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..." " 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)

Friday, October 28, 2016

A Pulitzer for Putin

The Pulitzer Prize Committee will announce the 2016 prizes this coming April and I am wondering if it is possible for me to nominate Vladimir Putin for one.  I realize that nominating a world leader for a Pulitzer Prize is a bit strange, but it is certainly no stranger than the Nobel Committee giving the Peace Prize to the former junior Senator from Illinois, an alleged world leader who had done nothing to deserve the award at all at the time he received it and has done precious little since he got the prize to justify his having gotten it in the first place. Mr. Putin, on the other hand, will have actually done something to earn the Pulitzer Prize. I am referring, of course, to Mr. Putin’s foray into investigative journalism, which is a style of journalism that has gone out of fashion over the past eight years. One would think that the President of the Russian Federation would have something better to do with his spare time than investigative journalism, but when one bears the heavy responsibility of public office one needs a hobby that will take one’s mind off the day’s problems and restores one’s equilibrium.

 This is especially true in times of great historical stress. During the Second World War, for example, Franklin D. Roosevelt collected stamps and naval prints, Winston Churchill painted landscapes and laid bricks at his estate in Kent, and Josef Stalin had people shot in the back of the head. Adolf Hitler, by contrast, had no hobbies. He was fond of walking his dog, which more exercise than it is a hobby and so does not really count. Similarly, General Tojo liked to sing dirty songs in karaoke bars after a long day of committing aggression against the Chinese and other people he did not like. Singing karaoke, however, is not a hobby; it is an activity and an exceptionally loathsome activity at that; if there is anything that demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that Japan deserved to lose the war, it is karaoke. Just my personal opinion there; you can take it or leave it if you want. In any case, the fact that both men did not have any hobbies to speak of goes a long way towards explaining why they lost the war, and it also clearly indicates to me that a hobby is a good thing for a world leader to have. A real hobby provides a sense of intellectual accomplishment, relaxes the mind, and promotes a sense of perspective about the day’s troubles. Hobbies are a good thing, no two ways about it.

And today Mr. Putin indulges in a passion for investigative journalism, even if indulging this passion appears to cause a great deal of resentment amongst professional journalists. From what I understand, the source of the resentment is Mr. Putin’s using the Russian Federation’s Special Communications Service to gain access to information that professional journalists cannot access. The mainstream media, Mr. Putin’s detractors point out, cannot possibly compete with the resources that the SCS can bring to bear or its capabilities in signals intelligence and that therefore it is unfair to expect the media to do so.  I, for one, do not accept this argument.  For one thing, this argument, which does have a certain at first glance verisimilitude to it, leaves out an important part of the equation and then proceeds in the hope that the reader will not notice the absence. The missing condition is this: the Democratic nominee for the Presidency of the United States is a corrupt, two-faced, incompetent hypocrite and that to facilitate this individual’s election the American media will ignore any and all evidence of malfeasance, peculation, illegality, and wrongdoing. No one, the press reasons, should confuse the great unwashed out there in flyover country with the facts, so no one will publish them. Having determined ahead of time that no amount of evidence will cause them to abandon their candidate, the American press should not complain when someone else steps in and does their job for them. The American press should not complain, but they are anyway.  No one likes looking foolish and the American press is looking very foolish these days. And so my suggestion: since the American press is not willing to commit journalism this year, why not give the Pulitzer to the one man who is willing to go boldly where no journolist has gone before?  The 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Journalism should go to the one man who is doing actual journalism: Vladimir Putin. 

 And why not?  It’s not the first time the prize has gone to someone who worked for the Kremlin—Messrs. Duranty and Matthews come immediately to mind—and I think it is good that the Russians will finally step out of the shadows and claim the award for themselves and not allow their contribution to American journalism to go unheralded. Get rid of the middleman, I say, and let the plaudits go to those who have truly earned them.

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Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fads and such

Fads come and go, of course; that is the nature of fads, after all—they are as temporary as Japanese cherry blossoms; and so long as the fad does no real harm to life, limb, or property I see no reason why we should not ignore the uproar until the fad disappears on its own. How many people today remember that the Pet Rock, leisure suits, and lava lights were once things no respectable household could do without or that millions of people once did the Macarena without once realizing that they were making complete asses of themselves?  Fads come and fads go almost as quickly, leaving us all more than a little embarrassed that we had gotten so caught up in something so fundamentally silly. On occasion, however, a fad comes along that is so clearly a threat to the public order that decent people must band together and put a stop to it before someone gets hurt, and I think I can say with a reasonable degree of certainty that the current practice of dropping catfish on the heads of innocent passersby is such a fad.  Someone has to stop this now before a kid gets hurt. The catfish could put someone’s eye out, you know. It could happen.

I do not know why dropping catfish on unsuspecting passersby had become the thing to do these days, nor can I explain why this fad requires using a catfish instead of a cod, a flounder, or a box of frozen fish sticks. I assume that on some deeper, more profound level of existence being hit on the head with a catfish is funnier than being hit on the head with a smelt, a pike, or a humpback whale and a potted plant thinking, oh no, not again. Fads invariably have rules that are as ironclad as they are evanescent. For example, no one who wanted a Pet Rock could simply go outside, pick up a rock, and declare that said rock was a Pet Rock. Nor would taking said rock to a church and having it baptized Roscoe Le Rock, which is by no stretch of the imagination a French name. No, to own a real Pet Rock a petrophile had to go to a department store and shell out four dollars for the thing. And, in an early example of the evils of globalization, the rocks that all here in this our Great Republic fell in love with were all, and I mean every last one of them, Mexican rocks. It seems that there were no American rocks available; being a pet rock was apparently one of those jobs that Mexican rocks would do and American rocks would not. I hope that the people behind the catfish-dropping craze would have the common decency to use American catfish for these ichthyologic bomb runs, but it would not surprise me if they did not. The lure of cheap goods will trump the patriotism of many a good man, I fear.

And no, I will not bring up the silly season, which you may think I am going to because I used the word trump. Too many people have said too much about it and I see no need to add to an already vast sea of verbiage that is now threatening to swamp this our Great Republic’s amber waves of grain and get our feet wet. I think that we should all simply admit to ourselves that we have reached the final years of the American experiment and we may as well just kick back and enjoy the transition to a decadent monarchy as best we can. Waiter, I will have a Harvey Wallbanger with my bread and circuses, thank you very much.

P.S. My apologies for the prolonged hiatus; I had stuff to do and it needed to get done, so I had to take a break. Sorry.

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