When it seems I’ve dropped off the face of the earth for a month, it doesn’t mean there’s nothing to write about, it only means that other things kept me from it. That’s what happened this last month when two events — an initially scary 10-day illness and The Women’s World Cup — sidelined me.
The Women’s World Cup (WWC) is my favorite sporting event by a long shot — easily as long as a regulation soccer field (350 feet). I watch as much as I can, and if I miss a crucial game I make sure it’s DVR’d. My obsession even has rubbed off on Lucy, my wife. This year’s WWC ended up showcasing a very strong US team captained by the impish and impetuous Megan Rapinoe. I’ve been watching Megan for 10-plus years, so to me she’s not a recent phenom even though she’s suddenly seen as the undoubted — and redoubtable — leader of our country’s team, her “potty mouth” notwithstanding.
Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for a month, you know this stellar team is paid about 20 percent as much as the US men’s team. This outrage persists, although the team has organized and sued the US Soccer Federation, the sport’s governing organization. The legal case is currently in arbitration. I hope the women’s team gets what they so richly deserve: pay parity with the men. I can’t even contemplate a different outcome because the inequity is so stark. If the women don’t get what they’re asking for, it won’t make any sense.
But there I go again: prejudiced and preaching for the underdog, as usual.
Drones v. Lives
President Brain Spur seldom says anything that cheers me. However, I have to credit him with making a point worth expanding on. After Iran shot down one of our unmanned drones, warmongers in the administration (think John Bolton and Mike Pompeo) urged a response, presumably an airstrike on an Irani position of some sort. We’re told the president pointed out that because the Iranis hadn’t killed anyone when they downed the drone, that bombing Iran would be disproportionate, since it would almost certainly kill some Iranis. If he really thought that and voiced it, good for him!
In the same vein of bonhomie — temporary, I assure you — I want to thank the president for giving me an opening to comment on drones. Four companies dominate the market that makes them: General Atomics, Northrop Grumman, Textron, and Boeing. General Atomics makes the most. (By the way, the drones like the one shot down aren’t the size of toys. They’re as long and wide as a small airliner. Nothing to take lightly.) It’s in the these companies’ financial interest to encourage increased use of drones by our military, not only for surveillance but also as precisely targetable, devastating weapons.
Unfortunately, though, their targeting isn’t accurate enough to avoid killing civilians along with the Islamic militants they’re intended to take out. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that, to date, drone strikes in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia have killed between 769 and 1,725 civilians, of which between 253 and 397 were children. More information is available on this website.
I hear no debate on the morality of such remote-control killing. We, the Lords of the Universe, have decided that civilian casualties by drones are a small price to pay for the opportunity to kill one of the militants we’re after. When we accidentally bomb a wedding party into oblivion, it news for about one day, then we forget. I wonder if relatives of the innocents we blew to bits simply go on with their lives, forgetting what we did to their loved ones? We have used our technology to kill with no risk to us, those doing the killing. What effect does that have on the way we think about warfare? Is it easier for the generals to unemotionally authorize deadly action since the drone itself is all that’s at risk? And don’t overlook the fact that for every drone we lose the companies that make them get an order for a replacement. Everyone in the war business actually benefits.
I am not a theologian, so I can’t explain how drone warfare, as practiced by the US, is morally defensible. I’d like to read how an expert on “Just War” theory might evaluate it from a moral standpoint. I do know this, though: Each time a drone laden with explosives takes off, it is good news for General Atomics, Textron, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing, and bad news for the innocent people unlucky enough to be in the blast zone..
This is an ugly, shameful form of warfare.
I was a debater both in high school and college and I remember well how real debates work — or are supposed to work. What the TV networks and politicians call debates today bear no resemblance to the real kind, which dissect issues and truly inform listeners. I wish we could think of another name for them. But for now, we’re stuck with what TV gives us — 10 candidates on stage at once, each verbally elbowing out the others to get a word in. If you care about getting useful information, this is a waste of time. Structured as they are, they bring out the worst in candidates since the soundbite of the night, however useless for determining the best candidate, is usually the thing that anoints the so-called winner. In the second of this year’s debates, Kamala Harris’ very predictable zinger about Joe Biden’s past racial attitudes made her the “winner.” While I like Kamala Harris as a candidate, her attack didn’t make me like her one bit more.
The worst thing about the 10-candidate debate format is the constant interrupting. If I were running CNN, I would dictate that anyone who speaks without being recognized by the moderator will be ushered off the stage.
The cable TV business is all about filling up 24 hours with programming so that networks can sell ads. The pressure to fill up so much broadcast time leads to airing things that don’t really serve much purpose — like a 10-person debate. (And then the networks pat themselves on the back for being public spirited.) But the format works neither for the candidates nor the electorate. It’s like going to a NASCAR race and hoping for a crash. Most who tune in to debates are just waiting for some campaign-ending outburst or gaffe.
There’s got to be a better way. I’m looking forward to the day when we get down to three or four viable candidates.
Note: I entitled this piece “Potpourri” rather recklessly since I couldn’t have given you a definition of potpourri if you’d promised to tar and feather Lindsey Graham. I just knew that it meant a hodgepodge of things as well as a bunch of dead flowers allegedly placed somewhere to improve the odor of the room. You can imagine by glee when, upon consulting my Webster’s dictionary, I saw that one of the synonyms for potpourri was “miscellany”. But it’s hard to find a picture of a miscellany on Google while there are loads of lovely potpourri images available. So, I opted to go with the dried flowers and spices which are, in fact, the elements of a good potpourri. In addition to which, it is Bastille Day as I type; so, why not be francophilic? (That may not be a word, but it should be.)