LOS ANGELES - It is a California conceit that the culture begins on the Pacific and spreads not so slowly toward the Atlantic. Showbiz governors, governments of costly dreams, freeways, homosexuality as fashion, Valley Girl talk (like, you know), and once upon a time, even right-wing politics, more or less originated here.
The latest trend is watching politicians panic when governments start to melt down, and the bills for blowing the public’s money on extravagances finally come due.
Jerry Brown, the new Democratic governor once known as “Governor Moonbeam,” is demonstrating what happens when economic consistency is imposed on spendthrift politicians. Not government thrift, nor aversion to raising taxes. It’s great entertainment, if not exactly model government.
The governor and the legislature are sitting among the ruins of a balanced budget enacted as required by state law.
The law requires legislators to enact the budget and send it to the governor by June 15 every year or be docked $400 a day until they get it right.
Mr. Brown declared that the budget the legislature enacted, put together with a little spit, a drop or two of sweat and a handful of pixie dust, was a budget worthy of only a veto. He said the budget the legislature submitted was taped together with “legally questionably maneuvers, costly borrowing and unrealistic savings.”
But some of the Democrats who comprise a majority of the legislature thought not to worry. The state controller would never hold up their paychecks because he was, after all, another Democrat.
Not so fast, said John Chiang, the Democratic controller, and a committed numbers guy. He looked over lawmakers’ math and said the budget the legislature submitted wasn’t balanced after all: “The numbers simply did not add up.”
The state would spend $1.85 billion more than it would collect. Not even close, and no cigar. He won a hearty round of applause from the public, and legislators were outraged. This made it all even more delicious, particularly for Californians with a taste and appreciation for chutzpah.
“John Chiang just wants to sit there and beat up on kids,” cried Assemblyman Mike Gatto of Los Angeles. “I now have to explain to my wife and daughter why we won’t be able to pay our bills because a politician chose to grandstand at our expense.”
The leader of the Democratic majority in the Assembly agreed, and promised to employ the great American solution: a lawsuit.
“Chiang is now focused all the attention on himself so he’ll have the next political move to become governor,” he said. “Now it will require a lawsuit to educate him.” He argues the controller violated the separation of powers in violation of the state constitution.
The Democrats seem outraged not on behalf of their constituents, but by the effrontery (as they suppose) of someone expecting a legislator to do the work he’s paid to do.
Plumbers and electricians, farmers and garbage men – working men and women – understand that if they don’t perform the tasks they’re paid to do they can expect to be docked. Politicians, alas, become accustomed to a shallow learning curve.
The governor, no fan of lean government, wants to balance the budget with more taxes and extensions of taxes about to expire. He got within two Republican votes of achieving that during the legislative session, but his talks with the Republicans coughed, sputtered and died. He expects now to put the new taxes to a statewide referendum, perhaps this fall.
But his union allies, chief among them the teachers union angered by $150 million in cuts for education schemes, are reluctant to go to voters this year, preferring to try next year when Barack Obama, still popular in California though not nearly as popular as he once was, will pull more voters to the polls.
The dreaded “car tax” and an increased sales tax, enacted two years ago, expire next month. Those taxes cannot be “extended,” and must be legislated as new taxes. That would be a hard sell, with an election year approaching. So the politicians are looking to save nickels and dimes.
One state senator, Lonnie Hancock of Oakland, thinks he has found a novel source of savings. The state of California is spending $184 million a year to house and feed 714 prisoners on death row. California has executed “only” 13 prisoners since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1978.
Old age is the leading cause of death on death row, and Mr. Hancock argues that there’s no point in spending millions to keep people alive while it waits to kill them. This could be the beginning of another California trend.
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.
Offering a conservative counterbalance to the extreme left-coast liberalism of The Huffington Post
Friday, June 24, 2011
BALANCE THE BUDGET BY EXECUTING MORE PRISONERS ?
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
AMERICAN EXCEPTIONALISM IS REAL AND WITH IT COMES GREAT RESPONSIBILITY
The world's best policeman
by Jeff Jacoby
The Boston Globe
June 22, 2011
SHOULD THE UNITED STATES be the world's policeman?
