Friday, January 30, 2009

Behind the Eight Ball

As the media wax rhapsodic about the recent live birth of octuplets, the medical profession is already sounding notes of caution – tut-tutting, as it were, that multiple births, as fun and picturesque as they are, can also be a source of considerable trouble and expense. So we have the spectacle of the medical profession dividing itself into two camps – the “team of doctors” who officiated at the multiple birth, sweat still gleaming on their brows, holding a news conference like a crew of returning astronauts, while other medical professionals appear on TV and in print warning about things like delayed development and cerebral palsy. Plus, it turns out that the mother of the 8 already had 6 other children! And she lives with her parents, with no mention of a husband (in which case, who... oh, never mind). Is this, then, simply an extreme case of “hoarding”, like these women who have three hundred cats? Because if it is, the medical profession only has itself to blame. You can't pave the way to multiple births as an everyday event then gripe when some neurotic takes advantage of it to repopulate a small town single-handedly. And, of course, the pro-life people have to take the mother's side because “embryo reduction” is just another name for abortion. So everyone is baffled by this – and of course the ZPG people and liberals in general have to be having conniptions. (Would you want to be in the same room as Hillary Clinton when a news story about this comes on? I know I wouldn't.) And here's a telling quote: “Dr. James Grifo, professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the NYU School of Medicine, added: 'I don't think it's our job to tell them how many babies they're allowed to have. I am not a policeman for reproduction in the United States. My role is to educate patients.'” Yeah – and most of that “education” consists of abortion counseling, which is just fine with the establishment. But what happens when people blatantly defy all those “educational” efforts? It coverts more liberals to China's one child policy than bombing a wedding party in Afghanistan creates terrorists.

Some more quotes:

o “The birth of the octuplets already has raised eyebrows, with fertility and reproductive experts saying that such high-risk pregnancies should be avoided.”

o "'When we see something like this in the general fertility world, it gives us the heebie-jeebies,' Michael Tucker, an Atlanta-based clinical embryologist and leading researcher in fertility treatments, told the Los Angeles Times. 'If a medical practitioner had anything to do with it, there's some degree of inappropriate medical therapy there,' the Times quoted him as saying.” (Nothing "inappropriate" about partial-birth abortion, though!)

o “Asked by a reporter whether medical ethics may have been breached and whether fertility assistance was provided to a mother who already had multiple children, (one of the attending doctors) replied: 'That's still a private, personal question.'”

o “Doctors say they advise against higher-order births, but acknowledge the decision is not theirs to make.”

o "'Who am I to say that six is the limit?' said Dr. Jeffrey Steinberg, medical director of Fertility Institutes, which has clinics in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and New York City. 'There are people who like to have big families.'”

There are many layers of irony and hypocrisy here. The shibboleth of “privacy” is raised, which is precisely the same argument that drove the outcome of Roe v. Wade. Then, of course, medical personnel would never -- heavens no! -- attempt to impose their point of view or their value system on their patients – even though they fight like demons against holistic medicine and alternative therapies, and support monopolistic practices when it comes to health insurance. And as for big families – they are discriminated against in every possible way in this society. But the public attitude of the medical profession is as fair as unbiased as can be.

But aside from all these irritations, the main point is that, as misguided as this woman might have been, she was at least perfectly free to have 8 children at once – or 10, or 20, if she was up to the task. That in itself is a good thing when one compares with China. But it must also be said that many of the forms of fertility therapy – and it is still a deep, dark secret whether that was involved in this case, but the odds are overwhelming that it was – go directly against the teachings of the Catholic Church. So when people sow the wind, they reap a whirlwind – in this case 8 new beings who may require a lifetime of special care. And of course they are all God's creatures, and now that they're here they deserve the same respect and consideration as any of the rest of us – but their very existence can, in some sense, be traced to an error, and very likely a moral failing as well. But the Technological Imperative (“What can be done will be done”) is obviously very much in play here – and the medical profession, that makes pushing the envelope on these issues into an everyday mission, can't complain when it seems to backfire. Otherwise they wind up looking like Dr. Frankenstein asking the angry peasants why they don't like his monster.

"Get Used To It!"

So Obama is upset that the Wall Street bonus-and-perk machine charges on, even in the face of economic collapse and bailouts by the government. My bet is that he's even more upset because he realizes there's not a damn thing he can do about it. Listen to the non-threatening language: “... part of what we're going to need is for the folks on Wall Street who are asking for help to show some restraint, and show some discipline, and show some sense of responsibility.” This is not a veiled threat; it's an admission of utter impotence. “Part”... “need”... “some restraint”... “some discipline”... “some sense of responsibility”? These are all mush terms. If he were serious, he wouldn't say “some” over and over – he'd say “clean up your act or go to jail”. And best of all -- “folks”. No one in politics uses the term “folks” unless they're trying to be as non-threatening and wishy-washy as possible – i.e. unless they're doing a Jimmy Carter imitation. And this is what the media call “a withering critique”! (It's about as "withering" as their critique of Obama's campaign was.) Remember when JFK called the head of U.S. Steel into his office and basically told him, “Here's what you're going to do, period. And if you don't like it, U.S. Steel is going to become an government agency, and you'll be out on the street.” You think Obama is going to get medieval on Wall Street? Not bloody likely. For one thing, most of the high-ranking people in his administration come right out of the same culture. And for another thing, corporate America had as much to do with his election as ACORN did. So no, he already owes these people plenty, and he's not going to turn on them at this early date – or ever. They bought him, and now they've come to collect.

Of course, being a good politician, he's also worried about “public support for more government intervention” getting undermined – which is to say, when the Wall Street CEOs act like a gang of robbers in the old Western movies, and ride out of town with guns blazing and much whooping and hollering after robbing the bank, people are likely to take notice. Well yeah – the citizenry are never quite as stupid as liberal politicians think they are. (And besides, they still have guns!) And as time goes on, more and more people are catching on to the reality that the entire economic collapse and the subsequent, ongoing bailout are all part of the same gigantic scam. Are any of them seeing “trickle-down” money or other assistance resulting from the bailout? No. In fact, now analysts are saying that it will take months – or years! -- for the “benefits” of the bailout, and the economic stimulus package, to be felt by the average citizen. This is funny, considering that the perks and bonuses for Wall Street executives, paid for with taxpayer money, have _already_ been collected. The speed of the process is obviously dependent on who the beneficiary is. In fact, the _reality_ of the process is dependent on who the beneficiary is. And whatever else the government intervention into the economy may or may not be, it has already been shown to be one thing, namely the biggest transfer of wealth in history – from the middle class to the upper class/rich/Regime/people in charge... however you want to phrase it. So far, all the beneficiaries are people who didn't need any more money anyway, and all the losers are the ones who did. The lower, or victim, classes, who don't have any vested interest in the system anyway, are relatively unaffected; in fact they're probably highly amused at the spectacle of the high rollers groveling before Congress, and the bourgeoisie crying in their beer about their retirement money and “portfolios”. But, as usual, their perceptions only go so far – they remain the “done to” class rather than the “doing” class.

And thus endeth the Era of the Middle Class in America – which means, thus endeth, once and for all, the most distinctive thing that has characterized this society since its founding. I don't think there has been another country on Earth, in all of history, that has been as consistently dependent on a middle class to form the basis for its prosperity – not to mention its values. Countries with a small elite and a large peasantry are a dime a dozen; they are the most common type in history. And as I've commented before, they can only go so far along the road to progress and prosperity, because that two-class structure, as “natural” and “traditional” as it seems, imposes severe limits on human ambition and aspiration. There is always a tendency to despair among the lower class, and a tendency to complacency among the upper. In other words, the tendency is for such a system to become ossified and stagnant. Sure, the rulers continue to rule, but what are they ruling? An army of slaves, basically. And the slaves, because they have no hope here on earth, tend to turn their focus more and more toward religion (and this shows a possible silver lining to our current situation!).

And what is the message that is coming, non-stop and 24-7, from all the organs of the Regime – i.e. the government and the MSM? “Get used to it!” Meaning, this isn't going to go away any time soon. You wanted “change”? Well, you got it! Courtesy of (or so it is alleged) the evil Republicans, but somehow there has been a seamless transition in policy to the new Democratic administration, and suddenly no liberals or media types find anything wrong with it, but the Republicans do, even though it was _their_ policy up until last week. So the middle class is impoverished, the ruling class remains untouched, and shazam, that's the very point at which the society, and the economy, are flash-frozen into a kind of petrified state with absolutely no expectation of things getting better. This, to me, is highly suspicious. When times are good, we advertise ourselves as “the land of opportunity” where “anything can happen”, and “anyone can get rich (or become president)(or both)”. But when times get tough, all of a sudden a pall is cast over the American landscape, and the only reasonable, rational attitude is one of total despair. And this is all, of course, greatly to the advantage of the Regime, which gets, thereby, carte blanche to exert even more stringent economic and social controls, all in the name of the “crisis” and the “emergency”, but which will never be lifted; nor is there any plan to do otherwise. Call it (as some already have) the New New Deal; I call it the _second half_ of the New Deal. The first half involved an _apparent_ shortening of the leash on Business, a raising up of Labor, and a suppression of the middle class. This half involves government and business merging, Labor staying in the doldrums, and the middle class disappearing. The goal, as always, has nothing to do with overall prosperity, to say nothing of freedom. It's strictly about control, and power, and turning the nation into a two-class system... i.e., creating an America that is not America at all, but just another place where the few lord it over the many. And in order to do this with the minimum of muss and fuss, it must not appear as a naked power grab out of the blue. There must be a crisis, an emergency – and hence the economic situation we see today. It's being represented as a kind of domino effect starting with subprime mortgages... a series of accidents... a critical mass of mismanagement and bungling... a “perfect storm”. What is more likely, IMO, is that the entire thing was carefully and meticulously mapped out, just waiting for the right time to be implemented. And what better time than the nadir of the Republicans, the utter failure of our foreign policy, and the wild hopefulness of the Democrats for “change”? When one side is defeated and the other is in a state of hysteria, no one's going to take a close look at the whys and wherefores – simply the threat of worse things to come is enough to loosen the government's purse strings and empty the Treasury. You look for a power gap – as Lenin and Hitler both did – a gap not only in leadership but in popular morale – and you jump in. This is an age-old strategy, but it has not been properly identified in this case because the whole thing was represented, from the start, as something that “just happened”. Right -- “just happened” -- with, arguably, the smartest and highest-paid people in the country running the show. No – with people like that in charge, nothing “just happens”; depend on it. And there are too many signs that indicate otherwise – the timing, as I said, and the fact that the “perps” are suffering no damage at all – are prospering, in fact – and that the new administration is just as helpless as the old to do anything about it. The courts aren't involved – it's out of their league. And Congress just dithers. And meantime, we not only have the bailout – which rewards the thieves with even more money than they already stole – but the “economic stimulus” package, which is going to be the frosting on the cake. Wait and see – most of it will wind up in the hands of the exact same people.

