Wednesday, April 30, 2014

P.R. for Dummies

I love this story about the New York Police Department's attempt, via Twitter, to come up with “feel-good” photos of New York's Finest posing with ordinary, non-felonious citizens. What they got instead was a rash of police brutality pics. Well, at least it wasn't Chicago, or the LAPD. But still... what were they thinking? Not a whole lot, is my guess. It's been many a moon since the police enjoyed that nice, friendly, apple-chomping image you see in old Norman Rockwell illustrations. And I suppose, like everything else, it began in the 60s with the hippies, drugs, antiwar protests, and so on.

The police were always charged with enforcing the law, but here's the difference. Law enforcement in the “old days” was highly correlated with social class, as follows: The police, who were working-class, had the job of enforcing laws based on middle-class values (and fears), and the objects of that enforcement were typically other working (or non-working) -class individuals. The ruling class was – then as now – above the law, by and large, but they had a healthy fear of the great masses of the unwashed, so put the better-behaved among them to work overseeing the rest... the way slave owners in the Old South would put the more reliable (and meaner) slaves in charge of the others.

What changed in the 60s, you ask? Well, simply that the police turned their attention to the “problem children” of the middle class -- the hippies, the white middle-class drug users, antiwar (and anti-draft) protesters, etc. It was, in effect, a war of the middle class on itself – age vs. youth – and the police were playing their usual role, except that they were cracking white middle-class skulls at least as often as black lower-class ones. And I suppose this was a new and novel experience for them, but they seemed to take to it with enthusiasm. I suspect some of this was based on simple class envy – if you can't get back at those uppity, hypocritical middle-class types, you can at least get back at their kids. Plus, they saw (correctly, by and large) the white middle-class youth as lazy, pretentious parasites – compared to which, working your way up to a uniform and a badge, the way they had done, was far more meritorious. (And serving in the military gave you respect for life – then as now.)

And then of course you had the patriotism piece – police wearing the American flag (when did that start, exactly?) -- and, needless to say, the hippies and their fellow travelers were universally considered to be a threat to all that America stood for, etc. And then when the hippies joined ranks with the blacks in the civil rights movement, and when that converged with the anti-war movement.... well, the battle lines were bright, and clear.

Well, so... that was then and this is now, right? So these days the police are going after the Occupy crowd, and are using the same spy technology and weaponry as the CIA and NSA. Every crossroads hamlet has a SWAT team and an armored vehicle of some sort... stun grenades... sound cannons... the whole armamentarium of totalitarianism.

The point is that the police are, by definition, tools of the Regime – and totalitarian oppression has trickled down to the local level in a dramatic way. SWAT teams invading organic farms and religious communes... police organizations protesting the legalization of marijuana because it might put some people out of work... 24/7 surveillance of the citizenry, particularly of certain political and religious groups... “sting” operations that actually create crime rather than preventing it... let us count the ways.

And there's a paradox of sorts in all of this. We are – or so the politicians like to claim – “a nation of laws” (more so than of morals or principles, I might add). And sure enough, the totality of laws from the federal level down to the local level would fill many boxcars at one copy each. But on an ordinary, day-to-day, “on the ground” basis, the police are the law. They decide which laws to enforce and which ones not to – and on occasion they enforce laws that don't even exist. (They are particularly sensitive to being photographed or recorded in any way while on duty, for some reason.) This has its good and bad points. It's been pointed out that we have become, in effect, a nation of felons – that if every law were enforced to its fullest extent at all times, we would all have been long since tried, convicted, and incarcerated. True enough. Which means, we are all “getting away” with stuff every hour and every minute of every day. And that's kind of cool, if being naughty is your thing. On the other hand, we're being watched and monitored even when we're doing nothing obviously wrong at that particular moment – just in case. And it's not members of Congress, or the president, who are keeping track of all those suspicious activities, phone calls, e-mail messages, etc. -- it's the police, and low-level civilian operatives. It's like social policy – it's cooked up in the halls of academe and in Congress, but is enforced by “underpaid” public school teachers, librarians, and social workers. So the number of, let's say, collaborators, facilitators, and enforcers is far greater than the number of people who dream this stuff up. An “agent of change” can be anybody who does anything to aid and abet the implementation of a bad idea. They don't have to have come up with the idea, and in fact don't even have to be consciously aware of what the idea is; they just have to promote and enforce it.

