Sunday, January 31, 2010

America's Mighty Katrinka

I have said, often enough, that the most brilliant thing Obama has done to date is to appoint Hillary Clinton as his secretary of state. It got her out of Congress, out of his face, and – at least for the time being – out of active contention for the presidency. It also made it very difficult for her to spend four years trying to sabotage his administration, out of a need for vengeance – not that anyone so noble and high-minded as Hillary would ever dream of such a low thing, of course.

But her appointment as secretary of state also sent a message -- “loud and clear”, as they say – to both our overseas allies and opponents – that American foreign policy was no longer to be wimpy and limp-wristed... that it was going to be tough, unapologetic, with a take-no-prisoners attitude... and sure enough, with Hillary at the helm, the time-honored notion of “my country, right or wrong” has taken on new life. When one of our allies wanders off the reservation, she marches in, sits down with the leadership, and delivers an ultimatum. When an opponent gets too opponent-like, she reads the riot act. She has an answer for anything North Korea can throw at us – and would have an answer for Al Qaeda, if they were a country rather than a nebulous international organization. Plus, she manages to more or less ignore the U.N., which is certainly a step in the right direction.

So all in all, I give Hillary “major ups” for her rough-riding, rootin'-tootin' performance. And yet, certain ironies creep in from time to time. For instance, an article in yesterday's paper was headlined, “Clinton gets tough with China”. This, in response to China's alleged support of Iran's nuclear weapons program. And how has that “support” been manifest? Why, simply by the fact that China has not helped to “keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons”. In other words, whatever Iran does that we don't like (translation: that Israel doesn't like) is China's fault because they should have done something to prevent it. Hmmm... very interesting. I wonder what would happen if that criterion were applied to our attitude of benign neglect when it comes to the actions of some of our “allies”?

And look what she's threatening them with! “Diplomatic isolation and disruption!” Gee, the last time I checked, it was our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were causing diplomatic isolation and (domestic) disruption for us. You don't suppose she's “projecting” a bit, do you? Or maybe it's just wishful thinking. You take a country that owns the biggest single piece of the American public debt, and put it up against America – who are people more likely to listen to, hmmm? It's like saying, who has more clout in Manhattan, Donald Trump or some street bum?

So... the irony is that Hillary has apparently forgotten who her true friends are, since China was one of the most loyal supporters of her husband and his election campaigns not all that long ago. They “paid to play”, as the saying goes – and play they did. And now she wants to bust their chops because of Iran? It would serve her right if they demanded a refund of all that campaign money. But I forget that Hillary is now speaking for the nation as a whole, and our interests world-wide, and not just for a campaign and an administration of someone she happens to be related to. Maybe I should give her credit for having enlarged her vision... broadened her horizons.

The other angle on this whole Iran thing is – as I may have said in a previous post – it reflects what I see as a coming war between China and Israel. This will not be a direct conflict, of course – it will be a “proxy war” with us serving as Israel's proxy (as we are already doing in Iraq, e.g.) and Iran serving as China's proxy. The battle will have to do with access to Middle East oil, no doubt... but it will also have to do with access to what remains of American wealth. Right now the biggest single ongoing claim on American resources is the one that is made by Israel – which includes all of our military expenditures in the Middle East as well as the broader “War on Terror”, which is a direct outcome of our support of Israel over many years. And if you add up the ripple effects of these factors on the economy overall, the “Israel bill” for this country amounts to many trillions – and there is no sign of any diminution in the amount and speed of the hemorrhage of our wealth to a “cause” that the American people have never – not even once! -- been asked, or allowed, to vote on. On the other hand, the largest holder of American public debt – also known as “money borrowed to pay the Israel bill” -- is China. So... don't you think it's just possible that, sooner or later, these two entities will come to blows over who gets first dibs on American wealth – or what is left of it? Either the “defense” of Israel will bleed us dry eventually – which means that all of China's “paper” will be just that, and nothing more... or, before that happens, China will hold all that paper up in the air and tell Obama, or whoever, that either we butt out of the Middle East or they're going to cash in all their chips – in which case we'll wind up eating cow chips. We've already heard some rumblings from China about “fiscal prudence” -- just trying to protect their interests, mind. But wouldn't fiscal prudence on the part of the U.S. logically begin with our withdrawal from Middle East entanglements? On the other hand, Israel shows no sign of recognizing – or caring – how much our unconditional support is costing us; as far as they're concerned, we can go bankrupt and starve to death as long as that support keeps coming. But this is clearly a short-sighted, and nigh unto insane, point of view. Like a parasite or tumor that eventually kills its host, Israel sooner or later is going to have to accept the fact that as we go, they go – and with very little delay. (The Moslem world is keenly aware of this fact, by the way – which is why they cheer every time there is bad economic news from over here.) Or... maybe they've just long since accepted this fact, and are fatalistically prolonging the agony as long as possible, hoping some miracle (not that they have believed in miracles for quite some time) would sustain them even if we fell by the wayside. But if this is their attitude, it's never expressed; it's more akin to the Israeli position that Jerusalem is “the eternal capital of Israel”. Well, eternity may turn out to be a lot shorter than anyone thinks.

Now, this is not saying that I don't appreciate the ongoing dilemma. The Jews demanded a safe haven after World War II – and who can blame them? But when their demand was grafted on to the already firmly-established Zionist movement, some warning signs should have gone up among the allies – i.e. among the victors in World War II. Clearly, despite the propaganda, Palestine was not “a land without a people” -- and besides, it was surrounded by Arab, largely Moslem states that were hostile toward Zionism (if not to Jews per se). So plunking down the refugees from the Holocaust in the Near East and creating a country for them was, probably, the worst diplomatic/foreign policy decision of all time – and yet we did it, along with our European allies, knowing full well that the State of Israel would be, and remain, on intensive life support from that moment on... and that the arrangement would alienate us from the entire Arab world, and the entire Moslem world... and that there were already fundamentalist/fanatical/militant movements in that region that would gain a new lease on life from the establishment of a Zionist country in their midst. All of this was predictable – although, let's admit, the eventual alignment of Iran with China was a bit less obvious. And yet this too has happened – the way the Soviet Union lined up with the Arabs after having initially – or so it seemed – been fully supportive of the Israel plan. (I think the main reason they lined up with the Arabs was just to be on the opposite side from us – the way we would always wait to see which party, in any given country, the Soviets supported, then automatically start supporting their opponents.)

So the situation today is one from which no one can extract themselves without considerable pain – to themselves or someone else, or both. It would be in our best interests – from a cold, objective point of view – to drop Israel like a hot potato, here and now. But that's not going to happen. And China is not going to back out of the Middle East and its major source of oil. And Iran is not going to give up its nuclear ambitions unless it's forced to through armed invasion – probably because it sees itself as the last, best hope for preserving the Moslem world against domination by the Zionists or their surrogates. So the battle is joined, as it were – and who better to lead the charge than that old battle-ax herself, namely Hillary?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Geezerdom Awaits

If I hadn't already known that my 65th birthday was approaching, I could have figured it out based on the avalanche of advertisements for Medicare plans that has been threatening to burst my mailbox for the past few months. And that, in turn, reminded me that I have, as of today, relinquished my status as an independent, non-privileged American and become a member of a certified victim group, namely “senior citizens” (or “seniors” for short – I guess to include illegal aliens). Ah yes – the blessings of having lost a handful of physical, and maybe one or two mental, faculties – I can now relax and rest in the all-encompassing arms of the Nanny State... that is until Hillary Clinton comes up with a thinly-disguised euthanasia plan for “seniors” whose lives “aren't worth living”, according to... well, basically to her criteria. (“Quality of life”, as we know, is already defined largely on the basis of political convictions.)

But – you'll say – none of this has to make any great difference right away, does it? Can't life go on pretty much as it has been? Ah, but no – because I have also received a stern letter from the Ministry of Geezerdom, which I understand is a newly-formed division of the Department of Health and Human Services. According to this letter – which was duly notarized and arrived with “return receipt requested” -- I have a mere 30 days to implement, and successfully adapt to, the following “positive life changes”. I have, without further delay, to:

