Thursday, September 19, 2013


Who is Calling Who, What?

Musing on one of many distasteful and openly racist postings that seem to find so much traction around social media these days.  This one the comparison between arming Islamic extremists versus efforts at gun control in this country -- another case of the logic train derailing on that frequent curve of righteous distraction.  And in these propaganda debates, history is discarded in favor of a subtle kind of perversion.  See, America invented terrorism in the semi-modern world.  We kind of broke that civilized protocol where everybody dresses up like a wealthy pimp and shoots at each other until somebody finally gives up.  Instead, we hid behind trees, assassinated officers (to disrupt command and control), stole stuff, blew things up randomly and generally refused to play fair.  Assuming that war and revolution has anything to do with fairness anyway. Conflict is about attrition -- however you can deliver it to the enemy.  And if you are a marginalized group on an uneven playing field, the rules are for the other guy.  He can afford them.  And throughout this unpleasantness, the French were more than willing to help us kill more Englishmen. All the less bodies and guns they'd have to deal with sooner or later.  Big difference?  The French remained friends and allies.

And the parallel universe:
Fast forward.  1980's or so.  The Soviet Union decides to winter in Afghanistan.  Bad idea, but one worth repeating by us.  See, nuclear weapons made it difficult for US to kill Russians so we hired, then armed the local Mujahideen.  You know these guys...uh, think we call them Taliban now.  They had been marginalized, suffering badly on that uneven playing field so we suggested that a little terrorism might be just the right medicine to send the Soviets packing.  So we kind of Fed-Xed them all kinds of fun stuff.  And we promised...well, we're not very good at that, but we did say that if you guys kill enough Russians, we'll get you schools, electricity, doctors...cable TV.  So they did.  In fact, they killed so many and so terrorized the Soviet Army that they said, "The hell with this."  And they went home.  Trouble was, so did we.  Oh, the presents?  We conveniently forgot about that.  You know, we had an election, so that meant we sent the gifts elsewhere.  So the slightly miffed Mujahideen changed their name to Taliban and overthrew the Kabul government with that nice hardware we sent them.  And they became sympathizers with all the other folks in the Islamic world that had also received those IOU promises we handed out over the 50 years or so we spent entrenched in our little Cold War with the Soviet Union.  That didn't sit well with the new guy in our White House...another case of foreign policy via Alzheimer's, so we invaded Afghanistan to make things...sorry, but it is here I get completely lost.  Win the hearts and minds?  No, we tried that once before with uneven results.  Finally build those schools and power plants?  Well, no.  Oh.  We had a grudge about that whole 9/11 thing.  The 'thing' we failed to fully understand in the first place.  Those 50 years of insincerity and unkept promises we kind of failed to live up to?  Even bother to remember or even reconcile.  Hmm.  So if they are terrorists, where exactly does that make us?  

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

We've met before....

On a Street...It Seemed to be Raining
 Ashes that Day...


"I saw you in Sarajevo...uh, 1942.  Near the train station. I mean, what was left of it"
"Yes, I remember.  But I had seen you earlier that day.  As Napoleon's cavalry finally took Innsbruck."

"Yes, it was cold that day...bitterly so."

"Which day...they were all so very cold as I remember."

"I meant to stop, but it seemed like I should go on."

"We all died that day anyway...despite your efforts to make it otherwise."

Why is that do you suppose?  These recurring connections over time, history...often in those moments when the world or the person is gripped in some emotional maelstrom of unending conflict.  Where the smoke clears briefly from a distant, yet highly personal battle, and suddenly there is this person you know, or are demanded to know by some unknown force, standing silently in front of the burned-out buildings that were once a city, a town...a place of refuge...lost.  No, not reincarnation, meddling aliens, nor a previous life; certainly not the unconscious wanderings of a time traveler.  Something else....But what?

The Human Genome Project produced the first complete sequences of individual human genomes. As of 2012, thousands of human genomes have been completely sequenced, and many more have been mapped at lower levels of resolution. The resulting data are used worldwide in biomedical science, anthropology, forensics and other branches of science. There is a widely held expectation that genomic studies will lead to advances in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases, and to new insights in many fields of biology, including human evolution.  [Wiki]

