Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"American Dream?"

On 25 April in his eulogy in Beckley, West Virginia, for the 29 miners who died in an apparent methane explosion underground some three weeks ago, President Obama suggested that the miners were pursuing the American Dream, defined in the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition as: “an American social ideal that stresses egalitarianism and especially material prosperity; also the prosperity or life that is the realization of this ideal.”

The definition of egalitarianism: “a belief in human equality especially with respect to social, political, and economic rights and privileges; a social philosophy advocating the removal of inequalities among people.” It’s fair to say that the American Dream, then, is the realization of material abundance with no citizen having more social, political and economic rights than any other, i.e., the consequence of the removal of all inequalities among the people.

The constant use of the term American Dream to describe something everyone wants is both tiresome and devoid of actual practical definition. The American Dream is what anyone says it is. For some, it involves just enough for survival; for others, the drive to get as much as possible of whatever is desired, the implication being that the loot is gained at the expense of others, since there’s just so much to go around.

Actually, there’s no such thing as equality among the masses. The truth is that all men are not created equal in any other sense than in the sight of God. They will realize their ultimate equality when they all inherit the same 144 cubic feet or so of earth at their demise. Between birth and death, they are anything but equal. Some are smarter than others; prettier than others; luckier than others; stronger than others, etc., ad infinitum. This being the case, some will plod through life while others will fly.

The truth is that the masses do not want the American Dream, notwithstanding its utopian but impossible sheen, i.e., unless they want what Obama perhaps wants – egalitarianism to the nth degree, the reduction or elevation of every soul to the lowest common denominator. To effect this circumstance, the ruling class would take charge of everything in order to spread all assets equally, with the provision, of course, that the head honchos are more equal than others.

The practical application of such egalitarianism results in a socialist community in which individual ability and incentive are secondary to “leveling the playing field,” a euphemism for “doing no more than necessary.” This runs counter to the human condition, which screams “difference” and drives people unequally toward acquiring whatever constitutes their “dream.” It kills incentive and glorifies equality in mediocrity.

The president, as exemplified in his decision to run government through the use of “czars” accountable only to him and his inner circle, has shown that he does not trust the masses to make their own decisions; therefore, he sees the taking over of banks, industries, lending institutions, and the entire financial nomenclature as the business of government, which will set salaries, the kind and amount of services, the amount of savings, the kind and amount of health-care, etc. This is his American Dream, with him and his circle clearly in the driver’s seat, defining the proper egalitarianism for every citizen or citizen-group. And it stinks, a virtual American nightmare.

Craving the American Dream, whatever its definition, means putting oneself at the center, an exercise in selfishness. In the Declaration, Jefferson mentioned the right to life and liberty but only the pursuit of happiness, not the pursuit of the American Dream, as the president would have it. Attaining and maintaining the right to life and liberty by definition means cooperating with others, as the founding fathers knew and proved by their sacrifices. Thus, perhaps the greater part of pursuing happiness is that element of cooperation, since individual satisfaction with life is possible only if the society enjoys freedom, possible only as people work together.

This country is in watershed territory now, susceptible to continuing freedom and the right to pursue happiness only if the population’s general tenor changes from selfishness to caring about what happens to others. Punishing the movers and shakers by dragging them down from their accomplishments is the surest way to deaden incentive, another way of affirming that those who rise to the top deserve to be there and keep what they have since they make everything possible for everyone else. A level playing-field is good only when it occurs spontaneously, not by fiat. This is the antithesis of socialism. It’s the American way.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, April 26, 2010

Desperation & the Debt Commission

The president has appointed something called the “National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform,” nicknamed the “Debt Commission” for want of a better term. Its co-chairmen, former senator Alan Simpson and former Clinton apparatchik Erskine Bowles, appeared on the Sunday morning Fox clambake on 25 April with Chris Wallace and delivered themselves of the same opinion, to wit, that nothing is “off the table,” including such things as budget-cutting and revenue-enhancement, a fancy term for new taxes. Both seemed sure of one thing, i.e., that there’s no way to tell what’s about to happen in this bankrupt country. They seemed to be as lost in the financial fog as everyone else.

If he’d had any idea of what to do himself or if he knows and would rather pass the buck, the president wouldn’t have appointed this new group, which apparently isn’t even supposed to come up with any ideas before next December. Fortunately for the democrats and not surprisingly, that’s AFTER the November elections. Handling any stringent measures suggested before then would mean that legislators would have to face the issue of bankruptcy squarely, something they absolutely want to avoid. While cost-cutting and non-earmarking are unpopular with the solons, raising taxes is absolute anathema.

No matter the subject, it’s always interesting to observe the bureaucrats’ use of the “everything’s on the table” approach, since they actually mean that they either have no clue as to what to do or that the remedy is politically worse than the disease. In this case, the greater part of the answer is that deep cuts in entitlements must be made. Despite that obvious fact, the Congress has just passed a health-care bill that’s so potentially expensive that no individual or institutional think-tank crowd – and certainly no one in Congress – has any idea of its cost…except that it will be off the charts and so bound in red-tape that it will take years for anyone to find out what’s involved.

The legislators haven’t read the health-care bill with any collective idea of what they passed, so they’re no help in solving the problems and they can only hope that the people back home are too disinterested to hold them accountable. To help sink the economy, the House (okay, just the dems) has already passed a cap-and-trade bill that no Congressperson had read. The experts say that this legislation will drive companies out of business but the president wants this silliness passed into law.

So…what are poor democrat Congresspersons to do in light of the pressures that can be brought to bear? They dare not think for themselves since they might suffer an attack of truth that they simply can’t control. After all, the best scientific minds in this country have thoroughly pooh-poohed the inconvenience that Algore has delivered as gospel, ergo, there’s no actual need for any bill.

