Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A post-Christmas report on America and an ode to Baby New Year....

Yes, I have successfully made it through yet another Christmas. When I was a kid, my father became the town postmaster after he got out of the Navy and for a month before Christmas every year he would spend at least 15 hours a day down at the post office and then, on Christmas Eve, would come home and sink into a mail-induced coma that lasted for two or three days. Christmases at our house were a nightmare. Even now, I avoid them like the plague. I even spent one Christmas on Hajj!

But this holiday season is different. Baby New Year has arrived! Literally. She was born on December 20, 2007 at 1:46 pm in Berkeley, California -- while I was on an airplane somewhere over Phoenix and yelling at the stewardesses to fly faster. "Forget about serving those little packages of pretzels!" I screamed. "Get out there on the wings and flap your arms! My son Joe and his Significant Other just went into labor. We're racing the stork!" But the stork won.

But what a baby!

BNY was less than 24 hours old when I first saw her and already she could track my son Joe with her eyes and even tell Joe from non-Joe. Already. She'd look at me with interest of course but she'd SMILE at him. And my daughter Ashley assured me that Baby New Year actually came out of the freaking WOMB smiling! Does that bode well for 2008 or what!

Baby New Year was born early. Baby New Year came out smiling. Baby New Year is a total charmer! It's gonna be a good year for her. And maybe 2008 will become a good year for America too. Perhaps this will be the year that America will finally get its values back, stop torturing people, stop stealing from taxpayers, stop trying to decimate the middle class and put the crooks responsible for degrading our formerly-great country in jail. Plus with Baby New Year for a granddaughter, I want to give her all the best. So, America, for the sake of my granddaughter if not for the sake of honesty, morality and our country's very survival, you had better step up your game.

Baby New Year is a wonderful baby. This baby deserves better than what we now have. This baby deserves freaking UTOPIA. And it's time that we give it to her. And to all of our children and grandchildren.

"But Jane," you might say, "all that is well and good and of course we all want a better world and want Bush in jail and want peace in the world, but answer me this. Is that poor sweet kid really going to have to go through her entire lifetime writing 'Baby New Year' on her drivers license and her college application and her passport?" Nope. Not at all. Baby New Year now has a name.

It's Mena.

PS: I'm seriously thinking about going back to Iraq in January so that I can find out what exactly is going on over in Baghdad. And also I need to ask around to see if anyone in the military over there -- with their boots actually on the ground -- might have any new suggestions regarding how America can manage to both help the Iraqis try to pick up the pieces of their broken lives left over from the disaster of Shock and Awe and also at the same time try to avoid spending the billions of dollars that it will take to do this and thus dragging the US into insurmountable debt but also keep all the balls in the air.
We just can't keep running up our national credit cards over there like every single day of the year was just like Christmas Day and we are cleaning out the toy department at Target.
Here's a suggestion from one soldier over there, just to get things started off. "I guarantee you that if I am ever a politician down the road and I vote in favor of sending troops abroad, I will do whatever it takes to be with them on Christmas to prove to them that I stand by my vote. I haven't seen one politician here yet today, but I am sure they are enjoying pumpkin pie in safety somewhere."

And another soldier has this to say. "Funny that you said what you did about the soldiers in our ranks getting more political or at least voicing our opinions more often. A good friend of mine has a supply-related job where he witnesses some of the mistakes -- economics, efficiency, etc -- that our Army is making as we try to find our way and adapt in this war and we have had numerous late-night discussions about our plans and our thoughts related to our current military situation in Iraq. And many other junior officers are also voicing their opinions but the problem is that many of us are expressing our message -- more bluntly put, our dissatisfaction with the Army -- by leaving it in alarming numbers. This will inevitably force the Army to change its ways and its policies to improve its ranks, but this current struggle has exhausted us."

And a third soldier added, "Many of us who are now leaving the Army are leaving because of family reasons. The Army can ask us to serve in a complex environment for 15 months once. Some are able to even sustain twice. But come on now...what more can we give? There are many other fantastic ways to serve the country and the world -- and more importantly, to serve our families -- than to jump on a plane and kiss our wives and kids goodbye whenever a politician thinks that he has come up with a great idea." The Marines, unlike the Army, realize that this is a problem and their tours of duty only last five to six months. And as for the politicians, they need a reality check too.

So now perhaps you can see why I need to go back to Iraq. I need to find out what people over there are actually thinking and if they have better ideas for resolving Iraq's problems than the [slow thinkers and self-interest groups] in the White House and Pentagon have come up with.

However, while my MIND is all eager and willing to strap on my flak jacket again and go over there in the name of the patron saint of Good Journalism, my body is going on strike. "I'm never getting on an airplane again," it cries, "unless you seriously dope me up. Valium would be good." Seriously. I never want to go on another airplane ever again. Not even from here to Los Angeles let alone from here to Kuwait.

Naomi Klein says that there is about to be another "war" on the people of Chiapas because they continue to insist on taking their wealth back from the corrupt politicians and corporations who have stolen it under the false flags of good government and free trade. "After failing to enshrine [the rights granted to them by the Mexican government in the San Andreas Accords], the Zapatistas decided to turn them into facts on the ground. They formed their own government structures -- called good-government councils -- and stepped up the building of autonomous schools and clinics."

Hey, that's a great idea. We could do that here in America too, starting with taking our unions back. According to Paul Krugman, "Once upon a time, back when America had a strong middle class, it also had a strong union movement. These two facts were connected. Unions negotiated good wages and benefits for their workers, gains that often ended up being matched even by nonunion employers. They also provided an important counterbalance to the political influence of corporations and the economic elite. Today, however, the American union movement is a shadow of its former self, except among government workers. In 1973, almost a quarter of private-sector employees were union members, but last year the figure was down to a mere 7.4 percent."

Or we can do what the Lakota Sioux just did -- secede from the Union due to broken promises -- because of the many many many (many) promises that the neo-cons under Bush and Cheney have shamelessly made to America and then broken -- such as "No Child Left Behind" and "Help America Vote" and "Clear Skies". Don't even get me started on that one.

So. Maybe I don't have to spend 30 hours on an airplane to go report on the critical events in Iraq that are impacting America's entire economic future. Maybe I could just go and report on the critical events in Chiapas that are impacting America's entire economic future instead -- or maybe I could go and report on critical events in places like Detroit, New Hampshire, Cleveland or South Dakota that are impacting America's entire economic future right here.

And I could take the bus!