o Start wearing my belt up around the bottom of my rib cage;
o Wear lime-green double-knit slacks with a white plastic belt any time I go out of doors between Memorial Day and Labor Day;
o Look longingly into auto showroom windows at white Cadillacs (and buy one at the earliest possible opportunity);
o Take up golf;
o Cease and desist all other athletic activities (shuffleboard optional);
o Plan a move to Florida, or possibly Arizona. (Or I can apply to move to Mexico, but the waiting list has gotten extremely long of late.)
o Open a “passbook savings account” at my local bank (after first telling them what that is);
o Refuse to any longer eat food more flavorful or otherwise challenging than what is available at Boston Market;
o Join the gaggle of loud-mouthed retirees that meets each morning at the McDonald's down the street;
o Start writing cranky letters to the editor of the local paper (I checked that one off years ago);
o Wear a baseball cap whenever outside (OK... I guess I do that now, sort of... );
o Develop a bizarre taste for Lawrence Welk and Guy Lombardo music;
o Stay home on New Year's Eve to watch “New Year's Rockin' Eve” with Dick Clark;
o Do everything that Wilford Brimley tells me to do in all those ads;
o Spend half my waking hours in the drug store, either waiting for a prescription to be filled or browsing the laxative aisle;
o Spend a half hour in front of the canned soup rack whenever I'm at the local supermarket;
o Subscribe to Reader's Digest;
o Spend at least an hour a day watching the Home Shopping Network (and buying the junk they advertise!);
o Actually read the ads in the back of Parade magazine (and send in for some of the products offered!);
o Stop saying “my kid could do that!” at the art museum, and start saying “my grandkid could do that!”
o Start driving no more than 40 mph on the Turnpike (left lane, of course);
o Immediately stop signaling lane changes;
o Start braking for no reason between intersections;
o Get a GPS for my car, but I'm not allowed to figure out how it works;
o Let the IRS do my taxes for me;
o Start using those gadgets that remind me when to take my pills, and how many;
o Start getting haircuts again (but only in places with barber poles run by old Italian guys);
o Replace my current eyeglasses with bifocals (or, if I already have bifocals, with trifocals);
o Get a hearing aid (not that I need one... but if you're a geezer you have to have a hearing aid – that's the law). (And it has to be the kind that emits random loud, high-pitched screeches at the worst possible times – like at a chamber music concert.)
o (speaking of which) Start going to chamber music concerts (this is for geezers with formal education beyond the B.A. -- the others can get by if they attend one or two “concerts in the park” each summer – lawn chairs a must, of course);
o Move into a “retirement center” that offers “independent living”. (Well, if I wanted “independent living”, I'd stay right where I am, wouldn't I?) (And you'll notice, those places are no longer – ever – referred to as “retirement homes”, or, heaven forbid, “rest homes”, “nursing homes”, or just “homes”, or – as we used to say when I was a kid -- “old folks' homes”. Apparently the word “home” no longer has cachet when it comes to seniors. I guess it's a symptom of our uprooted, highway-bound society.)
o (if I were female) Start using “blue rinse”;
o Start going to classes in “senior centers” to learn to do things that would have bored me silly when I was four years old;
o Start taking day trips to casinos (preferably in buses driven by alcoholics or guys who forgot to take their narcolepsy meds);
o Only watch movies made between the beginning of the Hays Code and “The Pawnbroker” -- preferably ones starring Doris Day. (I would have said “or Rock Hudson”, but he turned out to have been a very bad boy.)
o Put the training wheels back on my bicycle;
o (if I could afford it) Buy a motor home the size of a tour bus and drive it down to the Keys every fall and back every spring. (The rest of the time it sits in the driveway, tantalizing the neighbors.)
o (optional) Buy a house in Florida on a canal and put out crab traps every morning;
o (optional) Buy a travel trailer in Winter Park and sit in it watching TV with the fan on;
o Trade in all acoustic instruments for an electronic keyboard (with automated percussion);
o (if I were female) Start collecting souvenir spoons (or plates);
o (for extra credit) Take up ham radio;
o Buy as many appliances as possible with “remotes”, then refuse to learn how to use them;
o Get one of those phones with Really Big Numbers (and an amplifier);
o When on the road, eat only at Cracker Barrel (and spend a minimum of 40 minutes in the gift shop each time I go in );
o When at a tourist attraction, spend all my time in the gift shop or restroom;
o Take up swing dancing (now that I'm too old to do it);
o When talking with other geezers, strictly limit the subject matter to: bodily functions, medications, family restaurants, and gift shops at tourist attractions;
o Admit that I'm too old to talk about sports, politics, or automation without being laughable;
o Quit reading any books that are not available in large-print editions;
o Quit listening to any “books on tape” that are not available in “shouting” versions;
o Buy a lifetime (heh heh) pass to Disney World;
o Only eat in restaurants that feature “early bird specials” at dinnertime (you know – served at an hour when most people are still eating lunch);
o Start going to bed before it gets entirely dark;
o Start getting up at night and shuffling aimlessly around for an hour or so;
o Start writing “reminder notes” for everything – then losing the notes;
o Start worrying about my lawn. I mean really worrying... like all the time. (Fortunately, I don't have a lawn, but in that case you're allowed to vicariously worry about other people's lawns.)
o (if married) See to that my wife has a nasty little dog that I have to take on humiliating “walks” at least twice a day;
o Do most of my window shopping at the 7-11;
o Start flying first class – even if it's only from Cleveland to Cincinnati;
o Stop using trains and start using buses (trolleys permitted, but only on Sundays);
o Start having lunch at the sample tables at Wal-Mart;
o (if a veteran) Join a veterans' organization – but it has to be one with a bar that opens at 9 AM;
o Wait in a long line at the post office to buy one stamp (hey – there's all the time in the world, right?);
o Get a job at a polling place, or as a school crossing guard, census taker, “meter maid”, or Wal-Mart greeter;
o Get rid of all my original artwork and start buying the shlock they sell in “home furnishings” stores;
o (if I were female) Start covering all my furniture in plastic;
o Keep the house (and car) at 85 degrees in the winter and 65 degrees in the summer;
o Become addicted to ice cream (or some other “comfort food” from childhood);
o Run the dishwasher after every meal (or, alternatively, only do dishes once every two weeks – but nothing in between);
o (if I were female) Start saving coupons, and get them out in the checkout line at the busiest time of day;
o Start buying lottery tickets (preferably when I'm at the head of a long line at the 7-11);
o Fail to realize that my refrigerator is full of stuff that could fully stock a biological warfare laboratory;
o Change my religion to something non-threatening. Like Methodism or something.

Well, that's the list so far – but it adds that “supplements may be appended at any time without notice”. So one can see that geezers in our society are heavily-laden in terms of what is expected – much more so than children, teenagers, or working people. And certainly much more than rich people who can hire someone else to do all that stuff for them. And there were other words of warning as well. If caught north of the Mason-Dixon Line any time during “high season” in Florida, I will be subject to immediate arrest and deportation. And showing an interest in the opposite sex is an occasion for either arrest or revulsion. And because I'm now a member of a certified victim group, I'm not allowed to publicly express any political opinion other than full support of all government entitlement programs.

So really, it's all too depressing. There is no longer a single act that does not have, potentially, dire consequences. For example, after a lifetime of worrying about what I put in my mouth, now I have to worry about what comes (or doesn't come) out of my butt. Just getting behind the wheel of a car puts me in the same category as a possessor of WMDs. And wow, I know I've blown it when I reflect that I could not have been dismissed from my old job because of age, but there is no possible way I could now get it back – or anything comparable. Yes, truly, we are living in a society of denial when it comes to aging. The youth cult marches on – even though many of the early beneficiaries are starting to look like re-animated corpses themselves. Extended families – especially when living all under one roof – are derided as “old-fashioned”, “old-world”, and “peasant-like”. And our age-stratification has reached the point where there is almost total segregation of people based on age and marital status (if not gender). Once one reaches retirement age, it really is in poor taste to stay on the job, and if one goes ahead and retires it's considered in poor taste to simply remain in the same place; one must join the long march of humanity to the skin cancer.... er, I mean “sunshine” zone.

But there is, I'm happy to say, a ray of hope on the horizon. As bleak and unforgiving as geezerhood is, if one lives through it there is the sun-lit upland of “super-geezerhood”. That's the age (starting at around 80) when no one any longer gives a damn what you do... so you can go back to doing pretty much as you please, including (but not limited to) smoking and drinking. (And if you're lucky, they may even stop trying to sell you life insurance. Which comedian was it who said, “I'm at the age when I don't even buy green bananas.”) So bear up, my fellow “seniors” -- after this long march through the lonesome valley, a world of renewed pleasure awaits.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Speaking Truth to Non-Power

I'm boycotting President Obama's State of the Union address tonight – not because he's not appealing; in fact, he's the first president in decades who hasn't made me wince, and who I could stand listening to. And it's certainly not that he isn't intelligent, or even that at least some of his intentions aren't good. It's that, basically, he – like so many of his predecessors – is simply a puppet, and a tool of the established power structure. What this means is that he won't say anything that they disapprove of – and believe me, this speech is probably one of the most heavily-vetted in history. I suppose I shouldn't complain, since our “system”, such as it is, still values the opinions and approval of the “little people”, in some way. A completely totalitarian or fascist system wouldn't give a damn how people felt, or what they thought, as long as they obeyed orders. So in that sense, one could say that “public opinion” is the last vestige of democracy, even if it amounts to no more than a tool of the power structure. Since any important election is fixed – not necessarily in terms of outcome but in terms of who is allowed to run for office – and since all domestic and foreign policy matters are worked out in the proverbial smoke-filled rooms – the ability to openly express most, if not all, opinions constitutes an interesting remnant, and one which seems to be tolerated by the Regime, since it doesn't really have any impact on the agenda. There is, let's admit, a bit of subtlety in a government that lets people say pretty much what they like, and go through the charade of voting, but then proceeds to do whatever it damn pleases – this is something a bit new in history, since up to now it has usually been the case that freedom looked free and slavery looked like slavery – as I discussed a few posts back. But now we have slavery that looks like freedom – or at least is represented as such – and this seems to contribute more to the convenience and efficiency of the Regime than brute force would (not that that is entirely lacking either). Again, it's the soma of the modern world – a delicate combination of anesthetic and intimidation, along with institutionalized ignorance (the media, public schools, etc.) and plenty of creature comforts and distractions to ease the pain. And let's admit, even notoriously brutal, totalitarian regimes have found it necessary, from time to time, to mount a podium and harangue the citizenry about how good life is under their rule, and how miserable things are everywhere else – and therefore unquestioning obedience is called for, “or else”. Ideas retain their power because every citizen cannot be supplied with a whip-wielding taskmaster 24 hours a day. Sooner or later we must have some level of belief and confidence... or, failing that, intimidation and fear combined with resignation... but not to the extent of total despair, which might cause people to simply lay their burdens down (unless they belong to the class that had no burdens in the first place). No, that would be a bit much even for the connoisseurs of misery, of whom the 20th Century saw such great numbers. And so it is, from day to day, the choice of the Regime as to how much of the total motivation of the citizenry falls in the “carrot” vs. “stick” column – and also how much of the “stick” is made up of fear of known enemies (e.g. communism), unknown enemies (e.g., “terrorism”), or the government itself – not to mention that new crop of fears based on known and anticipated environmental disasters – a source of fear that has now reached levels not experienced since the Black Plague. (The 19th Century had tuberculosis, the 20th had cancer, and now we have a veritable market basket of plagues and afflictions that “only the government” can fend off.)

So what is Obama going to talk about tonight? Will there be any surprises? Of course not. The “hope and change” parade float has been looking pretty flaccid of late, and I doubt if he can do much to re-inflate it. Of course, he will trot out the usual list of ills, and the usual suspects – mainly you! The citizen! -- but his proposals will already be colored with the pale hues of doom and futility. As an example, one of the more earth-shaking proposals will be a “freeze on government spending” for – are you ready? -- “non-defense discretionary” programs. Do you realize how little those add up to, in terms of the total budget? The vast bulk is either defense (formerly – and more honestly -- called “war”) or entitlements (which are not discretionary, i.e. no power on earth can do anything but add more). So a freeze would be working at the margins, and would not even begin to tackle the real problem – and yet that's all he can offer. He certainly can't offer to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan (and wherever else we choose to go next) because he has been told, in no uncertain terms, that those efforts are off the table, non-negotiable, and are not to be touched. Can he stop the “bailouts” and the “economic stimulus plan”, even though those programs are rife with corruption and based on fraudulent premises? No – even though, as he and his subordinates claim many times a day, he “inherited this mess” -- because he has now asserted ownership and stewardship over those plans and, at least by implication, the entire economy. Can he change course on health care? Not in any significant way, since that mountain of programs has already accumulated a vast army of vested interests that will not allow it to be neglected for one moment longer. And speaking of vast armies of vested interests, how about all the programs dedicated to ending “global warming”? Unh unh – that ship has sailed. Whether global warming is entirely a hoax, or at least a hoax in some major respects, the die is cast – we're going to be pursuing that particular snipe hunt for decades to come.

