The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." "...it is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32) akakyakakyevich@gmail.com

Monday, August 18, 2014

Something there is about a wall, that wants it down, or not, as the case may be



I am perplexed, which should not come as a surprise to anyone, by a great many things these days. I suppose it’s because I’m getting older; I am 56 now and the world makes less sense to me now than it did when I was sixteen. Of course, for most sixteen year old males the world’s lack of sense is not perplexing; figuring out how to get laid is. I don’t imagine that the subject has gotten any simpler in the forty years since it was my primary obsession, but time has a way of giving you other things to think about, most of which revolve around paying bills you’d rather not pay.

I am perplexed, for example, by the Federal government’s curious inability to build a fence.  Since the beginnings of human civilization one of the few things that governments of all ideological bents have been good at is the building of walls, fences, moats, and various and sundry other ways of making getting from Point A to Point B as annoying and cumbersome as possible. In the Scriptures, for instance, we see the Children of Israel’s way into the Promised Land blocked by the towering walls of the city of Jericho and we rejoice a few verses later as those sonically challenged walls come a-tumbling down, although it is at times like this that one must wonder if issuing government contracts to the lowest bidder is such a good idea, especially as this lowest bidder’s next job was building the levees around New Orleans’ Ninth Ward. Some things are just a dead giveaway, I think.

In another, perhaps more germane example, the first Qin emperor of China, the great and more than vaguely loony Qin Shi Huang, the man who united all the warring Chinese states into one great empire, decided that the people of the northern grasslands and the Gobi Desert were not worth the time and effort of conquering–that lot was simply too lumpen, don’t you know—and so to keep them at bay and off the freshly mown grass he decided to build a wall between his newly unified empire and the barbarians. And so it was that the Great Wall of China came to be. The Great Wall stretches for two thousand miles across northern China and for the most part it worked as advertised. Oh, on occasion a Mongol horde would get through and China would have to suffer through the hacking, slashing, raping, and pillaging that such breaches afforded, but in the main, the wall did its job and kept the barbarians out and the tourists and their money in.

And in the interests of fairness I should point out that the Romans built not one, but two walls across Great Britain to separate Scotland from England. Large sections of Hadrian’s Wall and the Antonine Wall still exist and you can go see them, if you care to see that sort of thing. The Romans built the walls to keep the Scots and Picts from raiding what was then the Roman province of Britannia, a fact that I am sure boosted the ego of many a Scottish and Pictish war chief until someone explained to them that the Romans regarded Caledonia—the Latin name of Scotland—as a great festering pile of pig manure no one in their right mind would want in the first place.

For even more Roman fence-type fun, we have the Limes Germanicus and the Limes Moesiae, which the Romans built to keep the Germans out of the Empire, the Limes Arabicus, which kept the Arabs out of the Empire, and the limes at the edge of the glass, which keep the margaritas out of me. To go a bit further afield, the British built the Lines of Torres Vedras, which successfully kept the French out of Portugal, and the French built the Maginot Line to keep the Germans out of France, which was somewhat less successful. The Russians built the Iron Curtain; its most visible manifestation, the Berlin Wall, was pretty effective until the East Germans got tired of looking at in 1989. The Iron Curtain’s less visible manifestations were the heavily defended borders between members of the Warsaw Pact, a harder to understand phenomenon given that no Bulgarian was going to risk his life and already limited freedom to defect to Romania.

Most recently, of course, we have the Israelis and their antiterrorist fence or wall or whatever the correct word for the thing is. The Israelis erected the whatever it is after waves of suicide bombers began striking inside Israel after 2000 in the wake of the second Palestinian intifada, the Israelis working on the entirely reasonable assumption that if the bombers couldn’t get into Israel they couldn’t kill anyone with a bomb. The dramatic drop in the rate of suicide bombings in Israel would seem to bear out this assumption, but the critics remain, of course; empiricism has never been popular amongst the chattering classes. There’s just something about facts and figures that makes your average idealist’s skin crawl.

