Thursday, September 17, 2009

Hassles and Missiles

Taking the Public Private
The health care hassle is the latest and biggest example of the unthinking caps we have pulled down over our brows, reducing our reasoning resources to the range of rodents.
Even the pundits who do our political parsing for us are impressed by the depths of the shallowness to which they have mis-educated us. There are countless petty stupidities out there, but one big one stands out for its prodigious and apparently permanent power.
It is that we have agreed as a nation that, in the sacred name of free enterprise, we will not do anything for the public unless its main beneficiaries are private. Or to put it another way, we will not do anything for the public, except to hope, as Kenneth Galbraith so pungently put it, that some of the oats we feed to the horses will fall to the road for the sparrows. Thus we have transmogrified our proud eagle into a cash cow.
We now fight our wars with mercenary contractors. They don’t take orders from our military and are markedly free to rip us off, screw everything up, and make more enemies than they kill. And so we gag at the case of the fabulously freaky private U.S. embassy guards acting as if every night in Kabul was Halloween on Castro Street. Our government, in this case Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, says we have to bend over and bear it because private companies providing such services are rare, if not unique. Remember when manly Marines protected our diplomats?
Despite our faith in God, we have nevertheless turned medicine into mammon even though Jesus never demanded a co-pay for His healing. Where once our health care provided succor, it now fleeces the suckers. Attempts to transform it into a public service as in every other first world country are denounced as devilish.
All those democratic and prosperous nations also provide their citizens with free education through college on the notion that public investment in smarts is smart. Meanwhile we have turned higher ed into humongous debt, graduating armies of beholden BA’s. I don’t see us bragging to the world about the fact that the average American 25-year-old college grad is up to his or her mortarboard in loans that will take years to pay down.
In Europe you can get from anywhere to everywhere on fast, frequent and reasonable public transportation. Here we once sentimentalized big country and small towns as the soul of America. Now we’re happy to let our rurals rot in isolation, watching their main streets blow away because it’s not profitable to serve them with privately run trains, planes, trucks and buses any more.
I could go on and on with similar examples of the collapse of the commons and the rise of the corporate. We are nine-tenths of the way to a society in which public discourse will be reduced to the question, “cash or credit?” Look forward to the day not far away when your house is burning, the kids are screaming, and you’re in telephone hell trying to give your Mastercard number to “Firefighters Are Us, Inc.”

Barack Goes Un-Ballistic
Zeus only knows how many zillions of our tax tributes have already been spent on the European Space Defense, whose abortion was announced today by the Obama Administration.
If you paid attention, you’ll know that the ESD was supposed to be an array of radars and missiles placed by the Pentagon in Poland and the Czech Republic to protect against Iranian rocket raids on northern Europe, particularly Scotland, Ireland and Iceland.
Why we should pay for such idiotic schemes was never noted. Likewise ignored was why Iran, which hasn’t attacked anyone in 250 years, would want to zap those countries. Of course, those things don't have to be explained or justified in our body politic. Our defense contractors have long since indoctrinated us into the illogic that our designated enemies are bound to commit evil everywhere and under every circumstance, thus necessitating our “full spectrum” response everywhere and anytime--regardless, of course, of the cost-plus cost. It’s the same as the burglar alarm sales rep insisting that you buy one for every closet, cupboard and cranny to ensure “total security.”
To be sure, those in the know knew that the ESD was really aimed at bullying the Russkies, who saw those missiles as more of a threat to St. Petersburg than a deterrent to Persia, while at the same time greasing the Poles, cashing the Czechs, and engorging Lockheed and its like.
So, Obama has put the ESD out of its misery. Maybe he even got some concession from Moscow for his troubles. No doubt, the good folks in Donegal and Reykjavik will resume shivvering in their splendid sweaters from renewed Iran-o-phobia.
As I read the early indications, the right people are rollicking and the wrong ones are roiling at the decision. So I guess our smart president has done something smart for a change. He says he favors an alternate Euro defense against the peaceable Persians using smaller missiles. Let’s hope that's just balderdash to hush up the losers. I give him a thumbs up, finally.