Is it possible that there is much more to a strand of DNA than one could possibly imagine?  And I muse on that notion a lot because for some reason -- some demand I fail to comprehend, they wander in and out of my life.  Over my years, I have visited with many ghosts -- most benevolent by intent, as if they too are suddenly lost on a vaguely familiar field.  I've stood on foreign ground and seen my own footprints in the dust;  shed blood on countless battlefields not of my choosing.  Questioned deeply whether my sanity is intact -- or merely infected with a deep desire to dwell in some other century, some other place that the heart craves, but the boots can never find.  I could ask God, but then I don't believe in God, nor do I choose to seek a moral compass that I already possess;  no, earned along the low and high roads of a strictly personal history -- further, that all good and all evil lives within the bounds of my being and accountable only to the artificiality of conscience.  I seek no redemption elsewhere.  It is here.  It is now.  But it has also been now; elsewhere. 
Science scratches away at this mystery...though it is very much like searching a colony of ants for one leader among billions.  I have blue eyes.  It was said once that I was of Nordic/Germanic descent.  I am also considered an American.  Yet I claim no nationality because I became a human long before there were maps, boundaries...borders.  And today, it has been revised -- that I was of the Neanderthals...those blue eyes carried over the millennia...the physical baggage of antiquity.  Ancient, primal, perhaps a decent sort of savage in an era where perhaps decency ended in early death.  Before there were nations, before there was humanity as a whole of something much smaller.  Another animal, a that still knows the arts of predation 200,000 years later.  And what is the why and how of such an unnecessary crouch in silent waiting at Safeway...then leap upon an unsuspecting can of corn?    

And how to explain my affinity for the horse?  Ah...a relative was a horse breeder, stable owner, leader of a armed rebellion in the late 1700's.  My great-great grandfather was a blacksmith who came over from Norway in the 1800's.  My grandfather kept a silver-capped horse's hoof -- simply engraved with the name Oluf.  Why did I know it, covet it...keep it with me when all else was lost in those storms within a difficult mind?  Why perhaps, did I become a horseman, a farrier... a lover of fast horses long before I knew these people even existed?  Coincidence?  Possibly.  But then, how did the horses know me, accept me as easily as they did?  Just maybe, we too, had crossed similar paths, fought distant battles...perished together on some blood-soaked field long forgotten.  We left our bones to mark our passing, but perhaps the core of what we were, what we saw...the sounds and scents of distant eras traveled forward in the intricate pathways of our singularly unique fingerprint -- that DNA.    
gene  (jn)
A hereditary unit consisting of a sequence of DNA that occupies a specific location on a chromosome and determines a particular characteristic in an organism. Genes undergo mutation when their DNA sequence changes.

[German Gen, from gen-, begetting, in Greek words (such as genos, race, offspring); see gen- in Indo-European roots.]

Dreams.  We all dream.  Mine are in color, sometimes black and the deep Rem sleep of early morning, when the mind attempts vainly to put the day's files in some kind of rational order...I often dream in languages or subjects I know nothing about.  Yet I do.  And upon awakening, I do not.  And most have a veil  of anxiety wrapped about them...a distant fear unresolved or simply carried forth into another era, seeking perhaps the same solution for a millennial of unresolved conflicts.  The workings of a mind both brilliant and complex...yet truly ancient in origin, still living primal by a necessary kind of hindsight.  But oddly kinder, more compassionate perhaps than what daylight affords me.  Two paths of sub-consciousness in conflict  -- the day and night of mere human existence -- the antithesis and agony of owning this stray dog of conscience...that follows at a distance, holds no true loyalties, yet still tolerates the fleas upon his back.  But then he is so much like this world.  For the wrong choice, the wrong road to cross...he dies.  And so do the fleas.  But never in a dream, for in dreams we merely cover the ground between the many deaths that mark our passing.        


A gene is a long stretch of the staircase. It contains a particular sequence of A’s, C’s, T’s, and G’s. The sequence is the code for the specific protein the gene is “for”. (A simplification, but fine for today.) A DNA molecule contains millions of bases — steps of the staircase — a gene may contain thousands of them.

And perhaps much, much more.  It is estimated that a huge portion of DNA has no known or recognizable purpose...much like a blank spot on an unfinished canvas. 

I tend to believe that one day science will discover that among the thousand's of different functions, the human genome may also have the capacity to record individual human experiences over the many centuries...if specific genetic lines are never completely severed.  Just as we have barely uncovered the contents and purposes of individual chromosomes;  the ants among the colony -- we have also failed to understand the purpose of that 2/3 of the brain we leave unused.   Maybe we don't want to know, maybe such knowledge would be the final breach between science and religion -- man as merely another animal, beholding to no other power than survival.  But I know for me...when my awareness is at its peak;  heightened by circumstances, danger, the gentle touch of a passing ghost...that stranger on a corner; a face filtered through the passing blackness of a sudden, startling no longer the stranger I believed them to be.  And neither am I.

For Those Who Know There is Always More...

Collages: A. Juell (2nd grade art class revisited) and a tip of the hat to: John Royce's, "The Legend of the Great Horse" trilogy.
Found at  Imagination is a gift shared by all.     