Pick any of the talking-heads pundit-shows and their interviewees over the weekend. They were made up of folks who plainly had no idea as to what to do…or took the copout route of “everything on the table.” Some legislators had actually come to believe that a needless “energy bill” was in the offing. Energy (cap-and-trade) is no fun, however, so the big deal all of a sudden has to do with the “immigrant problem,” as advanced by Arizona in trying to protect its people and property. Senator Graham is ticked off but good. The main thrust seems to be the changing of the subject…or the legislation…or the SCOTUS vacancy…or anything that gets the people’s mind off the mess that this administration and Congress have foisted off on the public…after promising everything in Camelot and Utopia combined during the last campaigns.

The penultimate sticky wicket has now occurred in the fact that such disparate entities as Senate Minority Leader McConnell, Treasury Secretary Geithner of tax-cheat fame, and the democrat-propaganda sheet known as the Washington Post (gasp) have agreed on something – doing away with the $50 billion slush-fund (or whatever it is) in current legislation that could lead to more bank bailouts…maybe…who knows? What other unpleasant surprises are out there?

Much was made of the “malaise” present during the Carter administration, but that was nothing compared to the current situation. In any case, Reagan delivered the country at a time when unemployment was about as high as it is now and the prevailing interest rate was at about 20%. Either the people running this country now intend to destroy the capitalist system that has fashioned the greatest economy in history or they simply have no clue. This becomes more evident every day as they ride off in all directions at once. The result is that people will more and more lose faith in leadership. Perhaps the elections in November form the key.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Thursday, April 22, 2010

DNC Memorandum #12

From the office of Tim Kaine, commissar, 22 April 2010

***No undue exception has been taken to the experimental title used above, so it will be retained on an experimental basis. The complete explanation for using it was advanced in Memorandum #11. Those who have read but not understood it may be assigned to the Durbin Gulag and Killing-Field Center for further indoctrination. Senator Durbin himself will be offering a seminar in May entitled “Why the American GI should be court-martialed and water-boarded, if necessary.” Senator Kerry, if not skiing in Switzerland, will offer a seminar explaining why only those with high-school-dropout-IQ status wind up in Iraq. Bill Moyers of NPR/PBS fame will offer a seminar explaining why Americans should understand the mindset of Muslim homicide/suicide bombers, reminiscent of his programs in 1979 featuring Professor Mansour Farhang explaining why Americans should understand Iran’s taking of American hostages. Farhang is the author of U.S. Imperialism: From the Spanish-American War to the Iranian Revolution. The commissar hasn’t read this book but understands it lists all the American colonies worldwide, though California is not included.

***Care is to be taken in the matter of sensitivity to Islam. It has been reported that the Department of Defense explanation of the “Major Hasan Massacre” at Fort Hood makes no mention of Islamic radicals even though he screamed “Allah Akbar” as he shot down 13 Americans in cold blood. This being the case, the killing was not Islam-related officially, so Hasan is not a terrorist and the killings may not be referenced as a “man-caused disaster,” the new term for terrorism recently mandated officially by Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, who has made it clear that the Koran, which requires the killing of infidel Americans, is not to be taken seriously, as is the case with the Holy Bible. In this regard, staffers are reminded not to mention pedophilia/homosexuality within 1,000 feet of many churches.

***All staffers are warned that body-mass measurements will be conducted as soon as possible in recognition of expected legislation determining the amount of such things as sugar, salt, meat, Big Macs, and beef jerky to be allotted to each citizen between the ages of one month and 150 years. It was first decided that the term “allowed” would be operative, but in keeping with the new theme of the party, i.e., that the government’s main responsibility is protecting each citizen from himself/herself, the term “allotted” points to the future as the administration prepares to take complete control of the food supply. Overweight or obese staffers will be sent, also, to the Durbin Gulag and Killing-Field Center for complete overhaul of their anatomies the old-fashioned way, sometimes called a peaceful Gulag Death March. The search for properly configured drill-sergeants (thin guys) has been unsuccessful, mostly because applications have been returned with the note that Congressmen/women have to go first.

***The ACLU has petitioned the DNC to show good faith vis-à-vis our Muslim brothers by making the effort to find a suitable location to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed for conspiring to blow away the WTC. Khalid has threatened a lawsuit over this matter and has stated publicly that if O.J. could beat the rap that easily he would be back to beheading republicans in Pakistan by the end of the year. Khalid further stated that, fully expecting Attorney General Holder to expedite his trial, he has grown a proper beard reaching to his navel for the occasion, prepared his “Allah Akbar” sermons (otherwise known as testimony), and foresworn-as-sacrifice eating dates and goat (his favorite foods) in purifying himself. His beard is driving him nuts, his sermon notes got flushed down the toilet (by a Marine, he claims), and he’s having date-wine withdrawal symptoms, things no self-respecting POW should ever have to endure. This request seems reasonable, especially since the Sheikh has been cooling his heels at Guantanamo (Senator Durbin’s favorite place – little joke there) since 2006 and has been a prisoner since 2003. So…staffers are to get busy and find a good location to suggest to AG Holder, who seems not to understand why New Yorkers don’t want Khalid in the Big Apple, even though Bill Moyers has tried to explain why everyone should understand Khalid’s problem and accept him as just doing his job vis-à-vis the Koran and infidels.

***In view of POTUS’s declaration of war against Wall Street today, Michael Moore is planning a new movie tentatively entitled “Obamessiah Redeems Fannie/Freddie” with the sub-title of “Goldman-Sachs and the Lost Covenant.” The rumor that POTUS said he was out to get G-S over its paltry contribution to his campaign of just $1 million, give or take a few thousand, is untrue and POTUS has said he will not say that again. Meanwhile VPOTUS has repeated that the three-letter word “jobs” is still the main concern of the administration and claims that VPOTUS Quayle should have been impeached as a bad example for third-graders 20 or so years ago for not being able to spell “potatoes,” a perfectly good seven-letter word.

