Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Even If It Works...

Two of the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse are riding, full-tilt, across the devastated landscape – namely, the bailout program and the “economic stimulus” program. The first horseman was, of course, the massive failure of the stock market, a blow from which the American middle class is still reeling. And the fourth -- “coming soon to an economy near you!” -- will be hyperinflation combined with even more confiscatory taxation. In other words, Obama will destroy the economy in order to save it. And amazingly enough, all of these assaults have fallen, are falling, and will fall on the exact same people – the good old reliable, but hopelessly naïve, gullible, and hapless American middle class. But hasn't it been the tradition down through the centuries, whenever the word “bourgeois” is mentioned, to think of people who never really stop to think where their money, and their prosperity, is coming from? They just take it for granted, as their just due. They are not theoreticians... they are not into long-range planning, or strategy. Their preferred technique is to find themselves a “situation”... a gig... a rice bowl... and cling to it for dear life, come what may. And when what may come finally comes, they are as clueless and helpless as the most abject lower-depths denizens of abandoned crack houses – but less enraged, actually. Hey, no time for shedding tears, chin up, stiff upper lip, hep hep, and on to the next folly. You see, in their world there is no room for conspiracy... whereas for the lower classes, the entire _world_ is a conspiracy... against them. So in that sense, the lower classes are actually more “conscious”, even if frequently mistaken, than the complacent middle classes, for whom any form of “theorizing” is just rocking the boat, and a threat to one's tranquility, and impolite besides. I'll bet you that plenty of dinner-table conversations in the “ghetto” revolve around the question of who “caused” AIDS in Africa, for instance... but how many middle-class dinner-table conversations are about who caused the stock market crash, and why? It's just too big... too upsetting... and it doesn't fit into the middle-class self-satisfied Candide-esque meme.

And yet... and yet! -- in the midst of all of this folly and foolishness, we are subjected to “news” that reminds me of nothing so much as the daily announcements of the success of the “Five-Year Plan” in the early days of Soviet Russia – which, if you hadn't pawned your radio, you could enjoy while your dinner – generally a pair of old boots – bubbled on the stove. In the present case, it's that the bailouts are actually working! And that the stimulus plan is actually stimulating something. But allow me to translate, if you will. The bailouts are “working” because the people who have received them _say_ they are working... and, in some cases, they are actually being paid back. In cases where they are not being paid back, they are represented as “working” because, in those various sectors fortunate enough to receive bailout money, things haven't gotten any worse. At least not a whole lot worse. Yet. The problem is, everyone making these claims is either a recipient of the bailout money or a bureaucrat assigned to hand it out. So is it too much to speculate that these people might just be a bit biased in this matter? Might they, perhaps, be engaged in self-vindication, or rationalization, to some degree? And, in fact, is their evidence for the success of the bailouts any more convincing than their evidence, a year ago, for the dire need for the bailouts? Isn't it really just a matter of taking their word for it, in both cases? That's how it appears to me. Not that I have any objection to bailout money being paid back, mind – it's just that it makes me wonder what all the fuss, and all the panic, was about in the first place.

We'll get back to the bailouts in a moment. But first, let's deal with the ironically-initialed ESP, or Economic Stimulus Plan. Like the bailouts, it was represented as something without which... well, you know the rest: Ruin! Anarchy! Starvation! And so on. Then it turned out that the stimulus plan was not stimulating the right people... or the right things. It was, in fact, being used as a catch-all for “pork” projects that had not met the usual, and very generous, budget cut. And many of these projects were not “shovel-ready” because even the most starry-eyed optimists had not expected a windfall of this magnitude. But not to worry – the no-bid contracts and the union featherbedding process is well under way, and work is going to start any day now, just you wait and see. So Little Timmy, who got his head stuck in a storm drain, is going to have a playground built in his honor after all. Is this a great country or what?

But here's the point. Even if it's true that the bailouts are, on some mysterious level, “working”... and that the ESP does succeed in, eventually, stimulating something, will those alleged successes, per se, signal a heroic recovery of the economy? Will they, in retrospect, be considered worthwhile, and worth all the money spent (which, by the way, was all borrowed – so it will be still getting paid back for years after the benefits are forgotten – kind of like the idiots who still owe money on their wedding after the divorce)? Again, all of the “payoff” data are going to come from those with vested interests. And add that to the truism that, when it comes to economics, you can't run experiments – you can only do things one way, and hope for the best.

But let's say, in the best of all possible Obama-worlds, that both the bailouts and the ESP are eventually pronounced a success, and that convincing data are offered to support that contention. Let's say that, in addition, hyperinflation has not yet occurred, and that the requisite tax increases have failed, so far, to completely beggar the middle class. It will be said, in that case, that we have “weathered the storm”, and that “America is still strong”, etc. But won't those, in fact, be instances of what used to be known as “false recovery”, as with a terminal TB patient who suddenly regains strength, energy, and clarity of thought just before dropping dead? (In opera, they even manage to belt out an aria or two in the process -- and, to steal a quip from Oscar Wilde, you'd have to have a heart of stone not to laugh.) I think the answer to that depends, at least to some extent, on other factors, like whether we have given up trying to sustain an American military and economic empire by that time – and the answer to that one is surely no. Or, whether we have gotten a grip on “entitlements” -- again, no. Or, whether we have reclaimed our foreign policy from the Zionists. Again, no. What might appear to be renewed strength would, in that case, be like a hospital patient who is no longer in critical condition – but is still in the hospital, and likely to stay there for a long time.

But there are other senses in which things can never be the same, even if we appear to survive the current crisis. One is the simple fact that the government felt perfectly justified in moving in and taking over large sectors of the nation's business and financial sector – again, to save it from itself, i.e. from its own folly and mismanagement (whether intentional or otherwise is a different issue). In short, no one had the slightest problem moving from a democratic/capitalist model to a fascist model. Just a simple matter of passing a few bills, and implementing a few “programs” directly from the White House. Again, “revolution within the form”. And even within this highly-suspect model there are better and worse ways of doing things. The administration's way – to reward incompetence with taxpayers' money but leave profits alone – is undoubtedly among the worst. Because all it can do in the long run is drive the truly productive, and honest, out of the business and financial sectors and leave only thieves and con artists in charge. (Another way of putting this is that if “Atlas shrugs” and departs the scene, and a bunch of pygmies, supported by the government, takes over, still aping capitalism but not practicing it on any level, where does that leave us? Basically, in a society of war lords and a corrupt central government, not unlike Afghanistan except for the substitution (in most cases) of money for bullets.)

And when it comes to the ESP, well... that is neither qualitatively or quantitatively different from government policies and budgetary tricks going back at least to the New Deal – and neither, for that matter, is the notion of spending taxpayers' money on things that no one one really wants, or would vote money for if they had the choice. What is different, however, is the notion that the economy needed “stimulating” and that only the government could do this, and that the way to do it is to spend more (non-existent) money rather than something that might really work, like lowering or eliminating confiscatory taxes, or reducing or eliminating the regulatory/legal burden on businesses and individuals. In fact, almost by definition, simply spending money doesn't “stimulate” anything in the general sense – it only buys goods and services on a temporary basis that, again, no one really wants. (Imagine not only rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but providing them with a shiny new coat of paint and new upholstery as they slide down the tilting deck.) The way to stimulate is not to spend, but to quit punishing earning and investment (the real kind, not the current Wall Street mutation). But clearly, that is an option that never occurred to the wise men in the Obama administration – or if it did, they shied away from it the way Dracula shies away from a crucifix.

So... when we call what the government is doing these days “setting a bad precedent”, that only understates the case by about one light year. What they are doing is establishing a new baseline for government involvement with the economy – call it the “total involvement” level. And even if, for every person in favor, there are ten opposed, those ten have no voice, and no power, and no effective representation in Congress, much less the administration, which is made up entirely of socialist apparatchiks. And as I've said before, they all know exactly what they are doing – namely, increasing their own power and firmly establishing the mechanism for its continuance as far as one can see into the future. We will know that their victory is complete on the day when “capitalism” is no longer a dirty word – i.e. when they can use it with impunity to describe the brave new economic world they have created, knowing full well that true capitalism is dead and buried, but that the word itself still has the power to boost the attitude of American exceptionalism – an idea that will still be needed to undergird foreign-policy follies.

Perhaps not the first, but certainly a prominent, casualty of socialism is that words cease to mean what they have always meant up to that point, and start to mean their opposites. So you will certainly continue to hear politicians mouth words like “capitalism”, “democracy”, and “freedom” for years to come, long after any memory of the reality of those things has faded into obscurity.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What a Relief!

I commented, a while back, that this alleged IRS attack on the Swiss bank accounts of "rich American tax dodgers" was, in all probability, a hoax. Why should the Swiss, of all people -- notoriously independent and "neutral" -- roll over for a bunch of green-eyeshaded geeks at the IRS? I mean, the IRS might strike fear into everyone in this country, but overseas? I imagine they're regarded as just one more instrument of oppression. At any rate, I'm happy... er, sad... whatever... to announce that my suspicious have been confirmed. And this is based on the supposedly earth-shaking announcement that "a deal with Switzerland settling U.S. demands for the names of suspected tax dodgers from a Swiss bank" has been made... and said tax dodgers are scuttling about like Lower East Side cockroaches when someone turns the kitchen light on at 3 AM.

But! Consider the actual amounts involved. The IRS is standing up, proud and tall, and saying that it anticipates recovering tax money on $15 billion in assets from 52,000 people. Notice I didn't say $15 billion in taxes -- just taxes on $15 billion in assets. And this is from 52,000 people?? So -- excuse me for just a moment. Ah yes, that works out to... drum roll, please... all of $288,000 in assets, on average, per alleged tax dodger. Hell, we're not talking about "the rich" here, or even "the wealthy" -- we're talking, at best, upper middle class -- well, maybe the upper upper middle class, i.e. the ones who were smart enough and resourceful enough to open Swiss bank accounts in the first place. So let's say, just as a "f'rinstance", that the IRS "outs" every one of these characters and collects the max on each of their Swiss accounts. That, given that the amounts would be taxed at the rate of 33%, would net the IRS a cool $5 billion. Not exactly chicken feed, but how much do you suppose they've already spent on investigations, audits, and lawsuits tracking this money down? A good chunk of that $5 billion, I'll bet. (One clue is that Obama wants Congress to pony up the money for 800 (!!) additional agents, examiners and lawyers to continue the anti-Swiss bank crusade.) But you know how the IRS works -- or maybe you don't. They have no problem at all spending $1000 to net an extra $100 in taxes... because, as always, it's not about the bottom line at all, but about jobs. And power.

