Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Nine Irony

These may be the worst of times for sane people who save money, but they are, arguably, the best of times for bloggers, since, with each passing day, more events of note crop up than, in more dull and boring times, would have cropped up in an average month. I have always thought, for example, that the main reason “The Sixties” happened was that the Fifties were so boring – although they are slightly less boring in retrospect, by which I mean that the Fifties make for good nostalgia, but you wouldn't want to actually live there. I imagine much the same will be said, before long, about the Seventies. But in any case, today's news offers a typical fare of the ridiculous and the absurd. To wit:

1. SCHWARTZENEGATORY: California has – thank goodness! -- been told to, basically, blow it out its shorts when it comes to bailouts. Can you imagine if the Obama administration “saved” California from imminent economic disaster? How long would it take for all 49 other states, plus territories, to put in their claim? My estimate is about one nanosecond. It has often been said that “as California goes, so goes the nation” -- culturally, that is. The same may well be true economically, but why accelerate the process by propping up a Scandinavian-style welfare state on the Pacific coast, but without the Scandinavian work ethic? California needs, at long last, a dose of tough love, which means allowing it to, indeed, melt down economically so that a fresh start might be made. Its problems are not unique, of course – it is any of the other states writ large. But decades of humanist/socialist government with virtually no moderating influence from conservatives has taken its toll, and the Obama administration would be absolute idiots to reinforce California's totally non-sustainable economic model.

2. HOLDER OF THE FLAME: Eric Holder, the self-appointed keeper of the Dialogue on Race, has proposed new “hate crime” laws to fill an alleged gap between exising laws and true justice – spurred on, of course, by the “rash” of right-wing, reactionary, hate-filled violence that is stalking the land. He calls it “violence masquerading as political activism” -- as opposed, I guess, to political activism masquerading as violence, a phenomenon which helped to define the 1970s in places like Oakland. To no one's surprise except everyone in the Obama administration, having the first black president (except for Bill Clinton, of course) and the economic crisis (which may have been engineered in order to get the first black president elected) has yielded up a bit of pushback on the part of knuckle-dragging, “Li'l Abner” types across the fruited plain. It is clear that 'tis the season to be hateful... and as I've pointed out before, Obama's election appeared to be the death knell for conservatism and political/social liberty, as well as handwriting on the wall for the right to bear arms, and for many other privileges which are taken for granted, especially in benighted “flyover” parts of the U.S. that are not graced with a Starbucks on every corner. The social and cultural floodwaters are rising – but the Obama people are shocked – shocked! -- that there has been a concomitant rise in “hate crimes”, and are determined to do something about it by adding still another layer of legislation. Now, it's almost a truism that the popularity of hate crimes legislation is a direct result of the impotence of pre-existing laws. When first-degree murderers can be let back out on the streets after a token time in jail, it drives people to distraction, and the only remedy they can think of is to add thought crime (which is what “hate crime” is) to the list of offenses – thus coming up with a more suitable sentence. To which I respond, then why not declare _all_ crimes to be hate crimes? Then we might have a more reasonable justice system. But no, that makes way too much sense. So instead we're going to be treated to the spectacle of a person being sentenced to a fairly lenient term for his (or her) actual crime, but to a longer term because of the “hate” factor, and then an even longer term because of the “enhanced hate”, AKA “hate, Eric Holder-style” factor. Ah, but remember that, nonetheless, justice is still blind, as everyone supporting Judge SoSo's nomination will attest.

3. HAPPY TRAILS: Great is the weeping and hand-wringing among the yuppies at the news that Eddie Bauer has filed for bankruptcy. For the elite subdivision of the middle class for whom risk-free camping, hiking, and “trekking” are the epitome of environmentally-friendly excellence, this has to be an occasion of mortification. To think that the economy can be so bad that even the outfitter to the Starbucks 'n' Sunday Times set can be impacted; oh, the humanity! Of course, in this day and age, bankruptcy is just the beginning of a new lease on life – unless you're General Motors, or Uncle Sam Motors, or Obama Motors, or whatever they're calling themselves these days. For normal people and average citizens, bankruptcy is a death knell for the life they have led up to that time – an invitation to shunning, isolation, and asceticism that would challenge a Carthusian. But to “business”, especially “big business”, it's just another stage in the life cycle and nothing to be ashamed of... and certainly nothing that will seriously alter the cash flow or the “bottom line”. So I would counsel the yuppies and latte addicts not to be too upset – Eddie Bauer will still be around to serve all of your high-end outfitting needs for years to come.