Now... if I'm going to be riding the New York subway at 3 AM, I'd rather have a cop in the car than not, make no mistake. This country is full of badasses – we can speculate all day and into the night as to why, but it just is. (This, by the way, is why we can never be like Sweden, or Iceland, or any of those other Nordic Utopias that liberals are so fond of envying.)  Our highways are playgrounds for maniacs, but I suppose it would be worse if it weren't for law enforcement. Entire neighborhoods – entire cities, in fact – teeter on the edge of anarchy, and yet there is a police presence in those places, even if (as I suspect) some areas seem to have been written off as just not worth the bother (and risk).

The police are paid to enforce the law, which means – on any given day – the law as they perceive it. They are not paid to think, any more than the military is. If you want nuance and subtlety, hire a lawyer. If the police “over-react” now and then, they are simply in line with the spirit of the times, which is that the collective has precedence over the individual – the state over the citizen. The police are “authoritarian” in the classic sense, as is, once again, the military -- “ours not to reason why”. And I suppose that, in some sense, every society needs people who simply follow orders. The problems arise when the law enforcers also turn into judge, jury, and executioner – that's when you get a police state. But again, if the burden of laws were not so oppressive, and if the individual were trusted rather than automatically regarded with suspicion, there would be occasional errors rather than bad habits turned into standard operating procedures. It's all of one piece – if we get the leaders we deserve, we also get the police we deserve.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Big Nurse or Bush III

The media are already making preemptive strikes against any and all potential Republican candidates for president – because, after all, 2016 is just around the corner – on Hillary's behalf. First it was Big Boy, i.e. Chris Christie, who was sent to the principal's office for practicing New Jersey politics as usual. Now it's Jeb Bush's turn – and I admit I know absolutely nothing about the guy except that he's a Bush, and that's apparently enough for the media, the Democrats, and everyone else (including me, BTW). One wonders how many other clay pigeons will be put up for swift and certain destruction even before the 2016 primaries get off the ground. In any case, the conventional wisdom is that Hillary is not only the “inevitable” candidate (the way she was in 2008, ahem) but the inevitable next (and first woman) president. (Let's overlook, for now, the fact that she advertised herself as “co-president” during Bill's time in office. This could actually be turned into a Constitutional issue if anyone were interested.)

I can only compare it to Attila the Hun – everyone knew he was coming, it was only a matter of time, and all agreed that he couldn't be stopped. And it is curious in a way. The most common “feeling tone” (a little psychotherapy lingo, there) about Hillary is that she's scary as hell. Does anyone really like her? I mean, anybody? And yet there she is – Godzilla, rising out of the depths of the sea and making a bee-line for Tokyo.

And, let's admit, Hillary does have one strength that other potential candidates don't have – namely, that all the possible “dirt” on her has, as far as we know, already been thoroughly revealed, exposed, discussed, and dealt with. She is the ultimate political survivor – more so than her husband, even. She has survived Whitewater, cattle futures, Travelgate, Vince Foster, Waco, “borrowing” furniture from the White House on the way out the door... and any number of other annoyances. She has survived a spotty, at best, time as senator and secretary of state. She has even survived that “vast right-wing conspiracy” that threatened to do her in, even though all she ever wanted was to serve the American people, and “the children”, etc. Oh, and let's not forget her less-than-hospitable reception in Tuzla, where she was racing around on the tarmac dodging sniper fire like a character in some action movie. And how about narrowly missing being knocked out cold by an airborne shoe? She is, truly, Superwoman – in the, dare I say it, Margaret Thatcher mode... or, stretching the metaphor a bit, in the Vladimir Putin mode. She's indestructible, and maybe that's the key to her appeal.

See, we have passed the point (assuming we ever were at that point) where we want the president to be the leader of a free people. It's a sign of our deterioration as a nation and as a culture... it's the reductio ad absurdum, if you will, of the American Experiment. We have now become like pretty much every other nation, society, or empire in history – we crave a strong hand... a tyrant, a dictator... someone who will set things right. The Russians came around to that point quite readily after the Soviet Empire broke up; they had enough insight into their own national character to put Putin in charge.

