Thursday, December 12, 2013

News and Comments

Playing Chicken in Kiev

It doesn't take much reading between the lines to understand the current controversy in Ukraine. One side wants to align itself more closely with the EU – i.e. with the “West”, i.e. with us... and the other side wants to move, at least partly, back under the wing of Mother Russia. Now, there is nothing new about this issue; it's quite ancient, in fact. You can find the issue of “Europhilia” vs. “Slavophilia” -- i.e., do we want to be Europeans or not? -- coming up in 19th-Century Russian novels, and it goes back at least as far as Peter the Great. That's Russia, of course, but Ukraine has its own version of the very same dilemma, and when it looks around at the other former Soviet republics, it can see a full range of solutions, from the enthusiastic embrace of the EU by the Baltic states (which were never Slavic anyway) to a deeper commitment to Islam among the Central Asian “stans”.

To our conventional way of thinking, it seems obvious. After all, Ukraine was horrendously mistreated by the Soviets back in the 1930s, and once pacified became just another one of the gray, nameless, faceless Soviet republics. And now they are free! So why turn around and re-align with their former rulers and persecutors? I mean, OK, because of its size, economy, and culture, Ukraine might wind up as a most favored trading partner of Russia (assuming it's not already), but wouldn't the whole thing be just a bit intimidating – a marriage of non-equals?

On the other hand, is this really the best time for Ukrainian leaders to propose a closer alliance with the West? Maybe it's better to be a second-class citizen within the Russian sphere of influence than a third- or fourth-class citizen with regard to the EU. Plus, what's the EU's trajectory these days? It's basically morphing into the next German Empire. Does Ukraine really want to go the way of Greece and the other insolvent places that were forced to sell themselves down the river to the more sober power north of the Alps? Because, like it or not, this is the sort of thing that's likely to happen when a place that is politically chaotic gets into an economic “arrangement” with a place that's not. We've already seen it any number of times.

And that's just about the EU. An alliance with the EU is also, inevitably, an alliance with the U.S., and one look at our political system these days, where the inmates have clearly taken over the asylum, should be enough to sober anybody up. And besides, the EU or its surrogates have assumed a dominant, if not totally controlling, role over the U.S. banking system and thus its economy. If it can happen to us, it can certainly happen to Ukraine in much less time.

Add to this the unlikely fact that Russia has actually started to assume moral leadership on the world stage, as in the case of Syria. Clearly, the Russian Empire is starting to come back to life and regroup, whereas ours is fragmenting and falling into chaos. Which team is starting to look like the winning team? Where does the future lie? Ukraine is going to have to cast its lot in one direction or another, and I don't envy them their choice.

Can They Hear Me Now?

The award for the funniest news item in ages has to go to the story about the fake “signing” guy at the memorial service for Nelson Mandela. Standing an arm's length from President Obama (and any number of other, ahem, dignitaries) this guy pulled off a coup that would put Sacha Baron Cohen to shame. Apparently he managed to penetrate security and sneak up on stage and start “signing” with absolutely no problem – and those in charge didn't know anything was amiss until it was pointed out, later on, that the guy hadn't been saying, er, signing anything whatsoever but just “moving his hands around”.

But what a beautiful metaphor for Obama and his administration! You can't make this stuff up. Placed on high for no discernible reason – check. Much gesticulating and waving of arms, but totally content-free – check. A total fraud and a hoax – check. Only detected after the fact, once it was too late – check. “An absolute circus” -- check.

Ah yes – this is life in South Africa, where hope and change rule... where an oppressed people finally got their piece of the pie and said “it's our turn”. And hey, there are bound to be missteps now and then – after all, haven't any number of impostors manged to crash White House parties and have their pictures taken with The Anointed One?

And, oh yes, the guy was not taken into custody – at least not right away. And, it turns out, this is not the first time he's played this trick. Yeah... always give someone another chance, that's the American way.

At any rate, it's too funny. Just the thing to liven up the holiday season.

Snakes on a Plane

There's another story that came out of the Mandela pilgrimage, but one that requires a bit of reading between the lines. It seems that the plane that transported Obama & the missus to South Africa was also graced by the presence of George W. Bush (a fellow member of the Regime), Mrs. Bush, and Hillary Clinton (a former political rival of The Anointed One). Conspicuous by their absence from the First Plane were Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, the reason given being “logistical issues”.

Logistical issues, my a**. My guess is that Obama didn't want to be seen spending that much time with Carter; it might have invited unfortunate comparisons. And as to Bill – well, I suppose the prospect of him and Hillary spending an entire flight to South Africa on the same cramped, stuffy airplane didn't appeal to either one of them. It would have been the longest time they spent together since leaving the White House!

Ending With a Whimper

The Pittsburgh Steelers retain an infinitesimal mathematical possibility of making the NFL playoffs – provided a few other teams all come down with herpes or shingles in the meantime. Otherwise, fuhgeddaboutit. On the plus side, it means we can finally relax and just enjoy the game instead of having our intestines tied in knots on every play. After all, somebody has to lose – right? But I guess when most people are “educated” in the public schools, where everyone is a winner each and every day, it's hard to accept that fact of life.

Up the Vigilante

Turns out that George Zimmerman is a badass with a temper after all. Ah well, it's too late now. Maybe Neighborhood Watch can hire more Mister Rogers clones in the future.