The Eyes Still Have It
By R. D. Flavin

     From time to time, we re-visit certain themes, concepts, and ideas.  It’s fuzzy warm and familiar, but it’s also good to test our memories and judgments.  Are things as we remember?  Do we still feel the same way and hold the same opinions?  In my column for January 14, 2000, “The Color of Life,” I wrote:

Our consensual distinctions of “color” is based on the shared dynamics of the human eye and brain and their ability to distinguish various reflections of light and assign “color” to these reflections. “Light,” as the degrees (or wavelengths) of the visible spectrum of electromagnetic energy, bounces off of a specific object, passes through the eye, and based upon the reflectivity of the object, the brain matches a perception of “color” to a particular wavelength of “light.” It’s illusory, of course, as brains of non-humans perceive color differently than we do. I’m reminded that my mother preferred black and white television to color, saying “…It looks more realistic.” Indeed, the world may well consist of subtle shades of gray. “Color,” as such, could be regarded as a modern, agreed upon development. But, even though “color” itself is “all in our heads,” objects do possess different degrees of reflectivity and we may as well continue to use the accepted terms of color distinction, as gray1, gray2, …through gray136d, could be a drag when ordering socks online.

The column went on to suggest that the only “color” that really mattered was green, as in the color of the American dollar.  It’s been almost a decade since I wrote those words, much has changed, there’s more negativity in the media, so many naysayers, though the eyes still have it.  Yeah, what a wonderful world...

United States of America President Barack H. Obama.

I see trees of green, red roses too,
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

     On October 9, 2009, Den Norske Nobelkomite (“The Norwegian Nobel Committee”) awarded its Peace Prize for 2009 to “President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.  The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.”  Two days earlier, Pres. Obama proclaimed October 9, 2009 as Leif Erikson Day (per the 1964 Public Law 88-566) mentioning our “Nordic-American heritage” and crediting Erikson, as several presidents before have done, with founding “Vinland,” perhaps located in modern day Newfoundland, Canada.  The proximity of Leif Erikson Day to the federal holiday of Columbus Day (observed on the second Monday in October) is fortuitous and shouldn’t be intended to court favor from Norway, Italy, or Spain (though Norway is currently considering the construction of “green” nuclear power plants,  Italy suspended its nuclear program in 1990, though is due to re-start soon, and Spain already exploits nuclear energy).  As the ancient Romans, the Vikings of the Early Middle Ages, and the Catholic King and Queen of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella of the Late Middle Ages, did not use nuclear weapons, it would seem an innocent coincidence.  Except for the prize money… 

     The chairman of the five-member Nobel Peace Prize committee, Thorbjørn Jagland, has commented, “If you are not able to make a courageous decision, you cannot help move the world in the right direction.”  The 1.4 million dollar Viking boodle may run afoul of the US Constitution (Article 1, Section 9), which discourages over-the-table bribes with, “And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.”  With health care insurance reform, Pres. Obama has his eyes on a prize much more rewarding than convincing Congress to let him give the money to charity.  Though, CAAFN (“Classy Americans Against Fox News”) could use new Nook e-readers and a night out on the town…

Islamic Republic of Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nejad.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white,
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

     The eyes of the world have been on Iran of late, especially after the recent election fiasco and the ensuing days and nights of demonstration and suppression, but also because of its uranium enrichment program, long-range missile tests with threats to “blow up the heart of Israel” should an “American or Zionist” missile be sent against Iran, and the new and controversial claim that the Holocaust-denying Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s family was Jewish and converted to Islam sometime in the 1950s.  Oy vey and shades of Frank Collin!  If true, that's some seriously dangerous psychological self-loathing, while if the claims are mistaken, then Ahmadinejad is going to be one angry, crooked creep!