So really, nothing will change, and the rhetoric will not change either. The message will continue to be that the citizenry are helpless victims (although some are more helpless, and worse victims, than others), and that only the government can keep total disaster and annihilation from overtaking our republic. By which it is meant that we have to keep channeling wealth from the middle class to the wealthy (and politically connected) while keeping a few crumbs around to toss to the “poor and underprivileged”. And you will hear – I have no doubt – many references to the beleaguered middle class, and how they need a break. Don't believe it! The middle class has a big, fat bull's eye on its head at this point – put there by the liberal elites – and nothing Obama says, or seems to promise, is going to erase it. The battle, as I've often said, is not simply one of economics; it is also a class war, and a culture war, and a war of values, attitudes, and life styles – and the American middle class is slated for extermination on all of these fronts. It has already been fatally compromised, in fact, by the government's takeover, over the past few decades, of large sectors of the economy... and by its agenda-laden regulation of what remains, e.g. small business and small farming. The final blow – which is in the works even as we speak – will be health care. Once the government gets to decide who lives and who dies, it's going to have a profound effect on people's attitudes – toward government. When health care becomes a political tool, the potential for oppression is already there; it might not be manifest right away, but it will be hanging over our heads. What possible use will the Regime have for middle-class “values” when it puts the finishing touches on the two-class society of the New World Order – a totalitarian state consisting of the controlling elite and a vast, faceless mass of serfs? This is the “dystopia” that so many writers have warned us about – and I can see it coming closer each day. The difference, I guess, is that in the novels and movies (and comic strips, for that matter) it's colorful, and dramatic, and actually kind of interesting – whereas in real life it promises to partake of what has been termed “the banality of evil”. It won't be interesting, and it won't be fun, and it won't be picturesque. It will be a kind of ragged, shopworn version of the Scandinavian welfare state... you know, that system that has produced one of the world's highest suicide rates. And yet this is the bottom line of virtually everything that has been proposed and enacted by liberals ever since the New Deal – and is now being accelerated by the Obama administration. And their excuse? “Capitalism” has failed – and so collectivism is the only alternative. Will his speech tonight include some token pot shots at Wall Street, the banks, the auto industry, real estate, etc.? Again – he might be allowed to huff and puff a bit because it looks good on camera. But he knows who's really in charge, and he knows that he's been bought every bit as completely as his African ancestors might have been. And I even suspect that he is starting to resent the fact, as it dawns, more and more each day, how little power he actually has. He is showing signs of stress – but not for the reasons usually offered (“frustration at not getting his programs enacted in a timely manner”). I think it's more like: “Wow, I'm just a figurehead, aren't I? Just like “W”... just like all those other clowns. I thought I might have some real options... some real choices... but apparently not. So what do I do – blow the lid off the whole thing, and expose the massive hoax? But that would never do; I must soldier on, otherwise what becomes of my image... my legacy?”

I have yet to witness the tongue of a politician clinging to the roof of his mouth after he has delivered lines that he knows full well are complete fabrications. I guess that's just in their makeup; it goes with the job, and if they couldn't handle it they'd be in some other line of work. What it does to their dignity and self-respect is another matter. I don't think we'll find out the answer from Obama tonight, or for the next three years. Hopefully he'll wind up with more insight than Bush, who left office every bit as befuddled as he was when he went in. But that insight won't do him, or any of the rest of us, much good. He is only the most prominent captive -- the highest-ranking slave -- of the powers that be.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Country We Love to Hate

Someone said, many years ago, that liberals love mankind but hate people. Which is to say, they love “the people” -- in the abstract – but when it comes to dealing with the real thing they tend to retreat into their high-rise redoubts and college campuses. This is especially true when it comes to the middle class – universally despised by the liberal elites, while they pretend to honor and respect “the poor” and “the underprivileged”. Well – it's hard to see how you can love the poor but hate the middle class, since isn't the idea of any social welfare program to promote, sooner or later, everyone from the ranks of the poor into the ranks of the middle class? What will the liberals do when that happens? No one left to love, and a whole lot more people to hate. Well – I wouldn't worry, since this is unlikely to happen very soon, if ever – thanks to those same social welfare programs, that seem to perpetuate poverty and the poverty mindset almost as if that were the intent. (Ahem!) But in any case, liberals down through the years have had about as much use for normal working Americans as Boy George has for suits off the rack at Sears. And it feeds into that liberal dream of building a majority out of a gaggle of oppressed minorities – which actually works some of the time, except that the immediate result is likely to be squabbling among those minorities as to who gets the biggest piece of the spoils pie.

All the above is in ample evidence in the Obama administration and its slowly-dwindling band of supporters. Looking forward to another year of blaming George W. Bush for all of his troubles, Obama seems to be morphing slowly – like a cheap special effect in a B-grade horror film – into Jimmy Carter, a phenomenon that I predicted way back prior to the election. He's starting to look, act, and talk in a way that is bitter... resentful... and verging on self-pity. Clearly, he needs a victory -- an unarguable mark on the plus side of the score sheet – and, just in the nick of time, Haiti comes along to save the day. Ah yes – the bitterest fruit of the discovery of America, the place where things could not possibly have gotten any worse... except that they have. And I have to recall an interview with an American soldier who had served in both Haiti and Somalia – he said that Haiti was much better off; no comparison. So clearly the place was not yet at the bottom – and may not be yet. After all, we could always bring back Baby Doc.

And that's the point – or at least “a” point. We've been mucking about in Haiti for decades now – it's sort of been under our thumb, but sort of autonomous at the same time. One minute we're occupying it for some reason, the next we're leaving, and the next (like now) we're headed back in. It's a sort of cat and mouse game -- “approach-avoidance” as they say in learning theory. But through it all, nothing ever really changes, and the mystery is why. I mean, we could have gone in, set up shop, and simply stayed there decades ago... and more or less made Haiti into an American colony, or dependency (which it basically is anyway – but make it official)... and sort of run it the way we run... oh, let's say the DC city government. In other words, benign neglect with a paternalistic tone. But there would at least have been a sort of safety net (and who knows, maybe even building codes).

And why should we have done this? Why Haiti, of all places? Well – it is, after all, the first black republic, which is braggable, and you'd think we might have done more to support the notion of blacks being capable of self-governance. (Yeah, I know, it's a contradiction – we go in and help them out so they can show they can govern themselves. But we do that everywhere else, so why not there?) Secondly, it's fairly close to the U.S., unlike most black enclaves around the world. And let's not forget that it's a source of incredibly cheap labor – a fact that some American businesses have taken advantage of over the years. Plus, it could have turned into another pre-Castro Cuba – you know, basically owned and operated by the Mafia for their own fun and profit. That would have removed some of the residual sting from Castro's takeover of Cuba and expulsion of the mob.

What I'm saying, in a sense, is that Haiti was ripe for the picking, and has been for years – nay, decades. So why wasn't it picked? And don't give me any lame blather about “self-determination”; that has never been very high on our list of values when it comes to foreign relations. Self-determination is great as long as we do the determining – or at least have veto power. Hey – I'm not saying we could have made a silk purse out of a sow's ear, or created a “model Latin American democracy” along the lines of Costa Rica – just that things never had to get as bad as they did. Or did they?

I've pointed out before that one of the more perverse impulses that Americans seem to have is one they inherited from their Puritan forebears – namely to insure that there is always, somewhere, someone more miserable than ourselves. This constitutes proof of our merit and of the lack of merit of the other party; in other words, it serves as a reliable morale-booster in times of trouble and uncertainty (which means, basically, at all times). I offer as Exhibit A for this theory the bloated prison system in this country, which is kept that way primarily based on the “war on drugs”. And there are other examples on the domestic side – but how about when it comes to other countries? Certainly a motive this powerful, that has had such a negative effect on the quality of our national life, could not be confined just to our own shores; we have had to figure out ways of making, or keeping, other peoples and nations miserable as well – and my suggestion is that Haiti is the poster child for this impulse, and has been for many generations. As long as they are there – as long as they exist – even the most miserable American can, if he chooses, lift up his eyes to the heavens and give thanks that “at least this isn't Haiti”... or “at least I'm not in Haiti”... the same way liberals give thanks, on a daily basis, that they don't live in Mississippi.

But there are other payoffs as well, in addition to the guaranteed feeling of superiority anyone can tap into by merely contemplating the fate of “our little black brothers” on Hispaniola. There is also the warm, fuzzy feeling one gets from “helping out” -- through countless charities, not to mention government programs and U.N. programs (which are also, by and large, U.S. government programs). And I'm not saying that these things are useless or should not be done – but they can provide a false sense of virtue, especially when one considers that – once again – nothing down there ever seems to change, or get better. We are, as the saying goes, giving people fish but not teaching them to fish. Are all of our aid programs nothing more than a form of methadone – keeping things from getting worse but not a cure, and in fact serving to maintain the habit? Should we have been giving more all these years – or, despairing, have given less, based on a cynical Darwinian premise that there are some places – and some peoples – that are simply not meant to survive?

Ah, but – lest we forget – there is another motive that may, in fact, have been the predominant one all this time, and that's guilt for slavery. Haiti was, after all, originally settled by African slaves, and what better way to show solidarity than to maintain them in perpetuity (albeit in considerable misery)? Clearly, all that has been done for black Americans is not enough – we must also reach out to other victims wherever they may be, and Haiti is an obvious choice, since it is close by and overwhelmingly black (rather than confusingly, or “kind of” black like most of the West Indies). But again, we're not solving anything – just keeping people in a state of dependency, not unlike the black underclass in this country – and again we're confronted with the spectre of the Puritan concept of merit, which is, of course, heavily correlated with not only creed but also race. What, in fact, could have been more offensive to our Puritan forefathers than an entire country of “blackamoors” who were, on top of everything else, Catholic? Clearly these people are cursed – as Pat Roberton says – and their torment has to be perpetuated as long as possible, as a lesson not only for themselves but for others.

And of course, there are clear racist reasons for the treatment Haiti has received over the years. As the first black republic on earth, it could have... should have... “been a contender”. But what racist wants to see a country of blacks, run by blacks, succeed? None that I know of. Much better to have it be a pathetic, failed country on perpetual life support to serve as proof that blacks are incapable of self-governance. And allowing it to be governed for decades by a claque of vicious, corrupt buffoons just adds weight to the case.

So for the Haitians, it has been a perfect storm – the Puritans and racists want to keep them in bondage simply because they are black (and Catholic), and the liberals want to keep them in bondage because... well, because they need to live in a world where there are plenty of people poorer and more desperate than themselves, because only then can they exercise their paternalistic and “charitable” impulses – which are, in my opinion, often no more than a thinly-disguised, more politically acceptable version of the Puritan obsession with merit.

So what I say is this. Don't despise charity, the way Nietzsche would have done – or Hitler and his crew. But at the same time, don't expect anything to change, because Haiti was chosen, many years ago, to serve the purposes outlined above. If our reasons for keeping Haiti the way it is do not change, then Haiti will not change – it's far too poor and powerless to rebel against the crushing weight of all of its “friends”.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Casual Observations

Teddy's Mortmain Manque

Wow, what a shock. And here I thought the “Kennedy seat” had been set aside, by state law, as one that could only be occupied by a Kennedy, in perpetuity. I mean, gosh, after all, they are “America's royal family” -- and who else do you know who lives in a “compound” (other than military prisoners)? Maybe it's just as well, though – I mean, the Kennedy DNA has pretty much thinned out over the last couple of generations, to the point where, if it weren't for all that money they “might” qualify as day-laborers. Still, it is a curious thing to see the last hereditary Senate seat being taken over by a member of the opposing party. Not that it will make any difference, of course -- nothing is more pathetic than the sight of Americans, when they "get mad" at the Democrats, voting for the Republicans -- or vice versa. The fact is, they are voting for the Regime in either case. How long until they get so mad that they simply vote both the major parties out of power -- for keeps?