And as for those responsible -- they must want it awfully bad to have, basically, trashed the economy, brought down the banks, stock market, insurance industry, home mortgage industry, etc. -- knowing that this might be a "once and for all" event, i.e. unlikely to be repeatable. We know they want to consolidate power and resources -- but they always have.  But up to now they've preferred more subtle means.  And to a great extent, they're killing the golden goose this way; American productivity will never again be what it once was when the government was involved mostly in the regulatory sense, vs. as an actual owner/operator.  It is, then, just a bunch of executives looking to cash out?  (In which case, where are they going to put all their money?  Invest it?  Ha ha!) It's certainly that -- but it's more about long-term power.

And as to the specifics of the "meltdown", and what is being said about it, I'll say again, most likely it's just a way of lowering expectations.  You shatter the American dream, and no one minds being poor from then on.  I mean, they mind, but they don't question it.  So all the "surplus" goes into the "right hands" rather than being distributed among the bourgeoisie and the kulaks.  And of course, as the saying goes, if you're going to steal, steal big.  Steal so big that people are overwhelmed -- Godzilla is attacking Tokyo!  So no one minds whatever totalitarian measures have to be taken.  Of course, all those measures will be presented as "temporary", but will turn out to be permanent.  The end result is a re-ordering of the social and economic structure, back to the -- as I've said -- Medieval model of an elite and the peasantry, or Soviet model of the nomenklatura and the proletariat, with nothing in between.  So all the "surplus labor", as Marx would say, percolates right up to the top with no one in between taking a cut.  A perfect way to inaugurate (ahem!) the slave, or servile, state.

The only problem is that no model of national prosperity has been shown to work without a substantial middle class.  This has been true since ancient times.  And of course this always offends the theorists on both ends of the spectrum no end.  But it's true nonetheless.  So the people at the top will wind up being in total control, all right -- of a third-world country, like China under Mao.  Can this possibly be what they really want?  I think we're going to find out, much sooner than we'd like.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Taking Exception

Did you ever take one of those quizzes where they give you a list and ask, “Which one doesn't belong?” Well, I have a list like that right here, courtesy of Rush Limbaugh, who put it in his November 2008 newsletter, the issue being what defines “full-throated conservatism”:

0 limited government
o low taxes
o strong military
o individual liberty
o rugged individualism
o American exceptionalism
o preservation of the founding documents and the founding principles
o free markets
o free speech
o free people

So, which one doesn't belong? By which I mean, not which one is inconsistent with the standard concept of “conservatism”, but which one serves as a kind of contradiction – a fly in the ointment, if you will – threatening to cancel out some or all of the others? The answer, in my opinion, is “American exceptionalism”, and I'll try to explain why.

First, consider the origins of what is called “American exceptionalism”. Surely the “American experiment” is historically unique in many ways, although it shares many features with other countries, past and present. Its founding was explicitly based on many “Enlightenment” concepts and ideals, which were nonetheless linked – at least in public pronouncements and documents – with the idea of a benevolent, if somewhat distant, God. God's approval of the American experiment was assumed, and His continued support was prayed for on regular occasions. Now, did this mean (to the Founding Fathers) that all other nations were godless, or not blessed? What's more likely is that the United States was simply considered to be, if you will, the most highly-evolved society ever devised, and, as such, deserving of special consideration by the Supreme Being – not that other nations were necessarily benighted, but that they had – as we say today -- “issues”, and traditions, and customs, and various sorts of inertia that kept them from “being all that they could be”. America, on the other hand, represented a new start, and one without baggage. (I don't believe this to have actually been the case, but let it go for now.)

So we have a basis in both faith and reason for American exceptionalism – in faith because, at that time, those in charge were still serious about their religion and its implications for the secular order – i.e. in the translation of morals into ethics, and thence into government and politics. There was not the fragmentation we have now, where each of these things is in a different pot and no one seems to think there is anything wrong with it. (Consider, for example, that a denial of one's faith is considered an essential qualification for high office these days.) And, in reason because, although the “Enlightenment” had not yet been carried to an extreme and reduced to absurdity – that had to wait for the French Revolution – the method of choice with which to do this translating included (relatively) objective considerations of history, economics, morals, and human nature, even going back to the ancient Greeks, and taking large doses from the Renaissance. Consequently, faith and reason were considered to be complementary, and expected to remain so – again, in sharp contrast to the conventional wisdom of today, which dictates that one must choose one or the other, and ne'er the twain shall meet.

But what, then, does exceptionalism – as defined above -- have to do with conservatism? Simply that the perpetuation of the American system – its success – is considered to depend on the preservation – conservation -- of the original balance of faith and reason. This is why conservatives are so critical of liberals, because the latter seem to possess very little of either quality. And on those rare occasions where convincing faith is shown, it is generally not accompanied by reason (logic, objectivity, etc.)... and vice versa.

But then, who, or what, put the “ism” in “exceptionalism”? Was it ever enough for Americans to sit over here, oceans away from the strife of the Old World, and enjoy their Enlightenment-based society unhindered, without particularly worrying about whether anyone else had gotten the same idea? Granted, we did much to aid and abet the French Revolution... but when that quickly turned sour and the French lost no time replacing their king with an emperor, we might have started having serious second thoughts, as did the British. We also inspired notables like Simon Bolivar, but I don't think that level of inspiration quite rose to the level of “foreign policy”, at least not as it is practiced today, with our intelligence agencies and military actively involved in “regime change” all around the world. In short, it seems to me that the basic notion was to live and let live – and that if other countries persisted in their less-than-enlightened forms of government, well, maybe they simply had different tastes than we did... or maybe they weren't as highly evolved. So give them time. Which is to say, the idea of exceptionalism, while, in theory, contained many components that would be of value elsewhere, did not take on a missionary zeal or military aggressiveness for quite a while – perhaps because we simply could not afford it, but let's give ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

All of this changed drastically, and almost overnight, when we entered into “the war to make the world safe for democracy” -- World War I (originally the "Great War", which has much more of a ring to it). Suddenly our ideals were found, upon further review, to have implications for not only well-wishing and passive foreign policy, but for active economic policy and military strategy. And paradoxically, this also marked a turning point in the exceptionalist idea, because, after all, if democracy – and not only democracy, but our particular brand of democracy – is not only the best system for us, but the best for any nation on earth, then it's no longer “exceptional”, is it? I mean, it stays exceptional for only as long as it takes for us to spread it over the globe, at which point it's no longer exceptional, but just normal. (I wonder if Limbaugh thought of this?) Of course, the United States would always be the first among equals – the elder brother, as it were, of all other democracies; this goes without saying. And perhaps that would be enough of a remnant of exceptionalism to satisfy the most fervent patriot; I don't know. But in any case, the implication is that to be a conservative you not only have to maintain loyalty to the original concept of what America is all about, but you have to work tirelessly to bring its blessings to the heathen, i.e. to the un-”enlightened”. And this is precisely what many of today's conservatives believe we are doing – or trying to do – in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. It is not enough to defeat them militarily; they have to be changed – and not changed simply to avoid future conflicts, but simply because, as Martha Stewart would say, “it's a good thing.” And furthermore, if they show less than enthusiastic interest in our program for them, it certainly isn't our fault. They “really oughta wanta” do things our way, and we're glad to convince them of that... up to a point, after which the convincing stops and the shooting starts. And this, in turn, makes one wonder if “spreading democracy” is really what we're talking about as much as “projecting power”. Our civilian and military leaders are talking, right this minute, for example, about reducing our “expectations” as to what sort of society Afghanistan ought to become as a result of our invasion and occupation. It may be enough to let it revert to its historical, “medieval” model, as long as that does not include the Taliban. Or, it may eventually be enough to include the Taliban, as along as they don't completely tyrannize everyone else, and allow girls to attend school, etc. Or.... get the picture? It seems that, as time goes on, we care less and less about the form of foreign governments as long as they are on our side, or at least neutralized. But we have to keep talking the “democracy” talk, because that's one of the few publicly-acceptable reasons for going into other countries in the first place. The day has not yet arrived when an American politician can stand up and say, “We're invading Buttistan because (1) it will create jobs, (2) we need to try out our new weapon systems, (3) the war industries want us to, (4) Israel wants us to, (5) I've always wanted to be a “war president”, (6) maybe we can convert them to Christianity instead of whatever heathen mumbo-jumbo they believe in now, and (7) it's fun.” Yeah, I don't think that would exactly wash with the voters. So we have to talk about “WMD”, as if some third-world fleabag can lob an ICBM at us at a moment's notice... and about “defending the American way of life”, which is code for “oil”.... but mainly about “spreading democracy”, even though no one, at this late date, has the slightest idea what that would entail. Are we trying to spread 1776-style democracy? (In which case, charity should begin at home.) Or democracy as currently practiced in the U.S., which bears about as much resemblance to what the Founding Fathers had in mind as MTV bears to a barn dance? Or democracy as practiced somewhere else, which might actually be a better version than what ours has evolved into? But hey, why quibble? These are just words, after all. All those inked thumbs make for a good photo op, but we're the ones who say whether they can vote and when, and who they can vote for (and who is allowed to win). So the whole thing becomes a farce – and “American exceptionalism” nothing more than a stuffy way of saying, “We're the biggest and baddest, and we pity the fool who gets in our way.”

