The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Just heard that the Senate voted for an Iraq withdrawal next year. Don’t know much about it, but I hope it’s an excellent plan, and am heartened that at least two Republicans were willing to vote with it.
I sincerely hope that it’s a good plan, that Iraqis will take their fates into their own hands, that other forces in the region will assist them. I also hope that the British sailors captured by Iran will return home, and that we don’t buy into what feels like an obvious attempt to create a conflict.
What do I mean by that? There are a couple of patterns that emerge: if you want a war, you insult the country involved, rattle sabers, and then park a military vessel juuuuust off their borders, zig-zagging closer and closer, holding “exercises” at the edge of their territorial waters or fly-bys over what they consider their territory. It is probably also useful to fund or otherwise support dissident groups within the target country to increase tension. Eventually, any self-respecting country will take the bait, and you have a war.
My understanding is that our own intelligence agencies say that Iraq has five years of development on their nuclear programs before they would be a threat. In two years, the present administration will be gone. WHOEVER is in next, Democrat or Republican, I would trust far, far more to deal with a situation, both in terms of competence and just sheer honesty. I just don’t trust these people. At all. They’re the worst I’ve ever seen.
Bush, Cheney, and Rice are all hip-deep in the oil business, and coincidentally we find ourselves in a war in a country with the 2nd largest oil reserves AND oil company revenues are at an all-time high AND oil prices are at an all-time high? How many separate answers need to be swallowed not to assume perfidy? Occam’s razor suggests that, at some point, we flip that flat rock and instead of assuming innocence, assume guilt. If there is manipulation on a grand scale, would it explain much of what we’ve seen? And if you combine that with people who hate the concept of "Big Government" and want to cripple it and give that power to Big Business, would it explain even more?
Unfortunately, it requires less imagination to see how the negative scenario could be true than the positive one. Easier to assume a confluence of greedy ideologues than a bunch of accidental events happening to good people who are victimized by fate.
And here’s the rub—even if they have been victimized by unusually negative circumstances, it is outside the realm of common sense to extend trust but so far. Throw them out, get new folks in…and then if the problems repeat, well, it’s the situation, not the people.
The connect-the-dots on this is difficult. If you’re smart enough, you make sure that the agreements are made on golf courses and in board rooms with no stenographers present. You assume that your business dealings will be examined, and you make handshake deals that can’t quite be proven.
An analogy to the situation in Iraq can, in my mind, be found in the way America dealt with the Native Americans, Eskimos, Hawaiians…and I would bet that similar patterns can be found in Africa, New Zealand…anywhere a powerful, more developed group comes in contact with a less developed group sitting on desirable land or resources.
So the current administration/ruling class is resistant to your entreaties? Support an opposition group, prop them up with money and power at the same time that you undermine the pre-existing government. Kill, remove or dismantle the old government, then promote the new as the “legitimate voice of the people.” This new voice, coincidentally, is far more amenable to the needs of the Colonizer.
The only game older than this one is to send missionaries and merchants who begin to push HARD at the “natives,” taking their land, insulting their religions and impregnating their women. Predictably, the “natives” will push back. Oops! We have to send in troops to protect them! Before you know it, you have a war, you’ve taken over, and you have a colony.
Yuck. Where ever a colonizing power has taken root, their actions are always legitimate and legal and moral—in the eyes of the colonizer.
I remember the last time I was in Hawaii, and went out of my way to speak with native Hawaiians. I honestly believe that, being a person of color, it was easier for me to get them to open up. And right under the surface, if you spoke quietly and empathetically, was an ocean of resentment, feeling like second-class citizens in their own land. Employed as a servant class for an oblivious tourism that swallowed the party line whole, never considering the implications of the fact that, on Maui for instance, the family of former Missionaries now owns most of the island.
To assume that human greed crosses all color and culture lines allows one to see these patterns without pointing fingers. To assume that in all of these cases them grateful natives were just happy to accept Christ and hand over their land…well, I’m afraid that I could only believe that if there really is a serious differential in intelligence and worth from group A to group B. That is a legitimate point of view, but one I disagree with, and one that is rarely stated explicitly...although obviously many believe it.