The Hands of Fate

If I were Obama, I'd be insulted. OK, so the “Doomsday Clock” has just been set back one whole minute. Whoop-de-freakin-do! It still shows 6 minutes to midnight – that's six minutes out of (I assume, though they never say) 12 hours... in other words, 1/120... in other words, we are still 119/120 of the way to Doomsday. And here I would have thought the election of Obama would set the Doomsday Clock back... oh, an hour at least, maybe even more. Note that the farthest back it was ever set was 17 minutes, i.e. 11:43 PM – and that was in 1991. So are you telling me that things today are 65% (11/17) worse than they were in 1991? I don't believe it. The last time we were at the 6 minute mark was 1988 – when the Soviet Union was still a going concern. I think some recalibration is in order – sort of along the same lines as the Nobel Prize Committee. You know, an award for “most likely to succeed” or something.

The Party's Not Over

Lest you think that all are suffering from the recession – I beg to differ, at least when it comes to the public sector, and more specifically the public schools, who seem to be rolling in it when everyone else is patching clothes and darning socks. The Mt. Lebanon High School – chronically scandal-plagued, even though it is located in an upscale suburb of Pittsburgh – has “capped” the cost of a proposed renovation at $113.3 million. Yes, you heard it right – that's not the cost of an entire new school, simply the cost of “renovating” what they already have. Among other benefits, this, um, economic stimulus, suburban-style, would raise residential property taxes by 45% over the next five years. That's what those chumps get for living in a crime-free neighborhood! And this is for the benefit of 1900 students (the current enrollment) – which comes out to approx. $60,000 per head. Heck, for that amount you could buy them each a two-bedroom condo. (Or enroll them in a private school for all four years.) And – this is the best part -- “the renovation would reduce the size of the school” -- thus providing a new meaning for the phrase "less is more". Yes – the public school Neros continue to fiddle while Rome burns, and the public seems helpless to do anything about it. And meantime – just a note in passing – the Gulf Tower, in downtown Pittsburgh, 44 floors in all, is planning an upgrade. Price tag? $1 million. Just shows you what the profit motive can accomplish, as opposed to the bottomless pit of taxpayer funding.

The Bungler of Bengal

The recent death of an eminent Indian politician caused a bit of comment on the subcontinent. It seems that Jyoti Basu was, for many years, the ruler of the state of West Bengal -- “at the head of an elected communist government.” Well, for one thing, it should at least be admitted that it is possible to have an elected communist government. So far so good. And, predictably – like so many of his counterparts in Latin America – “he remained popular with the rural masses” because of his efforts at land reform (which were probably about as sophisticated as those of Robert Mugabe). But here's the key sentence – the “kicker” as I like to call it: “Basu and his Communist Party of India (Marxist) failed to attract the investment flowing into regions like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka." What? You mean a communist government – elected or not – failed to “attract investment”? Gee, I wonder why. Could it be because all communist governments to date have made a specialty out of confiscating capital and punishing the productive? A more sober assessment of Basu was offered by an academic official: Basu “presided over... the underdevelopment of West Bengal for almost (a) quarter of a century”. That's beautiful -- “presided over underdevelopment”. But isn't that what always happens? Isn't that what Castro's been up to all these years... and the Kims of North Korea... and now Venezuela's Chavez? Don't they always wind up presiding over, basically, misery – because it's misery that keeps them in power? And don't they, in this respect as well as many others, resemble our own liberals and Democrats?

Safety Last

And here's another surprise. “Safety outranks liberty in poll.” “Americans lean more toward giving up some of their liberty in exchange for more safety.” And, 51% agreed that “it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.” Now, this is from an article that focuses on air safety... but you know darn well that the findings, in principle, apply across the board – and, in fact, have for a quite a few decades – since way before 9-11. (I say it started with the New Deal -- just like almost everything else that's bad.) If all it were about was how large a bottle of shampoo you could pack in your carry-on, it would hardly be a problem. As far as air travel is concerned – for one thing, it's not a “civil right”. It's more like a business deal between you and the airline, and if you don't like their terms, you have the option of simply not flying. I honestly don't know what all the fuss is about. But on the other hand, I wonder why there isn't more fuss about all the erosions of liberty resulting, as night follows day, from the events of 9-11 and the government's response to them. A hard-core conspiracy theorist might say that the events of 9-11 were designed to provide the government with an excuse to relieve Americans of most of their few remaining freedoms; I would say they weren't designed that way so much as that they constituted sort of windfall for those of a totalitarian bent. And of course, the “war on terror” that followed provides an ongoing excuse for any number of intrusive measures -- “temporary” of course, just until the “war on terror” is won, which – by definition – it never will be. And the reason the “war on terror” is particularly suited for this purposes is that it's a war on everything and nothing – on “terror” -- which is itself an abstraction, but which can “occur” anywhere on earth at any time... and not in, or from, any particular country or geographical area, where there might be a chance of at least defining what would constitute “victory”. But how can we know whether we have succeeded in killing, or arresting, all the “terrorists”? We can't. So, since there is no criterion for victory, i.e. for stopping the war, it has to go on as far into the future as anyone can see. What could be more ideal for the turning of “temporary” restrictions on freedom into permanent ones? It's much better than a real war... or a recession, or a depression. It's better than a natural disaster, or a plague or epidemic. It's sort of like saying that the government has to protect us from Men From Mars. They're out there – we're certain of that. And they could attack at any time. Just try proving otherwise! Can you prove there are no Men From Mars, or that they aren't about to mount an attack? Of course not. So shut up and make obeisance to the Patriot Act.

For Art's Sake!

In other art news -- just about the time you thought all the art that had been stolen from Jews by the Nazis – or acquired through “forced sale” -- had been recovered, some troublemakers had to point out that the Bolsheviks pulled a similar stunt on prosperous Russians 20 years earlier. Yes, the time has arrived for a bevy of new claims, not against the Nazis this time – or the persons who wound up with that art work – but against Russia, and the persons who wound up with the earlier stolen art. And the amounts in question are not trivial -- “tens of billions of dollars”, according to a recent article. But this time the opposition is formidable – in one prominent case, that of a Van Gogh painting, it's Yale University, which claims that Russian “privitization” of the painting – i.e. its sale to Yale – was legal, even though the painting was originally confiscated from a private owner by the Bolsheviks.

I guess the problem here – though no one will admit it – is not unlike the issue of the “right of conquest” when it comes to lands and resources. How far back in history do we need to go in search of reparations? American blacks seem to think they're still entitled to reparations for slavery, for example. And if this is so, how about the Indians? (Are the casinos enough?) How about reparations to Africa and parts of Asia and Latin America for European colonialism? But let's be reasonable – let's limit it to the 20th Century. So if the Jews are entitled to reparations, why aren't the descendants of the wealthy Russians who owed these paintings and other objets d'art prior to the revolution? The answer, of course – as I'm sure you've already guessed – is political. The Nazis lost the war, after all, whereas the Bolsheviks – or their successors – won (as did the Jews -- although it's seldom represented that way). And in fact, the present-day Russian regime still has continuity, of a sort, with Lenin and the gang. So it is tough getting reparations out of the winning side... not that that reasoning has had any impact on the call for reparations for slavery (since the North was the winning side, and by extension most of the U.S. except for the Old South). And in fact, Germany never paid reparations for Nazism either, once they had given up most of their territory and millions of their people had been enslaved by the Soviets. So the whole thing is very much a mixed bag. In any case, if the lawsuit surrounding the Van Gogh succeeds – and don't forget, they have Yale to beat – we'll see thousands more just like it springing up, and another full employment act for lawyers, just as the Jewish claims against the Nazis are winding down. And who is to say what's “fair” in this situation? Again, I cite the right of conquest – sooner or later you have to draw a line and say, we're going to be satisfied with this state of affairs, period. Otherwise our humanistic impulses – our zeal for “fairness” -- are going to lead to a state of total chaos (as they have threatened to do with, e.g., “equal opportunity” and “affirmative action” and racial quotas).

De gustibus...

It can be funny when people say things without actually saying them. For instance, there is the recent statement of a member of Italy's “art police” regarding the frequency of forgeries of the classics vs. of works of more recent vintage. It turns out that most of the falsifications circulating these days are of modern art “probably because the art of today is easier to falsify with fewer technicalities.” Which is a very kind way of saying “probably because the art of today is, by and large, trash, done by hacks, charlatans, and poseurs with little or no technical skill.” And if you turn to the high-end art market during these troubled times, it turns out that, yes, the classics are “in” again, and many of the more, um, exotic creations of the postwar era are in much less demand. And this, in turn, is because people who purchase high-end art are divided, basically, into two categories – those who purchase art they like, and those who purchase art they think they _ought_ to like – or (and this is key) art that they know is ridiculous but that constitutes a good investment. You see, the art world is, basically, a house of cards held together by the opinions of “critics” and museum curators who seem to have entered into a conspiracy to not only elevate that which has no lasting value on high, but to denigrate and trivialize all that went before – especially before that date upon which they were born, with all of their exquisite and sophisticated (not to say decadent) taste. So – their efforts create demand, which causes prices to rise, just as in any market. But the price system is based not only on alleged “taste” but also on investment value – in fact, one suspects, it's based more on investment value than on taste. The problem is, when times are tough (even for the rich) people tend to focus more on things that have intrinsic value – which classical art is thought to have, whereas “modern” art... well, maybe and maybe not. In other words, financial challenges tend to make people get back to basics – even in the rarefied art world. So all of a sudden, that “investment” in a work by a still-living Londoner starts to look a bit ill-advised, compared to something by a, let's say, long-dead Italian. Plus – as the art police know – the modern stuff is much more easily forged. (And, BTW, since most of Warhol's stuff was done in his “factory” by a large staff, and mass-produced in a way (since it was prints and not paintings), how does one define the “genuine” Warhol material vs. forgeries or copies? Just wondering... ) In any case, it's good to see another positive "unanticipated consequence" of the recession -- namely a revival of good taste as a factor in art acquisitions. Now if only we could throw the rascals out for good... but I guess they have to make a living somehow.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Don't Blame Me, I Just Work Here