Plus -- sweeping aside all these small fry, what about the truly rich who have been stashing money in Switzerland for decades now? Apparently they're going to remain untouched. I mean, that $15 billion is chump change for them; it's barely enough to cover one week's taxpayer-funded bonuses for AIG. So once again, the usual hoax is being played out -- a few chumps at the bottom of the top layer are going to be peeled off, and sacrificed to the IRS gods, and the rest are going to go on their merry way. 'Twas ever thus. The worst thing you can do is be semi-rich -- i.e. have enough money to be called "rich" by the likes of Bill Clinton or Barack Obama (or a "kulak" by Joseph Stalin), but not nearly rich enough to avoid the logical consequences of being considered rich in a collectivist society with a confiscatory tax system. So there's really no sense at all in being half-rich, and I highly recommend against it, even if you might be able to afford the down payment on a McMansion in Great Falls, Virginia. But in the long run, it's more trouble than it's worth.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Our Number's Up

In a recent issue of Chronicles, Philip Jenkins sounds a somewhat discordant alarm bell for “the global decline of fertility rates”. Now... anyone who is my age, or a bit younger, remembers when “the population explosion” was the issue of the day... when it was on everyone's lips, the very same way “global warming” is now. The human race was doomed to reproduce itself out of existence (an event which, you might think, would qualify as “paradoxical” -- but no one saw it that way back then) – we were about to overtax, and stress, the world's resources to the breaking point – and once that occurred, we would be beyond the point of no return. At that point, the only answer to the population crisis would be mass starvation. Yeah – that's what they said, I'm not kidding. Now granted, there is, in fact, hunger, severe hunger, and even occasional starvation on today's world scene – but it is caused almost entirely by wars and political crises, not by an actual, objective, lack of resources (arable land, crop fertility, etc.). Even if you take the most nutrition-challenged place on earth – inevitably, in sub-Saharan Africa – and subtract war, revolution, genocide, and vicious rulers, you still wind up with, basically, enough food for everyone. If you look anywhere else on earth, everyone has enough to eat, and a lot of people have way too much – like Americans, for instance. And this, mind you, is with a global population that the doomsayers of the 1960s would have claimed was absolutely impossible – unsustainable – catastrophic – etc.

The truth is, we still don't know what the maximum “carrying capacity” of the Earth is, when it comes to human population. Because we are not, overall, anywhere near that absolute limit as yet. If you took all the “farm surplus” of the U.S., plus all the food that fat-assed Americans eat that is above and beyond their nutritional needs, you could feed the entire subpopulation of the world's “starving” or “hungry” people. So have we reached that mythical brick wall yet? Certainly not. But there are other indicators that might be of equal interest. One is that the oceans – which have always served as a kind of back-up to agriculture – are being depleted, and in some cases “fished out”. And this problem is aggravated by massive pollution of the oceans, mainly from waste dumping, which results in things like “the blob the size of the state of Texas” in the Pacific, etc. In other words, ocean-based nutrition has not only peaked, but it's on the decline. And while we're talking about water, let's remember that, in some cases, lakes and rivers have recovered to some extent from the “dark ages of pollution” -- but they will always be insufficient to feed people who live any distance from the fisheries in question.

So that puts us firmly back in the camp of agriculture, i.e. land-based nutritional sources, and let's admit that the various “green revolutions” over the past few decades have enabled millions of people to eat better than they might have otherwise. In fact, countries that suffered recurring famines in years past have now become relatively stable, food-wise; India is actually a food exporter, probably for the first time in its thousands-of-years history. And it also appears that the hybrid crops, which are the main reason for this newfound stability, are relatively resistant to the various plagues and blights that have tormented farmers down through the ages. We are not seeing anything like the Irish potato blight and famine these days, for example – but the extent to which this benign situation is attributable to chemicals and antibiotics is still enough to give one pause. Set the Third World back on its own resources, and see what happens – the result might not be at all edifying.

So what I'm saying is that the current world population – and its relative degree of nutritional sufficiency – could be an artificial phenomenon to some extent, and therefore fragile, and therefore subject to sudden catastrophe... although this has not happened as yet. The most hard-core Darwinist, if you pin them down, has to admit that any conditions that result in increased fertility, and increased birth rates, and increased numbers of individuals growing to reproductive maturity, have to be considered “good”. Which means that, as of right now, world conditions for the human race have to be pronounced “good”. But that would be to ignore the overall environmental impact of said human race, and if you adopt that point of view the scales might swing over to the “bad” side. What I'm trying to say is, it's all a matter of the criterion you adopt. If it's all about human fecundity, we are living in the best world “ever”. If it's about total environmental impact, then... well, who knows how to weigh all those different factors? Some people pretend they do... but they all start out with one premise or another, like “there are too many people on Earth” (to which my response is, “Fine – then why don't you leave?”). Others will cite quality of life – yes, the population of India continues to rise, but do you really want to live in Calcutta? (To which I say – no, but I don't want to live in New York City either.)

So the point is, human populations will continue to rise, and will eventually rise to the detriment of the environment. But there comes a point at which... but let me digress for a moment. It's been a long time since I studied population ecology, but, as I recall, virtually any animal (and plant, for that matter... and fungal, and bacterial, etc.) population has self-limiting capacity, i.e. there are mechanisms programmed into the genome that restrain unlimited growth. Or – there are mechanisms built into the environment that do the same thing. In either case, no population can grow indefinitely... and not only that, but no population can grow to the point where its overall health and survivability is seriously compromised. In other words, no population can grow to the point where all its members are sick and starving. Because if that were the case, then those populations would suffer a catastrophic decline and possibly extinction – and it's just possible that this has happened in the past. So unlimited growth is a “mutation”, in a sense, and limited growth the normal state. Now, the mechanisms by which this is accomplished are as varied as the species themselves. For “lower” organisms, it's simply a matter of limited resources – the healthy members occupy all the territory, or use up all the resources, and no new members can thrive, or even survive (except if they are replacing deceased members). But note – it's never the case that all the members of the species, or group, become weak and sick. Most of them remain strong, and it's only the prospective “new” members that are thwarted. It is, in other words, population control that is imposed by the environment but responded to, in a certain way, by the species. If they all became weak and sick, they would all die – and that would be the end of the species. And again, some may have suffered this fate in the past, but the ones that didn't – that developed a mechanism with which to cope with limited resources – survived.

So – let's get back to the human species. We have not yet exhausted the Earth's resources, despite what the doomsayers say. And no theoretical proof is needed for this – all that is needed is a demonstration that the human race is, still and despite all, increasing in numbers. Case closed! We haven't yet reached the Earth's carrying capacity -- because if we had, by definition our numbers would instantly level off. But we are, nonetheless, straining various resources, and that, it can be argued, is a “quality of life” factor – if only that American liberals like to think that the oceans are clean and unpolluted... that makes their day, even if most people in India couldn't care less. And as I've said, most of what people point to as “evidence” of overpopulation is highly localized, and based on all sorts of non-environmental factors.

So – after this highly-circuitous route, let's get back to the alleged “global decline of fertility rates”. Well, first of all, someone has to demonstrate that the world population is actually on the decline – which it most assuredly is not. It's estimated at 6.778 billion as of today – you know, give or take a few score million. And I remember when it was 2.5 billion for years! So what happened? Again, the “green revolution”, and vaccinations, and sanitation, and health care, and a million other things. So by improving the quality of life for those already living, we also gave rise to the advent of a whole lot more people. Duh! I guess this comes under the heading of “unanticipated consequences”. Most of the world, in fact, has not yet bought into our gentlemanly concept of not even replacing one's own numbers – they are still all about having big families, and “conquering through demographics” (hey – don't laugh, it works).

In fact, according to the Wiki entry, “world population will continue to grow until around 2050”. So what's with this Jenkins guy and “the global decline of fertility rates”? I mean... we're talking about another 41 years of population growth, that's two generations in developed countries and three everywhere else. So what's his deal? Well... it's been my observation that whenever someone starts complaining about “declining fertility rates” they are referring to the white, non-Hispanic populace... and, by extension, to “Western Civilization” and “Christendom” (although someone has to explain to me how Hispanics don't qualify as members of “Christendom” -- unless the speaker is a Protestant, which would, of course, explain everything). And yes, it is demonstrably true that Western European and North American white Christians are failing to replace their numbers. And this includes Catholics, who drank great draughts of population-control Kool-Aid back in the 60s and have yet to realize that they were duped. Who is it that still believes in large families in non-Hispanic North America in this day and age? The Mormons, traditionalist Catholics, Amish, Hassidic Jews, and the occasional rural French Canadians. That's about it. (And note the contribution of religious faith to this phenomenon.) Everyone else is voluntarily consigning themselves to extinction. But hey – according to Darwin, anything that contributes to survival is good, and anything that does not is bad. So by that criterion, religion is good. Ha! Stick that in your pipe and smoke it, all you faithful and fanatical “Darwinists”!

So really – we see that the alleged reversal of the conventional wisdom from the “population bomb” to “global decline of fertility” has not actually occurred – and that the only people concerned with the decline in fertility are those who are worried about the decline and eventually extinction of Western Civilization, Christendom, democracy, Shakespeare revivals, and the like. All of which are real concerns, I admit – but hey, when a culture ceases to be, how can one realistically expect its artifacts to live on, except in museums and scholarly journals? And what, after all, explains the decline of the West, population-wise? Nothing more – as Jenkins points out – than secular humanism, with its ultimate emphasis on the individual, the here and now, and self-actualization, to the detriment of succeeding generations. Closely tied to all of this is feminism and “women's rights” -- paramount of which is the “right” not to have children. Well, fair enough – I'm not into coercing women to have, or _not_ have, any number of children. But let's face it, women world-wide have been sold a bill of goods, by which their self-esteem is now based directly on the extent to which they imitate (no matter how badly or ludicrously) men. In other words, real feminism... real womanhood... is sadly out of style. And when this happens, shazam, the birth rate falls. So the planetary landscape is full of self-actualizing but sterile females. Is this any way to be a good Darwinian? I don't think so. (The fact that the planetary landscape is full of sexually hyperactive but childless males is equally dreary.)

So if the news of the decline of the human race is “premature”, is there, in fact, a problem? Well, if one is radically equivocal as to the relative value of various traditions, cultures, creeds (or lacks thereof), value systems, etc. world-wide, then no, there is no problem. The white race could disappear tomorrow and the world would be no worse off – in fact, it seems downright parochial, not to mention “racist”, to even be concerned about such a thing. Plus, let's face it, the white race has had a good run of it... it's had plenty of chances... and now it's time for someone else to take over for a while. “It's Our Turn”, as the Obama campaign propaganda trumpeted. Hey, I've got no problem with this – I'm one of the few people I know who really doesn't mind living in “history”, as opposed to some fantasy world where history has come to an end. (How crushingly boring that would be!)