Ah yes – the masochistic craving for “discipline” -- for being taught a damn good lesson at every turn. (Is it really so hard to imagine Hillary in black leather wielding a riding crop? Be honest, now.) This is what characterizes most societies most of the time. The American Experiment was, conceptually, a noble venture, except that it ignored the primary need of people in groups, which is to have a leader – not just someone who is vaguely in charge, like a committee chairman, but someone who “takes names and kicks ass”. And thus we have Hillary, who is the woman of our collective dreams – the ultimate Big Nurse, cold and ruthless, but at least you know where you stand. It is this craving which is overlooked by the commentariat, which is still enchanted by this vision of a “free people”. (After all, didn't the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11 do it because they hated our “freedoms”? I rest my case.) Well... given that we are all dependent on the government now... all entitlement junkies... all scared of our own shadows owing to political correctness... it's no surprise that we would naturally fly, as a moth to the flame, into the arms of the female version of Big Brother. This will be the subtext of the next presidential election, and I promise you that the media will continue to do battle with viable Republican candidates, unlikely Republican candidates, and downright straw men right up to Election Day.

And yet... if Hillary is so “inevitable”, why do they even bother? The Democrat base is secure, and she has scared away all the known competition (unless there comes an Obama clone). But you have to remember that if there is truly a “paranoid style in American politics”, the Democrats/liberals exemplify it as readily as anyone else. If there is perceived to be even the ghost of a chance that she might be seriously threatened, it has to be nipped in the bud... slain in the cradle... and the sooner the better. As pathetic as the Republicans are, they are still perceived as a threat, because who knows? They might actually succeed in implementing voter I.D. laws, or in keeping illegals from voting, or in “suppressing the black vote”, or even in stealing votes (a process with which the Democrats are all too familiar). So, better safe than sorry. What Hillary needs is not just a “close election” in 2016, or a “squeaker”, or some farce that has to be settled by the Supreme Court, but an overwhelming victory – a “mandate” that will allow her to do pretty much anything she wants (kind of like Obama, for that matter). The great presidential tyrants of the past – Lincoln, Wilson, FDR, LBJ – will stand in awe when they behold what Hillary will have wrought (on behalf of her higher-up handlers in the Regime, of course). And it will all be richly deserved.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Notes and Comment!

A brief note concerning the current Supreme Court case dealing with state laws that prohibit “false statements” in political campaigns. Um... if you eliminated all false statements from political campaigns, you'd eliminate political campaigns, wouldn't you? And... well... OK, I guess that would be a good thing, by and large.

Then we have retired (praise be!) Supreme Court justice John Paul Stevens, who has made a – let's admit this much – novel assault on the Second Amendment. He suggests that the wording of said amendment be changed as follows: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.” Now... where to begin? The utter idiocy of this idea is clearly brought out if we merely substitute the word “Army” for “Militia”. So then you would have “... the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Army shall not be infringed.” Oh, wow – what a notion! People in the armed services being allowed to bear arms! What sort of genius thought that up? So basically, if the amendment were to be altered in such a way, we wouldn't need it at all. An “army”, by definition, consists of people who not only bear arms, but have the right to (except maybe in the Netherlands). So if you have an army, which is provided for elsewhere in the Constitution, you don't even need to talk about any right to bear arms which is limited to members of the Army, do you? Too bad... Mr. Justice Stevens is out there writing drivel when he should, by rights, be resting comfortably in “the home” (as Don Rickles would say). But it's a free country. (No thanks to him.)

There is a revealing – and easily overlooked – line in a recent column by Lawrence Summers (don't get me started!) advocating the “authorization” of the International Monetary Fund by Congress. (Aren't they already “authorized”? Haven't they been ruling the roost for many years now? Who knows?) He says that “reform measures to bolster capital flows and exports to emerging markets are essential. These include, most importantly (emphasis mine), political steps to reassure investors about populist threats (ditto) in a number of countries and provide investor protection and backstop finance.” So what's he saying here? “Populist threats?” Is that anything like the Tea Party, or Occupy? Or their foreign equivalents? Is it anything like the crazy notion that people are more important than banks, corporations, or the stock market? Clearly, governments have to take measures against such nonsense. They have to provide “investor protection” (which I guess means bailouts, like the one that followed the Crash of 2008) and “backstop finance” (ditto). Well... I guess it's good to have, once again, a confirmation of where liberal, collectivist economists stand. And it's good, I guess, to have who's really in charge confirmed once again.

