Saturday, July 22, 2006


I'm down in the laundry room of my apartment building at 6 AM, mercifully alone, free to flip through cable channels as I please. Of course, it's early on a Saturday morning, not much on. But three stories catch my eye.

The first is on CNN. It's a story about the escalating madness in the Middle East. Israel, not content to bomb the hell out of bridges and hospitals, is now trying to decide how many ground troops to send into Lebanon. Israel does not call their military an army, it's the Israeli Defense Force. Somehow the notion of invading a neighboring country doesn't strike me as a defensive move, but what do I know?

Our beloved president, meanwhile, tries to remain indifferent to a mess that was largely made possible by his own cowboy antics in Iraq. Hey, he's got no reason to talk to any of the parties involved, he has no official opinion. But Condi Rice is going to the region on Sunday, so there. You can't say the U.S. is just sitting back and letting people die by the hundreds. We're involved. Or at least we will be. Eventually.

The second item of interest was on some financial network or other, as a bunch of wall street types debated, in typical on-one-hand-this-on-the-other-hand-that style, whether record gas costs would eventually have an effect on the economy.

What's to debate? The answer is yes. Sooner or later, since nobody seems willing to make any major changes in their driving habits, they'll realize that their wages aren't keeping up with the prices they're paying, and it may be gradual or it may be sudden, but they just won't be able to pay anymore. When it hits, this crisis probably won't be confined to this country. The whole world is likely to get dragged down on this one.

If we live long enough to see it happen, which brings me to the third story I saw this morning. A bland TV meteorologist from some NBC subsidiary network appeared on Weekend Today to confirm, in as upbeat a way as possible, that yes, we seem to be seeing record high temperatures pretty much everywhere this year, and hey, you know forecasts predict another freakishly warm winter, and gosh, ocean temperatures are unusually high, too, which could be something to keep an eye on with hurricane season coming and all.

Okay...could we get some context here, a reason why this is happening? No, this is a happy morning news show. This information is presented as an interesting tidbit, something to discuss over the water cooler. Context might scare you.

In fact, none of these stories were presented with enough background information to make it clear just what is going on here, but any sentient being can connect the dots: Israel's arrogance is fueled by knowledge that it is safely protected by the U.S., which will do anything to protect its oil interests in the Middle East. The turmoil in the region (accompanied by rampant greed, of course) is responsible for spiking gas prices, which will eventually cause the economy to flatline. Until that happens, we'll keep burning oil like there's (literally) no tomorrow, even though we know it's directly responsible for the terrifying changes in weather patterns.

But even though we know what's wrong, we won't change. We're a race of ignorant slobs who demand and receive instant gratification. We've fast-tracked our own self-destuction, and we're okay with that.