the other boys who have all become savages and are out to kill him. Ralph runs for his life and ends up stumbling at the foot of a soldier who dumbfoundedly asks, “What are you guys doing?”

My question to my students: “Is there any difference between what the boys were doing and what the soldiers were doing?” Because none of them--or at least none of the ones who tried to answer--could understand the metaphoric content of this story, the only answer was, “No. The soldiers were fighting other people, not themselves.” One student who has served in the military and apparently seen combat offered, “Not even in combat would a group of people turn on each other like that.”

Oh, god! As I always concede in such situations: you just can’t argue with that logic.

Reminds me of the first time I heard the Rolling Stones’ “Sympathy for the Devil”: I got chills listening to Mick Jagger’s confession that he killed President Kennedy. Who else has heard this song? Why isn’t he in jail? Or when I heard Barry Manilow sing “I Write the Songs”: “I’ve been alive forever, and I wrote the very first song.” How is that possible? I mean, I had heard of other singers and songwriters who had already died--like Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison. Was Manilow older than them?

Of course, that lack of metaphoric understanding is a bit more acceptable when you realize I was a mere child and living on a farm in east Texas. These people are college students and--for lack of a better metaphor--are the future of this country.

On a positive note, they did seem to get the abstract notion of political capital, although not too many of them could see what sort of political capital President Bush talked about earning and spending the day after the most recent elections. I always like to point out possible examples from the film: fear & the monster. Like fear of WMDs & Jihadists, no? And yet, like the characters in the film, the only "monster" is themselves. I guess it does all boil down to what the meaning of is is. Or terror. Or marriage.

So, will we have another "pre-emptive" war and destroy the infrastructure and civil society of Iran? (Of course, "pre-emption" implies that you are actually preventing something from happening instead of merely acting as an agressor nation on a much smaller and weaker one. But I won't hold my breath until our people understand that.)

And yes: I never metaphor I didn’t like.