But let's not leave this topic without speculating as to what's in store for the human race overall – which is to say, if we haven't reached the planet's carrying capacity yet, when will that happen and how will we know? Well, going back to population ecology – in those cases where the environment itself doesn't impose limits, the species itself seems to be capable of doing this, in many cases – in other words, fertility rates will decline way ahead of the point at which all of the members of the species would wind up weak and sick, and hence unable to reproduce at all. In other words, there is a species-based (as opposed to individual-based) mechanism that seems to insure survival overall (and, once again, species that did not develop this ability are no longer with us). So the decline begins when most members of the species are still strong and healthy, and able to reproduce – but for some mysterious reason they “choose” to reproduce at a slower rate, because there is some way in which they sense that environmental limits are about to be reached. This is not fantasy – it happens all the time, especially in species faced with environmental crises (pestilence, climate change, change in nutritional sources, etc.)
or faced with the consequences of their own fertility (running out of territory, food, water, etc.). In other words, things don't have to reach rock bottom before they start to get better – in fact, they can't! So “smart” species know when to cool it on the reproduction thing... and the question is, do humans have that same instinctive capability or do they have to be forcibly sterilized by governments or killed off in war, or by famine or pestilence? Is nature going to do a “tough love” job on the human race, or will the process be relatively benign? The point is – if there is anything left of our survival instincts as a species, I think you're going to see a “voluntary” decline of fertility – if not the one Jenkins describes, then one that has an actual impact – long before mass starvation and illness set in. But not all voluntary declines in fertility will reflect this phenomenon, either – like the non-replacement rates he cites for Europe. There it is a more conscious, self-centered process – like the low birthrates among liberals in this country. I'm talking about something less conscious and more instinctive – and I don't see any evidence of that happening as yet. If anything, the fertility rate in the more stressed parts of the world (like Congo) seem as high as ever, if not higher. But again, that is a local phenomenon. Will we ever get to the point where the human race, in a kind of mass unconscious self-mandate, “agrees” to start having fewer children? Or, again, is it going to have to be a case of “tough love” imposed by Nature? I honestly don't know. All I know for certain is that we're nowhere near that point as yet.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Victory Totally Blows, Man!

As further evidence that the liberal establishment doesn't quite know what to do with the country, now that it has been handed to them on a (somewhat tarnished) silver platter, we have the spectacle of -- right here in Pittsburgh! -- President-for-life Bill Clinton admonishing an assemblage of liberal on-line activists not to relax -- no, not even for a moment! Because all of those gains, fought for with such exertion for so many years, could be lost! (No mention of why Obama has brought great new hope to the land, whereas his administration didn't, you'll notice.) This pow-wow was held in the same convention center where the G-20 meets next month, and I'm sure they felt they were raising the "vibrational level" of the place to the proper high level (whereas I suspect what they were actually doing was making much more work for the restroom maintenance staff). But Clinton, looking more like The Picture of Dorian Gray with each successive public appearance, sounded dire warnings about causes like health care, global warming, and the economy... and another speaker pointed out that Republicans, of all people, "have captured the energy and intensity that Democrats had in the last two election cycles" -- which is liberal-speak for "These people are fighting for their way of life and the survival of their country -- and isn't that just what you'd expect from such a bunch of 'haters'?"

To add to all of this unease, it even appears that certain members of the American left are starting to get impatient with the slow pace of Obama's transformation of the U.S. into a people's republic. Among the quotes: "We've been too polite", and "Where is our change?" (It's right there in your hand, you idiot!) But the most profound comment was as follows: "The online progressive movement is in a funny place now that its party is in power." Yeah! "Funny" -- also known as, time to take a bath, put on some decent clothes, crawl up out of your parents' basement, and start acting like an adult, now that you've been put in charge. No more taking to the streets... no more late-night cell meetings... no more "acting up"... in short, no more fun! Darn! And here I thought "activism" was all about getting up in the face of "the man". But when "the man" in the White House is our own guy, whose face do we get up in? Ay, there's the rub... and it's true, outside of the inner circle of Obamaites, who most assuredly know what they're doing and have a sense of mission, and are working as fast as is humanly possible, the rabble... the lumpen proletariat that put Obama into office... are suddenly rebels without a cause, and clueless. And I don't think that any amount of rabble-rousing by Clinton is going to change that, or give them focus.

Ah yes -- the sound of many liberal heads exploding, like bubble wrap in the hands of a five-year-old. There are people in this world who will always be on the outside looking in -- simply because that is the only situation with which they feel comfortable. Actually having to run a country is too much like real work... it involves compromise, and dealing with the unenlightened. No more protests! No more bonfires, or linked-arm circles, or "We Shall Overcome"! Ah, what a world, what a world! But that is the inheritance of the liberals, and of the left, and of even the most radical of the left -- since they have all invested heavily in Obama, and they all expect him to fulfill their fondest dreams. What they don't know... what has not dawned on them as yet... is that their hero has long-since sold out to the Regime, and that Regime considers them to be just so many squirming maggots. And, in fact, Clinton himself knows the score in this regard, since he too was made to carry the Regime's yoke, but hey, a paid gig is a paid gig, and even better if he gets to take money from the same chumps who supported all of his campaigns and got, basically, squat in return. Ah yes -- it's good to be king, even if all of your subjects make the characters in "The Wizard of Id" look like, um, Rhodes Scholars.

A Nation in Cheney

Dick Cheney continues to gripe, grumble, and snarl from his redoubt in... well, where _does_ he live, anyway? Does anyone know? It's a far cry from the glory days when as (heh heh) "vice" president he gazed down from his Naval Observatory home upon the unwashed and the unworthy... and entertained the sordid cabal that was responsible for getting us into wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They would arrive at all hours of day and night, in black limousines -- the Neocons, the arms makers, the Evangelicals, the Zionists... and hold secret meetings in the bowels of the vice presidential mansion, planning ways to destroy the country and its economy. Oh, well, that's not how they identified their efforts to themselves -- it was more like making a whole lot of money for the arms makers and keeping the rest of the gang happy, like that was some kind of ultimate value. Their efforts would, in turn, produce things like "draft policy statements" which would be hand-carried to the White House, where George W. Bush had spent a relaxing time watching Saturday morning cartoon shows on TV and choking on pretzels... while the folks up on Cathedral Hill ate "man food" and puffed on cigars. And of course "W" would sign whatever was thrust in front of him, because, after all, didn't he have the wisest, and most trusted, team of advisors in all of American history? And didn't they always and infallibly want what was best for the country? And besides, he knew he was trapped... he knew that the only things that got him into office were being a Republican (remember when that was actually an asset? Hard to believe... ), his ability to act like a good ol' boy rather than a member of the power elite, and a whole lot of money and political moxie from the cabal -- which he was now bound to obey and defer to in all things, even if the occasional objection should arise from the depths of his tiny brain.

But hold on! This is not what the Dickster claims... or will be claiming, in his forthcoming book. Now it seems that "W" occasionally bridled, and decided to ignore the advice of all of his many "handlers". Who did he think he was, anyway? And what's worse, "W" even occasionally started "making concessions to public sentiment". What did he think this country was, a democracy? And to top it off, the Dickster considers Bush's wandering off the reservation as having been "moral weakness" -- I guess like the "moral weakness" that some members of the German army showed when they refused to work in the death camps. And, worst of all perhaps, Cheney now pronounces Bush "an ordinary politician" -- as opposed, I guess, to his own exalted status as a man of principle. Well, let's see... when your moral principles lead you to plunge this country into two unwinnable wars that not only bankrupt the country but wind up killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people, for the sake of your buddies in the armaments business, delusional Neocons, fanatical Christian Zionists, and the Israel lobby... I say, to hell with moral principles! At least of the kind that Dick Cheney seems to feel he exemplifies.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday the 13th

You've Got a Ticket to Ride

Pittsburgh's very own legacy amusement park, Kennywood, will be graced by still another roller coaster starting next season – and there is a contest under way to determine what this coaster will be called. Among its features are: “It will immediately take riders from 0 to 50 mph in three seconds” -- and “It will climb 95 feet and pause at the top for a brief 'cliffhanger' before taking a 90-degree plunge”. So... given those specs, may I make a few suggestions? It could be called “The Obamanator” -- based on Obama's meteoric rise in the political firmament, as well as his administration's attempts to get four years' work done in six months. Or – it could be called the “Inflationator”, based on the inevitable outcome of all of the current government programs put in place in response to the “economic crisis”. Or how about “Taxilla” -- based on the inevitable steep hike in taxes for all but the poorest of the poor – necessitated by the same programs. Surely the fast initial acceleration, the “cliffhanger” point, and the 90-degree plunge, could not be better suited to describe the current state of the American economy and the actions that are being taken to – allegedly – fix it.

What'd I Just Tell You?

In my recent post regarding reactions to random killings, I allowed as how – and I quote myself, with all due modesty -- “The fact that there are people out there who are still miserable is not the fault of the 'system' or 'holes in the safety net' -- it's part and parcel of flawed human nature operating in a fallen world. And the more government steps in and tries to lock-step people back to 'mental health', the more pathological things become."

In other words, all the “mental health” screening in the world is not going to keep some people from doing very bad things – they will, indeed, slip through the safety net and fly under radar. There is an example in today's paper of a big-time child pornographer who – to everyone's amazement -- “has no mental-health diagnosis or childhood trauma that would help explain his crimes”. And this, of course, is the ultimately-disturbing thing to the system, and to the materialists who believe that “if only we could come up with the right tests...”. But, for what it's worth, this individual was also pronounced (after, I assume, due referrals and diagnoses) a “psychopath” -- and as we all know – or should know – psychopaths as a group are remarkably skilled at not only avoiding detection and diagnosis, but they can pull the wool over the eyes of even trained clinicians, pathologists, and judges – and voters, I might add, in those unfortunate instances when they decide to go into politics instead of (or in addition to) kiddie porn. Our society seems to have a remarkable lack of discernment when it comes to this personality type – since we see so many of them achieving high office, and making huge amounts of money, while their even-less-desirable habits go unanswered. I've said before that this is a measure of the overall health of a society – the extent to which it can detect, and sanction, the “outliers” -- the extreme anti-social types among its numbers. So how can anyone expect a society that has such a strange tolerance for this type to come up with suitable safeguards? The answer is, they can't – the psychopathic politician is cut from the same cloth as the psychopathic murderer or pornographer... the only difference is in the medium they choose to exercise in their pursuit of power and dominance over others. If we want to get rid of one type, we have to get rid of them all – not hypocritically worship the one and condemn the other.

