Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Last Call for '08

Pimp My Legacy

The latest to join the “redemption tour”, along with Bush, Cheney, and Rice, is the First Lady, who is vowing that history will vindicate all of her husband's actions over the past eight years. Well, since a sense of history has never been a strong suit in the Bush White House, I have to be skeptical... or, maybe she knows something we don't. One possibility is that, sooner or later, it will be revealed that the “Bush administration” was not George W. Bush's at all, thus freeing him from all blame. This would be like saying that what happened during his reign is not an idiot king's fault, but that of his regent. Certainly a possibility, except that American politics are not set up this way. If it happened while you were president, it was your fault – or it's to your credit, depending. And this applies to everything, including the weather, natural disasters, plagues, sunspots, supernovae, black holes -- you name it, thus reflecting the almost-universal American image (or is it wish?) of the president as all-powerful and able to perform miracles on a daily basis. They are even elected based on their perceived miracle-performing potential, as we have seen with Obama. This may be unrealistic but that's the way it is. And if there's anything American politicians and the media excel in, it's the “blame game”. So they wind up holding empty suits responsible for all sorts of catastrophes, because that's easier than trying to figure out who's really responsible, and why what happened happened, i.e. who benefited. A little bit of “cui bono” analysis would go a long way toward solving many of the “mysteries” of current events – you know, like, why wasn't the subprime mortgage meltdown anticipated and stopped years earlier. Stuff like that. Or, why are we still in Iraq when the effort has been, by and large, a failure and has bled our economy dry (even before the current crisis)? Just follow the money, folks. That and the lust for power. Whatever's left will fit into a thimble.

Hard-Hearted Katrina, the Vamp of New Orleans

As a countermelody to the “redemption tour”, we also have “some of Bush's closest advisors” saying that his administration's response (or non-response) to the Katrina disaster “marked a turning point” in the administration – which “entered a downward spiral” -- and that Bush's presidency “never recovered”. This is a different sort of excuse from the "redemption tour" version; this time it's along the lines of, if only it hadn't been for that mean old hurricane (plus, we know that the U.S. president controls the weather -- the global warming crusaders have told us so). Implication – everything was fine up to that point. Which is like saying that everyone thought Jimmy Carter was doing a great job until the “killer rabbit” incident. Well, sorry folks, but Bush was already marked for infamy long before Katrina dealt its wrath upon the Big Easy. At least one of the advisers in question has it right (maybe inadvertently) – he described Katrina as not only the “tipping point” but “the final nail in the coffin”. Right. You don't have a "tipping point" unless there's something ready to be tipped. And you don't have a “final nail” until you have (1) a coffin and (2) all the other nails already in place.

It is often pointed out that, all during the Katrina crisis, Bush acted as though he had nothing to do with it, and that he wasn't in charge. For once, he gave an honest impression – he _wasn't_ in charge, any more than he had been on 9-11, and any more than he's been at any time since. This may, in fact, be his only lasting legacy. Call him “The President Who Wasn't”.

Honey Baked Hamas

Well, Israel has come up with a nice going-away present for Bush – proof positive that all of his alleged efforts to achieve “a lasting peace” in that part of the Near East have been for naught. This quest has been a full-time job for Condoleezza Rice, for example... and what does she have to show for it? The fact is, neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians want peace – that's for wimps! And quitters! Israel wants what they could have had in the first place, except for some unknown reason they held their punches – namely the total ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israeli territory (which includes – let's get real about this – the West Bank and Gaza). Maybe it was the Jews' recent experience with ethnic cleansing in Europe that gave them cold feet back in 1948. Heaven knows, they did their best... but for some reason, not only did many Palestinians remain in Israeli territory, but they continued to reproduce, and under the harshest of conditions. What sort of people would act that way? And yet they did.

And what do the Palestinians want? Simply to be left alone? Well, maybe some do. But let's admit that, for many if not most, the dream is to get rid of the Jews, and Israel, altogether. But the Palestinians have been every bit as hapless as the Arabs in general over the last few decades, and the probability of getting Israel out of their faces has dwindled to virtually zero – at least as long as Israel enjoys all the privileges of being the 51st state, with none of the responsibilities.

So the latest battle can be seen as just part of a long series – a new Hundred Years' War, if you will. But the timing is intriguing nonetheless. Is someone trying to tell Bush (as if anyone with a grain of sense would need to be told) that his net effect on Near East “peace” has been zip? Or... is someone trying to re-establish the “terms of reference” for the benefit of Obama and Co.? Said terms of reference being -- "we can do anything we please, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it (just keep the 'foreign aid' checks coming)." Is this, in fact, the start of that “test” that everyone's been talking about? The utter silence of the Obama camp regarding the Israel-Hamas-Gaza battle is instructive in this regard. It's like a college slacker who skips class on test day, hoping that somehow that will let him off the hook. But of course it only makes things worse, and postpones – only slightly – the day of reckoning.

Mad Money

The green-eyeshade guys are finally getting around to asking, and trying to figure out, where all the money went that Bernard Madoff conned out of his clients. This, of course, was the very first question I asked. I mean... yeah, estates and yachts and cars and so on can be expensive, but $50 Billion? Really. How can any human being spend that much on anything, even in many years' time? Maybe it's all piled up in a mile-high Scrooge McDuck-style money bin, complete with diving board. But if it is, said money bin has yet to be located. I guess they could try the Swiss banks. So far, a few clues have emerged as to where the money went, and some of it least – maybe a lot – was simply returned to investors. That's how a Ponzi scheme works; someone – the initial cohort at least – has to make money. So that money can hardly be called “lost”; at the most, it was more than the investors in question should have gotten back (but lots of luck trying to reclaim it). The portion that was used to buy property can be recovered to a considerable extent. The portion that was invested in stocks and other “instruments” that have gone belly-up in the meantime is, arguably, up in smoke. But no one has the faintest idea, as yet, how much went into each of these pots, or into other as-yet-named pots. And that too is the whole idea in a scheme like this – no tracks, no trace, no accountability. Gee, sort of reminds me of what the people who've gotten all the “bailout” money have done. They're not providing any accounting either. So... are they any better, ultimately, than Bernie Madoff? I'm afraid the answer is “no”. So does he get to sue for discrimination or unequal treatment? He ought to.

Smarts Like This, I Don't Need

And of course, among the many predictable spinoffs of the Madoff affair is the fear, expressed by the ADL and other organizations, that it will lead to an increase in "anti-Semitism". And I will say again -- 'cause I've already said it -- "au contraire". This, of all cases, ought to serve to _neutralize_ anti-Semitic feeling. Why? Because the age-old stereotype is of the smart, Shylock-type Jew running rings around, and cheating, the stupid goyim. They "Jew" you out of your money then skip town, leaving you penniless or (worse) landless, and then go on to exploit someone else in some other place. Right? Except in this case it was, guess what, overwhelmingly other Jews who got cheated. So much for ethnic "loyalty"! I would think that, if anything, this sort of news ought to be reassuring to people with a "thing" about Jews and their alleged lying, cheating, stealing ways. But, oh well, that wouldn't make a nice juicy headline, and what Abe Foxman & Co. want more than anything else is to pursue the grievance/persecution biz 24-7. That fact that they wind up sounding like paranoid idiots doesn't seem to act as a deterrent.

Hot Quaker Oats

“Global warming” has already been blamed for everything from beached whales to psoriasis – but a new high (or low) was reached the other day with a pronouncement by a Munich-based organization. They pointed out that the severity of natural disasters is going up, and with it the related death toll. And for 2008, the second-biggest disaster – traceable to global warming, no doubt – was an earthquake in China. There were also destructive earthquakes in Pakistan. OK – so, given that the global warming panic is all based on sound science that admits of no argument or dissent, would someone please explain to me how global warming causes earthquakes? I mean... don't earthquakes start miles under the ground? And isn't global warming basically a surface and atmospheric phenomenon – at least so far – except for some portion of the oceans? But before you answer that question, let me point out that one of the other global warming-caused disasters was “a severe cold snap” in Central Asia. You know... I hate to keep harping on this, but these global warming people had better stop sounding like nut cases pretty darn soon, or any part of their arguments that is valid is going to be tossed out with the cuckoo crumbs.