According to a new Rasmussen poll, only a narrow sliver of US voters -- 11 percent -- want America to be the nation chiefly responsible for policing the planet and trying to maintain international order. An overwhelming 74 percent reject the idea.
These aren't anomalous results. When Rasmussen polled the same question in 2009, the results were virtually identical. Gallup regularly asks how large a role -- leading, major, minor, or none -- the United States should take in solving international problems; only a small minority of respondents ever favors the "leading" role.
America may be the world's "indispensable nation," as Bill Clinton said in his Second Inaugural Address, but most Americans, most of the time, are uncomfortable with the idea of US global hegemony. John Quincy Adams wrote long ago that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy." As the polls consistently suggest, that isolationist sentiment still resonates strongly.
When John Quincy Adams wrote that America "goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy," the United States was not a superpower. Today it is the mightiest nation the world has ever known.
But in Adams's day America was not the mightiest, wealthiest, and most influential nation on the face of the earth. Today it is. The United States is the world's only superpower, and if we shirk the role of global policeman, no one else will fill it. By nature Americans are not warmongering empire-builders; their uneasiness about dominating other countries reflects a national modesty that in many ways is admirable -- and that belies the caricature of Uncle Sam as arrogant bully or "great Satan."
Nevertheless, with great power come great responsibilities, and sometimes one of those responsibilities is to destroy monsters: to take down tyrants who victimize the innocent and flout the rules of civilization. If neighborhoods and cities need policing, it stands to reason the world does too. And just as local criminals thrive when cops look the other way, so do criminals on the world stage.
Nazi Germany had conquered half of Europe and Japan was brutalizing much of Asia by the time America finally entered World War II. If America hadn't rescued Kuwait from Saddam Hussein in 1990, no one else would have, either. If America hadn't led NATO in halting Serbia's ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, no one else would have, either. If America hadn't faced down the Soviet Union during the long years of the Cold War, no one else would have, either -- and hundreds of millions of human beings might still be trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
There is no realistic alternative to America as the world's policeman. It clearly isn't a job the United Nations can do. Can an organization that makes no distinction between tyranny and democracy rein in the world's monsters? As the UN's bloody trail of failure from Bosnia to Somalia to Rwanda makes clear, UN "peacekeeping" offers no protection against predators.
None of this is to say that America-as-Globocop is a perfect solution to the world's ills, nor that the United States hasn't made many grievous mistakes in its actions abroad. But as the historian Max Boot argues, "America's occasional missteps should not lead us to abdicate our indispensable role, any more than the NYPD should stop doing its vital work, simply because cops occasionally do the wrong thing. On balance, the NYPD still does far more good than harm, and so does the United States of America."
To say that America must be the world's policeman is not to call for waging endless wars against all the world's bad actors. Police officers carry weapons, but they fire them only infrequently. The cops' main function is not to gun down criminals, but to suppress crime and reduce fear by patrolling the streets and maintaining a visible presence in the community. Similarly, a well-policed world is one with less combat, not more. The purpose of America's nuclear umbrella and its global network of military bases is not to foment war on all fronts, but to prevent it -- by deterring aggression, maintaining the flow of commerce, and upholding human rights.
We don't do it perfectly, not by a long shot. We don't always live up to our own standards, we sometimes confuse police work with social work, and we are often rewarded not with thanks but with resentment. A policeman's lot is not a happy one. It is, however, an essential one. Our world needs a policeman. Whether most Americans like it or not, only their indispensable nation is fit for the job.
(Jeff Jacoby is a columnist for The Boston Globe).
Saturday, June 18, 2011
YOU CAN LEARN A LOT FROM THE DECEPTIONS A LIBERAL SOCIETY CHOOSES TO SWALLOW
Updated: June 18, 2011 6:59 a.m.
