Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Who ARE These People?

What is it about mid-week news? The freaks come out of the woodwork, and do their best to entertain us with their twisted renditions of humanity. But are we, as a result, jaded and apathetic? Not at all – it's a continuing source of amusement and consolation in what would otherwise be a very bleak, hopeless period in history. Imagine for a moment being a citizen of Rome during the “fall”. You see it happening, but you can't do a thing about it. The barbarians are at the gates. The leaders are all degenerate idiots. Prices are soaring. Volcanoes are erupting. It is, truly, the end of the world – at least the world as we knew it... the world we grew up in. It takes a heck of a man (or woman) to see it all in historical context – as part of the never-ending cycle – and thus to derive some sense of perspective, or even amusement, therefrom. And this is my mission – to point out that, not only are the hired help rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but they have hideously bad haircuts besides. And thus, my offering for mid-week (and on an exceptionally gray, overcast, chilly, rainy day – my kind of weather, truth be told):

O Go, O Go, Emanuel

So Rahm Emanuel headed back to the provinces, and is now engaged in a walking/talking tour of Chicago to start off his quest for the office of mayor. Doesn't it seem like he's lowered his sights a bit? I mean... take Dick Cheney for example. He was chief of staff once (under Ford) and eventually worked his way up to the presidency. Er, I mean... well, you know. So what's with Rahm? Doesn't he have the patience? Would he really rather be at the top of the heap in one of the most corrupt cities on the planet than continue to work in the galleys in Washington, DC for many more years? I guess the question answers itself. And what about the Israeli connection? Is the mayor's office of Chicago all that good a bully pulpit from which to work for the benefit of Israel? I think the true answer is that he feels at home there – with all that crudeness and corruption. But let's face it, the Obama administration will be poorer for his leaving – or at least much less picturesque.

They Know All the Jams

Ah, the discontents of the modern, technological world! A traffic jam in China a few weeks back lasted for over 10 days, and some drivers were right in the middle of it for 5 days, along a 60-mile stretch of highway. Now... I've been in some pretty gruesome traffic jams in my time, but 5 days? Sixty miles? That surpasses anything I ever saw in Washington, DC, which has been certified by the experts to have the worst traffic in the country. But really, what's it all about? Why this incredible anachronism between highway capacity and the volume of vehicles using it (or attempting to)? Well, I already had the beginning of an analysis worked out during my time in DC. It has to do with ownership. Namely, it has to do with the fact that the government owns the highway, but the vehicles are owned by private citizens (or businesses). So right away, you can expect a vast divergence of priorities. For the government, the highways are basically a jobs program – whereas for private citizens and businesses, they are a way to get from Point A to Point B. The problem is, the government (on whatever level) is in charge – and the lowest-grade doofus in a hard hat can screw up traffic for miles just by holding that miniature stop sign. (Don't you hate those guys? I sure do.) Now... I can't prove this, but I would be willing to bet that if both the highways and the vehicles were government property, things would be better, because the two sectors would be subject to the same economic incentives (or non-incentives), the same priorities, and the same... let's call it speed, or rhythm. There would be some sense of coordination, in other words. On the other hand, if both were privately owned – well, when's the last time you heard of a traffic jam on a privately-owned highway? There's one between Dulles Airport and Leesburg, Virginia – and it's smooth (and high-speed) sailing all the way – once you've paid the toll, of course. And this brings up another facet of the problem. Highways in this country are, by and large, a “government service” -- and we know how in touch most government services are with the real needs and priorities of the citizenry. There's no competition, therefore no incentive to improve, or to even seriously listen to what people want and need. It's just another government program – full speed ahead (so to speak) and to hell with what makes sense. So we wind up with a vast and expensive highway system that just seems to become worse every year, because what real people really want and need, and what the government decides is important, are worlds apart. And as much as I despise socialism in principle, I have to admit that the Warsaw Pact countries had it figured out when it came to traffic – minimal roads and minimal cars. But the minute the iron grip of communism was loosed in places like China, and people were allowed to own cars, and businesses were allowed to own trucks, then all hell broke loose. All I can say is, welcome to the “mixed economy”, which combines all the worst aspects of socialism and capitalism.

Hugo Clings to Guns

Well, who would have thought that the Second Amendment would get support from none other than... Hugo Chavez? That's right! He has directed “that members of the country's civilian militia should be issued weapons to be armed and ready at all times”, as opposed to only while on training exercises. Chavez asked, “Who has seen a militia without weapons?” Well... apparently the Obama administration and all of the Democrats and liberals have. And you'll note that Chavez doesn't seem to be the least bit worried about his armed militia turning against him – which is more than you can say about our own government.