Have a Cuppa Joe

So Josef Stalin is considered the third-greatest historical figure, right after Alexander Nevsky and Pyotr Stolypin (who?). Hey, no one can say the Russians don't have a sense of history; Nevsky lived in the 13th Century. As for Stalin – the best friend in all the world of both Churchill and Roosevelt, please note, and a former friend of Hitler – it just proves, once again, that some societies, even highly-cultured ones with a lively intellectual and artistic life, are ultimately committed to the “strong man” concept of leadership. It's the same mentality that says Mussolini “made the trains run on time” or Hitler “built the Autobahn”... so therefore we can excuse a bit of “rough stuff” in other sectors. But beyond that – and don't forget those marvelous subway stations in Moscow – people all over the world still respect, and fear, and therefore respect all the more, the guy who kicks ass. They consider anyone who worries too much about “rights” and “democracy” a kind of wimp – not someone you would really trust to, say, fight a war of conquest or put a stop to internal strife by simply exterminating all their opponents. The “strong man” is a model for leadership in virtually all of Africa, for example... in most of Latin America... and in much of the “third world” portion of Asia. In fact, it's even the model of leadership at the gubernatorial level in many of the Southern states in the U.S. And is Europe really “over it” entirely? Russia certainly isn't – but they've never been as much a part of Europe politically as part of Asia. These are unfortunately facts of political life and human nature that the limp-wristed bureaucrats of the U.N. and the E.U. have yet to deal with – because there is no room in their thinking for anything that outmoded or atavistic. And yet, there it stands – and guess what, many of these societies are acquiring more economic force with each passing day. “One-worlder” pacifists have a few facts to face... but there is no sign that they're ready to face them.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Thoughts for a Christmas Eve

Every year at about this time, people look back and start talking about “wow, what a year it's been”, and “it's a wonder we survived”, and all of that folksy stuff. Most of the time, the year in question has been eventful, sure, but not all that exceptional in the scheme of things. But I would venture to say that 2008 has broken the mold in many ways. On the political side, we have at least the appearance of “change”, and it is, in any event, historically significant that an African-American (in the literal sense, for once) has been elected president. Whether this will spell real change is another matter, and color me pessimistic, since – as I have said many times – I believe there is really only one “regime” and that it remains in control regardless of who gets elected or appointed to any given office. And yet, the way American politics works, maybe appearances are all that count; this can certainly be said of most administrations and most “emergency” programs down through the 20th Century and into the 21st. Politics is, above all, the art of appearances and of illusion... the art of deception... the art of “bait and switch”... and the art of rotating neglect of innumerable human and social needs. And the amazing thing is, it continues to be practiced as in days of yore with nary a peep of protest from its victims, the people. Perhaps this is such a profound, deeply-rooted human trait that it's a lost cause trying to root it out – the starry-eyed, gullible faith in politicians, the herd behavior in the voting booth, and the obliviousness to what happens next – the corruption, the exploitation, the deceit. The most one can expect from the voters is that they will throw one gang out of office and invite a new gang in, only to find that things haven't improved, so they throw that gang out next time around and... ad infinitum. And none of this fazes the people who are really running things, who look down from great heights and laugh at the foolishness of the body politic.

2008 is also remarkable in that it is the year in which vast reaches of the nation's economy were, for all intents and purposes, nationalized – not for the good of the people, but, paradoxically, for the benefit of those whose “mismangement” necessitated the nationalization. History will, someday, if there is an honest bone left in the body of historians, mark 2008 as the year the United States became an officially fascist system, i.e. one in which business and government are one. Of course, events leading up to this denouement have been occurring for decades, but now that it is official, and there is very little protest because everyone is too frightened to question the “remedies” being offered for all of the various manufactured “crises”, we can assume that the Regime has decided that it's time to dispense with the illusion and the language of “free enterprise” and “capitalism”. This is not to say that a few vestiges won't remain; you can expect some glimmerings of the free market here and there. But overall, and where it counts, we won't be any more of a “free enterprise” or “capitalistic” country than Nazi Germany. The Regime will decide who gets rich and who doesn't, and what price they have to pay. And ordinary people will be fed propaganda by the media and kept on sufficient life support to remain “productive”, i.e. slaves of the system.

So 2008 is a year of a great economic sea change, accomplished mainly by unelected, unappointed, and, in many cases, anonymous men who are motivated by... what? One is tempted to say simple greed, but after all, how much money can any one individual realistically use over the course of a lifetime? A more likely explanation is simply raw power – performing great deeds because you can, and because those deeds will appear as a tidal wave to lesser mortals, sweeping them off their feet and into poverty, dependency, and desperation. Grandiosity of this type does not require deeds of the building-up kind, that will be fondly remembered for generations to come. It is much more evil and perverse than that. It is enough just to have had an impact – to have grabbed thousands, or millions, by the throat. Destructive? Yes. Tending to destroy the society, and the system, that enabled those actions? Certainly. But these people don't care. If they can't create, they will destroy. If they cannot work for the common good, they will work for their own good – narrowly defined – and enjoy the spectacle of what they have wrought, the way an arsonist does.

How the levers of society, and our economic system, got turned over to people of this type is an issue worth exploring, but I'm not going to do it now. Instead, I'm going to provide a quotation – a long one – from none other than Charlie Chaplin. This is a portion of his speech at the end of the film, “The Great Dictator”, and despite Chaplin's highly dubious political convictions he does manage to hit the nail on the head many times in this speech. So here it is, with my best wishes for Christmas:

“We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. We don't want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone and the earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful. But we have lost the way. Greed has poisoned men's souls - has barricaded the world with hate; has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed.

"We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in: machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little: More than machinery we need humanity; More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost. The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children, victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people. To those who can hear me I say 'Do not despair'.

"The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed, the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress: the hate of men will pass and dictators die and the power they took from the people, will return to the people and so long as men die [now] liberty will never perish...

"Don't give yourselves to brutes, men who despise you and enslave you - who regiment your lives, tell you what to do, what to think and what to feel, who drill you, diet you, treat you as cattle, as cannon fodder.

"Don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate - only the unloved hate. Only the unloved and the unnatural. Don't fight for slavery, fight for liberty.

"In the seventeenth chapter of Saint Luke it is written 'the kingdom of God is within man' - not one man, nor a group of men - but in all men - in you, the people.

"You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Then in the name of democracy let's use that power - let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world, a decent world that will give men a chance to work, that will give you the future and old age and security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power, but they lie. They do not fulfil their promise, they never will. Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people. Now let us fight to fulfil that promise. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness.

"In the name of democracy, let us all unite!”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Class and Trash

The current debate in New York State as to Caroline Kennedy's qualifications – or lack thereof – for the Senate is raising more old frayed ghosts than a community theatre production of “A Christmas Carol”. And it's highly amusing that one of the objections to her candidacy is her alleged lack of experience. To which I reply, what sort of “experience”, precisely, is needed to serve in today's Senate? Having been a highwayman in one's youth would certainly seem to be relevant... or, in later years, having gained a reputation as a bore, a windbag, and an insufferable stuffed shirt. Fiscal responsibility clearly has nothing to do with it, nor does any glimmer of knowledge about history or economics. All in all, I would consider it quite an insult if anyone pronounced me a suitable candidate for the Senate. But in Caroline's case, it's also true that the words “Senate” and “Kennedy” go together like the words “India” and “dysentery” -- one can scarcely imagine the one without the other. But beyond that, Caroline is considered not only a charter member of “America's royal family” but, by all rights, the heir apparent. And this raises what may be the real objection to her candidacy.

Long ago, in a land far, far, away there was a place called The White House. It was inhabited by a high-born family known as the Kennedys, and their kingdom – or at least the part of it that basked under their direct touch – was dubbed “Camelot” by a bevy of starry-eyed simpletons who are now... well, not gone from the scene exactly, since it was them, or their spawn, who propelled Obama into the presidency. The unpleasant truth is not only that America needs royalty, but that “American royalty” rises primarily out of the ranks of liberals – you know, those egalitarian, down-with-kings, make-the-rough-places-plain inheritors of Oliver Cromwell. The psychology of this is hard to fathom, but a few clues may be offered. One is that conservatives, and/or Republicans, live by a natural, implicit assumption that there are wide differences in talent, aptitude, and motivation among members of the human species, and that while some are fit to lead, most are fit only to follow, and to serve. Their point of view is, in fact, consistent with what nearly all psychologists would have said up until a generation ago, and what a few brave ones still say – that all men may be created equal in terms of “rights” (which is, at any rate, a political/philosophical concept, not a psychological one) but it is painfully obvious that all are not created (or developed) equal in terms of abilities.

Liberals, and/or Democrats, on the other hand, are wedded to the notion that “human rights” include the right to equal outcomes regardless of aptitude and effort – equal outcomes in areas such as education (not real education, but diplomas), housing, income, political power, fame, you name it. The problem with this point of view – other than its obvious disconnect from reality – is that it leaves a great metaphysical emptiness in the minds of its holders. If no one is any better than anyone else, then no one has any more of a right to “lead” than anyone else – and this spells chaos... anarchy... and – worst of all! -- non-collectivism and non-socialism. But surely we can't have that! So some basis has to be found for assigning merit, and it's best if that basis is as arbitrary as possible with no nagging questions of ability. Add to this the liberal tendency to idolize political/social figures as opposed to worshipping a deity and there you have it – shazam! -- royalty! And the Kennedys, because they appeared to have something of the “common touch” (womanizing, getting drunk, throwing each other into swimming pools, etc.) were anointed “American royalty” back in the 1960s and have remained so ever since.

So this murmuring about Caroline's “experience”, or lack thereof, is totally beside the point. Royalty is royalty... it's all about charisma; experience has nothing to do with it. In fact, “experience” -- of the mundane sort – should, if anything, be seen as a detriment. And yet the murmuring continues, which leads one to believe that today's liberals are not quite as infatuated with sheer charisma as they were back in the heyday of Camelot. But wait – they just nominated Obama, and he won. They could have found more experienced people working in the Senate cafeteria, dishing out navy bean soup. So I really don't get it. But there is one other possibility, and that's that Caroline has more than just a “royal” family name – she has actual class. And this is something that liberals, and/or Democrats, have always found a bit upsetting, if not downright offensive. It doesn't violate their egalitarian impulses all that much to see people with a lot of money wandering around... or people with exceptionally good looks, or some other talent. But there's something about breeding, of upbringing, about carrying yourself like someone with dignity rather than like a street hustler, that they find intolerable. I think it's because this is something that one can't just go out and buy (or steal)... and one certainly cannot pretend to have it. You either have it or you don't, and like a fine aged wine it can't be acquired overnight or without many years of effort. It is, in short, completely non-egalitarian. If “anybody can grow up to be president”, very few will grow up to have what is called “class”. And this is not totally the fault of the class “system” in the U.S. -- it's mostly about people's choices. We all know “classy” people who are, to put it mildly, afflicted with “genteel poverty”. And we also know total barbarians with millions, if not billions. This is a real expression of American egalitarianism – that not only any person, but any slob, can become a millionaire, and no one will object. So it isn't about money, after all – nor is it about property, although having a “compound” on Cape Cod never hurt. It's about, to some extent, the right schools, the right clubs, the right “causes”, the right clothes, grooming, accent, and what not... but it's also about one's carriage, and one's attitude. And the beauty of it is, it's easy to spot – you can see it a mile off, which cannot be said of things like money or mere political power (or even things like artistic or musical talent). So not only does it lend an aura, it _is_ an aura. And the lucky holders cannot sell it for any price, and the unlucky non-holders cannot buy it for any price – at least not without, as I said, waiting at least a generation for it to take root.