***Please be advised that VPOTUS has indicated that he didn’t whisper a vulgarism in POTUS’s ear at the Health-Care signing the other day. He merely used the word that he always used during the campaign to describe John Edwards’ speeches, a word he made up and expects to be in the next Webster’s dictionary – fluffernutter. Biden hasn’t decided exactly what it means but he said it doesn’t mean what he said he didn’t say…or something like that.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, April 19, 2010

Bill & the Tea Gang

One wonders if Bill and Hillary Clinton will ever understand that, just as in the case of the Kennedy’s, the country can get enough of them. His remarks over the past weekend in an event commemorating the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building by Timothy McVeigh suggesting that the members of the “Tea Party” movement pose a threat to public safety by “demonizing” the government were a long way beyond civil or even accurate. His comparison of the current political climate to that of the early 90s supposedly leading to violence was just wacky in that in neither era were citizens a threat to public safety.

Timothy McVeigh was a lone wolf with his own grudge. Nobody knows what was in his mind but it’s virtually certain that it bore no resemblance to what’s in the collective mind of citizens who are now disgusted with government and expressing their disgust in perfectly orderly fashion at rallies and certainly not blowing-up buildings or otherwise creating havoc. In any case, from 1993-2001 Bill Clinton was president and thus right in line to merit his share of blame for whatever he considered threatening.

In the matter of violence, one remembers that Clinton had been in office less than three months when his attorney general, Janet Reno, presumably with his approval tacit or otherwise, gave the order that resulted in the massacre at the Branch Davidian commune near Waco, Texas. When the fires were out, some 80 people had died, including four federal agents and many women and children. This was almost half the number (168) killed in the Murrah bombing and had nothing to do with protests against Clinton’s government. It had to do with governmental incompetence on a grand scale that led to the killing of innocent people. One wonders if Clinton sees a need to commemorate that fateful event in April 1993.

Or, take the case of violence other than physical. Bill Clinton fired all U.S. attorneys (called the “March Massacre”) just two months after taking office, except maybe one, Michael Chertoff. He didn’t know these people. In that short a time, he couldn’t have known what they either had or had not done. He had no reason to fire them and he gave none that could be believed. He sacked them because he could. Some folks believe he did it to get rid of just one federal prosecutor who was investigating a powerful member of the House, who later was sentenced to the Big House. In any case, the firings represented white-collar violence of intolerable magnitude.

The former president apparently sees a “ Vast Tea Party Conspiracy.” Remember the “Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy” alluded to by Hillary Clinton as causing hubby Bill’s problems with Monica Lewinski back in the day. No conspiracy was involved. The prexy was as guilty as sin and the charge fell flat. In 2007, she used the term again in charging republicans concerning election irregularities. She lost in 2008 anyway and now runs the State Department, no doubt seeing some sort of conspiracy by the right-wing loonies on a daily basis, transmogrified now into the Tea Party goons.

If Bill Clinton considers the Tea Party folks as terrorists or terrorists in the making he might cool his rhetoric a bit upon remembering elements of terrorism during his own administration such as the WTC in 1993, Khobar Towers, the embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and the USS Cole, all happening on his watch and involving hundreds of deaths and injuries of innocent people…and exactly what he did and didn’t do to make Americans safer. Indeed, it was his Justice Department that put out the directive disallowing the country’s intelligence agencies to deal with each other, sharing information. But for this insane circumstance, 9/11 might have been avoided, thus foreclosing the worst act of terrorism in the nation’s history, the Civil War excepted.

Whereas his immediate democrat predecessor, Jimmy Carter, routinely railed against this country and the Bush administration, especially when he was overseas, Bill Clinton has chosen to rail against people with whom he disagrees and hint that they’re dangerous folks, doncha know, and likely to don white sheets with eye-holes and go looking for folks with whom they disagree. Watch out, Bill! They might at least spit at you or call you names, just as they were accused of doing in Washington the other day, though no one ever came up with any proof. Assuming they do come up with proof some good day and folks come looking for you, remember that you fomented the action…when you could have kept your mouth free of your foot.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Catholicism at Carnal Crossroads

Perhaps the mother of all confusions, contradictions, cover-ups and concupiscence is being played out in the Roman Catholic Church, occasioned in the last two decades or so by the constant stream of information regarding the pedophilia and homosexuality present in the priesthood. It’s gotten to the point that even the pope and his second-in-command, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, are not on the same page, odd because one would never expect the second banana to say anything not approved by the main man.

Bertone stated recently that homosexuality is a pathology [defined as something abnormal: the structural and functional deviations from the normal that constitute disease or characterize a particular disease] and linked it to pedophilia. With regard to the former, at least the U.S. military establishment agrees, classifying homosexuality as a mental disorder. The latter certainly is a mental disorder, though the Cardinal may or may not be right about the linkage.

The pope’s spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, was quick to “explain” what Bertone meant, though Bertone’s remark was straightforward enough. Lombardi answered with this: "Church authorities do not believe they are competent to make general affirmations about specifically psychological or medical issues." Did Lombardi mean that Holy Scripture does not address issues that involve both body and mind? If so, what issues would Holy Writ address…just those of the trees and the grass, maybe?

To stir the pot even more, Pope Benedict XVI aimed this message directly at the church in a mass on 15 April, to wit, that it was necessary for Christians to repent in light of “the attacks of the world, which speaks to us of our sins.” Whose sins and precisely what sins? And how has the “world” attacked the church, as well as for what reason?

Is it fair to say that the pope and perhaps most of the church’s head honchos just don’t get it? Do they consider the church as victim or as sinner or do they have any idea what they believe? Bertone, going far out on a limb, indicated that he “gets it,” at least to the point that there’s a serious mental sickness in the priesthood that eventuates in the biological violation among priests of their respective bodies and, of course, collectively against the young, the most vulnerable.