So getting back to Rush's list – there is nothing about any of the other items on the list that implies, or necessitates, the inclusion of “American exceptionalism”. If we are truly exceptional, it's because we've adhered to the other points on the list... and if we haven't, we're not exceptional. So the term has no legitimate independent meaning as a motivating concept or goal of conservatism. And, the pursuit of the concept as it presently manifests itself is clearly eroding the other points. Consider what has happened just since 9-11, which – it can be argued – was “blowback” from our current idea of exceptionalism and how we implement it:

0 limited government – a totally lost cause, owing to what is needed to support a perpetually-at-war state and one whose military misadventures have driven it into bankruptcy;
o low taxes – also a lost cause, for the same reasons;
o strong military – commendable enough if one is truly talking about “defense”, but easily-abused when “defense” becomes “war” for dishonorable or delusional motives;
o individual liberty – the first casualty of war, as it has been said – and in the case of perpetual war, the result is perpetually-eroded liberty;
o rugged individualism – OK if it's only in your head, but just try living it out on a daily basis – e.g., try living “off the grid”, economically;
o preservation of the founding documents and the founding principles – Well, the documents are nicely preserved at the National Archives, but the founding principles, I'm afraid, have foundered on the rocks of empire-building;
o free markets – With the economy largely in the hands of the government, even the _appearance_ of free markets isn't going to last much longer;
o free speech – It still works if you're below radar, but try it on the national airwaves. (Can you say “Fairness Doctrine”?)
o free people – If all the above is lost, what is left?

So is the above an obituary for conservatism? What it _should_ be is an obituary for Neoconservatism, which, by embracing a distorted notion of American exceptionalism, has severely eroded all the other points and put true conservatism in a position of great peril. Ideally, of course, the citizenry, and the voters, should be capable of making that distinction, but few have shown any sign of wanting to or being able to. Instead, true conservatism is being "package-dealed" into the national dumpster by the failures of the Neocons -- and guess what, they're not finished yet. How many of them do you think got on a bus out of Washington, DC last week? Damn few I'd say. They are still in positions of considerable power and influence... so their errors will likely persist, but now they'll be disguised as Obama-ism rather than conservatism. This could be a good thing, in a way, as it will give real conservatives some breathing room to regroup and start to make their positions better known, without the Neocon noise factor. That is, if they can even be heard above the sound of the American economy being flushed down a gigantic toilet by the people who were supposed to protect it.

The Frozen Chosen

The weather here today is... well, it's kind of hard to describe. First we had snow, then ice, then rain, and now more snow. It's a good day to stay inside and read the paper... or, you might think that, until you spot items like these:

The latest casualty in the Insane War on Drugs, as Harry Browne characterized it, is a British police dog who died of nasal cancer from sniffing too much cocaine. Could the martyrdom of this dog possibly serve as a wedge with which to, at long last, end the insanity of the drug wars? Think about it. If "drug-sniffing dogs" are declared an endangered species, they will have to be relieved from duty -- immediately, world-wide, and permanently. This could be a major setback in the War on Drugs -- maybe the one that finally brings it to a close. We can always hope.

Headline of the Day: "Blowfish testicles make 7 diners sick." Well, Monica could have warned them... but they didn't ask.

Quote of the Day: "My worry is that the Afghans come to see us as part of their problem rather than part of their solution." -- Robert Gates, (still) Secretary of Defense. Whoa, no kidding, Sherlock! The only way I would amend this statement is to eliminate the "part of" part. The Afghans clearly prefer the "enemy that they know" -- i.e. the Taliban -- to the one they would rather not know, i.e. us. And yeah, the Taliban are a bunch of bullies, but frankly, are you any more dead if they kill you than if we do, with one of our "precision airstrikes" -- you know, on wedding parties, female circumcisions, bar mitzvahs (oh wait, no)? Not that I can tell. Of course, the reason we invaded Afghanistan in the first place was to teach the Taliban a damn good lesson -- i.e. for providing a base of operations for Al Qaeda. One could argue that we, in fact, did that. But did the "lesson" have to include total elimination of the Taliban and assurance that they would never return to power? This is apparently the thinking of our foreign policy geniuses. It's not enough to just kick butt, we have to make sure that butt stays kicked forever, basically -- which is the same thing as saying we have to stay in Afghanistan forever -- which is, apparently, exactly what the powers that be (including Obama, note) want.

Congressman Menendez of New Jersey asked the SEC's "director of enforcement", Linda Thomsen, "if Madoff was smarter than the regulators". The article doesn't say what her reply was, but here's what it should have been: "Of _course_ he was smarter than the regulators! How do you think he got away with everything he got away with for so long? If our regulators were as smart as Madoff, they'd be out in the private sector making billions too. But since they're only lowly government employees they have to be satisfied regulating -- or pretending to -- people who are way smarter than they are, and who make thousands of times as much money as they do. You can imagine how successful they are, on average. How successful would you be if you had to "regulate" people who can run rings around you in every way? See why we have a hard time recruiting for these positions?"

Eh, Bibi, Bibi, That's All Folks!

Pat Buchanan's latest comment on the endless pachinko game that is the Near East is a prediction that Bibi Netanyahu, front-running candidate for prime minister of Israel, will eventually lock horns with Barack Obama over Gaza. Of course, the first question that ought to be asked (but never is) is, why do we care what happens in Gaza, now or ever? But that would be to ignore our status as The Superpower, willing and able to exercise "moral leadership" wherever and whenever necessary, world-wide -- and, failing that, to kick ass world-wide. Now, Netanyahu, who is sort of the John McCain of Israel when it comes to foreign policy, has gained strength of late because of Israel's failure to "destroy or disarm" Hamas -- you know, those people who were voted into power in a democratic election by the residents of the Gaza Strip. Of course, talking about destroying Hamas without also destroying Gaza and all its residents is kind of like talking about destroying an inoperable tumor without killing the patient. And the weaker and more alienated Gaza becomes, the stronger (relatively, at least) Hamas becomes -- that's just the way these things work. Think "American liberals" vs. inner-city neighborhoods and you get the idea. Some organizations thrive on the happiness and prosperity of their members and supporters, and some thrive on the opposite.

In any case, Buchanan's argument is based on the fact that Obama "has called for a lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza to allow aid and commerce to flow freely." Well, is this really all that firm a stand? Is this really something that could create friction between the Obama administration and the next prime minister of Israel? I doubt it very much. What Buchanan is saying is that Obama is not yet -- at least publicly -- toeing the exact line, i.e. the Neocon one, vis-a-vis Israel. This, I suspect, is a mere oversight and a matter of semantics. If Obama ever comes out in favor of equal rights for the Palestinians, and backs it up diplomatically and foreign aid-wise, I'll eat my hat. This is just not going to happen. We have to murmer and tut-tut once in a while just to send the message that we are not totally in Israel's back pocket, but the world has long since seen through all that. Have we ever witheld one dollar of "aid" to Israel because they did something we claimed not to like? No. Have we ever adopted a neutral position, either in the U.N. or any other forum, regarding any Israeli military actions? No. Have we ever attempted to make a separate peace with any sworn enemy of Israel? No. The bottom line is that U.S. foreign policy and Israeli foreign policy are one and the same -- and the start of a new administration is not going to change that.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Obama, Meet Okarma

And speaking of "life issues", by sheer coincidence (right...) the FDA, on Friday, approved the first experiment testing human embryonic stem cells on people, i.e. for the purpose of treating or curing illness or injury, in this case spinal cord injuries. The first firm to benefit from this authorization is headed up by a guy named Okarma. You can't make these things up! All I can say is, Okarma better be sure his karma isn't run over by his pro-choice dogma. Of course, everyone is taking great pains to point out that the cell lines to be used in the research were established prior to the 2001 ban. They were derived from, quote, "left-over embryos at fertility clinics" -- in other words from surplus and unwanted human beings. But, see, it's OK because think of the miracle cures in store! Is this not the final triumph of utilitrianism? Essentially, whenever you find yourself in a minority and in a position to be sacrificed for the good of the majority, this "philosophy" dictates that, not only should you be sacrificed, but you should be happy to oblige, based on sound philosophical principles. You should, in fact, go singing to the place of execution. But of course, embryos don't even get to make that kind of choice; they are no more than cannon fodder. And they don't really count compared with the legions who will one day rise out of their wheelchairs and thank Dr. Okarma and his colleagues. But they will have their own karma to think about at that point.