So this is what may be making more than a few liberals uneasy about fast-tracking Caroline into the Senate. But of course they would never admit it. Because that would be admitting that she has something that they don't, and never will have. And not only that, it would expose them for the fickle mush-heads that they are, since what they worshipped in JFK has come back to haunt them, but now they know it not.

But before leaving this topic, let's contrast Caroline with the woman she wants to replace in the Senate, namely Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose name and the word “class” have never appeared in the same sentence without the additional word “no”. Does Hillary have any of the qualities enumerated above as unmistakable signs of class? No. And as much as her benighted husband tried to “channel” JFK all the time he was clawing his way to the top of the political totem pole, he and she missed the most important thing – the Kennedys, for all of their failings, have class, and the Clintons, for all of their successes, don't and never will. Can one even begin to imagine a Kennedy, for example, stealing White House furniture at the end of his or her term as president? I can't. (Why should they? They have much better stuff back in Hyannis Port.) JFK brought plenty of cronies with him to the White House, but can you imagine him and Jackie accusing the White House travel office of theft and firing them in order to create jobs for their friends? Not bloody likely. Can you imagine Jackie Kennedy doing a "photo op" at a children's hospital but bringing in healthy children of her staffers to pose with because the sick kids weren't photogenic? How about things like “cattle futures”? How about Whitewater? The examples go on and on. No, the Clintons were most assuredly not a class act; they were just the opposite, in fact. The two-headed beast that slimed its way out of the primeval ooze of Arkansas gave us all a taste of provincial Southern politics at their worst, and the fact that Hillary now represents New York cannot wash away the stink that has accumulated for many decades. And now she is moving up (OK, _back_ up) to wreak more havoc, this time on the international front. God help us all! But in the meantime, it's to be hoped that the Democrats haven't completely forgotten what it's like having someone with a touch of class around.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I'm Getting My Madoff

So hey, how about that Madoff dude and his $50 billion Ponzi scheme? Talk about being "too big to fail" -- I guess he was "too small to regulate". Well, yeah, $50B does seem like chump change in this day and age. But gosh, think about it -- the Ponzi scheme is one of the oldest scams in existence. You'd think it would be as easy to detect as... well, as the Social Security scam, for example. What I really suspect is that the SEC and other regulatory agencies, because they don't have the resources or motivation to monitor everyone all the time (but Obama's going to fix that, right?) kind of pick and choose whose neck they're going to breathe down at any given time, and everyone else gets a pass. And what criteria do they apply to this dilemma? I suspect, like with any other government agency, it's a matter of politics and "who knows whom" -- and apparently Madoff basically knew everybody.

But there's another angle here that no one has yet commented on, and that's that the vast bulk of Madoff's victims were Jewish, like himself. Now, this ought to provide a major setback to anyone who thinks the world financial structure is run by "a bunch of rich Jews" for their own benefit. Suddenly it appears that the situation is not so monolithic after all. If Jews can be victims, what does this do to the ethnic solidarity premise that is at the heart of the theory? (Are we going to start seeing "Stop Jew on Jew Crime" bumper stickers -- like those revolting "Stop Black on Black Crime" ones of a few years ago?) Clearly things are often more complex than they seem -- not that conspiracy theories per se are a waste of time (don't tell me that!) but that, as often as not, individual pathologies can carry the day. One can talk about Bolshevism, for example, as a gigantic conspiracy, which it was, but surely Joseph Stalin gave a "flavor" to it that it would not otherwise have had.

But let's look at this from still another angle. Individuals can trump conspiracies at times, but this doesn't mean they can work alone. As I've said before, one classic theory about the way things really work involves a single dominant individual -- a "Dr. Evil" -- and a bunch of mindless, robot-like but nonetheless highly intelligent slaves. But is this the way the world really is? And even if it were possible, how successful would an operation like that be? How many "direct reports" can a Dr. Evil have? Studies of what is called "span of control" indicate that the optimum number is less than ten. So much for an army of robots! What this means is that even if there are Dr. Evils out there, they need competent lieutenants ("willing executioners", if you will) and they, in turn, need a certain number of competent subordinates. Even the most authoritarian and autocratic regimes need a few thinkers in the top layers. This is, in fact, the best argument against the theory that a single, charismatic demagogue -- a Hitler, say -- can mesmerize an entire populace and bend it to his will. No -- the most powerful, dominant tyrant on earth needs plenty of help, not from robots but from people with free (if flawed) will and with plenty of talent. Try to imagine Hitler without Goebbels, or Stalin without Beria. Or Bill without Hillary! No, anything worth doing is worth doing as a team -- in fact, it's virtually impossible to do without one. Jesus Himself needed twelve Apostles... so how can anyone claim that Madoff worked alone?

A Bill Comes Due

One of the most intriguing “unanticipated consequences” of Obama's intended nomination of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state is that it is forcing her husband to “out” all of the high-rolling donors to his alleged “charities”. Wow – the hits just keep coming, and she isn't even in office yet. And don't you know she wishes she'd dumped the big bozo long ago, but now it's too late. At any rate, look at the (partial) list of donors to Bill Clinton's “cause”. It includes foreign governments – mostly Arabian... the Dutch national lottery (!?)... Blackwater (big surprise there)... Indian businessmen... a Swedish lottery (!?)... Israeli businessmen... and countless others, both large and small. Now, what do all these people and organizations have in common, other than being on the donor list for an organization headed by one of the biggest con artists of all time? Well, think about it. Let's say you're a businessman in some foreign country. You have “interests”, and you're always looking for places to invest money in order to protect, or promote, those interests. At some point you notice that the leader of the dominant political party in the (still) most powerful country on earth has a “charitable” organization. So what do you do? Why, you make a substantial contribution; what idiot wouldn't?

Now – you'll say – but what if... “what if”... the donors are really and truly concerned about things like “reducing poverty and treating AIDS”? Uh huh... do you really think Blackwater give's a rat's rear end about poverty or AIDS? In that case, please share whatever you're smoking with me! Now, it is possible that a few – OK, a few thousand – people contributed for the “right” reasons, i.e. based on truly charitable impulses. But let's face it, the big players all expect some return on their investment – they always do. And what might that return be? Well, it's hard to say, given that there are donors from both the Arab and Israeli camps, for example. No wonder Bill Clinton didn't want to reveal his donor list! It looks like he's developed “triangulation” to a whole new level. The Democrats, and/or Hillary, surely can't favor everybody all at once – and yet that's precisely what would have to happen for all of these donors to be satisfied. So I get a feeling some of them are feeling a wee bit conned by now... all richly deserved, of course. Not that – heaven forbid! -- any of them ever thought they could “buy” the Democratic party, or (in retrospect) Hillary's State Department. Why, that would be like the Chinese thinking they could buy the Clinton administration with laundered campaign contributions. Oops...

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

These Jellies Aren't Toast

“It's an ill wind...” and all that. Turns out that one of the species that has significantly benefited from the human species' domination of the earth – following on the heels of rats, pigeons, and cockroaches – is none other than the jellyfish. Apparently the worse the environment gets (according to the experts) the more the jellyfish thrive. A recent article speculates that “Human activities that could be making things nice for jellyfish include pollution, climate change, introductions of non-native species, over-fishing and building artificial structures such as oil and gas rigs.” This is truly remarkable. So nearly everything that man has done to “destroy” the environment turns out to favor one particular species – or genus – or whatever (hey, it's been a long time since I took biology). But now wait a minute. Isn't the very definition of man's deleterious impact on the environment based on what it does to other living things? Well of course, you'll say – but the jellyfish is just one of thousands. But then I say, isn't it also a foundational principle of environmentalism that any one species, or subspecies, can “outvote” all the rest when it comes to environmental impact? Think of the snail darter, or the spotted owl! If their one vote can cause millions of dollars in economic losses, why can't the jellyfish's vote cause, or allow, millions in economic gains? Surely we don't want to be accused of “speciesism” (not my term but one coined by the radical environmentalists)! I'll match your snail darter in court any day of the week with my jellyfish. How about that?

So, one again, the stage is set for another environmentalist meltdown and an episode of exploding liberal heads. And again we see that so much of their effort is expended on wildly subjective ideas and causes, and driven by impulse, emotion, and general infantilism. Is there any chance that, by having their arbitrariness exposed often enough, they might someday come to their senses? Well, let's see... OK, there are still people defending Stalin. I guess the answer is “no”.

