When I was younger I remember thinking that 1996 or 1997 would be futuristic. I had a calendar in 1986, when I was turning 9 years old, that had pictures of the space shuttles and artists’ conceptions of distant planets, space stations and galaxies. It filled me with dreams of the future and of course, humans in space.

Since then the dreams have not come true. We’ve spent 10 years and billions of dollars making an international space station that is about 1/100th of what I imagined back when I was a kid. No person has traveled to a celestial body since I was born, and space exploration seems to consist of telescopes and that’s it. NASA is a mess, the shuttles are being mothballed soon, and Europe and Japan seem to lack vision. China and India have entered the space age and are engaged in their own small space race. But aside from the interesting potential of these space programs 20 years down the line, they are now just reaching the point that the United States and the Soviet Union crossed around 1965.

Since those early days I’ve learned a lot about the world’s poverty, the political and bureaucratic problems that lock up developed countries, and, everywhere, corruption. The greed of many is polluting the world, and the environmental movement still lacks clout, 40 years or so after its early steps. I grew up, and found out that the world is a place of conflict, of selfishness, of fighting over resources and ignorance of history. There is intolerance and self-righteousness all around.

I am disappointed with where the world has gone in the last 25 years. What happened to the 90s? Why were the first years of the 20th century lost and virtually given up on? In the 90s we were still figuring out Eastern Europe, helping and hurting their transition. We were focused on old Yugoslavia’s breakup. We were watching while ethnic cleansing was still happening in this world we called ‘civilized’. The terrorist attack of September 11, 2001 did not change anything. It merely was the most devastating terrorist attack on United States soil. I remember it distinctly, but can’t fathom why no one seems to remember the horrific attacks all through the 1980s. The Bush Jr. years seemed to meet with resistance around the world at first, then passivity, as they waited for his 8 years to run out and for America change and reengage. The United States has failed. It is corrupt. It is split into two factions. It does not lead because it is incapable of leading.

Without a hegemone the world trudges on. China and India may one day lead, but for now they are still mostly just concerned with development. As they should be. One of the great triumphs of the modern age is the pulling of hundreds of millions of peasants out of poverty in these two huge countries. I myself need to learn more about India. I have spent the last 6 years learning about China from within. India is next.

Technological progress continues, but the great days of scientific discovery of the 19th century and early 20th century are long gone. Progress tends now to be all about entertainment and communication. We have faster trains, but not the computerized traffic systems and electric cars I figured we would. Solar power has yet to fully arrive. Video conferencing happens, but why don’t I have a flat panel on my kitchen wall that I can use to talk face to face with my parents? The World Expo is in Shanghai this year I and I will visit it several times. The theme is the future of urban living. Will I see anything that we shouldn’t already have?

The world in 2010 is not what it should be or could be. I too, have not done my share. So what about the world in 2030? What can we achieve? I will turn 53 that year, still in my prime, but not for too much longer after that. I would like to see a world full of cooperation and competition. Of people trying to better themselves and the world they live in. Of tolerance and compromise, but also vision and strength. I want to be able to visit the moon and mars. I want to burn zero fuel but still do everything that I wish to. I want to live in a secure world, without war and ethnic rivalry.

Who do we look to for these advances? We should all look to ourselves. We should to innovators like Google, who build power with brains, then seek to change the games they find fault with. I like ideas like Google Books. I think all the knowledge in the world needs to be scanned, copied, collected, and distributed. Not in one place, but many. Not by one company, but by many governments, companies and other organizations. Most of the knowledge the world ever produced, we have lost. I am sure of it. We need to preserve what we can. I don’t care about the writers of today – let the novelists have their copyright. But the writings of Pythagoras, Lao Zi, and the unknown writers of the Vedas and Pyramid Texts need their works to be available to all.

Learning and education are a start. Leadership, discipline, and work ethic are another aspect that is often missing in the West these days. We are too comfortable. We need passion and fire to change things for good. Too often we are misdirected, distracted. We care only for our own family’s needs. We are insular and think short-term. Our political systems are contests for power that take up too much time and money, instead of being systems that allow for good governance, change, and true leadership.