Herewith, a brief note concerning the “blame line” for the “undies bomber” who threatened to out-Grinch the Grinch on Christmas Day. “Intelligence and State Department officials should be disciplined for their roles in a chain of failures”, etc. And, “... some people have to be held accountable”... and those involved “have to be disciplined so that (the mistakes) never happen again.” So... who are the solons who are making these stern pronouncements? Why, none other than Senator Joe Lieberman, Israel's man in Washington, and Senator John McCain – who would have had us nuking Tehran before he dropped in on his first inaugural ball. Yes – these are what pass for the voices of responsibility these days. Plus – aside from the massive hypocrisy, you would think they would know better than to expect any government official – ever, at any time in history – to take responsibility for anything – I mean anything bad. Either these guys are amazingly na├»ve, or they're just pretending – the way the Republicans pretended to be upset about Harry Reid's comments about Obama. Is it possible that they think the primary task of the intelligence agencies and the State Department is to protect Americans and American interests? Don't we have sufficient proof that this is not – assuming it ever was – the case? No, these are self-contained empires where growth in staffing, power, influence, and especially budgets is Job One – and the stated mission (you know, the reason they were set up in the first place) is... well, it's not even on the map most of the time. The State Department specializes in getting us embroiled in conflicts all over the world, that have no discernible bearing on national security or welfare... and where they can't get us into an actual shooting war, they manage to offend everyone so severely that it amounts to the same thing. And as for the intelligence agencies, well! They basically constitute a parallel government – the difference being, none of the officials is elected or subject to recall by the citizenry, and the term of office is... however long they feel like staying, basically. They play the intelligence “game” -- but when the bottom line spells disaster, they simply shrug and go on about their business, basically daring anyone to try cutting back on their resources. And this is what has happened again, for the umpteenth time, in Undiesbombergate – it was “oops, my bad”, or not even “my bad”, but just “oops” -- and barely that. And there's nothing like a narrowly-averted disaster (even when they did nothing to avert it) to bring out paeans of praise for the “intelligence community” and its “brave and dedicated personnel” from the president and Congress. (Almost makes you think the intel types “have something” on all these clowns, doesn't it? Well, they do.) So yeah – no one is going to go in and clean house. As a European diplomat once said, “Never explain; never apologize”. Of all the advice ever to come down the pike, this is the one that has been taken to heart the most by the intel and State types. Never explain – because the unwashed wouldn't understand – and never apologize – because that just weakens your position, and what do we want, to have to apologize every time something goes wrong? Forget it! So the wagons get circled, the wall of silence goes up, and goofballs like Lieberman and McCain are left scratching their wrinkled heads. But at least McCain showed a bit of insight when he called the ploy “we're all responsible therefore no one is responsible”. Yeah, John – it's called “the government”. Get used to it; you wanted to run it, remember?

Compadre, Can You Spare a Bolivar?

You know, I think we've been too harsh with our various institutions of higher education when they offer courses and majors in things like “Marxist Studies”. In fact, I think those programs should be supported and promoted by the government (I nominate HUD, they've got nothing better to do) – with one provision, namely that anyone taking a course in Marxist studies be required to spend the entire semester in Venezuela. Here is a country that is, truly, standing athwart history and shouting, “Let's give it (communism) one more chance.” And as it melts down – economically and socially – with each new, but purely Marxist, initiative by Hugo Chavez, it can provide a vivid case study or “lab session” for all of our aspiring Marxists up here on the chilly side of the Rio Grande. For example, the shout “Buy, buy, the world is going to die” recently echoed through the streets of Caracas when Chavez announced a devaluation of the currency. Can you imagine anything like that happening here? (Actually, I can – and I get a feeling it will.) As we all know, currency devaluation is one of the premier weapons any establishment can wield against a nation's wealth – mainly the wealth of people who are holding on to currency, which means the middle class (since the lower classes are broke and the upper classes have, um, “diversified”). And we also know that something very similar – qualitatively if not in terms of velocity – is happening here, and in fact has been for decades. And it's easy enough to say, well, it's not the currency that's important, but the standard of living – i.e. what said currency will buy. True enough – but what has the Caracasinos (is that right?) in a dither is the knowledge that much of what they buy is imported – from places that are not devaluing their currency. So while the price of mangoes might not skyrocket, the price of shoes from Malaysia very well might. And thus, in their prescient way, they pronounce that the world is going to die – which it is, in the sense that the world's finances have been taken over by the descendants of Attila the Hun.

Yemen? Yeah, Man!

You heard it here first, folks. The next place we'll be sending troops – aside from the “Obama surge” into Afghanistan, that is – is Yemen. (You know, Yemen? OK – let's admit, most Americans couldn't find the place on a map. In fact, most Yemenis couldn't find it on a map.) And how do I know this, you ask? Very simple – Obama said, just the other day, that he has no plans to send troops there. This, if you have any knowledge of history, constitutes an almost sure-fire indication that we will, indeed, be sending troops there, and fairly soon. Remember when FDR was re-elected (for the second time) in 1940 because “he kept us out of war”? Well, a bit over a year later we were at war – with Japan. And remember when LBJ said something like “We shouldn't be sending American boys over there to do what Vietnamese boys should be doing themselves.” Five minutes later he was sending another 50,000 troops over to that hell-hole. No really – if you add up all the instances of a president promising not to send troops, vs. what happens immediately afterwards, it's virtually certain that we'll be in Yemen before the snow flies – I mean before it melts. Whatever.

But wait! There's more! He also said there are no plans to send forces to Somalia either. (So Malia's his daughter, is that the reason?) But! “He doesn't rule out 'any possibility'.” Ah yes – the loophole. If things get bad enough – if those ragheads don't buckle down and behave themselves, well... we're just going to have to go over there and teach them a damn good lesson. And of course, “behaving themselves” involves taking the initiative and driving out every last member of al-Qaida, or the Taliban, or any other outfit that's pro-self determination and anti-American Empire (or anti-Israel, most importantly). So that opens up a myriad of possibilities for the future, and “I have a list here” based on the countries that have recently been declared “heightened risk nations” for air travel (from there to here, that is -- although flying from here to there isn't such a great idea either). In addition to the old standbys Iraq and Afghanistan, we also have the newcomers, Yemen and Somalia... but also Cuba (But it's illegal to fly between Cuba and the U.S. anyway, so what's the difference? And doesn't he remember the Bay of Pigs?)... Lebanon (Oh yeah, let's definitely send troops over there again – it worked so well the last time.)... Libya (Where's Billy Carter when we need him and his diplomatic skills?)... Pakistan (big deal, we're all over that place already)... Algeria (“Come weez me to ze Casbah.”)... Saudi Arabia (Now that could get interesting, considering they bought their entire military arsenal from us. I hope it's all past the pull date.)... Syria (oughta be fun, especially since they wound up with all of Saddam's WMDs)... Nigeria (Well, at least our troops can “blend in” with the population over there.)... and Sudan (and if you thought Afghanistan was primitive... ). Oh yes – and Iran, which has been in our crosshairs ever since Dick Cheney found out it wasn't the same place as Iraq. Fourteen countries in all – the new American Empire! I can hardly contain myself with excitement! And heck, that still doesn't cover all of the Islamic world – there are still the Paris suburbs, for example. And Holland.

Now – let's not get all “wee-wee” about this, in Obama's words – those places ought to be a “cakewalk”, as one of the leading Neocons said about Iraq. No problemo, in other words – just show the flag, kick some raghead butt, and we're in. “Shock and awe” and all that. Remember how well it worked in Iraq? That place fell into our hands like overripe fruit... which is why we're still over there. It only remains to see how the timeline works out – which dominoes fall first, which captive peoples get to place laurel wreaths on the brows of our brave boys and spread palm fronds in their path. Ah yes, it's a great time to be an American!

Can You Reid Me Now?

But! Not to be outdone in the inanity department is the feigned Republican shock and outrage over the statements Harry Reid allegedly made about Obama back before the 2008 election – words to the effect that “he's a credit to his race” -- you know, that old paternalistic phrase that, believe it or not, was considered perfectly acceptable back when I was a kid. (The guy it was most often applied to, as I recall, was Ralph Bunche, who was almost as light-skinned as Julian Bond.) And as usual, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review has, perhaps, the most level-headed view of the matter:

http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/s_661676.html

And they are absolutely right, of course. Anybody remember the time Hillary starting “gettin' down” at a political rally, like some black lady preacher? Yay-uhss! Hallelujah! And so on. But of course, this would be to overlook The Rules. And among The Rules is that liberals and Democrats cannot, by definition, say anything “racist”, whereas when it comes to conservatives and Republicans, virtually any utterance they make can be interpreted as racist, even if it doesn't include any explicitly racist terminology. The way this works, as you'll recall, is the attribution of “code” to words uttered by conservatives. Like, when they say “equality” that's code for “discrimination against blacks”. And when they start talking about alternatives to public schooling, that's code for “discrimination against blacks”. And when they talk about “welfare reform”, that's code for “discrimination against blacks”. And when they... well, you get the idea. And these rules are enforced with more vigor than any other rules, or laws, in this country. And this understandably leads to a certain amount of resentment among conservatives who feel that they're being... well... discriminated against. But simply pointing this out is another violation of The Rules – so they can't win, and they know it. And so, while I can't really blame the Republicans for wanting to hoist Reid on his own petard, it's clearly a lost cause. In fact, a hard-core conspiracy theorist might almost think that the quote was included in the book on purpose, just to create this reaction and offer the Democrats another golden opportunity to portray Republicans as racists and “haters”. And actually, hmmm... that's not a bad theory, is it?

And Here's to You, Mr. Robertson

As to the latest kefuffle involving the Rev. Pat Robertson, and something he said or did, of course it was in terribly poor taste to pile on to the already-severe misfortunes of the Haitian people and imply that they somehow had it coming because their ancestors made a pact with the Devil. Tacky, tacky (even if true, and knowing how strong a hold voodoo has down there, I wouldn't be surprised). But hey, why can't the liberals and the MSM just chalk it up – as they usually do -- to more rantings from a bigoted Southern preacher well into his dotage? Well, because Robertson supposedly has considerable “influence” in the wide world of the Evangelical movement – which, in turn, supposedly has the Republican Party still under its thumb (even though they wield less power now than the Crown Prince of Albania). But that's not the scary part. Robertson was one of the privileged few who had 24-7 access to the Vice Presidential Mansion under Cheney's regency, and he was one of the main voices crying out in favor of our invasion of Iraq – in the interests of Israel, of course. In fact, he travels to Israel quite regularly, where he is given VIP treatment and allowed to visit military installations where he gets to cheer on the pummelling of the Palestinians (many of whom are Christians, by the way). So – are we still in Iraq, even though the Messiah of Hope and Change is now in the White House? You betcha. And have the reasons we are in Iraq morphed significantly since Bush and Cheney were ushered out of Washington? Unh-unh. We're still there, in large part, because Israel wants us to be, and Pat Robertson is a leading champion of that cause. So yeah – when Pat says “da Debbil made 'em do it”, people listen – just as they continue to listen to all of his other enlightened and humanistic opinions. And no amount of tantrum-throwing on the part of the media is going to change that, because, ultimately, Robertson and Obama are on the same side of the premier issue of our time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Milbank's Bunk on Beck

It's easy to argue with someone who's consistently wrong. It's a bit tougher when someone is randomly wrong – i.e. wrong part of the time and right part of the time, in a chaotic way. An example is a column in Sunday's paper by Dana Milbank of the Washington Post (that should light up the caution light right there). He starts with what is supposed to be a startling pronouncement: “It's official: Americans admire Glenn Beck more than they admire the pope.” And this is a surprise? -- given that outfits like the Washington Post do a hatchet job on the pope, the Vatican, and the Catholic Church every chance they get... and that this country is still dominated by the Protestant mind set, and has had a wide stream of anti-Catholicism running through it from the beginning. Frankly, I would be amazed if Glenn Beck _weren't_ more popular than the pope – since he at least appeals to many of the qualities and motivations that made this country... um... great. Or whatever. There is no doubt that Beck is – as Mr. Milbank says -- a demagogue, and that he capitalizes on the paranoia of the powerless – i.e. of “Mr. And Mrs. America” -- i.e. of the beleaguered middle class, the folks who live in “flyover country” and who are forever being made fun of by the cultural elites and ignored by politicians. However – and this is one of the many points Milbank misses – this paranoia is, as I have so often pointed out, perfectly justified. There really is a war being waged, by the cultural elites, on the American middle class, and its values, lifestyle, and most of all its prosperity. Anyone who denies this must be living on the Moon – or working for the Washington Post, which amounts to the same thing. As the old bumper-sticker saying goes, “Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you.” And this could readily apply to Beck's listening and viewing audience. Yes, he's making money from their fears... but their fears are real, and he's not making them up out of whole cloth. Is it ethical to take people's justifiable fears and magnify them, and reflect them back onto the fearful? Might as well ask if politics in general is ethical – or journalism. Or “muck raking”. Sometimes in the interest of social change the extent and severity of a problem has to be exaggerated a bit – or at least presented in pure form (the way pictures of the Depression are always presented in black and white – so as to reduce the chances of anyone saying, or thinking, “Yes, but...”). Do I always present the alternative, more benign and optimistic, point of view in this blog? Heck no – we have the entire MSM to do that job.