Does the pope blame the whole church for whatever “sins” he has in mind? If so, he’s blaming the church that has been fashioned by him and the priesthood, another way of condemning the church fathers for doing such a poor job that the church itself is full of sin. After all, don’t the priests listen to “confession” and in so doing understand the problems and issues they need to address and hopefully resolve?

Perhaps the latest shoe to drop in the worldwide scandal was the recent “outing” of a letter written in 2001 by a top cardinal, Dario Castrillon Hoyos (retired last year), to a French bishop complimenting him for doing three months in jail rather than report a pedophile-priest to the civil authorities, thus putting a child-molester’s interests above those of the innocent. When people like Hoyos are running the church, is it any wonder that the pope sees sin somewhere? Question: Is the pope looking in the wrong places?

Beginning with the teaching to Catholics that the pope is infallible (though there’s doubt that most congregants accept that), parishioners are at least conditioned to look to the pope’s extension – priests and bishops – as absolutely right, no matter the subject. As a result, children abused by priests or other church leaders and told that such abuse is spiritually correct and not to be divulged to anyone, including parents, grow to adulthood wallowing in the realization that something they instinctively knew as bad had happened to them and was still happening to others.

Finally, these victims have been speaking out; however, church leaders, instead of sensibly approaching the problem, have “circled the wagons” and thus lost credibility, not to mention continuing the problem through transfers of priests, for instance, who continue to violate others. Amazingly, church fathers continue in this inordinate blindness to reality even in the face of paying out tens of millions of dollars to those who have finally broken their silence. This indicates an arrogance/elitism that defies logic…the absolute opposite of the humility of Jesus Christ.

In 2005, Cardinal Bertone, acting for the pope in the name of the Congregation for Catholic Education, sent out a letter including this: “in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called 'gay culture'." In light of this, one suspects that there would not have been at least in the last five years any homosexual admitted to seminary…so why did Bertone bring this up?

One has only to place this subject in his search engine to find out why Bertone brought it up. Until the church cleans up its act, as Bertone understands, pedophiles will prey on children/youths and perversion, including homosexuality, will mark and damn its leadership. The cult of the perverse could only advance in the Catholic chain-of-command from seminary to Rome. It needs to be beheaded.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nuke Summit - Great Obama PR?

The “Nuclear Summit” comprised of representatives of 47 nations just concluded in Washington by President Obama may do some good, though not a single legal document was signed and the president himself admitted that “good will” was the operative vehicle for the keeping of promises made.

For instance, “India declared that it will build a center to promote nuclear security, in what experts called a significant change in its focus on the issue. Ukraine, Mexico, Chile, Kazakhstan, Vietnam and Canada agreed to dispose of hundreds of pounds of highly enriched uranium used in civilian facilities. The material, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs, can often be replaced for civilian uses with far-less-dangerous low-enriched uranium,” according to Washington Post writer Mary Beth Sheridan. Obviously, there’s no way to determine if any of this actually happens.

The effort seems to be what one might expect of the United Nations rather than the United States or any other member-nation. Is it fair to conclude that Barack Obama, whether intentionally or not, by his own volition one-upped UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of South Korea and established himself as the unofficial world leader, with all the resources (that still remain) of this nation to back his play?

Or did Obama recognize himself as the de facto world leader and simply let everybody know? If so, he hurt his claim in his nuke-speech last week when he, except in the case of North Korea and Iran, virtually took this country’s retaliation-by-nuke option off the table in the case of most any sort of attack by another nation, including WMD. Paper-tigers are laughable.

The president is justifiably concerned that terrorists or terrorist organizations could acquire a sufficient quantity and type of materials to make nuclear bombs, even though that’s a bit far-fetched from a practical standpoint. Can anyone envision al Qaeda, for instance, establishing the facilities that even Iran so far has not established in order to make a bomb? Al Qaeda doesn’t even have a country now, much less any location in which to build the apparatus necessary to make a bomb. Bin Laden’s best bet would be to hijack or purchase a bomb from Pakistan and even then he would have to get it in place.

The worry is not the BOMB. The worry has to do with the manufacture and deployment of other weapons of mass destruction such as Sarin gas or anthrax or mustard gas or just simple explosives of the type worn by the wannabe-martyr-homicide-suicide Muslim bombers around their midsections. This makes Obama’s recent announcement that this country would not respond with nukes if a state-maintained organization, such as al Qaeda/Afghanistan pre-9/11, blew up the subways (or gassed their inhabitants) in American cities. His threat of conventional response, whatever that is, would not bother the head honchos in countries/religions in which life is cheap to the point of being entirely expendable. Their response would simply be to “bring it on,” and American GIs would die.

If the leaders of countries such as Afghanistan, North Korea, Yemen, Iran or Somalia understood that entire cities would be nuked and wiped out if they undertook to use non-nuke weapons of mass destruction (deadly enough themselves to wipe out entire urban populations) to kill on American soil, they would think long and hard before sending their minions out to smuggle WMD into this country and use them. They should consider the achievements connected to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. So…Obama, if he contemplates further summits, would do well to make their subjects the wiping out of all WMD in all of their ugly forms by any method. He has the bona fides for this since this country, which has its share of WMD, has never used these toxic weapons.

One of the thorniest issues endemic to the nuke-subject has to do with the use, misuse, or nonuse of plutonium present in the spent fuel that is a byproduct of the operations of nuclear energy plants. There’s considerable disagreement about this among nations. Should the plutonium be extracted? It can be used in other reactors but it can also be used in bombs. Though extremely important, this matter was avoided at the president’s summit. Was it not considered as a nuclear element or simply too hot to handle (no pun intended)?

