HAPPY NEW YEAR, and My Ten Most Important News Stories of 2006
George Washington, the Julius Caesar of our times?
2006 is history, mission accomplished as it were. When I was a young man I thought that making it the year 2000 was as far away as Mars, now here I am on Mars and beyond. “Not bored yet” still sums it up, exploring the world is like climbing a low rambling forest covered mountain. No matter what great vista I reach, there’s always some other peak up ahead just a little bit higher with a better view. I know I’ll never get to the top, but I’m still looking forward to the next little hilltop.
It’s been an interesting year, writing this blog has forced me to do a lot of background research on subjects I already knew about. In all too many cases, research showed that I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought, and much of what I knew just wasn’t so. Yeesh. It’s embarrassing to realize stories that were a big part of my world view were just wrong. On the other hand, as the details get muddier, the overall picture is clearer. Things haven’t really changed in a long time, just the details. The Roman Empire and the American Empire differ in degree, not in kind. I’m not the first to compare the presidents to the Caesars.
It’s also clearer just what a rich and complex tapestry of people and events history is. People tend to be dazzled by the moment, and forget that every generation has been dazzled by the moment. It’s a natural tendency to only see what is in the light. I don’t think there’s ever been an era where an inquiring mind would say, feh, we sure live in dull and boring times. Dull and boring towns maybe, but that’s what roads are for. Or eminent domain if one lives in the USA I suppose.
Speaking of history, my overall take on 2006 is that it’s a bad year, but worse are coming. So that makes it a good year! I’ll party while I can, there are storm clouds on the horizon. And when not partying, I’ll pray for the folks who live in parts of the world where it’s not as rich and peaceful. In America a man can live off the fat on the walls, for now at least. And going from the general to the specific, here is my first annual list of the most important stories of the past year:
- Iraq and Afghanistan. The worsening situation in Iraq and Afghanistan. Only people with terminal tunnel vision are still claiming that progress is being made in either front, it has become clear that a change of strategy is required in these nasty little wars. Maybe the decider has some great plan up his sleeve, if so I sure hope he decides to use it soon.
- WMDs. The failure to stop or mitigate the spread of nuclear weapons is not a good thing. The NPT is dead in all but name, it has turned into a vehicle for the nuclear powers to maintain their nuclear hegemony and bully non-nuclear states. A country that has adhered to it, Iran, is being punished. Other countries have defied it at will, for all practical purposes India and Israel have been rewarded for their development of nuclear weapons. Even North Korea has thumbed its nose at the world and touched off a bomb.
- The Israel/Lebanon War. A guerrilla army stood up to Israeli attack for a month, while Israel was completely unable to stop rocket fire into Israel using its hitherto unparallelled air force. The myth that high technology and air superiority always equals victory in the battlefield was dealt another blow, whether the lesson was learned in Washington or Tel Aviv is still unknown. But one can be darn sure people with low tech armies took careful notes. Possibly worse, the myth of IDF invincibility was fractured.
- The Declining American Economy. It’s not making much news, but I sure see a lot of signs that the American economy is in trouble. Our crumbling infrastructure and loss of manufacturing capacity is included in this. Even tutoring jobs are being outsourced to other countries, meanwhile the upward transfer of wealth continues unabashed. The dollar is weaker, the trade deficit worse, and the rise of the EURO as an international currency has to be a frightening prospect for many. The housing market is stumbling, and Homeland Security continues to come with with new and novel ways of discouraging tourists, students, and international business travellers from spending their money in America.
- Islamofascism. Like a phoenix from the ashes, I count this as the year when the “Islamic menace” has now completely and conveniently filled the shoes of the now defunct “commie menace.” A fractured religion practised by a billion people in hundreds of cultures, ethnicities, and nationalities over every continent has been distilled down to one all encompassing threat. Those who were secure in the “better red than dead” days and who were confused and frightened by the new complex world that emerged after the fall of the Berlin Wall can now sink back into their comfortable black and white world. Bogyman politics, sigh.
- Global Warming and Overpopulation. Climate change continues unabated, with 2006 being another record warm year. The sky really is falling. Population growth also fits in here, both are serious and complex problems that much of the race is ignoring or actively in denial about.
- The Decline and Fall of American Global Hegemony. Many of the above all relate in some way to the continued decline of American influence and control over the world. Oddly enough the American press simply doesn’t even want to discuss this. Or worse, they inflate minor threats and ignore the real weaknesses and failures in the neo-colonial system.
- Space Exploration. 2006 was another amazing year in space exploration. Literally dozens of missions, rovers, probes, and new instruments have made stunning news this year, from our back yard on the Moon to Mars and almost infinitely beyond.
- Peace. World war hasn’t broken out yet. This is always an important story, but we had some close calls this summer. It’s been over fifty years since the last world war, I’ll die a happy man if we go another fifty.
- The Antikithera conference. The Antikithera device is a bronze mechanism of Greek manufacture recovered from a 1st century shipwreck. The latest study has shown the device is more amazing than anyone had thought, in several key respects it was a thousand years or more ahead of its time. It has been called the world’s first computer, and it is turning much of what we thought we knew about the technology of the Greeks and Romans on its head.
The Associated Press’s top stories of 2006 was different than mine, and included the USA elections, illegal immigration, Congressional scandals, Rumsfeld’s resignation, the Airliner Plot, Saddam’s conviction, and Darfur. I don’t think it matter who won the elections. Immigration, scandals, and Darfur are ongoing problems, I don’t see any big change in any of them during the year. Rumsfeld’s resignation means very little in the greater scheme of things, as did Saddam’s “conviction.” And the Airliner Plot was a non-story from the get go, it wouldn’t even make a decent made-for-TV-movie. AP’s list is of course simply the stories with the most headlines, so it’s not a fair comparison to my hastily assembled potage.
I will likely expand upon any or all of the above. Suggestions for subjects for me to write about are always welcome. Happy New Year Everyone. Health, Long Life, Peace, and Prosperity to All.
Westron wind, when wilt thou blow
That small rain down can rain?
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again!
(The above image was done by Charles Balthazar Julien circa 1800. It is public domain under US copyright law. “Westron Wind” is an anonymous few lines found written in the margins of a sixteeth century song book.)