Left on the Church Steps

I'm getting tired of saying “what did I tell you?” Honest. I would rather not be right so much of the time about the power-crazed neurotics who run this country, and their facilitators. But they just keep doing what they do, just like clockwork. And in the case of Obama and Co., his grass-roots lefty supporters have already figured out, weeks before the Inauguration, they they've been made fools of by the old bait-and-switch game. According to Ralph R. Reiland, writing in yesterday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the “progressives” (so-called – but “regressives” would be more apt) are already disillusioned with Obama's top appointments, i.e. with a bevy of insider retreads rather than fresh radical faces. Think “politburo” vs. “Red Guard”. Now, of course, Obama and his spoils... er, I mean “transition”... team would say you have to have people with “experience”. Right – experience in gaming the system and taking the taxpayers for all they're worth. The “progressives”, on the other hand, want people who, for example, never supported the war in Iraq. Lots of luck! If it was politically expedient to support the war back when it started, you could have expected any Congressperson without principles – which means nearly all – to vote for it. Once it loses popularity, many of those same people will vote against. It's quite simple, really. “Ideas” have nothing to do with it.

There are also objections to holdovers from the Bush administration (vs. the “throw the rascals out” approach) and to people who might have gotten jobs in the Bush administration if they had been available. This is AKA “bipartisanship”, and the party establishment has no problem with that since they realize – or at least suspect – that both parties ultimately answer to the same masters. But the radical fringe hasn't yet caught on to that fact, so they become highly incensed and indignant. In fact, they are even puzzled about the appointment of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, even though they all know – or should know – that she has become one of The Anointed. She has shown herself to be a good and faithful servant of the Regime, therefore, although denied the presidency (for the time being), she cannot be denied some office of high esteem.

There is an interesting quote in the article, from Camille Paglia. She asks, “What do the Clintons have on Obama?” But she misses the point. Within the upper echelons of liberalism, everyone “has” something on everybody; it's a conspiracy of political concupiscence. Liberals in power spend a good part of each day covering the butts of other liberals in power; this is just the way things are done. And the media cooperate by minimizing their offenses – on those rare occasions when they are exposed – down to virtually nothing. This is why, for instance, when a Democrat gets into serious hot water and loses face – or a career, as seems to be happening to Blagojevich – you know that he, or she, did something to seriously rank someone off, or they wouldn't be getting the “black hand” treatment. Are “Blago's” offenses any worse than Bill Clinton's, for example? Or Hillary's? I can't imagine how. For one thing, Illinois is only one state, and it doesn't have, as far as I know, a foreign policy. Has Blago been accused of rape, or of facilitating drug running? Has he overseen the massacre of scores of religious zealots? Not that I can recall. But he's been declared persona non grata by the Regime, so he's toast, and you can count on the media to pile on when a guy's down.

So, I say, let the “progressives”, and the radicals, and the true believers, stew. It's time they felt the sort of pain Paleocons feel who get duped into voting for people like George Bush. It's, thanks for your vote, now get lost. And – I say again – the whole thing is showing very early signs of developing into another left-wing revolt against the Democratic establishment that reached its high water mark at the 1968 Democratic Convention. And – again I say – I can hardly wait to see it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Regular Shoe-Out

No tribute to the George W. Bush presidency could possibly be more appropriate, on so many levels, than his having shoes thrown at him by an irate Iraqi. Juxtapose this with the “Mission Accomplished” photo -- of how many years ago? -- and you have an unsurpassed metaphor for the absurd. America is “The Power”. It's an empire. It's spreading democracy everywhere, or so it's alleged. But it can't protect its president against shoes thrown by – as far as our foreign policy is concerned – a distinctly inferior species of human being. The iconic value of this image not only rivals, but surpasses, ones like LBJ holding a hound dog by its ears, or Jimmy Carter dropping out of a marathon, haggard and held up by two bodyguards. We can thank the shoe-thrower for providing us this lasting picture of the utter futility of the Bush & Co. foreign policy; and of course he was absolutely right in what he said while he was lofting the footwear toward the twin podiums. Iraq and the Iraqis are more victims of American involvement than they ever were of Saddam, and our “precision weaponry” has not prevented countless of innocents from being killed or maimed. In short, our meddling in Iraq has had virtually no positive effects, except for a power elite that is tenuously holding on to its privileges, and scared to death that we'll pull out and leave them to the mercies of their countrymen, the way we did in Vietnam. (Coming soon to a theater near you – the Iraqi equivalent of the “desperately holding onto helicopter skids on the roof of the American Embassy” photo.)

The Iraqi stop was just one of many on Bush's “redemption tour”, in which he is shown, once and for all, to be totally oblivious. His is the self-confidence that comes from invincible ignorance, and his flip assertions are no more dignified than those of the common drunk being hauled off to the “tank” for the night. And his closest subordinates aren't much help either: Dick Cheney, in an ABC interview, said that the Guantanamo Bay detention center could not be closed until the “end of the war on terror”, which of course is impossible to determine. Well, let me help out a bit. Since the “war on terror” is largely a hoax cooked up by Cheney and his Neocon buddies, it could be ended at virtually any time simply by declaring it over with. And if anyone asks for solid evidence that it is, indeed, over with, the reply could simply be, it's the same sort of evidence that justified starting it in the first place. That ought to leave the media shaking their heads! But when pressed for details on Guantanamo, he said “What are you going to do with the prisoners... ? And nobody yet has solved that problem.” Again, allow me to offer some help. If they aren't charged with any crimes, and are not former combatants in a declared war, then let them go. This is not rocket science... and Cheney knows this, but pretends it is just to deflect questions and derail criticism.

And so it appears that this sorriest (but least apologetic) of all administrations is, indeed, ending with a whimper rather than a bang -- and we can be thankful for at least that much. The incoming administration is already in charge, for all intents and purposes, and all the outgoing people can do is try and run pathetic victory laps. (If there were a "Special Olympics" of politics and foreign policy they might have a chance, but regrettably... ) And, of course, we will have a brief honeymoon with Obama and all of his Clinton retreads, with only the Blagojevich affair sounding a discouraging word... until the lefties figure out that they've been had (again), and for that story see my next post.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So Freakin' What?

Among the hot news items on Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" the other night was the revelation (if that is the word!) that an Australian astronomer has pinpointed the date of Christ's birth to... no, not December 25 in the year zero, or 1 B.C., or whatever it would have been... but to June 17, 2 B.C. Summer! And two years early! Which, of course, impacts on Christian faith and doctrine... not at all. You know, it's amazing how the "debunkers" come out of the woodwork, just like clockwork, twice a year, i.e. at Christmas and Easter, with all sorts of pronouncements designed to shake the faith of the faithful. But not only does most of it fall on deaf ears, as it should, but most of it is at least as speculative as what they accuse the Bible of being. You know it's time to put on your skeptic helmet when Time comes out with its annual Lenten cover story on "the search for the real Jesus", and some hand-picked liberal "scientist", usually from Harvard or of similar persuasion, starts making wild inferences based on a few bone fragments or pottery shards, or on an inscription on a tomb written in a language they haven't yet quite deciphered, but what it "most likely" says is... etc. It's amazing how liberals in the media, and in science, and in that corrupt area of overlap between the two, continue to obsess about the teachings of the Church, which they otherwise dismiss as "irrelevant", "superstition", "myth", and the fearsome foursome, "sexist, racist, homophobic, and in violation of the wall of separation between church and state" -- as if any of those concepts were of the least interest to people 2000 years ago.

In any case, the current alleged shot off the bow of the Church is nothing of the sort. Here is an article describing the finding:

Now, to begin with, the Church has hosted a lively scholarly dialogue, for decades, as to the year of Christ's birth. The date I hear most often is 3 B.C. This is not considered heretical. The "absolute" in the equation is that Christ was, indeed, born... i.e. that He was an actual, historical, human being. If there are any errors in the matter (the "relative" part) they are in the matter of who decided what year A.D. it was when they first started using that term. Even if you connect Christ's birth to Caesar Augustus, and the decree that "all the world should be taxed", i.e. a census taken, that doesn't narrow it down conclusively. It's amazing how many historical events that are significant in the Gospels get little or no play in contemporary secular histories -- especially when they deal with events in what was then a backwater of the Roman Empire. (Think of what history in 2000 years will say about events in Washington, D.C. vs. in Idaho.)

Then, do the Gospels say a word about the time of year of Christ's birth? Well, no. There is some mention of shepherds in fields, and of people traveling overland, so the weather couldn't have been all that inclement. But remember that we're dealing with what is today the West Bank, and even in winter the weather is not all that harsh; snow is a real novelty, for example. And it can get cool at night even in midsummer (I know 'cause I was right near there in midsummer). Even assuming climate change over 2000 years, it does not seem to have been radically different -- if anything, less dry, but no cooler.

So what's December 25 all about? Well, the Churh, in its wisdom, made a habit of adapting -- one might say co-opting -- various pagan festivals they encountered in the process of spreading the Gospel, and changing them for Christian use. Countless societies had, and still have, midwinter festivals to celebrate the "return of the light" -- and this made for a very fitting metaphor for the birth of Christ, the "light of the world". So midwinter (Dec. 21 nowadays) and/or the new year (Jan. 1 nowadays) gets morphed into Christmas, and by rights they should all be on the same day, but you know how people are about calendars and dates -- they get fixated. Plus, even the calendar has gone through many changes since the year 1 A.D. So what we have now is a patchwork of sorts, but it seems to satisfy everyone (and -- it separates the celebration of Christmas from the drunken brawl of New Year's, which is certainly very appropriate).