There are 438 reactor units throughout the world in at least 29 countries, meaning at least this many possible conduits of plutonium. Nearly a fourth of them are in this country so Obama for obvious reasons (at least to most people) may have wanted the subject off the table; however, it’s strange that none of the other countries insisted upon discussing this matter, unless, of course, they see plutonium as an invaluable commodity.

Obama has made much of enhancing this country’s image in the world (purging the stink of Bush, of course), so why didn’t he magnanimously just promise to give away the world’s greatest supply of plutonium or offer to destroy or weaken it? Maybe he was thinking that even the democrat-controlled Congress wouldn’t go for that inordinate-by-any-standard insanity. The summit provided great Obama PR, but its usefulness was/is most likely zilch.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, April 12, 2010

Bureaucratic & Evolutionary Blarney

The Sunday news programs on TV provide some of the best entertainment in town, especially when bureaucrats or elected officials find it necessary to be unintentionally (supposedly or at least hopefully) disingenuous…with straight faces, at that. Okay, admittedly that’s a euphemistic way of saying they lie through their respective teeth. Or…some of the most weirdly accepted “facts” are put on display and accepted as truth, never mind the outrageousness involved.

State Secretary Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates appeared together on at least two programs on 11 April, both obviously taped in the same room being interviewed by operatives from different TV outlets. They were probably taped within minutes of each other for the respective Sunday morning clambakes. ABC’s Jake Tapper had taped the pair on 09 April and NBC’s David Gregory probably the same day.

Tapper asked both secretaries if they had changed their minds regarding positions they had taken previously with respect to this country’s use of nukes in retaliation to any kind of attack by another power. Both indicated that they had not. The question had to do with the president’s recent announcement that signaled exactly how this country would react to an attack (no nukes, essentially) and constituted a direct change of policy from that of previous administrations, another example of the CHANGE or TRANSFORMATION the president promised would come on line when he was elected.

Tapper then used a tape of a Gates-speech made about a year-and-a-half ago in which the Defense head honcho described the “veiled threat” of nuke-use delivered to Saddam by the Bush administration that would be contingent upon whether or not he used WMD when Iraq was invaded in 2003. Gates appeared at that time to be defending Bush’s position, a graphic example of the need for the nuke option to be in effect. So…the listener either accepts the spin Gates then put forth to explain how he had not changed his mind or simply shakes his head at such obvious duplicity.

Tapper then used a tape of Clinton making a speech during her campaign for the presidency in which she said this: "Presidents should be very careful at all times in discussing the use or non-use of nuclear weapons. Presidents since the cold war have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace. I don't believe that any president should make any blanket statements with respect to the use or non-use of nuclear weapons." President Obama has done precisely what Clinton said no president should ever do…but she hasn’t changed her mind in supporting Obama’s policy now, exactly the opposite of hers when she was seeking the office. She insulted one’s intelligence.

This is what drives the approval ratings of virtually every individual and institution in Washington down to the low digits…lies/spin wrapped up in bureaucratize designed to “snow” the public. Obama has made a mistake of immense proportions. These bureaucrats know this but instead of simply calling him out (okay, that would mean a firing or resignation) they suck it up and put on a front. Either that, or they’re capable of mind-changes they should admit rather than trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes talking about missiles, new exotic explosives or other stuff having nothing to do with nukes or remotely comparable to them.

In the case of Clinton, one remembers the tale she contrived and used during her campaign about her and her daughter dodging sniper fire in Bosnia in the 90s…something that never happened…not even close. There was a schoolgirl at the end of her race against the snipers holding a bouquet of flowers for her on an airport tarmac…and this was all taped and shown finally to the public. Or there was the time during the campaign during a Senate hearing when she told General Petraeus that one had to “suspend belief” when contemplating his testimony, a nice way of publicly calling a 4-star general a liar to his face and thus exhibiting the proper macho to be prez. Disgusting! But she’s an expert in the field of lying, maybe a requisite for being State Secretary.

There was some comic relief on the eleventh, as well. In the CBS edition of Sixty Minutes, there was a segment about the (gasp and leg-tingling a la Chris Matthews) latest creature in the always evolving chain leading from the slime to the human being. In South Africa, a skull of some sort has been found that the “experts” claim belonged to a boy (humanoid relative?) about nine years old who lived some 1.9 million years ago. Indeed, some other bones have also been found in the same place that the experts say belonged to a 30-year-old woman who would be 1.9 million years old today if she hadn’t succumbed to whatever.

Sixty-minute guru Bob Simon swallowed the whole thing, never showing any doubt whatever that humans evolved from lower forms and that this new skull was absolute proof. The scientist, whose nine-year-old son just happened upon this skull and bones while out in the boonies with his father, couldn’t come within a million years of its age, all “carbon dating” to the contrary notwithstanding. People who make these outrageous claims are in the same camp as the climate-panic gang actually insisting that people are frying the world today, even as the ice floes are on the increase and the earth has been cooling since the 1990s. Go figure. But, it’s great fun.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Smooth Operators in Academia

Mirror, mirror, on the wall/Who are the unhappiest of them all? Notwithstanding to the contrary all the wildly made “best wishes to the dearly departed,” Mitch Barnhart and John Calipari, athletic director and basketball coach, respectively, at the University of Kentucky, are they of the quintessential sadness, as any knowledgeable, self-respecting mirror would attest. Classified consensually in the world of sports as the best team in the land, the UK basketball team did not – ALAS! – survive the Elite Eight, let alone the Final Four, not even to (gasp and three palpitations!) mention being in the Final, win or lose.

Not to worry, just any ordinary mirror might proclaim, there’s always another year, and in this case with all the main players returning thus to hone their skills, there should be at least a couple of championships in the offing. Why, you ask! Why, because the main team featured four freshman and one junior, along with some sophomore super-subs…translated, maturity, skill, and strength to guarantee inordinate success in 2010-12 at least. Problem: The four freshmen and lone junior are leaving school for the big league – the NBA, though one or three might wind up playing somewhere in Europe. The NBA can be picky.