Mark Steyn: Why liberals fell for ‘Muslim lesbian blogger' hoax
Last week was a great week for lesbians coming out of the closet – coming out, that is, as middle-aged heterosexual men. On Sunday, Amina Arraf, the young vivacious Syrian lesbian activist whose inspiring blog "A Gay Girl In Damascus" had captured hearts around the world, was revealed to be, in humdrum reality, one Tom MacMaster, a 40-year-old college student from Georgia. The following day, Paula Brooks, the lesbian activist and founder of the website LezGetReal, was revealed to be one Bill Graber, a 58-year-old construction worker from Ohio. In their capacity as leading lesbians in the Sapphic blogosphere, "Miss Brooks" and "Miss Arraf" were colleagues. "Amina" had posted at LezGetReal before starting "A Gay Girl In Damascus." As one lesbian to another, they got along swimmingly. The Washington Post reported:
"Amina often flirted with Brooks, neither of the men realizing the other was pretending to be a lesbian."
Who knows what romance might have blossomed had not "Amina" been arrested by a squad of Baath Party goons dispatched by Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad. Tom MacMaster then created "Rania," a fake cousin for his fake lesbian, to try to rouse the world to take up the plight of the nonexistent Amina's nonexistent detention.
A "Free Amina!" Facebook page sprang up.
"The Obama administration must speak about this," declared Peter Beinart, former editor of The New Republic. "This woman is a hero."
On June 7 the State Department announced that it was looking into the "kidnapping."
Now consider it from Assad's point of view. Unlike "Amina," "Rania" and the "three armed men in their early 20s" who "hustled Amina into a red Dacia Logan," you have the disadvantage of actually existing. You're the dictator of Syria. You've killed more demonstrators than those losers Mubarak, Ben Ali and Gadhafi combined, and the Americans have barely uttered a peep. Suddenly Hillary Clinton, who was hailing you as a "reformer" only 20 minutes ago, wants to give you a hard time over some lesbian blogger. Any moment now Sarkozy or Cameron or some other Europoseur will demand anti-homophobic NATO bombing missions over your presidential palace. On CNN Wolf Blitzer and Anderson Cooper will be interviewing each other back and forth all day long about the Gay Spring sweeping the Arab world. You'll be the first Middle East strongman brought down by lesbianism. You'll be a laughingstock at Arab League Where-Are-They-Now? nights.
Who needs it? "Release the lesbian bloggers!" commands Assad.
"Er, what lesbian bloggers?" says his vizier. "This is Damascus, remember?"
"Oh, yeah." And he spends another sleepless night wondering if this is the most devilish CIA dirty trick of all, or if one of their satellite drones merely misinterpreted the grainy footage from the Col. Gadhafi Lookalike round of "Syrian Idol."
The pretty young lesbian Muslim was exposed as a portly 40-year-old male infidel at the University of Edinburgh with the help of "Paula Brooks," shortly before "Paula" was exposed as a 58-year-old male construction worker from Ohio. "He would have got away with it if I hadn't been such a stand-up guy," the second phony lesbian said of the first phony lesbian. As to why stand-up guys are posing as sit-down lesbians, "Paula" told the Associated Press that "he felt he would not be taken seriously as a straight man."
"He got that one right," sneered the Toronto gay magazine Xtra.
Indeed. A century ago, a British Army officer went to the Levant and reinvented himself as Lawrence of Arabia. Now a middle-aged American male college student goes to the Internet and reinvents himself as Florence of Arabia. We have become familiar in recent years with the booming literary genre of the fake memoir, to which Oprah's late Book Club was distressingly partial. Greg Mortensen's now-discredited "Three Cups Of Tea" took it to the next level, not just near mandatory in the usual circles (grade schools and sentimental punditry) but also compulsory in the Pentagon for commanders en route to Afghanistan. After centuries of disdain for the preferred beverage of imperialists, American officers in the Hindu Kush now drink more tea than the Brits, and they don't even like it. But a charlatan told them to do it, so the tea allowance now consumes 23 percent of the Pentagon budget.
Yet Tom MacMaster topped even that. He took an actual, live, mass popular uprising and made an entirely unrepresentative and, indeed, nonexistent person its poster-"girl." From CNN to The Guardian to Bianca Jagger to legions of Tweeters, Western liberalism fell for a ludicrous hoax. Why?