     This last week of October 2009, an investigative team from the International Atomic Energy Agency, those folks who did such an inspiring job in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, are now going to lend their eyes to a United Nations effort to determine if a newly disclosed, not yet fully constructed and operational, uranium enrichment facility could be used to make nuclear weapons.  The military protected Fordo site is being built underground, just outside of the city of Qum (var. Ghom), Iran, a so-called “holy” city, as the sister of the eighth “Imam” (according to Shi'a doctrine, the rightful successor after Muhammad who possesses supernatural knowledge and is infallible) is buried.

     Sleights of hand, when performing magic tricks on a global stage, are nothing new, though Iran's agreement with Russia to send the majority of their collection of enriched uranium, so the Federation could wave its Eurasian wand and turn it into low-grade glowy stuff used for medical isotopes, seems to have encountered local skepticism from Ahmadinejad's crew, as ...Iran has the goods and currency to trade for or buy what they need on eBay or someplace else.  I'm sure this will end well, and I pray to Scully that I live to see the day when folks get tired of believing that it's a good thing to pull a coney out of one's fez.

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia terrorist Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden.

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky,
Also the faces of people going by.
I see friends shaking hands, say how do you do?
They're really saying, I love you.

     The FBI has listed “Usama bin Laden” on their “Ten Most Wanted” list for years, yet no one has actually seen him (or Whitey Bulger) for a long time, there's chatter of death, but most contend that the lowest examples of humanity can get really low when they have to.  Following the model of the late 1960s and early 1970s Palestinian terrorists (college drop-outs with guns and bombs), Bin Laden chose to invest his rich-kid allowance in promoting and practicing an extremist version of Islam which seeks to establish theocracies throughout the world who would govern under the cruelest of interpretations of sharia “religious” law.  Although no single al-Qaeda 'army' exists per se, it's estimated several thousand 'trained' jihadists are decentralized, actively terrorizing over a dozen countries on several continents, and are thought to have set up passive or sleeper cells in almost a hundred countries.  Bin Laden's personal fortune is more than likely depleted, or at least reduced to a militant 401(k), a maximum rewards platinum edition credit card, and a slim portfolio of pejorative penny stocks.  The recent global economic colic surprised everyone, even terrorists, as you would had to have been a prophet (or claim to represent one) to have seen it coming.  It seems that al-Qaeda is hurting for cash and has begun fundraising.

     It would be treasonous of me to offer an advertizing campaign to al-Qaeda, especially with the widespread success of Google AdWords, and while making money off of the merchandizing of hate and death works for the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazi and racial supremacist groups, and Fox News, at least with bad fashion one can easily recognize the enemy. The PLO got buckets of bucks in the mid-1980s by street-corner guerrilla sales of keffiyeh scarfs with the vast majority of buyers clueless that a small fraction of their purchase price was being used to fund car-bombs which killed and maimed innocent civilians.

     Osama bin Laden is thought to be in hiding somewhere in the Chitral District of northern Pakistan, on the eastern side of the Hindu Kush mountain range, just up and over from Tora Bora, Afghanistan.  Some media have suggested that the ...reputation of al-Qaeda has been negatively affected by such bombings as the non-military hotels in Jakarta, Indonesia, which has resulted in “donors” tossing their angry alms to the Taliban, instead of Bin Laden's cause.  This, the philanthropy of the perverse, is too creepy for comment.  It's thought that the Taliban are strong-arming the Afghan poppy/opium/heroin trade and extorting many millions, and with a projected two years worth of dope stockpiled in Afghanistan, the immediate financial concerns of the Taliban seem secure.  Not so with al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, who prefer to make their money the old fashioned way: online videos.  Sure, one always makes more from click-throughs, but there's some change to be had with just being seen.  We had to wait decades to hear the story of the Russians finding Hitler's charred lower jaw, some teeth, and a skull fragment, and decades more to see them.  The pursuit of Osama isn't like hunting for Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but should be viewed as a public works project which needs proper attention.  We're not looking hard enough for the bad guys.

Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela President Hugo Rafael Chávez Frias.