And besides, the Church has never claimed, as far as I know, that Christ was actually born on Dec. 25, or whatever the equivalent was at that time in that place. Dec. 25 was chosen as the date of the "Christ Mass", i.e. for the _commemoration_ of Christ's birth. That is not the same as saying it's His actual birthday. (Think of "President's Day".) In other words, rather than worry over the exact date (before we had astronomical models and computers to fall back on) they simply picked a date, which resonated with the season, i.e. with the turning of the year, and declared it "Christ Mass Day". Very neat, very practical. And so any scientific data that come up with a different date, or time of year, or even year, cannot constitute a threat, and the media people who jump on things like this as "proof that Christianity is wrong" are simply fools. Nuff said!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Blogging Blago

So the Governor of Illinois (an honorific more or less equivalent to “President of Zimbabwe”) has been arrested for egregiously tacky and ham-handed varieties of corruption (as opposed to the more gentlemanly kind displayed by, e.g., Ted Stevens). And of course there is great tut-tutting from the political class and various talking heads. But let's have a look at what he's been charged with. “Selling or trading the (Senate) office to the highest bidder” -- sounds bad, but what about the countless campaign supporters who have been awarded with ambassadorships, cabinet posts, and other high positions? Is that significantly different? Well then, how about “doling out jobs and contracts in return for campaign contributions”? Um... let's see... how long has it been since no one was rewarded with jobs and contracts (think “no bid”; think “Halliburton”) in return for campaign contributions or as a product of favoritism or cronyism? And how about trading favors in order to secure a “lucrative job” for his wife? Anybody remember Lady Bird Johnson's radio stations? And how about Hillary? Let's face it, folks – this is standard operating procedure and has been as long as anyone can remember. The corruption is not just of individuals within the system, but of the system itself. The president has the biggest pot of money on earth to hand out and, after all, he's only human, to there is a natural tendency to prefer one's family and “homies” to total strangers. And the same is even more the case at state, county, city, and local levels where there is less transparency and the people who want favors live right down the block and have your phone number on speed dial.

How to fix it? Start with Ron Paul's recommendations, which would give government at all levels much less money to squander – let's start with 10% of what they have now and work down from there. Then, prohibit anyone who is employed by the government, or depends on it, or benefits by it in any way, from voting. You want handouts and contracts and jobs? Fine. But you can't vote as long as you receive any of those things, and for five years after you stop receiving any of those things. I'm not saying that depriving someone of the “right to vote” will cure them of greed, but it will leave only people who aren't on the government dole voting... which could change a few things in the way of “entitlements”.

Let's start with those modest proposals, and we can fine-tune the system after we see how this works.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another Cowardly Act

Whenever members of the Bush administration start talking about... well, just about anything... it doesn't take them very long to revert to a very narrow vocabulary of emotion-laden buzzwords that are designed to yank people's chain and get them to agree to whatever misbegotten folly the administration wants to do next. Hopefully the Obama people will exercise a bit more subtlety... but in the meantime we're stuck with high officials whose vocabulary rivals that of the average rap singer for sheer monotony and lack of variety.

This problem becomes most acute when they are talking about "terrorism" -- itself a buzzword -- and about what our response to it ought to be. We all know the tired litany by now -- stay the course, don't cut and run, etc. The best of all, of course, is "credibility", which is constantly invoked as a reason not to end a war which was a total hoax to begin with. "Damaging America's credibility" is about as likely to happen as "damaging Madonna's virginity"... and yet they continue to use this as a threat.

One particular descriptive term which has been suspect from the start is the word "cowardly" to describe terrorist attacks. Of course one has to distinguish, right off the bat, between "terrorist attacks" and legitimate acts of "defense". The former are the acts of men without uniforms who are not members of a standing army belonging to a national government whose legitimacy we recognize. The latter are acts of men with uniforms who are members of an army belonging to a national government whose legitimacy we do recognize -- usually our own. Otherwise, there are no significant differences. When "terrorists" set off a bomb in a marketplace, it's a "cowardly act" perpetrated on "innocent civilians". When we bomb a wedding party in Aghanistan, it's a case of "collateral damage" which occurred as part of a necessary "defensive" operation... and besides, what kind of idiots would be getting married in a war zone, and besides, those nasty terrorists are always hiding behind women in wedding gowns. Plus, let's admit, that couple would only have started having kids who would probably have turned into terrorists. So call it a "pre-emptive strike".

So you can see that I'm unimpressed by the allegedly vast differences in M.O. between us and the "terror masters". But now let's talk about this word "cowardly". Many of our attacks on Iraqi and Afghan civilians are made using unmanned drones, so there is absolutely no risk of any sort to actual personnel, who are sitting in bunkers miles away. Many of the rest are made from various sorts of aircraft, and in nearly all cases the crew gets back to base in time for happy hour. The "cowardly attacks" by terrorists, on the other hand, typically involve at least one of them voluntarily giving up his (or her) life for a cause they believe in. Now we may not share their belief, needless to say... but to call a guy who rides a motor scooter into a public square with fifty pounds of explosive strapped on the back, and then proceeds to set it off, a "coward" seems a bit far-fetched... and yet, once again, this is what all of our politicians and other wordsmiths repeat, parrot-like, on a daily basis.

I think the real problem here is not just one of perception, or of "labeling". It's that we simply can't comprehend the motivations of these people -- what "makes them tick". Is there anyone in this country who believes in anything enough to die for it, and I don't mean as a passive martyr, which may be highly commendable in some cases, but as the result of direct action? Americans can almost understand this sort of thing when it comes to dying for one's country (which, again, is seldom "voluntary" in the strict sense, and when it is it merits the Medal of Honor). But we certainly have no historical experience of this sort when it comes to religious beliefs or anything else under the heading of "ideas". The whole notion of dying for something seems ludicrous to us -- what's the sense of doing something that results in your death, because then you won't be around to enjoy the fruits of your labor? And how can an "idea" trump ordinary, everyday survival needs? And besides, the people doing this sort of thing aren't exactly the comic-book G.I. Joe types -- they're scruffy, dirty, smelly ragheads, and any so-called "ideas" they might have can't possibly have any value or validity just in general, to say nothing of being a reason to do something that results in their death. So the whole thing is incomprehensible and absurd. (This is why we're required to make fun of their alleged notion that they will be welcomed into Moslem heaven by a bevy of willing virgins. All of which is a really great way to express "respect for diversity".)

So now we turn to the 9-11 conspirators and their "surprise announcement" that they would, indeed, confess to the crimes they're accused of, because (implication) they are perfectly proud of what they did and they're willing to accept the consequences, whatever they may be. This just adds more layers to the incomprehensibility! Not only did they perform this "cowardly" act, but now they're doing something even more "cowardly", namely accepting full responsibility for it. And this just blows people's minds. According to a news article, the judge was totally flustered by this announcement and didn't know what to do next. Obviously, something funny happened on the way to "truth, justice, and the American way". We have an enemy that is totally alien, and we can't deal with it. And not only that, it may turn out that they can't be executed because, by confessing, they avoid a jury trial. (Did they know this? I doubt it, because the judge wasn't sure himself.) And, needless to say, the families of the 9-11 victims are feeling a bit ambivalent because, yes, they have a confession, but will they now be able to drag out the proceedings for weeks, or months, with hundreds of "victim impact statements"? Seems unlikely.

So here we go again. The Power has had its nose tweaked -- again! -- by a bunch of goatherds. But see how clueless the people on our side remain: The terrorists haven't "repented". Well, no... because they don't think they did anything wrong. Like it or not, that's the way it is. Don't expect these guys to start blubbering in open court; they're made of much sterner stuff than the garden variety domestic murderer. And... they "showed a complete lack of contrition". Well, yes... can't we get it through our heads that we're dealing with people who believe in something? The "something" they believe in may be wrong, or delusional, or evil, or any number of things, but damn it, they do believe, and they are acting accordingly, and this is what we simply can't grasp because we have no cultural frame of reference into which to plug these data. The Age of Belief in America is long since over with. We have had other "ages" since -- the Age of Greed being the most prominent, but one could include the Age of the Internet, the Age of Clinton, and the upcoming Age of What the F*** Happened to my Retirement Portfolio -- but "belief" just no longer computes, and the attitudes and actions that follow upon belief no longer compute. We're in a situation with the terrorists similar to that we experienced with the Japanese during World War II, and to a lesser extent the Chinese during the Korean War. What might have been normal in the West, let's say at the time of the Crusades, is now considered "extremism" or "fanaticism". Our last allegedly "extremist" politician was Barry Goldwater, and look where it got him.

Aside from the fact that this all has the Bush administration stopped in its tracks, it's going to be interesting to see how the Obama administration handles the case when it's dumped into their laps. Will they have any more comprehension of the power of belief than the Bushites do? It's just possible they will -- but will the rhetoric then change? This may be more than we can hope for.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Regrets, I've Had a Few

Following in her boss's footsteps, Condoleezza Rice is taking her own redemption tour in order to -- what? Secure her place in history as something other than a complete dupe? Perhaps. Of course, her divorce from reality is just as "no fault" as Bush's. She "regrets" that "flawed intelligence" formed the basis for the invasion of Iraq. Hey! Condi, baby! That intelligence wasn't "flawed" -- it was a pack of lies that was made up out of whole cloth because someone wanted the U.S. to invade and occupy Iraq. You fell for it... the people who pulled it off are still in power... they got what they wanted, and you were left holding the bag. And the way to respond is not to express "regret" but to bring the troops home and put those responsible in jail. But, well, you know these State Department types -- nothing is ever anyone's fault, things just happen, etc.

