Wednesday, November 01, 2006



I've been lying back on the couch these days. No blogging. No lots-of-things beyond work and being Papa. I am now taking daily walks after learning that my cholesterol levels read like fiction. Getting life insurance is sobering. You sit at home with an agent and talk about your life's value in mere dollars. Your blood is drawn. Then you're told by someone whose living involves making bets on people's lives that you're a risky prospect. Feh. Forty three.

So, it's fish oil pills, oat bran, beans, niacin and rabbit food. This is my new grind. The daily red wine is a bonus. Walking the New England woods does me well, though it takes a lot of time. Sorry about not finding the time to blog a little more frequently. I've just been walking in the woods, through the headlines of late.

I haven't had much to say. Sometimes the best etiquette in the salon is to politely listen, and reflect while gazing out the window. Lots of the talk in the salon sounds plausible and impossible all at once. "Intriguing idea, that man has. And yet..."

Muddle. That's the word that tumbles in front of me as I take on November, 2006. It's an odd time; the stock market is soaring, but exuberance is muted. It's as though we're donning our summer trunks, tossing the beach ball while manning the grill. The laundry's on the line, and the larder is full in the house. But the summer sky is silvery gray. The air is forty degrees. It's not summer. Not really -- and everyone knows it. But for the moment everything is okay.

I know that bravado has gotten us nowhere. I was a part of that, in some small way. I don't believe I was exactly ecstatic for war in Iraq, but I was for it. It seemed like a gamble worth taking, and I felt it possible that some good could come out of it. That was optimistic of me. Since then I've wanted to be supportive of the cause in any way possible. At this point, I see a muddle, if not in my own head then in the blank stare of our president. I voted for that fellow. I think he's trying his best. But I don't think he or his party can cut the mustard.

"Lead, damn it," I say to myself when I see the president tongue-tied for the umpteenth time. It's not going to happen. And now the other half is leaving the stage -- Tony Blair. Say what you want about him, but the man could articulate what our president could not.

I feel muddled about the upcoming election. I don't feel a passion for most of these people. I'm certainly not knee-jerking into voting Republican. My gut tells me to generally vote Democrat because the Republicans' hold on all three branches of government has become a thick layer of ice at this point. Voting Democrat means voting for the ice pick. That's the new gamble. And no, I don't think Democrats have the key out of this muddle, per se. It's as much their making as anyone else's.

So in essence, I feel to be a part of the problem right now. A part of that 'ole western malaise. I don't want to make regular installments of malaise on this blog, which is about ideas and debate. So for now I will listen until the spark returns.

John Robb of Global Guerillas is coming out with a new book soon, called Brave New War. In the book description it says:

The tragedy of 9/11 represents the pinnacle -- and finale -- of terrorism the old way.

I've been turning that coin over and over again ever since I read it. 9/11 was the end of an era, not the beginning, as we tend to see it. The next 'big attack' will be of the new variety. I think that's part of the muddle. I think somewhere in most people's minds, they know it. But there's little to be done, so let's have a barbecue under a gray sky. Why not?

Mr. Robb makes a compelling case that we're facing a fundamental shift in warfare, and that we must adjust to win. But I really don't know what winning means by his definition. He conveys the sense that we must structurally mirror our 4GW adversaries to such a degree that we won't recognize ourselves in short order.

Mr. Robb writes dispassionately, simply exposing the new rules such as they are. Take it or leave it, but ignore them at your own peril. That's his tone. It's like being told by an anonymous, brilliant physician that you have cancer, and your limbs must be amputated to give you a chance at survival. This physician may be right, but it doesn't occur to him that you might be a craftsman whose purpose for living emanates from your hands. No, those must be sacrificed to achieve clinical success, even if the cost is spiritual ruin.

Thanks, Doc.

Last night my two and a half year old daughter took to trick-or-treating as a red ladybug. She was shaped like a little barrel in her foam outfit, replete with ladybug spots and wings -- and little antennae with fuzzy balls on the end. She flew from house to house with her pumpkin pail, buzzing in character. "Bzzzzz!" People who she didn't know answered their doors, smiling and laughing, giving the little ladybug candy and winks. "Bye-bye!" she hollered, running to the next friendly house lit up with glowing pumpkins.

My daughter the ladybug must think the world is a wondrously safe and friendly place. That's an illusion that any parent wants to perpetuate, perhaps long after it is constructive. I think it is because we all want to believe it. My little ladybug girl buzzed across a kind of cultural stage on Halloween night, one that we all hold dear. The stage holds us all up, whether real or not.

How fragile has this stage become? That's the muddle.