All of which leads us back to the question of why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a fence along the country’s southern border. I have heard all sorts of reasons for this peculiar handicap. Building such a fence is technically impossible is one reason I’ve heard, as well as that fence-building is a racist macroaggression, and the one I like the most, building the fence would cost too much. First, as to the questions of costs and possibility, it seems to me that if the first emperor of China can build a gigantic wall that you can’t see from outer space two thousand years ago then there is no reason why the government of this our Great Republic cannot build a chain link fence that you can see from Mexico with the naked eye.  Chain link fencing is a much easier material to work with than truly humongous blocks of stone and we could probably put a chain link fence up in much less time than it took the Chinese to build the Great Wall. The fence will have to come with all the electronic doodads beloved of the surveillance state these days, which will cause all of the usual cost overruns that we must expect whenever the government tries to do anything. But what of it? This country, after all, has spent trillions of dollars over the past fifty years trying to eliminate poverty and the poverty rate hasn’t budged an inch, and yet we continue to spend money on trying to eliminate poverty. If we can spend trillions of dollars on something we know isn’t going to work, we can certainly spend a few million on something that might; you never know, after all. Milton might be alive, he said, making an allusion so obscure that not even the guys on The Big Bang Theory can figure it out. Well, maybe Sheldon would catch it.

As for the racism of it all, well, I don’t know about that. Every country has immigration laws and I’ve always had the idea that if everyone else has immigration laws we should have them too. It’s only fair, you know. And we should get to enforce them like everyone else. After all, Mexico has no qualms about shipping Hondurans back to Honduras if they catch them working in Mexico so why should we debate sending Mexicans back home? And if sending people back where they came from is racist, does this make the Mexican government racist as well? If this is the case, then this country should be doing everything in its power to stop the hordes of racist Mexicans from coming into our country, lest they infect our unsuspecting citizenry with their low, vile, and altogether contemptible racism. I hear, though, that this is not going to happen, as our Illinois Incitatus will be declaring shortly that the immigration laws are whatever He says they are on any given day, and that it will please His Elective Majesty to let these poor benighted wretches into this country. I suspect, however, that the poor benighted wretches will have to wait for November for the good news. The former junior senator from Illinois will not want to rile up the bitter clingers until after the midterm elections.  In a world filled with much confusion and perplexity, our prairie solon’s need to pander for votes is the one thing we can all count on. In this He is as true as the North Star, a mother’s love, and my dentist finding something expensive to fix at every checkup. Thus it ever was, saith the sages, and thus it ever shall be.




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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

News flash!

Okay, kids, there's something on the griddle. Just a little bit longer. And thank you for your patience.
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Apologies

My apologies for not posting, folks, but I've been fighting off a variety of health problems this past month and I had to put writing on the back burner for a while. I wish I could say that I had something on the stove ready to go, but I don't have anything in the pot as yet, but when I do, you guys will be the first to know. I trust you are all enjoying the nice weather, assuming, of course, you're having nice weather.
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Saturday, July 05, 2014

Storms



And so the monsoon came to town yesterday, complete with intense flashes of lightning and downpours so tremendous that one could forgive an impartial observer for wondering if Noah and the Ark would be floating down Main Street any time soon, and, if so, would they stop at Subway’s to pick up some sandwiches for the wife and the kids and the two of every sort of creature that walketh or creepeth upon the face of the Earth as they headed off towards the mountains of Ararat?  The wind howled in a suitably gruesome manner and the sky turned black in the middle of the day and all the denizens of our happy little burg trembled under the fury of the storm.  And then, of course, there were the people who braved the wrath of nature and went forth into the storm in order to get a gallon of milk or a pound of ground chuck at the supermarket, brave men and women who refused to bow down before dictates of nature but who wandered out, umbrellas in hand, leaving this observer to wonder just how much of a dumbass do you have to be to go outside in a thunderstorm holding a metal spike in the air?  First, when the winds are lashing around at about sixty miles an hour your umbrella is not going to help you; it will not even make an adequate sail, should you find yourself in a situation where you need an adequate sail.  I’m not saying that will ever happen in real life, you understand, but it might, and an umbrella that the wind has turned inside out is worse than useless.  It won’t keep the rain out of your face and it certainly won’t help shield you from the rest of the elements, which, I have noticed, tend to be fairly nasty during these meteorological temper tantrums.  Sec0nd, during the aforementioned meteorological temper tantrums the abundant lightning whips about striking both willy and nilly, deep frying them to a golden toasty brown. Given this, I repeat my previous question: why are these dolts going outside holding a metal spike in the air?  To me, this appears to be almost suicidal behavior, almost as if these poor saps were volunteering to have Nature in all her mystery and majesty remove their clearly bargain basement chromosomes from the gene pool in as expeditious a manner as possible.   While I am all for improving humanity and its morals, this appears to me to be a very short-sighted, if not more than vaguely painful way of accomplishing this altogether laudatory goal.  Wouldn’t all of these people be much better off if they simply stayed indoors until the storm blows by and then go out for a gallon of milk?