40 Million Frenchmen Can Be Wrong

I keep marveling at how France – supposedly the home of the most sophisticated, jaded, insouciant race on the face of the earth – keeps acting like such a racist, ethnocentric country. Now they've decided that something called the “burquini” is pas de rigueur in public swimming pools. The “burquini” -- for those of you not up on your Moslem fashion lore – is a form of swimwear for women which conforms to the sharia law, i.e. it hides pretty much everything. (If you still don't get the picture, think of the way liberal female politicians and officials dress -- ah, now you've got it!) And what is la belle France's rationale for banning the burq? “Hygiene” -- that last-ditch alibi for prudes and scolds down through history. The notion is that, because the burquini is not skin-tight it opens the door for all sorts of unsanitary conditions and infestations. Now – anyone who knows, first hand, about the relative state of hygiene of the average Frenchman knows that “baggy” is the least of their worries. Anyone out there remember when baths were the exclusive province of the Arab world, and not Christendom? Anyone remember when what we call “towels” were called “Turkish towels”? Yes, it's true – the average Moslem, on any given day, is likely to be at least as clean as the average Christian, or post-Christian – not to mention the average Frenchman. So once again France is outed as one of the last bastions of real, dyed-in-the-wool provincialism and bigotry. Oh Robespierre, where art thou?

Another Wright Makes a Wrong

I see where a “former Clinton aide” has been charged with “smuggling a knife and 48 tattoo kneedles onto the state's (that is, Arkansas') death row.” Note the soft-pedaling here – an “aide”, as if she were no more important than, say, Monica Lewinsky. Hello! We're talking about Betsey Wright, who was Clinton's chief of staff when he was governor. To quote the Wiki entry on this harridan --

"She served as chief of staff to Governor Clinton for seven years. As Deputy Chair of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign, Wright established the rapid response system that was responsible for defending Clinton's record in Arkansas and promptly answering all personal attacks on the candidate. She coined the term 'bimbo eruptions' to describe the series of women claiming they had had affairs with Clinton."

So this woman was a hard-core Clintonista -- and no friend to other women. And now she is reverting to type, clearly... and once again, a “friend of Bill” turns out to be almost as degenerate and chaotic as the man himself.

Change for the Worse

Now get a load of the “agents of change” -- he really used that expression! -- that Obama just awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to. There were some worthy recipients, I admit – but among the less-worthy were blockheads like Billie Jean King, Sandra Day O'Connor, Ted Kennedy, and (posthumously) Harvey Milk. Oh yeah – the “granola coalition” has risen again.

Wave the Wicked Banner

But speaking of rising again – not! -- now it's illegal for a public school student in Tennessee to wear a T-shirt and belt buckle depicting the Confederate flag. Hey – when will these Southerners admit that they are a defeated nation – like the Indians, or the Palestinians? Why do they keep dreaming of a new rebirth? Surely they haven't taken the words in the Declaration of Independence seriously – have they?

The Only Good Kennedy

Now here are some of the, at once, saddest and most absurd words I've ever read. I'm serious! This is from an obituary for Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Read – and be appalled: “Her sister Rosemary learned to read and write with the help of special tutors and for a while had a lively social life of tea dances and trips to Europe. But as Rosemary got older, her father worried his daughter's mild condition would lead her into situations that could damage the family's reputation, and he authorized a lobotomy in the hope of calming her mood swings. She ended up in worse condition and lived out the rest of her days in an institution, dying in 2005.”

Now – savor that for a moment. To begin with, can you imagine the irony of Joseph Kennedy worring that his somewhat-unstable daughter might get herself "into situations that could damage the family's reputation” -- given that he was a notorious womanizer and already, in his own time, considered one of the most evil men in the country? Not to mention his goat-like gaggle of male offspring, including JFK, who had whores trucked into the White House on tour buses? But to add to the enormity we have the use of prefrontal lobotomy, which is a polite way of describing the process of putting someone to virtual brain death through surgery -- “the” preferred method, in those benighted times, of dealing with psychosis, but also, as in this case, with a “mild condition” -- provided the person with the "mild condition" came from a family with plenty of money. Yeah – turn the kid into a zombie, that's the ticket! No one wants a loony hanging around this family, no siree! Wow – imagine if everyone with “mood swings” these days was packed off to the nearest lobotomatorium. What a windfall it would be to the psychiatric establishment – as it, in fact, was... back then. But at least Rosemary, bless her heart, had the gumption to live to the ripe old age of 86 – so she continued to be a thorn in the paw of the Kennedy dynasty... a skeleton in their closet... a flaw in the otherwise clear and idyllic picture of “Camelot”... and a clear reflection of the heart of evil in the Kennedy clan.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

"This Wasn't Supposed to Happen!"

Call it another "d'oh!" moment. And to me, it recalls the reaction of the liberal establishment when the Internet became a favored medium for the exchange of ideas among conservatives. "Wait a minute -- that wasn't the idea! The Internet is modern, 'high tech', 'cutting edge' -- which means that it's the natural turf of liberals and 'idea people', not old-fashioned, traditionalist 'bigots' and 'haters'." And yet, there you are. The "blogosphere" is the natural home of conservatives because -- guess what -- they are a despised and discriminated-against minority. If they were "establishment", like the liberals, and had the mainstream media on their side, and most major magazines and newspapers, and publishing houses, and Hollywood, they wouldn't _need_ the Internet. Duh! The Internet is for those who _don't_ have all of those facilitators and privileges; it's for the disenfranchised who can't get their ideas and opinions out any other way. This is why, in the most general sense, the liberal establishment has decided that the Internet -- in its raw, unrestricted form -- may not be such a good idea after all. So they are looking for ways to "control" its content, the same way they are looking to revive the "Fairness Doctrine" for broadcast media, as well as certain ad hominem measures like the "Hush Rush" bill. (If Rush doesn't get his weight down pretty soon, there won't be any need to hush him -- he'll have hushed himself.)

So, now that the Internet has turned out to be one of the best friends conservatives (and conspiracy theorists as well -- not that those are mutually exclusive categories) have ever had, the liberals have a new complaint. No sooner do they provide "forums" in which people can express their points of view on things like health care, than people start to -- guess what -- express their points of view on things like health care. Wow -- didn't see that coming. I mean, the middle class, and the bulk of the working class, has been cowed and intimidated for so long, in the face of not only creeping but galloping socialism, that everyone assumed they had retired from the field and shut up permanently. But gosh -- just try and hold a "town hall meeting" these days -- they come out of the woodwork! And they don't just come to be told what is going to be done to them... they come to push back, to argue, to fight! To call names, even! Heavens! That was supposed to be a privilege restricted to Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton's rent-a-mobs -- and to liberal opinion columnists, broadcast commentators, and comedians (like there's a difference). So what they're objecting to is that large portions of the middle class have suddenly -- if you'll pardon the expression -- grown a pair of balls. And this was most definitely not supposed to happen -- not at this late date, when socialism is scaling the heights and about to emerge triumphant... not when a new millennium of "humanism" and "social justice" is about to dawn... not when those few atavistic reactionaries who cling to Bibles and guns are about to be purged from the body politic... not when the citizenry are finally convinced that they owe their welfare, and their very lives, to their betters in Washington, and that it is only right to bow down and worship their secular masters, crying "We are not worthy!" No -- what is happening in these town hall meetings is not only unexpected and shocking, it's downright, well, counter-revolutionary. Which means that it's anti-establishment, because the establishment represents revolution, i.e. the offensive side in the culture wars which has suddenly found itself in a position of near-absolute power. (The comparison to the Bolsheviks right after the Russian Revolution is striking.) And it's this, perhaps, that has awakened a few of the comatose middle class, to make one last stand before the "final solution" descends upon their heads. Yes, there have been threats before -- the New Deal, the Great Society, and so on... but there was always a feeling that, even if the centers of power shifted, and traditional values were threatened, the basics of the American way of life would not change drastically... or at least not enough to justify taking to the streets. This time around, it's different -- whether in fact or in perception I cannot tell at this point -- but it's the perception that counts in politics (as always), and the "birthers", the "tea partiers", and the town hall protesters, while not all cut from the exact same cloth, are nonetheless responding to a similar perception, namely that this time it's for real -- this time the liberals really are out to consolidate all of their gains over the years, and turn the United States into a people's republic, and crush the middle class and its values underfoot.

But it is true? I mean, is that really what Obama & Co. want to do, or is this just a case of "rumor, fear, and the madness of crowds" (to use the title of a classic book on mass hysteria)? What I say is, it's a bit of each, but no one with any sense can deny that the Obamaites have a very heavy-duty agenda which they wil pursue with all the more vigor, now that "capitalism" has failed miserably. Liberals over the years have made no secret of the fact that their fondest desire is to turn the U.S. into a socialist paradise -- or, failing that, a socialist hell -- but at least it would be socialist. The only thing that has changed, or morphed, is their strategy. During the Progressive Era, it was a pure form of socialism, which eventually fed into the New Deal. And whereas the Progressives, and the populists, tended to be anti-business, the New Dealers at least came up with a form of peaceful coexistence (and all the "war bucks" coming out of World War II helped, I'm sure). But at the same time, there was a strong undercurrent of what I will call "communist Puritanism" fostered by the Soviet Union and its slaves in the U.S. (including many New Dealers). For them, the American/populist/progressive version of socialism wasn't good enough, and neither was the New Deal (which was just a stepping stone to the real thing) -- the U.S. had to turn into a communist state under the boot of the Soviet Union in order to really be ideologically pure. And this point of view didn't really suffer any major setbacks until the Hitler-Stalin Pact... and even then, most of the faithful did not wander off the reservation. It really took the breakup of the Soviet Union to make all the die-hard communists in the U.S. feel like orphans and start looking around for new leadership. Bill Clinton was hardly the answer, because, as secular (and decadent) as he was, his politics (unlike his wife's) were really not all that radical. Plus, he was from the South, and if there's anything communists hate more than "capitalism", it's the American South. But then along comes Obama, whose biography is inspiring in a way seldom seen since Lenin rode the sealed train to the Finland Station. Yes! He is the new master! Castro can go ahead and retire... and leave Kim Jong-Il to his brandy and Westerns. Here is, truly the New Soviet Man -- and he could not be more ideal for the job. So the true believers have united, once again -- with great expressions of relief and gratitude -- around their new messiah. And, by the way, no one wants to admit that the form of socialism in question has quietly morphed from the leftish, New Deal type into a type that is, for all intents and purposes, fascist. But that is only a technicality, you see, because it "feels" like the heady days of the New Deal, except better, because it's now guaranteed to be home-grown.

But -- as always -- there are certain "reactionary elements", and -- as always -- they are mostly found within the ranks of the bourgeoisie. And now they're disrupting these "town meetings", which were supposed to be scripted to show only awe and adoration when it comes to Obama's health-care schemes. So the reaction -- because collectivists and totalitarians cannot, under any circustances, tolerate dissent, no matter how inconsequential -- is to push back against those who are pushing back -- to devalue, disrespect, and defame. So the MSM are sicced, like rottweilers, on the protesters... the "mental health" card is played... the "un-American" card is played (are they sure it doesn't still have McCarthy's and Nixon's DNA all over it?)... and, overall, there is a great flurry of indignation, outrage, and towering hypocrisy, but all designed to muzzle dissent and pave the way for every unanswered outrage against liberty that the Obamaites can come up with in the next 3 1/2 (at least) years. And through it all, all they can say (to themselves and each other) is "Why can't the U.S. be more like the Soviet Union under Stalin? He wouldn't have put up with all this nonsense." And sure enough, the weapons they are wielding in the defense of their programs are not unlike those used so skillfully by Uncle Joe -- including, as I've said, the "mental health" argument.