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow,
They'll learn much more than I'll ever know.
And I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

     The former army paratrooper turned socialist politician, President Hugo Chávez, has achieved in the last decade a world-wide recognition of his flamboyant style (he's a jerk), insightful oratory (he says stupid crap all the time), and for his shrewd business acumen (in socialist Venezuela, you don't stay in a Hilton, with rabid nationalism you stay in a revolutionary-themed government hotel and Hilton can stay at the Best Western down the street).  It's been a while since Pat Robertson encouraged the assassination of Chávez on television's The 700 Club, but now Hollywood's Oliver Stone, the Michael Moore of conspiracy films, has cranked his camera to expose a ...misunderstood patriot.  Me thinks Oli's been at the oil again and his cinematic vision has gotten blurry.  Chávez cares for his country the way a john leases a hooker, one election at a time until the money's all gone.  Where one sees corruption, another apparently sees prosperity.  Now, would probably be a great time for Canadians to party in Venezuela.

     Last month, Chávez went on an 11-day tour of Algeria, Belarus, Iran, Italy (the Venice Film Festival with Oli), Libya, Russia, and Syria.  By most accounts, it was a good tour for Chávez, which means it was really bad for others.  Appearing alongside Syrian President Bashar al Assad at a press conference in Damascus, Chávez once more blamed the Jews for almost everything wrong in the world and offered that Israel was “created” to serve the “North American empire” in the Mideast.  I'm wondering how Greenland feels about that...   As far as Central and South America is concerned (or, at least, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America, i.e. Bolivia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Equador, Grenadin Antigua, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent, and Venezuela), Chávez was able to receive a $2.2 billion loan for the purchase of Russian-made weapons for officially recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  I'm unsure of how Chávez recognized these two new countries, perhaps their socks didn't match or something.  Russia has also paid some $600 million for access to the Orinoco oilfields, by all accounts a sweet deal.   If only Joe Kennedy could get a better price for Venezuelan oil so Massachusetts home-owners can stay warm this coming nasty winter!   Or, we  could just burn Oli Stone's new  South of the Border in effigy...

Democratic People's Republic of Korea "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il.

Yes I think to myself... what a wonderful world.

“What a Wonderful World” written by George Douglas (pseudonym for Bob Thiele) and George David Weiss.
Sung by Louis Armstrong (1968, ABC Records).

     Some fires keep you warm, others, especially really big ones, can be seen from space.  Last week, NASA released satellite photographs of multiple forest fires burning across North Korea.  Well, we think they’re forest fires, though with the over a half of a billion dollar a year cigarette counterfeiting business thriving, maybe some lucky North Koreans are enjoying some smokes before they get exported to other countries.  I’d be silly and wrong to suggest the fires had anything to do with food, as dangogi (dog or “sweet meat”) is still somewhat of a luxury for the average North Korean.  If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what the eye does not admire, the heart doesn’t desire, perhaps General Kim Jong-il needs new glasses to see the forest for the burning trees.  Just saying…

     Earlier this month, North Korea test-fired five short-range missiles over the Korea East Sea (or the “Sea of Japan”), which follows both a long-range missile test and a sizable nuclear weapon test this past Spring.  Jong-il is arguably the craziest and most powerful despot of the planet.  Kimchi for brains does a disservice to cabbage when attempting to describe Jong-il.  Our Korean conflict continues.

     The inventor and philosopher, R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983), believed that money and power are directly related to energy production and that if we could figure out a way to share energy fairly, global peace could be achievable.  It was a lofty suggestion, the World Games are still played, and I have to wonder if Bucky knew something that we don’t.

     Maybe next year, the Norwegian Nobel Committee will decide not to pick an individual, a world leader or activist, for its Peace Prize, but choose instead the people of North Korea, Iran, and Venezuela.  Not a politician or head of state, but those who live, albeit precariously, in this wonderful world.  We’ll see…


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