Monday, September 27, 2010

Beaming Up the United Nations

I wish I could say I made this up, but I can't.

It's one of those stories where the mockery almost writes itself.

The United Nations, having finally solved their last remaining problem now that we've elected an Apologizer-in-Chief in the United States, has created the "Office for Outer Space Affairs" or "Unoosa." (Yes, yes, I know... sounds a bit like "unusable," doesn't it?)

Scarier still, they've actually appointed an ambassador to fill this office; a woman by the name of Mazlan Othman, a Malaysian astrophysicist. I'm not implying that Ms. Othman is scary, mind you, but rather that it scares me that the UN would 1.) create such an office, and 2.) staff it.

Being an inveterate consumer of pulp science fiction movies like "E.T.," or "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," this announcement brings up all sorts of wonderful possibilities.

First, there's the rather obvious problem of communication. In "Close Encounters," the aliens left extremely helpful hints about how best to communicate with them when the inferior earthlings had finally gotten a clue. This enabled the eggheads (we were never certain whether they were UN eggheads or just US military eggheads in the film) to build a super-computer capable of carrying on an intense conversation that no one, including the eggheads that designed the thing, were able to understand.

I think Ms. Othman's best bet in the absence of such a super-computer would be the online Klingon dictionary:
[Othman, while making the Vulcan sign that Kirk could never master]: "nuqneH!" ("What do you want?")

[Aliens, with puzzled expressions on their faces]:

[Othman, undeterred]: "Hutlh may'ron!" ("Have an accordion!")

[Alien 1 speaking to Alien 2 with a British accent]: I say, Sheldon, you were right. They don't quite seem to have mastered the art of communication yet.
Of course, there's always the hope thought that the aliens would simply take out whatever highly advanced weaponry they've brought along with them and blast the entire delegation into another dimension.

Then, of course, Ms. Othman would need to familiarize the visitors with the rules and regulations of the United Nations:
[Othman]: So the Security Council can vote to censure any member nation, but only one dissenting vote is sufficient to veto any such action. This has been particularly useful in denying the United States anything but an occasional attack on peace-loving nations run entirely by psychotic ego-maniacs. China continues to do pretty much whatever it likes, and the rest of us sit around and think up ways to blame mankind for every natural disaster that the planet experiences. Also we get diplomatic immunity in the United States so we can all keep our illegal drugs flowing through their country without fear of reprisal.

[Alien 2, slapping Alien 1 on the back of the head]: "We don't need the Universal Positioning System on this trip," you said! "If there's intelligent life in this galaxy, I'll find it," you said! This is absolutely the last time I let you get away with that sort of nonsense, Griswold.
So I'm certain that Ms. Othman has her work cut out for her. We desperately need, after all, to make a good first impression. She'll be kept plenty busy developing the precise protocols needed in establishing that all-important first contact. It's unclear at this point, of course, whether bowing would be part of that ceremony, but I'm sure Obama could give her some tips.

Still, as I once read on a coffee mug: The surest sign of intelligent life in the universe is that none of it has ever tried to contact us.

'Iq Ha'DIbaH

Saturday, September 11, 2010

To Profile, Or Not...

I keep my 9/11 remembrances pretty much to myself. The images and feelings are still there, deep in my memory, to be recalled on certain occasions. It's not just an anniversary thing, this horrific event. No more than Pearl Harbor was merely December 7 to our parents and grandparents. It was a life-changing thing, and it has shaped my perspective on life — and the tenuous nature of life — forever. I don't need September 11 to roll around every year in order to remember what it meant, and means, to me.

But thinking about it a little extra today did shunt my mental engine off onto a spur, if you will. I found myself pondering the idea of profiling, and how this nation can possibly believe that profiling is some great evil that creates targets where none exist.

Truth to tell, this train of thought began not so much because of 9/11, but rather because my youngest daughter has been watching Disney's "Peter Pan" the past couple of days. It's one of my favorites from Disney's Golden Age. Good story; terrific animation; well written and directed. But it would never play in today's politically correct universe. In fact, when the studio finally wrote a follow-up to the original and decided to use Wendy's daughter Jane, they brought back nearly all the denizens of Never Land except for the Indians. That disappointed me, even if I understood why they couldn't. In today's world of hyper-sensitivity to all things diverse, any attempted caricature of an indigenous culture would bring down the wrath of every tribal council, race-mongering hypocrite, and civil rights grievance group you could possibly imagine.

Likewise, Disney's "Song of the South," which has some wonderful music to accompany the delightful animations that featured Br'er Rabbit and the rest, will likely never again see the light of day. Not even as a special release from "the Vault." Too demeaning of black culture, that one is.

Folks have tried to tell me that I couldn't possibly know what it means to be profiled. To be denied the life I want merely because of the color of my skin. Yet I am profiled nearly every day in some way, shape, or fashion, by numerous people who feel that my own white skin has somehow magically entitled me to a life of carefree self-indulgence.

The sad truth is that this perception is a fallacy. At work they hold me back; not because I'm white but because I do not hold a college degree. It is the last bastion of prejudice to which Corporate America can cling today without incurring the wrath of Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton. While many around me have taken the plunge late in life to return to school and get that diploma, circumstances in my life have precluded my doing the same. For these circumstances I am not bitter. Life is what it is, and I made choices many years ago that I was, and still am, willing to live with. However, that does not stop my incredulity at the idea that my lack of a degree makes me in any way less valuable to the company than many of the educated idiots people that leapfrog over guys like me to enter the ranks of management.

