Saturday, August 8, 2015

#16 - BEATLES OR STONES, HIROSHIMA, DROUGHT

BEATLES OR STONES
Keith Richards is quoted in a recent interview as saying of Sgt. Pepper, “Some people think it’s a genius album, but I think it’s a mishmash of rubbish.”

Well, the First Amendment guarantees that even elderly, slightly confused Brits have a right to their opinions. And I will not dispute that The Stones are the most enduring bar band in history. (I would cede them the title of Greatest Bar Band if it weren't for the fact that Springsteen and I are both Jersey boys.) But The Beatles were different.

The Beatles were a band that honed their skills in clubs and could hold their own with kick-butt versions of tunes like Roll Over, Beethoven and You Really Got A Hold On Me and Twist and Shout and Money. But then they went a step further. They created or heavily influenced entire genres, from acid rock to thrash metal to casino crooners. Steps further. And oddly enough, those steps included paying back their roots influences by giving folks like Stevie Wonder tunes like We Can Work It Out.

I'm glad that Keith Richards is still capable of walking and chewing gum. (Kidding. He can still lay down a fine groove, too.) But let's not get huffy over a competition for hearts and minds that was over nearly 50 years ago.

HIROSHIMA
As the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima approaches, folks are questioning anew the need to have dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese homeland. Self-examination is generally a good thing. But let's be clearheaded in our review of history.

I have no doubt that history will not look kindly on the scientists who created The Bomb and Truman for having authorized its use. "I am become Death," said Oppenheimer. Einstein rued both his scientific and political contributions to Hiroshima, however peripheral. And Truman was clearly conflicted. He had experienced war first-hand and knew its horrors. His later writings suggest that he became fully aware of how Hiroshima would shape his legacy and the future of international conflict.

But Truman viewed the Japanese through the lens of Pearl Harbor and through the Japanese treatment of prisoners of war. He had been briefed extensively on the projected cost of an American invasion of the Japanese home islands, 200,000 or more American casualties. And contrary to the current narrative, no credible proof exists that the Japanese were ready to surrender unconditionally. True, feelers from dissident Japanese had been received. But they were never officially sanctioned, never included unconditional surrender - necessary after Germany's total capitulation, never panned out, and in retrospect smelled a tad like the unofficial and ill-fated mission of  Rudolf Hess to England. The official Japanese response to peace feelers at the time was to treat them with contempt. Until Hiroshima, all the evidence points to the Japanese military planning a final, if fruitless, mortal struggle on Japanese soil.

I have often said that Americans have memories equivalent to that of fruit flies. In this case, that's assuming that they've ever heard or participated in a serious discussion of this issue at all. Our young people have difficulty locating their own navels in the dark, much less islands in the Pacific. And of all academic regimens subject to periodic mass testing, history always fares the worst. So the question should not be reduced to polling that asks random Americans their opinion of whether Hiroshima was necessary. Rather, we should do our due diligence to determine whether Truman's decision was justified by the information that he had at hand in 1945.

Yes, I think that it was. And may no American President, no world leader, no sophisticated dissident with a grudge and a handful of plutonium ever be tempted to enforce his/her will in a similar way in future.

DROUGHT
In 2014, President Obama and Governor Jerry Brown visited the farm of Joe and Maria Del Bosque in California's Central Valley. Due to the persistent California drought, portions of Del Bosque's 'viable farmland' (as described in an article on Yahoo! Politics) lay fallow. Now, one year later, Del Bosque is reportedly wondering if Obama understood his problem. Why has nothing been done? Why must he refrain from planting additional fields due to lack of water for irrigation?

Putting aside for the moment the history of rampant corruption when it comes to water policy in America's West, we have in microcosm the coming major cultural upheaval that shifting weather patterns will cause around the country and around the world. The agricultural 'viability' of Del Bosque's land was predicated on the availability of water for irrigation in a part of California where that water was not naturally available through rainfall or the aquifer. Just exactly what is government supposed to do about that? What is government capable of doing about that? And what will government be able to do when seawater pollutes the freshwater aquifer in south Florida?

'Viable' farmland will no longer be viable. Expecting politicians to bring rain or deepen the snow pack is ludicrous.

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