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Monday, June 09, 2014

Disinvitation and the expanding intestine



Yes, it is that time of the year again and hence something of a silly season here in this our Great Republic, where the lengthening days and abundant sunshine turn many a soon to graduate college senior’s mind to thoughts of how they’re going to pay off the mountain of debt they’ve managed to wrack up with a bachelor’s degree in Queer Vegan Studies.  It’s a puzzlement to me too, to paraphrase Yul Brynner in The King and I, but one that will not prevent our graduate to be one last radical hurrah before they go out into the workaday world and sell out to The Man. So, yes, it is that time of year again, the time wherein the disgruntled, the disaffected, and the more than usually dysfunctional student and all of his or her ilk goes forth and denounces the commencement speaker and demands that he, she, it, or they slink away in shame.

The commencement speaker, for those of you have managed to skip the whole college experience, is a distinguished person brought in by the college to give a speech to the assembled graduates. The speech is usually long and tedious and often tendentious as well, and as filled with untruths as a politician’s campaign speech. Knowing this, I skipped the speech and the graduation itself when I got my bachelor’s; I went to see Field of Dreams instead. But when I got my master’s I had to go; my mother made me. She wanted to be proud of her oldest boy and she wanted to see me get the piece of paper that would entitle me to a permanent position in the civil service, so I had to go. It was, as I anticipated, a fairly gruesome experience, although not as bad as a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. The dean of the college gave the commencement, and while the speech was too damn long, he did end it with some pithy remarks and a good joke, so all was not lost. My brother, on the other hand, spent much of the speech slouching lower and lower in his chair, the better to see the valedictorian’s legs, which were, I have to admit, very nice, but there is a time and a place for everything and that was neither the time or the place.

I bring this largely unnecessary family history up because the august institution that granted me my master’s degree has succumbed to the madness of campus commencement disinvitation syndrome.  A former student of said august institution—not me, unfortunately, because I’d give the grads an earful—is returning to deliver the commencement address and the campus radicals are already busy at work trying to get the man disinvited. The would-be speaker, an immigrant from a war-torn Third World country where large numbers of the populace believe that sheep are an acceptable alternative to having a date on Saturday night, made a fortune selling yogurt through hard work, living right, and sheer business acumen. This in itself would render the man unacceptable to the fevered minions of the neo-Marxist anti-capitalist left, who infest the groves of American academia like Dutch elm disease, as well as to the more radical African-American activist groups, who consider all such tales of immigrant success as examples of racial oppression and a testament to the power of whiteness in a Jim Crow society. But the loudest shrieks against our prospective speaker came from the radically lactose intolerant, who have made it clear to anyone who will listen that they regard our speaker as a vicious poisoner on a par with Lucrezia Borgia in the bad old days before she became a feminist icon.

Now, you must understand that when I first heard this I thought it was a joke. I have seen a lot of peculiar things in my life, from the re-election of the former junior senator from Illinois to learning that there may be as many different genders in this world as Heinz has varieties of ketchup, but I must admit that the idea of a genetic inability to digest dairy products could be the basis of a political movement had never occurred to me. Peculiar or not, however, it is so, and therefore the television stations here in the Vampire State are showing the demonstrations against our commencement speaker on almost every broadcast.

From a purely objective point of view, I will grant that there may be something to the complaints of the lactose intolerant community. Seeing your alma mater honor a man you regard as hateful does not do much to improve the climate of inclusion that all institutions of higher learning here in this our Great Republic do their utmost to foster nowadays. That being said, there is a point when the propaganda of the deed makes the propagandist look foolish, as when the lactose intolerant threaten to go to the commencement speech after eating the speaker’s product and turn the venue into a vile and noisome hellhole of reeking flatulence. Lactose intolerance does reduce the quality of one’s life, I’m sure; it can’t be easy growing up and having Mom tell you that you can’t have the ice cream the rest of the kids are eating because it will give you a bad tummy ache, but these dolts are now making themselves look ridiculous. I realize that they will call me insensitive, which I can live with—my mother calls me worse things every time I see her—but they will always call anyone they disagree with something.  This is one of the reasons that our campus comrades love speech codes so much—Alinsky was right: ridicule is a powerful weapon, but only if you’re not the target. If you are the target, if you can tell the people telling you that you’re dumber than a box of rocks to shut up, then by definition you can’t be ridiculous.  Remember, Winston, two and two are five, if the Party says so.