Because they wanted to. It would be nice if "Amina Arraf" existed. As niche constituencies go, we could use more hijab-wearing Muslim lesbian militants and fewer fortysomething male Western deadbeat college students. But the latter is a real and pathetically numerous demographic, and the former is a fiction – a fantasy for Western liberals, who think that in the multicultural society the nice gay couple at 27 Rainbow Avenue can live next door to the big bearded imam with four child brides at No. 29 and gambol and frolic in admiration of each other's diversity. They will proffer cheery greetings over the picket fence, the one admiring the other's attractive buttock-hugging leather shorts for that day's Gay Pride parade as he prepares to take his daughter to the clitoridectomy clinic.
Yes, yes, I stereotype. But stereotypes become stereotypes because they're grounded in observable reality. "Amina Arraf" is grounded in nothing more than a fetish fantasy as preposterous as those lipstick lesbians in porn movies who can't wait for some hot straight guy to jump in and make it a threesome.
It would be statistically improbable for there to be no women attracted to other women in Damascus. But "Amina Arraf" is nothing more than the projection of parochial obsessions on to distant lands Western liberals are too lazy to try to figure out. In 2007 in The Atlantic Monthly, Andrew Sullivan, not yet mired up Sarah Palin's birth canal without a paddle peddling bizarre conspiracy theories about the maternity of her youngest child, announced that, never mind his policies, Barack Obama's visage alone would be "the most effective potential rebranding of the United States since Reagan." As he explained:
"It's November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees this man – Barack Hussein Obama – is the new face of America. In one simple image, America's soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. ... If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama's face gets close."
For crying out loud. The assumption that "a young Pakistani Muslim" in Lahore or Peshawar shares your peculiar preoccupations is the most feeble kind of projection even by the standards of Western liberal navel-gazing. If doting progressives stopped gazing longingly into "Obama's face" for just a moment, they might notice that in Benghazi "democracy activists" have been rounding up Libyan blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa. In Bahrain "democracy activists" have attacked hundreds of Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, ripping the tongue out of one muezzin and leaving him brain damaged. What's so "multicultural" about the pampered middle-aged narcissists of the West's leisurely "activist" varsity pretending that the entire planet is just like them?
You can learn a lot from the deceptions a society chooses to swallow. "Amina Arraf" was a fiction who fit the liberal worldview. That's because the liberal worldview is a fiction.
Sunday, June 12, 2011
THE OCEANS ARE OK, IT IS AMERICA THAT IS DROWNING
June 10, 2011|
By MARK STEYN
"There are always going to be bumps on the road to recovery,'' President Obama said at a Jeep plant in Toledo the other day. "We're going to pass through some rough terrain that even a Wrangler would have a tough time with.'' His audience booed. They're un-fire-able union members with lavish benefits, and even they weary of the glib lines from his 12-year-old speechwriters.
We're not on the road to recovery. You can't get there from here, as they say. Obama was in Toledo to "celebrate" the sale of the government's remaining stake in Chrysler to Fiat. That's "Fiat" as in the Italian car manufacturer rather than "an authoritative or arbitrary decree (from the Latin 'let it be done')," which would be almost too perfect a name for an Obamafied automobile. The Treasury crowed that Fiat had agreed to pay a whopping $560 million for the government's Chrysler shares.
Wow! 560 million smackeroos! If you laid them out end to end, they're equivalent to what the federal government borrows every three hours. That's some windfall! In the time it takes to fly Obama to Toledo to boast about it, he'd already blown through the Italians' check. But who knows? If every business in the U.S. were to be nationalized and sold to foreigners to cover another three hours' worth of debt, this summer's "Recovery Summer" would be going even more gangbusters. I'd ask one of Obama's egghead economists to explain it to you simpletons, but unfortunately they've all resigned and returned to cozy sinecures in academia. The latest is chief economic advisor Austan Goolsbee, the genius who in 2007, just before the subprime hit the fan, wrote in The New York Times that this exciting new form of home "ownership" was an "innovation" that had "opened doors to the excluded" and was part of an "incredible flowering of new types of home loans."