Letting Loose the Dogs of War (on the Unborn)

As expected, Barack Obama lost no time aiding and abetting the abortion industry by signing an executive order, on Friday, once again allowing the USAID to provide funding for abortions overseas. Now granted, he did not issue this order in as nasty or tacky a way as Bill Clinton did, but the net result will be the same, and I can't see it as anything but American imperialism in a different guise. We're perfectly willing to provide funds so that the population of other countries – primarily the “third world” -- does not completely soar out of control. This, in the face of data that indicate that the “carbon footprint” of the average American is many times that of the average third-world citizen. In other words, if Obama is really interested in the total impact on the Earth, he ought to facilitate even more (if that's possible) abortions in the U.S. and not worry about the birth rate overseas. But that would be to forget that America's mission – now, as always – is to save the world from its own follies, whether political, economic, or, in this case, reproductive. Our government, and that of Israel, are already wringing their hands in dismay at how fecund the Palestinians are – and under those conditions, to boot! -- you know, the conditions imposed by us and Israel. But they forget one of the basic parameters of population biology, which is that, under certain types of stressors, a given species will actually accelerate its reproductive efforts rather than suppress them. Skeptical? Compare the reproductive rates in American inner cities, or Latin America, or Eastern Europe under the Soviets, or the Jews under persecution, with the rates found in today's fat-cat, complacent Western Europe, or the U.S. from the lower middle class on up. There is a fancy among social-control advocates that high rates of reproduction lead to poverty. While this may not be entirely untrue, it is more true that poverty leads to higher rates of reproduction, and it's not just because sexual activity is “the only thing they can do that's free”, as many of our liberal elitists have claimed. It's more of an instinctive thing – that when times are hard, your DNA (remember the “selfish gene” theory that all the liberals are enamored of?) still has a better chance of survival with many offspring than with only a few, or – obviously – none. (This argument has also been offered as hope for the decline of liberalism, forgetting that the hotbeds of liberalism are not literal beds but our colleges and universities.)

In any case, Obama did the predictable thing, and the pro-life organizations are dismayed – but certainly not surprised. A bit of irony that no one has pointed out as yet is that American support of abortion on an international level can, with very little difficulty, be seen as a form of genocide – particularly of black people, as practiced by white people. But even this doesn't seem to bother Obama, who is half African – assuming he's even figured it out. It has always escaped me what American blacks find so “liberating” about government support for abortion, which is disproportionately directed at their own kind. Maybe they think that quality is more important than quantity – well, fair enough, but then where's the quality? Surely not in our inner cities, where the bulk of black Americans live. I think they've simply been made the victims of a massive con game. But the “black leadership” has been completely silent on the subject, with the notable exception of – guess who -- “Calypso Louie” Farrakhan, once again proving that no one is wrong about everything.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inaugural Brawls

Oafs of Office

OK, so you stage an event at which 2 million people show up, then blow the main reason for having it in the first place. Weird and exceptional? No – just another day on the Death Star, AKA Washington DC. And even when we replay the tape – over, and over, and over – it's hard to say who goofed, Obama or Chief Justice Roberts. What it mostly sounds like is a duel between two Porky Pigs. But fear not, Obama had the oath administered again, just to be sure – i.e. to be sure no one had acted as if he was president when, in fact, George W. Bush still was. But wait a minute, isn't that what Congress and the media had been doing ever since the election anyway? Oh well. Another possibility – since the Chief Justice had already lost some serious face, and Joe Biden lost no time piling on -- Obama just wanted to rub it in even more as a way of saying, your time is past, my time is here. But here's what really gets me. Obama wanted to make sure that the exact wording of the Constitution was followed in the administration of the oath; otherwise it might be seen as invalid. This, from a man, and a political party, that has consistently ignored virtually everything the Constitution says, or does not say, for the good part of a century now. Isn't there something in the Bible about straining at gnats, while ignoring the beam in one's eye?

Murtha of Invention

Who was it who said every government program is a jobs program? Well, Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania clearly believes this, since he has proposed that the “terrorists” imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay be moved to Cambria County, Pennsylvania, once Guantanamo is closed. And the local boosters are all for it, because it will create jobs and (they think) enhance the prosperity of the region. No discussion is offered of the rationale for keeping any of these people behind bars, of course; that's just assumed.

Youth on the March

I went to the March for Life in Washington, DC (attended by anywhere from 200,000 people to about 50, depending on whether you believe the organizers, the Park Police, or the MSM) yesterday, and was amazed, as were many other people, at the large proportion of young (high school and college) people there – even more than in previous years, when they have also been prominent. So the MSM's usual cant that “pro-life” people are nothing more than a bunch of fanatical old geezers, who are going to die soon anyway, is shown, once again, to be wishful thinking. Pro-lifers are here to stay, and so is their cause – especially since there is, once again, someone in the White House who has absolutely no sympathy or use for the idea. Pro-lifers may not be exactly comfortable being a persecuted minority, but they have certainly adapted to it quite well.

Abbas Cadabra

So Obama rings up Mahmoud Abbas on his first full day in office, “stunning” both Palestinians and Israelis alike? Good – he's keeping everyone guessing (so far). Maybe he's just trying to project an image of fairness and impartiality onto what has, up to now, been a wildly biased foreign policy. Or, maybe he's just carrying water for Israel. Or, maybe he really is trying to approach the Palestinians with a modicum of respect, rather than treating them like – well, like black people in America were treated for so long. Wow – and here I thought the Israelis and American blacks had something in common – you know, the old “let my people go” thing. But somebody forgot that the Palestinians have been locked up for as long as Israel has been a state.

Royal Pains

The times they really are a-changin'. At one time, a Kennedy – any Kennedy – could get whatever they wanted merely with a slight wave of the hand. Now we have the spectacle of Caroline K. dropping out of contention for Hillary's Senate seat, and a PR squabble about what went wrong and why. Well, for starters, it's clear that New York Governor Paterson is one of the few people who can't possibly be influenced by the legendary Kennedy teeth and perfect hair. This is not a trivial consideration! Plus, there are so many Kennedys in Congress already that they can pass legislation all by themselves – at a family picnic, for instance – without having to consult anyone else. And also, as I said before, Hillary would surely suffer from many unflattering comparisons to the glamorous and classy Caroline. In any case, the woman who should have been the torch-bearer for “Camelot” has run aground in a most farcical manner. Maybe you really can be too thin and too rich.

He Won't Drink to That

And speaking of Kennedys, a high-ranking Democrat said, regarding Teddy Kennedy's seizure on Tuesday, “He has a serious, serious, serious illness, but he's actually in as good a shape as he's been for a very long time.” This is a very interesting admission. What it says to me is that when you take Teddy, add a tumor, but subtract all the alcohol, you more or less break even.

A Man of Vision

Could this be a boost for Geocentrism? “Italian and British scientists want to exhume the body of 16th century astronomer Galileo for DNA tests to determine if his severe vision problems may have affected some of his findings.” Well, for one thing, how do you do an eye exam on a guy who has been dead for 367 years? But in any case, this could be just what the anti-Galileans are looking for. Kind of like finding out that Darwin had a brother who was born with a tail.

Tunnel Vision

On the local scene, the Port Authority of Allegheny County is now holding the “Tunnels to Nowhere”, AKA North Shore Connector project, hostage pending a nice bite of the federal bailout money. If only to prove that all politics are local, the bailout is quickly being transformed from “the only thing that will save our economy and the American way of life” into just another program designed to dole out money to local interests, i.e. politicians, unions, and business, with absolutely no relevance to the overall economic picture and certainly with no claim to being “critical” in terms of preserving the economy or the American way of life. This is, in effect, a picture of the entire bailout scam writ small, and I'm sure it's being repeated in a thousand different places around the country. In every case, good money will be thrown after bad, with a net effect that is neutral, if not negative. The most that can be hoped for is to break even – which is, apparently, much more politically palatable than the creative destruction needed to really remake the economy rather than keep many parts of it on artificial life support. As such, it's a purely political exercise designed to win, or keep, voters, not unlike the FDR administration's efforts to “end the Depression”, which, according to the economic revisionists, did nothing but prolong it.

The Bill for Polio

Bill Gates has announced that a reasonably large chunk of his almost-infinite fortune is to be used to “eradicate polio”. Um... has anyone whispered in his ear that this was already accomplished, a bit over 50 years ago? But the truth is, polio has not been completely eradicated – it still crops up from time to time, like in 2008 with 1,625 reported cases world-wide (whether these were new or ongoing cases is not made clear). The amount pledged is $255 million, which works out to more than $150,000 for each new case in 2008. Call this a bogus statistic if you like, but one still wonders how much of an investment is worth making in order to completely, utterly eradicate a given ailment? (No one has ever asked this question about AIDS, for example. But we already know that the "fight to cure cancer" was, and still is, basically a racket.) Another question is, is there something about the polio virus that makes it difficult, or perhaps impossible, to completely eradicate? Is it like trying to reduce unemployment to 0%, for example? It would take a profoundly unprejudiced medical researcher to deal with that question, but my observation over the years is that in almost any system -- economic, biological, what have you -- the last few percentage points are the most difficult to deal with. Even in something as relatively trivial as Christmas shopping – have you ever had the experience of getting 50 or 100 gifts with no problem at all, but one or two that drove you right up the wall? And how about that one thing that's wrong with your car, or your house, that just won't go away, no matter how much money you spend? I suspect there is some kind of law at work here – one of the many “undiscovered laws” that we are nonetheless all too familiar with in everyday practice. It's completely complimentary with the concept of diminishing returns – that, ultimately, there is a point at which we ought to just be satisfied and not so obsessive about attaining perfection. But hey, when you've got Bill Gates' bucks, even the delusion of perfection doesn't really have much impact on your budget.

They Won't Hear Of It

I've often said that there is no such thing as pure evil on earth, because evil, by nature is non-creative, i.e. it always has to act as a parasite on that which is good. The Taliban seemed to be an exception to this, but lo and behold, they have vindicated themselves at least a little by issuing a decree, in northwest Pakistan, that bus drivers must cease and desist playing audio and video tapes in their buses because such entertainment is a “source of mental agony for pious people.” Wow – kinda makes me think of my experience every time I go into McDonald's or Old Navy and have to put up with rap lyrics, or Madonna, or any number of other forms of decadence. Or, for that matter, my experience at "guitar Masses". But these guys are serious! If the bus drivers don't follow their request, they will send suicide bombers out to enforce it. Whoa! You think it's too late to try this with Muzak?

How Do I Get To Carnegie Hall?