Back to the sadness! Athletic Director Barnhart could have collected a cool $25,000 if the team had made it to the Final Four. As it is, he only collected in bonuses this year $30,000 when the football team made it to a bowl game (not hard since only six season-wins qualify); $25,000 when the women’s basketball team made it to the NCAA clambake (women’s Elite Eight); and $25,000 when the men simply made the tournament (meaning at least good enough to be 65th in the nation). This was only $80,000 for poor Mr. Barnhart but another $25,000 would have put him over the century-thousand mark in bonuses. Sad!

Barnhart only makes $475,000 a year at stingy UK although he gets something called a “compliance” bonus of $50,000, which seems actually to mean that he must simply continue to breathe. Add the $80,000 for this year’s bonuses so far and he’s had to sacrifice the good life for a piddling $605,000. Of course, UK threw in a cool $100,000 a couple years ago to get him off the hook at Oregon State for walking out on his contract there to come to UK in 2003.

Since 2003, Barnhart’s base salary has increased by only 73% (just a niggling 10% or so per year!), so one wonders if UK actually appreciates his talents, providing him insensitively with only two cars total instead of one for each day of the week. He started collecting $30,000 a year in something called “longevity pay” in 2006 (on the basis of his first contract), so who knows what he actually makes, assuming that little nest egg is not part of his current salary?

Back again to the sadness! One suspects Barnhart is secretly gnashing his teeth over the departures of the “favored five” when contemplating the finding of replacements for virtually an entire starting-team that may not even come close to 65th next year, but he might be joined in spades by Coach Calipari, who is guaranteed only $3.8 million per year, counting all the perks of his esteemed office (base salary – only $400,000). To make matters worse, he collected only an additional $50,000 via UK’s winning of the SEC season-championship and only another $50,000 when the men’s team won the SEC tournament. That’s just a paltry $3.9 million for a whole year’s effort.

Calipari’s sadness might be enhanced when he thinks of the additional $175,000 he would have collected if the team had just made the Final Four and (EGAD!) the additional $375,000 check he would have held while laughing all the way to the bank if UK had actually won the NCAA championship…so near and yet so far. If all that had happened, he would have knocked down a cool $4,450,000 for the year, or about what 80-90 rookie assistant professors make, a clear indication that education is the most important thing at UK.

This is no slam against the players, upon whose backs the Athletic Department’s honchos become wealthy in as short a time as possible. It’s fair to say that a university education was never in their plans, and no one could blame them for opting out as soon as possible. It’s a sad commentary, however, on where a university places its priorities.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Buffoonery...with National Defense?

One of the saddest of all experiences is watching a supposedly smart and responsible individual engage in exercises that all but effect buffoonery. President Obama began early in his tenure toward buffoonery when he made those trips abroad and apologized for virtually the existence of this nation. With regard to this hemisphere alone, his appearances with Ortega and Chavez, along with the ridicule he (and the U.S., through him) lapped up in the process, were sickening.

A few months ago, he made it to Copenhagen twice (unsuccessful Olympics-bid fiasco and even more unsuccessful climate-change frivolity) and continued the silliness by spending a whole 25 minutes on the former trip with his military commander, who had to fly there all the way from England…for 25 minutes, hardly enough time to cool the coffee and wonder who would make it to the Super-Bowl. He showed up in Afghanistan the other night (no daylight hours) and actually spent two of six hours on the ground with President Karzai, apparently antagonizing poor Karzai to the point of his threatening to join the Taliban (Mullah Omar’s thugs), the coalition’s deadly enemy. Okay…maybe Karzai was on the joy-juice, plentiful in his domain.

Illinois Senator Durbin was unhappy last year with Illinois Governor Blagojevich’s appointment of Illinois African-American Attorney General Roland Burris to Obama’s Senate seat and the president was unthinking enough to join Durbin, a white guy (gasp), by expressing his distaste for the process, with the result being that Burris refused to be thrown under the bus with the likes of Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, a U.S. condemner and former terrorist, respectively (both friends of the prez), but carrying too much baggage to be on the administration’s bus. This made the prez into a paper tiger at best, an incompetent meddler at worst.

One could go on, such as mentioning the prexy’s pronouncement concerning white Boston policemen (they act stupidly) without even knowing the circumstances endemic to a specific action; however, consider the latest uncalled-for stuff, i.e., what the U.S. will and will not do with regard to being attacked by another nation or terrorists enabled by another nation. According to Obama, the nation’s position is simply that the U.S. will not nuke an attacker if that attacker either doesn’t have nukes or is living up to non-proliferating promises (as if any such things exist). This applies even if the attack is chemical in nature.

No! The retaliation (if any) will be engaged by using “conventional actions.” Assuming that everyone understands that these actions cannot be successful (proven in both Iraq and Afghanistan, for instance) through the use of “conventional” bombs and/or missiles, i.e., air power alone, Obama is actually saying that the retaliation (if any) means U.S. troops on the ground, another way of putting American GIs in harm’s way. Has Obama no sense of history?

There’s more. The president envisions a world without nuclear weapons, of which the U.S. and a relative handful of other nations have quite a quantity. Translated: Obama envisions no further development in this country of nukes or weapons as deadly as nukes. This is tantamount to the standing-down of this nation in terms of its own defense-posture. There should never under any circumstances be a foreclosing of the research and development of new weapons – weapons of all kinds, no matter what any other nation or group of nations undertakes.

Treaties are often not worth the paper wasted on printing them, and disarming is deadly, as the U.S. learned in 1941 after virtually disarming itself after WWI 20 years earlier. Does anyone actually believe, for instance, that Israel or England or France or Pakistan or India or Russia would do away with its ace-in-the-hole – the nuke? Only a fool would believe that.