Where have all the flowers gone? Not to worry. By now, some organization of which you're a member has already booked Professor Goolsbee to give an after-dinner speech at your annual meeting where you'll be privileged to get a glimpse of his boundless expertise for a mere six-figure speaking fee.
"I'm not concerned about a double-dip recession," Obama said last week. Nor would I be if I had government housing, a car and driver, and a social secretary for the missus. But I wonder if it's such a smart idea to let one's breezy insouciance out of the bag when you're giving a press conference. In May, the U.S. economy added just 54,000 jobs. For the purposes of comparison, that same month over 100,000 new immigrants arrived in America.
So what kind of jobs were those 54,000? Economics professorships at the University of Berkeley? Non-executive directorships at Goldman Sachs? That sort of thing? No, according to an analysis by Morgan Stanley, half the new jobs created were at McDonald's. That's amazing. Not the Mickey D supersized hiring spree, but the fact that there's fellows at Morgan Stanley making a bazillion dollars a year analyzing fluctuations in minimal-skill fast-food service-job hiring trends. What a great country! For as long as it lasts. Which is probably until some new regulatory agency starts enforcing Michelle Obama's dietary admonitions.
Until then, relax. That bump in the road is just a quarter-pounder with cheese that fell off the counter on the drive-thru lane to recovery. Like every other blessing, we owe the Big MacConomy to the wisdom of Good King Barack. "This plant indirectly supports hundreds of other jobs right here in Toledo," Obama told the workers at Chrysler. "After all, without you, who'd eat at Chet's or Inky's or Rudy's? Manufacturers from Michigan to Massachusetts are looking for new engineers to build advanced batteries for American-made electric cars. And obviously, Chet's and Inky's and Zinger's, they'll all have your business for some time to come."
A couple of days later, Chet's announced it was closing after nine decades. "It was the economy and the smoking ban that hurt us more than anything," said the owner. But maybe he can retrain and re-open it as a community-organizer grantwriting-application center. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median period of unemployment is now nine months – the longest it's been since they've been tracking the numbers. Long-term unemployment is worse than in the Depression. Life goes slowly waiting for a fast-food job to open up.
This is Main Street, Obamaville: All bumps, no road. But shimmering on the distant horizon, beyond the shuttered diner and the foreclosed homes, is a state-of-the-art electric car, the new Fiat Mirage, that should be wheeling into town in a half-decade or so provided it can find somewhere to charge. "We will be able to look back and tell our children," declared King Barack the Modest of his own candidacy in 2008, "this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow." Great news for the oceans! Meanwhile, back on dry land, a quarter of American mortgages are "underwater" – that's to say, the home "owners" owe more than the joint is worth. In Harry Reid's Nevada, it's 63 per cent. Perhaps Obama's Aquatic Bodies Water-Level Regulatory Authority, no doubt headed by Jamie Gorelick or Franklin Raines or some other Democrat worthy, could have its jurisdiction extended to the Nevada desert.
"Hope"? "Change"? These are the good times. What "change" are you "hoping" for in Obama's second term? The loss of America's triple-A credit-rating? The end of the dollar as global currency? Or just a slight upward tick in the same-old-same-old multi-trillion dollar binge-spending?
Random example from the headlines: The paramilitarization of the education bureaucracy. The federal Department of Education doesn't employ a single teacher but it does have a SWAT team: They kicked down a front door in Stockton, California last week and handcuffed Kenneth Wright (erroneously) in connection with a student-loan "investigation." "We can confirm that we executed a search warrant," said Department of Education spokesperson Gina Burress.
The Department of Education issues search warrants? Who knew? The Brokest Nation in History is the only country in the developed world whose education secretary has his own Delta Force. And, in a land with over a trillion dollars in college debt, I'll bet it's got no plans to downsize.
Nor has the TSA. A 24-year old woman has been awarded compensation of $2,350 after TSA agents exposed her breasts to all and sundry at the Corpus Christi Airport security line and provided Weineresque play-by-play commentary. "We regret that the passenger had an unpleasant experience," said a TSA spokesgroper, also very Weinerly. But hey, those are a couple of cute bumps on the road, lady!
