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.

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