To think for a moment that this country should do away with its nuclear arsenal – though downsizing is not unthinkable – is so wrongheaded as to amount to another exercise in buffoonery. The plan seems to be that in the event of an attack – even using WMD – there must be a determination as to its source before the proper response can be effected…but in no wise by nukes against non-nukes, with the interesting caveat of Iran and North Korea. That caveat blows the whole scheme into wishful thinking or sheer lunacy. Why should anyone trust Russia or Pakistan any more than Iran or North Korea? And, in today’s era of technology, there would be no time to waste in sorting out the facts surrounding an attack. Recognizing the source(s) is all that would be necessary.

Under the Constitution, the most important responsibility of both the Administration and the Congress is national defense. The key component is the president, the commander-in-chief. The nation does not need a buffoon in this vital position; rather, it needs a hard-headed leader who understands the world as it is, not as he wishes it to be.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Monday, April 05, 2010

Rahm & the Gang

It's mid-afternoon in a room over the Anything Goes Bar on a busy street in South Chicago. In attendance are university professors William Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, White House chief-of-staff Rahm Emanuel, Father Michael Phleger, and the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright, hereinafter referenced as A, D, E, P, and W, respectively, if not respectfully.

~E: We all know why we’re here so…
~W: Actually I’m not sure, Rahm, unless you’ve got something else I can use to damn America. Our friend Barry listened to me damn America for 20 years…so…I suspect he’s all for getting it done. Reckon he might suggest Fallujah as the current Hiroshima?
~E: Of course not, Rev! He just sent about 30,000 of our guys over to Afghanistan to break things and kill people. You outta your *&^%$*^ gourd?
~D: Maybe he has an assassination in mind (giggles)…somebody like that mean John Boehner…maybe a poison-tipped umbrella to the thigh…oh…hahahahaha…
~A: Shut up, Berhardine! Cut her some slack, guys, she dreamed of her hero Charles Manson again last night and stabbed the dog with a fork this morning…you know…that PTSD thing…had to call off her classes at the university today…couldn’t take a chance on another road-rage fiasco.
~P: I’m not sure why I’m here, either, Rahm. I’m just another man of the cloth…
~D: Oh…I hope you’re not one of those pedophile-priests, Father…I mean…but no matter, just think what a quick whack to the head with a baseball bat would do in the confessional…oh…hahahahaha…imagine an actual Father Hyde to go with Jeremiah’s Dr. Jekyll…(giggles)…not as good as a stick of dynamite at the Pentagon but better than…
~A: Stuff it, Bernardine, or just go home.
~E: Yeah…we’re wasting time here and I’ve gotta catch that Air Force plane in another hour or so…so listen up, people. I’m assuming your organization to elect Obama is still in place…what’s that name again?
~W: Oh…you mean the Universalism to Negate Demeaning of Erudite Realists, Theologians and Honest Educators Basic to the United States.
~P: Yeah…you know, Rahm. Around the South Side it’s called by its acronym Under The Bus!
~W: Watch it, Father. That’s a tender spot here. You and Bill and Bernardine and I all know all about that acronym.
~E: Hey! Not to feel bad, guys! You know Barry had to go through the motions, especially after his speech in Philadelphia about a year ago…you know, that tribute to Jeremiah here.
~W: Tribute my Ph.D! He wound up having the whole ^&*%$#* country damning me…and then…
~D: Oh…hoo hah…under the bus with old Jeremiah, with maybe a back-wheel to the neck…all those veins popping out…better than a laser bomb to the…
~A: That was what…50 years ago, Bernardine? Cool it…the hippy-dippy years are gone…you know… shooting at the fuzz and…blowin’ in the wind (starts singing)…
~E: *&^%$*&…stop it, Bill. You’re ’way off-key anyway. Are you two stuck in the 60s forever?
~A: Sorry, Rahm…just get carried away at times…ah, the Weather Underground…that’s where the action was…remember Chicago ’68…all that LSD, Timothy O’Leary…Grant Park…
~E: Can it, Bill. Now look…the reason for this meeting is to help make plans for selling the health-care and the cap-and-trade bills to the public. We’ve bombed out on the Stimulus-sell, so we can’t afford to lose in conning…er…make that enlightening the public about how health-care will save their lives and the country…
~D: Oh…those death panels…yeah…give the old geezers a shot of hemlock with their Meta Mucil or Ex Lax or drive Bradley Vehicles through the nursing home lobbies and lob grenades…that’ll save money and it’ll be perfectly legal. (giggles hysterically)
~A: That does it Bernardine. Get the *&^%$&^% outta here and don’t run over anybody on the way home. (Dohrn leaves) By the way, Rahm, how does the prez figure to put 40 million new patients on the public dime while at the same time cutting taxes…a horrible sell?
~E: Simple, Bill. (lowers voice) Remember…he’s cutting Medicare big-time…old codgers been gettin’ off too easy for too long. Bernardine has a point.
~P: But that’s inhumane, Rahm, almost as bad as picking Hillary over Barry…and it almost happened.
~E: Speaking of which, Father, I never did get around to complimenting you on the Hillary Shuffle you did in Jeremiah’s church that night…went all over the world. Barry got letters from all over Cook County wanting to know if you could do High Mass in Grant Park.
~W: Whoa there, Rahm. Ya gotta remember it was me that inspired that book Audacity of Hope that got Barack on his way.
~A: And I started him off on that career in the legislature, Rahm…got him hooked up with some far-out lefties – if you get my drift – in the university crowds…the nitwits…they’ll fall for anything. A lot of ’em wanna know how to make Molotov Cocktails…hoo hah…they’d blow themselves clean over the stockyards. They get the students energized and ready to join ACORN and get in on the best way to register a dead person or start a house of ill…
~W: And I got Farrakhan to threaten…er…encourage all his bodyguards and their families how to vote and encourage…
~E: Get real, you guys. We got a problem selling this bill, especially since now that it’s passed all the stuff in it will be coming out. Pelosi said we’d know what’s in the bill when it’s passed.
~W: You know what’s in the bill, doncha, Rahm? There’s gotta be something that’ll damn this country…or at least the sick folks.
~E: Uh…er…well…y’see…uh…that is…whew…what was that question, Jeremiah…I mean…
~P: You sound like that Robert Glibs, Rahm…you know…press spokesman Glibs…
~E: That’s Gibbs, Father, not Glibs, though that name suits him better, I’ll admit.
~W: Well, I gotta go, Rahm, gotta meeting with Calypso Louie and the reparations crowd. Now that Barry’s runnin’ things we got a shot at sticking it to Whitey…the old Uncle Tom approach…my advice is to lie low till the heat’s off in that Tea Party bunch of hoodlums…or maybe just lie, period, especially if that bill’s gonna wreck…
~E: Lemme try this on you before you go, Jeremiah. I got a note from Dan Rather…said he could come up with a memo off an old typewriter at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta that proves Reagan and Bush’s old man put the HIV on black folk – like you said – back in the 1980s. D’ya think anybody outside ACORN will go for that?
~A: That’ll sell at the universities all over the country…at least with the humanities faculties. That’s better than blowin’ up Cheney’s oil wells.
~P: Wow! That’s good enough for an all-out bump-and-grind in Grant Park, with the altar boys doing backup…
~W: Like I said, Rahm, just the big LIE! Scream it loud and long enough and it’ll work every time. (Everyone gets up to leave)
~A: (answering phone) Stay right there, Bernardine. (hangs up) That crazy woman ran up the church steps and mowed down two Presbyterians on the way home. I’m heading for Canada for a few days.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark

Thursday, April 01, 2010

God's End-Game

In an article a few months ago, Jerry Rankin, president of the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, wrote: “For many people in the world, the gospel will be bad news.” Later, this: “For them, the gospel is bad news because it describes who joins God in His eternal kingdom and who spends an eternity in hell.” Later, this, with respect to who should “proclaim the gospel to all peoples: Every believer and every church.”

Rankin insists that those who don’t even have a chance to “hear and believe” are doomed and that those “even in our own society” who hear but don’t believe are also doomed to hell. Therein lies the problem with what believers in general, especially evangelicals, see as their prime reason for spreading the gospel, i.e., saving people from hell.

Those who share Rankin’s belief present a gospel so bereft of logic and divine sensitivity as to be incomprehensible if not outright ridiculous/sadistic. For fundamentalists, Rankin’s proposition is actually negated by their belief in predestination, foreordination, foreknowledge or fore/pre-anything endemic to the “foundation of the world,” since God has initiated and changed courses within the creation numerous times, well-documented in scripture. God would not have planned before the creation for the times he would change his mind after the creation…just plain common sense.

For those who don’t share Rankin’s inflexible claim but believe that those who hear and reject also are doomed, common sense dictates the better course should be never exposing anyone to the gospel, thus making sure no one rejects it and inherits hell in the bargain, i.e., forget the Great Commission enunciated by Christ to take the gospel throughout the world. Indeed in this rubric, believers shouldn’t have children since, as potential unbelievers, they might be “lost.”

Preachers sometimes sermonize that salvation for an unbeliever is dependent upon a specific believer’s diligence in introducing that unbeliever to the gospel and his need to appropriate it, thus avoiding hell. This potential guilt-trip, besides being unfair to both believer and unbeliever, indicates that a given human being’s eternity depends upon the action or inaction/apathy of another person. This is unconscionable. The witness must be made with no thought of the recipient’s acceptance or rejection; otherwise, missionaries could be doing a disservice in introducing such risk.

This also remarks the unfairness of anyone’s inheriting hell because he/she never heard the gospel. Accusing God of that sort of chicanery/venality is absurd and blasphemous, especially in light of John 3:17, Jesus speaking: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (NIV). That’s the whole world...in his hands. That’s straightforward enough and behooves believers to emulate Christ’s ministry, which involved responding to the physical needs of unbelievers while pointing them to God, not as potential eternal torturer but as current enabler, counselor and, ultimately, eternal Savior.

Generations of believers in virtually all denominations of any size have been brainwashed at one time or another with the fact that the end-all/be-all of Christian endeavor is ensconcing people on the fire-escape from hell. Nor have multitudes been spared from the fundamentalist philosophy that anyone outside the “elect” has no chance at heaven, no matter any circumstance relative to belief, unbelief, sin, good works, whatever. This latter is weird, if only in light of its obvious nullification of both freedom of choice and prayer for any purpose.

This doesn’t denigrate the good intentions of pastors, evangelists or Sunday School teachers who’ve diligently attempted to keep people out of hell “the best way they knew how.” It is to say that the greater effort by Jesus always involved showing/teaching people the right way to live and treat others, with the right way to die being an ancillary consideration. So...heaven can wait.

Insisting that the saving ministry/crucifixion/resurrection of Christ regarding eternity does not directly apply to everyone is to trivialize God’s plan since God intends reconciling himself with his entire creation – no person of which asked to be born – through the work of Christ, the actual incarnation of God. Pastors must indicate the ways salvation and reconciliation differ, as well as how they’re connected. God is ultimately responsible for the current/eternal condition/welfare of everyone, reconciling himself with people now and forever through the work of Christ (the only way to God) whether they like it or not or even discern it.

This is the positive approach to sharing the faith. Salvation is as important in real time as in eternity, actually more important since eternity holds no problems. The most important real-time aspect of becoming “saved” is instant communication and fellowship with God, allowing for prayer, worship, and the knowledge of how to live, the actual grounding of a soul for both now and forever. This is worth serious thought during the resurrection season, remarking the fact that the end-game is God’s alone, and that it was/is played out at an incomprehensible cost.

And so it goes.
Jim Clark