The American Dream, 2011: You pay four bucks a gallon to commute between your McJob and your underwater housing to prop up a spendaholic, grabafeelic, paramilitarized bureaucracy-without-end bankrupting your future at the rate of a fifth of a billion dollars every hour.
In a sane world, Americans would be outraged at the government waste that confronts them everywhere you turn: The abolition of the federal Education Department and the TSA is the very least they should be demanding. Instead, our elites worry about sea levels.
The oceans will do just fine. It's America that's drowning.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
MAKING AN IDEOLOGICAL UNSOUND JOKE MIGHT END YOUR CAREER
Mark Steyn explains:
I read The Joke, Milan Kundera’s first novel, when I was a schoolboy. Bit above my level, but, even as a teenager, I liked the premise. Ludvik is a young man in post-war, newly Communist Czechoslovakia. He’s a smart, witty guy, a loyal Party member with a great future ahead of him. His girlfriend, though, is a bit serious. So when she writes to him from her two-week Party training course enthusing about the early-morning calisthenics and the “healthy atmosphere,” he scribbles off a droll postcard:
“Optimism is the opium of the people! A healthy atmosphere stinks of stupidity! Long live Trotsky!”
A few weeks later, he’s called before a committee of the District Party Secretariat. He tries to explain he was making a joke. Immediately they remove him from his position at the Students Union; then they expel him from the Party, and the university; and shortly thereafter he’s sent to work in the mines.
As a waggish adolescent, I liked the absurdity of the situation in which Ludvik finds himself. Later, I came to appreciate that Kundera had skewered the touchiness of totalitarianism, and the consequential loss of any sense of proportion.
It was the book I read on the flight to Vancouver, when Maclean’s magazine and I were hauled before the British Columbia “Human Rights” Tribunal for the crime of “flagrant Islamophobia.” In the course of a week-long trial, the best part of a day was devoted to examining, with the aid of “expert witnesses,” the “tone” of my jokes.
Like Ludvik at the District Party Secretariat, I faced a troika of judges. Unfortunately, none of them had read Milan Kundera, or apparently heard of him. So immediately after my trial they ensnared a minor stand-up comic, Guy Earle, who had committed the crime of putting down two drunken hecklers. Alas for him, they were of the lesbian persuasion. Last month, he was convicted of putting down hecklers homophobically and fined $15,000.
Mr. Earle did not testify at his trial, nor attend it. He lives on the other side of the country, and could afford neither flight nor accommodation. Rather touchingly, he offered to pay for his trip by performing at various comedy clubs while in town, before he eventually realized that no Vancouver impresario was going to return his calls ever again.
Ludvik would have recognized that, too. Comrade Zemanek, the chairman of the plenary meeting that decides his fate, participated with him in earlier jests with the same girl, but he makes a brilliant speech explaining why Ludvik has to be punished, and everyone else agrees:
“No one spoke on my behalf, and finally everyone present (and there were about a hundred of them, including my teachers and my closest friends), yes, every last one of them raised his hand to approve my expulsion.”
And so it went for Guy Earle, hung out to dry by his comrades at the plenary session of the Canadian Collective of Edgy Transgressive Comedians. I speak metaphorically. But, if you’d like something more literal, let’s move south of the border.
Recently, Surgery News, the official journal of the American College of Surgeons, published a piece by its editor-in-chief, Lazar Greenfield, examining research into the benefits to women of . . . well, let Dr. Greenfield explain it:
“They found ingredients in semen that include mood enhancers like estrone, cortisol, prolactin, oxytocin, and serotonin; a sleep enhancer, melatonin; and, of course, sperm, which makes up only 1%-5%. Delivering these compounds into the richly vascularized vagina also turns out to have major salutary effects for the recipient.” As this was the Valentine’s issue, Dr. Greenfield concluded on a “light-hearted” note: “Now we know there’s a better gift for that day than chocolates.”