I've commented before that the world's economic woes actually seemed to be genuine once they started impacting the high-end art market. Now it's Carnegie Hall's (the one in New York) turn, and the management there has been forced to cut back. The problem is a decline in individual, vs. corporate, giving. Big surprise! But even some of the large corporations are not necessarily a done deal for the future. And as to individuals – well, it just goes to show that major cultural venues can't stay afloat on the donations of fat cats alone; they need the little people to chip in as well. This, in a funny kind of way, is a confirmation of the basic democratic idea, but in an unexpected context. The rich can build mansions, buy airplanes, yachts, furs, jewelry... travel to exotic destinations... have a permanent chair in the Monte Carlo casino... but they can't keep high culture going all by themselves. What might appear to the casual observer to be a plaything of the elite (if you read the society pages as to all the “benefits” and “galas”) turns out not to be – at least not entirely. The average schmuck who saves his pennies to buy concert tickets – the forgotten man – is just as important. I find this encouraging – even if it's not such good news for Carnegie Hall.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oh Man, Omen, Obama !

So far, all the omens are good for the Obama presidency:

1. Dick Cheney had to attend the inauguration in a wheelchair.

2. Ted Kennedy had a seizure at a post-inaugural luncheon.

3. Obama has put a “freeze” on all pending regulations. (It'd sure be nice if he'd put a freeze on all regulation, period – but I guess that's too much to hope for.)

4. Tons of peanut butter – a symbol of the Old South if there ever was one – are being recalled.

5. And best of all, not a peep has been heard from the traditional “black leadership” -- you know, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and all the other race-hustling, victimization-preaching, reparations-demanding crew that has kept black Americans tied to the racism “meme” for so many decades now. The best thing about the Obama presidency is that it has pretty much taken the wind out of their sails – and that can only be good news, for blacks, whites, whoever. The civil rights movement which dated from just after the Civil War had plenty of legitimacy on its side, and its demands for justice and equal treatment were perfectly reasonable. But once most of its goals were met – at least in the strictly legal, if not social/cultural, sense – it became more of a crutch and a full employment act for all sorts of hustlers, con artists, and extortionists, of which Jackson and Sharpton are the leading examples. Now that we have a black president, it's obvious that many of their chronic gripes no longer have any validity. Can we expect them to finally shut up and retire from the public scene? No. But will they continue to have a monopoly on representing black Americans? Not with one as president! And will they ever be taken as seriously again? One surely hopes not. This alone is a huge contribution to the “plus” side of the scale which is already starting to be used to weigh the Obama Era.

On the other hand, according to a headline on MSN, the “honeymoon is over” because of a fairly large (even by current standards) fall in stock prices. Over?? After only a few hours?? Wow – that sure isn't the way it used to be. But don't worry, we'll still have the media propping things up, although I wonder what Keith Olbermann is going to do without Bush? Probably the same thing Rush Limbaugh did without Clinton. Personally, I'm going to miss K.O.'s nightly "Bushhhhed" segment. Maybe it'll go into reruns, who knows?

But as to the “old guard” -- of which Kennedy and Cheney are the ultimate symbols – it really does seem to be passing away, and that can't be anything but good. Of course, the Obama administration is already terminally polluted with Clinton retreads, but they can't exactly be accused of being “old guard”. But they aren't “new guard” either, because, basically, there is no “new guard” other than Obama himself. So call them “medium guard”, and let's hope they're amenable to at least a few new and/or sensible ideas. Actually, it's hard to figure out exactly what the Democrats want these days. The old South/black/labor coalition is long gone, and has been replaced by – if the Clinton administration was any indication – a bunch of cynical power junkies with, really, no “ideas” to speak of, just towering ambition. I don't think one genuine “idea” passed through Bill Clinton's head for the entire eight years he was president; for him, just being president was enough. It was, as many people have pointed out, a “vacation from history”. But then along came Bush, and 9-11, and we waded back into world affairs with guns blazing – but still no ideas, not really, just a bunch of bromides and buzzwords. And actually, most of what we've heard from Obama since the campaign began has been vapid – Irish bookies were taking bets on which cliché he would use first in his inauguration speech! But maybe now that he's in office he'll get down to some serious work, and we won't have to put up with either another Clinton-style Club Med vacation, or a Bush-style gang war.

That's my own “audacity of hope”, anyway.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Eve of Destruction

A few random thoughts and observations on the eve of “regime change” (right, sure) in America:

Headline in today's paper: “Pelosi differs with Obama on 2 issues.” Wow – a major fault line in the Democratic Party. Only 2? Out of how many? Hundreds? Sounds like we've got smooth sailing ahead – for totalitarianism, that is.

Regarding the plane that made a perfect, three-point landing in the Hudson River: “Officials have refused to say where in New Jersey the plane would be taken...” My guess it'll be taken to the same place where they took all the World Trade Center debris – and that's top secret, for reasons that have never been explained.

“Cosmetic face fixes boom before swearing-in.” Apparently there's rush on cosmetic, skin care, and plastic surgery vendors in anticipation of the inauguration. All I can say is – wow, they really _are_ putting lipstick on pigs!

Obama wants “a commitment to reform” from the U.N. Sounds good, right? But wait a minute -- “reform” by whose standards? Surely not those of all the third-world crapholes that have representatives taking up valuable seating, and breathing valuable air, in the General Assembly. By their standards, the U.N. is just fine, thank you. Fine, that is, at extorting money, and apologies, from the U.S. and distributing them among themselves and their cronies. And who is to say that our standards are the ones to which the U.N. should aspire? Isn't that some form of... “nationism” or something? (Surely it has to be some kind of “ism”!) After all, we're part of a very small minority in the U.N. -- one of the few actually functioning democracies (more or less)... one of the few with a Bill of Rights... one of the few where family and tribal ties aren't the only bases for who gets to be boss... and, as far as foreign policy is concerned, we're in a minority that consists, basically, of us and Israel. So what business do we have calling for “reform”? It would make more sense if the U.N. were “reformed” in the _opposite_ direction – to be as corrupt as, say, Bangladesh or Zimbabwe, for instance... or as dogmatic as Saudi Arabia... or as militant as Iran. Then it would be much more representative. As it is, it's nothing more than a free soup kitchen operated by the U.S. where the beggars are allowed to dictate what music gets played on the sound system.

It had to happen. One of Bernie Madoff's many Palm Beach victims has described Madoff's Ponzi scam as a “financial holocaust”. Yeah! Right on, brother! Use the “H” word, the one that makes the whole world tremble, to describe the predations of one Jew on other Jews. But after all, we're only talking about money here – not “night and fog”, boxcars, gas chambers, and ovens. And since the H word is usually aimed at getting an apology, a retraction, or reparations, what precisely is it aimed at getting this time? It looks like the whole idea is collapsing into a black hole of absurdity.

I'll say it again – this last-ditch defense of Bush & Co., that “at least we've had no more terrorist attacks on American soil since 9-11”, just doesn't wash. We forget that, unlike our own government, outfits like Al Qaeda usually go for low-hanging fruit. They attack where the walls are weakest, not (as we typically do) where they're strongest. 9-11 represented, among many other things, an attack on our Achilles heel, i.e. air transportation security. We responded by making it just a bit more difficult to pull the same trick, or any similar tricks, again. So – being the agile outfits that they are, Al Qaeda & its buddies started attacking other types of venues in other places. They really don't care about Uncle Herman's barn, honest! That's only a tall tale the administration tells to get Uncle Herman to send Cousin Bud off to war in Iraq. And then, think about what Al Qaeda really wants. Do they want to conquer America? Hell no – too much tsouris (Yiddish for “grief”). What they want is for America to be disgraced, bankrupted, and neutralized – and its little dog too (i.e. Israel). And what better place to accomplish this than right at home in the Near East? The 9-11 attacks were designed to send a message, yes – but they were also fine-tuned to provoke a typically-American response, along the lines of, someone's gotta pay, and it might as well be those rag-heads in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the hell with where most of the terrorists actually came from. So with Israel cheering us on (and not doing squat to help out), we invaded both places, and then the fun began (for militant Islam, that is). They're accomplishing all they set out to accomplish – more, in fact – and they have us right where they want us, i.e. bogged down in a strange and hostile land where they hold all the cards. Why try and fight us on our own turf? That's been shown to be a losing strategy ever since war began – and they clearly have a better grasp of history than we do. We think that, because we're “special”, we can ignore all those age-old parameters; but unfortunately, it isn't so. Plus, by not attacking our homeland they make it all the easier for Americans to get demoralized about the war and alienated from our government. They know how people unite in the face of a common threat – and there is no threat more common than some strangely-dressed, heavily-armed men speaking in some heathen tongue landing on the beaches of New Jersey in rubber rafts. No, that ain't gonna happen. It's much better to draw us halfway around the world, so people back home can start saying things like “What business is it of ours?”, and “I don't give a damn what happens to Iraq, or to the Iraqis”, and “Who would live in a place like that anyway?”, and “They smell funny”. Now don't tell me you haven't heard all of these things hundreds of times, especially in bars. But if they were pontooning across the Hudson River all you'd hear would be patriotic tunes. So, bottom-line, yes, we haven't had any more terrorist attacks on U.S. soil since 9-11. But would we have, without the Patriot Act and all the other paranoid security measures that have been taken? Without turning the Bill of Rights into the Bill of Wrongs? Highly unlikely. Ron Paul said, regarding 9-11, that they're over here because we're over there (i.e., in the Near East). But now it's gone to the next step, which is that we're over there because they came over here. So why would they want to come over here again? Iraq is a better killing ground than Lower Manhattan ever was.

Well, Israel has liquidated the Warsaw Ghetto... I mean, um, the Gaza Strip... while we looked on helplessly, as usual. But don't worry, it was all done with the most advanced precision weaponry available anywhere – weaponry so precise that you can blow up a car and only kill the guy in the back seat. That's why the Israelis were able to keep the number of Palestinian children killed down to, oh, only a few hundred. Of course, it was a bit awkward when some of those precision munitions hit the U.N. compound and a Reuters news bureau. Maybe they were trying to deliver a message, I don't know. Well, I've been hearing about the Gaza Strip since I was in grade school, and in my opinion it's got to go. I don't care what happens to it, but it's got to go. It's just a gigantic pain in the butt. I guess we could ship it all over here and re-establish it on, say, the Texas coast. Or if they don't mind being land-locked we could set it up in the Great Basin. Really, anywhere but where it is now. That neighborhood's just gotten way too rough.