So what I'm saying is that Milbank is not totally right about Beck, and not totally wrong either. But another point he is missing is that Beck's so-called scare tactics, or extremism, may in fact be a clever way to prevent, or sidetrack, the threats he is pointing out. What I mean is this. Let's say you have reason to believe that the administration – any administration – is planning some action or program that will severely erode the rights and liberties of the citizenry (more than they are already eroded, that is). The evidence might be a bit on the thin side, but there are indications... warning signs. So you break the story in a “what if”, “this might be happening”, “could be” manner. The MSM get up in arms, administration personnel wax indignant, and you're called a paranoid freak, a rabble-rouser, a demagogue, etc. But! Somewhere in the bowels of the Pentagon, or the CIA, or the FBI, someone is saying, "Oh man, they're onto us, this isn't going to be as easy as we thought, it's too late to sneak this through under cover of night, maybe we'd better put it aside for a while." Thus – incursion on freedom prevented (for the time being). But try ever proving it! It's impossible. Just as it is impossible to prove a negative, it's difficult if not impossible to prove that something didn't happen because of something someone said, or did. (Heck, we have a hard enough time establishing cause and effect for the things that did happen, right in front of our noses.) So... maybe Glenn Beck can never prove that he had any impact on current events, but who can say? And isn't it better to have him around in any case, just in case he's right once in a while, but also to put the powers that be on the defensive?

Milbank also criticizes Beck for overuse of the Hitler card – an ironic criticism from a liberal, since their stock in trade has, for decades, been calling anyone they don't care for “a Hitler” and calling any group they don't care for “Nazis” or “fascists”. But, as usual, the rules change when things turn around the other way. (He also considers it a criticism that Beck has been compared to Father Coughlin and Joseph McCarthy – two of my heroes. Oh well... ) And, he pushes the myth that “He (Beck) single-handedly brought down Obama advisor Van Jones over the official's far-left past.” As I have (I hope) proven in a previous post, it was the Regime – including Obama – that threw Jones under the bus for having shown an interest in the “9-11 truth” movement; if it had had anything to do with left-leaning tendencies, most of the Obama administration would have had to leave... including Obama himself.

And Beck came out against the scores of “policy czars” that Obama has put on the payroll? That's considered radical? I guess if he criticized the spoils system that would be considered radical as well.

Anyway – Beck is what I like to call “strong medicine”, and strong medicine is just what people are seeking these days. They have, day after day, to watch the world they were born into -- and feel they have a right to remain in -- collapse before their eyes... while they are made to feed on the bland platitudes coming out of the White House and Congress... and anyone with a grain of sense knows that those platitudes bear no relation to reality. They know that nothing is as it seems, and that there are not only conspiracies afoot, but there is a war on, and the enemy is them. So they run to Beck, who offers medicine that would be much too strong for normal times... but these are not normal times. In the meantime, people like Milbank insist that these _are_ normal times, and what are all these right-wing nut cases complaining about? What is the problem, since liberals finally have the world they have always wanted -- or are soon about to get? Anyone who is skeptical, or who withholds approval, must be a reactionary... and anyone who reinforces reactionary attitudes must be a counter-revolutionary... and we all know what happens to counter-revolutionaries in "people's republics".

Friday, January 8, 2010

News 'n' Notes

My problem is that I notice things. I just can't help it. Things jump out at me. Like, every other newspaper article I read has, buried somewhere in it, what I call a “kicker”. It's that thing – a sentence, a phrase, or even just one word – that makes you go “Whaaaa?!?” But, in fact, there is often more truth in the “kicker” than in the entire rest of the article. So we don't always have to read between the lines – sometimes it's right there in plain sight (which, as Sherlock Holmes pointed out, is often the best hiding place). Some examples follow.

One Felon, One Vote

A ruling in Washington state holds that “incarcerated felons should be allowed to vote”. This reverses a long-standing tradition by which people who are deemed sufficiently anti-social should be denied the right to participate in this iconic democratic process. But here's the kicker. “The two appellate judges ruled that disparities in the state's justice system 'cannot be explained in race-neutral ways'”. Translation: Because blacks are more likely to be in jail for felonies than whites, the voting prohibition constitutes what we used to call “adverse impact”. What this means is that, while the voting prohibition does not constitute racial bias per se, the fact that it impacts blacks significantly more than whites makes it the _equivalent_ of racial bias. Now, this concept has been around for quite a while, and has caused more mischief than the ADA and Title IX combined. And, in fact, I'm surprised it hasn't been applied to incarceration in general – i.e., why hasn't a “quota system” already been imposed on our nation's prison system, whereby no higher a percentage of blacks can be incarcerated than the percentage of blacks in the population, no matter what crimes have been committed? This has actually been proposed by some of the more radical black activists. Hey, don't laugh – it could happen. No one would have believed affirmation action either, until it became the law of the land.

A Slip of the ID

Wow, is this guy ever gonna get in trouble. A “cosmologist at Arizona State University”, commenting on the new data from the Hubble telescope having to do with the origins of the Universe, said, “We don't know who pulled the trigger” -- i.e. we don't know “who” took the Universe from a formless void to a dynamic array of galaxies, stars, and planets. Gee, it almost sounds as if Intelligent Design (ID) ideas are starting to penetrate cosmology – the way they have already penetrated non-mainstream biology. Well... I'm sure this unfortunate gent has already been called on the carpet not only by his own faculty committee, but the cosmological community, the scientific community, the ACLU, the ADL, the Episcopalians, Americans United, and all of the other inhabitants of the gigantic beehive of political correctness. And I'm sure he has recanted and made reparations for all of his sins against “reason” -- unless, of course, he really meant it, in which case he's a martyr (and unemployed).

Weapons of Sweet Destruction

“The suspicious material found inside luggage that prompted the shutdown of a California airport Tuesday morning turned out to be five bottles of honey, authorities said.” Well, aside from the usual Keystone Kops aspect of this story when it comes to the TSA, it turns out that “when TSA agents opened one of the bottles and tested the contents, the resulting fumes nauseated them”, and they had to be taken to the hospital. OK, so... when's the last time you got nauseated by sniffing a jar of honey? I mean, yeah, it's sweet, but... nausea? Hospital? I think these guys are high on the hysteria scale. It just shows the power of expectations, and not a small bit of paranoia. Maybe TSA should start screening applicants for honey sensitivity... or just plain idiocy.

Kim Il-Cheapo

It seems that North Korea has banned the use of foreign currency by either its own citizens or foreign visitors. There was particular mention of the prohibition of “dollars and euros”. Now, dollars I can understand... but euros too? Wow, you'd almost think North Korea was getting paranoid about monetary issues, exchange rates, and the value of its currency. Kind of like what's happening over here, in fact. One of these days, it might not be “Buy American”, but also “Spend American” -- or else. (Maybe stashing all those Swiss francs wasn't such a good idea after all.) (And if I'm being paranoid, how come FDR made possession of gold illegal, hmmmm?)

Jesus Saves... and So Do I

A woman left “a collection of gold and silver coins worth an estimated $40,000” near a shrine on the campus of Mount St. Mary's University in Emmitsburg, MD. She was going out of town and “said she wanted the Virgin Mary to watch over her treasure” while she was gone. So – was this woman the victim of some foolish, old-world peasant superstition? What I imagine is that she considered the alternatives. A bank? No. The stock market? Forget about it. A “hedge fund”? Don't make me laugh. Real estate? I told you, don't make me laugh. OK then, how about a T-bill? Stop, you're killing me! No, I imagine that, in this day and age, a shrine on a Catholic university campus really is the best place to preserve one's wealth.

King Rat is Dethroned

OK, so... now it's illegal to kill and cook a rat as part of a “survivor” TV show. It's considered “animal cruelty”, in fact. Now... would someone please tell me the difference, animal cruelty-wise, between killing and cooking a rat and killing and cooking, for example, a steer... or a hog... or a chicken... or – well, you get the point. Is this just a matter of “species-ism”, where some species are more equal than others? But we are talking about rats here after all, not puppy dogs and kitty cats. Ah, but... I neglected to mention that this occurred in Australia, which is apparently vowing for the title of the most terminally politically correct nation on Earth. Still, I'd love to know what the defense will be – “If you convict me, then you also have to close down all the McDonald's”, or something like that.

Hi There, Picture Picture

George Will, who can always be counted on to dig a little deeper – and with more erudition – than the average commentator, recently discussed an expose of sorts. It turns out that the iconic photograph coming out of the Spanish Civil War – that of a Republican solider being shot on the battlefield – was faked. And it was faked by, as you might guess, the usual gang of useful idiots, starting with the photographer himself, namely Robert Capa. You know... in a situation like that, there should have been no need to create propaganda out of whole cloth, since there was plenty of raw material to work with. And yet, so great is the liberal need for iconography and symbolism that the actual facts are never enough – one has to have a perfect image, or a perfect event (like Rosa Parks getting arrested for not sitting in the back of the bus -- which was a thoroughly-planned event, by the way). It's because it's all about persuasion, and conviction – and nothing persuades or convicts more than the perfect image. We saw this in Vietnam, with the photo of the naked children running away from a napalm attack (and apparently that photo was at least authentic). (The iconic photo of the Chinese baby sitting crying amidst the smoking ruins of Nanking was, on the other hand, apparently faked – as was the film of Hitler doing a jig after the Nazis overran France.) Whether one is on the right or the wrong side of any given conflict, it really is too bad when one's main weapon has to be fraudulent. And yes, I know, “truth is the first casualty of war” -- but doesn't this say more about war, or most wars, than about truth?