There are similar prejudices at play in my choice of religion. If I were still tweeting (gave it up as a worthless hobby), I would tweet something to the effect that "Islam may very well be the second most misunderstood religion in the world today." Every day I read analysis after analysis and report after report that all claim to understand completely what Islam must mean to every one of its followers. Yet I can't shake the feeling that all their analyses may only apply to a relatively small percentage of its adherents. Most believers and followers of Islam would likely love to be left completely alone and wish never to bother anyone else, yet because of the actions of the demonic few, we paint them all with the same wide brush.

If my own religion weren't even more misunderstood than Islam, I'd probably feel sorrier for them. (If I tell you that I am a Latter-day Saint, does that answer the question of which religion is more misunderstood?) We may be at war with Islamic nations, but not because they adhere to Islam. (That may be why they are at war with us, but that's beside the point I'm making here.) Yet this country drove my ancestors out of the country because of their religious beliefs and were never adverse to slaughtering us for refusing to renounce our prophet. Even those "enemy combatants" at Gitmo have never been asked to renounce Islam.

So, yes, I understand a thing or two about profiling. True, anyone who profiles me is not likely to deport me. I have nowhere to go. I was born here, can prove it, and besides, England wouldn't know what to do with a conservative like me. They'd kick me back across the pond faster than they can down a pint of Guinness'. But have I been "denied" things because of who I am or choices that I have made? Most certainly.

The way I see it, kids who wear gang colors and pants that hang down around their ankles are literally flashing a giant marquee on Times Square that says "PROFILE ME." Want to live in this country but refuse to learn English? I reserve the right to believe that you might not belong here legally. In other words, I profile. It happens every day.

Interestingly enough, there is a relatively new market next door. "Wholesome Choice" it calls itself. It features exotic foods that you are less likely to find at your local supermarket from parts of the world that you are even less likely to have visited. Spices, sauces, even certain fruits and vegetables, all from middle eastern or southeast asian cultures. I have shopped there on occasion and found everyone who works there to be very pleasant people. If I despise the store for any reason, it is because they are so busy that I have difficulty finding a parking space anywhere within half a city block of my barber shop. Or Baskin-Robbins. Otherwise, I have no problem with the store or its employees. Likewise, because I happen to speak (some) Spanish, I am conversant with many Latinos who live and work nearby. Fine people, all. If I have profiled them, at least I choose to keep it to myself.

But can I stop profiling them? Not likely.

The day I stop is perhaps the very day that I see someone who should have attracted my attention. Someone who may try to cause the next life-changing event in this country. And for that reason alone I cannot, and will not, stop profiling.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Trying to Buy an Election

Elections aren't cheap, even with our current down-valued economy. Heck; unlike thirty years ago or so, your election dollar just doesn't stretch as far as it used to.

Part of the problem is that we're not manufacturing dollars anywhere near fast enough to fund all these stimulus packages that President Obama is so convinced are the only way to put America back to work.

Now, even though President Obama is not up for election himself this fall, plenty of his enablers in Congress are. Unfortunately for the President, the price tag for re-electing these enablers has skyrocketed in direct proportion to the precipitous drop in value of our current money supply.

Having already committed to spending $896 billion for a stimulus package that itself seems to be in desperate need of Viagra™, the President is running out of options. He needs a sure-fire way to convince Americans this November that Democrats hold the answer ("spend more money that we don't have!") to all of our economic woes.

His answer:


The President's advisors ("Spending Your Money So You Don't Get To") have come up with a brilliant plan to plug up existing tax breaks for oil, gas, and multinational corporations to the completely made-up tune of $50 billion in order to pay for a huge upgrade to existing infrastructure projects. Things like rail lines, runways, and highways will magically — a la historical Works Project Administration boondoggles — create jobs. Which, if memory serves, was what the original $896 billion stimulus was supposed to do.

Where are we at now? 9.6% unemployment? If my own company is any sort of bellwether, we're not out of the woods yet. Not by a long shot. Every internal communication in the last several months has said something to the effect that "we can't possibly predict when this economy will improve to the point where we can quit laying people off, let alone start hiring again."

The President, as always, urges patience on the part of those of us who are either laid off, about to be laid off, or struggling to keep up with all the work that still must be done in the absence of our laid off colleagues. Stimulating the economy is never an overnight thing, he cautions. Hey, once Congress actually gets around to reading the Health Care package they ramrodded down our collective throats last year, they may have to further modify their projections to include all the doctors and nurses that will be out of work because no one will be able to afford them without incurring huge penalties.

But I think the President has a plan for that, too. Here's how Hilda Solis described this latest $50 billion gravy train:
In a Labor Day interview on CBS'"Early Show," Labor Secretary Hilda Solis said the plan Obama was to unveil Monday would "put construction workers, welders, electricians back to work ... folks that have been unemployed for a long time."
I know this plan. Many companies are adopting a similar scheme wherein workers agree (on pain of extermination) to not work for one or more days every month. "Work furlough days," I believe they're called. The idea being that if you don't work that day, the company doesn't pay you for that day and saves an undetermined amount of money for their bravery.

Well, according to Solis, the idea here would be a twist on the work furlough idea: Take the people who have been out of work the longest — in this case, electricians, construction workers, and the like, who are all, in an incredible coincidence, union workers — and put them back to work with this freshly inked money. At the same time, give those workers who have been struggling vainly to keep everyone else's unemployment benefits afloat a chance to enjoy the fruits of their labors by having them take the unemployment money for awhile. Certainly Obama and his congressional enablers will just keep those benefits recharged ad infinitum for the next several years. This way, instead of taking a day off without pay here and there, we'll have American workers take entire years off without pay, and nothing but unemployment benefits to tide them over until the economy gets tired of all the stimulus being thrown at it, and decides to wake up on its own.

There you have it. Well worth the $50 billion, I'm sure, and the President won't waste any time selling it to a war-weary populace.

But will it buy him an election? Time will tell.