Monday, September 29, 2008

test post

Betrayal – Imagine this: a 10- or 11-year-old American boy in the mid-1950’s, as steeped in the American myth as any innocent child could be, absolutely knew his country would encourage and support the self-determination of every oppressed people on Earth. The United States, after all, is the beacon of free thought and free will throughout the world. And, if necessary, we will fight to free other enslaved people from tyranny and oppression. That child’s credo was not “My country, right or wrong;” the United States never did, after all, any wrong.

Then, the Hungarian Revolution happened. In October 1956, Hungary, a country occupied by the Soviet Union since the end of World War II, managed, miraculously, to overthrow its oppressors, and forced the Russians to exit the country for three glorious days. On the fourth day, though, tanks rumbled back into Budapest, the revolution was crushed, and its leaders ultimately hanged.

The boy was crushed, too. President Eisenhower, who previously asserted that America would ‘liberate’ countries behind the Iron Curtain, and support any democratic movements in these countries, did nothing. No troops, no aid whatsoever to the brave souls over there.

That boy was the young Mr. Gripes. I recall my emotions as if these events happened last week: my enormous devastation and disappointment when I realized, for the first time, that I was misled by my government. Eisenhower had no intention ever of helping the Hungarians – he was lying. That was a watershed event in my political education.

Mr. Gripes was reminded of the 1956 event just recently on the occasion of the Russian invasion of the sovereign state of Georgia:

George Bush (2005): “The path of freedom you (Georgian citizens) have chosen will not be easy. As you build a free and democratic Georgia, the people of America will stand with you.”

Mr. Bush pronounced this wholehearted support repeatedly as the Georgian and Russian political conflict heated up.. So, what happens? Georgia’s invaded, and America sits on its hands, and does nothing, just like in 1956. Oh, there were many blustering statements afterwards-- Dick Cheney, for one, asserts, “Russia’s actions will not go unanswered.” What a crock of bullcrap.

Mr. Gripes, at his advanced age, now understands that the United States of course cannot support democratic movements in countries all over the globe. Our foreign policy must have only one mission: protect the security of the United States. And supporting some tiny republic against a giant world power like Russia does not serve our interests one bit, I’m afraid.

Politicians huffing and puffing about poor Georgia probably believe that there’s no domestic-election downside to bluster. But, despite the temptation, buffoons such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Douglas Firth, Richard Perle, and the rest of the neo-conservatives who dwell in some kind of ‘good-guys vs. bad-guys’ universe, should keep their big mouths shut. Cheerleading for democratic movements in oppressed nations, if you’re not going to back them up, is not only dishonest, it’s a betrayal. Funny how these gentlemen always talk about upholding the ‘honor’ of America; nothing is more dishonorable than exhorting citizens yearning for freedom, and then abandoning them. And, to the rest of the world, the image of America is of an empty fortress, a paper tiger, not likely to fulfill its commitments.

Abbreviations -- Mr. Gripes surmises that he’s one of about 23 people left on the planet who give a damn about the trashing of the English language these days. Here’s the latest abomination: the insistence by sportswriters and announcers to abbreviate athletes’ names: K-Rod, I-Rod, A-Rod, J-Kidd, KG (Kevin Garnett), K-Mart, J-Mart, MJ, VC (Vince Carter), and on and on. It’s another case of the ‘Dumb and Dumber’ phenomenon eviscerating our culture. The cause is obvious: computers and speed are intertwined, so truncation of language for computer terminology is a primary concern; text messaging hasn’t helped either. Subsequently, this blasphemy has permeated into conversational and written English; the enunciation of full names as a matter of conveying correct, exact information is simply disappearing. Writers and sportscasters, for whom language is the basic component of their professions, ought to be ashamed of themselves.

