Saturday, November 27, 2010
Kids grow up so fast these days. It seems only yesterday that little Kim Jong-Un (son of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il) was learning to drive, nervously going on a first date, and visiting the "Dad & Lad" store to buy his first XXXL leisure suit. And now, in another rite of passage, the presumed leader-to-be of North Korea ordered the bombardment of South Korea while sneering at the United States.
The portly 27-year old was said to be touring the facility which shelled South Korea shortly before the attack, calling into question whether he was really listening when his father said "you can look, but don't touch anything."
Despite the fact that previous provocations from Kim Jong-Il have generated no significant response from Barack Obama, the shelling of South Korea has caused the American president to unleash his much-feared "strategic patience," issue a broadside of statements sending "a clear message of restraint," and there is talk...quietly, fearfully...that as a measure of last resort, the president will consider the use of his frowny face.
In all seriousness, the situation is extremely volatile and dangerous, and the world is now holding its breath. All of which illustrates the danger of letting children run militarily powerful countries.
On either side of the globe.
Friday, November 26, 2010
This year, the leftovers that are most likely to cause upset stomachs aren't coming from turkeys... they're coming from lame ducks.
In the short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas, the lame duck session in Washington needs to address all of the issues that had been postponed owing to "emergencies" like the need to raise the cost and decrease the availability of healthcare services, and of course that most urgent of political emergencies - spending a full year campaigning for re-election.
Now, however, some actual work needs to get done to prevent everything from falling apart. Lame duck Dems are pushing for an "omnibus spending bill" which will fund the government without any close scrutiny. Barack Obama would like congress to ratify a START treaty, to help weaken America's missile defense capabilities before incoming Republicans arrive to screw things up. Doctors are eager to see if they're going to have their Medicare reimbursements slashed in December, after this congress postponed this disaster for only 30 days. And every taxpayer in America will be getting a tax increase on January 1st unless the lame ducks stop quacking and actually deliver a bill (ba-da-boom!).
Somehow, we imagine the scene in Washington much the way we picture Santa's workshop at the North Pole; a wild hub of activity with all of the colorful elves busily trying to get everything done by the last minute.
Or at least, that's how we'd imagine it if elves sat on their rear ends for 11 months of the year.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
Today is Thanksgiving, the day when American families gather together to enjoy the traditional meal, and give heartfelt thanks that their TSA "pat down" agent didn't have cold hands.
At this busiest travel time of the year, it seems oddly appropriate that airline passengers are being given the turkey-like choices of being plucked (via scanner) or stuffed (via "enhanced pat-downs"). Unsurprisingly, and perhaps deliberately, many passengers are now downright thrilled to jump into the naked body scanners rather than having their private parts squeezed like a dog's squeaky toy.
But putting levity aside for a moment, Hope n' Change sympathizes with the TSA agents performing this thankless job...and notes that there really is a reason for the intrusive security measures. Terrorists hide bombs exactly where they are least likely to be looked for, including not only underwear but bodily cavities. And we're not talking about teeth.
So we concede that the TSA needs to have the ability to conduct these searches, but we strongly disagree with the TSA's assumption that all people from grandmothers to 3-year-olds are just as likely to be terrorists as young, middle-eastern males who have recently been to Syria.
Bringing real intelligence to the screening process would inevitably result in creating a profile of a "most likely terrorist" - but currently, our government is more afraid of "profiling" than of "terror." And oddly, they've chosen to show this "sensitivity" by squeezing everyone's genitalia.
Yes, the bad guys (who aren't necessarily stupid guys) may sometimes try to use grandmothers and 3-year-olds as bomb "mules," and so a certain number of random searches will always need to take place.
But we can, and must, create a smarter screening process. And when it gets here, there will be real cause for giving thanks.
In the meanwhile, Hope n' Change wishes you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving, and reminds everyone that even in these odd times, we Americans have a truly unbelievable number of things to be thankful for.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
For the second time in two years, American interests have been badly served when it turned out that a theoretically important leader was, in fact, a complete imposter.