But the spectacle of Rice's gradual public enlightenment is actually more striking than Bush's for the simple reason that she is, apparently, highly intelligent and capable, and has considerable insight -- unlike what's-his-name. So she is bound to be feeling more acutely misused by the Neocons et al, than Bush, who still considers them his friends. In this, she is much more in the mold of Colin Powell, who knows he was made a fool of and isn't afraid to express it that way. And, being used in this way must be a more profound violation of Rice's self-image than it is of Bush's, since... well, what has he ever had to base his self-image on, anyway? If he'd been born into a normal family he might be a retired rodeo cowboy about now... but certainly nothing more.

The most interesting thing about these redemption tours, as I call them, is that they are taking place while the people in question are still in office. No gentle, fading-away retirement with, years later, memoirs that no one reads. In this case, they are crying "mea culpa" with their hands still on the controls, at least in theory -- and (again, in theory) it wouldn't be too late to actually do something about it, if they were so inclined. Rice could blow the cover on any number of Neocons who infest the State Department, for instance. Bush could order the troops home! Or, at the very least, order them to prepare to return home, and just let Obama try and reverse the order in a few weeks. (Now wouldn't that be fun?) The fact that this is impossible shows that Job One of anyone in the Regime is covering the ass of everyone else in the Regime. No news there.

But at least we're seeing a genuinely new trend in politics -- call it the shattering of illusions, genuine regrets, and maybe even hints of having a conscience. Every day in the news someone comes out with the sort of statement that David Frost spent hours trying to get out of Richard Nixon... and that we have never heard from Bill Clinton (or Jimmy Carter, for that matter... not to mention LBJ). This in itself is a good thing. But it would be even better if that lobe of their brain had been activated when they took office rather than eight years later.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Take Back Those Ears

People often ask why George W. Bush's ears are shaped that way. It's because evil men have been whispering into them for the past eight years. Of course, those whispers don't go much of anywhere; they mostly echo around in what is clearly an unoccupied head. But the flattery has done its work, and "W" has been a willing, if clueless, tool of the Powers That Be ever since Day One of his administration. His achievements on their behalf are too numerous to mention, but pride of place must go to the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, the Department of Homeland Security, and the benign neglect that led up to the current economic crisis. Compared to these disasters, the Carter administration is starting to look like nothing more than a bucolic weekend in the woods.

At this point, when Obama and Co. are already running things in all but name, it's clear that Bush has been "dropped" by his handlers, who are already packing up and preparing to depart the sacred precincts of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. (Has anyone heard a thing from Dick Cheney lately, for instance? Smart guy that he is, he's already skipped town to avoid the rush.) Proof that Bush is, at long last, a free agent is that he has embarked on a kind of magical mystery tour in an attempt to secure his own redemption. This reached a high point yesterday with a speech to an audience no one had ever heard of, namely the Saban Forum, which seems to be a thinly-disguised Zionist/Neocon outfit. As is typical with men who aspire to the heights of power and are rudely brought down, they always go back to the family circle for solace, and this environment qualifies as "family" for George Bush. When everyone else hates and despises you, you go back to the people you worked for most assiduously, and who benefited the most from your efforts. And so it is in this case.

At any rate, Bush, in this forum and others, has been trotting out many of his most dubious acts as president as "achievements", and in his descriptions he has robbed the late-night talk-show hosts of any opportunity for further satire. The invasion of Iraq has not yet succeeded, but it was necessary. Saddam didn't have WMD but we thought he did -- or said we did (evil men again) -- so that was enough. And so on. The bottom line is, we meant well, we were sincere, and therefore what we did was right. So his legacy is rightness, in the face of all evidence to the contrary... and even that is only true in his own deluded mind. Most of the other Iraq warmongers have long since put away the "righness" argument in favor of something a bit more cynical: "It happened, it's happening, and if you don't like it, tough shit." Implication: We like it, and since we're in charge, that settles it.

The true test -- the first true test, let's say -- of Obama will be whether, and how rapidly, he rips the lid off this whole sorry business and simply says, "I'm bringing the troops home, and you people are under arrest for treason." Yeah, I know -- funny, ha ha. But this would only be a minimum requirement in any attempt to finally bring some justice to the situation. Other requirements would include full reparations for the damage caused to Iraq, compensation to the victims and their families, restoration of the homes and property of Christians who have been ethnically cleansed from Iraq since the invasion, and -- on the domestic side -- full compensation for war veterans (and war dead) and their families, and the arrest and incarceration of hundreds, if not thousands, of war industry officials and operatives, starting with Halliburton and KBR. This would be truly revolutionary -- but it's not going to happen because Obama is no revolutionary. He will do nothing that displeases the Powers That Be, and that includes seeking justice for the misdeeds done in the name of 9-11. Instead, it will be the usual pap about "moving on", and "putting it behind us", and so on -- which will enrage his more radical supporters, but they've been duped before and we know they can take it.

But in the meantime, George Bush has already entered the dim, gray world of the political living dead, in the footsteps of Richard Nixon but without even Nixon's classically tragic aura and none of his intelligence, doomed to wander the earth for the rest of his days trying to explain (mostly to himself) the unexplainable, and making rationalizations and excuses which he sees as justifications. In his own eyes, he is not even a martyr; he was _right_, and his critics are wrong, and that's all that matters. The notion that a person with this capacity for self-delusion has been president for eight years is deeply troubling... until one realizes that (1) this is a universal trait among politicians; and (2) he may have been president, but he was never really in charge. The people who have been really running things all this time are not self-deluded in the slightest. They knew exactly what they were doing, and have in fact succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. So they will go into that still night unsung, except within their inner circle, while "W" will ride off into the sunset on his own, full of aw-shucks self-confidence, but in truth completely oblivious. And, if even a small portion of justice is served, this image will be the one history eventually settles on to symbolize his presidency.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Art of Luxury

If you want to know how the upper crust is doing, there are certain key market indicators -- luxury cars, private planes, yachts, estates, and... high-end art. And it seems that that last item is suffering some substantial losses of late (and I wonder if the people who spent all last summer spending tens of millions on Francis Bacon are starting to feel a little bit conned?). Why, Sotheby's is actually laying off staff, and Christies' is "consolidating" (which means "shrinking"). I don't know about the luxury car, private plane, yacht, and estate markets, but one might think they're experiencing some of the same woes, and the question then becomes "why?" Because, as any good conspiracy theorist knows, the rich not only will inherit the earth, but they already own it. And the rest of us are just serfs who were born into this world to do their bidding or suffer the consequences. And -- it follows -- the current world economic crisis is nothing but a conspiracy to take even more money out of the hands of the truly productive (i.e. the middle class and the real working class) and put it into the hands of the elite. Plus, historical experience shows that, in times of general economic trouble, the upper crust tends to suffer little, if at all. When were the longest and heaviest cars ever made made? Why, during the Depression, of course. That was also the era that introduced private planes and "land yachts", along with traditional yachts, and it was at the end of the private railroad car era. In other words, it was a kind of aggregate high water mark in the toys of the super-rich. And in terms of housing, they had moved from mere mansions to estates, and then to "compounds" with their own chapels and post offices, like the duchies of old Europe. But in this case -- not nearly as bad as the Depression, it is claimed -- the rich are feeling the pinch, or so they say.

But there's another possibility. In the case of art, it is at least as likely that, since most of the purchases are investment-based rather than taste-based (that's easy to establish!), the real concern is that the owners would be unlikely to make money on their investment. This, in turn, is based on the reality that a large proportion of purchasers of art are not private individuals but institutions -- museums, in other words -- that depend for their survival on donations from "the little people", i.e. the middle class. So the chain of logic is quite simple. The middle class is impoverished, which means the museums get less in the way of donations (from people who want to fancy they "own" one molecule of a Francis Bacon masterpiece), which means they have less to spend on art, which means the "art lovers" who throng into Christie's and Sotheby's have a diminished chance of making a bundle on whatever they've purchased, which nullifies their main reason for purchasing it. So, bottom line, the art market contracts. Now, if someone would compare the art market with the other luxury markets named above -- where resale is a factor but not the main one -- we might have a clearer picture of the situation. In the meantime, color me skeptical -- I don't think the rich are suffering any more than ever. I think they are above the fray, for the simple reason that the fray was their idea.

They Got Him

This was not the sleek, nattily-dressed superstar of "If it doesn't fit, you must acquit" fame. This was a graying, beefy but not exactly in trim, and -- most importantly -- humbled man who has been living in a kind of limbo for years, and who has finally been served his due by the slowly-grinding wheels of justice. And I'm not saying that the recent trial and sentencing of O.J. Simpson was without its tacky aspects. I mean, when's the last time you heard of a "victim impact statment" being made at a trial for a completely different crime? Well, that didn't happen in this case either, but the presence of Ron Goldman's father and sister in the room made it clear that we were expected to consider their point of view. But hey, isn't that really what criminal law is all about in this country -- emotion, impression, impulse, and (where appropriate) political power? The first time around, O.J. stood as a national hero -- not only in athletics but in that now-very-politically-incorrect sense of having been "a credit to his race". He was a celebrity who could do no wrong, and in fact the murder of his ex-wife and her male friend was considered, in many quarters, to have been a perfectly valid "political statement". He was tried in an extremely public manner, with a presiding judge who had all the eccentricities of a late Medieval inbred monarch, and defended by a superstar team of slick lawyers who could, without a doubt, have gotten Joseph Goebbels off with a small fine and "time served". He was lean, mean, immaculately dressed, and, basically, he owned the world at that point. He was the black Bill Clinton. His attitude was one of, hey, knock yourself out, I'm above the law -- you know it, I know it, and the world knows it. And -- perhaps most importantly -- he had the "lumpen proletariat" outside the courthouse just waiting for an excuse to set fire to the whole city, which, IMO, was the main reason he got off. What jury (whether of his "peers" or not) would have come back with a guilty verdict knowing full well that the result would be a conflagration that would last for days or weeks, with -- perhaps -- much that they personally owned going up in smoke?