The Peaceable Kingdom

“Lions break into cage, kill rare white tiger.” This is from the Czech Republic, and proves once again that, despite all the sentimentality poured into “animal rights” causes, nature in the natural state is still “red in tooth and claw”. This notion that the world would be a peaceful place if only it weren't for man... well, it would be free of wars and strife, but “peaceful”? Didn't you ever see the dinosaur segment of “Fantasia”? It's the same mind set that leads some “vegans” to try and feed their dogs a vegetarian diet – serve 'em right if the dog took a chunk out of their arm once in a while. The last thing liberals, and starry-eyed delusional idealists, want to do is see nature for what it really is – a highly competitive and, yes, merciless place (at least “merciless” by human standards – while humans are merciless by nature's standards). And this is despite the fact that they are all dues-paying members of the Church of Darwinism. Consistency is just not their strong suit, I guess...

The New New Deal

Apparently, there has been a recent surge in the population of Washington, DC, and while the causes are not yet proven, high on the list is that “more newcomers are moving to the nation's capital to join the Obama administration”. Oh yeah – this is the old spoils system, and it's bigger and better than ever. Did you think there were enough “government workers” already in place when George W. Bush was president? Think again. If they had only been replaced, why would the population of DC now be going up? This is a whole new added layer of bureaucrats, paper-pushers, opportunists, political hacks, freeloaders, and parasites – kind of like the one that comes in on the coattails of every new president, but – in this case, I suspect – greatly enlarged in numbers (and greatly diminished in quality and qualifications – assuming those factors had not already reached a nadir under Bush). It reminds me of nothing so much as the New Deal, which turned DC from a tidal backwater into a boom town – and things have never been the same since. Now, I do have to grant Obama's Army one thing – at least they are settling in the city and not in the mostly-white 'burbs, the way Bush's people would have done. In this sense, they are expressing solidarity with the indigenous population, and that could be a good thing – unless they get mugged, that is.

Right... Wrong... Does Not Compute...

The latest “enhancement” idea when it comes to the “battlefield of the future” (which really means the battlefield of the present, since military planners are always fighting the last war in their pea brains) is that of robots who are not only equipped with the most lethal weapon systems, but are also programmed for “ethics” -- “even a sense of guilt”, according to the article. They would “adhere to international law” (rather than U.S. law, I assume) “and rules of engagement” -- you know, the same rules that allow us to keep blowing up wedding parties with drone missiles. And they are already being referred to as – isn't this cute! -- “humane-oids”. And rather than possessing the human emotions that only cause trouble in conflict situations – things like anger and frustration – they will be capable of “constructive” feelings like remorse, compassion, and guilt. All well and good, I say – we definitely need less negative emotion on the battlefield. But here's my question. If a fighting robot can be programmed this way, and thus replace many if not all of the emotion-laden flesh and blood soldiers, why couldn't the same technology be adapted for politicians, public officials, and businessmen? Can you imagine a world where all of those people would be replaced by calm, reasonable, and – above all – ethical robots? This, to my way of thinking, is the most exciting potential for this technology... not that winning battles isn't important, but if we could replace our leaders and the businessmen whom they serve with robots, those battles might not have to be fought at all.

The Night the Lights Went Out in Lithuania

Ah, the blessings of membership in the EU! Lithuania, as I commented in my “Baltic Diary”, is still holding on to its currency – but in other respects it's already thoroughly under the cold, dead hand, and hob-nailed boot, of the EU. The latest example is a nuclear power plant which has supplied a good deal of Lithuania's power up to now, making it almost self-sufficient, energy-wise. But no longer! It seems the plant is a holdover from the Soviet days, and bears an uneasy resemblance to the Chernobyl plant of unfond memory. So, shut down it must be... and Lithuania is on the way to expensive energy dependence on... well, it doesn't say, but “Russia” might be a good bet. And do you think they're happy about this? Do the Palestinians enjoy buying electricity from Israel? But Big Brother in the EU says “let it be done”, and it is done. Wow, I thought the dark days of oppression of one European country by another were over.

This Kid's Life is a Drag

In Tennessee recently, “a 4-year-old boy was found... drinking beer and wearing a little girl's dress.” And no, he hadn't just joined a fraternity at the local state university. It seems that he wanted to see his father, who is in jail, and decided that that lethal beer/dress combo was the best way to get himself arrested to he could join his dad behind bars. Well... I don't know whether to pity this kids' naivete as to how the system works, or admire his sophistication as to how the system works. There are elements of both in the story. The beer part is obvious – but who told him you could be arrested for cross-dressing? Well, we are talking about Tennessee, after all. But still, wouldn't you like to know how he got that idea?

Prison Nation

The U.S. “locks up more people than any other”, according to a recent article... and I have already explained why. The first reason is that we have more laws than any other – i.e. we criminalize more of what would be considered normal, ordinary human activities in most other countries. But the “biggie” is, as always, the insane War on Drugs, which has provided a full employment program for the law enforcement community for decades now. And yet, even this madness apparently has its limits. Despite the fact that prisons = jobs, and jobs = re-election for incumbents, state budgets have gotten so tight that they are actually thinking about ways of reducing the prison population. One is to lower the threshold for parole, and another is to reduce the minimum percentage of actual time served out of sentences. But these measures are still working at the margins. What is needed – and what will never happen – is a radical overhaul of the legal system, to create one that actually treats American citizens as adults rather than as juvenile delinquents.

Obama Leads the Charge

Was it a sign of the times? A while back, Nancy Pelosi decided that it was Obama's job “to persuade reluctant Democrats to fund his Afghanistan troop buildup”, and she wasn't going to go to bat for the idea – not that she wouldn't support it, mind you, but that someone else was going to have to play the part of “whip”. Can it be that even someone as block-headed as Pelosi is starting to see the handwriting on the wall? Can it be that some Democrats outside the liberal left wing are starting to feel duped and betrayed by Obama's war presidency? Can it be that they actually – gulp! -- fear the voters? Well, this would be a fine thing to see, no doubt... although it would not be for the first time, and certainly not the last. A lot of liberals and/or Democrats felt betrayed when LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam beyond anyone's wildest dreams... and a few, I'm sure, even looked askance at Clinton's bombing of Belgrade. No one who claims to be anti-war can remain totally at peace with themselves while their party is crawling up on foreign shores with daggers in their teeth. Sooner or later even liberals have to recognize inconsistency and absurdity to some degree. Not that it will matter... but it is a sign that the Obama honeymoon has a shorter half life than anyone expected.

The Misuse of Abuse

It's not the child abuse witch hunts of the 1980s, but the mechanisms are still in place, and are being kept oiled and highly polished. Pennsylvania law, for example, mandates that “everyone who regularly comes into contact with children on the job” -- which, I guess, includes crossing guards and 7-11 clerks -- “must report suspected cases of child abuse to authorities”. Which means, in turn, that this army of people is assumed to have expertise as to what does or does not constitute child abuse. And they had better have this expertise, because once they “hot line” someone, the wheels of “justice” start grinding away, and it can be years – if ever – before the family's, or individual's, name is cleared (even assuming the accusation had no valid basis). “But mandated reporters are not required to receive training on how to recognize signs of child abuse” -- which puts them in about the same position as the village gossip or busybody. But help is on the way, in the form of a new bill that “would require all school employees to receive at least three hours of training every five years”. Well, that should be enough to insure that, if you ruin someone's life, it's for a good reason. I imagine that McDonald's employees get more training than that on how to operate the Frostee Freeze machine – and we're talking about an, in effect, army of snitches who can have any number of neuroses, hang-ups, agenda items, envy issues, hostility, or just plain power cravings. And, in fact, they often do, since people who work with children often have the desire to “fix” whatever went terribly wrong in their own childhood, and tend to project their experience onto other people's children, and therefore are apt to imagine all sorts of abuses and offenses that never occurred. They see what they want to see, in other words... what they "need" to see, rather than what is actually there. So – citizens turning each other in, in the best Soviet tradition, will now be validated by the fact that they've received “training”. Right. And what will they say when the system turns against them and starts to show its fangs? Because it very easily could. So they might think twice before they join the Hitler Youth or the Young Pioneers.

A Religious Body

The moral high ground that is eternally claimed for Israel, and Jews in general, underwent a bit of a shift recently when it was revealed that the Israeli government “harvested” organs from dead Palestinians without permission of their families. (No mention was made of whom those organs were intended for, but one can guess, given the recent indictments of American Jews for illegal organ trading.) I wonder if they realize that somewhere Josef Mengele is laughing?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Revolution is Not in the Air

There is a strange phenomenon occurring these days; perhaps you've noticed. More and more, I am reading commentaries by, really, fairly mainstream “conservative” writers who are convinced that the American people have “had it”. Not only have they had it, but they are ready and willing (if not entirely able) to fight back. The word “revolution” is bandied about with striking frequency. Now, I haven't witnessed anything like this since way back in the 1960s, when talk of “revolution” was also in the air. The irony, of course, is that the purported revolutionaries of that era are now in charge – which is to say, their revolution worked, in a sense. The _real_ revolutionaries – the true radicals – are not who I'm talking about, since most of them either blew themselves up, wound up in jail or dead from a drug overdose, emigrated to Europe, or did something else of a self-destructive nature. Some of them even “sold out” and joined the opposition! (And that was not necessarily a bad thing – Ronald Radosh comes to mind as an example.) I'm talking more about the so-called “coat and tie radicals”, of whom the Clintons are the prime example. They rode the waves of revolution right up to the point when it was time to jump ship and join the establishment (and, thereby, change what “establishment” meant). Their sense of timing – unlike that of the hard-core radicals – was impeccable. They benefited from the labor and sacrifice of others, and reaped far more than they had invested. But, let's admit, it is this type that the American system rewards, and elevates, and practically worships – not the true believers, but the rank opportunists. It is, in short, the people who can take advantage of any situation – any movement, any trend – and come out on top that are the most admired and sought after. This, of course, reflects a deep sickness in the American soul, but I won't expand on that point at this time.

But, that having been said, the revolution of the 1960s was real and lasting, if you are willing to characterize it is primarily a cultural, as opposed to political or economic, revolution. Our culture has never been the same since – and neither have our standards of cultural quality, or our morals. The revolution of the 1960s effectively put anyone who adheres to “traditional values” on the defensive – and that's where they remain today. It put believing Christians and regular churchgoers on the defensive, and it turned popular culture from an expression of popular sentiment into a perpetually revolutionary act. It turned America, in other words, into a place of continual revolution – as much if not more so than Mao's Cultural Revolution in China. China has, at this point, turned the corner and is starting to reassert traditional values, even in the midst of an unmatched capitalist surge – whereas we continue to commit iconoclasm and vandalism against virtually everything that contributed to the founding and perpetuation of this country. And I don't know, as I've said before, whether this is only a blind, brutish, carnal revolutionary act or a manifestation of something deeper – a kind of suicidal tendency or time bomb that has been there from the start. This country was, after all, founded on sharply humanistic principles, taken directly out of the Reformation and the Enlightenment – which makes me think that there is some sort of fatal flaw involved. Now, granted, those principles were skillfully disguised, in most cases, as “Christian” principles (today we would say “Judeo-Christian”) -- but the question then arises, did the Founding Fathers really believe in them, or was it just good “P.R.” for what was, in fact, something much more... let's say gnostic, if not actually sinister? There is plenty of evidence for the latter, in fact, and the American paradox will always be, how could something that remained, for so long, a force for good – not only for its own people but for the world in general – have arisen from something with a heart of darkness? (The gnostics among us will reply, well, it's because there was no heart of darkness, but a heart of light – of illumination and enlightenment. Yes, but we saw the results of that “illumination” in the French Revolution and most of those that followed.)

