Could George Bush Be Right About Lebanon?

In crazy times like these I find myself thinking crazy things. One of the craziest is the possibility that George Bush may be right about a few things in Lebanon. It gives me the shivers.

To his credit, George is right on many counts:

  • Hezbollah is a group of ululating thugs who can’t even manage to get along with other members of their own religion, much less anyone else.
  • Hezbollah kicked off this latest round of violence when it kidnapped the Israeli soldiers and it keeps it going by lobbing rocket after rocket into Israel.
  • The Israelis are perfectly within their rights to defend themselves against the constant incursions of terrorists. Regular skirmishes and suicide bombings punctuated by the occasional outright war is no way to live and they deserve to be free of it.
  • There is little doubt that Iran and Syria are eyeball-deep in fomenting the current troubles. Their tiresome, “who me?” posture doesn’t fool anyone, including other Arab states.
  • And foremost, the Middle East would be a far better place if a lasting peace were attained. A step back from the constant threat of WW (fill in the blank) would be a welcome change indeed.

But being right on many counts isn’t the same as being right on all accounts.

While the Israelis are entitled to defend themselves, their current elephant-gun-to-kill-an-ant approach does nothing but stir up more stink than usual. Stink that lands on them in the form of additional rockets. The lopsidedness of the fighting and the fact that it’s done little to dampen Hezbollah’s rockets is proof of its folly. As often happens with Israel, they are so bent on avenging legitimate wrongs, they fail to see they are cutting their nose off despite their face.

Their claim that leveling southern Lebanon is a “surgical” campaign designed to weed out Hezbollah may be true on one level, but it’s so much more at another. The last time Israel decided they needed to take out the local terrorists du jour they stayed in Lebanon for six years. This “limited” campaign has all the earmarks of following suit and we can all expect a tenser world full of more terrorists as a result..

The Condo-Israeli faction is making that mistake so much worse. While they’re happy to plink diplomatic rocks at Syria and Iran for being meddlesome (a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, I think), they are unwilling to take them on in a meaningful way. Instead of going to the international community to impose sanctions or work out some other suitable means to calm things down, they allow a war to rage that only increases Iranian and Syrian Arab street cred. Meanwhile, the alarmed international community – already soured on the Bush doctrine – is less trusting than ever that Mr. President can control the issue safely. The end to this debacle is not via more Israeli bombs nor Katyusha rockets.

It’s also not through the fantasy that George will be able to broker a lasting peace.

First, there’s his track record. In the wake of the good ship George lies at least two broken countries – Iraq and Afghanistan – and other leaky diplomatic lifeboats ready to sink – Iran, Syria, North Korea, and other Axi of Evil. While he is a legend in his own mind, no one other than he and the most addled-brained would call his handling of Iraq and other international trouble spots rousing successes. If they were, we’d all be wearing a lifetime supply of victory flower-garlands and attending the Iraq Independence Day Fireworks and Texas Bar-B-Que.

There’s also that annoying reality thing to consider. Muslims, Christians, and Jews have been steeping in a toxic brew of hatred for thousands of years. At worst, the region has been embroiled in deadly wars that last for years. At best, suicide bombers and other religious maniacs keep the pot simmering with a well-timed terrorist act, a kidnapping, or the occasional artillery shell.

George claims to speaks to God and I’d sorely like to believe him, because it’ll take the intervention of a supernatural power to set right that which has been broken for so long. George may believe he’s the chosen one who will bring peace to the Middle East. He may believe this is a golden opportunity to turn the place around so everyone can live in harmony. He may believe that not talking to the parties involved in the conflict will resolve it somehow. He may even believe that allowing unrestricted warfare for a few weeks to stomp out the fires of Hezbollah is the way to go.

Me? Not so much.

So God, if you’re talking to George, could you give me a sign that everything will be all right?

Perhaps your image in a toasted pita would be appropriate.

Bring it On!

The Poobah also appears at Bring it On!

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Vacations? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Vacations!

American Workers on Vacation

I’m going on a vacation next week, so I’ve got leisure time at the forefront of my mind. I’m as busy as the next overwhelmed American worker, so the thought of being away is a mixed blessing.

The easy-going, never-work-harder-than-you-have-to side of me says, “Alright! A week off! You’re a God and you deserve it! Woo hoo!” The considerably more depressing worker-bee part of me thinks about the mountain of emails, phone calls, questions, and stalled work that’ll await my return. I’ll likely need two weeks to catch up on the week’s accumulation of stuff, thereby negating any restorative benefits from the time off. Since I recently took a new job, I haven’t yet accrued enough time off to cover my week away, so I’ll be in the hole for awhile. No days off, no getting sick until I catch up a few months from now.

I used to travel extensively in Europe on business and the topic of time off came up often. To Europeans, time off is a government-guaranteed, sacred right worthy of riots and violent demonstrations if changes are afoot. It would be easier to completely rewrite Social Security, solve the health care crunch, and “win” the war on terror than to cut a European’s vacation time. Most countries start with five weeks and bump to six after an average of five years while getting sick days as a gravy on top.