More liberal heads are exploding about the situation in Australia. An island seabird sanctuary was being overrun by predatory feral cats. So – in a blatant display of “species-ism” it was decided to get rid of the cats. Result – the island is now overrun by rabbits upon whom the cats used to prey. The rabbits, in turn, are eating up all the vegetation in which the seabirds used to build their nests. Ya just can't win, where nature is concerned. Doesn't Al Gore know that?

And speaking of specious species, “In India, misbehaving elephants have been banned from the nation's Republic Day parade for the first time...” because they “had the tendency of going slightly berserk during recent parades.” My guess is they just found out that they were the symbol of the Republican Party.

And speaking of politics – all the over-the-top enthusiasm of African-Americans about Obama's inauguration doesn't seem to have been dampened by the early-on skepticism of “black leaders” that Obama wasn't black enough, or wasn't black in the same way that regular blacks are black, or... well, you get the idea. A guy who really _is_ half African is considered second-rate compared to “genuine” African-Americans. Wow... when it comes to the politics of race in America, every day is April Fools' Day.

My only regret about the inauguration is that I won't have George W. Bush to kick around any more – or Dick Cheney, or Condi Rice, or any of the rest of that claque. Well, unless they ever show their faces in public again, or ever say anything for public consumption, in which case they're fair game. And so much of what could be said about the Klinton Kabal, i.e. the vast bulk of Obama's team, has already been said, e.g. by the American Spectator. But I'm sure they'll come up with some new and even zanier tricks. Let's see – they could fire the entire Department of Justice and replace it with a bunch of Chicago aldermen; that would be interesting. Or they could mount a Waco-style raid on John Hagee's Cornerstone Church. Whoo-ee! Or Bill Clinton could line up a group of “comfort women” to keep him company any time he accompanies Hillary on an overseas mission. Yeah... there are lots of possibilities. It's not going to be as dull and boring as I'd feared.

Oh, the Suspense!

Did you ever read one of those newspaper articles, and think, OK, well, nothing unusual about that... but then later on, suddenly go “whaaa???” This happened to me the other day, and it concerned an article about the Department of Defense, AKA The Pentagon (even though, officially, the building is called “Pentagon”, with no “the” -- bet you didn't know that, did you?). It seems that they are preparing "contingency plans” in case President Obama orders an immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. Well sure, makes perfect sense – civilian control of the military and all that. They always have to be ready to stop and turn on a dime any time a politician says so.

But consider, for a moment, the implications. For one thing, it's well known that the Obama “transition team” has been working the economic sector in minute detail for months – talking to legislators, economists, financial leaders, experts of all sorts. They have developed detailed plans as to how to handle, i.e. continue, the massive bailout and – for all intents and purposes – government takeover of most of the major elements of the financial sector, not to mention the auto industry. No issue has been too fine or too trivial to have escaped their attention. And, basically, they are shooting for a seamless transition between Bush-style fascism and Obama-style fascism, when it comes to the economy.

Now contrast this, if you will, with the spectacle of the Defense Department having NO IDEA AT ALL what Obama intends to do with regard to the war in Iraq. Apparently no meetings have been held, no one has spoken to anyone, no plans have been developed, and as far as our military is concerned there is a very real possibility that, within 24 hours, they will be ordered out of Iraq – every man jack, or woman jill, of them, along with all their equipment, supplies, weapons, ammunition, vehicles, electrocuting showers... the whole works.

So... is this situation for real? Or are we seeing some sort of political charade being played out? Well, what is the usual answer to that question? What, in short, is the Defense Department trying to pull, making an announcement of this sort? Did they announce, just before Nixon took office in 1969, that they were in a “wait and see” posture regarding whether to continue the war in Vietnam? Crazy, right? So what's going on this time?

Well, for one thing, the U.S. military really does believe in civilian control. It is drummed into them from their first day on duty, and woe be unto anyone who questions this core doctrine. It is said a million times a day in a million ways – the military doesn't decide things. They don't play at statecraft. They don't dictate to the civilian leadership; in fact they don't even mildly suggest. If pressed, they might -- “might” -- provide some tentative speculation as to the likely consequences of given initiatives and strategies, but they are hard pressed to even do that. Did anyone scream bloody murder when Bush ordered our military into Iraq, for example? Anyone with a grain of military sense, or a sense of history, could have told you that it would be an utter disaster – which indeed it was, and is. But never was heard a discouraging word on the Bush ranch. So in we went.

See, here's the thing. No one in the military ever got punished (i.e. non-promoted or forced into early retirement) for not giving advice or for not speaking up. Never! Not once! But plenty of military members have been severely sanctioned for their failure to keep their mouths shut. And in those cases, you get punished more for being right than for being wrong. So the best thing to do, even when confronted with the most hare-brained order, is to click your heels, salute, do a smart about-face, and march out the door en route to your staging area. This is the military culture of our time. So.... what the military is trying to accomplish by making this “preparedness” announcement is, number one, to affirm that it is, in fact, ready, willing, and able to follow the orders of its civilian superiors, unto the complete reversal of an already well-established course if need be. (If Truman had changed his mind about dropping an atomic bomb on Hiroshima when the bomb was halfway to the ground, you can bet that the “Enola Gay” would have turned around and tried to fly under it and catch it in a net before it reached detonation altitude. That's just the way things are, and always have been.)

But there's a bit more to it than this. There's also that little thing known, colloquially, as “ass covering”. The military is, in effect, saying “Hey, this war was not our idea, so don't blame us. We've been following Bush's orders all this time, but we're every bit as willing to follow Obama's orders, and if he wants us outta there, we're outta there, period, full stop. We are not running the show -- nope, not us, unh unh.” And this makes perfect sense, given that one of the many myths about the Vietnam war is that it was “the military's idea”. Once again, anyone with a grain of sense could have predicted that Vietnam would turn out to be the briar patch, the tar baby, and a huge pool of quicksand all rolled into one. But hey, there were medals involved, and promotions, and a chance to try out new weapons, so click, salute, and off we go. The problem is, it's the military who have to do the shooting, and the bombing, and all the other loud and destructive things that go along with conflict, with the result that it's the military who are the immediate cause of civilian deaths and injuries, destruction of property, and so on, with the result that, to the simple-minded, it's the military who are responsible for the consequences of war – especially its failures. The doughy, out-of-shape guys in the power suits in Washington never lift a finger in anger, so somehow they get off scot free, even though they're the ones who gave the orders.

And I can't end this discussion without pointing out that, as far as the war in Iraq is concerned, the fix is in, Obama-wise. He's not going to get us out of there any faster than Bush would have. Well OK, he might get us out of there in less than 100 years (re: McCain), but that's small consolation. And, as I've predicted before, his more leftist supporters are going to go into convulsions when they find out it's just business as usual in Iraq for the foreseeable future. I wonder how many of those attending the inauguration tomorrow really and truly believe that the troops will be home by next week. I'd feel more sorry for them if they didn't show every sign of _wanting_ to be fooled, in every possible way, at every possible opportunity.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What Did He Know, and When Did He Know It?

As George W. Bush slouches off toward – not Gomorrah, but a tony neighborhood in Dallas, it is worth asking – as it will continue to be, for anyone seriously interested in political history – how much insight he has, or ever had, into world affairs and into his role and that of his administration. Granted, he was surrounded by passably smart people – but so are “idiot kings”, as I call them. When the nominal ruler has an empty skull, it's all the more important that his deputies – who are really running the show – be smarter than average. Of course, when those deputies are not only smart, but evil, then you have a different problem on your hands. Then it's not so much a matter of honest mistakes as of hidden agendas... and success disguised as failure... and, first and foremost, making the nominal ruler into a scapegoat. And this is the fate that seems to have overtaken George W. Bush, almost from the start. For a guy who spends most of his time looking either sheepish or downright bewildered, it's amazing how many acts over the years have been attributed to his scheming brainpower. But then, it's always easier to pick one villain and let the others go free – otherwise things get too complicated. So while the real guilty parties – the ones who have been keeping Bush incommunicado and blowing smoke up his butt all this time – go free, he remains in the corner wearing the dunce cap, or in the stocks, or on the dunking stool of history.

The question is, did he sign up for this duty, knowing what it would entail? Did he volunteer for some kind of political martyrdom? Doesn't seem likely. Well then, was he picked for precisely those qualities that have made him such a laughingstock – his verbal incompetence, his gullibility, his naivete, his rigidity, his blockheadedness, his... well, you get the idea. This is actually quite possible. I'm sure the puppet masters knew exactly what they were doing when they picked out this particular wooden-headed Pinocchio to be our head of state. They knew his weaknesses, his delusions, his failings... and they knew how to leverage them all into a perfectly compliant administration that would end on a high note for them, but the lowest of low notes for him.

So they put him in place, like a pimply schoolboy playing at government at “Boys' State”. Then the game begins. What do they tell him? And when? And for what purpose? Surely he has to be primed for his frequent speaking engagements and press conferences. So do we create an entire reality out of whole cloth? Or are we more subtle – taking the reality that is, and adding our own “interpretations”? And all the time, we have to appeal to his pathetic self-esteem needs and his damaged ego. This is a management challenge indeed! But we're up to it! And we have plenty of examples to go by – Carter, who wound up wrapped around the little finger of virtually everybody he ever met, and Clinton, whose ego and self-esteem needs made him the lowest-hanging of low-hanging fruit. And then, lest we forget, we have a friend in “recovering alcoholic syndrome” -- not to mention the Freudian aspects, you know, Bush Sr. and his “failure to follow through after retaking Kuwait”. Yeah... this is gonna be easy.