The AWOL Culture

I'll say it again – where were these people when they were really needed? A local teenager was shot and killed recently in an encounter with the police – after a home invasion in which said teenager wielded a .357 magnum. Oh yeah – this kid was a badass. He'd been in trouble for years. He was, basically, doomed. And yet, “100 gather at vigil for slain teen” -- note the word “slain”. He was firing at police officers and they fired back, in other words. And these people gathered to “celebrate his life”. What's to celebrate? This guy was a piece of human detritus. Now, I'm not saying this was all his fault, or that he was born to this fate; not at all. I just get sick of all these “vigils” and maudlin displays (and those damn teddy bears! Aack!) when, in fact, any of these people could have taken some part in intervening, at some point, and they might have kept this kid from winding up his short life by engaging in a firefight with the cops. Not guaranteed, mind you – but wouldn't it have been worth a try? But instead, we get the usual fatalistic prattle: “He loved the streets.” “He had a hard head.” (Apparently not hard enough, because that's where he got shot.) And – my favorite -- “He fell in with a bad group.” Hey – he _was_ the “bad group”, OK? It's this chronic buck-passing and total lack of responsibility that gets to me – and I know, it's the product of “a bad environment”. But hey, who makes an “environment”? It's the people who live there, right? Does the “system” -- as malevolent as it is – ever actually force people to live in a world of crime, squalor, and degradation? There's much more personal choice here than is generally acknowledged. But try telling it to the “teddy-bear people” and the media. It's always "those other people's" fault, or the system's fault, and never their own.

Don't Ask, Don't Taliban

You know it's the beginning of the end when we start to see “the enemy” as human beings, rather than as faceless, mindless robots who are only worthy of annihilation. Now it's General Petraeus who is hinting that some dialog with the Taliban, in the interests of stabilizing the Afghan government, might be in order. Now remember, this is the same regime (ours, I mean) that, up to now, considered the Taliban to be “the” enemy, completely beyond the pale, etc. -- and certainly never to be considered a party to any “agreement”. Kind of like the North Koreans and the Viet Cong, come to think about it – and funny how yesterday's “intractable enemy” becomes today's guy-across-the-table in negotiations. What it means, inevitably, is we've given up – on “total victory” that is. We've decided that compromise is, after all, in our best interests... or in the best political interests of our leadership... or something. Now, it must be said that these are only the very earliest hints – sort of the equivalent of playing ping-pong with the Maoists... but the fact that there are even hints abroad indicates something. Maybe a new dawn of realism? One can only hope.

I Spy, You Spy

The Army has extended its definition of “espionage” to include leaks to the media – which is another way of saying, if someone informs the public of the misdeeds of the government or the military, this is the equivalent of spying for a foreign power. Which means that the American public is considered “foreign” and potentially treasonous by the ruling elite. Plain and simple. I'm glad that something I've been claiming for so long has now been officially acknowledged by the U.S. Army. It's truly gratifying... I think.

As If We Weren't Already Tired and Poor Enough...

The governor or Arizona, in a blatant display of provincialism, is objecting to “a court ruling that lets other countries file a friend-of-the-court brief” in the case of Arizona's new immigration law – countries like Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Peru (gee, what happened to Kiribati?). This gives Emma Lazarus' immortal lines (“Give me your tired, your poor, etc.”) a new significance. Not only is each state now required to take on any other country's tired and poor, but that country can now put pressure on U.S. courts to make sure they don't shirk that duty. So... what does this say about the territorial and legal integrity of the United States? Mainly that it doesn't have any. And what does that say about our “leadership”, who have allowed this to happen? Can you say “treason”, boys and girls? Well, what else would you call it, when invasions from without are not only tolerated, but welcomed... and all defenses against said invasions are declared null and void by the central government? My question is, is it really that important to have low-wage day labor? Obviously not. And is it really that important to have guaranteed Democrat voters? Ay, there's the rub. Now if only the Republicans could locate some ethnic groups somewhere who wanted to sneak into this country and vote Republican. Maybe they could try Liechtenstein...

Philly, You So Silly

The rap on Pittsburgh is always that we tend to disrespect Philadelphia – you know, it's just one huge ghetto, it's total anarchy, it's a slum, it's a no-man's-land, and so forth. And the people for “Philly” will always come back with some argument that, really, things aren't all that bad. But then a story breaks like this one, where two Philly cops robbed a “supposed drug dealer” -- problem is, the drug dealer turned out to be an undercover state drug agent. “Oops!” Of course, this could also be taken as an illustration of the utter absurdity of the “War on Drugs”. But either way you cut it, it's quite delicious. I think, ultimately, the drug wars are just going to turn into intramural battles between various police forces – which is perfectly OK with me, assuming they have nothing better to do. But I'm not sure that argument would hold up in Philadelphia...

If Hating You Is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right

And hey, anyone remember when “hate crime laws” were supposed to be directed only at hate-filled rednecks? Problem is, they didn't say that in so many words; maybe they were afraid of lawsuits based on the “equal protection” clause. So what started happening was that more blacks than whites were being booked for “hate crimes”. “Oops!” And now it's gone a step further. The recent suicide of a Rutgers University student because of a webcast of his sexual encounter with another man is being considered for “hate crime” status... and the alleged perps are an Indo-Pakistani male and a Chinese-American female. “Oops!” Frankly, I'm amazed that the media are even reporting their names (and genders). By definition, “hate crimes” are supposed to be only committed by male, white, homophobic, sexist, racist lowbrow bigots. Clearly a rewrite of the law is in order – and this time let's get it right! Only a “majority person” can commit a “hate crime”, the same way only white people can be “racists”. I mean... this country supposedly celebrates “diversity”, right? So let's start defending it for once!

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