Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's a Wacky World

Herewith, a sprinkling of headlines, quotes, and other tidbits from the last week or so, and a probing analysis of the deep significance of each (if any):

1. A young woman from the Pittsburgh area is facing charges of “attempted homicide, conspiracy and criminal solicitation” for plotting with her boyfriend to kill her mother so they could run away together. (What ever happened to good old-fashioned elopement? Not exciting enough, I guess.) But! Not only is she out on bond, but is leaving for college in California in a few weeks, “where she intends to study opera.” And the boyfriend? He's still in the clink. Well... one thing's for sure, she won't have any trouble empathizing with opera characters; this could be a brand-new stage in the evolution of method acting (and singing), in fact.

2. When's the last time you saw, to say nothing of used, a dollar coin? Yeah, that's what I figured. The last time I got any of those damn things I realized, before long, that I had turned around and spent them as quarters – and of course the cashiers in question had no objection. So that's the point at which I swore off, and I suspect a lot of people have the same story. I mean... what sort of genius does it take to come up with two coins of the same size and color, one of which is worth 4 times as much as the other? Do you smell a plot here to relieve the hapless citizen of even more of his hard-earned cash? Well, I sure do. But the point is, due to massive consumer resistance to the dollar coin, the feds are having to store them up by the billion (while they continue to mint even more, by the way) – and they are running out of room. Now, what I think they ought to do is set up a bunch of “Scrooge McDuck Money Bins”, like in the old Disney comics – big cubical structures full of these coins, with a diving board from which one can do half-gainers into the lucre. These could be anchors for theme parks, in fact, or located at the main crossover point in a suburban mall. I'm sure the price of admission would more than cover the storage costs... and best of all, the ticket booths could have a rule that any change must be made in dollar coins instead of bills.

3. And speaking of coins, the World's Fair of Money was recently held in Boston, featuring exhibits of many rare forms of currency, coinage, and securities. An article on the fair and all the collectors and dealers in attendance referred to “the surprising resilience of the coin industry”. But what's so surprising about it? Coins are, after all, real money... which is more than you can say of anything printed on paper, especially in these times. Frankly, it's amazing that people are still willing to deal in paper (currency, securities, notes, etc.) at all, considering what a bum deal it has turned out to be... but as someone once said (kind of), a fool and his coins are soon parted, and the hypnotic effect of paper continues to be the basis for massive exploitation of the unwary. Plus, most "money" these days isn't even paper; it's electrons, which represent paper, which represents... nothing.

4. And speaking of cash, some of the more prosperous citizens in China have finally revived the age-old custom (in non-communist countries) of hiding income from the government. I mean really, literally hiding it -- not just in tax shelters or offshore accounts. Oh, the many discontents of capitalism! Who knew that they would be impinging on China so soon after the Cultural Revolution?

5. And, speaking of not “walking the talk”, the ever-tolerant, laid-back French have taken time off from their frenetic national debate about Moslem women's clothing in order to “dismantle” (I guess that means “level”) more than 40 illegal Gypsy camps throughout the country. This is in preparation for sending the camp residents back to Bulgaria and Romania “on chartered flights” (probably so any pockets they pick will be their own). It's amazing how France has started revealing its true colors again, after such a long period of terrorizing the rest of the world with its cultural superiority, amorality, and savoir faire. I've always thought this whole “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” thing was a fraud anyway – as the Reign of Terror so conclusively demonstrated. But the French have still been allowed to get away with the myth all these years. Now they are running headlong into Gypsies and burqas, and I find it highly amusing.

6. Headline: “Growth engine for U.S. sought.” This reflects a whole lot of head-scratching on the part of the geniuses in the Obama administration and the Federal Reserve as to how to “stimulate” the economy, which is starting to act like an old horse that's just been prodded and goaded too many times, and is about ready for the glue factory. Well... there have been a few people out there who had some ideas on this matter, and maybe it's time to consult with them. Like for example, how about eliminating confiscatory taxes – especially the cruel and petty kind that take money away from even the most modest “saver” -- but also “death taxes” and taxes that are simply too high to have any moral justification, no matter how rich the people being taxed are. That's one thing. Then, how about drastically reducing the regulatory burden, which impacts small and medium businesses much more than large ones – for reasons I've discussed previously. And how about getting rid of union monopolies? Not unions, just their government-granted monopolies. And how about trying to come up with some semblance of trade parity with other countries? And how about a strong currency that's actually backed by something? Before anyone worries too much about a “growth engine”, I think these things should be given a try. My suspicion is that if even one or two of these things were put in place, that would be all the “growth engine” we need.

7. A commentator notes that “the mounting evidence of suicides, drinking and drug abuse within the armed forces is a sign of low morale and often a lead indicator of despair and eventual political defeat.” Didn't I just post something about the devastating effect of the absurdity and hopelessness of our military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan on troop morale? I'm glad to see the idea is catching on... Plus, I like the part about "political defeat"; if only it referred to every last national leader who sends our armed forces on wild (and mortally dangerous) goose chases overseas.

8. “People tend to behave more recklessly when their sense of safety is increased.” I don't recall what this quote referred to (I think it was about traffic control), but it could very readily have been in reference to the banks and other financial institutions and their key role in setting off the recession. There's nothing like guaranteed bail-outs from the government to lend one a sense of safety... and nothing like that sense of safety to lead to the recklessness we have all seen predominate in the thinking and activities of the financial sector.

9. In searching for a pair of fugitives – an escapee from an Arizona prison and his female accomplice -- “marshals are asking travelers... to watch out for the couple, who may have dyed their hair and otherwise changed their appearance.” In other words, they want people to watch out for two people who don't look anything like the two fugitives. Think about that one for a moment...

10. And by the way, the fugitive's female accomplice is described as “his cousin and fiancee.” You might be a redneck if...

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