And easy it was. And sure enough, “W” was a quick study. Only on occasion did he reveal the vast, echoing hollowness inside his skull – the most notable occasion being on 9-11, where he sat in a grade-school classroom, apparently mesmerized by the story of a pet goat, for how long? -- after hearing the initial news. He really should not have been on camera at that moment; someone obviously screwed up the timing. (They should have consulted with the folks who choreographed JFK's demise.)

But did he, at that point, realize that something had gone seriously wrong – that he had been played for a sucker? Surely he didn't know about it ahead of time – that privileged knowledge was left to cooler heads. But no, he soldiered on, and obeyed orders (although they weren't presented as “orders” so much as “advice”) -- took us into Afghanistan – and then the Iraq question came up. Did he know then that all the propaganda about Saddam was just that? Did he know later? Does he know yet?? His pathetic defense of his administration during his “redemption tour” seems to indicate that, eventually, he sort of caught onto the idea that he'd been had, but by then it was way too late, so the only option is to continue to defend the indefensible. Plus, hadn't they given him the grandest entrance of any conquering hero, EVER? Namely, the “Mission Accomplished” landing on the carrier in the Persian Gulf? Compared to which, the triumphal march from Aida was like the line at the post office. A well-polished ego reflects all that it beholds.

Then there's the last-minute frosting on the cake, namely the economic crisis and the opportunity to change, permanently, the entire political-economic structure of the U.S. -- something only done once, or maybe twice, before (by Lincoln and FDR). Well, who could resist? Especially when a bevy of experts was telling him that it was either that, or total destruction of the American way of life (No more barbeque! No more Dallas Cowboys!!), and of our mission to the benighted peoples of the world, and... who knows what other horrors? So once again he “stayed the course”, like a barroom drunk who keeps getting up only to get slapped down again. And, as he leaves office, he is apparently satisfied with how it all came out. Sure, “mistakes were made” -- but not by him. (This is at least some improvement on Clinton.) It could have come out better. He “coulda been a contenda.” But, doggone it, he did what he had to do. Of course, no one is impolite enough to ask why it is that he is retiring in utter ignominy, while all of his supposed friends and colleagues are chortling and popping champagne corks, having made a killing (in more ways than one) in the course of his administration. Does he have even the slightest hint, the slightest shadow of a doubt? Doesn't he realize that his administration was the set-up to end all set-ups? Apparently not – and that may be the saddest thing of all.

This Magic Moment

Hey, sports fans, it's cold outside! So let's put another log on the fire, sit back, relax, and savor the many joys and heartaches of this – as the song says -- “magic moment”. Bush & Co. are being ridden out of town on a rail – in the virtual sense, at least – and Obama is about to make his triumphal entry into Washington on a chariot of fire, while scantily-clad virgins scatter palm fronds and rose petals in his path. (Said virgins, BTW, were imported from Arkansas, where their numbers have recently recovered to pre-Clinton levels.) The problem, of course, is that George W. Bush's dream is about to become Obama's nightmare, and we can expect the “honeymoon” to last about five minutes. The Obama administration is already showing every sign of being Clinton Redux, except for the soap-opera shenanigans in the Oval Office... he is already cozily ensconced with Israel, which eliminates any possibility of serious change in our foreign policy vis-a-vis the Near East... and, perhaps most ironically of all, he has been relieved of the burden of transforming our economy into a command-style, fascist enterprise because that has already been accomplished by his predecessor, in just a few short months (so much for the myth of government “inefficiency”). Never in history has one administration made it so easy for the one following, of the other party, to get a head start on its agenda; all that's missing is a mint on the pillow in the Lincoln Bedroom. Bush & Co. will be handing over to Obama, on a slightly-tarnished silver platter, what used to be referred to as a “free enterprise” or “capitalist” economy, but which has now, for all intents and purposes, been turned into a government enterprise. And make no mistake – with this as a baseline, we can expect the Clintonites to press their advantage and strive for even more totalitarianism. And who's going to stop them? Certainly not the Neocons, who have settled nicely into the behind-the-scenes power structure and are not about to be uprooted. They will continue to influence, through whatever means possible, the Obama administration, making sure no one wanders off the Wilsonian-cum-Zionist reservation. On the domestic side, people will be so grateful that here, finally, is someone who really seems to be in charge and really wants to change things for the better, they will accept any sort of temporary (ahem!) impoverishment in the meantime, in the name of ultimate progress.

There is one thing, at least, to be thankful for, and I've mentioned this before. Obama isn't dragging a train of mouth-breathing, bucolic shitkickers along behind him as he moves into the White House. The most that can be said in this regard is that he may have brought along a few Chicago cronies... but hey, they can do much better by staying in Chicago, right? So the bulk of the administration will be made up of Clintonites, who have been waiting, like 8-year locusts, for a chance to re-emerge and continue their campaigns of collectivization and oppression. And they will have, as a spiritual leader, none other than the secretary of state... and the ever-present face on the wall, i.e. Bill Clinton, will continue to lead and inspire from his “nonprofit charitable” redoubt.

The message, of course, is, and has been, that once the rascals – i.e. the Busheviks – are thrown out, the rudder of the Ship of State will be safely back in the hands of kind, caring, considerate, humanistic liberals. What is forgotten in all of this is that:

(1) the government is bankrupt, and has been for decades;
(2) the lion's share of the budget is in “entitlements”, which are going to be impossible to reduce in any way other than intentional inflation;
(3) the “bailout” money is rapidly disappearing into a black hole, and before long all the beneficiaries will be back for more;
(4) we are stuck in the Middle East until either (a) Israel disappears because Palestinians out-reproduce Israelis; or (b) the Second Coming;
(5) the popularity of abortion has accelerated the demise of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other like Ponzi schemes, because there are simply too many old people and too few (working) young people;
(6) there are too many “bigs” that have a death grip on the economy, the legal system, health care, agriculture, and the education system – Big Business, Big Labor, the legal profession, the teachers' unions, the AMA, Big Pharma, and Big Agriculture, to name a few;
(7) corruption and structural flaws have rendered the whole notion of “democracy” -- with its attendant delusions, e.g. the “right to vote” -- quaint, outmoded, and generally ignored;
(8) the “balance of powers” in government has become a laughing stock, what with the ability of the president to single-handedly wage war on anyone, at any time, anywhere... and likewise, the failure of Congress to assert itself against the courts has rendered it basically no more than a social club and a big waste of time and money;
(9) “global warming” is in contention as the next major world religion, now that communism has become a bit shopworn;
(10) we have become a nation obsessed with “rights” and totally apathetic with regard to duties and moral obligations;
(11) we have become a nation afflicted with litigation madness, hypersensitivity, and a serious dearth of true masculinity and femininity;
(12) the moral grounding upon which the Founding Fathers predicated all of their actions and founding documents has, for all intents and purposes, vanished;
(13) the American media are, by and large, afflicted with terminal lap dog-ism and shy away from asking any tough questions of our leadership;
(14) the Chinese are taking over our economy one trade imbalance at a time;
(15) communism is on the rise again in the Western Hemisphere;
(16) the entire population of Mexico, and much of Central America, is poised to pour across our southern border at the earliest possible opportunity;
(17) our armed forces are hobbled by political correctness, humanistic fads, and the “low bidder syndrome” when it comes to materiel;
(18) our major corporations are being run by power- and money-crazed con artists;
(19) the entertainment media are designed to encourage and reinforce brute violence and sensuality, and not much else;
(20) the whole world hates us, except Israel, and they despise us because we keep falling for all their scams;
(21) our children have been turned over to “trained experts” who only want to produce compliant citizens for the Servile State;
(22) the largest part of that thing most necessary for the perpetuation of “the American way of life”, namely oil, will remain in the hands of Arab potentates, and they'll charge any amount they like for it;
(23) ever-worsening pollution of oceans, seas, lakes, and waterways is threatening the world's nutritional backup for the land-based agricultural sector;
(24) said agricultural sector is become more fragile, with the overuse of growth stimulants, antibiotics, and pesticides, and we are already seeing “blowback” from this in the form of disease and new, resistant strains of microorganisms (Agriculture may be the next big “bubble” to burst world-wide, as these opposing forces come together and cancel out the artificially-high level of productivity so much of the world has come to depend on.);
(25) race will continue to be the defining issue in American politics, and its effects will, as always, be largely wasteful and destructive.

And I'm sure much more could be added to this list. But here's the point. None of this is going to change on Tuesday, January 20, 2009. None of it! Not one iota! Obama is going to wake up on the morning of January 21 with a lap full of crap – and it won't be because he ate too many undercooked shrimp at the Inaugural Ball. And the source of all of this unpleasantness is... well, it's many things. For one thing, we have always underestimated the extent to which this nation, structurally, is predicated on a populace with a baseline of traditional morality – which means, “morality”, as opposed to “ethics”, which can be argued until doomsday. We take it for granted that our “system” is going to work just as well whether the citizenry are morally competent or moral imbeciles – but unfortunately that's not the way things work. It's like those old “Star Trek” episodes where, for some reason, every planet they “beamed down” to for exploration purposes had breathable air. Every one! They never had to wear space helmets! Which is more than one can say for Fernandina Beach, Florida. So they took air for granted... and we take it for granted that the system is, somehow, autonomous, unconditional, and unrelated to the moral health of its components, i.e. the citizenry and their institutions. Not so! It is possible to have a “sick” government with healthy citizens – at least temporarily. But you can't have a healthy government with sick citizens – not unless that government is completely removed from contamination by the citizenry (call this the “colonial” model) – and I don't think we're at that point quite yet. Plus, what leader with any moral sense is going to want to rule over a country that resembles a devastated, third-world moonscape? (Would the mayors of Detroit, Oakland, Newark, etc., please proceed to the nearest, um, white courtesy phone?)