2030 is not that far away. Time marches quickly and does not pause for us to fight, and argue or rest and put off.


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The Single Greatest Day in U.S. History

Today, as Barack Obama is sworn in as President of the United States of America, millions of people around the world are celebrating. They are cheering not simply because of a change in administration, or that an unpopular president is finally leaving office. A majority of Americans and many from other nations are rejoicing at the greatest day in America’s history.

For the United States has now truly lived up to its ideals of Freedom, Equality, and Justice. A black man has become President in a country that has been dominated by whites from the time of its birth. A man whose father was an immigrant has overcome the greatest racial barrier of the new world.

There have been other great days: the moon landing, the end of the Civil War, the Declaration of Independence, and more. Yet I think few moments could stimulate such pride, such surprise (did anyone think it would happen so soon just five years ago?), and so many tears of joy. Nothing could be better for the country than electing a man who seems so reasonable, moral, intelligent, and obviously of great energy and drive.

The outside world breathes a sigh of relief – arrogance and foolish warmongering are out of office. The United States will bring a new, humbler yet confident image to the world, and the world will respond by embracing it once again. President Obama faces many obstacles to peace and security for his country, but there is every reason to be optimistic. He has been given a strong hand in Congress, and with any luck he should be able to bring about 8 years of changes that will make the United States great once again.


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7 Years Too Late

What was Mr. Bush thinking at the turn of 2001?   “Gee, it’s going to be great to be President?  I can’t wait to settle some domestic issues in my first two years before going after Saddam?  That campaigning was hard work, when can I take a holiday?”

He certainly wasn’t thinking of continuing the work that Clinton had going in the Middle East.  Now, I’m not comparing the two here – President Clinton spent far too much time in impeachment hearings and trying to get a hostile Congress to agree to a damn health care plan to really devote the time needed to try to achieve peace in the Middle East.  But then, maybe Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Palestinians weren’t ready yet either.

But back to Bush.  Why didn’t he got directly to Jerusalem, Riyadh, Amman, Cairo – hey anywhere they would take him – and discuss how to make a deal for Palestinian statehood, recognition of Israel, Jerusalem, the settlers and the right of return?  Why now, 7 years later?  I remember the provocation by Sharon, the beginning of the second intifada, and Bush sitting on his hands at the ranch.  The beginning of 2001 and a new Presidency should have begun a new courageous attempt at making peace.

If attempts, honest attempts had been made at that point, one only wonders how matters would have been different.  And if they had failed?  If the 9/11 bombers had cared less, or not trusted the new American initiative and done their deeds anyway?  If Palestinians, Hamas and Fatah were still fighting each other and Israel?  If Israel had still gone into Lebanon?  At least America would have been seen to be trying.  Some goodwill would surely have gone their way.  A little less hate, a little less distrust, particularly of this administration, could have resulted.   There would have been more chances over the last 7 years for Camp David accords, meetings, consultations, agreements and deals.

Now, after 7 years he makes his first trip there?  What was he thinking?  Where were the much-touted advisers?  Yes, after 9/11 Mr. Bush was pre-occupied, dealing with a devastated city, a battered economy, a war in Afghanistan, and a regime change in Iraq.  I’m sure it truly takes a lot of time to figure out how to spend so much more money than your government can collect.

Bush’s recent visit to the Middle East and effort to engage the regional players to come to the table and negotiate have drawn much praise and criticism.  My only comment is that it comes during the lame duck period of his administration – not exactly the time for earth-shaking diplomatic maneuvers.

I’d like to hope that whoever takes control of the U.S. government and Congress in 2008 realizes the potential they have to set things right in the Middle East.  They should start as early as they can in 2009 on trying earnestly to broker a deal.  The United States faces many daunting challenges in the global arena, but the hate it engenders for its appearance of support for Israel and complicity in the suffering of the Palestinians is the greatest.  It is the calling card for terrorist recruits, and populist dictators.  U.S. security would be greatly improved with a peaceful agreement for a Palestinian state, far more than overthrowing another regime, building more missile systems, or protecting oil interests.


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