If I have lost faith in this presidency, and see too many of their friends and associates getting filthy rich, seen the theories of “trickle-down economics” operating to the benefit of a tiny upper class while the poor suffer in New Orleans…
I’m sorry. The simple answer may not be the right one, but I’m out of reasons not to view the situation through that lens first. At this point, no, I’m not willing to give Bush any more chances. Yes, I’d be in favor of impeachment. Anything, anything at all to get to the next guy…or gal…and see if the situation improves.
God help us if it doesn’t. A slippery slope indeed.
I do love kettlebells. No form of weight training has ever attracted me as they do (with the exclusion of Clubbells, which I consider a specific tool for the development of strength and leverage along sports-specific planes of motion. I know people who are using them for general fitness to fantastic effect, but to a certain degree any tool is eccentric to the needs and inclinations of the individual. Very high recommendations for Coach Sonnon’s invention, but I do use them for Specific Physical Preparation rather than General Physical Preparation.)
At any rate, there are interesting criticisms of KB’s on the internet, and some of them are quite legitimate. The best of them suggests that what makes Kbs efficient is the WAY they are used, rather than the tool itself. That dumbbells and barbells can do anything KB’s can do. There is a lot of discussion about centers of mass and so forth to counter these, but the truth is that the major differences really ARE the fact that the training systems are different: there is no isolation exercise in the world of Kettlebells. For instance, a sitting dumbbell Preacher curl is an isolation exercise (to the degree that isolation is even possible. We’ll accept that it is a matter of percentages, not absolutes). A sitting dumbbell curl without the bench involves more of the body. Do the same exercise while standing, and even more of the body is involved. At this point, you are beginning to impact actual sports performance, not merely rehabilitation or appearance. But by the time you are doing a “Clean” movement (which is a “cheat curl” taken to its extreme) you are coordinating the entire body to get that weight to your shoulder. NOW you’re talking about a movement that has applications to every aspect of daily physical motion as well as sports, a general whole-body integration that truly rocks.
KB type movements are sort of “poor man’s Olympic lifts,” and Olympic lifts: Clean and Jerk, Snatch, Squat, Deadlift—are all true whole-body movements with massive carry-over to sports and life.
Not so much the Bench Press (I can think of damned few situations where that particular type of strength: on your back, pushing up, not using the legs or arching the back), even though it is one of the “Big Three” lifts, and develops a truly powerful upper body.
It would certainly be possible for someone to popularize weight programs based on whole-body movements. They’ve been around for centuries. But please note that this just isn’t what happened with body building. One can create a body that “looks great!” with isolation exercises with far greater ease than the same level of appearance with whole-body work. The trick is that the whole-body work is affecting every aspect of fitness: cardiovascular, coordination, balance, strength, basic flexibility…the whole thing. So the isolationist would have to put together an entire package of exercises to equal the same effect.
And of course, most people seeking fitness know what they see in the mirror, which is great, but not all there is.
At any rate, for some reason Kbs have specialized on these whole body approaches. For the first time in my life, I’m really digging iron. Feels good.
In the third week playing with Intermittent Fasting, I’m experimenting with truly alternating days of eating and not eating. I used Hoodia to control the hunger yesterday, and it worked fine. No mood swings, no real irritability that I or my family could detect. Woke up this morning feeling randy as hell, after sharp, clear, full-color (and very sexy) dreams. Hmmm.
And I’ve lost almost three more pounds. So…that’s almost six pounds in a little over two weeks. I’d been stuck at about 184 for a while, but boy, that’s over.
Tell you one thing: I’m being VERY careful on eating days to make certain I have all the high-quality, high-nutrient food I can get. Vitamins, fresh vegetables, Ultimate Meal smoothies…I’m making sure that I get all my body needs. My energy level was great—worked yesterday from nine until nine, pretty much constantly before I felt like I had to slow down and get a little entertainment.
Don’t know what I’ll think about this in a few weeks or months, but right now, the thought of increasing health, energy, longevity, cutting fat, saving time and increasing clarity of thought all simultaneously (the thought clarity thing is interesting. If you are healthy aerobically, fasting seems to trigger what might be called a “Predator Response,” a hyperalert state designed to enhance the chances of hunting success. Very cool, and a little spooky. Be interesting to spar in that state…) is just too tempting not to put serious time and research into.
More later.

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