In this case, the United States and Afghan government had been negotiating with - and giving bags of money to - Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, who was supposedly a high-ranking Taliban official. Only - oops! - he wasn't really.
The imposter flew on NATO aircraft and met with top officials (when he wasn't cashing those hefty checks), giving the U.S. hope that great progress was being made in the ongoing negotiations with the Taliban.
Unfortunately, it turns out that the imposter was simply a shopkeeper from a tiny town in Pakistan, who presumably hires himself out as a pretend "Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour" to children's birthday parties, where he charms the guests by blowing up balloons and the occasional room full of civilians.
But no real harm was done, except for all of the money lost, the reversal of our hopes for a negotiated peace in Afghanistan, and the ridicule of the world for being so easily duped by an alleged "leader" with bogus documentation.
Tuesday, November 23, 2010
As much as we never expected to say it, Al Gore has finally shared an inconvenient truth that is genuinely instructive and important for people to hear.
Specifically, the former vice-president and alleged environmentalist is admitting that the multi-billion dollar ethanol subsidies that he backed during his run for the presidency weren't actually so good for the environment, for energy, or for the economy...but were darn good for attracting votes from corn farmers.
And what makes this so instructive is that it provides a great window into how government really works, and the unintended consequences of bureaucratic meddling.
Turning corn into alcohol is a process that actually uses as much or more energy (those evil old fossil fuels, no less) as the resulting ethanol will produce when put into your gas tank. So there's no benefit to the environment, and no lessening of dependence on foreign suppliers.
And to make sure that there was plenty of corn available for this expensive and nearly useless process, the government offered multi-billion dollar price subsidies to farmers and gasoline producers... causing the price of corn to go up, and the amount available for other purchasers to go down.
And who are those "other purchasers?" That would be you and me, the people who eat corn, or eat meat that was raised on corn, or use any of the millions of grocery items that contain ingredients like corn syrup. The price of all of these items went up...because our tax money was forcing them to go up.
Not for the environment. Not for energy policy. But to buy votes from farmers - even if it meant our elected officials needed to lie about the "science."
Frankly, we appreciate Mr. Gore's sudden and surprising attack of candor as the cash-strapped U.S. considers extending the subsidies (currently $7.7 billion) for another year.
And we hope that if he has any other "inconvenient truths" on his conscience, he doesn't wait quite so long to share them.
Monday, November 22, 2010
They say that every dark cloud has a silver lining...so the huge, boiling, all-engulfing pitch black cloud that looms over the world economy must be hiding a gigantic silver lining, right?
Well, no. But scientists believe they've discovered an eensy-weensy bit of potentially good news in that global production of carbon dioxide dropped 1.3% in the period between 2008 and 2009, owing to the world economy essentially grinding to a halt.
Factories were closed, people didn't need to drive to jobs, and business travelers weren't jetting through the skies. Even so, the climate change scientists had predicted the drop in carbon dioxide would be greater, but - tragically - the economy improved a bit over their projections.
Still, the climate change crowd can take heart from the fact that Barack Obama and his economic policies are still in place for another couple of years, fighting industry and employment to the best of his ability.
Not to mention the reduction in carbon dioxide resulting from more and more Americans holding their breath waiting for 2012 to arrive.
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Not long ago, alleged president Barack Obama informed the world that the United States was embracing a new humility, because "there have been times where America has shown arrogance and been dismissive, even derisive."
Which is why the Whitehouse must be groaning over Joe Biden's arrogant, dismissive, and derisive comment on the Larry King show that "Daddy is going to start taking the training wheels off" in the Afghan war, so the locals had "better practice riding."
Yep, there's nothing patronizing about a statement like that!
Or a statement like "Daddy is going to spank you like the bad, bad girl you've been," which Biden didn't actually say aloud but which he may have been thinking...if we assume that he actually was thinking. Which we frequently don't.
Of course, apart from Biden's statement being patently offensive to our allies, it's also a bit outdated; because when it comes to this administration, the wheels fell off their foreign policy a long time ago.