Of course, all of this controversy has horrified and appalled our commencement speaker, as well as the president of the university, who thought that he’s hit the jackpot with our speaker; after all, is there a less controversial subject in this world than yogurt?  Who could object to yogurt?  Now that he’s knows, the papers say that he may disinvite the speaker, since there are rumors floating around that the lactose intolerant activists may occupy the main administration building and burn it down if the president doesn’t meet their demands.  As a concerned alumnus, I think I should offer what seems to me a perfectly workable solution to the problem: let the speaker speak and tell the lactose intolerant to avoid his product. Eating the man’s yogurt is not a requirement for graduation nor is it a violation of anyone’s constitutional rights.  He’s not making the stuff to damage anyone’s sense of self-esteem nor is the dairy industry engaged in a vast conspiracy to make the lactose intolerant feel bad about themselves.  Commencement is about finally leaving school and entering the adult world. It is not nor has it ever been about anyone’s gastrointestinal problems.  As this is a practical solution to this alleged problem, I fear, it will not happen and I suspect that those lactose intolerant radicals who like to foam at the mouth about their genetic oppression will have none of it.  My second suggestion is to call in the state police and have them teargas the campus thoroughly and then crack some skulls. Frankly, I don’t think that’s not going too happen either.  Universities don’t do that sort of thing anymore, which is a pity, I think. Sometimes you really do have to pound some common sense into some people.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Executioner's blues



The state of Oklahoma, where the waving wheat can sure smell sweet when the wind comes right behind the rain, executed Clayton Lockett, an alleged human being, two weeks ago, an execution the press now almost universally describes as botched. I am not sure I can agree with that characterization. The object of the exercise was to cause Mr. Lockett’s death and now he is dead, albeit in a manner inconsistent with the way these things usually go. Execution by lethal injection begins with the condemned man receiving a large dose of a powerful sedative and then, when he is in a drug-induced sleep, the executioner administers a drug that will stop his heart. This is allegedly a more humane method of execution than hanging, poison gas, electrocution, or firing squad, which are the methods in use in those states that still permit capital punishment and do not use lethal injection.  What happened to Mr. Lockett is that the prison authorities used a new cocktail of lethal drugs, none of which, it appears, was as lethal as the drugs in the old cocktail of lethal drugs. Instead of falling asleep and then dying, Mr. Lockett remained awake and groaning, sometimes thrashing about, sometimes talking to people in the execution chamber, and in a variety of other ways being inconveniently not dead when he should have been. The execution having ground to a halt, our Sooner Sansons manqués puzzled about what to do next when Mr. Lockett saved the day for them by dying of a massive heart attack, a result the Oklahoma justice system could have achieved at considerably less cost to the taxpayers by simply putting Mr. Lockett on a diet high in fat and cholesterol and encouraging him to smoke as many cigarettes as he liked. Not wishing to appear too dumb for words, a fear you’d think they would have gotten over by then, the state of Oklahoma canceled the execution of Charles Warner, another alleged human being, until they could figure out what went wrong with Mr. Lockett’s execution.

Since Mr. Lockett shuffled off this mortal coil in so indecorous a manner, certain segments of the press have been nearly hysterical in their denunciations of the state’s handling of the execution and of the death penalty itself.  I find myself agreeing with their criticisms of how Mr. Lockett died; if a state is going to execute criminals then by all means let us find a way that satisfies the needs of justice and disposes of the wretch in as painless a manner as possible; and I find myself totally disagreeing with their conclusions about the death penalty as a whole. I have never been comfortable with the death penalty; we live in an age in which prosecutors already have way too much power in the criminal justice system and I cannot avoid the feeling that for many a prosecutor a high profile murder case ending in an execution is just the ticket for them to achieve higher office and the interests of justice be damned. All of this is on one side of the scale, and on the other stands Mr. Lockett, who was a walking, talking, living, breathing advertisement for the correctness of the death penalty. Mr. Lockett kidnapped three people; he beat one man senseless, anally, orally, and vaginally raped one young woman, and then murdered the young woman’s friend, nineteen-year old Stephanie Neiman. Mr. Lockett shot Ms. Neiman twice and when that was not enough to kill her, he had his accomplices dig a grave and bury her alive in it, all the while ignoring her screams for help and pleas for mercy. Mr. Lockett admitted to the crime and the video of his confession is one of the most callous and brutal things you will ever see in your life.  A jury convicted Mr. Lockett and he spent fifteen years on Oklahoma’s death row as he and his lawyers explored every legal avenue available to get his sentence reduced. So color me unimpressed with the multiple stories about Mr. Lockett’s botched execution—the bastard got what was coming to him. I remember reading once about someone asking Albert Pierrepoint, for many years Great Britain’s official hangman, about why it was that the death penalty never seemed truly satisfactory, given the enormity of the crimes that the condemned had committed. Mr. Pierrepoint replied that there were no extras with a death sentence, there was no making the condemned man suffer for what he had done. A death sentence meant that the man died; nothing more and nothing less. In Mr. Lockett’s case, the incompetence of the Oklahoma prison authorities meant that, in this case at least, the condemned man felt some of the fear and terror he had visited on his victim. Is that constitutional? Probably not, but in this case I’m not sure I care one way or the other.  The nature of Mr. Lockett’s crime precludes the possibility of any sympathy from me.   May he rot in hell.