So, as many others have remarked, yesterday's radical revolutionary is today's mainstream politician, or cultural trendsetter in some other area (academics, entertainment, publishing, the arts, etc.). So if that's true, who are today's “revolutionaries”? They are certainly not leftists, since that bedraggled, shrinking band is still being held prisoner by the Democrats/liberals. Not that they are happy campers, mind you – every four years they support the Democratic presidential candidate, and whenever he wins, it takes no time at all for them to be terribly disappointed. In Obama's case, for example, they actually expected him to get us out of Iraq and Afghanistan! Talk about naivete! And their yen for universal health care is not being satisfied as easily as they expected either. Truly, these are the chronically disappointed of our time – and the main reason is that they still, after all these years, have no clue as to how things actually operate. So the bottom line on these people is that they can be written off, as the Democrats have done. Yes, they were good foot soldiers back in those exciting, inspiring days of cultural revolution – but now they're obsolete and pathetic, and we can't wait until they just die off and quit bothering us. (The parallels to the “Old Bolsheviks” who were liquidated by Stalin are striking, by the way.)

Who, then, are the alleged revolutionaries – or those with pre-revolutionary “tendencies” or “attitudes” -- of today? Why, they are none other than the good, old, reliable American middle class – you know, those folks who avoid confrontation and controversy like the plague, and who have never expressed an “opinion” in their life that wouldn't easily come across a back yard picnic bench at a Sunday afternoon barbecue. And these are the potential revolutionaries of our time? Excuse me while I seriously injure myself laughing. But wait! What about the “tea parties” -- that are so derided and regretted by the mainstream media? And what about those “town hall meetings” that are not, for once, full of unemployed liberals there only to pay homage to some Democrat (and pick up some free grub)? Well... the way to sum up these phenomena – which are sending the liberal press (given that that's a redundancy) into tizzies of indignation – is: “Too little, too late.” My reaction to these events – other than thinking about how hopeless they are – is always along the lines of, “Where were you when...?” And the “when” part can include any of a long list of government incursions on liberty, none of which was ever objected to – not a peep of protest! -- until Obama took over the helm, and people finally started to realize, this could be serious. Where, for example, were they when we undertook the first of our totally bogus wars, namely Vietnam – one that set the stage for all that has happened since? (They were waving flags, of course -- and "supporting the troops" by voting for politicians who were sending them off to get killed.) Where were they when we pledged allegiance, loyalty, and support for Israel at all costs – up to and including our own national survival? Where were they when Congress passed laws establishing all of the economic land mines we're currently shaking in fear of – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drug benefits for seniors, etc.? Where were they when we undertook the insane “War on Drugs?” Where were they when the Bush administration did its massive coverup following 9-11? Where were they when we invaded Iraq and Afghanistan – and where will they be when we invade the next place – Iran, Yemen, wherever? Where were they... in a hundred other places, at a hundred other times? Can it really be possible that, after giving the government a pass all of these decades, and electing the same crooks to office over and over again, they are “fed up”? Have they never, up until now, counted the cost to our national prosperity – and their own – of all the corruption and squandering of national wealth? Have they never reflected, up to now, on the fact that the government is always and invariably on the other side – working against them, their interests, and all that they value and believe in? Have they never looked in the mirror and realized that they have been used, for generations now, as tools... dupes... suckers... chumps? Has their thinned-out, pathetic, latter-day patriotism so blinded them to reality that they still believe in something called “America” -- even when the powers that be don't (assuming they ever did)? I'm sorry... I just can't believe that people who have been successfully duped, deceived, and exploited by the Regime for all these years have suddenly awakened from their slumbers, cried “I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore”, and resolved to take action, or “do something”. I think, rather, it is the cry – a death rattle, if you will – of a people, and a culture, taking its last breath. It is that strange surge of energy that occasionally overtakes a person just prior to dying... a re-assertion, perhaps – maybe even a bit of enlightenment – but futile nonetheless. It is, in other words, the sound (and sight) of people who have already lost – not just a skirmish or a battle, but the entire war. Do they fear the government? Yes. Is their fear pathological? Yes – not because they are pathological, but because the government is. Do they have more to lose by taking action than by staying quiet and living with their fear? They think they do, and that's what counts. All the Regime has to do is convince people that action is unwise and dangerous, and that apathy is their best bet, and the deed is accomplished. And this view of things does not remain stable, but continues to be ratcheted up from one occasion to the next, to the point where yesterday's unthinkable government intrusion into people's private lives becomes today's “necessity” -- always for reasons of “security”, of course – that ever-present buzzword that covereth a multitude of sins.

And when it comes to this last generation with a living memory of something like liberty -- their kind is soon to vanish from the earth... and their descendants will be willing slaves, because slavery will be all they ever knew. In this, they will be more fortunate then their parents, who at least have some vague, lingering memory of freedom. But it is also their parents' fault for having sold out their freedoms, one at a time and piece by piece, for a bogus sense of “security”. Were the people who founded this country obsessed with “security”? If so, we'd still be a British colony. Were they obsessed with political correctness? The Declaration of Independence is one of the most politically incorrect documents ever written. Were they trying, at all costs, to avoid confrontation or controversy? Well... not really. Were they, in short, the exact opposite of most American citizens today? Well... yes, and “hell, yes”. The greatest fear of our citizenry is that one scrap – one small, tiny, insignificant crumb – of their treasured “security” -- entitlements and what not – might be taken away. We have an entire society of, in effect, bribed people – bribed by the government to “shut up, or else”. And it's not as if the administration is writing down the names of the tea partiers and town hall meeting attendees and canceling their Social Security checks... at least not yet (but who is to say it might not come to that?). There is no need – because the Regime has the media on its side (actually, they are the same thing) – and the media are merciless when it comes to accusing the tea partiers and town hall meeting attendees of every form of insanity, hysteria, treason, and perversion under the sun. And this, in itself, is a bit of a puzzlement – why pile on, and persecute those who have no power anyway? Why obsess, the way Keith Olbermann does, day after day, about the tea partiers and town meeting attendees, calling them rude names and questioning their patriotism (as if liberals ever, in all of history, up to this moment, cared a whit about patriotism)? Well... it's not because those people constitute any sort of real threat – I mean a threat to the power structure -- because they don't. As I said, the war is lost, now and into the foreseeable future. But the liberal mind set is calibrated for maximum intolerance. Not only do they not welcome opposing views, but they feel those views must be suppressed, thoroughly and with rapidity. And why is this? I think it's because, on some deep level, liberals are very insecure, and very uncertain as to the validity of their views... of their “values” (or anti-values, more like). And this, in turn, is because they are insecure and uncertain about everything. They have no anchor, no moral base, and therefore are in a constant metaphysical and epistemological dither. Their beloved university professors told them that one cannot ever be sure of anything – that one can never “know” -- and that, therefore, it's always “a matter of opinion”, which means that it's all a matter of politics, which means that it's, ultimately, all a matter of power. So when you question a liberal by voicing an opposing point of view, you knoweth not what you have wrought. You think you are just asking him to compare his point of view with your own, with the goal of determining which is more valid. But no! You are threatening his entire world – his very being, in fact. And that is why they fight back the way they do; for them it's a fight for survival. On some level, they think that if their world view dies, or is forced to change, then _they_ will die – because their very life is, after all, “just a matter of opinion”... and “it's all relative”, don'tcha know... and “physics has proved” that it's all a matter of uncertainty and randomness and chaos. (Plus, "we're all just animals", and "it's nothing more than sex" -- thanks to Darwin and Freud respectively. This just adds to the absurdity.)

Now, you would think that people with this sort of world view would, because of the uncertainties and ambiguities involved, be extra tolerant of other people's opinions about things – kind of like the Buddhists. (The Dalai Lama, after all, described Chairman Mao as “my greatest teacher”.) But this would be to overlook human psychology – you know, that pesky thing that liberals simply love to overlook, on any and all occasions. Human psychology says that if you formulate a world view based on mush – on thin air – where everything is relative and nothing is absolute – that, far from being, therefore, “enlightened”, you're going to wind up stressed and oppressed, and ultimately despairing, or even suicidal. The human psyche – the Human Being – needs a base... an anchor point... a base of operations, epistemologically and metaphysically. Most people don't think in those terms, but they manage to create one anyway – or at least a rudimentary version of one – out of sheer survival instinct. But it is this very survival instinct that has been fatally compromised by generations of helplessness and dependency on Big Brother – the way a substance addiction compromises one's resistance to disease and therefore physical survival. We are, in other words, a nation of junkies – and the government is the pusher. So what do you suppose the pusher does when some of the junkies threaten to go cold turkey? It either gets rid of them or offers them more – as we see very clearly in recent actions of Congress. And what does the pusher do about those few remaining outliers who are not yet hooked? It gathers its harem of junkies around in a campfire circle and points out what a mean, nasty person that outlier is, and how they should be ignored, banished, and shunned. And this, basically, is the main – perhaps the only significant – project of the mainstream media of our time... to assure the slaves that their lot is not only good, but the only one available, and that anyone who claims otherwise is... well, you know the litany by now.

So – after this long diversion, allow me to reiterate the bottom line. There is no revolution afoot, and there won't be one. The people who think there is are either dreamers or paranoid, and the people who know there isn't but keep harping on the matter anyway are just committing overkill on behalf of the Regime. All you have to know, really, about the situation is the percentage of people who really are up in arms (figuratively at least)... who are not only consistently indignant but have been since way before Obama ever took office. This percentage is tiny – minuscule. And the people in question have, basically, zero power. And yeah, I know, every great social or political movement started with a true-believing handful of fanatics – Bolshevism, Nazism, and so on. True enough. The difference is that they had something that our present-day remnant does not have, namely the good fortune to be in the right place at the right time. Russia in 1917 was ripe for revolution, as was Germany in 1932. (And Hitler's rise to power wasn't even revolutionary, in fact; he was voted into office. Think about that, you “democracy” buffs!) And this country would be ripe as well, if all you took into account was the economy, and corruption, and foreign policy, and so on. But when it comes to the attitudes of the citizenry, it's just the opposite. The people of Russia and Germany had “itchy ears” when it came to revolutionary rhetoric and calls for direct action – whereas our own citizenry are anesthetized... comatose... brain-dead. They only wake up long enough to mutter, “There's no problem... all's right with the world... don't bother me... let me go back to sleep.” Then they sink back into their slumbers. This is not a blank slate primed for the revolutionary pen – this is an impacted, soporific society that makes the old Chinese Empire look like Times Square on amphetamines. And granted, this generation will pass away, and another will take its place... and perhaps, by some miracle, that generation will be ready, willing, and able to take serious action and make serious changes. But in the meantime, the few with eyes have to put up with living in the country of the blind.