Friday, July 30, 2010

The Silly Season

Newt Gingrich has weighed in on the “Ground Zero mosque” controversy with this tidbit: “Double standards... allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand... our submission.” Gee, that's funny – it's also a perfect description of Israel. I guess maybe a certain amount of symmetry could be a good thing...

“Suicides among Army and Air Force Guard and Reserve troops have spiked this year, and the military is at a loss to explain why.” Well, of _course_ they're at a loss, because they don't understand the significance of meaning as a motivator and consolation, especially in times of war and strife. The military establishment is groping around for “answers” and wondering about things like long deployments, multiple deployments, separation from families, finances, the “macho culture”, and so on. But I don't believe any of those things provides a sufficient explanation. And all of them combined would not either. People just don't commit suicide over things like that – or, at least not at the rates in question. No, it has to be – as I've said on a number of other occasions – the futility factor... the fact that our troops are sent to countries they've barely even heard of, told to destroy things and kill people... and for what? Any idiot (and our troops are not idiots, even though the elite thinks they are) can see that it has nothing to do with “America's security” or our way of life. And if it were really about “empire” we would expect to see some return on investment... but all we see is ever-deepening debt and desperation. I think that, eventually, the absurdity starts to sink in... and yes, some of the troops might be rendered particularly vulnerable to despair by other problems, but the sheer insanity of the situation is what tips the balance. But is this obvious (to me) explanation even being considered by those manning the personnel “support structure”? My sense is, not at all.

And on that same topic...

“Four more years!” No, not for Obama (I hope) but for our troops in Afghanistan. That's the cheery news that came out of the recent “Kabul Conference” -- but of course it's predicated on the notion that “Afghan national security forces” will be willing and able to pick up the slack. How likely is that, considering that a goodly number of them already work for the other side... and the rest are about as competent as Inspector Clouseau? But despite all that, some members of the “coalition of the willing” are taking our word for it and planning on shaking the Afghan dust from their feet not later than 2014 – which would leave us kind of all along and feeling blue over there, wouldn't it? But hey, it was our idea in the first place; they joined in, thinking that we knew what we were doing (foolish of them, what?)... and now they're starting to realize that they've apprenticed themselves to Captain Ahab. The point is that no one deadline or “target date” is more valid than any other. Either we should be over there or we shouldn't, and if we shouldn't, then we should leave immediately. (And if anyone thinks we should, they owe the American people a much better explanation than any that has been provided to date.)

I wonder how many of the “global warming” advocates have started drinking heavily? I mean, it's stuff like this that has to stress them out: On the one hand, this last May has been pronounced the hottest on record, and it was also “the 303rd consecutive month that a month was warmer than its 20th-century average” -- if you can follow that. But then on the other hand, a different agency warns that North America, eastern Asia and Europe can expect more harsh winters in the future – i.e. more winters like the winter of 2009-2010. So let's see... warmer months, colder winters... sheesh, pass the margaritas. Or hot toddys. Or both.

Well, it's happening again. The government is evicting citizens from their homes in order to seize the property and turn it over to developers. And it's happening all over... China, that is. And guess what sorts of “development” have necessitated the expropriation of private property: A Disneyland theme park, the 2008 Olympics, and the Shanghai World Expo. But hey, in principle this is no different from what is happening here, as the Kelo vs. City of New London case dramatically showed. If the government decides there is a better use for your land than you living on it (not too hard to prove, in fact, according to their value system), then you're out on your ear. And since China is following suit with a vengeance, one might almost think this was a universal trait of “capitalistic” societies with huge, overbearing governments. Ironic also in that, not all that long ago, there was no such thing as private property in China. But now there's so much that the government has to take some of it back. Why can't they make up their minds?

The Canadian health care system may be the punch line for conservative commentators, but it turns out that there is one area where Canada is infinitely superior to the U.S. It has to do with the banking industry... and the fact that Canada's banks didn't dive headlong into politically-correct subprime mortgages, they kept reserves high, and they did all sorts of other sensible and healthy things connected with real estate – unlike our own bankers, who basically committed financial suicide on our behalf. And what's especially remarkable is that none of these level-headed measures was forced down anyone's throat by the government; the banks simply decided, on their own, to keep making “responsible choices”. (And by the same token, the Canadian government didn't force them to make _irresponsible_ choices – again unlike the situation here.) So, bottom line, Canada's banks “largely avoided the economic fallout of the U.S. housing bust.” They are also getting kudos from the IMF and the World Economic Forum, which is kind of remarkable since the IMF has been latched onto the veins of the American taxpayers for decades now. Maybe it's the kind of grudging respect you get from someone whose advice you had the good sense not to take.

I just put up a post on the public schools, but here's another tidbit. This is unbelievable (in a good way). “The D.C. Public Schools are firing 241 teachers and warning more than 700 other employees that they could be fired in the next year if their performance doesn't improve. The firings... total 302 school system employees.” And this is all – or mostly – based on what, pray tell? “A new teacher evaluation system” that includes classroom observations and – drum roll, please – students' standardized test scores. Don't tell me “No Child Left Behind” is actually working! Well, I don't know if there's a connection; all I know is that, when it comes to the utter incompetence and corruption of the public school system, the D.C. public schools are the belly of the beast. They are Patient #1. They are the heart of darkness (no pun intended, please!). And if something like this can happen there, well... it really and truly can happen anywhere. I'm not getting my hopes up, but even this much is more than I had ever expected to see.

Well, it's all over for Hugo Chavez. How do I know? Because he has done the truly unthinkable, namely “ordered the military to crack down on businesses selling beer on the streets or after legal hours”. Granted, it's not the same as Prohibition – the madness that overtook this country for a time early in the 20th Century – but it should be enough to topple his regime, it seems to me. The article says that “Venezuelans' taste for beer and Scotch whisky is an irritation to the leftist president” -- they should have said “Puritan”. It's amazing how much of a nexus there is between communism and Puritanism; they really do seem to be operating on many of the same premises (and through many of the same means as well). Chavez says the transition toward socialism “requires a moral crusade to change Venezuelans' values.” Sound familiar? I'm amazed that he and Obama don't get along better – or maybe they do, and what we hear is just posturing.

I have this great old Russian postcard that shows an illustration – probably from a novel – of a wedding ceremony. The bride is a pale, innocent young girl and the groom is a crabbed, wizened (and probably rich) old geezer. It's creepy, needless to say... and so is the grotesque courtship that is going on between the Republican Party and the “tea partiers”. I'm not saying this marriage has been finalized (or consummated) as yet, but a milestone was reached recently with the establishment, by a group of House Republicans led by Michele Bachmann, of something called the Tea Party Caucus. According to the article, “Bachmann's move to create this caucus formalizes their [i.e., the tea partiers'] relationship with the GOP.” Getting creeped out yet? Much of what the tea partiers object to is just as much the fault of the Republicans as of the Democrats; it's like getting off heroin by making friends with the crack dealer. No, when it comes to the tea partiers' complaints, the Republicans are not the answer and never will be, no matter how many cockamamie “caucuses” they come up with. It's just a ploy to co-opt the tea party movement and maybe slice off a few more votes in November, at which time the tea partiers will be relieved of their courtesy cards and told, basically, that no one ever promised them they could play with the big dogs. And there's the door. So sad... so predictable. They will just be the next group to be exploited by the powers that be (on both sides of the bogus left-right divide), and I'm afraid they won't learn their lesson any more readily than the others did.

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