And as to the question, is all of this going to get worse before it gets better? -- it depends on one's point of view. I don't call Americans rising up in defense of their freedoms "things getting worse" -- even if it results in bloodshed. I would rather it be done in a peaceful manner, through the mechanisms of genuine democracy -- but I fear it is far too late for that, because the mechanisms of genuine democracy were sabotaged generations ago by the people who are now in charge. They have made a "revolution within the form", and are now attempting to consolidate it -- so they characterize the counter-revolution as a revolt (and as revolting) by the ignorant, reactionary middle class and duped members of the working class -- certainly not "real Americans" who are all anxious to sign on and to offer up the last of their freedoms in exchange for "security".

No Good End

There are many problems associated with any discussion of the American Empire, of its manifest decline, and of its inevitable end, not the least of which is the refusal of the average person to believe that there even _is_ such a thing as an “American Empire”. Most people, when you say the word “empire”, will immediately think of Rome, and armored troops out of one of those Hollywood Biblical epics marching around to the sound of long trumpets, oppressing the local populace and trampling underfoot anyone who gets in the way. And yes, theirs was a military empire first and foremost, but it was also an economic empire – consisting not just of Rome and various captive nations, but an economic center with many colonies, working toward what could, in many cases, be seen as mutual benefit. And to this it should be added that the colonies were, by and large, allowed to govern themselves up to a point – at least in the domestic arena – and their many and varied customs, folkways, and even religions were hardly tampered with. This, of course, reflected the accumulated wisdom of empire builders throughout the ages; even at that (to us, early) time it was recognized that if you leave people more or less alone in the simple, daily things they are not likely to rise up in revolt on matters of “foreign affairs”, and not even regarding self-determination, on any given day. There was, in fact, such a thing as the Pax Romana, and it was not unattractive – especially compared to some of the alternatives, like having to suffer invasions from the real barbarians – or one's neighbors (assuming those were not the same thing). And we know that the Dark Ages, so-called, only came to predominate after Rome lost its grip; it took new nations, and new empires, to restore a semblance of order and civilization of the “advanced” -- i.e. literate and with some continuity – sort to Western Europe.

But there were, of course, other forms of “empire”, principally those that originated with invasions from the East – and in those cases, the conquests were so total, and the oppression so brutal, the exploitation so one-sided, that one hesitates to even call the conquerors and their conquered territory “civilizations”. They were more like a variety of anarchy, with warlords roaming the countryside and only settling down after many years of conflict, if ever. And sure enough, not a whole lot in the way of significant cultural artifacts has come out of those times and those places; you might say that civilization, or “progress”, was on hold until someone with a better idea came along.

But in both of these major categories – and everything in between – one can discern three basic, seemingly-inevitable stages: I call them Expansion, Consolidation, and Decay. (These stages also describe various life processes, political and social movements, artistic movements, philosophical trends, and just about anything else for which time is a major factor.) In purely economic terms, for instance, we can characterize Expansion as the stage at which new markets are being opened up, new trade routes established, and where the nation or empire in question is getting a positive “return on investment” (ROI). In other words, for the price of a few military campaigns, invasions, etc., the rewards more than make up for the effort. (The Spanish exploration of the New World is certainly one of the better examples.) Consolidation is the stage after that initial influx of wealth when great fortunes are, perhaps, not as easily come by, but where there is still, in the aggregate, a positive ROI. (Think of Consolidation as the “capped well” stage of oil field development, vs. the initial “gusher” stage.)

Now we come to the tough part, which is Decay – and this can happen for any number of reasons, as so well demonstrated by Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and “Collapse”. Sometimes it really is about depletion of natural resources. It may be pestilence, or -- yes -- climate change. Sometimes it's increased rebelliousness on the part of the native populations... or migrations based on scarcity or famine. Sometimes it's a competing empire – and that may, in turn, be motivated by economic considerations, or by religious ideas, or by secular ideals. And, sometimes it's trouble on the home front – rebellion, revolution, economic crises, religious movements, and so on. (Think of Vietnam as one of the best examples in our own history.)

But here's the point. No one wants to live in “history” -- not really. Oh, they may enjoy living at a time when their nation, or culture, is dominant and seems to be on top of the world. The Expansion stage is exciting, no doubt – especially for certain personality types and people looking to make a quick buck. And the Consolidation stage isn't bad either, although it involves a lot more work than many people are willing to do. But nobody loves the Decay stage. For one thing, it's humiliating – there is great loss of face... self-doubt sets in... questions arise as to the validity or value of the culture, its underlying ideas, its creeds. But mainly there are economic losses, a narrowing of perspective, a loss of hope. Suddenly there is no longer any reason to believe in “progress” -- the next generation will live about the same way as the current one, if not worse. The icons and idols that sustained the society when it was dominating its neighbors are no longer performing that function, and no one is exactly sure why. There is a feeling of fatalism – of being, suddenly, trapped in a world one never made. And the few people who seem to remain dominant – or the new breed that starts taking over – are foreign-seeming, strange, “not like us” -- carpetbaggers, in effect.

Now, if all of the immediately-preceding sounds familiar, it's because it is. The American Empire, despite our continued military and economic (if on increasingly shaky ground) dominance, is already – even as we speak – going into decline, and the symptoms are already out there for all to see. And one of the leading symptoms – no surprise, really – is that of denial. And this denial is two-pronged; it can be denial that the empire is declining, or denial that there is anything to decline – i.e. denial that there is an empire at all. (In which case, one has to explain the symptoms some other way.) And this country, because we are an “ideational” or “propositional” nation rather than a more traditional one founded on land, blood, and faith, is more likely to engage in this sort of denial, and for a longer time – because the notion of “empire” is not really part of our self-image; it is not found in the founding documents, and is scarcely to be detected in so many words in the current pronouncements of our leaders (although it was more explicit in Theodore Roosevelt's day, for example). It is true, there is something a bit, well, crude about the notion of “empire”. It calls up images of mindless conquest for conquest's sake... of oppression and brutality... of exploitation... of making slaves of conquered races. None of it seems to have much to do with “ideas”, and if there is one thing America prides itself on, it is that it's a nation of “ideas” first and foremost. The problem, however, is that, historically, our zeal for ideas has frequently overtaken our aversion to empire-building, so that what we find ourselves with now is what is, in effect, an empire, which may have started at the idea or ideal level (think “Woodrow Wilson”) but which has, naturally and inevitably, grown into an empire pretty much like any other in history. In other words, no matter what the original motives may have been – and no matter whether honorable or no – the process itself of attempting to spread those ideas has had paradoxical results. You start out by trying to set a good example... and then turn to various forms of political and economic pressure... and then eventually give up and send the troops in – still preaching, in no less fervent terms, that it's all about things like “democracy”... and not only that, but that only the most ignorant and benighted would refuse to see it that way and try to resist our advances. So we have this paradox by which ideas that might actually have worked for one country (our own) have a tendency to morph and decay when applied elsewhere – not because the ideas per se are bad, but because the the idea of spreading them through force or coercion is bad. And that degree and type of badness really does, in effect, wipe out all the good those ideas might have done – so we wind up looking, and acting, like just another oppressive, conquering, empire-building race, that the rest of the world can't wait to get rid of. And not only that, but we experience “blow-back”, by which our attempts to spread our ideas by force lead to their being fatally compromised here at home.

Well, the above sums up what is in, I imagine, just a few thousand books... but the points to be drawn when it comes to current events are nonetheless worth making. Because even if it is admitted that there is, in fact, such a thing as the American Empire, not everyone will be willing to admit that it is in severe decline. Because, hey – don't we have troops in scores of places overseas? Don't we have the CIA, the “eyes and ears” of our national security apparatus, stationed virtually everywhere on Earth? (I don't even rule out North Korea.) Don't we spend more on “defense” than the rest of the world combined? (I'll get back to this point.) And – hey, let's get real here – isn't much of the rest of the world basically scared shitless of us? Doesn't that count for something? I mean – if they don't want “democracy”, the least we can do is to kick their sorry asses once in a while, right? Better than nothing, right? Well, maybe... except like a vaccination with booster shots, we are building up massive resistance around the world not only to our “ideas” but to us in general... and the latest economic crisis, which the rest of the world rightly sees as originating right here and richly deserved (by us, not them), isn't helping matters any. There are peoples and nations everywhere just waiting for the chance to leave the Empire – and some already have, in the case of Latin America. For others, it's not so much a matter of getting out from under our economic boot as declaring independence in the ideational sense – as witness the unraveling of our “coalition of the willing” in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's finally starting to dawn on them that we're just as crazy, in our own way, as the “terrorists”, and are actually less in touch with reality. They don't want to have anything more to do with our madness, and they now see a way out that they might not have seen before – we can't stop them, and we can hardly threaten them either. Besides, many of them already have experience with declining empires – their own; so why subject themselves to a repeat performance on our behalf? Better to let us learn our own lesson (or not learn – as the case may be) and leave them out of it.

So... if I have succeeded in establishing that there is, indeed, such a thing as the American Empire, and that it is in decline... and that much of what we see in the way of our troubles domestically and overseas is based on that fact... what is to be done? Well, for starters, the first step – as with any form of therapy – is to recognize that there is a problem. And then we have to decide whether we, in fact, even want an empire – and, to tell the truth, the American Empire has done the average American citizen about as much good as a case of scabies. Empires are always good for rulers, for the elite... they enable the military to earn plenty of medals... but as to the average citizen, they are typically a drain, and never more so than when in decline, and the government is taxing everyone into poverty for the sake of maintaining them. Thus, the more we lose our grip on the rest of the world, the higher a proportion of our national wealth is spent on “defense” -- i.e. defense of empire, not of the country per se... and as we lose our credibility abroad, and our perceived value to other countries, we are all the more anxious to occupy or dominate as many square miles as possible – hence, our obsession with setting up overseas “bases” in nearly every other country on earth. And, as always, the rest of the world is not loath to exploit our obsessions and our hubris, so is busy pecking away at us even as we fancy we are still in charge.

But, politics and even history aside, what is the average citizen to do? To begin with, we have to realize that much of our postwar prosperity has been false – that it has been built on the backs of our (undeclared) colonies – the “banana republics” come to mind, but there are plenty of others as well. Were we ever the blatant colonizers that the Belgians, for example, were in the Congo? It depends who you ask. No, we didn't hand out slave collars... but converting entire countries into American-owned plantations may not rank much higher on the moral scale... nor does enticing people who have lived on the land for millennia into sweatshops to produce leisure wear for Americans. Then there's the little matter of arming rebel groups in order to get a better “deal” on mineral rights in sub-Saharan Africa. Oh, heck, you might wind up with a few million children with missing limbs, but at least we get our molybdenum, or whatever it is. (And, not to forget, nearly all of those precious minerals from Africa wind up in our “defense” program. Just thought I'd throw that in.)