In many species, only a small fraction of the total sequence of the genome encodes protein. For example, only about 1.5% of the human genome consists of protein-coding exons, with over 50% of human DNA consisting of non-coding repetitive sequences.[90] The reasons for the presence of so much noncoding DNA in eukaryotic genomes and the extraordinary differences in genome size, or C-value, among species represent a long-standing puzzle known as the "C-value enigma".[91] However, some DNA sequences that do not code protein may still encode functional non-coding RNA molecules, which are involved in the regulation of gene expression.[92]

C-value enigma?  Hmm......

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Syria...a Symptom of a Far Greater Disease

Within Syria  
 A fascinating week, though by no means a description the Syrian people would share or appreciate. In the background are the falling dominoes of perhaps the more progressive, educated tiers in the ever-developing world. Countries that have in some ways embraced the Western economic model at a time when the model has fallen into the hands of the brigands and raiders...and the rolling rock that is a one-sided globalization where personal initiative and the labor of the individual has been degraded far beyond the cost of doing business. Yes, behind all the zealous voices, the religious sectarianism, the old grudges, lies a world economic system that has become the spoiler of personal unseen, heavily veiled stealer of dreams.  If you look carefully; behind the angry eyes, the clenched fists...the man in the street brandishing that weapon could be you. This is what happens when an emerging middle class cannot meet the aspirations they hold for their children. And fueling them are the religious and cultural fanatics that are more than willing to plow that anger into violence.  And yes, Hitler was not an anomaly by any means.  They sprout like daffodils in the spring when the ambitions of the individual are sacrificed for a the seat on the throne.

                                      Outside Syria                                                         

Britain says no, Israel says 'no thanks,' Turkey is highly distracted on the home front -- The Arab League late to the game and impotent it would seem. France with perhaps the will, but not the stamina to go it alone. Russia's Putin, still stuck in the Cold War.  And the American President, reluctant as he should be -- credit due for at least recognizing the failures of this option in the recent and ongoing suffering delivered by the policies of previous administrations who chose the gun over the voice of reason -- granting that most of the world has given up on reason anyway.  But then the caveat appears:  toss it to Congress, the same group that has fought loudly and bitterly to defeat every proposal this president has put on the table, while simultaneously screaming to the rafters about the abuse of power by the executive branch...a trend that has really gone on for the last 40 years -- the result of a Congress more interested in self-serving politics than doing the job they were hired to do.
I imagine that was a very unexpected move by the President, but in many ways, one that a democratic republic has always demanded, often ignored and suffered equally by those very inaction's.  I seriously doubt that most presidents do not consider the ramifications of setting the armed forces loose when the avenues of diplomacy fail.  Particularly in these third-party, distant divorces left over from an era of colonial and imperialistic ambitions -- of which the western and old eastern rivalries actually set in motion decades, even centuries ago.  But then history in this country seems to last about 20 years before it is revised, re-packaged or simply forgotten...along with the untended graves -- the collateral damage of the faces and lives that once walked an earth they simply called home.
So now Congress gets to share the mirror that peers into the soul -- the regions the eyes seek to deceive.  The rare chance to place their finger on the trigger of righteous smote the animal that carries the disease of all humankind.  Yes, the enemy is us and the children will pay the price, continue the game...fill the graves reserved for all the bystanders in the long and violent history of this planet.  So jump in the sandbox, you boys and girls of Congress.  It is familiar ground after all.  Only this time instead of merely paralyzing the nation and lining your pockets, you get to take it full circle:  your vote now represents the errant bullet behind the mask of a purely partisan will.  So enjoy the haven't earned it, but you sure as hell deserve it.

Pragmatism vs. Idealism
And that is perhaps the conundrum of today's rather unbalanced balance of power. Sure, smote the despot, ride that white horse, but then what?  The question for the interventionist to ponder -- before the righteous fist first strikes is, "Is who has a stake here?"  As in the case of North Korea's last round of belligerence, the answer was China.  The PRC, as the major supplier of goods (oil and food), has the leverage to step all over North Korea's Jung.  A conflict on the Korean peninsula could have disastrous consequences for China/US relations -- compromising an already tenuous economic relationship, i.e., bad for business. 
In Syria's case, the only real outside influence lies in Moscow; a case where some of the obsolete Cold War alliances could still prove useful.  America has no friends, no traction and certainly no business in another middle eastern country, where the regional balance of power has already been irreversibly damaged by the same kind of meddling proposed here.  It is a domestic dispute and as any cop will tell you -- when the police show up -- all parties turn on them.  Much of the unrest, unhappiness, animosity...however you call it -- has deep roots in the history of colonialism and imperialism shoved down the regions throat for over a century.  And there are deep economic strains driving the unrest. Sadly, this is a process of adjustment, a leveling of a false reality and it is and will be costly -- in lives, in dislocations, in resources.  And it will take a generation to remake the face of all these countries.  They need time, compassion, aid...not another gun in the room.