Oh, my. When the complaints started rolling in from lady doctors, Surgery News withdrew the entire issue. All of it. Gone. Then Dr. Greenfield apologized. Then he resigned as editor. Then he apologized some more. Then he resigned as president-elect of the American College of Surgeons. The New York Times solemnly reported that Dr. Barbara Bass, chairwoman of the department of surgery at Methodist Hospital in Houston, declared she was “glad Dr. Greenfield had resigned.” But Dr. Colleen Brophy, professor of surgery at Vanderbilt University, said “the resignation would not end the controversy.”
Dr. Greenfield is one of the most eminent men — whoops, persons — in his profession, and, when it comes to vascularized vaginas, he would appear to have the facts on his side. But, like Ludvik, he made an ideologically unsound joke, and so his career must be ended. An apology won’t cut it, so the thought police were obliged to act: To modify the old line, the operation was a complete success, and the surgeon died.
Years later, Ludvik reflects on the friends and colleagues who voted to destroy him. I wonder if, in the ruins of his reputation, Dr. Greenfield will come to feel as Kundera’s protagonist (Ludvik)does:
“Since then, whenever I make new acquaintances, men or women with the potential of becoming friends or lovers, I project them back into that time, that hall, and ask myself whether they would have raised their hands; no one has ever passed the test.”
Who would have thought all the old absurdist gags of Eastern Europe circa 1948 would transplant themselves to the heart of the West so effortlessly? Indeed, a latter-day Kundera would surely reject as far too obvious a scenario in which lesbians and feminists lean on eunuch males to destroy a man for disrespecting the vascularized vagina by suggesting that semen might have restorative properties. “Give it to me straight, doc. I can take it”? Not anymore. Kundera’s Joke is now on us.
by Mark Steyn
The Happy Warrior
The National Review
June 6, 2011
Saturday, June 4, 2011
POLITICS IS SHOW BUSINESS FOR UGLY PEOPLE WHILE AMERICA IS TURNED INTO THE BROKEST NATION IN THE HISTORY OF THE PLANET
After the tumult of the First World War, noted Winston Churchill, only the intractability of the Irish Question had emerged unscathed:
"Great Empires have been overturned. The whole map of Europe has been changed," he told the House of Commons. "But as the deluge subsides and the waters fall short, we see the dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone emerging once again."
And so it goes after another tumultuous week in American politics. Nearly a third of homeowners are "underwater" – that's to say, they owe more on their mortgages than the property is worth. Private-sector job growth has all but vanished. The House of Representatives voted not to raise the debt ceiling.
But as the debt ceiling subsides – or, at any rate, stays put – we see the dreary steeple of Anthony Weiner emerging from his Twitpic crotch shot.
For the benefit of the few remaining American coeds Rep. Weiner isn't following on Twitter, the congressman's initial position when his groin Tweet went viral was that his Twitter had been hacked. Could happen to anyone. From last Thursday's edition of The Daily Telegraph:
"British intelligence has hacked into an al-Qaida online magazine and replaced bomb making instructions with a recipe for cupcakes."
True. If MI6 can break into a Yemeni website run by Anwar al-Awlaki and infect it with home-baking favorites from "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," I don't doubt that the same spooks could easily hack into Anthony Weiner's computer and Tweet his cupcake to that poor college girl in Seattle.
But Congressman Weiner then retreated from the sinister hacking line, and protested that all this fuss about a mere "prank" involving a "randy photo" (his words) was an "unfortunate distraction" from real issues like raising the debt ceiling. Like Bill Clinton in the Nineties, Rep. Weiner needs to "get back to work for the American people."
It's the political class doing all this relentless "work for the American people" that's turned this country into the brokest nation in the history of the planet, killed the American Dream and left the American people headed for a future poised somewhere between the Weimar Republic and Mad Max. So, if it's a choice between politicians getting back to work for the American people or Tweeting their privates round the planet, I say, Tweet on, MacDuff. Tough on our young college ladies. But, as Queen Victoria advised her daughter on her wedding night, lie back and think of England. Download and think of America.