So, as a therapeutic protocol, I would recommend that anyone who is interested in retaining his sanity over the next few years do the following: (1) Admit that there is, and has been, an American Empire. (2) Admit that all indicators point to the fact that it in decline. (3) Admit that this decline is: (a) an inevitable stage in the natural cycle of all systems; (b) deserved; and (c) actually a good thing, from the moral point of view – i.e. it would be better, other things being equal, to live in a moral non-empire than an immoral empire. But then comes the tough part. We also have to admit that any form of decline – if cleansing on some level – is very seldom fun, or enjoyable. The rest of the world has shown up and is demanding that we pay the bill for our aggression and offenses of many years – and what this also means is that those alive now will be paying for the sins of those now dead. Call it “unfair”... call it “karma”... but that's just the way it's going to be. The world will give us no choice – it's not going to call off the day of reckoning just because of all the “innocents” who currently live here. Besides, they have all seen how we continue to beat up Germany because of the Nazis, and the North continues to beat up the South because of slavery, racism, discrimination, and so on. So we have not been the epitome of fairness... and why should anyone else be “fair” to us? It's payback time... and the process has already started in earnest in the Middle East and in Latin America, and could spread elsewhere without much trouble. We have already been made fools of by any number of warlords around the world... and in places like Afghanistan we are acting more like a helpless giant every day – lashing out, but digging ourselves deeper into the mire.

But hey, look on the bright side. Haven't you ever wondered what life was like during the declining days of the Roman Empire? Well, here's your chance to find out. And lest we forget, that empire-in-decline was the cradle of Christianity. Who knows what good might come out of this whole process? All we have to do is to get used to living in a world we never made, or grew up in... and get used to being unpopular, to put it mildly. Inconvenient... unfair... but very possibly character-building, which is what we may need more than anything else right now.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

500 Miles

With this post, another milestone is reached -- 500 in all, in the short space of less than a year and a half. I guess that works out to about one per day, whatever. I'll repeat the old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times". Even though I have become thoroughly disillusioned with the "end times" faddists, I can't help but think that the current era does represent a sea change of sorts -- and I say this more on the basis of economics than politics. After all, the politics of the New Deal era were at least as radical as those of Obama & Co., if not more so. Back then, what we persist (mistakenly) in calling "capitalism" had already been relegated to the -- to quote George W. Bush -- ash-heap of discarded ideas. Back then it was a match to the death between communism and fascism, as championed by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, respectively... with the New Dealers looking on in dismay, fearing that the wrong variety of totalitarianism might win out. But thanks to FDR and Pearl Harbor, etc., the right variety won out, and New Dealers were able to continue their infatuation with communism for 45 more years, until that fateful day when the Soviets basically said, we're tired of pretending that all this crap works, so we're just going to give up and let someone else have a go. The shock and dismay that overtook the halls of the Ivy League at that point! And thank goodness that Alger Hiss was still alive to see it... as was Richard Nixon. We always suspected that the New Dealers, and American liberals in general, were disappointed that this country had not gone all the way in its initial drive towards communism -- that so much of the economy had been left to the predations of "capitalists" and "businessmen" and "free enterprise". America was, in other words, an underachiever -- a slacker and a laggard on the world political scene. And thank goodness Obama & Co. have gained power just in time to remedy all of this! Why, we might have been doomed to a relatively quick recovery from the recession, and a new period of prosperity. But as it is, we can expect the misery to multiply and be long-lasting, as was the Depression.

But on the economic side, the present troubles represent something truly new in American history -- namely the wholesale beggaring of the middle class, which really means its reduction to, for all intents and purposes, low-class, dependency status. The greatest act of theft, perhaps, in the history of the world has just been committed before our very eyes, and all the government can do is reward the perpetrators with even more largesse. And this is not to claim that there has not been, since at least the Civil War, a state of unholy matrimony between government and business -- only that now, for reasons known only to themselves, the powers that be have decided to do away with any semblance of a three-class society and change us, once and for all, into a society of elites and serfs. It is, as I have pointed out before, a mass murder of the golden goose -- because I contend that the rise and dominance of the middle class in America was never an accident, but was an essential element of the American experiment... and that without a middle class, that experiment is now officially terminated, and we will, from now on, resemble a Medieval or Asian tyranny more than any sort of true democracy. And as I've said, I'm sure the powers that be have their reasons... but one wonders if they are really as omniscient as they believe. And, do they really prefer to rule over an ash heap rather than simply being an elite -- but not all-powerful -- over a free people? That is how it appears. But we will know more as things progress -- because if one thing is for certain, it's that Obama & Co. are every bit as abject servants of the elite as any previous administration -- and more so than most.

And I suppose it would be too easy to just lie down, roll over, and refuse to have any more to do with this debacle -- even on the level of commentary. But with every bland, inane saying that comes out of the MSM, the hills cry out for correction, and clarification, and truth. If everyone would just shut up and allow this catastrophe to happen, it would be one thing. But the government, and the media, spend all of their time cooking up rationalizations, excuses, and justifications for what is basically an insane array of programs, none of which has the slightest chance of providing any relief for normal people -- only a further impaction of power and wealth for the elite. One must go on record -- because, ultimately, even this system, and the powers behind it, will fail -- and perhaps some future archaeologist will ask, as we are so fond of doing about the Romans or the Germans, didn't anyone realize what was going on? And the answer -- provided these words survive in some form -- will be yes, someone did -- but they were part of a minuscule minority, and all of their labors did little but to satisfy their own sense of truth and justice. Ah well... so be it. But it beats silence.

How Very Uncivil

I could hardly believe my eyes -- in fact, I still can't. Not content with sending thousands more troops over to Afghanistan to act as cannon fodder for the fedayeen, now we're going to mount a civilian "surge" consisting of -- I kid you not -- "economic and government aides"? This is what General McChrystal says -- and, after all, we have to assume he has a McChrystal Ball. But imagine -- sending, basically, U.S. government employees over to Afghanistan in an effort to win "hearts and minds"? Wait until they get a load of our lazy, fat-assed government "workers"; what's that going to tell them about the benefits of "democracy"? And look at where these "surgers" are going to come from -- the State Department, known as a sheltered workshop for the dull-witted sons of the rich and the elite -- and the Department of Agriculture, which would have won the lifetime achievement award for worthlessness if it had not been for HUD. So... these people, who are already virtually guaranteed to be parasites, are going to be attached to units of our already-overburdened troops. And all in the name of "rebuilding Afghanistan's shattered economy" -- to which I ask, well who shattered it anyway? It's as if some maniac went around cutting people's arms off, then offered to provide them with artificial limbs. No really, the Afghan people should right away start setting out traps for these people, then boil down their fat to make something truly useful -- like fuel for heating and lighting. The "ugly American" just keeps getting uglier...

An Entitlement is Forever

Every time the powers-that-be hear some loose talk about balanced budgets, and reducing the deficit and the national debt, they are sure to speak up, and start saying things like, "But you have to realize that the vast bulk of the budget consists of entitlements" -- as though "entitlements" were something foisted on us by an alien force from another planet. Apparently there is nothing so sacred, or sacrosanct, or untouchable, as these hallowed "entitlements". Which means, basically, that nothing can be done about deficits and the national debt, because nothing can be done about entitlements... so we might as well just give up. Well, I think it's time for the American people to rise up and cry "bullshit!" at this sort of cop-out. Each and every "entitlement" on the book is based on some law or other -- but guess what, each of those laws was passed by Congress... and guess what, each of those laws can be rescinded, called off, cancelled. Yes! It really is possible to slay the entitlement dragon -- but an iron political will is needed, which our marshmallows in Congress clearly do not possess (ERP)(Except Ron Paul). For one thing, I'm sure they are all petrified at the thought of the millions of lawsuits that would result -- why, the government has committed "breach of contract"! Well, maybe it has and maybe it hasn't -- I mean, how many of the people receiving these entitlements did anything to earn them? The answer is NONE -- because otherwise, they wouldn't be entitlements. This is something that is almost universally overlooked. The second point is that, entitlement or no, the government should not be expected to provide that which it does not possess -- and that would be funds. Thirdly, let's say it goes to court -- to the Supreme Court, even. And they decide in favor of the entitlement junkies. That would be the time for the president, or whoever, to ask -- to paraphrase Joseph Stalin -- "How many divisions does the Supreme Court have?" In other words, "make me" -- and this response has already been used any number of times, and quite recently, in cases like affirmative action. So why not in this case as well? I mean -- isn't it time to get tough -- really tough -- on the entitlement issue? Because, really, there is no choice -- leave it alone and it will bring down the entire structure. Get tough -- reorganize and "slim down", the way we are encouraging all the bankrupt auto companies to do -- and you might come up with something viable, and sustainable. Because the system as it is is neither one -- and the sooner Congress and the administration wake up to this fact the better, and the less severe pain will result.

Playing the "Mental Health" Card

It had to happen, sooner or later; it was not a matter of “if” but of “when”. And sure enough, the Democrats/liberals/Obamaites have dragged out the hoariest of hoary accusations with which to devalue and disrespect the ObamaCare protesters – that they are not only “un-American” but also mentally ill. Now this accusation has a long, dismal history in this country, and to understand it you have to go back to the origins of the concept of “mental illness”. This was basically a long-delayed Enlightenment, i.e. Protestant, concept that was brought to fruition by the so-called Progressives. The notion was that “madness”, or “insanity” were no longer to be thought of as evil, or curses, or demonic possession, but as a variety of “illness”, not unlike chicken pox. And, given the materialist approach of the Progressives, it only made sense that, as with physical ailments, all that was wanted was proper diagnosis followed by treatment by the – at that time – newly-discovered wonders of modern medicine – you know, things like prefrontal lobotomy, insulin shock, electroshock... that sort of thing. Stuff that, if we'd used it on the Taliban, we'd all be in jail somewhere in the EU. But – I should hasten to add – this point of view was not uniquely American, since it had, as one of its philosophical/psychological bases, the medical model of neurosis and psychosis pushed by Freud, among many others. And it was, after all, humane – i.e. way more humane and enlightened than chaining people to beds, or confining them in rubber rooms and strait jackets – although all of those practices did, after all, continue right up to the era of tranquilizers.