But in addition to the invincible ignorance of so many of our citizens – and voters! -- we also have the complementary phenomenon of being a democracy more in appearance than in reality. Think of the fate of third parties, and independent candidates. Think of the non-mainstream media, who are once again being threatened by the revival of the “Fairness Doctrine”. Think of “political correctness”, which is nothing more than a club with which the Regime can intimidate anyone attempting to exercise their “right” to free speech. Think of things like the Patriot Act, which threatens to turn us all into gray, marching robots out of “Metropolis”. Think of the dumbing-down process that is the primary agenda of public education, and how much it contributes to turning us into unthinking serfs. Are these signs of a society concerned with true liberty, human achievement, and the individual? No – they are signs of the urge to level, to collectivize, and mostly to rule. We once had leaders who delighted in presiding over a free people – despite the occasional aggravations that entailed. What we now have is leaders who want to be petty royalty and rule over illiterate, barefoot, burlap-clad serfs, who plod around with heads ever bowed. The question of which came first, the moral deterioration of this country or the deterioration in the quality of our leadership, is worth serious study – but not right this minute. In any case, the notion of an American experiment, in which all classes would be united in the pursuit of common goals, and for the common good, has evolved into a strict stratification, by which we have the rulers and the ruled, and ne'er the twain shall meet. In this sense, we have gone to a much more Medieval model – but with the “merchant class” divided between the rulers and ruled, i.e. Big Business (privileged) vs. small business (persecuted). In addition, economic trends over the past, say, 80 years or so, have not so much raised the working class to middle-class status as they have eliminated, for all intents and purposes, the old middle class and replaced it with a slightly-better-off working class. This, what I call “proletarianization”, or moving toward a two-class society, is another way of looking at the neo-Medieval, or collectivized, or Regime model.

Then, on top of the concupiscence of the citizenry and the deterioration of the democratic model, we have the – again, complementary – trend by which the United States is not so much self-determining as a society as it is exploited by a, by-and-large unseen, power elite, for its own purposes. In this, the U.S. has become like a very large beached whale, with the natives coming along and slicing off a chunk or two to take home and cook for dinner. We see this in bold relief in the economic area – and the government is perfectly candid about the situation. The dialogue with regard to immigration is a bit more politically fraught... and the issue when it comes to foreign policy is on the “forbidden list”. So clearly the idea of economic colonization and invasion from the south is less sensitive than the idea of someone else using us as a source of cannon fodder – which kind of shows you what the priorities of the Regime are. Now, of course, one could question how edifying the results were when we were self-determining. The Civil War, Spanish-American War, and World War I were certainly not good advertisements for the benefits of being a constitutional democracy, with a Bill of Rights, safely an ocean away from the follies of Europe. But, you see, that's the problem with what is called a “propositional” society. For the first few decades of this nation, it was enough to believe that what was good enough for us was.... well, good enough for us, period. And if a few characters like Simon Bolivar chose to look to us for inspiration, well, fine and good, but it wasn't what one would call a “vital interest”. But that all changed with Woodrow Wilson, and suddenly what was good enough for us was also, by gosh, good enough for everyone else as well, and it was our job to convince them of that, by diplomacy if need be, by preferably by force of arms. So we went out and created a galaxy of supposed clones – pseudo-democracies, if you will, the way the Soviets went out and created their own clones, the “people's republics”. Well, of course, ours were far superior, because – well, those votes really meant something. Except when we didn't like the outcome, we wasted no time enacting “regime change”. But hey, at least those people got to enjoy the benefits of “free enterprise”. Um... like United Fruit Company, maybe? OK, they got Coke and McDonald's. Ya satisfied? Yes... except then why did so many of them turn, or attempt to turn, communist, or, later on, Islamic fundamentalist? Can it be that the blessings of the American system are not all that universally desired? Hey – maybe it's just that some people know their limits, whereas we don't. We “fancy” that we live in a democracy, whereas they know they don't, and maybe that means they're actually freer, in a way. They don't have to spend every waking moment propping up delusions. But of course they have their own forms of propaganda – their flags – their soccer teams – etc. Maybe we should try just leaving them alone, for once. (Right, fat chance.)

So there you have it, President Obama – the Big Three: the concupiscence of the citizenry, the deteriorated state of democracy, and the fact that, guess what, you work for the Regime, so nothing you personally want is going to happen without their OK. So don't be surprised when that face in the mirror starts to look more like George Bush's (or Jimmy Carter's) each day. But hey, you're living in the prime piece of real estate in Washington, rent-free. For a kid from hardscrabble Chicago, that ain't too shabby.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Couldn't Hear Nobody Pray

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that you're not Catholic. Would you presume to dictate to the Catholic Church which prayers it was allowed to say? Sounds pretty crazy, doesn't it? And yet that is precisely what many of the major Jewish organizations are doing, and have done ever since Pope Benedict liberated the Latin Mass from its Babylonian Captivity at the hands of liberal bishops. Everyone thinks it was quaint when the Eastern and Western churches split, way back when, based on differences about things like the filioque clause. That was so silly, so irrational! What possible difference does it make? And yet here's Abe Foxman having one of his weekly apoplectic fits about... now get this... one prayer said once a year and only by people celebrating the traditional Latin, i.e. Tridentine, Mass. And the prayer in question is... what? For God to “wipe Israel off the map”, which is the fervent prayer of all good Moslems? Nope. For God to see to it that the Jews “get their comeuppance”, in whatever way He sees fit? Nope. It's a prayer for _conversion_ – i.e. for the conversion of the Jews to Christianity, i.e. for them to recognize Christ as the Messiah they've been waiting for for much too long (nearly 2000 years too long, in fact). This, in the mind of those of the Foxman persuasion, is the ultimate chutzpah – not only that the Church is implying that Judaism is not quite up to snuff as a religion (as if most Jews today were even vaguely religious!), but that they would be better off joining the ranks of the hated, despised, and feared “goyim”, and worshiping that dude who the Jewish authorities of circa 30 AD rightly brought up on charges of blasphemy.

The practical result of this controversy is that, as of yesterday, the Italian rabbis “are pulling out of the Italian Catholic Church's annual celebration of Judaism”. (Personally, I don't know what that celebration consists of... but I can't imagine it being all that threatening.) The reason? The pope has “negated 50 years of interfaith progress” by approving the Latin Mass, which contains that annoying once-per-year prayer, for unlimited use. Oh, the shame! The infamy! That the Church would have the infernal gall to make more widespread a prayer which is so threatening to Judaism, so... “unecumenical”. Of course, we all know what people really mean when they use terms like “ecumenism” and “interfaith” -- they mean the Catholic Church becomes less like itself while everyone else gets to stay the same. There is nothing new about this scam. I suppose they would condemn Aquinas' Summa Contra Gentiles because it was designed to convert the wise men of Judaism and Islam. Again, what a nerve! To think that any religion would consider itself superior in any way! One rabbi, in an article published in a Jesuit (what else?) magazine, said that it amounted to “the cancellation of the last 50 years of church history”. Well... frankly, I think there's a lot about those last fifty years that ought to be “cancelled”, like for instance Vatican II and the “pedophile priest” scandals. Yeah – let's wipe _them_ off the map, shall we? Let's return to a time when the Catholic Church was not expected to apologize, 24-7, for things like the Third Reich... and when Catholics were not expected to feel inferior to... well, just about everybody else on earth. In fact, let's go back to a time when Catholics had the self-respect that Jews have. That would be fair, wouldn't it?

Stalking the Stalk

I guess it was inevitable that, sooner or later, what is called “stalking” (it used to just be called “being a pest”) would be treated as a disease and described using terms like “epidemic”. Likewise, the definition of “stalking” is being gradually dumbed down to the point where the day will come when a second “suggestive” smile in the elevator will constitute grounds for legal action. This is, of course, all symptomatic of the Next Great American Right, namely the right not to be offended, upset, or slightly miffed, by anything or anyone, EVER. And this “right” -- so vigorously defended in the courts and the media, is, ultimately, the right to live as if one were dead, i.e. unsensing, unseeing, and uncaring (at least in the material, temporal world). And in another sense, the stalking craze is another example of mass hysteria – another syndrome that has become epidemic in America. Think of the current and recent examples. Remember the child sex abuse witch hunts of the 1980s? Or how about the “missing kids on milk cartons” craze? Remember when anyone, really anyone, could get AIDS at the drop of a hat? Or how about all those exotic tropical diseases shipped into this country on cargo planes by illegal immigrants? And how about all the things that can cause cancer – virtually everything, in fact? Then we've got pollution and contamination of all sorts... and now the flavor of the decade, “global warming”. It's hard to remember what life was like before every single human activity contributed to global warming, isn't it? The same way it's hard to remember what life was like before “terrorism”, or “the Gaza Strip” (which I recall hearing about on the radio when I was in grade school). And while there may be a grain of truth to some of these – i.e., they are not totally made up out of whole cloth – we also see that they are used, with considerable success, not only by newspaper publishers to sell papers, and TV producers to keep ratings up, but by politicians to get votes and to also get support for ever-more totalitarian legal and regulatory measures. In other words, fear – as Michael Crichton pointed out – is the tool which the power elite uses to become ever more powerful. And mass hysteria, as aided and abetted by the media, is “fear on steroids”, which flattens everything in its path – every freedom, every trace of objectivity and reason. And the ultimate goal – make no mistake – is a society of “huddled masses” -- huddled in fear, that is – looking to their elite jailers for every favor and consideration, and for every act of relief and rescue.

So the next time you read about The Next Big Thing To Be Feared, ask yourself who benefits from all this fear. Is it you? Not likely. Is it some government agencies or gaggle of bureaucrats? Much more likely. Is it the judicial system and the “corrections” industry? Also much more likely. And who stands to lose the most? Well, anyone who values freedom – and if you do not, then please go join the crowd.