4. CLUB SOSO: And in the ongoing Judge SoSo saga, we have the spectacle of her “defending membership” in an elite, exclusive, all-women's club. You can add this to the long list of things that certified victim groups can get away with, but white male heterosexual Christians can't. Isn't it time that someone in the Obama administration simply came out and admitted that SoSo is a total hack, but dared anyone to vote against her? Let's shuck off this pretense that she is, somehow, “qualified” even though there is scant evidence of the ordinary (vs. political) type. She is two ticket punches in one, and that's enough. The only thing that could improve the situation would be if she were a lesbian paraplegic. Well, she did break her ankle while on the confirmation trail; maybe that counts.

5. THE BRADY BUNCH: John Hinckley? Isn't he the guy who took a shot at President Reagan and a few other people? Now they're going to give him a driver's license. How long until he gets the Congressional Medal of Honor? In fact, why not just let anyone who ever threatened, or attempted to kill, a conservative chief executive out of jail? Wouldn't that be “putting the past behind us”? And isn't all justice based on politics anyway? C'mon Barack, let's go all the way with this.

6. THICK AS A BRIC: A most curious melange of bedfellows -- “four major emerging economies” (but one wonders how long it takes some people to “emerge”) -- namely Brazil, Russia, India, and China (hence the acronym) -- has decided that it's not quite yet time to dethrone the dollar as the world's major reserve currency. I know what they're talking about. It's like, who's going to follow in Al Capone's footsteps, and all the former underlings spend years fighting for first place. China is, of course, sweating bullets that Obama's policies and programs are going to turn the dollar into funny money... so despite Russia's scolding (you remember, Russia is that place where it once cost 100,000 rubles to send a postcard – so you know they are all about sound currency) a full-scale attack on the dollar has been put off for the time being (has anyone told George Soros?). Among the many ironies of this situation is that Nikita Khrushchev's promise (to the U.S.) that “we will bury you” really does seem to be coming to pass – but not militarily, as everyone thought, but economically. (Not socially either, because Russia is in the middle of a population deflation.) And this might upset the advocates of capitalism until they reflect that Russia is now more capitalistic than the United States, and we are more socialist than they have been for decades. So in that sense, capitalism is alive and well – it's just that it's been taken over by other people.

7. SMELLS LIKE “CHANGE” TO ME: I half expected the Obama administration to react to the news that Zicam cold products can permanently damage the sense of smell by requiring that they be administered to all members of Congress every time a spending or bailout bill comes up for a vote.

8. PERPETUAL WAR: And on a related note, funding for both the Iraq war and the Afghanistan war passed the House by a close but hardly “squeaky” vote yesterday – thus laying to final rest one of the main pieces of Obama's campaign platform. I would like someone to tell me which of his promises is still alive and well. I suspect that the ones that haven't already been broken are on intensive life support, and that someone is about to pull the plug. Can a clearer proof possibly be desired that there is only one regime, and that Bush and Obama are equal and comparable members? But it is never presented this way by the media, for some reason – maybe because they too are part of the Regime, i.e. are its mouthpieces. Only a few lone voices, like that of Dennis Kucinich, persist in pointing out the obvious – for example that the twin wars are a gigantic hoax.

9. NASA, which I've always suspected is nothing more than a gigantic government sandbox for otherwise-unemployable scientists and alpha males, is fighting for its life (supposedly) once again, like the hero of some old-time serial who is constantly being assailed by legions of villains with yellow skin and strange accents. The crown jewel of the long-term program seems to be – hold onto your hats! -- a plan to put a man on the Moon by the year 2020. Which reminds me of nothing so much as Dr. Evil in the first “Austin Powers” movie making a demand for “One! Million! Dollars!” The funny thing is, the cost of space travel seems to have the same trajectory as the cost of, e.g., medical care or college – it's fast turning into something that will be impossible at any price. Which makes me wonder how we could _ever_ have afforded it, and maybe the answer is that we couldn't, but we did it anyway – kind of like World Wars I and II, for example... or Medicare... or Social Security... or any of the brand new programs being sold to a brain-dead Congress by Obama & Co. Now, I hate to sound like a total Luddite... and I'm all for science (especially the non-publicly-funded kind)... but at what point to we get the hint that maybe we're not all supposed to live in a Buck Rogers world after all? Sometimes I suspect that the scientific community is holding out for their preteen fantasies of personal rocket ships, Jetsons-style, or rocket belts... not to mention warp drive, time machines, colonies on other planets, and so on. But doggone it, the laws of physics and the laws (sort of) of economics keep thwarting these ambitions. It has often been asked, why do we worry about putting a man on the Moon when we can't even keep guys from peeing in the subways? That question may soon turn out to be more than rhetorical.

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