He's back! The proverbial bad penny of U.S.-Israeli relations, namely Jonathan Pollard, has come back, this time in the form of a bribe, er, incentive, for Israel to release 100-plus Palestinian prisoners, AKA “terrorists”. I've discussed Pollard before and will not repeat myself – only to observe that maybe this was, all along, part of the agenda for keeping him behind bars. That is, if the cause were sufficient, he would be offered up, the way we would trade spies with the Soviets in the old days. Of course, we and the Soviets were on opposite sides back then, whereas Israel is our “eternal ally”. Right? Right? (sound of crickets chirping)

Interesting goings-on in this part of the world – the unions are siding with the “fracking” industry against the environmentalists. It's all about jobs, of course – but aren't unions supposed to be politically liberal? And isn't environmentalism the very essence of political liberalism? So why can't they just link arms and sing Kumbaya on the way to the unemployment office?  Kinda reminds me of what happens when union members are allowed to vote, and wind up voting against the "advice" of their leaders.

Kraft Foods is recalling 96,000 pounds of wieners “because they mistakenly contain cheese”. Hmmm... I wonder if they've ever recalled wieners because they mistakenly contained meat?

It turns out that “an engineer driving a speeding commuter train that derailed last year, killing four people, had a sleep disorder.” This was in New York, a stronghold of union strength – not that that would have had any influence on hiring a guy with a sleep disorder to drive commuter trains, oh no...

I always say that “every government program is a jobs program”. And that includes the military. Right now, the officer corps is up in arms – so to speak – about upcoming reductions in force. And government contractors are fighting like demons to hold on to their lucrative deals in the face of budget cuts – including defense, which is usually untouchable. I also say “one person's 'government waste' is another person's income”. Not to mention, they all vote.

Anybody remember when John Kerry was a “peacenik”?

This kid who “allegedly” (even though there were a hundred or so witnesses) stabbed a bunch of his schoolmates over east of Pittsburgh left a note that said, among other things, “their precious lives are going to be taken by the only one among them that isn't a plebian”. Wow – spoken like a true elitist. He clearly has a great future in politics. (Just shows that all it takes is an idea, and a couple of deadly weapons.)

I didn't see any of the usual media debunking of Christ and His Church this Lenten/Easter season, the most reliable perpetrator being Time magazine. Or, maybe I just missed it. Or – maybe they've eased off a bit because they like Pope Francis. Whatever, it's better than nothing.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Two and a Half Butt-Heads

How to let Putin know that we're “serious” about the goings-on in Ukraine?  Send Joe Biden, of course! At the risk of over-using the term “tone-deaf”, how did Obama manage to miss the point that his vice president is widely regarded – not only here but overseas as well – as a world-class buffoon? I mean... if he had really wanted to show the Russkies that we mean it, he should have sent someone with more gravitas – like Bozo the Clown, or Pee-Wee Herman. And just to add to the absurdity, we have John Kerry, AKA Lurch, mumbling and growling in the background like some one-man Greek chorus. (OK then, make it three butt-heads – two plus two halves.)

So you have your answer right there – we're not serious. And yet we're sending troops into Poland, en route to the Baltics? Because they were, somehow, talked into joining NATO (an organization that should have folded the minute the Soviet Union broke up)? So OK, Mr. President, what do you seriously propose here? A land war with Russia on what, up until recently, was Soviet soil? You're going to succeed where both Napoleon and Hitler failed? And with nuclear arsenals complicating the matter? And if non-nuclear (how to keep it that way is beyond me) war with Russia is not contemplated, why go through the charade of sending troops ever there? Ah yes, I know, it's “symbolic”, right? And in fact, our entire foreign policy these days is symbolic; it has no real substance. It is – I'll say it again – a sign of a dying empire (ours, that is – the Soviets just put theirs on hold for a while).