But while all of these things were going on, there was another interesting trend, found principally in places like the Soviet Union, where political dissidents were not simply rounded up and jailed, but accused of being “mentally ill”, and a danger to themselves and others – which, of course, justified their incarceration without benefit of trial. So the concept of mental illness became a tool of totalitarianism – particularly of the liberal, communist, “socialist” stripe. Under “fascism” and Nazism, no one really cared how you “felt” about the things the government did, as long as you shut up about it. Not true in the “people's paradise” -- there, any dissent was treated as a flawed grasp of reality – a failure to recognize and submit to the manifest truths of Marxist-Leninist theory – and was thus subject to severe sanctions... which were, of course, called “treatment”. Thus, the mental hospitals and sanatoriums of the Soviet Union gradually filled up with people who were perfectly sane, but who had one or more issues with the government. And who knows, this may have prevented those who really were insane from getting proper treatment – and if so, so much the worse.

And then there is the whole controversy surrounding the very idea of “mental health” -- is it nothing but a social construct? Some writers, like R. D. Laing, contended that very thing. And in fact, there is no known “mental illness” which, in some culture somewhere on earth, is not revered and celebrated as signifying insight into a world of higher reality. And the usual operational definition which the mental health establishment has been reduced to amounts to this: “Mental illness” is any mental state that leads to anti-social, disruptive behavior. By which criterion, the critics of the “town hall protesters” and the “tea partiers” are absolutely right! The pushback that Obama & Co. are getting from the middle class, and the more conscious members of the lower class, is, if nothing else, certainly disruptive and – in their view – anti-social, which is another way of saying anti-liberal, anti-socialist, anti-collectivist. So they are right to call these people crazy and deranged – and to wish out loud that there was just some way of shutting them up, or, failing that, rounding them up. And I'm sure that “contingency plans” are being hatched at this very moment to accomplish this. It is, in a way, a measure of the level our national collectivism has reached that the counter-protesters are already talking in these terms, and making implied threats. And this is when the bill in question is still being debated in Congress! Imagine what's going to happen once it's passed, and implemented! We think we have a problem now, with overstuffed jails – wait until all the ObamaCare naysayers are loaded into vans and trucked off to the nearest funny farm. Now that's a budget item I'll bet no one anticipated.

Toolin' Tuesday

O In a mail appeal for charitable contributions for Eritrea, some data are provided on that country – including this gem. Under “religions”, there is a category labeled “Protestant, animist, and other”, totaling 1% of the population. Talk about strange (spiritual) bedfellows! But actually, maybe not so strange, given what the Episcopalians, Quakers, and Unitarians have been up to lately...

O It has often been commented that the lively era known as “the 60's” was, in reality, a civil war – or at the very least a “culture war”. But of course that war is far from over, even though the makeup of the opposing sides keeps morphing, and who is “in” and who is “out” of power keeps shifting. But the newest skirmish – that between the ObamaCare juggernaut and the “town hall protesters”, is something to behold. And as I've said before, it's good to see the liberal, leftist collectivists on the defensive for once. And it's also good to see that all of their accusations, over the years, of “conservative hypocrisy” have turned into ashes in their mouths. They are, in fact, the Establishment now, and acting every bit the part. And they even have the gall to call their opponents “un-American” -- as if they have ever had any use for anything even remotely “American” through their entire sorry history. Yes – we are indeed seeing a tsunami of hypocrisy flowing out of Washington, and breaking on the rocky shores of the “real America” -- i.e. the part more than ten miles from either ocean.

O And as far as the euthanasia “rap” on ObamaCare – the proponents protesteth too much, methinks. My suspicion is that euthanasia is very much a part of the plan – if not of the current bill – and that all the indignation is based on the fact that it's been “outed”. But hey, if this “outing” is enough to delay the nasty business for a few more years, then it worked, didn't it?

O But before leaving this delicious topic, I have to provide a quote from Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer: “Drowning out opposing views is simply un-American.” Gee folks, I hope that applies to opposing views on things like global warming. It does, doesn't it? Heh heh...

O OK, here's something I'm going to have to see a show of hands on. How many out there know anybody – anybody – who gambles, who doesn't think they're “ahead”? Yeah – I thought so. No one who gambles thinks that they have sustained a net loss from their efforts – not even the ones who wind up living in a packing crate under a railroad trestle. Which means that the $1.3 million gross revenue that the new casino in Pittsburgh earned in its first 18 hours was, clearly, all gambled away by a bunch of ghosts, and not real people. Who knew that so many ghosts frequented gambling casinos? I sure didn't. But if you had conducted an exit survey of suckers, I mean “clientele”, from the casino on that day, you would have found only people who boasted of having “made a killing” -- “It paid for my bus trip and my meals, with plenty left over.” And this, in turn, is what's missing from the arguments – by the usual do-gooders and scolds – that casinos are an evil presence and a bad influence. They overlook a number of facts, the first of which is that gambling is fun... and that it serves as an amusing pastime for people who literally have no better way to spend their time... and that, in fact, everybody who gambles considers themselves a winner. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, you anti-gambling crusaders! Your alleged victims are not only enjoying life much more than you ever will, but they think they're business geniuses as well. How you gonna top that, with your Puritanical scolding? The anwer is, you're not. But that won't stop the regretters from doing the regretting.

O Well, Bill Clinton is back from North Korea, having enrolled Kim Jong-Il in the vast army of those who consider themselves “friends of Bill”. But hey, he can claim “mission accomplished”, and any North Koreans who share Kim's enthusiasm for old Mighty Mouse cartoons can echo the refrain, “Here I come to save the day!” But gosh – what a wet blanket Hillary turned out to be when someone in Congo asked her “what her husband thought about an international financial matter”. “'My husband is not secretary of State, I am,' she snapped. 'I am not going to be channeling my husband.'” Now – I assume “channeling” is not a euphemism for some bizarre liberal sexual ritual... oh yeah, I forgot – she was “channeling” Eleanor Roosevelt back during her husband's administration, so she is clearly an adept. But it troubles me greatly to see what appear to be fault lines in what I always considered an ideal marriage. At any rate, my message to Hillary is as follows: Hey Hill! Lighten up! If it weren't for your degenerate husband you'd be a civil-rights lawyer in Cincinnati. So yeah, you're just going to have to face up to the fact that you will always be considered his creature, and never given full respect on your own. Public opinion giveth, and public opinion taketh away.

O And how about that guy in Belarus who was killed when a statue of Lenin fell on him? A local resident said, “The monument's heavy head tumbled on him.” Well... we know Lenin had a remarkably large head – all the better for holding all the fatal delusions of communism. But can it be that this poor schmuck was really the last fatality attributable to Lenin? I fear not...

O Shortest obituary for Eunice Kennedy Shriver: You really can be too thin and too rich.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Who's Counter-Protesting Now?

Protests! Meetings! Raised voices! Speeches! Signs! And, on the other side, Establishment types huffing and puffing, and talking about things like "civility" and "dialogue". Ah yes -- how we miss the 1960s. Except that we don't, because I'm talking about 2009, and the strange things that happen when certain members of the middle class finally -- finally!! -- wake up to the fact that the country has been taken away from them (assuming they ever had it -- but we're talking perceptions here, not reality), and the people who were, for years, shivering in the cold with their picket signs are now nattily attired, groomed, tanned, and... in charge. Gosh, you'd almost think human behavior was based less on ideas per se than on whose ideas are dominant at any given time. People who would not have dreamed of joining a protest demonstration just a year ago are now shouting and gesticulating in front of news cameras... and people who have been part of a scruffy mob on and off for 40-odd years are now sitting grimly in TV studios expressing -- sotto voce -- profound regret that the quality of public discourse has deteriorated so dreadfully just since Obama took office.

And lest you think that my point is going to be that "it's about time!" -- think again. These groups deserve each other. It goes without saying that the liberals who are now in charge of transforming the US into a people's republic deserve all the harassment they get... but the "tea partiers" are not off the hook either. Where were they when all the "entitlements", so beloved of the AARP, were made into iron-clad law? Where were they when Nixon completely cut the dollar loose from any reliable form of backing? Where were they when we invaded Afghanistan, and then Iraq? Where were they when the Neocon/Evangelical/arms makers/Israeli cabal took over our foreign policy? And why are they, by and large, still sending their kids to public schools, and allowing themselves to be exploited by the legal and medical establishments? Huh? Huh? No, I don't have any sympathy for these people -- they are, in the words of Howard Cosell, "too little, too late". Now, the next generation -- that's a different story. They might actually be able to come up with something. They might be capable of acting on principle, and not just when their wallets begin to hurt. But to this current crew, I say -- if you don't like it, just go down to Texas and camp out at George Bush's ranch. I'm sure he or his wife will provide you with some nice, cool lemonade to soothe the pain of your exile.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hot August Sunday With Nuts

On this bright, hazy summer day, Pittsburgh is receiving air quality warnings – the first since last summer, I believe. Quite a contrast with the old days when downtown businessmen had to take an extra shirt to work so they could change at lunchtime. And my building still has some “legacy soot” stuck to the brickwork -- kind of nostalgic, really. But the main point is that no one is complaining about the heat, because, up to now, this has been known as “the year with no real summer”. I expect the community pool will be overstuffed with pale bodies before long... and the ice cream stores might finally be able to turn a profit. So in honor of the occasion – and of the global warming that seems to have spared Southwestern Pennsylvania so far – I offer a few random gleanings from the current press.

Heart of Blackwaterness

New revelations concerning the mercenary outfit formerly known as Blackwater indicate that, as far as those guys were concerned, we really were (and are) waging war on Islam – not to mention the Iraqi people. Hey, way to make friends and influence people, guys. I always suspected there was something highly bogus about the Bush administration's protests that “Islam is a religion of peace” and we invaded Iraq in order to liberate its people from an evil regime. It makes much more sense – in terms of traditional American prejudices – to be over there because we hate Islam and care not a whit about any of its adherents. The Blackwater revelations also make it quite clear that they were not acting in any way contrary to the policies of the Bush/Cheney administration – that, in fact, there was a meeting of the minds and a total symbiosis. All of which might lead one to the naïve belief that Obama, champion of “change”, is going to drastically alter our “special relationship” with outfits like Blackwater, or whatever they're calling themselves these days. But this is, of course, not about to happen – the momentum is too great, the corruption too total, the vested interests too powerful, for Obama or anyone else to make any serious inroads – even if they wanted to, which is doubtful. Thus, we will continue to wage what is now conclusively shown to be a religious war in the Middle East. Any wonder all of our “coalition of the willing” partners are bailing? They know a lunatic folly when they see one.