In the US, middle and upper class workers get an average of two weeks off per year (three weeks if your company pools vacation and sick days as sells it as an unfunded “benefit”). A few companies bump employees to three weeks after 10 years or so. Some factories “helpfully” tell employees when to take time, whether that matches their plans or not. Lower class wage slaves, many involved in heavy labor and strenuous tasks, are just shit-outta-luck. You don’t work, you don’t get paid.

“Have a good time on vacation! Drop us a postcard! Providing we don’t hire an illegal alien while you’re gone, we might even have a job for you when you get back!”

As a rule, American companies are pretty stingy with the time off. They base their business plans on a work ethic of, “We’ll pay you eight hours for 12 hours of work. We know you’d like to have some time off, but golly we’ve already got one person out that week and we can’t spare you. Check back with us next year. Okay?” In the biz-parlance of ROI (return on investment), vacations are an expense with no return. As long as a warm body occupies the chair – preferably a nice, sturdy, lower-paid chair in India – they’re making money. Heaven forbid someone has to forego that fourth yacht they’ve had their eye on.

I happen to be lucky. My new company sees a benefit to the investment in time off. While they may not be as cutting edge as Europeans, they do understand the benefit of taking a break now and then. Accordingly, they’re generous with the time off – at least by American standards. They even offer a paid six-week sabbatical after five years. It’s true that it’s your responsibility to work out coverage while you’re gone, but at least they offer.

Study after study conclude Americans are among the most productive workers on Earth – mostly on the strength of working considerably more hours per week (many of them unpaid if you’re salaried employee). Many studies also show Americans are heavily overworked. The attendant stress causes medical and psychological problems requiring expensive treatment. Expensive treatment that’s now migrating off companies’ balance sheets and into employees’ steadily emptying pockets.

Americans have been at this for so long, they’ve forgotten how to relax. American workers vacation with PCs, Blackberries, and cell phones tethered to them like malevolent moons. The infernal gadgets ring unabated while they’re away. Attending conference calls in between interrupted trips to the beach are not such a rare thing in America. Even without the weighty technology and a secret destination where you can hide from the boss, the office pace usually continues. Since they get so little time off, Americans try to cram the Euro-standard six weeks into one. They plan trips with a precision that would make a smart bomb designer proud. They rush from attraction to attraction with such a fury that a visit to a beachside Denny’s reveals only the dissipating vapor trails of frantic families on the move.

When these folks return to their overstuffed everyday lives, they’re more exhausted than if they’d never left. They immediately dive back into their pile of business junk with all the vigor of a marooned sailor.

Yeah, that’s a productive worker all right.

Many companies have work/life balance programs. They give wonderful classes on identifying the important things in life and balancing them with your work responsibilities. The classes invariably start from the basic premise that you already have adequate time to do everything, you’re just bad at scheduling it. They offer all manner of planners, electronic gizmos, and support groups for parents and those providing care for elders or the sick. But the real value they place on these classes is best demonstrated by when they give them – during lunchtime, after work, or on weekends.

Thanks guys! That was a big help.

As an ex-GE employee I once heard GE’s puzzling lionized CEO, Jack Welch, explain to an employee who complained about routine 12 hour days and 6 day weeks that he was the problem. Sounding like he was talking to a mildly retarded six year old, Jack explained, “You need to work smarter, not harder. Look at me. I’m the CEO of one of the largest businesses on the planet and I still find time to get in a round of golf or two every weekend.”

I thought to myself at the time, “That’s mighty good advice Jack. How about you come down and fill in for me this weekend. Oh, can’t make it? You’re taking your caddy to lunch after your foursome on Saturday?”

“Um, can your caddy cover for me? I haven’t seen my wife and daughter for about three months now. I promise I’ll work smarter so this never happens again sir. Honest.”

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News From the Front Office

Just a short note from the front office here at Omnipotent Poobah Omnimedia Intergalactic Headquarters about Poobah doings:

  • Stop by Bring It On to see my bi-weekly feature rant on the Lebanese crisis in Thursday’s Edition (available after 1 am, EDT). I tried to suck some humor juice from a bad situation going south, but it was an uphill battle. They’re a lively bunch over there, so don’t be afraid to jump in with the comments, especially if Sandy the Troll turns up (you’ll know her if you read her).
  • I’ll be missing in action from July 22-30 for a visit with the Omnipotent Dad at the ancestral plantation in Chesapeake, Virginia. I know some of you will wither without your daily fix of snarkiness, so I’ll try to get back up and running as soon as possible after my return.
  • In a bit of shameless self-promotion, I’m pleased to announce the Poobah’s place passed the 15,000 mark last week. I owe it all to you and a few additional people I sucker in from other places – and they say you can’t fool people.
  • I’m planning a regular post for Friday unless something unforeseen happens, so remember not to bail quite yet.

So while I’m gone, play nice, be safe, and stop poking the other kids in the eye with a stick. You could hurt someone.