But by the time of his sentencing this week, O.J. was basically alone, except for a few cronies and hangers-on who were at least as big losers as he was. And really, the crime for which he was convicted... well, technically it was a big deal, but in the scheme of things was it really? Wasn't it just another minor scuffle in the twilight, sleazy world of sports has-beens and the people who exploit their name and image? Are there any who are pure at heart making deals in a Las Vegas hotel room? I doubt it very much. This is a world where clear-cut criminality and traditional legitimacy both merge into a kind of gray fog. And for all I know, O.J. had a right to reclaim his property -- but his method of doing so was frowned upon by, all of all people, the legal establishment of Las Vegas, which was a tool of The Mob for many decades, and, for all I know, may still be. But the judge put a good face on it, and took pains to point out that this case had nothing whatsoever to do with the earlier one in L.A. Right. And the threatened impeachment of Richard Nixon after Watergate had nothing to do with Alger Hiss. Sorry folks, but I don't buy it. People's memories can be remarkably acute at times, especially where there are unresolved issues. And people do -- even at this late date -- have a residual sense of justice. So in the aggregate, O.J. not only got what he deserved, but actually less. But hey, it was a whole lot better than nothing, and at least we won't have to watch him smugly cruising around golf courses for a few years.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Strange New Respect

I'll say this much about Obama. He doesn't seem to be planning to do what so many of his Democratic predecessors have done, namely drag a bunch of cronies, good ol' boys, hacks, fools, and all-around shitkickers up to Washington to turn the White House, basically, into the governor's mansion of a seedy Southern state for four years. LBJ certainly did this, as did Carter and Clinton, but Obama seems to have more perspective and, while not totally turning his back on "local interests" (in his case Chicago) he really does seem to want to pick the best people for the various jobs -- according to his criteria, of course -- out of a nationwide field, and the emphasis is on actual experience (again, for good or ill, in the case of Hillary, e.g.). Can it be that his administration will wind up being the least parochial, least bucolic, and widest in scope of any since... oh, I don't know when. Eisenhower maybe? If so, that could be a good thing, at least in the area of foreign affairs, where we have seen the effects of provincial thinking for far too long. In domestic terms, sometimes the "local yokels" have a better finger on the pulse of regular people -- but that this is not necessarily the case was shown in high relief by the Carter and Clinton administrations. There is, of course, a natural tendency for anyone, once they get inside the Beltway, to develop instantaneous delusions of grandeur and start to think that they have been voted into office in order to remake the world in their own image. This, in turn, is the result of what happens when government that is many orders of magnitude too big encounters fallible human beings. The man (or woman) has not yet been born who can satisfactorily handle that much power -- the temptations are too great. In this sense, it's good that we still have what is called "balance of powers", albeit it's a shadow of its former self as provided in the Constitution. We also have the shadow government in the form of the intelligence agencies, and frankly I'm not sure whether they have always provided a moderating effect over the years. But their self-preservation instincts have at least held off total chaos, as I suspect happened during the Carter years.

Certainly the influence of the international corporations has acted, most of the time, as a stabilizing influence, as has the activity of more deeply-hidden international organizations. But certainly all of these entities cannot have stood for moderation at all times, as the current economic crisis makes clear. Or, maybe what's "moderate" and "conservative" for them is catastrophic for the average citizen -- this is also a possibility. Think of the business interests behind the Vietnam and Iraq wars, for example, or the ones behind the destruction of the Amazon rain forests. The guys on top never break a sweat; they sit in climate-controlled offices in New York, San Francisco, and Rio de Janeiro, wearing designer suits, while wars are breaking out between the peasantry and "developers" in the back country. And more often than not, it's the American military that winds up doing all the heavy lifting -- and American politicians who get all the blame. The question we should always ask about American, or international, business is not how its moguls appear when testifying before a Congressional committee, but how its cutting edge appears when it reaches indigenous peoples. Because that is the true "face" of big business; the rest is just window dressing for public consumption.

In any case, one question is whether business will have any less impact in an Obama administration than it has in the Bush administration, and the answer is no. By any measure, the Democrats and the liberals have long since shared the peace pipe with business -- particularly the largest, most international, and most predatory. Small businesses can expect nothing from the liberals but harassment; this has been the case for decades. But unlike the 1930s, say, when the Democrats/liberals were still animated by ideals, a cloud of cynicism has enveloped them all -- and none more than Bill Clinton, although there is no reason why Obama can't catch up. The old, radical, take-to-the-streets liberalism of the New Deal period, which survived at least through the 1950s, is basically dead. For one thing, the cataclysms of the 1960s involved a significant reshuffling of political alliances. The old union leaders who had been taken on "Potemkin Village" tours of the Soviet Union in the 1930s were dying off... the union rank and file had grown much more conservative... and union membership as a proportion of the total work force was falling off, thanks not so much to government policies as to the shift from manufacturing to "service", and from domestic to international. At this point, the unions are holding on like ticks in many areas, and they constitute an elite -- the cream of the labor force, at least based on compensation if not on productivity. But eventually this generation will die off and it won't be replaced, for the simple reason that no one can afford it. The tough union negotiators were too smart by half; they worked out wildly extravagant compensation schemes with management, which was at that point over a barrel, and then proceeded to ride the wave for a while, but eventually the firms involved either contracted or folded altogether, or went international thanks to things like NAFTA. And the unions were caught in a shell game by all this, because many of the fervent supporters of free trade and "internationalism" were, in fact, their old liberal friends in Congress. But, you see, free trade and internationalism were "ideas", and the unions had run out of "ideas" decades earlier -- their only argument was, keep us on the books as an elite labor force. Why? "Just because." Well, that was no longer good enough, so "ideas" prevailed, and what we have now is "free trade" with all of its discontents -- the primary one being a gradual economic "leveling" of the U.S. with the rest of the world, which -- let's not forget! -- was one of the original "ideas" of the radical labor movements of yesteryear. So finally they're getting their wish -- but the guys who did all the wishing are long gone. Ironic? You betcha, as Sarah Palin would say.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just Plain Billious

Among the many objections being raised concerning the nomination of Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state is the potential for “conflict of interest” with her husband's many world-spanning “charities”. I'll bet she wishes she'd thrown the bum out when she had the chance; all he is now is an anchor. But, I suppose he's good for offering some advice from time to time on, say, how to con people into giving you even more power and money. And of course he's an ambassador (albeit without portfolio) in his own right – especially in countries like France, where they consider all that fuss about Monica etc. to be so much American stuffiness. Hey – we're talking about a place where, when a prominent politician dies, his funeral is attended by his current wife, former wives, current mistress, and former mistresses... and they all get along just fine, thank you. How soon do you think Hillary is going to “kaffee klatch” with Monica, or any of the other “Bimbos of Bill”? Not real soon, is my guess.

The odd thing about this “conflict of interest” issue is that it should be the least of Hillary's worries. Won't a single, solitary soul at the confirmation hearings bring up the subjects of Whitewater, cattle futures, billing records, “Travelgate”, “Clinton care”, Vince Foster, Waco, or any of the scores of other black deeds that Hillary was intimately involved in back when? Or is that all considered “ancient history”? Funny how things like that go in the memory hole when Watergate or Iran-Contra don't. One might almost think the media had a biased point of view on these things...

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Saturday Night in the Provinces

Some idiot – whose name I've already forgotten – once declared Bill Clinton our “first black president”, based primarily on his chaotic personal life. (Note that this comment was not considered racist because it was made by a black person.) By the same logic, should we now refer to Obama as our “next white president” because, as far as I can tell, his personal life is strictly Mr. Clean-ville?

Last night I had the strangest dream. I dreamt that our government had taken over the insurance, banking, and mortgage industries, and the stock market, and that it was about to take over the auto industry. And no one had pointed out that none of this was in the least way constitutional. In fact, everyone was in favor because “desperate times call for desperate measures” (which is another way of saying that government interference in the markets calls for government interference in the markets). And – to cap it all off with a huge dollop of irony – all of this happened during a Republican administration! So the incoming Democratic administration basically had nothing left to do; the economy was already completely socialized. And then I woke up, and... well, you know the rest.

Just when you think the “War on Drugs” can't get any more insane, it does. Regarding that local FBI agent killed a few days ago in the line of duty, i.e. while conducting a drug raid on a suburban home, rumor now has it that the alleged drug dealer was working as an informant for another agency. So what it means, basically, is that Agency A (unidentified) didn't tell Agency B (the FBI) about this guy, so they raided his house and an agent got killed. Hey, why do we have a “drug czar”? Isn't someone supposed to be coordinating all this stuff? Or was it just “the fog of war”? In any case, the madness will continue until someone (like Obama – except he won't do it) simply takes everyone involved, abolishes their positions and the programs that require them, fires them, and prohibits them from ever obtaining government employment again. This entire generation of drug war fanatics has to be relieved of duty and allowed to die off of natural causes, and not replaced. But, of course, it won't happen – not on Obama's watch nor on anyone else's.

