Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Notes from the Ice Storm

Adolf Hitler, you are grounded!

So what about that nutball couple that named their kid Adolf Hitler Campbell? Are they going to get sued by the soup company? Oh wait... no, Campbell is their real family name. And of course, naming the kid after Der Fuehrer had nothing to do with neo-Nazism or anti-Semitism, oh no – at least that's what they said, even though one of their other kids has Aryan Nation as a middle name. “Only in America”, as they say – mainly because if they'd tried this in Europe, they'd be in jail. And actually, I'm amazed they aren't in jail anyway, 'cause this didn't happen in Idaho or Montana, or some place like that, but in New Jersey – you know, that place where it's OK to join the Mob but heaven help you if you're caught with an old Stepin Fetchit movie. I guess it's good to have things like this happen once in a while just so we can prove to the rest of the world what a free people we are – including the freedom to be a flake. Or maybe things like this act as a sort of safety valve to relieve the pressure caused by things that really are oppressive about our society – you know, things like the income tax, public schools, and “daytime TV”. Who knows?


So now old man Bush is suggesting that younger son Jeb might make a good president. Hey, I don't blame him for wanting to be the founder of a “dynasty”, with all the elitist appeal the term implies. But gee, Pops, hasn't the Bush “brand” suffered a bit of damage of late? Do you really think anyone named Bush – even if not related – is going to have a chance of getting elected to any office in the land for the next 100 years or so? When's the last time someone named Nixon won an election? I rest my case.

Averting Their Gaza

Despite the wall of silence from the Obama camp regarding events in Gaza, and the predictable unflinching support of the Israeli initiative by the Bush administration, there has been a subtle shift in the American media in the direction of truly “fair and balanced” reporting on the matter. Suddenly – and who knew? -- it appears that the Gaza Strip has real people living in it, not just some lower life form. And these people bleed, and die, and have real feelings – and faces. Up until the current crisis, the media's treatment of Near East conflicts was based on the premise that the Israelis are real people and everyone else is wallpaper. But that seems to be changing, and one wonders why? A pang of conscience, perhaps? But we are talking about the American media, after all – a hotbed of shamelessness if there ever was one. One more chance to point out the haplessness of the Bush administration? Perhaps. Taking Iran's side just to irritate Dick Cheny? Could do. Or how about, setting the stage for what everyone hopes will be real “change” in our Near East policy once Obama gets into office? But that's a pipe dream, as I've said before... and the media will be as quick to turn on B.O. as they were to turn on LBJ after he won the 1964 election (against a Republican “war-monger”) then proceeded to implement “Rolling Thunder” in Vietnam.

Franken Berries

Did you ever wonder if that Minnesota senatorial race wasn't just another gag on the part of Al Franken? You know – take a very bright guy known for his subtle humor, and combine him with Minnesota, which is not known for any humor at all, except for Garrison Keillor (and even there it's definitely a matter of taste), and whaddaya got? Well – Franken wouldn't be the first comedian who wandered off the reservation and turned into a total, tiresome bore. Think: Dick Gregory. But it is kind of funny how it's turning out, and I take it all back – what I said about Hurricane Katrina, that is, and how if it had happened to Minneapolis rather than New Orleans the result would have been totally different. It seems that Minnesotans are not chaos-proof either.

Bringing Home the Bacon

Does the fact that Obama wants “no pork” in the stimulus bill prove that he's really secretly a Moslem after all? Now there's one for the hyperactive connect-the-dots crowd!

The Wonderful Land of Us

It's bigger than the Great Hall of the People in Beijing... bigger than CIA headquarters... bigger than the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast... bigger than some countries, even! It's the new American Embassy in Baghdad, which will be issuing Segways to all permanent staff so they can make their way around the building without dropping from exhaustion. The air conditioning bills are expected to exceed those of the entire country of Dubai. And, of course, security provisions are unprecedented, as one might expect. Each employee will be fitted with Army standard urban operations armor, and they will go out to lunch in Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Everybody coming within a mile of the place will be subject to a full cavity search (and you can't believe the number of people volunteering for that job!). And of course, the cost will be enormous – why, for that amount we could, say, bail out an entire American automobile company (not that that would ever be necessary, of course). Kind of makes you think we intend to stay a while, doesn't it?

Artificial Intelligence

Obama has selected another hard-core Clintonite, namely Leon Panetta, to head the CIA, and there are already murmers about Panetta lacking “hands-on espionage experience”, as if that were the be-all and end-all of overseeing what is basically a heavily-armed fraternal organization that constitutes a parallel government, but that, in the “intel” area, has been asleep at the switch more often than not -- because there are no consequences for failure, just a bigger budget. (And what happens when the CIA is run by one of the hands-on guys? Is the result any better?) Another point is that any ex-Clintonite is going to have hands-on espionage experience, just by virtue of having worked for that administration, where you spent most of your time either defending Bill Clinton's butt or spying on his enemies. So I don't think Panetta is off the mark at all. Plus, I don't think the person who is appointed to “run” the CIA ever gets to run _anything_. That organization, like so many other arms of the bureaucracy, basically runs itself without reference to the intentions or values of whoever is nominally in charge. Every career bureaucrat knows that political appointees come and go, but the bureaucracy goes on forever. Think about all these “czars” of various things; do they ever actually run anything? Not that I've ever noticed. What they mostly are is scapegoats. I don't think Panetta's fate is going to be any different.

Who's Doing the Counting?

The Taliban is being criticized for exaggerating their military successes – especially for wildly inflating the number of foreign troops and Afghan soldiers they have killed. Well, shame on them! We expected better. Of course, it's a bit awkward to recall the days of “body counts” in Vietnam. Some of them turned out to be slightly exaggerated as well. (If you added them all up, they totaled more than the entire population of the country.)

The Elect

Is Obama going to do anything as tacky as Bill Clinton did to celebrate his inauguration, namely sign a death warrant for millions of American babies? I surely hope not. Let's hope for at least a bit of dignity out of this administration, if not success.

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