Besides, Obama – and Democrats in general – don't really believe in foreign policy any longer; to them it's just an annoyance and a distraction from the real work at hand, which is to collectivize the U.S. The Democrats used to be known as the “war party”, and this, I believe, began with Wilson, i.e. with the progressives, who felt that enlightened democracy for just one country (i.e. us) wasn't enough – that it had to be spread throughout the world (by force, if need be). And this was just one of the many manifestations of humanism -- the notion that “we” (the intellectuals) know better than “the people” (ignorant, impulsive, superstitious, etc.) what is best for them. This attitude persisted through World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, although with diminishing fervor and idealism, and more cynicism... and then when the Cold War faded away we became reformers without a cause. (The “War on Terror”, which is actually a war on Islam, hardly measures up – a war on a religion by a post-Christian society? I'm unable to make any sense out of that.) But old habits die hard, and rather than pull us out of Iraq and Afghanistan the day he took office, Obama perpetuated Bush's folly... and besides, he was (and is) owned by the Regime, which always profits handsomely from war. But just because you're fighting endless wars doesn't mean you have a coherent foreign policy; in fact it could be said that war is our foreign policy, period. (The real “war party” now is the Republicans, who are, in turn, neocons, who are fake patriots ruled by internationalists. So Obama, basically, inherited a war he didn't believe in from people who did believe in it. But it didn't matter what he believed, because he had his orders.)

But to get back to Ukraine and environs -- there are already signs that Western Europe is not totally buying in to this idea of ours to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with whomever the Russians appear to be picking on, or might be picking on at some time in the near or distant future; they are just too dependent on Russia in the commercial, practical sense (AKA “energy”). And we know that, contrary to popular belief, we follow the EU's orders more often than they follow ours – or, to be more precise, both we and the EU follow orders from the cabal, which is, according to my theory, based in Europe. In any case, I imagine the EU is much more willing to cut Russia a bit of slack than we are – for one thing, the Europeans live in Europe. They are much more entitled to be “war-weary” than we are, have ever been, or ever will be. They are all about negotiation – you know, that thing we call “compromise” and “cut and run”. They are much more appreciative of issues of hegemony, “turf”, and so on. (And we should be, since we still cling to the Monroe Doctrine, which is why the Cuba boycott drones on even though we are trading partners with Vietnam.) I imagine they would be willing to cut Ukraine, and maybe the Baltic States as well, loose in order to keep the peace. And yes, Chamberlain's ghost is rising, but so what? What ever happened to “realpolitik”? (If Hitler had stuck to the agreement, Chamberlain would be a hero on par with George Marshall. But that's a long shot.)

There's a reason we never invaded across the Iron Curtain, and it's the same reason the Soviets didn't (in the other direction). The Cold War was kept cold for what I assume were good reasons, but now, in the post-Soviet era, we're disoriented (or as George W. Bush would say, “disorientated”). Those newly-free countries are rightfully ours, dammit! Or... I mean, if not “ours” exactly... um... well, they at least ought to be allowed to join NATO, AKA “us and some other guys”. Which is a way of saying they ought not to be free – I mean really free, i.e. “non-aligned”. But clearly, neither side is willing to put up with such nonsense. So they send troops up to their border, and we send troops halfway around the world to their border... anyone see any asymmetry here? If the Russians had troops in New Brunswick or Ontario, it would make more sense... and if we minded our own damn business, that would make more sense as well. But it was not meant to be.

I should add that the commentariat has been “leaking”, in a very subtle way, the idea that a war with Russia is off the table... ain't gonna happen... not contemplated... etc. And since they are in the same echo chamber as Obama & crew, one has to wonder, why are they so confident in this, even though the actions of the administration don't provide any basis for confidence, at least not on the surface? This is further evidence that troop movements, Kerry's mumblings, Biden's buffoonery, etc. are just so much strutting and chest pounding – symbolism with a bit of body english. Read between the lines of the Regime's organs and it doesn't sound like we're in a crisis at all – merely a dialogue. And this would be OK if it were only the gullible American public who had to be dealt with, but the Russians are very good at seeing through things like this, and the more Obama piles on, the weaker he becomes in their eyes, which, arguably, emboldens them even more, etc. A new domino effect? Stay tuned.