Scams – Mr. Gripes, for all his stentorian bravado, can be a gullible sort. Ergo, he’s always on the lookout for bold, imaginative and nasty scams. J.D. Powers & Associates is a beauty. You may have heard of this outfit; they’re in the worthless awards business. The company seeks out an industry, and creates ‘awards’ for many, many types of insignificant achievements. The scam is this: we’ll create a #1 ranking for something your product possesses, and, if you pay us, we’ll give you the right to use it in marketing endeavors. The hapless American automobile industry, as one could guess, took to this like a bear to honey. J.D. Powers creates category after category, and every car manufacturer ‘wins’ an award. Leather upholstery? Sound system? Back seat comfort? Most luxurious arm rests? Prettiest gas cap? You name it, good, old J.D. has an award. And, virtually every American car company has taken the bait, purchasing those #1 awards. (The Japanese and Koreans, I suspect, were not conned.) An absolutely gorgeous scam. Instead of pursuing more assiduously an effective 50-mile-a-gallon internal combustion engine, car manufacturers opted to spend millions and millions on these worthless ‘medallions’. I’m reminded of the Latin American generalissimo whose chest is festooned with a thousand medals, each of dubious provenance; he’s a figure of ridicule to everyone except, perhaps, his mistress.

Change? John McCain, of all people, is talking up ‘change’. Astounding. Mr. Gripes recalls Joseph Goebbels and the ‘Big Lie’ -- Say it again and again, and people will start to believe it. But, I’ll cease with the diatribe. You want proof that Mr. McCain is wedded to the past? Lately he’s been getting foreign-affairs advice from none other than the one surviving Brontosaurus of the Paleolithic era, Henry Kissinger. When Russia invaded Georgia last month, Mr. Kissinger jumped for joy: ‘Yippee. At last, at last. Someone surely will give me a call; the glorious Cold War is back.’

Oratory --The proposition that every succeeding generation learns from and improves on earlier generations has taken a big hit recently when it comes to political oratory. In April 1865, Abraham Lincoln spoke on a battlefield still reeking of death about “a government of the people, for the people, and by the people”; on December 8, 1941, Franklin Roosevelt, with those fabulous ‘pipes’ of his, asserted “yesterday will be a date that will live in infamy.” And, on September 3, 2008, Sarah Palin exclaimed, “Do you know what’s the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bill: Lipstick!” Good God. To what depths is this country plunging?

Capital Gains – I read recently of some investment firms on Wall Street pulling off another ‘let’s-pay-no-taxes’ scam by taking outright dividend earnings, with capital-gains consequences, and, then, overseas, away from prying eyes, creating financial instruments that did not resemble dividends. Consequently, their well-heeled clients did not pay taxes on their stock dividends. This is tax evasion, a very serious felony. Will the perpetrators of this money-laundering scheme go to jail? Not a chance. It’s ironic and tragic that these tax cheats are always the loudest, screaming for more tax relief and less regulation. America can no longer afford the laissez-faire, free-market, ‘ride-‘em-cowboy’ climate that’s reigned for the past 8 years. There’re just too many smart white-collar thieves out there cooking up schemes like this.

Baby Strollers --Notice lately how enormous baby strollers on the streets have become? It’s out of control. With a width approaching the wing span of pterodactyls, and huge wheels that would not look out of place at any ‘Big Rig’ competition, these behemoths, in size and heft, resemble a 1963 Lincoln Continental. Mr. Gripes knows what’s going on: a distinctly urban species, these parents, which as a pair earn sums rivaling the royals at the court of Louis XIV, are, as usual, grimly competing with friends and associates: ‘my carriage, with its perfect and precious cargo who’s headed straight to Princeton, is bigger and better than your puny, old-fashioned hunk of junk.’ And, you, dear reader, can well imagine who’s doing all the heavy lifting: it’s not that Bulgarian weightlifter-husband, not quite in the mood to deal with screaming offspring and who opts to remain in the city knocking back Coronas at happy-hour joints; it’s the exhausted, 91-pound pixy wife, possessing the muscle mass of Peter Pan, who must lug the 60-pound carriage and baby up the three-floor walk-up..

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