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Friday, May 09, 2014

Investment advice from the fifth dimension



I got an email from my sister who’s not really my sister the other day, which is a relationship sufficiently out of the ordinary to call for some explanation. Barbara and her family lived next door to us in the Bronx, back in the days when Ike was the President of this our Great Republic and all was right in the world, except for the usual suspects like the Middle East, which was as intractable then as it is now. Barbara was a teenager then and whenever Mom and Dad had to go out, she’d come across the hall to baby-sit my brothers and me. Her own mother was in the last stages of lymphatic cancer then, so Barbara and my mother became very close during what had to have been an incredibly trying time.  Barbara always called our mother Mommy and we (my brothers and I) always thought of her as our cool older sister. She took us to the park and the playground and to the movies too; I still remember seeing Goldfinger and Thunderball—I was big on James Bond then; I had the action figures and everything—and Barbara took us all to see Mary Poppins when it opened at Radio City Music Hall in 1964, a year, I should point out to the younger readers, when there were no dinosaurs living in the New York City sewers or anywhere else on Earth, except for Philadelphia, Mississippi, where the shock wave from the asteroid hadn’t arrived yet. 

As time passed, Barbara’s fate was the fate of all cool older sisters: she went to college, she got married, and then she moved away and started a family of her own. We stayed in touch, though; she called her Mommy at least once a week, no matter where she was, and when we needed advice, we’d call her and talk to see what she thought. And we would listen to what she had to say, because her advice was always sound and because she was our big sister, and we loved her and her good opinion was important to us. 

So, it shouldn’t have surprised me that I got an email from her the other day advising me to invest in hotels in the greater New Delhi area.  Like my mother, Barbara was always on the lookout for a good deal, although the sudden interest in foreign real estate puzzled me. She’d never shown any interest in the subject before she died last year of the same kind of lymphatic cancer that killed her mother in 1959 and I wondered why she’d developed such an interest now. But I suppose being dead broadens one’s horizons in much the same way that travel does, and getting investment advice from one’s dead relatives via email certainly makes more sense that having to go to séances run by Madame Griselda, who tells her customers that she is a Hungarian Gypsy and who is, in reality, a third generation Italian American from Secaucus, New Jersey, or cracking out the old ouija board and wondering what the spirits are trying to tell you. Email is a much more efficient form of communication than mediums, ouija boards, or even the occasional burning bush, even if burning bushes have a really good spam filter.

And getting investment advice from the dead certainly makes more sense than getting advice from some Wall Street financial type. With the latter you have to spend a good amount of time wondering if they are trying to get you to invest because it’s good for your portfolio or whether they want you to invest in one thing or another because they intend to make a fortune shorting the stock once they’ve gotten enough suckers to take the bait. With your dead relatives, on the other hand, you can rest assured that they have your best interests at heart, assuming, of course, that they weren’t organ donors and their heart is now in some checkout clerk at a Wal-Mart just outside of Boise, Idaho. It’s not like the dead have any interest in earning sales commissions or shorting stocks or have someplace to spend the money once they’ve earned it. There’s a good reason why there are no good delicatessens or Citroen car dealerships in American cemeteries and the steadfast immobility of the deceased labor market probably has something to do with that.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. We live in a cynical age and I know that you’re thinking that the person on the other end of those emails is not my sister who’s not really my sister, but some subcontinental digital goniff who hacked into her account and does not know that I am on to him and his thieving ways. I would be a terrible person if I even considered this idea for even a moment. If I did, then I would be the kind of person who thinks that someone who did something like this is the verminous spawn of a syphilitic latrine cleaner of the Bhangi caste and a leprous sow, a piece of filth who enjoys inserting razor blades into his own penis in order to alleviate the pain of his baseball-sized kidney stones and telling people that if they like their doctor, they can keep them. Well, maybe that last one is an untruth too far, but you get my point. We may live in a cynical age, but I refuse to allow this to affect my happy and joyous outlook on life or to wish my older sister who isn’t my sister all the success in the world in her new career in finance and real estate.

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