We're All Nazis Now

This is rich. Here's Abe Foxman, who apparently never sleeps, complaining about “Nazi comparisons made by conservatives in the health care debate”. This is from a guy who has a special voice chip, like a Buddhist prayer wheel, that continually spins out accusations of not only anti-Semitism but also Nazism and being “the Hitler of...” whatever particular country, or part of the world, is being discussed at the time. So what is he complaining about again? Well, it seems that certain conservatives – you know, “birthers” and “teabaggers” as the liberals mockingly call them – have “used Nazi imagery to compare President Obama to Adolf Hitler and congressional Democrats to Nazis” in the context of the health-care debates. Well, as crude as those comparisons may be, the core idea is not far off base – government taking over an entire sector of the economy and dictating policy? Sounds like an earmark of fascism to me. But what does Abe say? “The use of Nazi symbolism is outrageous, offensive and inappropriate... Americans should be able to disagree on the issues without coloring it with Nazi imagery and comparisons to Hitler." Interesting advice coming from a guy who “colors” every single issue imaginable with references to Hitler, Nazis, and anti-Semitism. For the big-time Holocaust pusher, no issue is too remote to be dragged into their core myth, or meme... and no one who disagrees with them on any point, no matter how little relevance it has to 20th Century history, is immune from the “anti-Semitism” smear. The Horst Wessel Song echoes forever in their ears, and they hallucinate it every time they encounter anything but liberalism or Zionism. And if “comparisons to the Nazis are deeply offensive and only serve to diminish and trivialize the extent of the Nazi regime’s crimes against humanity and the murder of six million Jews and millions of others in the Holocaust”, why do Foxman and the ADL spend every waking hour (which, I suspect, is every hour) thinking up more ways to do that very thing? Yeah, I know – Nazi guilt is something that the ADL has a patent on. It can only be used against conservatives, but when someone tries to turn the tables they take great offense. Just another day in the “land of free speech”.

And we should add a comment by the American Jewish Congress: “(The comparisons) reflect a nasty and hyperbolic tendency on our political culture, one which makes reasoned discourse impossible, confuses disagreement with evil, and which makes it impossible to distinguish evil from ordinary politics. ... It behooves all participants in the political process to unequivocally disavow the comparison and to make it plain that peddlers of such noxious comparison have no place in our politics, no matter how large their audiences.” Hmmm... “nasty and hyperbolic”? Ever tried talking to a liberal about global warming? They want to put everyone in jail who disagrees with the myth. Or... how about questioning affirmative action? Yeah, that will bring out a lot of “reasoned discourse”... and how many times have I heard liberals refer to conservatives as “evil”, even though, technically, they don't believe that there even is such a thing as evil? Again, it's simply the process of liberals making up the rules of debate and discourse – rules which guarantee that they will always win, and conservatives will always lose. Nothing especially new about this, except that the bulk of the American people accept it as the way things naturally are, and ought to be.

End Games

But hey, speaking of healthy debates on health care, what about that “end-of-life counseling” provision that's an integral part of the program? It's clearly an idea whose time has come – or so the Obamaites think. What I suspect is that this is the idea that necessitated the “ClintonCare” meetings be top secret. I've always suspected that the euthanasia issue had something to do with all the secrecy... and I can't imagine but what the ObamaCare program is nothing more than a retread of ClintonCare. So... suspicions confirmed, and it's going to be very interesting to listen in on the debate concerning this issue.

Good News Is No News

I suspect the reason the major liberal rags – like the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – are so insipid these days, and spend all their time on “human interest” stories, is that they have nothing more to say. They've won! That is, their political allies have won... socialism is triumphant... the Republicans are in disarray... conservatives are in hiding, waiting out the storm... and the Neocons have gained “strange new respect” in Washington, since they and their allies remain the most powerful political force in the country, especially when it comes to foreign policy (which, you'll notice, has not shifted an inch from Bush's). And this is the perennial drawback of being on the winning side – no longer a part of the loyal (or not) opposition. Nothing to protest... nothing to object to... nothing to debate, even. Just a matter of policing up the battlefield, and consolidating gains. It is the “boredom of victory”, which is never as appealing as the stimulus of defeat. At least defeated parties have a cause; the winners no longer have a cause – all they have is a huge maintenance job. Well, fair enough, I say. Liberals have been complaining for decades that the work of the New Deal was left unfinished; now's their chance to finish that work... and the country as well.

Strange Brew

A Scottish brewery has come out with a “cure” for binge drinking – a 18.2% beer, which, they expect, will be “so strong drinkers will have only one.” Um... yeah. That's about as realistic as believing that one bailout will be enough for a bank, or auto company. No – they'll be back for more before the first one is even digested. But I imagine the Scots beermakers could get jobs in the Obama administration – or vice versa – since they seem to share the same delusion.

It's a Start

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recently published an editorial calling for the legalization of marijuana – and their arguments are well-reasoned, rational, and humane – which is precisely why they will they will never be listened to by anyone in authority. If you take the aggregate of profits from the illegal drug trade – just the marijuana sector, if you like – and add it to the total job generation from the “War on Drugs” -- again just the marijuana sector – it has to add up to one of the biggest businesses in the country. Now how eager do you think the people who benefit from this business – on either side – are going to be to see it all come to a sudden end? And how much influence do you think they have in federal and state legislatures? The answer is that their influence is overwhelming... and anyone who seriously proposes legalization is immediately dismissed as some kind of freak. But, having said all this, it's still encouraging to see a “major metropolitan newspaper” come out in favor of sanity. Maybe someday, in the far distant future, we'll see some change.

Cheese it, the Climate!

Well, at least now we know who is responsible for global warming – it's the citizens of the Alpine villages of Fieschertal and Fiesch (sounds like a law firm, doesn't it?), who started, back in 1678, praying for the local glacier to stop growing and threatening to engulf the town. And even so, the glacier reached its maximum extent as recently as 1862. But guess what – the prayers have apparently worked, and the glacier is now in hasty retreat – too hasty, in fact. So now the villagers are asking permission from the Pope to pray for its non-shrinkage... or, actually, against global warming in general. And I'm sure their intercessions will avail – but, given the history of the matter, we should still see unabated global warming at least up to the year 2193. By that time, you won't have to fire up the old fondue pot to make the favorite Swiss apres-ski snack; the cheese will come pre-heated, bubbling and golden brown.

CEO Dim Sum special

One can only sigh with longing at the news that China has executed – executed, mind you! -- still another corrupt corporate executive, er, government official, er – well, actually they're the same thing over there – on charges of corruption. And look at what a paltry sum is involved – a mere $16 million! That doesn't even count as chump change to the characters over at AIG or Goldman Sachs. But it does, at least, set some precedent for what may happen in the near future, as government and business merge into one entity. If American courts are so enamored of “precedents” set by foreign courts, it's not too hard to imagine a day when corrupt fascists (i.e., people running government-business chimeras) will be sent to the gallows. But in the meantime, they get to keep their jobs, their perks, and their bonuses. Let us all hope for the day when America becomes more like China.

Hi There Taxpayer, New In Town?

And speaking of China, a survey there indicates that “prostitutes are considered more trustworthy than government officials and scientists” -- no surprise, but I doubt if a survey of this type would be feasible in this country. How would people even be able to tell the difference?

A Pause in the Proceedings

The summer doldrums have an impact on even Obama's warp-speed program to forever alter the face of America. The health care issue is being stretched into fall... and of course foreign policy is off the table, as it was always meant to be. We will be fighting for “democracy” in the Middle East long after our own has vanished from the earth. And the Dow is not only above 9,000, but who knows, it might be flirting with 10,000 before long. And guess what, all those outfits that received “bailout” money have discovered that they actually had a lot more cash on hand than they thought – mostly contained in coffee cans, cookie jars, and old jeans pockets. One of the “Big Three” auto industries actually appears to be doing OK, and the others – now that they are government agencies – are no longer accidents waiting to happen. And – most importantly, perhaps – the Obamaites are having a heckuva time actually spending all that “economic stimulus” money. This is a little-known fact about the bureaucracy – as greedy as it is, and as covetous as each agency is of the budgets of other agencies, it's not all that easy, in many cases, to spend a lot of money in a hurry. The reason for this, class, is what is called the “procurement system”, which is basically a sheltered workshop staffed by morons who, nonetheless, feel compelled to show their great and invincible power by “not” approving contracts. As you might guess, this situation is purely a creation of the government itself – it was not imposed on us by a hostile foreign power – but it has had roughly the same impact. And as to the question, can't this inefficient, incompetent arm of the government simply be bypassed, and done away with altogether? The answer is no, and the reasons are legion – but among them is that old enemy of efficiency and competence, “affirmative action”. Now do you understand the problem? So the delicious irony is that newfangled politics are being defeated by old-fangled politics. But the benefit is the the ESP (Economic Stimulus Program) is being held hostage by the very same system, and mind set, that it originated from – which means that the promised consequences, i.e. hyperinflation and the ultimate debasement of the currency, have also been put on hold. So, folks – as the saying goes, “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die (economically)”.

Mighty White of You

Headline in today's paper: “Godfather claims he's dad of Jackson's daughter.” I guess he shouldn't have asked the question, “What do you want from me?” (But, I have to add, “I told you so” -- i.e. that there was not a snowball's chance in hell (so to speak) that those kids were, biologically, Jacko's.)

Gambling Across the Greensward

But above all of this, today is a red-letter day in Pittsburgh – because today is the day the new, sparkling, strategically-located casino opened, just a stone's throw from Heinz Field. Thus, an even newer and better way to part fools from their money. But hey, it's “entertainment”, right? And it's not even gambling, remember – it's “gaming”. And of course, the gambling addiction hot lines were already up and running before the first slot handle was pulled. And one might ask, in these dire economic times, where people even get the money to blow on slot machines? Well, let's put it this way – you pay the rent on your trailer, buy your month's supply of pizza and whiskey, and the rest is available for the bus ride to Pittsburgh and a day or two on the slots. Easy, right? Gosh, maybe these people have the right idea after all...

Nipped by the Budd

A real American hero died on Wednesday – Budd Schulberg, who broke ranks with his leftist/pinko colleagues in show biz and testified against them before the HUAC in 1951. I've always thought the real heroes of that era were not the ones who closed ranks along with the rest of the chic, sophisticated crowd that was dutifully following orders from Moscow, but the ones who, like Schulberg, woke up to what a mortal danger communism was. And, not atypically, he had been a card-carrying communist from 1936 to 1939, along with so many of his peers (in the occupational and ethnic senses) – and he was disillusioned, as were so many of the “useful idiots”, by the Hitler-Stalin pact. Now, in retrospect it is clear that that pact – as temporary as it was – was inevitable. After all, evil will make common cause with evil in order to destroy the good... after which there is the ultimate face-off. But that's not how it was seen at that time – and it's scarcely how it is seen today. There is still more than a hint of nostalgia for “Uncle Joe” and his merry band of red-starred comrades, who fought so heroically at Stalingrad (after they had succeeded in starving out a large part of the population of Ukraine, that is). And Uncle Joe, after all, is the dude who totally slickered an ailing FDR and a pompous Winston Churchill – so he deserves some “ups” for that as well. But guys like Schulberg, fortunately, weren't buying any of it – they had learned their lesson, and were even willing to spill the beans for “evil fascists” like Joe McCarthy. So... RIP, Budd Schulberg, and thank you !!