Congressman Weiner's next move was to tell NBC News that he "can't say with certitude" whether the Tweeted crotch is his. "I don't know what photographs are out there in the world of me," he told CNN. He seems to be saying that this could be one of his, but, until an appraiser from Sotheby's can establish the provenance, it might just be a doppelganger. Saddam Hussein had a lot of lookalikes on the payroll to confuse his enemies, and it wouldn't be a surprise to discover our Congressional princelings were trending in the same direction.
So we're drifting from outrageous cybercrime to "prank" to "Hey, who doesn't have snaps of his genitalia out there in the world?" To revive another Clintonian line: Everybody does it. "Everyone lies about Twitter-flirting," wrote the blogger Little Miss Attila, "and everyone knows that everyone lies about Twitter-flirting." "Flirting"? Why, yes: I'm assured by correspondents more au courant in "social media" that there's nothing unusual about Tweeting your nether regions to people you've never met in distant time zones. Get with the beat, daddy-o, it's a widely accepted courtship ritual of the 21st century: the flower of American maidenhood wants to see a prospective swain straining his BVDs at what I believe the lads at the TSA call Code Orange alert before they'll agree to meet him for a chocolate malt at the soda fountain.
To each her own. In my day it was "A White Sport Coat And A Pink Carnation," as Marty Robbins sang (Billboard Country & Western Number One, 1957). But apparently these days that leaves the ladies cold, and the pink carnation can prompt titters, unless it's artistically positioned across one's crown jewels, and you'd probably need to get in a professional photographer and some double-sided Scotch tape.
According to Christopher Hitchens, politics is show business for ugly people. If Anthony Weiner is anything to go by, it seems more like high school for ugly people. As the story evolves, the logic seems to favor the blogger Ann Althouse's explanation – that Weiner's cavalcade of daily Tweets are too droll to be written by him. He favors cute hashtags: For the Republican presidential field, "#TargetRichEnvironment"; for Newt Gingrich, upon entering the race, "#TallestPygymy." "So terribly clever and edgy," writes Professor Althouse. "Why does a Congressman have time for that?" Her conclusion is that Weiner has a ghost-Tweeter, and the ghost-Tweeter uploaded the crotch shot, but that, because the "terribly clever and edgy" Tweets are essential to Weiner's sense of his own indispensability, he cannot admit that he's lip-synching. It would be like Charlie Sheen confessing that it was a body-double under the bevy of hookers and suitcase of coke.
Between Occam's Razor (it's Weiner's junk, and he Tweeted it) and Occam's Lip-Syncher (the ghost-Tweeter did it) lies a third possibility – that the Tweets aren't by Weiner but the Twitpic crotch shot to the cute co-ed is. The republic's "citizen-legislators" do hardly anything for themselves these days, starting with reading the thousand-page legislation they cheerily pass, but if they can't even perform their own sex scandals there really is no point to them. For the last quarter of 2010, Weiner listed 19 staffers, a few with highly specific job descriptions ("Deputy Director of Immigration Affairs") but most with the kind of blandly nebulous titles ("Staff Assistant") that could cover almost anything, including in-house ghost-Tweeting. For the sake of argument, let us take it as read that American men are emailing their genitals across the fruited plain all day long, and that in the nature of these things one or two attachments go awry and wind up in the in-box of the elderly spinster who runs the quilting bee and you have to make a rather sheepish apology. Congressmen are among the few in this land who, in such a situation, can breezily say, as Weiner did to CNN's Dana Bash, "You have statements that my office has put out... ." Herein lies the full horror of American politics in the death throes of the republic: A Congressman has nothing better to do of an evening than Tweet his crotch to coeds, but he requires an "office" with "staffers" to "put out" "statements" on the subject.
When Weiners have staffers, it's very difficult to have limited government: You cannot have a small state run by big Weiners. If you require an "office" to issue "statements" about your Tweets, it's hardly surprising you're indifferent to statist bloat elsewhere.
In the end, the Congressman was not so "distracted" that he wasn't able to vote to raise the debt limit. Confronted by his Twitpic, one is tempted to channel Mae West: Is that a debt-ceiling increase in your Fruit of the Looms or are you just pleased to see me? Alas for America, it's both.
Updated: June 4, 2011 12:51 a.m.
Mark Steyn: Weiner helping junk the country