This Isn't Your Father's Ant Farm: A guy in China has been executed (!) for leading a bogus scheme involving ants which were supposed to be processed into “liquor, herbal remedies, and aphrodisiacs”. Apparently it was nothing but a con game – but think about it. Would you pass up a serving of ant liquor? And how do ants wind up in “herbal” remedies? And as to aphrodisiacs, think of the amount of weight the average ant can carry – many times its own. It's easy to see this as a metaphor for... well, you know. Like in those Viagra ads. Plus – with China's one-child policy, who on earth needs aphrodisiacs? I'd think they would be developing the opposite – oh wait, state television is already carrying “The View” -- that ought to do the trick.

I see where they restored Donatello's “David” -- you know, that bronze statue of a naked youth in a somewhat effeminate pose (albeit holding a sword) wearing what appears to be a bonnet? Gee whillikers, if a guy over here got caught with something like that in his rec room, he'd be accused of “hebephilia”. (No, it's got nothing to do with Christian Zionism. Look it up!) But the Italians are apparently a lot more chilled out on this issue, as I'm reminded every time I see a photo of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

Lend Me a Felon: Apparently the Bush White House is being besieged with requests for pardons, or commutations, or whatever, by jailbirds, and the women who love them, all over the fruited plain. But unlike Bill Clinton, he doesn't have a scores of contributors to his own campaigns behind bars to shower favors on. So in this case, an actual judgment as to the worthiness of the candidate for pardon has to be made. So OK -- “judgment” and “Bush White House” -- doesn't compute! These guys better settle in for the rest of their sentence.

The violence in Mumbai reminds us that India is not just the land of the Maharishi, meditation, and ethereal sitar music. There's a lot of violence over there, and there always has been. And it's based, about 99.999% of the time, on religious differences. We get a whiff of that over here once in a while, but nothing compared to the pitched battles that India suffers, which for utter mindlessness even rival what is going on in Iraq these days. Everyone jumped on Pope Benedict when he quoted a centuries-old discussion concerning the high correlation between Islam and violence – but we see it happening every day. We can be thankful for at least this much – yes, we live in an increasingly socialistic, collectivist society, but so far the Regime has more or less kept its mitts off religion and churches – except for extreme cases like the Branch Davidians and the FLDS, whose rights no one was interested in defending. The real moment of truth will come when they start applying the “Fairness Doctrine” or “hate speech” laws, or “hate crime” laws, to religious publications, discussions, and sermons. And, of course, the threat of taxation is never too far below the surface of any church-state discussion. And lest this seem paranoid and far-fetched, please note that these are already accomplished facts in Europe, and as close to us as Canada. And we all know how enlightened those places are. We can expect some feelers on this issue from the Obama camp not long after he takes office; hopefully the pushback from traditionalists will be strong enough to stave off catastrophe.

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Old Economic Shell Game

It's amazing to me that public opinion regarding the countless "bailouts" by the government of the financial sector is rapidly coalescing around the notion that it's basically a massive redistribution of wealth from the (mostly) middle class to the (entirely) rich. This is a rare case where the "average Joe" actually figures out the agenda in fairly short order... unlike most other cases of government hoaxes and scams (like the "Global War on Terrorism") where they never do figure out that they're being had. At the same time, people in this area are already seeing the new, glittering, riverside casino which is under construction as, basically, a means of redistributing wealth from the (mostly) lower class to the (entirely) rich. You see all the "gaming" billboards dotted along the highways, and you might almost think that "gaming", formerly known as "gambling", is something that only young, attractive, prosperous people do, and that they never gamble more of their own money than they can afford to lose. But then you actually walk into a casino and it's a different story. Most of the people there just got off an excursion bus after a long, stifling ride, and they are betting more of their money than they can afford to lose, and thoroughly stressing themselves out in the process. Not to mention, a substantial portion of them are chain smokers and heavy drinkers, who look as if they will be lucky to get home again without a side trip to the ER -- and that doesn't even include bus crashes, which, for some reason, those gambling buses are especially prone to. But when they finally get back home, they'll declare that it was a "fun trip" and that they can't wait to do it again. (Plus, they'll claim that they're "ahead" when it comes to gambling... but I've discussed this delusion previously.)

Of course, the more traditional redistribution vectors, at least in this country, involve wealth going _to_ the lower class, in the form of welfare payments, food stamps, subsidies, affirmative action (a form of welfare -- there, I said it), and so on. The source of this wealth is, of course, "the taxpayer" -- a term devised to avoid pointing out that we're always talking about the middle class. Now, this form of wealth transfer is still alive and well, but "gaming" adds another stage to the pilgrimage of the humble dollar. Now it doesn't just go from the middle class schmuck to the lower class dude; it goes from there to the rich casino owners, who in turn... well I don't know. Bank it in Switzerland, maybe? It sure as hell doesn't wind up back in the hands of the middle class. We're not talking about rainwater here. But the bottom line is that the lower class doesn't feel used or exploited, because the money that is taken back from them at least represents "fun". The middle class knows damn well it isn't having any "fun", but custom and etiquette prevents them from taking it out in the form of riots and setting fires.

And I don't want to represent the middle class as perpetual victims and nothing else. They may never be in line for "direct payments" from the government (and this includes farmers -- it's the rich corporate types who get most of the subsidies), but they form the vast bulk of the actual working force of the government, i.e. of the bureaucracy. When it comes to income redistribution -- on the collecting side, i.e. the IRS, or on the paying side, i.e. HHS, HUD, etc. -- they are the foot soldiers. So in this sense they're to blame as well, since their hands are stained with the traces of confiscated income, wealth, and property.

It has often been debated whether those who work for "the machine" are as guilty as those who own and operate it. This came to a head in the Vietnam era, where the question arose, if it's OK to "out" members of the local draft board, is it OK to also "out" the clerical personnel, etc., who work for it? Or are they just poor working stiffs who deserve our sympathy for working in such a rotten place? I'm not sure if this dilemma was ever satisfactorily worked out before the draft ended, but it's a good question in ethics, in any case. The Nazi hunters seem capable of distinguishing between, e.g., people who worked as guards in concentration camps, or people who purchased and shipped Zyklon-B, and people who installed plumbing or painted walls. If you hold everyone guilty, then you're basically saying that there are no gray areas, and that seems unrealistic. You're also claiming that everyone should be expected to consider the full implications of what they're doing at all times, which is even more unrealistic. Even the Church has at least one major distinction, i.e. between mortal and venial sins, and it admits plenty of other factors as well.

I wrote the other day about the FBI agent who was killed in the line of duty, just up the Allegheny River from here. He was working a drug bust, of course (does the FBI do anything else these days?). Now, did he sign up for the agency in response to an ad that read, "Foot soldiers wanted -- to work in, and support, a wrong-headed, Puritanical, evil, cruel, heartless, oppressive, and blatantly discriminatory government program"? Doesn't seem likely. Even the fact that this guy apparently got a charge out of undercover work and out of "moving in" on targets doesn't make him entirely to blame; there are many reasons for liking one's line of work other than "because it's evil and hurts people". I mean, who knows, the scenery around Auschwitz might have been very pleasant -- assuming one could get a weekend pass. (Maybe they just liked live polka music.) Anyway, I'm not going to try and "resolve" this issue, just present it as a question that perhaps deserves a bit more "nuance" than it normally gets from, e.g., our ever-vigilant media, "agents of change", and all-around scolds.

And lest I get too far afield, I should relate all of this back to my original point. Our politicians, and the media, tend to talk as if "class" (lower, middle, upper -- AKA working, middle, rich) is a permanent condition, like eye color or shoe size, when in fact there is a considerable amount of movement up and down the economic ladder. So whenever they come out for a program that blatantly favors one class over another, they're forgetting that a given individual might be _both_, at one time or the other, and that they will remember the "disfavor" part more than the "favor" part. Plus, all the class warfare talk reveals a zero sum game world view, which also -- despite the current crisis -- doesn't accurately reflect real economic (including political and technological) history. Their excuse is, "Because I _want_ to give more to A, I _have_ to take more from B." This is a far cry from _creating_ the conditions for prosperity, i.e. for technological advances, economic freedom, property rights, and so on. These benefits fall on deaf ears in the liberal camp, because they don't satisfy the lust for "fairness". Plus, it's much easier to achieve equality by making everyone poor than by providing everyone the same freedoms, i.e. to get rich, or merely become prosperous, or stay poor, as they see fit. Plus, redistribution of wealth is a guaranteed "full employment act" for politicians, appointees, and government workers.

So, basically, the shell game that is being played with the biggest stakes ever at this point is based on class consciousness and resentment -- and the notion that "I don't care what the government does to the other guy, as long as it gives me my due." This attitude can, of course, backfire virtually overnight -- either you move from the preferred class to the non-preferred class, or government policy shifts. Does anyone remember, for example, the very first "poverty program" under JFK? It was aimed entirely at Appalachia, i.e. at middle-Southern white people. Can you imagine a program of that sort getting through Congress now? Some things really do change, and permanently. I don't have any problem with moral absolutes, but I get impatient with "class absolutes" when they are imposed by the government and the media, for purposes of political exploitation. And, sure, the concept of "class" is a very useful one sociologically; I use it all the time in the descriptive sense. But the Regime treats it more like the Indians treat "caste" -- as something that involves fate, and destiny. They also treat it as something that is based, primarily, not on income per se but on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference, physical health, and so forth. So it becomes an entirely political concept, and therefore a club that various groups can take turns beating each other over the head with. This is not what I call "enlightened government". Rather than aggravating these ideas they should be doing all they can to ease and alleviate them -- by, again, providing for _real_ "equal opportunity" rather than this bogus fraud that goes by the same name. But, again, that would entail giving up political power, and how many are prepared to do that?